Ethno-Racial Paranoia and Affective Cold Warism: Remapping Rival US-PRC Imperial Formations

Ethno-Racial Paranoia and Affective Cold Warism: Remapping Rival US-PRC Imperial Formations
Charlie Yi Zhang, Wen Liu and Casey Lee
Focusing on an array of comparable racial and ethnic projects, this essay identifies and unpacks how an affective infrastructure of rival imperial formations that we call "ethno-racial paranoia" spawns enduring fears and antagonisms to perpetuate Cold War mentalities. Through an ethnoracial linkage, the US and PRC not only have been coconstituting and coevolving through each other but also have emerged as interdependent adversaries. Our analysis challenges verticalized historiographies that valorize diametrically opposed nation-states engaged in Cold War struggles by highlighting the centrality of ethno-race in creating divisive discourses and paradigms. Second, we demonstrate how ethno-race, despite the "end" of the old Cold War, continues to undergird the re-creation and maintenance of imperial boundaries, setting the stage for a new Cold War. Finally, we shift attention to the minor-to-minor relations formulated among activists in Hong Kong and Taiwan who are stuck between the new Cold War imperial rivalry. Our aim is to show how these groups—who share affects that cannot be absorbed into the structured historiographies, hermeneutical patterns, and economic materialities informed by Cold Warism—illuminate an alternative path that cuts across the seemingly impenetrable binaries bolstering the ethno-racial paranoia at the heart of intensifying interimperial antagonism between the US and PRC.

Publication date

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

Journal title, volume/issue number, page range

American Quarterly, Volume 74, Number 3: 499-521






International Relations and Politics
National politics
Human Rights
War / Peace