Today’s US response to China that suggests a cold war mentality: first, blaming problems in the Sino-US relationship, China more generally, and the pandemic’s origin and response on the inherent nature of China’s communist system; second, referencing a different history or civilizational foundation, connected to such forces as the May Fourth Movement and Taiwan’s Chinese democracy, and pointing to Chinese citizens’ capacity to reject the existing system; and third, framing China’s foreign policy as a threat to the freedom, democracy, and autonomy of other countries. Recent statements by Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, and Matt Pottinger invoked all of these themes,1 moving beyond a competition over the balance of power, economic interests, and diplomatic agendas to an existential confrontation between two incompatible worldviews.
In the first months of 2020, the case can be made that a Sino-US cold war has been launched.2
What is a cold war? It is an arms race. It involves intense competition to win other states to one’s side and to deny one’s rival an expanded sphere of influence. An important economic component exists, at least in high tech sectors with dual-use potential. Espionage is “rampant” as exchanges are rife with distrust. Even if all of these elements are present, another factor is indispensable: there must be an ideological clash, showcasing the other side in a decidedly negative light and trumpeting the superiority of one’s own system and national identity. The term “cold war” has not been widely applied in the United States to the US relationship with China, but that recently has been changing abruptly, for both objective and subjective reasons. Even so, some Democrats are warning that the idea of a cold war is “Trump’s trap” to pressure Biden either to defend an unpopular China or bash it even harder, playing on Trump’s terrain.3
Some earlier anticipated a cold war between China and the United States, but there was little evidence of an ideological component to the intensifying competition into the 2010s. An arms race was beginning with the South China Sea emerging as a hot spot, although cooperation over North Korea’s nuclear weapons suggested this would be containable. The single most volatile tinderbox Taiwan appeared to be managed without imminent threat. A trade war took shape with warnings of decoupling in high tech sectors, but Donald Trump seemed more interested in striking a grand bargain than in escalating the confrontation. Indeed, Trump’s bonhomie with Xi Jinping and indifference to human rights and democracy tended to marginalize ideology as a focus. Neither Barack Obama nor Trump seemed inclined to raise the irritants in this bilateral relationship to the level of cold war invectives, and Xi Jinping was satisfied to act accordingly, even if Chinese publications carried scarcely veiled assumptions of ideological contradictions.4
In February-May 2020 the situation has abruptly transformed. The Covid-19 pandemic turned a deepening rivalry into an ideological clash. Worldwide, the Chinese and US narratives about the nature and significance of the pandemic sharply conflict. Within China the vitriol toward the US intensified.5 Evidence was reported that Chinese operatives had seized this chance to try to sow panic in the US.6 Inside the United States, a clash over China was emerging as a key theme in the presidential election.7 In this article, I ask: 1) why should we not be surprised by this recent outcome? 2) what character do Trump and Xi bring to the ideological clash? 3) which US groups perceived this clash and what differentiates them? 4) what is the ideological thrust of a national identity clash? and 5) what are the conclusions? Yun Sun’s parallel article on China’s “wolf warriors” precedes mine. On four possible scenarios, see this journal’s “Washington Insights.”
Why should we not be surprised by this outcome?
There is ample reason to surmise that on the Chinese side an ideological cold war was foreseen as early as the 1980s and increasingly so from 2008, especially after Xi Jinping rose to the top post in 2012. China’s own inclinations were deflected by blaming the US side for a “cold war” mentality toward China, for threatening China with cultural hegemonism (imperialism), and for demonizing China when it was mostly China demonizing the United States.8 Yet the foundations for an ideological cold war on the US side are discernable as well, if less manifest in writings on China and Sino-US relations by the mainstream in think tanks, academia, and the mass media.
The motivations for anticipating a cold war ideological conflict were three-fold, embraced often by different circles in the US. One group can be labeled “Cold Warriors,” people apt to identify an enemy to satisfy their own worldview and to brandish against domestic forces deemed to be vulnerable to guilt by association. A second group are “Close China Watchers,” alert to writings in China and warning of their impending consequences, while being unpersuaded by alternative Chinese narratives designed to soothe foreign concerns.9 Finally, the largest group comprises a circle of “Responders to Circumstances,” sensitive to the correlation of forces and to ongoing developments that could tip their thinking toward an ideological divide. The first group was aroused against China early, never accepting the rosy optimism toward it in the 1980s or the renewed hopes from 1992 and then 2002.10 It saw openings to charge political opponents with being soft on China in the late 1990s and early 2010s, but only in 2020 did the opportunity for this outlook become really promising. The second group had awakened by 2010 and kept expanding in response to Xi’s policies and the Chinese writings reflective of them.11 It had become increasingly vocal in the late 2010s. Finally, the third group was growing ascendant in 2019, gaining rapidly in numbers in 2020. These groups are distinctive, albeit rising together.12
By late April the presidential political campaign was beginning with efforts by Trump to play the “China card” against Joe Biden, the way various Republicans had played the “soft on the Soviet Union” card against democrats ever since Richard Nixon had won with it in the late 1940s. Soon Biden responded with an ad that countered Trump by recalling Trump’s warm words for how China was handling the crisis. Trump appeared intent on rallying the first group into a Cold War frenzy as if US “fellow travelers” could be tainted with guilt by association, while Biden picked up the mantle of the second group who were attentive to negative developments in China, not least of which were heinous human rights violations. If Biden’s case might have appeal to those newly aroused by China in circumstances of deepening rivalry, Trump may count on emotional appeals or even xenophobia that could give him the advantage in a public relations campaign.
US public opinion toward China has fallen sharply in the Trump years; nearly 20 percent more registered an unfavorable view. Instead of 40-55 percent responding in this way over the past 15 years, 66 percent did so in March 2020. A 10 percent gap existed between Republicans and Democrats, as it had during most of the 2010s. “Views of China have soured further in 2020, building on the dramatic uptick in negativity seen between 2018 and 2019,” reports the Pew Charitable Trust.13 Noteworthy was the rise from 2019 to 2020 in those saying they have no confidence in Xi Jinping. Yet the invectives leveled at China in mid-March paled before those that abounded by early May. The Pew survey captures the onset of the ideological clash, not its obvious spike getting under way only in the early spring of 2020 as US COVID-19 cases soared.
That China will be a focus of charges and countercharges in the political campaign is a given. Whether a sustained ideological cold war will ensue is less apparent. Some may attribute the US negativity to Trump—just another reflection of his propensity to cast blame on any target he thinks can help to rally his base. If Biden should be elected, the tone will no doubt change. This would alter the balance among the three groups anticipating an ideological cold war. The “Cold Warriors” would lose influence, but the “Close China Watchers,” who view China as the driving force in the ideological split and call for responding accordingly but pragmatically as occurred in the US response to the Soviet Union, could encourage continued, if restrained, responses to the ideological challenge. Most important would be the developments in China or its foreign policy.
Trump will have a major early impact on how ideology is invoked, but so too will Xi Jinping, e.g., the impact of the repeated wild accusations in Global Times that the US caused the pandemic.14 There is scant reason to expect that a Biden victory would reverse the looming ideological drift.
What character do Trump and Xi bring to the ideological clash?
Donald Trump represents the extreme forces in the United States who prioritize some notion of purity in national identity—demonizing and lying about domestic opponents and denouncing in a xenophobic manner the outside world. Connecting these two strands of the “other” awaited the right opportunity. Xi Jinping similarly invokes the extreme traditions of China’s Communist Party in exposing “class enemies” and casting the outside world in an intensely negative light. The inevitable target for each is the other country—as at the height of the Cold War due to the divergent systems and values of the two, and as grew more urgent in conditions of deepening competition, made more likely under national distress. The structural prerequisites existed for an ideological clash, and these two national leaders were uniquely inclined to seize the opportunity once the necessary trigger for conflict came into their view.
Xi sought to postpone an open ideological clash given the abundant benefits (both economic and diplomatic) to a weaker power catching up. He conveyed the aura of a “win-win” outcome to kicking problems down the road. Trump started by claiming to be the supreme “dealmaker,” uniquely able to strike an agreement with Xi and lowering the US trade deficit, which served as a symbol for him of American weakness. Neither was inclined to launch ideological broadsides against the other side, but in the absence of a breakthrough in negotiations apart from interim arrangements, they countenanced an upsurge in criticism of the other side. This laid the groundwork for something more virulent, which awaited a trigger. Such a stimulus to mutual demonization would have the greatest effect if there were both external challenges aggravating relations and internal challenges that gave leaders reason to target the other.
The news 24/7 is pandemic, pandemic, pandemic. Beneath the surface, there is also growing talk of a tectonic transformation of the world order, comparable to that at the end of the Cold War and far beyond the impact of the global financial crisis of 2008. Two countries stand in the forefront—China and the US—much as two dominated coverage three decades ago, the Soviet Union and the US. Two leaders loom far above all others—Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. Indeed, the failings that produced the tragic scenes on the daily news are, arguably, of their doing. Their arrogance, misinformation, and leadership shortcomings have helped to bring us to this state. In order to transfer blame for their failures, it has proven convenient to target the other leader.
One diverted attention by calling this the “Chinese pandemic,” making rosy pronouncements and failing to arouse Americans to action while also abnegating the federal role as states fought with each other for supplies. The other allowed the message to spread that this was the result of secret US biological warfare against China, compounding his system of censorship that made a timely response and accurate reporting impossible. The two loom so large in the story of what went wrong in the epidemic, some part of the onus of responsibility for the crisis lies with them.
Even if they chat by phone and agree on a measure of cooperation, their rivalry is intensifying. If Trump hesitated to criticize Xi by name and raise national identity issues, his top officials and fervent supporters did not. If Xi still found it advantageous to appear above the fray in personal insults and cold war language, Chinese officials and publications had no similar reservations.
What is transpiring, however, far transcends the personalities involved. What previously had been a military competition (Obama’s “rebalance” to Asia was viewed as primarily a military response to China) and then a trade war (Trump’s confrontations with Xi in 2018-19 heavily leaned on trade grievances) was turning into a national identity contestation. This raises the prospects of a cold war similar to the Soviet-US ideological struggle. By accelerating the course of competition and abruptly transforming its character, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a history-accelerator, but questions remain over who will drive this narrative at the next stage.
Inseparable as Trump and Xi are in the trade wars, the geopolitical maneuvering, and now the pandemic’s impact, we must also recognize that they represent two contrasting systems both of internal governance and of international order. When the Cold War ended, the system led by the US was victorious over the Soviet-led communist bloc, leading Mikhail Gorbachev to act. In the new era from the 2020s, the terms of the struggle for supremacy have changed, but there is unlikely to be a clear winner. Both democratic rule, symbolized by Washington, and communist party rule, embodied in Beijing, have failed. Not only did they fail in dealing with the virus, they are failing in providing world leadership in managing the health and economic impact of today’s crisis. Spreading untruths, bypassing international institutions, not delivering public goods, and not inspiring others with messages of hope and moral guidance is the legacy they have offered. The ideological war is being pushed to distract from such failures, even if it has lasting impact. At some point, a degree of pragmatic cooperation will resume, as also occurred in US-Soviet relations at many points during the Cold War, but the dye is cast for enduring ideological strife.
Which US groups perceived this clash and what differentiates them?
Global Times on April 17 reported on a Putin-Xi phone conversation, which gave voice to a “common stance against wrongdoing that politicizes the pandemic.” Both China and Russia have long posited the presence of a defiant force in the United States with considerable political clout, eager to demonize their county and launch a new cold war. Although they have miscategorized many who are inclined to prudent measures in response to growing threats, they are correct that such a force exists. Indeed, because that force is disruptive for social cohesion in the United States and for multilateralism under US leadership, Chinese and Russian support has been recurrent, as in the intense, covert Russian support for Trump and the early welcome to him visible inside China. Ironically, disinformation to stir US ideological divides boosts the “Cold Warriors,” whom these adversaries of the United States proceed to blame for the very outcome they criticize in the US. The effect of “sharp power” is to arouse distrust in experts, a recipe for “Cold Warriors’ to act.
Both in the Cold War and in the post-cold war period, the notion of convergence or peaceful coexistence with increasing and sustained openness has been anathema to the leaderships in both Beijing and Moscow (apart from a few years in the early 1990s) and to US “Cold Warriors.” It would contradict their domestic agendas, weakening their political base and deepest objectives. As Chinese writing demonized the US as imperialist and—even at the peak of openness late in the 1980s and again in the mid-90s—twisted modernization theory to ensure that actual convergence with the West is rejected,15 the far right in the US found Ronald Reagan gullible about China and went much further in denouncing Bill Clinton’s cooperation with China. While others also took exception with some of the policies toward China of these leaders, for the “Cold Warriors” it was a matter of repeating the mistakes of weakness toward the Soviet Union in the 1950s-70s. Such thinking is encapsulated in the insistence into the 1970s in using the label “Red China,” in a hardline policy of refusing to talk to Beijing until 1971, and in castigating presidents, mostly democratic ones, for persistent kowtowing to China until recently in the post-cold war decades.
The widening national identity gap serves their domestic identity interests. Trump’s camp is seizing the opportunity to blame the Democratic opposition for being soft on China as well as to reinforce claims that their model of US politics, economics, and civilization is consistent with the authentic identity of the nation. As a presidential election approaches, it is further demonizing opponents over alleged views of the “enemy,” as Republicans had done against Democrats in the Cold War period. China’s leadership is doubling down on suppression of all signs of civil society, creating a stark choice between glorifying Xi Jinping and dissenting against him. For China too, repression of the discontent aroused by the initial handling of the epidemic is accelerating along with transference of blame to the US for its criticisms as well as for failures in responding, seen as inherent in the flawed model of democratic governance, which contrasts to China’s system.
Critical for comprehending the “Cold Warrior” group is the abandonment of bipartisanship by Republicans from at least 1994, accelerating when Obama was elected and even more under Trump. They have shifted from theme to theme to clarify the unbridgeable divide between the two sides, but there has not been an obvious foreign enemy as during the Cold War. The war against terrorism served the purpose for a time. North Korea gained some resonance. Yet the only compelling target on the order of the Soviet Union until the 1990s has been China, even if George Bush, particularly in his second term refrained from demonizing it, and businesses inclined to support Republicans were resistant. The more Trump aroused his base, however, after breaking from the free market thinking of past Republicanism, the more tempting the demonization of China became. Trump eventually saw the merits of unleashing this force.
“Close China Watchers”
Among those keeping a close eye on developments in China are: analysts of human rights and law; followers of ideology and national identity narratives; experts on “sharp power” and cyber-theft; specialists on the usages of history in politics; and those who study international relations through Chinese rhetoric, such as on the Korean Peninsula. What they have in common is close examination of publications for Chinese audiences rather than writings targeted at foreigners. It is not my intent to review such outside assessments, as I reflect on changes over many decades.
There are different types of China watchers. Those most likely to anticipate a cold war in the offing are the ones who follow Chinese publications targeting domestic audiences. During the 1980s when many journals were “neibu” or for internal circulation only, the most worrisome writings were often overlooked by those who did not access such sources. In the 1990s choice of theme often differentiated awareness of Chinese thinking that could portend a cold war in the future. Writings on Russia and Japan were among the sources suggestive of a hardline drift before writings on North Korea in the 2000s proved especially revealing. Yet prior to the late 2000s the case that China (apart from military sources and provincial ones less noticed in the West) was gearing up for an ideological struggle as part of a cold war was less than compelling.
Much changed in Chinese publications by 2010, which some outside observers noticed. Signs of demonization of the United States were widespread. They did not reflect a rise of Cold Warriors on the US side—far from it in the Obama period. In his “rebalance to Asia,” Obama refrained from demonization of China, stressing balance of power considerations. The US position still was forthcoming to talks with North Korea, while patiently responding to a softening in Japan’s support for the US posture in East Asia. Instead of being provoked, China went on the offensive in supporting North Korea, pressuring Japan, and depicting the US as a looming threat. Behind this was a narrative about China’s national identity on many dimensions and the Sino-US gap in identity that boded badly for future cooperation. Apart from critics warning of a hardening in Chinese policies, those closely following Chinese publications grew more alarmed by the threat.
The Xi Jinping era brought increased reasons for alarm by those intently following writings in China. Of course, many sources by internationally known Chinese experts avoided the worst ways of framing international relations or drawing comparisons. Such writings obscured the implications of arguments being raised. Sophisticated interlocuters knew how to allay sharp reactions from outsiders, toning down arguments found in sources for domestic readers. Yet the rhetoric under Xi hardened appreciably, invoking narrow notions of national identity more than before. The backlash was mounting in the United States until in 2019 one could discern a mainstream tendency to forecast a downward spiral in relations independent of Trump. These were not “Cold Warriors” welcoming such an outcome, but China watchers who mostly had held more hopeful positions in the past and had reconsidered, whether after 2008 or under Xi.
“Responders to Circumstances”
Given strong reasons to admire China and the Chinese people, many were hesitant to yield to the temptation to foresee a cold war. Some assumed that this was a phony argument planted by “Cold Warriors” or resulting from Trump and Republican ideologues seeking an enemy for political advantage in line with other xenophobic initiatives. Even as China’s image deteriorated, the idea that this would lead to an ideological clash had been slow to take hold. In 2020, the pandemic changes the circumstances of the discussion in three main ways: 1) the grievances of Americans are much deeper given the health and economic crises battering the country; 2) the fact that the virus originated in China and was mishandled to the extent that it could spread rapidly around the world puts China in a more negative light; and 3) China is perceived as not only not repentant for what it did but as even audacious enough to gloat about how well it is responding and how grateful other nations should be for its assistance, all packaged in a story of China’s communist system proving its superiority to democracies, especially the US. Eyeing these new circumstances, more Americans are inclined to recognize the start of a cold war. An indicator of informed responses are articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Stories of Chinese behavior and of Chinese criticisms of the United States have transcended the notion that a rising power is opposing the established power. Among the recent themes likely to catch the attention of many in US policymaking circles and some in the broad public are: the “concentration camps” in Xinjiang and ensuing “slave labor”; the Chinese violation of promises made to allow Hong Kong to have “one country, two systems” for fifty years; the repression of lawyers, journalists, academics, and others in China parallel to the Soviet treatment of its dissidents; and the disinformation and accusations pouring from China during the pandemic. Trump failed to criticize some of these behaviors, but they became a focus to “Close China Watchers” and “Respondents to Circumstances,” driving them to recognize the gathering ideological clash.
The big unknown about this third group eying the prospects of a cold war is how they might respond to Trump overdoing demonization of China or Xi Jinping shifting course to enhance Chinese soft power. The expectation now is that the backlash against Trump would not spare China, given bipartisan consensus on Chinese behavior, and Xi would not stop his aggressive use of “sharp power” against the United States given his rampant disregard of Chinese soft power.16 A prolonged epidemic and economic depression, a bolder China, and troubled Sino-US relations all make it likely that Americans reacting to ongoing circumstances will see a cold war ahead. As an example, attention has turned to alleged state-run cyberattacks to steal American research to develop vaccines and treatments in the competition to fight better against the coronavirus.17
What is the ideological thrust of a national identity clash?
As the US identity gap is widening with China, the following dimensions are foreseen. First, in a reprise of the Cold War era, the word “communist” will often be appended to China, mostly by “Cold Warriors.” Second, in the history dimension, Americans will be reminded of the history of China under Mao, including the Korean War fought against the United States, South Korea, and others; the Cultural Revolution; and the Tiananmen massacre. These are all fair game, but some will stress them at the expense of more positive developments since the 1980s. Third, politics will dominate coverage along with economic accusations about unfairness with far less talk of positive complementarities. Fourth, human rights themes will attract a growing share of media coverage, fueled by ample evidence of China’s growing transgressions. Finally, coverage of the foreign policy of China will emphasize its dark motives, seeking domination at least in East Asia.
These are all appropriate themes to expose the dark side of China’s behavior and thinking. The key question remains: how will they be packaged? “Cold Warriors” will likely use them to deny the need for pragmatic cooperation and to arouse anger against those who endorse that. “Close China Watchers” will find little new in such coverage while looking for signs of Chinese behavior and thinking amenable to positive US initiatives. “Responders to Circumstances” are the most unpredictable and the most diverse. Obviously, politicians will be in the forefront, under pressure from “Cold Warriors” and Trump to parrot the latest ideological line. In light of Trump’s tight grip on the Republican Party, we can expect the ideological extreme to gain a big following. The challenge for others is not to pretend that there is no ideological cold war, but to prevent it from intensifying to the point of damaging pragmatic thinking and multilateralism.
Whether restraint is exercised or not, the fundamental divide will be political and cultural. The 5G era makes control over information crucial. Authoritarianism versus freedom will be stressed. The pandemic is boosting surveillance techniques as the Great Firewall of China replaces the Iron (Bamboo) Curtain in symbolizing the barrier in place. China and the US will showcase two alternative political worlds. Chinese sources steep this divide in civilizational terms, distorting history and Confucian culture in sharp opposition to Western civilization. One can assume that on the US side, the communist nature of China will lead to linkages with all that communism has wrought, and as Confucius Institutes are banished, talk of positive aspects of that tradition will fade. China has accentuated a binary outlook on politics and civilizations, and so will the US.
A lot of countries will find it disadvantageous to clearly endorse either side in this ideological battle. Economically, they would have a lot to lose from China’s retribution. Strategically, the cost of being viewed as close to China could be high, as US support wanes. Thus, staying on the sidelines, to the extent possible, is beneficial. Unlike the US-Soviet Cold War era, the price is too high to alienate one side or the other, and China lacks the coercive control of a bloc that could lead to any use of military force to ensure fidelity. Hedging has been prevalent in the 2010s, and it can be expected to continue even as both Beijing and Washington make stronger demands. If in the Cold War, the US often took the lead in ideological criticisms of the Soviet Union, allowing its allies to avoid retaliation, this is much more likely in the new ideological conflict, where the cost in informal Chinese sanctions would be painful for countries, which may quietly support the US.
The existing soft power competition between China and the US could assume new dimensions in a cold war environment. The side that makes the most egregious accusations—likely if “Cold Warriors” have their way in the US—could face the stronger backlash abroad. Responding in a measured fashion is advisable, especially given China’s “sharp power” capabilities to shift the blame to the US side. More than the Cold War, audiences in third countries matter greatly.
Whether one focuses on “Cold Warriors” satisfying their national identity quest or transferring blame for political expediency, on “Close China Watchers” responding to unmistakable trends in what they are reading from China, or on “Responders to Circumstances” reading the tea leaves all around, rhetoric indicating a “cold war” has grown precipitously in the first months of 2020. It has given rise to retrospective inquiry into what went wrong and whether the US had erred in testing China’s intentions or been gullible based on naïve assumptions. Under way is a debate over the possibilities for further cooperation despite intense competition and even confrontation.
Awareness of the unfolding of an ideological cold war does not mean endorsement of efforts to exacerbate the ideological polarization as a weapon in domestic politics and foreign policy unilateralism. “Cold Warriors,” now with Trump in the lead, are seeking to capitalize on rising awareness to insist on their unique insight and credentials for defining the nature of the struggle. A distorted interpretation of US national identity and of how the ideological war must be waged is bound to intensify divisions at home and to complicate the difficult diplomacy with partners. “Close China Watchers” prioritize getting our understanding of China right, which means a flexible response to shifting narratives and strategies, attentive to the sort of ups and downs seen in the Cold War with the Soviet Union and even more to China’s considerable assets in swaying public opinion at home and abroad. “Responders to Circumstances” may be aroused in our time of pandemic with some susceptible to extreme rhetoric since they are least grounded in a firm foundation for their attitudes toward China, but they also may turn against the notion of an ideological cold war if the case is made poorly and China’s public relations tactics are effective. In current circumstances, the seeds of an ideological battle already planted are ready to sprout.
Should Trump win, attacking “Beijing Biden,” the depths of the Cold War may be revived, as costly as that could be for US leadership of resistant allies and partners. If Biden were to win, Xi Jinping will continue to be in the driver’s seat in shaping relations with the US and across Asia, albeit with a more attentive US ready to push back. Managing a bilateral relationship at a time of ideological struggle would pose more challenges for Democrats, fending off charges of weakness from Republicans, striving for coordination with hesitant partners, and vulnerable to more adept Chinese use of “sharp power” and economic clout than was the case for the Soviet Union. A strategic approach to ideological struggle should be a priority of a Biden administration.
1. “Trump Says Coronavirus Worse ‘Attack’ Since Pearl Harbor,” BBC News, May 7, 2020; Zachary Basu, “Pompeo Says There’s ‘Enormous Evidence’ Coronavirus Originated in Wuhan Laboratory,” Axios, May 3, 2020; a University of Virginia panel on May 4, 2020 saw Pottinger speak in Chinese about the May 4th tradition and link populism that recently brought change to the US and Great Britain to the aspirations of the Chinese people, as if appealing for regime change.
2. Henry Olsen, “Get Ready for an Election All About China,” The Washington Post, May 5, 2020, p. A23.
3. Rachel Esplin Odell and Stephen Wertheim, “Can Democrats Avoid Trump’s China Trap?” The New York Times, May 11, 2020, p. A27.
4. See the bi-monthly coverage in this journal in “Country Report: China” as well as articles based on Chinese sources as evidence of the ideological thrust in many of China’s publications.
5. David Gitter, Sandy Lu, and Brock Erdahl, “China Will Do Anything to Deflect Coronavirus Blame,” Foreign Policy, March 30, 2020.
6. Edward Wong, Matthew Rosenberg, and Julian E. Barnes, “Chinese Agents Helped Spread Messages that Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say,” The New York Times, April 23, 2020, pp. A10, A11.
7. Stephen Collinson, “Trump and Biden Launch Battle over China that Could Define 2020 Election,” CNN, April 21, 2020, reports that Trump has turned on China as a distraction from domestic criticism of his handling of the crisis, charging that Biden long appeased China. In contrast, Biden has posted an ad that charges Trump with rolling over for the Chinese, totally buying their narrative on the epidemic.
8. Gilbert Rozman, “China’s Concurrent Debate about the Gorbachev Era,” in Thomas P. Bernstein and Hua-Yu Li, eds., China Learns from the Soviet Union, 1949 to the Present (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009), pp. 449-76; Gilbert Rozman, ed., National Identities and Bilateral Relations: Widening Gaps in East Asia and Chinese Demonization of the United States (Washington, DC and Stanford, CA: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press, 2013).
9. I have followed Chinese writings, neibu and gongkai, from the 1980s, including in the following books and articles: The Chinese Debate about Soviet Socialism, 1978-1985 (Princeton University Press, 1987); “China’s Quest for Great Power Identity,” Orbis, Vol. 43, No. 3, Summer 1999, pp. 383-402; “China’s Changing Images of Japan 1989-2001: The Struggle to Balance Partnership and Rivalry,” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Winter 2002), pp. 95-129; Chinese Strategic Thought toward Asia (Palgrave, 2010, revised paperback edition in 2012); and “Xi Jinping’s Geopolitical Framework for Northeast Asia,” in Gilbert Rozman, ed., Joint U.S.-Korea Academic Studies— East Asian Leaders Geopolitical Frameworks, New National Identity Impacts, and Rising Economic Concerns with China (Washington, DC: Korean Economic Institute, 2020).
10. Michael Pillsbury, China Debates the Future Security Environment (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 2000). This book is indicative of “Close China Watchers,” while it was used by “Cold Warriors” too.
11. It became commonplace to argue that China’s thinking and policies changed fundamentally by 2010. See for instance, the chapters in, Gilbert Rozman, ed., China’s Foreign Policy: Who Makes It, and How Is It Made? (New York: Palgrave, 2012).
12. For a breakdown of US thinking about China in 2019, see Gilbert Rozman, “The Debate over US Policy toward China Heats Up: Doves, Hawks, Superhawks, and the Viability of the Think Tank Middle Ground,” The Asan Forum, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2019).
13. “U.S. Views of China Increasingly Negative amid Coronavirus Outbreak,” Pew Research Center, April 21, 2020.
14. “Earliest COVID-19 Deaths in US Fuel Doubts over Virus Birthplaces,” Global Times, April 23, 2020.
15. Gilbert Rozman, "Theories of Modernization and Theories of Revolution: China and Russia," in Zhongyang yanjiuyuan jindaishi yanjiusuo, ed., Zhongguo Xiandaihua Luanwenji (Taipei, 1991), pp. 633-46.
16. Kingsley Edney, Stanley Rosen and Ying Zhu, eds., Soft Power with Chinese Characteristics: China’s Campaign for Hearts and Minds (Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge, 2020).
17. David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, “U.S. to Accuse China of Trying to Steal Data,’ The New York Times, May 11, 2020, p. A7.