Key point: Western determination and grit, as well as a far superior economic system, should ensure that America and others have no need to bow to China, that they can manage the challenge of the Middle Kingdom short of the military confrontation that no one but a few Chinese generals and admirals seem to want.
American opinion has moved away from its once-benign view of China. That older view, still favored by many business people, held that a prosperous China would threaten its neighbors less than a poor China, and anyway would offer the United States great economic advantages. Accordingly, this view recommended that the West engage China in a friendly way and accommodate Beijing as much as possible. The newer view has responded to overwhelming evidence that Chinese development is far from benign, that China flaunts common trade practices, steals technological secrets on a huge scale and spies outrageously. Moreover, this new view contends that Beijing acts aggressively in Asia, seems to have set itself on a thinly-veiled imperialist project that it calls the “Belt and Road,” and shows no regard for human rights in Hong Kong and—still more outrageously—in its Xinjiang region. This new view frequently paints China as a dangerous economic, military, and diplomatic juggernaut, so unstoppable, in fact, that the United States, short of a disastrous military confrontation, has little choice but to engage China in disarming ways and accommodate it where it can.