Perceptions can have a decisive influence on geopolitics.
For much of the past half-century, the United States viewed China’s economic growth as benign, contributing to global economic well-being. The resulting accumulation of wealth was considered the initial phase of a process leading to a democratization of the world’s most populous nation. In recent years, those perceptions came into question, leading to American distrust of China. Western understanding of China’s words and actions both at home and abroad reaffirmed the fear that China was becoming a threat to international stability.1 While Beijing promotes its Belt and Road Initiative as a means to bring nations closer together through mutual cooperation, some Americans have come to view it as a form of economic colonialism as more and more BRI projects led to crippling debt.2 Closer to home, Americans are distressed that the “Made in China 2025” policy is a state-backed plan to commandeer the advanced technology sector thereby debilitating the U.S. economy in the decades to come. These perceptions are firmly informing American discourse.