It’s true that, as Yuan says, the Chinese people rank the U.S. second among China’s foes — with first place going to Japan. But how much of this reflects Chinese belligerence and how much stems from our habit of invading other countries is hard to gauge…
Come to think of it, China hasn’t fought a war since 1979. Its record is an encouraging contrast with that of the U.S., which has entered several wars of choice.
The Chinese have found that pushing their agenda can be counterproductive. When China acts assertively, its neighbors tend to seek safety in the arms of Uncle Sam. The Beijing government may have learned something from the experience of Germany — which has gained a dominant role in Europe by being careful not to revive old fears.
China has followed that model in many respects, signing some 250 multilateral agreements, joining the World Trade Organization and taking part in United Nations peacekeeping operations. It’s been generally supportive of international norms that mandate peaceful resolution of differences. It hasn’t pursued drastic changes or used drastic measures.