On the left now you see several impulses. There is an irrelevant but fascinating fringe of very online “tankies” — a reference to the Communists who justified the U.S.S.R. sending in the tanks to Hungary — actively championing the Beijing regime. There is a Bernie Sanders left that wants to critique the Chinese regime on trade and human rights, but fears anything that seems like warmongering. And there is a left that thinks the existential stakes of climate change require deep cooperation with Beijing.
The center, meanwhile, has lost its optimism about China turning into a democracy. But it’s not sure whether to pivot to confrontation and try to disentangle our economies, or whether globalization makes that disentanglement impossible and so we need, with whatever nose-holding, to deepen ties instead. (This divide runs through President Biden’s cabinet.)
The right includes several tendencies as well. There’s a Cold War 2.0 mentality, which fears China as a sweeping ideological threat, a fusion of old-model Communism with 21st-century surveillance technology that promises to make totalitarianism great again. There’s a realist perspective that regards China as a traditional great-power rival and focuses on military containment. And there’s a view that sees China and the United States as actually converging in decadence — with similar problems, from declining birthrates to social inequalities to internet-mediated unhappiness.