I worry that two trains are rushing toward each other, for several reasons:

We Americans have a pattern of exaggerating threats. We fixated at various times on Nasserism, Southeast Asian dominoes and “Japan as No. 1.” In retrospect, these fears had some basis but were too simplistic; let’s not repeat that mistake in the case of China.

We should bring a dose of humility to our discussions of China. The criticisms of Xi are deserved, but it’s also true that an infant born in Beijing today has a longer life expectancy (82 years) than a baby born in Washington (78). China badly bungled its initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, but then moved heaven and earth to halt the virus and save hundreds of thousands of lives. China is a complex and contradictory place, not a caricature.

Let’s distinguish between Xi and China, criticizing the former without demonizing the latter. Senior Chinese officials and their family members in private denounce Xi to me in scathing terms (one told me a few days ago that Xi is “a crazy person”). So we should avoid insulting the entire country and forcing officials to rally around their leader.