7.And, finally, don't be so melodramatic: Our relations with China are messy partly because we worry too much about them. "We have never been able to look at China like we would look at Brazil or India. We are always swept up in some idealized notion of what China is or should be," says Brookings Institution scholar Bates Gill. "On day-to-day issues, we have never learned to have normal reactions. China is not 10 feet tall." Yes, China is an emerging power and, yes, China may be the great American rival of the next century, but Americans have transformed China into an otherworldly nation, a mysterious angel, a baffling demon.
Here a historical analogy is illuminating: Only a decade ago, after all, America was frantic about another mysterious, ominous Asian power that was not quite friend, not quite enemy. This nation, too, seemed antagonistic toward America and bent on global domination. Today, Japan is more like America's kid brother than a mortal threat. China, too, is just a nation like any other, with ambitions and fears, strengths and weaknesses. And until we recognize that, U.S.-China policy will be more fraught than it should be.