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US politics

Let’s not get hysterical about China

Bipartisan agreement: Hillary Clinton speaking in support of the Iraq War in 2002. Getty

In “ultra-partisan” America, it’s usually a relief when Democrats and Republicans agree on something, says Max Boot in The Washington Post. But sometimes, they fall victim to a “collective delusion”. The 1964 vote authorising military action against North Vietnam had only two dissenters in both houses of Congress combined, dragging America into a losing war that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 of its citizens. Another “disastrous conflict” – the invasion of Iraq – was supported by large bipartisan majorities in 2002. Now the same seems to be happening again, with Washington’s “disturbingly one-sided” view of China.

A new China-focused committee set up by Congress illustrates the point: its first hearing last week called four witnesses who all “urged the hardest of hard lines against Beijing”. Utterly absent was discussion about issues where cooperation with China is in our interest, such as global warming and the North Korean nuclear programme. Or a case for reducing tensions with Beijing when, in the words of CIA Director William Burns, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is far from “inevitable”. Of course China is a threat. But witness the “unhinged reaction” when one of its surveillance balloons drifted across the US last month – many politicians acted as if Beijing were actually attacking us. Without proper debate and dissenting voices, we topple into hysteria. That’s not what you need when relations between two nuclear superpowers are at stake.