As America struggles with financial austerity at home and heightened economic competition abroad, the temptation to find new enemies is substantial.
It should be resisted at all costs because what we really need is to be realistic about the actual challenges we face instead of nostalgia for threats we find more familiar.
We're headed into a "shark attack" summer of demonizing China. Beijing was dreaming if it thought only flattering stories would be broadcast during the Olympics because there's plenty of negative stories demanding attention.
Then again, just because China hosts the Games doesn't mean it's supposed to magically fix everything that's wrong with the place. I don't remember paradise breaking out here the last time we hosted.
Expecting China to suddenly turn loose Tibet or Xinjiang is far-fetched. We may not care for its policy of settling Han Chinese out west, but I can find you plenty of Lakota and Mexicans who still feel the same way about past American actions.
Don't hold your breath on the U.S. returning Texas or the two Dakotas anytime soon.
With Beijing, better to shine spotlights on religious freedom and environmental degradation, two issues where we'd find plenty of ordinary Chinese in our corner.
China's becoming a lot more religious, common when a country experiences a lot of positive economic change, and its grass-roots environmental movement is growing by leaps and bounds. By tapping into those growing popular sentiments, we give Beijing more palatable choices than dismembering the country.
Sure, I'd like China to move past its one-party system tomorrow, but that's not typical with countries that open up rapidly to globalization. Usually it's several decades after that sort of connectivity revolution, and China is only about 20 years into that process.
America needs to be more interested in deepening that connectivity than triggering an isolationist withdrawal - a tricky balancing act, I know.
Suddenly making China out as the master manipulator of the global economy is equally far-fetched.
China's protectionism today mirrors the same tricks we pulled on advanced European economies during our long economic rise. America cheated until it no longer made sense and then found religion on free trade.
As for China's trading with rogue regimes, I'm all for protesting its complicity, so long as we don't pretend America doesn't do much the same in our global war.
I mean, it's a neat trick to brand the upcoming Games a "genocide Olympics," but what exactly is America doing to stop the killing besides preaching? If we don't have the troops, why not pay Blackwater to mount a Janjaweed-be-gone intervention?
Understand this about our military's urge to tag China as its favored "near-peer competitor": the Pentagon's three "big war" scenarios are all shrinking fast and will be gone within a decade's time.
The Taiwan scenario is fading fast, as warmer political ties will soon bolster the island's already profound economic integration with mainland China, thanks to renewed Kuomintang party rule in Taipei.
Meanwhile, Iran's achievement of nuclear status is rapidly approaching a fait accompli, ruling out regime-changing invasion, and the North Korean scenario is looking as wobbly as Kim Jong Il's rule now that Beijing is significantly trimming back its economic and diplomatic support.
When these remaining "big war" scenarios go away, the Pentagon's going to need a new justification for its lavish spending on big-ticket weapon systems, aircraft and ships. The emerging favorite? The coming resource wars between America and China.
Here's the problem with that notion: During the Cold War, resource wars with the Soviets could have made sense because each superpower operated its own mini-me global economy, making such conflict a true zero-sum game.
The same is not true with today's China, whose integration into global supply chains and financial markets is already vast, meaning it cannot lock in raw material suppliers exclusively without endangering its financial suppliers and demand markets in the West.
No, I don't expect such logic to stop the professional fear-mongers in my business from trying to shove great power resource wars down your throats because that's the only face card they will soon have left.
I just want you to understand the subtext of this acrimonious debate because, if America's not careful, the current fad of demonizing China may well get us a back-to-the-future conflict scenario that few on this planet will welcome.