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The anti-China syndrome

For 50 years, the cold war provided the US with a moral purpose. Now American conservatives are looking for a new enemy. Owen Harries argues that they are wrong to pick on China. Although increasingly a competitor, China is not an enemy

By Owen Harries   July 1997

Since the end of the cold war, many Americans have been suffering from an enemy-deprivation syndrome. This is not surprising. After all, for 50 years they had experienced a clearly identified, formidable, and agreed upon enemy. That enemy provided a simple organising principle for foreign policy, and imbued it with a sense of heroic moral purpose.

As soon as the initial euphoria over the Soviet Union’s collapse had passed, most of the US foreign policy cognoscenti-and especially a large section of its conservative component-began to search for a substitute enemy. For a short while Japan was favoured. Scores of books…

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