At the recent G7 and NATO gatherings, China was singled out as a strategic competitor, a calculating trading partner, a technological and national-security threat, a human-rights violator and a champion of authoritarianism globally.

China denounced these characterizations, which its embassy in the United Kingdom called “lies, rumors and baseless accusations.” The risks that such rhetoric poses should not be underestimated.

Many in the West disapprove of China’s single-party governance structure, just as vocal elements in China disparage Western liberal democracy, which they argue is in terminal decline. The real danger, however, is that officials on both sides seem to have embraced a zero-sum framework, according to which the two sides cannot simply coexist; one side must “win.”