It is one thing for anti-China slogans to be issued from the political stump. Quite another for an almost century-old American think-tank to say in a scholarly study that the United States needs to be on guard against China's aggressive influence operations. Attempts to "penetrate and sway" a range of groups, including the Chinese American community, American civil society organisations, think-tanks, universities and the media, need to be met with increased vigilance, said a report by Stanford University's Hoover Institution in collaboration with the Asia Society in New York. The report recommends that America's response should include reciprocity - such as restricting visas for Chinese media and scholars unless their US counterparts are given more leeway in China.
In other words, tit-for-tat retaliation of the sort being seen in their trade war. The growing unease in US-China ties is inevitable as China gathers more clout on its way to one day eclipsing the US as the world's largest economy. But perhaps more pointedly, the US is waking up to the fact that the Nixon-era bet on opening up ties with chairman Mao Zedong has not led to a China that acts more like the US. Instead, President Xi Jinping is steering China to reclaim its historic status as an unrivalled power with its own developmental model, one that dispenses with liberal democracy.