The coronavirus pandemic, and President Donald Trump's mercurial and hardening attitude towards China, have changed Beijing's calculations on its increasingly touchy relationship with the United States.
That China wants Mr Trump to lose the presidential election in November because it sees him as "unpredictable" - revealed on Friday in an American intelligence assessment - makes sense as tensions grow, with fears increasing that a previously largely theoretical clash with China over Taiwan or in the South China Sea could become an actual one.
Sign up for our daily updates here and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.
We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs.