Beijing’s response, and role
Officially, Beijing blames the upsurge of negative feelings on the Trump administration. From yesterday’s Foreign Ministry press conference:
…the previous U.S. administration and anti-China forces in the United States, driven by ideological bias and selfish political gains, flagrantly smeared and maligned China, provoked confrontation and division, disseminated political viruses, and poisoned the public opinion atmosphere in both countries.
On one hand, it is true that the Trump administration actively tried to push U.S.-China relations toward a new cold war, particularly in its final half year.
However, the last year has also seen intensifying global attention to a range of behaviors by the Chinese government that much of the world finds abhorrent, from the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang to a crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. COVID-19’s emergence from a Chinese city did not help.
And the feelings are, reportedly, at least partially mutual. The New York Times reports that Chinese leader Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 has recently referred to the U.S. as the “biggest source of chaos in the present-day world,” and the “biggest threat to our country’s development and security.”
The bottom line: As both the U.S. and China increasingly see each other as adversaries, rivals, threats, or even enemies, it becomes more difficult to coordinate on crucial global challenges like climate change and pandemic response. Some experts believe it should be possible to separate issues like climate change from areas of more fierce disagreement — and this is an increasingly explicit goal of the Biden administration — but no one expects it to be easy.