Socially Constructing China: Friend, Foe or Our Choice?

  • Lieutenant Colonel Ryan B. Craycraft

China's rise during the early 21st century is similar to Athens' rise preceding the Peloponnesian Wars. The depiction of China within U.S. strategic and popular culture will shape the debate about how the U.S. should wield its instruments of national power when dealing with China. This paper examines what bronze of China is being cast by Americans via elite political speeches, State and Defense Department policies, and official documents. It also examines the way that China is depicted in the outlets of U.S. popular culture, including high-subscription newspaper articles, political cartoons, and entertaining news programs. Ultimately, the battle of the narrative, or the socially constructed idea of the “other,” is important. If the portrayal of China is distorted, the caricature can lead to inappropriate, overly hostile, or narrow policy choices in the event of conflict or crisis.