What made China think that the US would not have a strong reaction to its rise of China narrative?

Beijing started to believe in its own lies.

The background narrative of “China rising again” is plain nationalism. The older generations of leaders used nationalism to bring crowd together but they knew that “China” could not win any battles - only strategists and soldiers could. Younger generations were raised into the ambiant “China is the greatest country in human history” discourse and took it for granted.

Nationalism is a political strategy that consists of presenting the concept of nation to your emotions, usually pride, and link it to the thing you love the most: your home and family. It addresses directly to the guts, making it a very powerful tool to rally people.

This is harmless until people start to take it seriously. Once this happens, they start to think that they have some intrinsic advantage by just being themselves, part of the nation. Their reasoning now suffer from a major bias : thinking they possess an always-winning asset that will bring victory - their nation supposedly deserving to win.

That usually goes down until they realise that the political concept of nation solve a particular set of problems (building up common ownership and self-esteem in a territory), but does not confer any other real advantages. Plus, it alienates all your neighbours - which never ends well if I may.

For years, the CCP has relied on nationalism to mitigate critical domestic issues. What was a game became the game, instilling a sense of pride in the administration that ended up being blindsided. Any wise person will tell you that claims of greatness just bring you that far. While Beijing was bragging, the Chinese kept on working hard to have a better life. No Chinese outside a few brainwashed CCP officials ever believed in the “China dream”. Now it ‘s time for them to change tune and get back to some solid work because there is a huge mess coming ahead.

This text was originally published in quora.

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