If we could bet against self-styled China experts and their predictions, many of us would be quite rich by now. In business, such consistently poor performance would have got you the boot long ago. In Western punditry, though, there is no damage to reputation and promotion. Not too long ago, in fact just two or three months ago, critics were warning Beijing would roll in the tanks against protesters against Covid-19 lockdowns (à la Benedict Rogers of Hong Kong Watch in The Telegraph) or invade Taiwan to distract from its domestic problems (such as historian Niall Ferguson in Bloomberg). Instead, you have this news headline from yesterday: “China returns to Davos with clear message: we’re open for business.” Tell me, did anyone in Western punditry, just one person, predict this outcome? I can’t think of a single name, even though I read lots of newspapers and online news every day. ‘China is deeply worried’: foreign minister in Israel-Palestine peace call Of course, Mr Rogers has always been predicting People’s Liberation Army tanks rolling in, ever since the 2019 anti-government riots in Hong Kong. I suppose that’s one way to make a recession-proof living in Britain. No one in the know could have mistaken Beijing’s message at Davos. Of all the senior economic officials, it sent Liu He, the familiar, moderate and reassuring face of China to a Western audience at the World Economic Forum for the global capitalist elites. In the past month, Beijing has reversed from “zero Covid” to “living with Covid”. After two years of regulatory crackdown on Big Tech and its bosses, it’s ready to welcome the reformed sector back into the economic fold. State banks are allowed to lend to hard-hit real estate developers again. As for the United States and Japan, China has been quietly reaching out to Asean countries over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Beijing has also lifted an unofficial ban on Australian coal imports, and even the Labor government in Canberra has had to admit to the emergence of a less confrontational stance from the Chinese. And, exactly who shut up Russian President Vladimir Putin about his threat of nuclear weapon use in Ukraine? A hint: it wasn’t Nato, the Pentagon or the White House. While everyone and his dog in the US Congress and the White House have been drumming up the “China threat”, Beijing has been sending the Americans the opposite message. It’s no accident that Qin Gang, until recently China’s conciliatory ambassador to the United States and the very opposite of a “wolf warrior”, has been made the nation’s new foreign minister. In fact, when Qin first took up his post in Washington in 2021, his first speech was to declare that China did not seek to challenge or overturn the existing international order or interfere, and had no intention to challenge or displace the US as the top dog in the global hierarchy. Who will replace China’s Qin Gang as ambassador to the US? The same message was repeated by President Xi Jinping when he met his US counterpart Joe Biden at the Group of 20 summit in Bali in November. But that’s not the message America’s politicians want to hear, and you can be sure its mainstream news media won’t be broadcasting it either because it has been busy portraying the Chinese as enemy No 1. Today, in the US, the “China threat” is where the votes and the money are, from pundits and politicians to the Pentagon and the defence industry. The biggest threat from China is not that it actually threatens the US, but that it may come to sound too conciliatory as to confuse the message for the consumption of the American public. As they say, you can’t make “a man understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it”. The world may yet avert Cold War 2.0. I certainly hope so, for my own children’s sake. But if one does emerge again to threaten the peace, even the existence, of the planet, kindly remember the Chinese didn’t want it. It was the Americans.