China and the United States do not need to be locked in confrontation, the Communist Party's official mouthpiece said on Tuesday.
The 6,000-character front-page article in People's Daily was the latest in a series of increasingly assertive defences published in state media and argued that the world did not want to see China and America falling into a Thucydides trap - an idea devised by a US political scientist that a rising power challenging an established power can lead to war.
Published under the byline "Guoji Ping", a pen name that means international commentary, the article suggested that America had "manufactured" the idea of China as a strategic threat.
"Cooperation between China and the US would be a blessing, but confrontation would be a curse," the article said.
"The world does not have a Thucydides trap, but if some people repeatedly fall into strategic misjudgment, then they may dig for themselves a Thucydides trap.
"The irony is that some in Washington arrogantly claim they are now 'great again', but pretend to be victims when they talk about China, with strategic anxiety written on their faces," it said, referring to US President Donald Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" slogan.
The article, which slammed Washington for confronting China on trade and suppressing Chinese companies such as telecoms giant Huawei, was the latest piece from Chinese state media in recent weeks calling for cooperation rather than "zero-sum thinking" between the powers.
Both sides have been locked in an evolving trade war, with billions in tariffs levied on both sides, in a confrontation that spilled over into technology as the US government blacklisted Huawei on national security grounds.
China issued a white paper in early June placing the sole blame for the trade conflict - which centres on issues such as the growing trade imbalance, intellectual property protection, market access and cyber theft - on the United States.
In response, the US side released a statement condemning the "blame game" and accusing Beijing of back-pedalling on its trade commitments.
On the heels of the white paper, People's Daily began pumping out daily commentaries rebuking US behaviour.
From June 3 to 13, the editorials criticised US protectionism for revealing "the true colours of some American politicians".
Other state media outlets followed suit, stressing the importance of cooperation with the US but vowing that China would "fight to the end" if necessary.
A commentary last Friday from Taoran Notes, a social media account affiliated with official newspaper Economic Daily, warned that countermeasures against the US could "become routine", listing retaliatory steps including a planned blacklist for "unreliable" foreign entities.
The Communist Party's top journal, the bimonthly Qiushi, published essays on Sunday portraying China as holding the moral high ground.
People's Daily's latest article also argued that US politicians lashing out against China were grandstanding, and warned of a dangerous "political correctness" emerging when it came to policy on China.
"More and more people feel that whether they are tough on China has become an indicator of their patriotism, which some in Washington helped create," it said.
"Some people in the US have deep-rooted zero sum thinking and want to find enemies for themselves, so when they cannot find one, they manufacture one. Today, China is the 'ideal enemy' for the United States."
Observers say there has been a hardening of voices in Washington on China, with many across the political spectrum agreeing in substance that Beijing has long engaged in unfair trade practices, such as forced technology transfers and lack of reciprocal market access.
Much of the debate centres on the effectiveness of Trump's tactics, which critics argue rely too heavily on tariffs and tweets, while alienating long-standing US allies.
The People's Daily article added that China did not want to be the global "hegemon" and employed typical party rhetoric to insist it favoured "win-win" cooperation with other countries.
"As everyone knows, some in the US always want to package nakedly hegemonic behaviour as 'upholding justice'," it said.
"The only way to avoid strategic misunderstanding is to look rationally at China-US competition and cooperation."
Cui Lei, from the China Institute of International Studies, said the latest piece was sending a signal ahead of the G20 summit in Japan, where Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet.
"China is prepared to fight, but it also hopes that by fighting it can promote peace," he said. "But I think the effect is not that good because the ambiguity of the language may indicate to the US that inside China's bones, it hopes for compromise."
Wei Zongyou, an international relations specialist from Fudan University in Shanghai, said the latest commentary highlighted Beijing's position that Washington was the reason for the tensions between the countries and that China had no willingness to replace the United States.
"Both sides share common interests, so as long as they can respect each other's core interests and come together from opposite directions, there is no problem that cannot be solved," he said.
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