An emerging narrative in 2012 is that a proliferation of protectionist, treaty-violating, or otherwise illiberal Chinese policies is to blame for worsening United States-China relations. The term “trade war” is no longer taboo. It is beyond doubt that certain Chinese policies have been provocative, discriminatory, protectionist, and, in some cases, violative of the agreed rules of international trade. But there is more to the story than that. United States policies, politics, and attitudes have contributed to rising tensions. If the public’s passions are going to be inflamed with talk of a trade war, prudence demands that the war’s nature be properly characterized and its causes identified and accurately depicted. Even if one concludes that China’s list of offenses is collectively more egregious than that of the United States, the most sensible course of action—for the American public—is one that avoids mutually destructive actions and finds measures to reduce frictions with China.