What makes the question newly relevant is that Xi Jinping's China suddenly appears eager for a showdown with the United States for long-term supremacy in the Asia-Pacific and the world.
With the U.S. consumed by the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 100,000 Americans and crashed our economy to depths not seen since the Great Depression, China's dictator seems to be making his move.
At the Communist Party conclave this May, China announced that it was seizing control of Hong Kong's security. From now on, subversion, sedition, secession and foreign meddling within the city will be crushed.
Whatever sanctions the U.S. and its allies impose, there will be no free and independent Hong Kong.
"For an Ascendant China, Reining in Hong Kong Is Just the Start," is the headline over The New York Times story on China's new assertiveness.
"China's move to strip away another layer of Hong Kong's autonomy was not a rash impulse. It was a deliberate act, months in the making," writes reporter Steven Lee Myers. "It took into account the risks of international umbrage and reached the reasonable assumption that there would not be a significant geopolitical price to pay. …
"With the world distracted by the pandemic's devastating toll, China has taken a series of aggressive steps in recent weeks to flex its economic, diplomatic and military muscle across the region.
"China's Coast Guard rammed and sank a fishing boat in disputed waters off Vietnam, and its ships swarmed an offshore oil rig operated by Malaysia. Beijing denounced the second inauguration of Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, and pointedly dropped the word peaceful from its annual call for unification with the island democracy.