To address U.S.–China communication patterns, this essay juxtaposes discourses of democracy in decline (now prevalent in the United States), democracy as chaos (the chief claim of the Chinese Communist Party), and democracy as hope (embodied in the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong). To illustrate the rhetorical dynamics of these three positions, the essay analyzes coverage of the Hong Kong protests, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s bravura 2014 defense of U.S. imperialism, and the CCP’s blistering responses to both Hagel and the Hong Kong protests. These U.S.–China debates about democracy as decline, chaos, and hope are then situated within global conversations about the merits of democracy and stability in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings and ongoing concerns about the course of globalization. Ultimately, the essay argues for a new political style of prudent internationalism scrubbed free of both U.S.-style moralizing and Chinese-style absolutism.

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