Re: Gesture politics or not...
With the demise of the Soviet regime, China had to be shoehorned into the now vacant position of America's "traditional enemy". (Terrorism had to fill in for a while, but it clearly didn't live up to the task.)
In politics it's very important to have a traditional enemy one can accuse of anything and everything, and scare people with: It keeps the masses focused, and allows irrefutable and final arguments like "if you don't like it here, why don't you go live in [traditional enemy]?".
All weak/authoritarian regimes have a clearly defined enemy (Soviets for the USA, the USA for the Soviets, Jews for Nazis, not to mention the neighbors for a huge lot of countries all over the world).