Browse through Western media reports about US Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to China, and the impression is that Washington's top diplomat is coming to pick a fight with Beijing over South China Sea.
Such incendiary coverage, while laying bare those trigger-happy public-opinion framers'obsession with conflict, also smacks of a plot to force Kerry to take on an issue that should never become a concern in China-US ties and toughen up his stance to the detriment of the health of trans-Pacific interaction.
All responsible US policymakers -- not least Kerry, a leading figure in Washington's top brass -- should refrain from reducing themselves to the dupe of such a vicious trap, and they have good reason to do so.
For starters, the United States is not a party in the South China Sea disputes, which are between China and other claimants and should be handled by those directly involved. And they have all committed themselves to untangling those chronic knots in a peaceful way.
Meanwhile, China's infrastructure improvement on Nansha Islands, which has been vehemently hyped up of late, falls totally within its sovereignty, and will enable Beijing to better fulfill its international obligations in the busy body of water, including maritime rescue.
In addition, despite the incessant trumpeting of the "China threat" cliche, the freedom of navigation at South China Sea, which the United States has repeatedly cited as a major concern, has never been a problem. And China and southeast Asian nations have pledged to jointly safeguard its tranquility.
Thus Washington has no valid grounds whatsoever to point an accusing finger at Beijing over South China Sea. Instead, it needs to look at itself in the mirror and change its counterproductive behavior as regards the complicated conundrum.
For its inadequately explained "pivot to Asia" strategy has instigated the Philippines to make waves at South China Sea and stir up regional tensions, and its exaggeration of navigation freedom concerns sounds like a pretext to maintain its hegemonic presence in the region.
Besides, its strident criticism about China's construction works at Nansha Islands reveals a stark double standard, as the United States has for long turned a blind eye to some other claimants'large-scale schemes to "manufacture sovereignty" -- as senior US diplomat Daniel Russel recently accused China of doing -- on Chinese sovereign islands.
Therefore, rather than cling to a grossly inflated controversy and thinly veiled hypocrisy, Kerry is expected to see the true big picture and focus on the real priority between the two global giants: the cultivation of a new type of major-country relations based on mutual respect and win-win cooperation.
Among the immediate tasks, he needs to work with the Chinese side to prepare for the upcoming China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue in June and President Xi Jinping's state visit to the United States in September.
And the two heavyweights have many more items of bilateral and global significance on their to-do list, ranging from the bilateral investment treaty negotiations to the world economic growth, and from the Iranian nuclear issue to the protection of history against falsification.
In a sign of the gathering diplomatic momentum between the world's largest developed and developing countries, about a third of the US cabinet members have visited China since February.
Kerry, for his part, has no reason to put a stick in the wheels of healthy China-US engagement.