As President Trump’s trade war with China continues, weakening relations between the two powerful states have already begun exacerbating tensions between U.S. and Chinese interests in other realms of geopolitics. Diplomatic spats about how the United States views Taiwan, and a looming standoff between the Chinese and the U.S.-led Pacific forces that challenge China’s claimed sovereignty over the majority of the South China Sea are now no longer just simmering disputes without a clear path toward resolution — they’re starting to look like the varied facets of a slow-and-steady march toward war.

For those who have built their careers out of thriving at that point of conflict — where words and actions have reverberating effects on the lives of millions for years to come — the symptoms of war can become fairly easy to discern. Dehumanizing political rhetoric, a focus on your opponent’s human rights abuses, and, of course, repeated reminders of the threat the opponent poses to the general public are all the wickets that need to be hit before a nation can stomach declaring war.

Today, you’ll find each of those, as well as a host of other red flags, pouring freely from American and Chinese politicians. It isn’t necessarily about grooming these nations for war, so much as it’s about grooming the people to withstand one if it were to become inevitable. Vietnam demonstrated to policymakers for the first time that souring public support for a military operation can turn the tides of battle just as effectively as bullets or bombs — and the world’s leaders took notice. If you hope to at least present the image of a nation that listens to its people, you now have two options when it comes to war: only declare them when the public demands it… or stir up the demand from the public yourself.

Retired Lt. General Ben Hodges, who previously served as the commander of all U.S. Army forces in Europe, now earns a paycheck as a defense strategy expert for the Center for European Policy Analysis. Recently, Hodges remarked on the likelihood that a conflict would break out with China in the near future, and how that will affect America’s ability to serve as a deterrent force for Russian aggression in Europe.