The China discourse has long been controversial, not just since the outbreak of COVID-19. However, with the deterioration of the US-China as well as EU-China relationship, a polarisation increasingly deprives those involved in cooperation work with the People's Republic of China of their work language. Currently, the discourse categorises positions on China into (critical, realistic, value-loyal) ‘hawks’ and (uncritical, naive, opportunistic) ‘doves’. Other opinions in between, far from both poles, are no longer intended. We would like to counter this dichotomy – from the perspective of the civil society cooperation work of the China Programme – with a critique of the discourse.