Wagging the paper tiger

Will the Chinese ever cease to amaze us? Let us imagine last month’s anti-American demonstrations in Beijing taking place around a U.S. embassy in an Arab or African country. Or the repeated refusal of a country’s leader to accept a phone call from an American president ready to offer an apology for an acknowledged wrong. Would the United States tolerate such treatment from another nation? Would it stand by without protest as thousands of students virtually imprison its ambassador and lay siege to its embassy? Who can doubt that there would be formal protests and threats to suspend diplomatic ties. Why then such indulgence of the Chinese?

The bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was an almost incomprehensible mistake and a terrible tragedy. But it was a mistake, not a provocation. We should be remorseful, especially for the deaths of the three civilians in the embassy. It was right to apologize. And we should thoroughly investigate the failure of American intelligence agencies to properly locate the bombing target. But having said all of that, the question remains: Why does the United States government tolerate these diplomatic pyrotechnics from the Chinese government?

Theories abound. The first is that the Clinton administration has invested immense political capital in improved relations with the Chinese, especially economic relations. In this, American business has been four-square behind...

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