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China's hawks demand cold war on the US

February 8, 2010

Washington believes President Obama was made to appear weak
The Times
February 7, 2010

MORE than half of Chinese people questioned in a
poll believe China and America are heading for a new "cold war."

The finding came after battles over Taiwan,
Tibet, trade, climate change, internet freedom
and human rights which have poisoned relations in
the three months since President Barack Obama
made a fruitless visit to Beijing.

According to diplomatic sources, a rancorous
postmortem examination is under way inside the US
government, led by officials who think the
president was badly advised and was made to appear weak.

In China’s eyes, the American response -- which
includes a pledge by Obama to get tougher on
trade -- is a reaction against its rising power.

Now almost 55% of those questioned for Global
Times, a state-run newspaper, agree that "a cold
war will break out between the US and China."

An independent survey of Chinese-language media
for The Sunday Times has found army and navy
officers predicting a military showdown and
political leaders calling for China to sell more
arms to America’s foes. The trigger for their
fury was Obama’s decision to sell $6.4 billion
(£4 billion) worth of weapons to Taiwan, the
thriving democratic island that has ruled itself since 1949.

"We should retaliate with an eye for an eye and
sell arms to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba and
Venezuela," declared Liu Menxiong, a member of
the Chinese people’s political consultative conference.

He added: "We have nothing to be afraid of. The
North Koreans have stood up to America and has
anything happened to them? No. Iran stands up to
America and does disaster befall it? No."

Officially, China has reacted by threatening
sanctions against American companies selling arms
to Taiwan and cancelling military visits.

But Chinese analysts think the leadership, riding
a wave of patriotism as the year of the tiger dawns, may go further.

"This time China must punish the US," said
Major-General Yang Yi, a naval officer. "We must
make them hurt." A major-general in the People’s
Liberation Army (PLA), Luo Yuan, told a
television audience that more missiles would be
deployed against Taiwan. And a PLA strategist,
Colonel Meng Xianging, said China would
“qualitatively upgrade” its military over the
next 10 years to force a showdown “when we’re
strong enough for a hand-to-hand fight with the US”.

Chinese indignation was compounded when the White
House said Obama would meet the Dalai Lama, the
exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, in the next few weeks.

"When someone spits on you, you have to get
back," said Huang Xiangyang, a commentator in the
China Daily newspaper, usually seen as a showcase for moderate opinion.

An internal publication at the elite Qinghua
University last week predicted the strains would
get worse because "core interests" were at risk.
It said battles over exports, technology
transfer, copyright piracy and the value of
China’s currency, the yuan, would be fierce.

As a crescendo of strident nationalistic rhetoric
swirls through the Chinese media and blogosphere,
American officials seem baffled by what has gone
wrong and how fast it has happened.

During Obama’s visit, the US ambassador to China,
Jon Huntsman, claimed relations were "really at
an all-time high in terms of the bilateral
atmosphere ... a cruising altitude that is higher
than any other time in recent memory," according to an official transcript.

The ambassador must have been the only person at
his embassy to think so, said a diplomat close to the talks.

"The truth was that the atmosphere was cold and
intransigent when the president went to Beijing
yet his China team went on pretending that
everything was fine," the diplomat said.

In reality, Chinese officials argued over every
item of protocol, rigged a town hall meeting with
a pre-selected audience, censored the only
interview Obama gave to a Chinese newspaper and
forbade the Americans to use their own
helicopters to fly him to the Great Wall.

President Hu Jintao refused to give an inch on
Obama’s plea to raise the value of the Chinese
currency, while his vague promises of
co-operation on climate change led the Americans
to blunder into a fiasco at the Copenhagen summit three weeks later.

Diplomats say they have been told that there was
"frigid" personal chemistry between Obama and the
Chinese president, with none of the superficial
friendship struck up by previous leaders of the two nations.

Yet after their meeting Obama’s China adviser,
Jeff Bader, said: "It’s been highly successful in
setting out and accomplishing the objectives we set ourselves."

Then came Copenhagen, where Obama virtually had
to force his way with his bodyguards into a
conference room where the urbane Chinese premier,
Wen Jiabao, was trying to strike a deal behind his back.

The Americans were also livid at what they saw as
deliberate Chinese attempts to humiliate the
president by sending lower-level officials to deal with him.

"They thought Obama was weak and they were
testing him," said a European diplomat based in China.

In Beijing, some diplomats even claim to detect a
condescending attitude towards Obama, noting that
Yang Jiechi, the foreign minister, prides himself
on knowing the Bush dynasty and others among
America’s traditional white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant elite.

But there are a few voices urging caution on
Chinese public opinion. "China will look unreal
if it behaves aggressively and competes for
global leadership," wrote Wang Yusheng, a retired diplomat, in the China Daily.

He warned that China was not as rich or as
powerful as America or Japan and therefore such a move could be "hazardous."

It is not clear whether anyone in Beijing is listening.
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