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Sources of US-China mistrust

While the article "Behind Chinese Furor: Mistrust" (May 12) rightly asserts that mistrust is the root cause for the surprising Chinese reaction to NATO's tragic bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, another reason is more fundamental: the seemingly incompatible positions of the US and China in a changing international structure.

Historically, coping with a rising power has seldom been easy. During periods of "power transitions," conflicts have occurred when the status-quo power strikes the challenger preemptively, whereas the latter often sees the former as the major obstacle to its "rightful place."

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Today's America and China fit the characteristics of the status quo and revisionist powers, respectively.

While the US undoubtedly bears responsibility for this terrible mistake, Beijing should sensibly halt its risky strategy of fanning anti-American demonstrations that seeks to both divert student restlessness on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre and gain diplomatic leverage for China on Kosovo.

Many fatal examples in modern Chinese history, such as the May 4 Movement and the Boxer Rebellion, show that inciting patriotism (or jingoism) to cover up the regime's weaknesses only came back to haunt the instigators.

If wisely handled, the embassy bombing may open a more promising chapter in the fragile US-China relationship.

Vincent Wei-cheng Wang Richmond, Va.

A vote for standardized testing

Regarding "Schools are putting too much emphasis on standardized tests" (May 11): While the author may be concerned with her students' self-esteem, she seems to neglect the need to measure our educational system as a whole. Accountability is one agenda among many, but without standardized tests, which I will admit are not perfect, we have no numbers with which to work, no data to analyze - in short, no idea what problems we face. Anecdotes are nice, but don't serve broader educational purposes. Only standardized tests can really fill such a role.

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Eliminating or dumbing-down tests will not help anyone.

Howard Fienberg Washington

Taking issue with Mamet

Regarding the endorsement of David Mamet's philosophy on acting style in "A common-sense approach to acting" (May 7): Many serious theater practitioners would agree that to tell an actor to play lines just as written, and that there is no such thing as character, is not practical because it flies in the face of reality as we know it and impedes the search for truth. What one says and how one says it are naturally seen to be an expression of character - mind, motive, and history. Can one not often infer the essence of another's character by listening to what he says?

Todd Peters New York

Accepting responsibility

Regarding the opinion article "Contemplating Littleton" (May 7): I very much agree with the article that parents are the last line of defense in combating cultural desensitization. At the same time, and I'm sure that writer would agree, the issues raised by the Columbine High School tragedy must not be addressed by parents alone, but by each and every one of us.

In the case of Columbine, I believe that no amount of finger pointing can distract us from accepting our collective responsibility, a responsibility placed squarely on the shoulders of members of a culture whose primary messages for far too many decades have been, "buy me" and "shoot 'em up."

Tammie Fowles Columbia, S.C.

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