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Time for Obama to rethink Washington's mild-mannered stance toward China

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Mr. Bush was not pleased with Chinese behavior and, when asked later that month what America would do if China were to attack Taiwan, he responded: “whatever it took” to defend Taiwan. With that statement, Bush seemed to be putting US-China relations in a posture of strategic clarity. Although China experts in and out of the government rushed to assure Beijing that Washington’s policy toward Taiwan had not changed, Bush’s words, together with his approval of a large arms package for Taiwan, had delivered a healthy new deterrent message against Chinese adventurism and miscalculation.

Then came the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, which some in China cheered as showing an “arrogant” America getting what it deserved. (One of the callers to the Voice of America program on which I appeared during the tenth 9/11 anniversary week proudly proclaimed that he was among that minority celebratory group.)

The Bush administration responded by mobilizing a global coalition in a war on terror and launched invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. While not directly participating in the military operations, China joined rhetorically in the counter-terrorism campaign but focused its efforts almost exclusively on the “separatists” and “splittists” in Tibet and Xinjiang.

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