Chinese Nationalism and Its Discontents

China must choose between kowtowing to domestic nationalism and submitting to a peaceful rise. Lately, nationalist belligerence has ruled the day. Washington is overreacting, encircling China. A latent rivalry ratchets up to dangerous levels.

Issue: Nov-Dec 2011

AT NO time since the end of the Cold War have U.S.-China relations been worse. Yes, in the past there have been periodic confrontations over Taiwan, and tensions over the American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the Chinese fighter-jet collision with an American reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea. But the current downturn reflects a potential long-term trend with the likelihood of protracted strategic conflict. Equally troubling, this raising of tensions is not only unnecessary but also potentially costly to the United States.

Beginning in early 2009, China committed a series of diplomatic blunders that ultimately elicited a near-universal condemnation of Chinese diplomacy. The list is long:

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