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Foreign Policy

Diplomatically Insulting the Chinese

May 21 , 2011

May 2011 is likely to go down as an especially important and intensive period in U.S.-China relations. Leaders of the two countries held the latest annual session of the bilateral Strategic and Economic Dialogue on May 9-10. And last week, eight high-ranking Chinese generals, led by Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, met their Pentagon counterparts and then toured selected U.S. military installations.

The conventional wisdom is that these events mark a dramatic improvement in a relationship that has been marked by growing tensions in recent years. That interpretation is partially correct, but there are some worrisome countercurrents that are also important. Despite the improving communication between the two sides, U.S.-China relations remain strained, and there are troublesome issues that will not be easy to ameliorate, much less resolve.

Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is also a contributing editor to The National Interest

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