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|Hainan Collision: Beijing Demands Apology, Others Demand Diplomacy|
The U.S.-China "tug-of-war" over the collision between a U.S. "spy plane" and a Chinese jet fighter generated heavy press coverage overseas. While the official Chinese press saw the standoff being resolved only with a U.S. apology, the consensus view in East Asia and elsewhere was that an end to the clash hinges on the diplomatic skill of both sides. Worried editorial writers urged Washington and Beijing to "sort out this entanglement without either party losing face." An optimistic minority thought that economic self-interest would mandate eventual bilateral concord, but pessimists feared that future clashes were "almost inevitable." Many observers portrayed this incident as the Bush administration's first serious foreign policy test. Highlights follow:
EAST ASIA: Official Chinese and pro-PRC media in Hong Kong echoed Beijing's assertions that the U.S. bears full responsibility for the Hainan jet collision and that the U.S. owes it to the Chinese both to apologize and to terminate surveillance flights. Other East Asian observers, however, declared that it was "imperative that both Washington and Beijing act with restraint and seek to limit the fallout" from the incident, because "the lesser nations of East Asia do not want to be innocent bystanders hurt in a struggle between titans." Some parties blamed maladroit U.S. diplomacy for exacerbating the confrontation. Seoul's independent Joong-Ang Ilbo thought that "President Bush's dogmatism" fostered an ill-advised "self-centered way of resolving problems," citing the jet collision and the Aegis destroyer controversy. While all writers thought it incumbent upon Beijing to return the EP-3's crew, no one expected the Chinese to hand over the plane untouched. Hong Kong's independent Ming Pao Daily News was among several who used the U.S. inspection of a Soviet MIG-25 as a precedent when it asserted that "boarding the plane to conduct an examination is legal."
ELSEWHERE: Observers in Europe, the Mideast, Africa and the Americas stressed that the U.S.-China "tug-of-war" must be settled quickly and through diplomatic channels. Some took an almost tutorial tone, with Madrid's conservative ABC urging Mr. Bush to "be prudent and abandon signs of arrogance" in dealing with Beijing. Paris's left-of-center Le Monde typified an underlying theme found in several papers in Western Europe and Russia that President Bush is, to some extent, "facing the consequences of his changed attitude toward Beijing," referring to his identification of China as a "strategic competitor" rather than a "strategic partner." Some further saw the more "muscular" U.S. policy toward the PRC colliding with an "increasingly assertive China." In that light, warned London's independent Financial Times, "future clashes similar to the present one seem almost inevitable." A minority, mostly in Britain and Canada, faulted Beijing, as when London's conservative Times declared: "It is China's belligerent reaction to the accident, not the accident itself, that threatens to turn this into a crisis."
EDITORS: Stephen Thibeault, Katherine Starr
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 57 reports from 35 countries, April 3-4, 2001. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
CHINA: "U.S. Plane Collision Grossly Violated International Law"
Gong Li commented in the official Guangming Daily (4/4): "It is necessary that we make an analysis of the incident from the perspective of international law so that people can understand the true nature of the event: First, the collision took place in the airspace above waters close to China, which is also above China's exclusive economic zone.... U.S. surveillance planes, in total disregard of the repeated solemn representations made by the Chinese government, frequently approach the airspace above the sea areas close to China for reconnaissance. Such acts exceeded the 'overflight freedom' principle allowed by international law and are an abuse of such a principle. It is proper and in accordance with international law for China to follow and monitor U.S. military planes in order to safeguard its state sovereignty and security. It is certain that if foreign surveillance planes are conducting spy flights in airspace over water areas close to the United States, it would not sit idle....
"Second, the entry of the U.S. spy plane into and its landing on Chinese territory without approval are infringements upon Chinese airspace sovereignty.... The so-called 'emergency landing' cannot be an excuse for the U.S. plane to intrude into China's territory without China's permission. The failure of the U.S. plane to make a request to or to inform the Chinese side was a slight to China's sovereignty. China is entirely entitled to take any just measures of self-defense to maintain its national security interests.... What the U. S. government should do first is to apologize to the Chinese government and people, and immediately halt all surveillance activities in China's coastal areas, and hold a positive attitude in carrying out a comprehensive and thorough investigation into the incident in cooperation with the Chinese government. The U.S. side should make prompt, sufficient and effective compensation for China's loss of life and property."
"People All Over China Indignant At U.S. Plane Intrusion"
Xu Jiangshan, Chen Maodi and Haibo wrote in the Beijing Morning Post (Beijing Chenbao, 4/4): "Wu Hongyong, a deputy party secretary in Beijing said that the U.S. stance on the plane collision incident revealed the U.S. nature of hegemonism.... Zhou Hanmin, a legal expert in Shanghai, said that the collision is a serious political issue and the responsibility for the incident is on the U.S. side according to international law.... Fu Dunchun, associate professor with the Hainan University, said that the action of U.S. military aircraft has severely infringed upon China's sovereignty.... Chinese people support the government's position on this issue and urge the U.S. government to give a satisfactory reply as soon as possible."
"U.S. Excuses Betray Its Weakness"
Jin Zeqing commented in official, English-language China Daily (4/3): "Washington's claim that the collision was a result of the Chinese jet bumping the U.S. plane accidentally only attests to U.S. arrogance in managing bilateral relations. When the collision occurred, Washington did not express any willingness to join Chinese efforts in rescuing the Chinese pilot, nor did it show any concern for him. The only concern of officials in Washington is how soon the Chinese government will return the U.S. navy surveillance plane and its 24 crew members, whom the Chinese side has taken good care of. Washington's frosty response towards the Chinese pilot's predicament is indicative of the double standard the U.S. has adopted on human rights.... Making mistakes is natural. But always making mistakes detrimental to other countries' interests or other people's lives is hardly responsible international behavior."
"China Protests U.S. Jet's Intrusion"
Xinhua News Agency had this piece in official, English-language China Daily (4/3): "Assistant Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong noted that the Chinese people are demanding an explanation from the United States on the following questions: Why did the U.S. military plane approach a place so close to China? Why did the U.S. plane take a sudden turn, bump into and damage the Chinese jet?... Zhou reiterated that the U.S. plane's intrusion into China's airspace and its emergency landing without permission from the Chinese side were gross violations of China's national sovereignty."
HONG KONG: "Keeping An Eye On The 'Spies'"
Greg Torode wrote in independent South China Morning Post (4/4): "As Mr. Bush promises to boost ties with allies such as Japan and South Korea--pledges that have already come under pressure--he must also create a more considered engagement with Beijing if he is to deliver on his campaign hype. Sunday's incident only appears to raise the bar on the first hurdle on the road to that engagement: his decision in just over three weeks as to what arms to sell Taiwan.... If the situation deteriorates, Mr. Bush may face pressure not just from Beijing, but from Republican members in Congress. Pro-business interests will want a swift resolution, but right-wingers may demand more resolute action, including significant arms sales to Taiwan."
"Violating International Law, The U.S. Should Give An Explanation"
The pro-PRC Hong Kong Commercial Daily remarked in its editorial (4/4): "The U.S. military plane has violated international law and international practice. It has infringed upon China's airspace, causing a serious loss to the Chinese people. The United States is not qualified to put forward this or that demand to China. What the United States has to do is to quickly give a satisfactory explanation of the air collision to the Chinese people and stop the dangerous game of conducting reconnaissance in the airspace along China's coast. How will the incident develop? This largely depends on the U.S.' attitude."
"Boarding The Plane To Conduct An Examination Is Legal"
The independent Ming Pao Daily News declared (4/4): "In the current situation, it can be proved that China is following certain kinds of international norms when it boards the plane to make an examination. One example is that in 1976, a Soviet MIG-25 military plane was flown to Japan. The United States and Japan disassembled the plane to study it for two months before they returned the plane to the Soviet Union because that military plane was a mystery to the West at that time. According to this example, the norm is that the right belongs to the side who has power. Did the Soviet Union protest? What was the result of its protest?... However, if they found there were some military weapons that were worth studying, would they not try to disassemble it? The facts are the facts. If the United States has not lost its memory selectively, it should remember what it did to the MIG military plane 25 years ago."
"Cool Heads Required"
Independent South China Morning Post had this editorial (4/3): "The augury is not favorable. In addition to the plane issue, other matters are influencing U.S.-China ties in an undesirable way.... China's basic policy is to pursue economic development. America's basic interest is to preserve regional stability, while promoting trade and investment. These are common and fundamental goals. This is why it is essential that top leaders on both sides step back and analyze anew just where they want their mutual relationship to go. It could be disastrous for both, and for all of East Asia, if new tensions block exchanges which serve both sides so well. And it would be especially tragic if this happened because lesser issues got out of control and the relationship deteriorated more by accident than design."
"U.S. Plane Collided With Our Plane, Revealing U.S. Hegemonism"
Pro-PRC Hong Kong Commercial Daily remarked (4/3): "U.S. military planes want to fly near the sea and sky of China to gather military intelligence. This is a threat to China's security and national interests. The Chinese military will absolutely not let this go unchecked. It is perfectly justified for China to take necessary action. As long as the United States continues to act without restraint and refuses to give up its hegemonism aimed at China, conflicts will be inevitable. Accidents similar to what just happened will take place sooner or later."
TAIWAN: "Analysis Of The Follow-up Impact Of U.S.-China Aircraft Collision"
The pro-independence Taiwan Times editorialized (4/4): "It is unlikely that the United States will get its most advanced equipment back unless it shows some goodwill [toward China]. This event may in the end be resolved through diplomatic channels. But if the United States insists on making no concessions, anti-American sentiments inside the Chinese military and mainland China may not be easily quelled. The United States, on the other hand, is not totally powerless. Washington could make a fuss at the APEC or WTO meetings, which may put Jiang Zemin and his followers in an internal power transition predicament. Asking whether Beijing will use the incident to put pressure on Washington to affect the U.S. arms sales to Taiwan decision, the answer is yes. But the items included in the arms sale are still decided according to U.S. national interests not Beijing's demands. Taiwan therefore need not worry about it."
"Tension Rises For Washington, Beijing; Strategic Competition Forms"
Su Yung-yao said in pro-independence Liberty Times (4/3): "Both sides argued over individual sovereignty, which indicates the fragile mutual trust and the strategy to 'overawe others by displaying one's strength,' the results might further stir or escalate strategic conflicts.... For Taiwan, it inevitably faces the problem of 'taking sides' when competition between Washington and Beijing arises. Taiwan naturally should put cross-Strait peace as its priority policy, due to its geographic connection with mainland China. But under political logic that says 'the shortest distance between two points may not necessarily be a straight line,' probably the strategic objective that Taiwan should think about after the competitive relationship between Washington and Beijing develops is how Taiwan should 'join the United States to restrain China.'"
JAPAN: "A Severe Diplomatic Trial For Bush Administration"
Liberal Asahi's Washington correspondent Sugimoto observed (4/4): "The question is how or whether the U.S. administration will be able to facilitate China's early return of the plane and its crew without straining relations with China. How will the administration be able to restrain a 'get-tough-with-China' sentiment rising in Congress?... Although U.S. diplomats met all 24 crew members of the plane on Hainan Island, there will be many twists and turns before a full settlement of the collision row. The incident occurred at a time when Mr. Bush is preoccupied with too many domestic issues, including proposed tax cuts, to devote himself to diplomacy that is said to be far from being his forte. Can he really take the diplomatic initiative to settle the plane collision issue?"
"Nothing Is More Important Than Self-Control"
Business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (4/3): "At this point and time, it is imperative that the United States and China exercise self-control to diplomatically settle the issue and prevent already awkward bilateral ties from taking a turn for the worse. Washington asks Beijing not to inspect the U.S. EP-3 plane that is said to be 'full of military intelligence-gathering secrets.' As long as both sides treat the case as a pure accident, they should not face off and exasperate each other unnecessarily.... Japan should keep in mind the fact that the EP-3 plane took off from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. The Japanese can hardly regard the aggravation of U.S.-China relations and cross-Taiwan Straits tension as a 'fire on the other side of a river.' We strongly hope that the United States and China will exercise prudence and self-control to settle the issue."
AUSTRALIA: "Poised On The Brink Of A Crisis"
MP Kevin Rudd wrote in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review (4/4): "There is a real possibility that this incident, in the context of everything else, will cause the [US-China] relationship to start to spiral out of control. And Taiwan will be the touchstone. Australia shouldn't be sitting in its hands in all of this. Our core foreign policy interest is continued stability in East Asia."
"US-China: Build Bridges, Not Walls"
An editorial in the conservative, national Australian read (4/3): "The Sino-U.S. crisis being played out on...Hainan is very real. It has the potential to spark a new cold war between Washington and Beijing and has far-reaching implications for East Asia and Australia. For these reasons, China and the United States should move from the realm of blame and rhetoric to resolve this dangerous stand-off as quickly as possible.... A downturn in relations between China and the United States is not our interest and Australia should urge the Bush administration to err on the side of caution. When John Howard goes to Washington later this year...he must impress on the United States that our common strategic interests are best served by building bridges, not walls, with China."
MALAYSIA: "U.S. Thinking Has Changed Little"
The government-influenced, English language Business Times commented (4/4): "In America's now simmering confrontation with China, apart from a downed U.S. spy plane there, Taiwan is the cooking pot. Fighting for independence from Beijing, the island state has been asking Washington for an arms package. The Aegis could be a precursor to Taiwan developing a blanket missile defense system, which in turn would render China's weapons useless. For China, its missiles represent a powerful reminder to Taipei that the latter must know its limits in asking for independence.... Washington's main concern is the possibility of the Taiwanese democratic government falling into communist China's hands--that same old story of being a defender of democracy. Some 50 years ago, it was the same concern that led the United States to arm the then Republic of Vietnam. We all know the outcome of the story.... Little, it seems, has changed."
PHILIPPINES: "The Confrontation May Be Good For Us"
Max Soliven wrote in the third-leading Philippine Star (4/4): "The Chinese jets were apparently harassing the American plane--just as Chinese naval vessels routinely show themselves in the disputed Spratly's near Mischief Reef, or Chinese fishing vessels 'invade' Scarborough shoal to poach in our waters. Perhaps the confrontation will turn out to be good for us. At least, when they run right smack into another 'power,' the Chinese will be less inclined to bully us on the sea and in the air.... The U.S. carrier battle groups are the instruments of American diplomacy-with-a-bite. It may be nettlesome to our nationalistic pride, but their presence in nearby waters may be the best guarantee--at the oddest moments--of our own security.... Let's keep our options open. However, as history has amply demonstrated, keeping on the good side of the Americans (despite a number of irritants of recent note) may still be our best bet."
SINGAPORE: "A Dangerous Confrontation"
The pro-government Business Times (4/4) opined: "It is most unfortunate that the already uneasy relationship between the new Bush administration and the Chinese government is set to
get a lot worse over the U.S. spy plane incident.... The stage is set for a dangerous show of brinkmanship. Clearly, if events spin out of control as a result of domestic political pressure in both countries, everyone in the region will suffer. It is therefore imperative that both Washington and Beijing act with restraint and seek to limit the fallout."
SOUTH KOREA: "Impact Of U.S.-China Air Collision"
Kim Young Hie, vice president of independent Joong-Ang Ilbo, stated (4/4): "Our biggest concern is that President Bush's dogmatism may lead to a self-centered way of resolving problems including the collision of a U.S. spy plane with a Chinese jet fighter and the export of high-tech weapons to Taiwan. The lesser nations of East Asia do not want to be innocent bystanders who get hurt in a struggle between titans. We can expect improved U.S.-China relations if China casts away its greed and releases the U.S. crew, and when the United States expresses its regret over the fate of the Chinese pilot."
"U.S., China Should Settle The Situation With Self-Restraint"
Moderate Hankook Ilbo editorialized (4/3): "We urge both sides to display self-restraint and make mutual concessions. The two powers, which are responsible and influential for peace in the region, should not escalate this incident into a power contest."
THAILAND: "Washington And Beijing On A Collision Course"
The independent, English language Nation commented (4/4): "The heightening U.S.-China tension will have an impact on overall security in the region.... American allies, including Thailand, could be drawn into the standoff if the current friction persists. The upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum will also be affected. Tension will polarize ARF members, which have been plagued by the more assertive U.S. attitude toward both China and North Korea. Both U.S. and Chinese leaders have engaged before in this kind of tit-for-tat game, and they both know the limits. It is to be hoped that after some posturing they will come to their senses and end the episode as soon as possible."
VIETNAM: "U.S.-China Aircraft Collision: A High Price To Pay For An Adventure"
Nguyen Dai Phuong wrote in the mouthpiece of the Communist Youth League Tien Phong (4/3): "The United States has paid a high price for this adventure with 24 American crew members being detained in China. Beijing now has a golden opportunity to study and inspect the advanced technology of all the equipment on board the EP-3 aircraft.... No one believes that China will not do so. One can be sure of the safe return of the 24 American crew members, because both sides don't want to do further harm to bilateral relations, but no one can be sure of the fate of the EP-3 plane."
The independent Financial Times opined (4/4): "The furor over the grounded American spy aircraft highlights more poignantly than ever the challenge that the United States faces in managing the rise of an increasingly assertive China. For one thing, in spite of repeated U.S. efforts to improve military-to-military contacts, Beijing has resisted creating military understandings with Washington such as those developed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.... Moreover, now that the military has riveted the attention of the world on U.S. spying efforts over China, it may well see its interests served by extending the crisis. With Pentagon concern about China's growing military capability leading it to keep an ever closer watch on China, future clashes similar to the present one appear almost inevitable. The most crucial test of the U.S. administration's attitudes to China is expected later this month, when a decision is due on what types of advanced weapons should be sold to Taiwan.... Indeed, suspicions within China have deepened considerably since the summer of 1998 when Bill Clinton traveled to Beijing for a summit aimed at...developing a 'strategic partnership.' Mr. Bush now refers to China as a 'strategic competitor,' and within Beijing policy circles there is a growing sense that Washington has a well-calibrated plan to 'constrain' the growing influence of the world's most populous nation."
"Bush Over China: Beijing Would Be Wise To Avoid A Fight"
The conservative Times editorialized (4/3): "The collision between a Chinese fighter and the American military surveillance aircraft it was sent to intercept over the South China Sea is a major incident; but its effects ought to be containable.... It is China's belligerent reaction to the accident, not the accident itself, that threatens to turn this into a crisis between Washington and Beijing.... George W. Bush has decided to handle China as a 'strategic competitor' rather than continue the Clinton Administration's policy of treating it as a 'strategic partner'. China may be tempted to demonstrate that it too can play hardball--and even to try to trade the crew's release against the return of Colonel Yu Junping, the Chinese officer who defected last December. To revert to such Cold War tactics would be a misreading of the temper in Washington.... The bigger the storm in China over this accident, the better Taiwan is likely to be equipped by Washington. There is tension enough already on matters ranging from trade to Chinese complicity in missile proliferation. A quarrel over this accident is best not picked."
"Coming Down To Earth: Bush Gets A Grounding In China Policy"
The liberal Guardian stated (4/3): "Strain and pain are beginning to characterize U.S.-China relations after the incident off Hainan involving an EP-3 spy plane and a Chinese fighter, whose pilot is now presumed dead. Washington's intrusive coastal surveillance is partly to blame. Beijing has made matters worse by holding the U.S. crew incommunicado and delaying the return of the plane and its top secret intelligence-gathering equipment. The affair demonstrates just how easily George Bush's concept of 'strategic competition' with China can turn nasty.... Bush apologists explain that policy is still being formulated, that the United States still wants good relations. China, meanwhile, currently has two main reasons for restraint. One is its hope that it can yet persuade the Bushmen to opt for a pragmatic, non-ideological approach.... China's second reason for restraint is Taiwan. This is the make-or-break issue for China, transcending all others.... Beijing is desperate (not too strong a word) that Mr. Bush not proceed with the sale of advanced military equipment to the 'renegade province'."
FRANCE: "A First Test For An Inexperienced President"
Patrice de Beer held in left-of-center Le Monde (4/4): "This is a first test for an inexperienced president. A hardening of Beijing's position, in order to test Washington's determination, or a deterioration of the present situation would only strengthen Washington's hardliners...and those who favor selling weapons to Taiwan.... The White House's options are nevertheless limited.... As a last resort, Washington could use trade sanctions and refuse to renew the most favored nation's clause. President Bush is definitely facing the first consequences of his changed attitude toward Beijing.... The incident in question could turn into a major political crisis between America and China if the hardliners on both sides use nationalism with success."
"A New Worthy Adversary For The U.S.?"
Philippe Sassier maintained on government-run France 2 television (4/4): "The world is discovering a new America along with its new president.... What should have been a simple air incident between Washington and Beijing has turned into a crisis because of the ambient climate between the two capitals. It is as if, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the United States was looking for a worthy adversary."
"Bush's Anti-China Proponents"
Pascal Riche wrote in left-of-center Liberation (4/3): "The hardliners in Bush's team are most adamant when it comes to China. For them, Clinton's China policy was naïve: how can the United States envision a 'strategic partnership' with China, when Beijing is modernizing its weapons? This anti-Chinese current is symbolized by Secretary Rumsfeld and his right hand man, Paul Wolfowitz, Vice President Dick Cheney and Lewis Libby.... These men think essentially in terms of a military alliance with Japan or South Korea and of providing Taiwan with sophisticated weapons.... Their most active supporter in Congress is Jesse Helms, who would like to see the diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.... For some, like Trent Lott, ideology and electoral interests go hand in hand: The Aegis radar system in the balance is manufactured in Mississippi, his home base.... Faced with these hardliners, Bush is subjected to contradictory pressures...including Powell's and Rice's diplomatic non-ideological approach.... The question is, who will win, considering what John Gershman of 'Foreign Policy in Focus' says: 'Powell and Rice do not dominate Bush's foreign policy, and dominate his Asian policy even less.'"
GERMANY: "Collision Of Two States"
Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich suggested (4/4): "One does not have to love another country, and it is not necessary to be friends, but one should at least be able to talk. However, Washington and Beijing are mostly incommunicado, which is creating the danger of the plane collision becoming a serious military and diplomatic crisis. The hawks have been on the rise in Washington. They view China as a threat, and they have contributed to the lamentable lack of communication between the two countries. Even if crew and plane are released quickly, the Bush administration will now have no problem supplying Taiwan with weapons, encircling China, and concentrating the full strategic weight of the U.S. superpower on the Pacific region. The Hainan incident marks the beginning of long-term hostility."
"Acting With Care"
Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau noted (4/4): "Poor relations between the United States--whose new foreign policy gives the impression of being too muscular to move--and China --which keeps insisting on a more prominent position in global politics--are affecting Taiwan and the entire region. They are threatening to revive an old crisis situation in Korea, and they are destabilizing East Asia in general. But much can improve if the plane incident gets solved diplomatically. China should act with care and not demand too high a price for the release of the EP-3 crew."
"Collision In Thin Air"
Henrik Bork observed in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (4/3): "The fact that the plane collision has triggered great concern in all of Asia is mostly the fault of U.S. foreign policy. Several weeks after coming to power, George Bush has still not clearly defined his China policy. A positive definition of U.S-Chinese relations does not yet exist. And in such a political vacuum news items which would normally be fairly insignificant take on exaggerated meaning. This holds true for the plane collision over Hainan as well as the next U.S. arms shipment to Taiwan, which has been accompanied by much inflated rhetoric. Far away from the spotlight of public excitement, both Beijing and Washington have indicated over the past few weeks that they are interested in stable relations which would not be significantly different from the status quo under Clinton. Both the right-wing members of Congress who are hostile to China and the hawks in China's military apparatus should therefore not be permitted to play up the incident over Hainan for political reasons."
ITALY: "Bush Threatens The Chinese: 'I Have Lost My Patience'"
Washington correspondent Vittorio Zucconi observed in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica
(4/4): "President Bush is beginning to lose patience regarding the 'cat and mouse' game played by the Chinese government. With a clear verbal escalation...Bush yesterday asked for the restitution of the U.S. plane and its crew. Even though there were no threats or ultimatums in his statements, it is clear that the window of American patience is closing."
RUSSIA: "Fortitude Test"
Yevgeny Bai filed from Washington for reformist Izvestiya (4/4/): "During the election campaign aides of the then Texan Governor tried hard to portray him as a leader with a strong will. But being firm on China is not the same as bombing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein at will. The crisis over the spy plane may set bilateral relations back 20 years. With the two countries divided on a number of issues, President Bush will find things hard, as he will need all of his willpower and political responsibility to pass his first test."
"Beijing Has Its Revenge"
Andrei Ivanov remarked in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (4/4): "Neither Washington nor Beijing will benefit by a worsening of relations. Both are interested in economic cooperation. But the Chinese seem inclined to take this opportunity to avenge themselves for the attack on their embassy in Yugoslavia in May of 1999 and to challenge the Americans' claim to leadership in Asia. At the same time, they wouldn't mind sharing in the United States' military secrets."
"It Had To Happen"
Vladimir Skosyrev mused in reformist Vremya MN (4/4): "It would seem that, with their mutual economic interest, Beijing and Washington will come to terms. But then, a powerful conservative lobby in the United States regards China's policy as a threat to U.S. interests.... This being so, something of the kind that happened over the South China Sea was bound to happen sooner or later. Chairman Jiang may, of course, wonder publicly at U.S. planes flying off the Chinese coast, but he is well aware that this has been going on for years. All this attests to Beijing and Washington deeply mistrusting each other. Even if they manage to settle the current conflict, their contradictions will remain a factor of tension in East Asia for a long time."
"Logically, The Americans Are Right"
Georgy Stepanov said on page one of reformist Izvestiya (4/3): "The incident is fraught with a sharp aggravation of relations between the two nuclear powers, strained as they are. The Pentagon has accused the Chinese pilots of having been 'aggressive and provocative.' Logically, the Americans are right--how could the clumsy and slow turbo-prop EP-3 the size of a Boeing 737 have crashed into the small and fast F-8?"
AUSTRIA: "Just Eyewash, So Far"
Gudrun Harrer wrote in liberal Der Standard (4/3): "The accident above the South China Sea has become a yardstick for the newly defined relationship between Washington and Beijing, which under Bush has turned from a strategic partner to a strategic rival. But in spite of the harsher rhetoric, triggered by the United States, both countries seem to be torn between alienation and further normalization."
BELGIUM: "Serious War Of Nerves, Taiwan In Background"
Edouard Van Velthem analyzed in left-of-center Le Soir (4/3): "This incident takes place with, in the background, the very sensitive question of Taiwan. Between the United States and China, in spite of Vice Prime Minister Qian Qichen's recent visit to Washington and a possible visit to Beijing by President Bush in the fall, the temperature has fallen by a few degrees.... If it is not the Cold War yet, it is, at least, already a serious war of nerves.... This incident is even more inopportune since Bush must decide this month on the sale of high tech weapons to Taiwan. The White House's clear intention to take a tougher stand and [its] attachment to military security agreements with Taipei do not leave Beijing much hope on the outcome."
HUNGARY: "Vital Trade Interests"
Peter Barabas held in independent Nepszava (4/3): "The airplane incident is further embittering U.S.-China relations.... Beijing has to maneuver so that bilateral trade does not suffer. At the same time, Washington, while it considers China a threatening challenge, defines an efficient trade with China as vital. The planned visit of President Bush to China in October is also an indication of that."
IRELAND: "If Not Defused Quickly"
The moderately conservative Irish Times opined (4/3): "The incident in which a U.S. spy plane was forced to land on the Chinese island of Hainan comes at a crucial time in the development of relations between Beijing and the new administration in Washington. It is a matter which, if not defused quickly, could cause long-term damage."
NORWAY: "A Premature China Test For Bush"
Washington Morten Fyhn commented in newspaper-of-record Aftenposten (4/4): "The current conflict about the American spy plane's activity outside China's coasts can be seen as a warning about what may await... If President Bush wants to show his own party that he has a tougher attitude toward China than did Clinton, he is expected be favorably disposed toward Taiwan's desire to buy advanced weapon systems. China has warned the United States against fulfilling any of these wishes, and says that such a sale will be understood as a threat directed against the mainland. There will undoubtedly be a link between the U.S. weapons decision and the way this spy plane conflict is resolved."
POLAND: "A Serious Test"
Krzysztof Darewicz wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (4/4): "The collision of the Chinese fighter with the U.S. surveillance plane is an exemplary illustration of a growing military competition between the United States and China. An inevitable competition, since with the end of the Cold War, U.S. strategic interests are shifting from Europe to the East, while the interests of China's growing power are increasingly exceeding its territorial waters. For both sides, the planes incident is a serious test with its outcome to determine--at least for in the near-term--the character of this bilateral competition. The calm reaction of the new American administration...seems to indicate that Washington would rather not move toward confrontation. Much more disconcerting, though, is China's reaction. Their prolonged silence on returning the plane and its crew to America can mean that at least one faction in the Chinese leadership is opting for more drastic actions."
SLOVENIA: "The Bush Family's Unfinished Work"
Left-of-center Delo commented (4/4): "The Chinese president...could not [miss the point more] than by saying that Bush Jr. will never [do anything to worsen] relations with China.... Evidently,
he has not realized that in the West, a son of a great father must prove himself with even more radical deeds, and therewith round out his father's unfinished work. Communist China can be the unfinished work in the case of the Bush family.... Nobody who knows the situation in [China] believes that the time has come for a military conflict between China and the United States. China is not ready for it. Zemin's reaction was most likely forced by the hard line within the Chinese leadership; this indicates that China is ready to enter the stage on which the United States is currently the main actor. But Chinese analysts forgot that Bush Sr. had sold warplanes to Taiwan. It seems that--after this incident--the son will sell Taiwan much more modern equipment."
SPAIN: "Risk Of Crisis"
Left-of-center El Pais wrote (4/4): "The United States and China are on the verge of a dangerous crisis.... The Cold War is over. Washington and Beijing have good reasons to sort out this entanglement without either party losing face.... The responsibility of both leaders is to avoid a crisis and to redirect the situation, which for China means giving back the 24 members of the crew and the aircraft itself.... The spying incident comes at a bad moment, a few weeks before Washington is set to decide whether to sell weapons to Taiwan.... However, Beijing will not get anything if it conditions the return of the crew and the aircraft on a change in Bush's policy towards Taiwan."
"Bush's First Test"
Centrist La Vanguardia observed (4/3): "The incident that occurred in the South China Sea has forcefully reignited the debate over how the United States should be dealing with the 'Asiatic giant,' which has transformed itself into a superpower of the 21st century.... So far, the statements of the Bush administration have not been very lucid, although they appear to herald a return to hardened positions. That said, the evolution of this crisis will divulge Bush's viewpoint toward China."
"Bush's Foreign Challenge"
Conservative ABC observed (4/4): "It seems to make sense...that the new occupants of the White House want to make their mark by setting up new policy guidelines. But the balance on which world equilibrium currently rests requires extreme prudence.... Bush must be prudent, abandon signs of arrogance, and not ignore and belittle his European Allies, as the United States still has very powerful rivals. From its position of uncontestable supremacy, the United States must bear in mind that it is not alone in the world. Jousting with difficult rivals, such as Putin and Zemin, is very complicated. But above all, it is necessary to fortify the fragile glass house today's world has become rather than stoke the ashes of the Cold War."
SWEDEN: "A New, Harsher Language Between The U.S. And China"
Stockholm's independent Dagens Nyheter ran an op-ed column by its foreign editor Per Ahlin(4/4): "The tougher U.S. line toward China likely has brought about concern worldwide. What does the leader of the only superpower in the world want to achieve?... With regards to human rights and the freedom of Taiwan, there are no alternatives to straight talking with the representatives of the dictatorship...but a general sharpening of the tone in the U.S.-China relations risks causing unnecessary confrontation in many areas. China, which has nuclear weapons and veto rights in the Security Council, cannot be wished off the international scene, no matter how far away it might have seemed, when one views it from the governor's mansion in Austin."
SWITZERLAND: "Not Losing Face"
Bernard Bridel, foreign affairs editor with French-language Le Matin, wrote (4/3): "The affair of the U.S. spy aircraft falls...at a time when the United States is going to decide whether or not to sell to Taiwan four ultra-sophisticated airplanes.... Less than three years after the affront of the Chinese Embassy bombing in Belgrade...the question is how far Chinese and Americans will go in the current escalation. In other words, what price either side is ready to pay not to lose face."
TURKEY: "Cold War In The Hot Waters"
Izzet Sedes commented in mass appeal/sensational Aksam (4/4): "The whole incident reminds me of a Cold War era movie. And it is inevitable provocation will be sought in both Beijing and Washington's approaches.... China wants to prevent the U.S. from making an arms deal with Taiwan. As for the United States, the Bush administration seems to be deliberately engaging in a conflict with China. China is becoming an ideal enemy for the United States. First of all, it is still officially a communist state; moreover, it repeatedly violates human rights. From a long term perspective, China also threatens U.S. interests in the Pacific and Atlantic.... History is repeating itself with China playing Japan's role in the Far East of the 1930's. China is establishing good relations with the Europeans and, like Japan at that time, pursuing economic and political expansionism."
EGYPT: "Ignorance And Defiance"
Ahmed Hassan, columnist for pro-government Al Akhbar, held (4/3): "The crash of an American espionage plane with a Chinese fighter was no coincidence as the U.S. State Department is trying to depict. It marks the beginning of a new era between the two giants, entitled 'constant clash of interests and open competition on areas of influence in the world.' Bush recently declared that he would deal with China as a competitor not a strategic partner.... President Clinton fought to convince the Congress and public opinion to agree to ongoing normalization of trade relations with China.... However...in record time, Mr. Bush succeeded in turning friends into enemies.... Thanks to him, he raised the dissatisfaction of his friends by insisting on the missile shield.... He succeeded in raising the entire world's dissatisfaction by turning his back on Kyoto.... Most probably, present and future crises will be due to a mixture of a clear ignorance of the ABCs of foreign policy on the part of Mr. Bush, and the defiance of his senile crew...who continue to think and act with a Cold-War mentality."
SYRIA: "A Missing Answer To A Naive Question"
Saleh Saleh wondered in government-owned Al-Bath on (4/3): "What was an American spy plane, equipped with the latest electronic monitoring devices, doing in Chinese air space? Surely Washington is in a very embarrassing situation, and it will be hard to find convincing justifications for what has happened. Therefore, Washington has to find a quick solution for this uncalculated entanglement. Deciding who is the aggressor and who is the victim in this case does not require international committees or a meeting of the UN nor a resolution by the UNSC.... We can say that the climate of the Cold War has returned once again, and that no none trusts the new world order through which Washington wants to market its domination of the world community!"
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: "A New Chapter Of Intransigence And Hegemony"
Abu Dhabi-based Al-Ittihad editorialized (4/3): "The crisis...represents an exciting chapter in a long novel entitled 'Intransigence, hegemony, provocation, and the policy of the world's sole policeman.'... When Beijing tried to exercise its right to intercept the plane, the mishap took place, which the Americans portrayed as 'accidental;' whereas China, which has every right, held the U.S. responsible for the crash of one of its planes.... Instead of offering a speedy public apology for the accident and its plane's mission, Washington began to make threats and vows about the need to return the plane and its crew as soon as possible, warning Beijing against any attempt to board the plane."
SOUTH AFRICA: "Bush Faces Balancing Act Over China"
The liberal Cape Times featured an opinion piece by Tony Karon (4/3): "The real focus of...Bush's efforts to establish his Reaganesque tough-guy credentials has been China. And that decision may be about to blow up in his face. The downing of a Chinese military aircraft...is likely to dangerously strain security relations between the two countries.... The incident couldn't have come at a worse time for Washington.... Bush must next month decide on whether to supply Taiwan with two destroyers bearing the sophisticated Aegis anti-missile warfare platform.... This on top of the Bush administration's determination to press ahead with national missile defense...would necessarily neutralize China's small nuclear missile fleet. In other words, the recent rhetoric and posture of the new administration in Washington has been giving Beijing plenty of reason to be nervous.... No amount of fast-talking is going to resolve the tensions escalating over the Aegis sale.... So Bush faces choices that carry the seed of a potentially catastrophic crisis. And the John Wayne act won't necessarily help him make them sensibly."
BANGLADESH: "Americans In China"
The centrist, English-language Independent editorialized (4/4): "The Sino-American row over the American surveillance plane, which landed on the Chinese island of Hainan, raises questions about the conduct of foreign policy in Washington.... If it is a plane engaged in intelligence missions...the Americans are to be held responsible for the crisis. No country, least of all China, will accept the idea of foreign planes entering its territory with impunity. But the crisis nevertheless, does not have to escalate. The United States and China will need to find a decent and face-saving solution to the problem.... For the Americans, an important new lesson may have emerged from this spat with the Chinese. It is that it is a bad idea trying to recreate, even unconsciously, an atmosphere reminiscent of the Cold War era. The Americans could have been more circumspect, and more considerate of Chinese feelings, before the plane's mission began. The incident reaffirms the impression that Washington under the younger Bush is trying to be the global policeman. A lot of nations resent that."
PAKISTAN: "An Unwarranted Incident"
Islamabad's rightist, English-language Pakistan Observer (4/3): "The Bush administration's tilt toward Taiwan, despite China's known sensitivities on the issue is the main cause of the lukewarm ties between the two countries. Beijing is also gradually becoming conscious of the fact that Washington's controversial defense missile system is primarily directed against China. U.S. surveillance over the South China Sea certainly constitutes an act of provocation, which has resulted in the crash of a Chinese fighter jet and the loss of its pilot.... We, however, feel that the developments are indicative of change in Washington's policy towards China.... It is imperative that Washington refrain from acts which may be construed as provocations."
BRAZIL: "Incident Helps China's Diplomatic Strategy"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo's international commentator Jaime Spitzcovsky judged (4/3): "Beijing is doing all it can to pin responsibility for the escalation of tensions and militarism in the region on Washington.... Beijing is trying to stop two U.S. initiatives. The first is the sale of weapons to Taiwan. The second is the construction of an anti-missile defense system.... For Beijing, economic reform is a priority. This is why it cannot afford a direct confrontation with Washington. But China will not lose the opportunity to use the current crisis to highlight U.S. armed forces as a possible source of destabilization in the Far East."
CANADA: "Undiplomatic Behavior"
The conservative National Post argued (4/3): "Given the fact that the fighter was by far the faster and more maneouverable of the two planes, and the recent history of near misses caused by aggressive Chinese aerial tactics over nearby waters, the blame likely rests with China, not the United States. If this is the case, the proper course would have been for Beijing to apologize. But instead, Chinese officials have implausibly blamed the U.S. plane and detained its crew. Regardless of who was at fault for the incident, the actions of the Chinese government after the U.S. aircraft made an emergency landing at a military airbase on Hainan Island have exacerbated rather than defused the situation.... China and the United States disagree on a great many items, such as missile defense, nuclear espionage, human rights, and the status of Taiwan. These disagreements can be resolved either in a civilized fashion or through confrontation. With its actions, Beijing seems to be signaling the latter course."