China-US Relations: Not Winning Friends

Chinese nationalists are especially angry over the bitter standoff between Beijing and Washington. World leaders need to tune in to the Chinese psyche if greater long term damage is to be avoided.

The World Today
Published 1 June 2001 Updated 26 October 2020 5 minute READ

David Wall

Associate Fellow, International Economics Programme, Chatham House

When I was in China last month I was surprised at how angry my Chinese friends were over the Hainan spy plane incident. I was surprised because it was with the Chinese government they were angry, not Washington. In their view the Americans had acted just about as expected. But they felt the Chinese government’s response to the incident was too weak.

They believed that the aircrew, who were clearly spies, should have been treated as such and held until they could be tried under Chinese law. After all, they said, hadn’t the American government held an alleged Chinese spy for several months last year, without charge, before releasing him for lack of evidence? There was no lack of evidence in the Hainan incident. Having failed to ditch their spy plane in international waters, its crew violated Chinese sovereign territory and landed.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.