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In Chinese admiral's outburst, a lingering distrust of U.S.
"You, the Americans, are taking China as the enemy," countered Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu. Zhu rose to prominence in China in 2005 after he warned that if the United States came to Taiwan's defense in a war with China, Beijing would abandon its "no first use" doctrine on nuclear weapons and attack the United States.
In January, Washington announced a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan, prompting China to downgrade its military ties with the United States. China's stance on the issue is part of a concerted campaign to change a foundation of U.S. policy in the region -- its security relationship with Taiwan. At the very least, Chinese officials said, they want the Obama administration to reiterate a commitment it made in a joint communique with China in 1982 to decrease arms sales to Taiwan.
The U.S. framing of Guan's speech and the entire PLA as being out of step with the times is significant, analysts said, because the Obama administration could fall into a trap of expecting more from China than it can deliver. On the plane back to the United States, for example, U.S. officials predicted that despite Guan's outburst, China would welcome Gates and that it would also begin to side with South Korea against North Korea following the release of a report in Seoul implicating the regime of Kim Jong Il in the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship on March 26. China did neither, and interviews with PLA officers indicate that the military is highly suspicious of the South Korean report.
U.S. officials have also expressed the hope that China would work harder to press Iran, for example, to engage in talks on its nuclear weapons program. The United States also wants China's cooperation on slapping new sanctions on Tehran. China has shown more flexibility on this issue, but it is still unclear whether it will ultimately support sanctions.
Chinese analysts say the Obama administration ignores what China calls its "core national interests" -- especially U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan -- at its peril.
"For years, China has opposed arms sales to Taiwan among other things, but we were never strong enough to do anything about it," said Cui Liru, the president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a think tank run by the Ministry of State Security. "But our national strength has grown. And it is time that the United States pay attention."
"This is not just a talking point that can be dismissed by your government," he continued. "It is something that must be dealt with or it will seriously damage ties."