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China: Erratic State, Frustrated Society

Courtesy Reuters

Why does China thwart, frustrate and even embarrass those who are only trying to help? For all who befriend China, the story is the same: high hopes, then disappointment. The exhilaration of the Beijing Spring followed by the rage of the Tiananmen massacre was only the high-theater version of the countless commonplace ways China continually brings hope and then despair to its well-wishers. All governments, whether democratic or communist, have had their special problems in maintaining smooth relations with Chinese authorities. But it is of course the Chinese people themselves who are most hurt and frustrated.

China seems to evoke in others, particularly Americans, an irresistible desire to serve as China’s teachers in the ways of the modern world, and thereby presumably help China improve itself. Yet, from the time of Lord Palmerston’s efforts to get the Chinese to accept the conventions of Western diplomacy, to President Bush’

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