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Two and a half years ago China and the United States stumbled into a military confrontation that neither had sought or anticipated. The March 1996 face-off between U.S. aircraft carriers and Chinese warships and land-based missiles seems in retrospect, however, to have had some salutary effects. The crisis reminded both countries of the stake each has in successful management of relations with the other and of the continuing centrality of Taiwan's status to this task.
Since then, the two governments have worked hard to establish a respectful dialogue about a range of bilateral and international issues. Summits and other high-level meetings are once again a regular feature of Sino-American diplomacy, and there have been no further military confrontations in the Taiwan area. Last fall, when he met with his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, President Bill Clinton urged the earliest possible resumption of dialogue between Beijing and Taipei. Recently, after three