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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
China's triumphalism
A Chinese stands near a copy of a magazine featuring President Bush
The Chinese media praised the government's tactics
By Adam Brookes in Beijing

In Beijing, the spin is well and truly under way. China's leadership is portraying America's partial apology for the spy plane incident as a victory for Chinese steadfastness in the face of American pressure.

In the state-run media, the message is deafening. The Morning Daily's headline reads "America finally apologised", the China Daily splashes "The US is very sorry".

Taiwanese soldier loads a US-made anti-aircraft gun
The US may still sell advanced weapons to Taiwan
The People's Daily, the communist party paper, runs a leader arguing that the Americans altered their rude and unreasonable attitude because of the Chinese government's firm struggle.

The fact that China has released the American air crew is reported, but not prominently, and the release is portrayed as a humanitarian gesture, not as the result of days of frenzied diplomatic wrangling as was in fact the case.

China's propagandists are keen too to say that the issue is not resolved, and the papers look forward to a meeting next week with the Americans which will discuss the fate of the spy aircraft itself.

'Damage'

China will also pressure the Americans to stop their surveillance flights off China's coast.

But beneath all this public triumphalism, China's real analysts are now gauging just how great is the damage that this standoff has wrought on US-China relations.

The first real indicator will come in a matter of weeks. The US is scheduled to make a decision on whether or not to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan, specifically Aegis-class destroyers.

China has invested this deal with enormous strategic significance.

If it goes ahead, Beijing will assume that American suspicion of China has grown, that American support for Taiwan has hardened and that the strategic equation across the Taiwan Strait is being re-drawn with new and dangerous lines of division.


Key stories:

Analysis

Spy plane row

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12 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
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