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Saturday, May 8, 1999 Published at 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK

World: Europe

Bombing fuels Chinese hostility

Hong Kong demonstrators vent their anger outside the US Embassy

By Chinese Affairs Analyst James Miles

Kosovo: Special Report
The bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade could hardly have come at a worse time for the relationship between Beijing and Washington.

Despite efforts by the Chinese Prime Minister, Zhu Rongji, to smooth over differences between the two countries during a visit to Washington last month, relations are at one of their lowest ebbs of the decade.

[ image: Beijing has a veto on any Security Council resolution]
Beijing has a veto on any Security Council resolution
China has been far more hostile to the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia than it has been towards any other Western military campaign in recent years.

It fears that the pretext Nato is now citing for its action might one day be applied to areas such as Tibet and Taiwan.

At the same time, there has been an upsurge of anti-China feeling among American politicians because of the alleged theft by China of American nuclear secrets, Beijing's renewed clampdown on dissent, and a growing trade deficit in China's favour.

Public pressure

[ image: Beijing is likely to face pressure at home for a tough response]
Beijing is likely to face pressure at home for a tough response
The Chinese Government is likely now to face widespread demands at home for a tough response to the embassy bombing.

Beijing could become even more unwilling to agree to any UN-backed peace settlement that would involve an armed NATO presence in Kosovo.

But at the same time, it will not want to take stance that pits it against Russia, whose views on the conflict China broadly shares.

Beijing will also be anxious not to stir up public sentiment in China itself, given its paramount aim of maintaining social stability in the buildup to sensitive political anniversaries in the coming months.

Although Chinese police so far have avoided openly intervening in the demonstrations outside the US Embassy in Beijing in the hours following the attack, the authorities in the past have tried to keep a lid on similar outbursts against Japan because of concerns that political dissidents might try to exploit them.

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