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BH Sunday, 8 April, 2001, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Standoff with China
Missing Chinese pilot Wang Wei, whose plane went down after the collision
The Chinese want an apology for the mid air crash

Sunday 8th April 2001

China and America are rapidly nearing a crossroads in history. War is not inevitable, but neither is peace.

Whether or not Beijing chooses to follow the path taken by yesterday's empires is something over which we have little control.

But whether we walk them down that path is still our choice. A second cold war is preferable to another shooting war in Asia.

Alan Dowd, The Washington Post

The stand off between the USA and China since last Sunday's incident when an American spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter and ended up grounded on Chinese soil has inspired a number of commentators to talk about a new cold war.

Chinese soldier before a poster of Mao Zedong
US anti-communism still strong

Like the old cold war involving the Soviet Union, a stand off with China would involve those essential ingredients of mutual mistrust between Governments, an arms race, an inherent belief in both countries that their way of life is better, and a belief among most of their respective populations that to some degree, the other lot are the enemy.

Does there really need to be one?

On the face of it, there's been a lot of progress since the days - exactly 30 years ago in the spring of 1971 when Henry Kissinger remarked of his boss, President Nixon: "This crazy guy really does want to normalise our relations with China".

The Dalai Lama
Tibet is a sore point

Back then, none of the diplomatic channels between Washington and Beijing which have proved so crucial this week, existed in even the most tentative form.

Now China's markets are open to the west in a way that was unimaginable then.

The country could soon be part of the World Trade Organisation.

Western journalists and documentary makers have been able to provide us with insights denied to us previously.

But for the west, human rights questions have always remained. And there's Tibet and there's Taiwan.

Now we have a dead Chinese pilot. It's not so long ago we had a Chinese embassy in Belgrade bombed by NATO.

The tension between us and them is there and it's real.

How do we ease it?

One way is for us to understand THEM better.

Chinese child in Tiananmen Square
What's the future for China?

Broadcasting House spoke to a Chinese journalist Li Jing Zhong. He settled in Britain after first arriving from China eleven years ago, when he came here to study.

He was joined by the film maker Phil Agland, whose multi award-winning Channel Four documentary "Beyond The Clouds" chronicled intimately life in a small Chinese town. For good measure he followed it with the equally successful examination of urban life - Shanghai Vice.

Also taking part was the man who unearthed that old quote from Henry Kissinger for part of his acclaimed biography of Richard Nixon - Jonathan Aitken. Before his recent trouble, and besides being a politician and businessman, he was a Fleet Street journalist specialising in international reporting in Vietnam, Biafra and the Middle East.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Click here to listen to Rupert Wingfield-Hayes' report from Beijing
Audio
Click here to listen to the discussion on China

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