Beijing looks to get tough
HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Beijing is expected to take a substantially harder line on ties with the United States after the most serious military confrontation between both sides since diplomatic relations were established in 1979.
Senior Chinese cadres, including Politburo members and army officers, met in emergency session several hours after the collision between the American reconnaissance plane and the Chinese jet-fighter.
Military representatives at the meeting drew comparisons between the incident -- characterized as a provocative act to test Beijing's resolve to defend its sovereignty -- and the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999.
Diplomatic analysts in Beijing said it was too early to say whether there would be a replay of demonstrations by students and other angry Chinese outside American missions.
They said much depended on developments in the coming few days, particularly whether the pilot of the downed F-8 fighter would be saved.
However, most Internet forums and chatrooms were on Monday filled with angry messages calling on Beijing to confiscate the EP-3 spy plane and arrest its 24 staff.
Editorialist attack U.S. 'neo-hegemonism'
Editorialists in the Chinese media, particularly the military media, are making ready commentaries attacking American "neo-hegemonism."
It is understood that while reconnaissance activities by U.S. spy planes have been going on along the Chinese coast for the past several years, the commentaries will link the alleged incursion into Chinese air space last Sunday to the more assertive defense and foreign policies of the administration of President George W. Bush.
Commentators on Chinese websites have linked the spy planes to enhanced action by the U.S. to protect Taiwan from possible military action by the mainland.
Hainan island, off whose coast the collision took place, is home to one of China's most important naval bases. During his trip to Hainan in February, President Jiang Zemin made a brief tour of the naval facilities.
A diplomatic source in Beijing said the collision incident could not have come at a worse time.
Jiang expected to take tougher line
He said after Vice Premier Qian Qichen's recent visit to the United States, Jiang -- considered a moderate on American policy -- was predisposed toward adopting a low profile on bilateral ties at least for the time being.
Thus, Beijing's reaction to the arrest of former Yugoslavian president Slobodon Milosevic -- considered an ally of China and a victim of U.S. "hegemonism" -- last weekend was relatively muted.
"PLA generals and hawks among Jiang's aides have now advised the president to take a tougher line against Washington," the source said. "And should popular sentiment against the U.S. become more hostile, Jiang has no choice but to follow suit."
Immediately after the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Jiang suffered internal criticism for being too "weak and lax" in the face of alleged American neo-imperialism.
The source added whether Jiang would adopt a more aggressive posture would be reflected in how soon the reconnaissance plane and the crew of 24 would be released.
Beijing might also act tough regarding the two Chinese-born American academics now held by state security personnel.
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