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Power Struggle Continues

Power Struggle ContinuesAs standoff continues, both China and U.S. may face increasing pressure to act.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.10.01] Ten days after an American surveillance plane made an emergency landing in China, senior officials from the two countries continue to quarrel over the appropriate steps to resolve the growing international standoff.

While U.S. officials have carefully said no long-term damage has been done to U.S.-China relations, several international diplomacy experts from Tufts say pressure is mounting in both countries to take action.

"This is an opportunity for China to show it has reached a major power status," Toshi Yoshihara told the Boston Herald. "China is showing it will decide on its own terms when it wants to react."

The sticking point between the two countries appears to be the wording of a U.S. apology to China. While CNN reports that the State Department has made several attempts to reconcile the situation, China has not budged.

Yoshihara -- a professor at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy -- told the Herald that the demand for a U.S. apology by hardliners in China's government "has ended up painting China into a corner."

Explaining that apologies and "saving face" are important elements of Chinese life, the Tufts expert said, "If [China] retracted the demand, it would be seen as a weakness."

Pressure is mounting in the U.S. as well, said Yoshihara.

President Bush's original "wait and see" policy may give way to a more active approach if Congress becomes restless, he said.

"As time goes on, and as the issue remains at this impasse, it may be that this becomes more confrontational," Yoshihara said in a Herald article.

Already, reports that U.S. officials and agencies are canceling trips to China have surfaced.

"Clearly, there is damage to the extent that we have heard from people at high levels of business, or former government officials who are either canceling or considering postponing [trips], " said Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman and 1973 Tufts graduate.

While he said the damage is not yet permanent, Boucher told the media that the potential for long-term effects is real.

"I think the President made it quite clear that the potential is there for real damage to the relationship if this drags out," Boucher said in a press briefing.

On Tuesday, several international news agencies reported that the Chinese military was unloading equipment from the U.S. plane. While Americans may view China's actions as inappropriate, an expert at Tufts Fletcher School said the practice is not uncommon.

"If the situation were reversed, and a Chinese plane had landed in Alaska, I can imagine the U.S. wanting to board it," Alfred P. Rubin told the Washington Post.

The international law expert said U.S. attempts to claim sovereign immunity status for the plane amounted to "a good try."

According to the Post, "Rubin was quoted as saying that while the plane is U.S. property, it has landed on Chinese territory and China has overlapping jurisdiction."

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