'Let The West Get Used To A Tough China' In a role reversal, China is flexing its political and economic muscle against the United States by threatening sanctions against American companies involved in selling arms to Taiwan. China is pushing back on a raft of other contentious issues, from sanctions against Iran to President Obama's plan to meet with the Dalai Lama.
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'Let The West Get Used To A Tough China'

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'Let The West Get Used To A Tough China'

'Let The West Get Used To A Tough China'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Robert Siegel.

China said it is moving ahead with plans to sanction U.S. companies involved in selling arms to Taiwan. Thats something of a role reversal. In the past it's usually been the U.S. sanctioning China. But now, China is pushing back on a raft of contentious issues, from sanctions against Iran to President Obama's plan to meet with the Dalai Lama.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN: "Let the West Get Used to a Tough China." This was the advice of a headline this week in the Global Times, a jingoistic Chinese tabloid.

After arms sales to Taiwan in the past, China could do little more than lodge a perfunctory verbal protest. But this wasn't very effective, says Yuan Peng, a U.S. expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a government think tank in Beijing.

Dr. YUAN PENG (U.S. Expert, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relation): (Through Translator) By sanctioning these firms, we're learning from the U.S. We're beginning to master ways to make the U.S. feel pain. Otherwise, it will just do as it pleases.

KUHN: Yuan says Beijing will no longer accept Washington's explanations about what previous administrations did or concessions it has to make to domestic politics.

Dr. PENG: We know you have domestic politics, but we have domestic politics too. You have difficulties and so do we. But the Taiwan issue is one of our core national interests.

KUHN: Yuan says Chinese public opinion, especially on the Internet, is forcing China's government to take a harder line towards the U.S.

Political commentator Wu Jiaxiang adds that recent headlines have helped to boost China's national confidence and pride.

Mr. WU JIAXIANG (Political Commentator): (Through Translator) China has surpassed Germany to become the world's largest exporter. This year, China's GDP is set to overtake Japan. China's auto production is more than the U.S. and Japan's combined. All this news taken together makes people feel like China's got lots of muscle.

KUHN: Some observers even detected a bit of swagger when Communist Party official Zhu Weiqun warned President Obama this week not to go ahead with plans to meet the Dalai Lama.

Mr. ZHU WEIQUN (Communist Party Official): (Through Translator) If America's leaders choose to meet the Dalai Lama at this time, it would ruin trust and cooperation between the two countries. How would that help the U.S. surmount the current economic crisis? It would be useless.

KUHN: It would be useless, but the U.S. and China have big global issues to cooperate on and few analysts see the current chill as lasting very long. China's leaders, meanwhile, continue to present their country as a responsible world power, not a global contrarian. That at least was the message when Vice Premier Li Keqiang, speaking through a translator, recently addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Vice Premier LI KEQIANG (China): (Through Translator) As a responsible big developing country, China will remain steadfast on the path of peaceful development and work with other countries in a joint endeavor to build a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.

KUHN: Think-tanker's Yuan Peng only worry is that by sanctioning U.S. firms, such as Boeing and Raytheon, China will scare off foreign investors, some of whom are already jittery after Google's recent threat to pull out of the China market.

Dr. PENG: (Through Translator) China needs to avoid sending the wrong message to the outside world through these sanctions. And that is that we are finding an excuse to drive off foreign investment. That's not our intention. Western countries, meanwhile, should realize that these sanctions are a singular event.

KUHN: Yuan adds that it's only natural that foreign investors are getting a cooler reception in China these days. China's shift away from foreign-invested exports toward domestic consumption is, after all, what the West has been pushing China to do for some time.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

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