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On the surface, America’s relations with China seem to be rather cordial. Tensions spiked in April 2001 over the incident in which a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter plane, but that quarrel soon receded, and ever since the September 11 terrorist attacks China and the United States have cooperated in the campaign against radical Islamic terrorism. More recently, Washington and Beijing have worked together to induce North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, the important economic relationship has continued to grow, with bilateral trade now exceeding $160 billion a year.
Despite these components of a cooperative relationship, there are in the United States vocal advocates of a more hard-line policy toward the People’s Republic of China. Indeed, in recent years critics of the current policy have redoubled their efforts on a number of issues. The hard-liners have sought to get the U.S. government to press China on its abuses of human rights, to increase arms sales to Taiwan, to restrict the export of high technology (especially dual use) products to the PRC, to sanction China for its proliferation of key weapons systems to unfriendly regimes, and to adopt a number of protectionist trade measures to reduce the bilateral trade deficit (and perhaps retard China’s economic development).