A worrisome confrontation is escalating between the United States and China. Washington charges that Beijing is unfairly bolstering Chinese exports by keeping its currency artificially low and is troubled by Beijing's dispute with Google over Internet censorship. Beijing is telling the United States to mind its own business and is chafing over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and President Obama's recent meeting with the Dalai Lama.
With the anger on both sides intensifying, American and Chinese leaders urgently need to take steps to defuse the situation. Otherwise, China's continuing rise may soon result in a classic rivalry between reigning hegemon and ascending challenger.
I have just returned to Washington from Beijing; the mutual antagonism is palpable in both capitals. Amid a stubborn slump in U.S. employment, Washington is awash with disgruntlement over the trade imbalance with China. In one of the few remnants of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans alike are calling for retaliation against China's alleged manipulation of its currency. Talk in Washington is that Beijing's once-cautious foreign policy has suddenly become assertive and caustic.