It could also cause a backlash in Congress. Many lawmakers harbor attitudes on China that range from the blasé to wishful thinking about a "friendship."
In a hesitant way, that attitude was evident in the days of the senior Bush administration and became an article of faith in the Clinton White House.
Those who have warned of the folly of dealing with the Chinese for the supposed benefits it brings have often come up against a brick wall of indifference or hostility.
The truth is that, for all the huffing and puffing on Capitol Hill about China, both parties like the economic benefits of dealing with Beijing. For many Democrats, there is the added factor of a naïve rose-colored-glasses view of Communist intentions.
Right now, you don't hear many China critics in Congress saying, "I told you so." No one wants to be seen "exploiting" a crisis.
But when the confrontation blows over, the minority of lawmakers in Congress who have never trusted Communist China to do us more good than harm will revive issues that some thought were settled.
Foremost among this minority is Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C.
Last year, the veteran keeper of the conservative flame fought tooth and nail against Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the Chinese.
PNTR, favored by the then Clinton administration, was brought before the Congress by those lawmakers who were tired of having to confront this issue every year and then answer embarrassing questions back home from grassroots patriots. So instead of voting on whether to renew "normal trade" with China every year, it was decided it should be made permanent.
Helms declared that granting "Permanent Most Favored Nation Trading status" to Communist China makes "a mockery of common sense" and is "perhaps the most ill-advised legislation to come to the Senate floor in my 28 years as a senator."
One of the embarrassing questions Helms asked was whether being nice to the Chinese would "persuade its rulers to retreat from their threats to invade Taiwan if Taiwan does not negotiate reunification with [read: surrender to] the Communist China mainland."
Obviously, as the present circumstances indicate, the Chinese government has not toned down its belligerence since the days when a Chinese journal referred to the North Carolinian as a "troublemaker," a criticism the senator wears as a badge of honor.
On the House side of the Capitol, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has printed a chart showing how Chinese missiles pointed at the United States could someday rain destruction on major American cities. Included on the list are Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, New York and Washington.
Hunter has also given detailed accounts of Chinese spying in the United States.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is one liberal lawmaker who has never been beguiled by the smiles of Chinese diplomats. Her emphasis has been China's abysmal human rights record.
Then there is the irrepressible Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio. His office told NewsMax.com Monday that the congressman hopes only that the crew is returned unharmed and that our plane is returned to us.
But when the current crisis subsides, look to Traficant to return to form.
Last December, for example, the Ohioan arose on the House floor to note that "China is now taking $100 billion of cash out of our economy, buying missiles and pointing them at us."
"We must be stupid," Traficant added. "Ronald Reagan almost destroyed Communism, and the Clinton administration has reinvented it, is now subsidizing it, and is now stabilizing it."
More recently, on March 21, Traficant declared that "we are now looking down the fangs of a dragon."
These voices will be heard loud and clear, because while former Clinton administration officials are appearing on television, tut-tutting any harsh criticism of the Communist Chinese, Americans may take a second look at whether what they buy bears a "Made in China" label. If it does, they just may pass it by.
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