Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is in China this day, concluding her talks with the communist leadership there.
These are days of change and risk in the relationship between the U.S. and China.
Mainland China is not the same country it was when it first opened diplomatic relations with the United States two decades ago.
In most important ways, communism is dead as it was practiced under Mao and his immediate successors. The Chinese leadership has embraced capitalism, although with reservations and conditions. Western business interests are eager to see the Chinese embrace of capitalism grow warmer and more expansive. The reason? Over one billion potential consumers in China.
But despite the economic liberalization, the Chinese government remains oppressive politically. That was one bit of news Secretary Albright brought to Beijing: the U.S. takes note of human rights abuses by the Chinese.
For their part, the Chinese leaders downplay any human rights abuses, and insist that China's internal affairs are nobody else's business. They are consumed with the desire to harness the economic boom in their country, and to become the world's second combined economic and military superpower.
The only other such superpower in the world today is the United States. Both countries now depend on each other in a delicate dance for prosperity and stability. But neither country is ready to consider the other a full partner, and both want to lead.
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