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Rising China shrugs off outside opinion

Foreign countries slammed China for its harsh sentencing of a top dissident on Christmas Day and its execution of a mentally ill Briton convicted of drug smuggling, but the juggernaut appears impervious to criticism.

By Staff Writer / January 6, 2010

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel (2nd r.) and former Czech dissidents, actor Pavel Landovsky (r.) and Bishop Vaclav Maly (l.) arrive at the Chinese Embassy in Prague to deliver a petition to support recently jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo on Wednesday.

David W Cerny/Reuters

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Beijing

Three times in the past three weeks China has infuriated foreign leaders, shrugging off international opprobrium to do things its own way.

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On the final day of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, President Obama was fobbed off for hours with a Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, when he wanted to negotiate with Premier Wen Jiabao.

On Christmas Day, a court sentenced leading human rights activist Liu Xiaobo to an unexpectedly heavy 11-year jail term for authoring an appeal for greater political freedom. That earned Beijing widespread international condemnation.

Four days later, the authorities executed a British citizen for drug smuggling, ignoring British government pleas for clemency on the grounds of the culprit’s history of mental illness. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was “appalled” by the execution.

As storm clouds loom over United States-China ties, this new show of assertiveness bodes ill for Washington’s hopes of smooth relations with Beijing, analysts on both sides of the Pacific are warning.

“This is not the China of 10 or 20 years ago,” says Shen Dingli, head of the International Relations Studies Institute at Shanghai’s Fudan University. “China is unstoppably on the rise. Everything is going to be tough.”

Risking China’s displeasure

US officials have worked hard over the past 12 months to bring Washington’s relationship with Beijing onto a new plane, hoping that stable ties would foster closer cooperation on global challenges.

Two stumbling blocks are threatening that plan: an upcoming US arms sale to Taiwan, which China regards as its territory, and a meeting – expected soon – between President Obama and the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing accuses of seeking Tibetan independence.

“The US should see clearly the harm [of such moves] … so as to avoid disturbing the overall situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu warned Tuesday.

Analysts here say the arms sale would likely prompt China to suspend recently restarted meetings between Chinese and US military officers, to which Washington attaches great importance. To express his anger at a Dalai Lama visit with Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao might boycott the nuclear security summit that Obama will host in April.

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