As America grew in the 1800s from a republic of a few millions, whose frontier stopped at the Mississippi, into a world power, there were constant collisions with the world's greatest empire.
In 1812, we declared war on Britain, tried to invade Canada and got our Capitol burned. In 1818, Andrew Jackson, on an expedition into Spanish Florida to put down renegade Indians harassing Georgia, hanged two British subjects he had captured, creating a firestorm in Britain.
In 1838, we came close to war over Canada's border with Maine; in 1846, over Canada's border with the Oregon Territory.
After the Civil War, Fenians conducted forays into Canada to start a U.S.-British battle that might bring Ireland's independence. In 1895, we clashed over the border between Venezuela and British Guiana.
War was avoided on each occasion, save 1812. Yet all carried the possibility of military conflict between the world's rising power and its reigning power. Observing the pugnacity of 21st-century China, there appear to be parallels with the aggressiveness of 19th-century America.
China is now quarreling with India over borders. Beijing claims as her national territory the entire South and East China seas and all the islands, reefs and resources therein, dismissing the claims of half a dozen neighbors.
Beijing has bullied Japan and the Philippines and told the U.S. Navy to stay out of the Yellow Sea and Taiwan Strait.
In dealing with America, China has begun to exhibit an attitude that is at times contemptuous.
Here is a partial list of the targets of Chinese cyber-espionage:
The Wall Street Journal. The New York Times. Bloomberg. Google. Yahoo. Dow Chemical. Lockheed Martin. Northrop Grumman. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen. Los Alamos and Oak Ridge nuclear-weapons labs. The classified avionics of the F-35 fighter jet. The U.S. power grid.
U.S. computers are being hacked and secrets thieved, as Beijing steals the technology of our companies and manipulates her currency to minimize imports from the U.S.A. and maximize exports to the U.S.A.
"The international community cannot tolerate such activity from any country," says National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
Yet the "international community" has been tolerating this activity for years.
No one wants a war with China, and provocative though it is, China's conduct does not justify a war that would be a calamity for both nations. But China's behavior demands a reappraisal of our China policy over the past 20 years.
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