The Moment

1|19|11: Washington

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"We come from very different cultures with very different histories," said Barack Obama during a press conference with China's President Hu Jintao, who was in the U.S. capital as part of a four-day state visit. So they do. But as China's spectacular economic rise has gathered pace, it has been natural for many to believe that the two nations are so interconnected (U.S. consumers need products built in Chinese workshops, which need U.S. consumers) that they will always move beyond any momentary disputes. That view has changed some of late. The U.S. looks suspiciously at a China that is flexing its muscles, while China sees in the U.S. a place whose economic confidence has taken a pounding. But the two nations will indeed get along if they take Obama's words and tweak them slightly. Each country has many cultures and many histories, not one. Neither country is a monolith. The U.S.--Hu should know--is not defined just by business leaders or just by human-rights activists. And China--Obama should realize--is more than the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army. It is useful to remember that.