Bombing Gives Boost to Beijing Hard-Liners

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Now that's one serious chunk of "collateral damage." The biggest casualty of the Kosovo war may turn out to be the Washington-Beijing relationship, as Beijing's most U.S.-friendly leaders find themselves carried along by a fierce tide of anti-Americanism following Saturday's bombing of China's Belgrade embassy. As thousands of rock-throwing demonstrators continued to surround the U.S. embassy in Beijing Monday, China broke off talks with the U.S. on arms control and human rights, and demanded that NATO investigate the attack and severely punish those responsible. "The intensity of the protests is not surprising, because the embassy bombing has ignited a storm of anti-American feeling that has been building up for some time," says TIME Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz. "Even before their embassy was bombed, they were fundamentally opposed to the NATO campaign in Kosovo, which they see as another example of America trying to impose its will on the world."

The bombing has also suddenly made Beijing a key player in Kosovo diplomacy, with Russian mediator Viktor Chernomyrdin heading to China Monday to consult its leaders over efforts to find a political solution. While China is unlikely to obstruct Balkan peace efforts, the embassy attack has certainly reinforced the position of Beijing hard-liners who want a more adversarial stance toward the U.S. "Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji now find themselves on the spot because of their perceived pro-American strategy," says FlorCruz. "The question now is how far the more conservative elements will be able to roll back the current policy." The time to really start worrying, of course, is when Beijing breaks off trade talks.

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