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BY: Aaron Kliegman
On Sept. 10, 2001, the George W. Bush administration had a view of American national security that, in 24 hours, was buried under the rubble of the World Trade Center. The day before 9/11, the administration viewed China as America's next great adversary. For months, Bush had lambasted his predecessor's efforts to form a strategic partnership with China, calling Beijing a "strategic competitor." Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser, wrote a year earlier that, because China wanted to "alter Asia's balance of power in its own favor," it was not the "strategic partner" the Clinton administration once called it. Recall how Washington's worst international crisis of 2001—pre-9/11—involved an American reconnaissance aircraft and a Chinese fighter jet accidentally colliding, the American crew making an emergency landing on China's Hainan Island, and the Chinese detaining them for 11 days. Then, just days later, Bush approved a major arms sale to Taiwan and said the United States would do "whatever it took" to help the island defend itself. "China's leaders are increasingly concerned that Washington and Beijing are headed for a confrontation as China emerges as an economic and military power in Asia," the Washington Post reported two months later. "Officials and analysts described growing unease in Beijing that shifts in attitudes in both nations seem to be pointing toward a showdown." Bush seemed to believe the military should be geared toward such a showdown and less involved in other, less conventional situations of war, as part of a "humble" foreign policy. "Maybe I'm missing something here," Bush said during a presidential debate in 2000. "I mean, are we going to have some kind of nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not." But then Islamist radicals murdered nearly 3,000 people on American soil, and everything changed.
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