China and the United States have overcome quarrels before. The current deterioration of bilateral relations, however, is more worrisome than usual.

In the past, China-U.S. relations were reliably cyclical. When there was a downturn, we could count on a recovery within a few years. In 2001, for example, bilateral relations plunged after the collision of a Chinese fighter aircraft with a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft in international airspace near Hainan Island.

The Chinese government claimed the Americans had intruded into Chinese territory and caused the death of the Chinese pilot. The U.S. government condemned China for holding the U.S. crew hostage for 10 days while demanding payment and an apology. By 2004, however, U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was talking about “the best relationship that the United States has had with China in over 30 years.