Navigating crises in Sino-American relations: Apology, nationalism, and historical memory
Why is apology---theoretically a simple action that could mitigate a crisis situation---not utilized more frequently in international relations? Apologies are a frequent issue among Asian countries as well as in US bilateral relations and can generate significant internal and interstate debate. This project considers recent diplomatic crises in which China has requested an apology from the United States, and the short- and long-term impact on international peace and stability of such discussions. Two contentious episodes are investigated: the apology debates over the 2001 EP-3E airplane collision near Hainan Island, and the 1999 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Most foreign policy experts interpret these incidents as indicating the on-going problem of Taiwan in the resolution of disputes between the US and China. Upon closer inspection, however, indications are that traumatic historical memories fueled the crises and prevented early resolution given the virulence of American and Chinese nationalist reaction to these episodes. In addition, these events provide a way to evaluate apology as a potential conflict resolution mechanism, indicating that gendered notions of honor and prestige often serve as stumbling blocks to the constructive resolution of conflict.