- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

Some local Chinese-Americans yesterday said the United States should apologize to China for the collision of a U.S. reconnaissance plane with a Chinese fighter jet.

But they had no comment about an American University researcher being held in China on spying charges.

Some said China's demand for an apology is a matter of Chinese leaders "saving face"; others said an apology would be the best and quickest way to end the tense relations between the two nations.

"If the American government gives an apology, I think this will all be over," New York resident Amy Li, 36, said as she pushed her little boy in a stroller around Chinatown in the District of Columbia yesterday.

Leng Sun, 29, of Bethesda, Md., and Xiaobiao Fan, 36, of Catonsville, Md., echoed that sentiment.

"I think the U.S. should apologize," Mr. Fan said.

Miss Sun, mentioning the recent accidental sinking of a Japanese fishing boat by a nuclear Navy submarine, said the U.S. armed forces does "anything they want to."

"I don't know if an apology is really an answer," said Michael Lin, 62, of Potomac, Md. "Nobody wants to look bad in this situation. If it can be resolved out of sight at a negotiation table, that should be done."

Indeed, the Chinese government needs to "save face" in front of its people and those in bordering nations, said Charles Han, 57, of Rockville, Md.

Mr. Han said he wants to see the trouble come to a smooth, fast end. "I prefer a gentle backing out [on both sides] rather than an escalation," he said.

U.S.-Chinese relations, already strained by the standoff, worsened yesterday with the news that American University political scientist Gao Zhan had been formally charged with espionage.

On Sunday, a U.S. EP-3E Navy patrol aircraft on a routine surveillance mission over the South China Sea collided with a Chinese jet fighter. U.S. officials blame the jet fighter for the crash; Chinese officials blame the patrol plane.

The plane and its 24 crew members remain on a Chinese island in the custody of Chinese authorities.

David Branner, who teaches Chinese at the University of Maryland, labeled the Chinese government's reaction holding the plane and crew as "typical."

"They're very sensitive about national pride to such an extent that it's hard for us to imagine," he said. "They're touchy."

Mark Lowenstein, 20, is a Chinese-language major at the University of Maryland, and he hopes the current crises do not interfere with improving trade relations.

"That's why I'm taking Chinese," the college sophomore said, referring to the opportunities that await U.S. entrepreneurs. "I'm going this summer. I hope everything's all right by then."

His professor, Mr. Branner, predicted the conflict will blow over; however, "we don't know what our government and the Chinese government are trying to achieve with this."

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