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The State Department’s Wrong Telegram

A leaked copy of the US State Department’s China study, “The Elements of the China Challenge,” found its way into the American media today. Most of it is predictable, parts of it are insightful, and other parts of it suggest that no-one in the department’s Policy Planning Staff bothered to read the final version before it went to the printer.

The paper compares itself to American diplomat George Kennan’s celebrated “Long Telegram,” which proposed to contain Soviet Communism at the outset of the Cold War. This document unfortunately has some elements of a Wrong Telegram. But it gets one important thing right: The United States should have no illusions about transforming China into a Western-style democracy and must engage China as it is.