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Analysis: China's tougher than before

Washington is hardening its stance, China is rising to the occasion and there's likely trouble down the line.

In China, policy experts question the timing of the arms sale announcement — particularly as it would undoubtedly provoke Beijing. China’s irritation at the United States is only bound to grow, with Obama expected to meet with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in coming weeks.

“The problem, perhaps, is there is some indication that the Obama administration intended the timing of the announcement to be a signal to China — a signal that ‘we are going to not allow China to be assertive,’” said Wang Dong, an international studies specialist at Peking University.

“This is really an action-reaction cycle happening here,” said Wang. “It’s not a good situation.”

But some Chinese policy analysts are more matter-of-fact about the arms sale, noting that it has been in the pipeline — despite Beijing’s best efforts to derail it.

“I don’t think this means that America is taking a harder or softer position on China,” said Zhang Jiadong of the Center for American Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

“Obama’s government is just continuing Bush governments plan and policy,” said Zhang. “It is a contract for more than $10 billion signed by Bush.”

What has changed, he noted: “China’s attitude is tougher this time than before.”

If Washington is hardening its stance on China, and China is tougher before, 2010 is likely to be a tough year in China-U.S. relations.

(Editor's note: This story was updated to change the spelling of a name).