The U.S. decision to allow Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui to visit his alma mater reflects how much U.S. attitudes have changed toward Taiwan and China. In recent years, Taiwan has embraced democracy and built a powerhouse economy, making it a darling of the U.S. Congress.
China continues to arrest dissidents, keeping alive its negative image.
Beijing views the issue as a matter of sovereignty and considers the U.S. to be reneging on past diplomatic agreements in which the U.S. recognized Beijing as the legitimate Chinese government. How far China will go in punishing the U.S. remains to be seen. Some believe Beijing has little leverage."What can they do, stop selling us one-third of their exports?" quips one U.S. official. But it would be silly to underestimate Beijing's ability to make trouble.