THE once pervasive optimism among Western liberals that China’s rise will be strategically benign and a boon to an ailing global economy is giving way to a gnawing anxiety that a strong China may not be so good for the world after all.

In a few short months, China’s image has been tarnished by perceptions of a new and ugly assertiveness in Beijing on issues ranging from climate change and human rights to Tibet, Google’s resistance to censorship, US arms sales to Taiwan and Australian businessman Stern Hu.

This perception is especially acute in Australia as concerns grow that China’s treatment of Hu may presage a far more difficult bilateral relationship.

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