The West was fooling itself if it expected Beijing to do its bidding, analysts say

Reporting from Beijing — China and the United States have been referred to as global partners, strategic competitors, outright rivals and “frenemies” — friends who secretly hate each other’s guts.

In recent months, a pretense of cordiality has given way to unusually public squabbling. China is threatening to boycott U.S. defense contractors over arms sales to Taiwan and is loudly protesting President Obama’s meeting this week with the Dalai Lama. The United States and its European allies are angry about what they regard as China’s obstructionist behavior on issues such as global warming and Iran’s nuclear program.

Foreign businesses complain of anti-competitive behavior. Google’s revelations about Chinese cyber-hacking unleashed an angry exchange over Internet freedom. China has been meting out prison sentences to those who have challenged one-party rule.

Has something fundamentally changed in China, or is this merely one of those bumpy patches? Is it just coincidence that so many irritating issues are coming up?

The last year has produced a bumper crop of books addressing the China question. Here is what some top China hands had to say. Their remarks are taken from interviews with The Times and from recent writings.

Martin Jacques acknowledges picking the title of his new book with the goal of being provocative — and boosting sales. It’s called “When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New World Order.”

“China is becoming a global power, while America no longer has the same authority that it used to have,” he says.

As China becomes a bigger player, Jacques says, there will be more potential for discord on issues such as global finances, climate change or Iran.

A Marxist scholar whose book is also popular among Chinese, Jacques doesn’t blame China as much for the recent rough patch as he does scholars who predicted that China would become more like a Western democracy as it prospered.

“The expectation of China being a Western country, or being prepared to do the West’s bidding, is false,” Jacques says. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and make a serious effort to understand China, so we are not always surprised and upset.”

– Barbara Demick