Expressing its commitment to combat terrorism, China has played nice with the United States since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

This week, a delegation met with officials in Washington to discuss ways to share intelligence and choke off financial pipelines to terrorists across the globe.

China is also expected to vote Monday for a U.S.-sponsored resolution in the United Nations that would sanction countries that don't help fight terrorism.

But foreign policy analysts caution that China's record has hardly been steely in its resistance to the Taliban.

"For a very long time, the Chinese have said they don't want America to overact to terrorism because they didn't want too much of a U.S. presence in the region for their own selfish reasons," said John Hulsman, European affairs expert for the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

A Change of Pace

China's support for the U.N. resolution would be a switch from a December 2000 Security Council vote in which it and Malaysia abstained in a 13-0 vote to tighten sanctions on the Taliban. The vote came following a meeting between China's ambassador to Pakistan and Taliban leader Mulla Mohammad Omar.

China has also made no secret of its arms sales to Middle Eastern nations believed to be supporting the Taliban.

China's allegiances, however, could shift if it sees some personal gain.

The Financial Times reported last week that China may offer to back U.S. global counter-terrorism efforts in exchange for U.S. help in putting down the Tibetan independence movement in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China.

The United States recognizes China's claim of sovereignty over Tibet but is disturbed by human rights violations there.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao told the newspaper that the U.S and China have "common interests" in fighting the independence movement in Taiwan, which has long looked to America as a friend.

Weighing Which Way to Go

The challenge for the Bush administration comes in weighing such offers of help from countries it would normally find on the other side of the foreign policy fence.

"Everyone has an agenda," noted retired Navy Rear Admiral Stephen H. Baker, senior advisor for the Center for Defense Intelligence. "What we've got to do is figure out how we can work with them, what is in our best interests."

Baker insists, however, that reaching out regardless may be a necessary evil. The United States must establish as broad a coalition as possible, he says, involving not only the United Nations but also those countries with whom we may not always agree in other areas.

"It's foolhardy for us to work unilaterally and lash out," he said.