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The scene is Beijing. You are an international political adviser to the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The news dominating the cable traffic is that Argentina has invaded the Falkland Islands. Even though the invasion is on the other side of the planet, in a region in which the PRC is not directly involved, you will follow the events there with great interest for the next several weeks.

Some of your colleagues will be concerned about the military dimensions of the conflict, for example, problems encountered in launching amphibious attacks on well-defended island positions, establishing supply lines over long distances, and using weapons in hostile natural environments. But you will be absorbed in quite a different aspect of the matter: the reactions of the international community to the unilateral assertion by a continental nation of a right to seize an offshore island.

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