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Spy plane controversy or not, Jan C. Ting jetted off on April 20 for China. Ting is a professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia. He was traveling to the first graduation ceremonies at the Beijing campus where Temple opened the first U.S. law school in China two years ago. Ting chaired the China curriculum committee and taught on site last spring. The departure from his Alapocas home north of Wilmington, Del., came barely more than a week after China released the military surveillance plane’s crew, held for 11 days beginning April 1. Ting is unsure what would have happened had the standoff continued, but it did not. “There were no practical or immediate consequences to our program. Happily it did resolve itself,” Ting said before he left. “Full speed ahead. We’ll have a graduation next week.” “Full speed ahead” actually meant more than the graduation. Ting said he plans to be in China for about two weeks, giving him the time to scout out a site for another possible law school campus in Shanghai. The spy plane stalemate returned Ting to the media spotlight where he found himself early last year during another international incident — the one involving Elian Gonzales, the Cuban boy rescued from a boat wreck off the Florida coast and eventually returned home to his father. As a former official with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1990 to 1993, Ting found himself in demand as an analyst, explaining in media interviews and opinion pieces why immigration officials were correct in deciding to send Elian back to Cuba. This time his familiarity with China had him in demand. Ting did commentary for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” and a version of his remarks ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer. He benefited from a pipeline to China through the e-mail he received from his students there, finding many Chinese upset that U.S. military planes flew so close to their coast. Ting tapped into his own heritage to offer perspective on the controversy. He wrote: “My Chinese father used to tell me, ‘Never tie your shoes in a watermelon patch.’ I eventually understood that this meant I should assume responsibility not only for what I actually do, but also for what I may appear to be doing. If you tie your shoes in a watermelon patch, people may think you’re stealing watermelons … “I am reminded of this difference of perception by the continuing dispute over the American airplane and crew currently detained in China. What matters to Americans is only that we had a right to do everything we did. … “[The Chinese] seem uninterested in the fact that such surveillance is routine all over the world. One of their watermelons is missing, and they hold the United States responsible for tying its shoes in their melon patch.” Ting suggested that it would be in the interests of both countries to find a way out. Not only is growing economic interdependence at stake, he said, but U.S. officials need Chinese cooperation on matters such as weapons proliferation, organized crime, drug trafficking, smuggling of illegal immigrants and public health issues. “Both governments played it right,” Ting said in the interview before his flight. “The scary thing is there were people on both sides that were ready to go to war.”

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