So what did President Obama do? He sent two senior officials, Bader and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, to Beijing in March. The Chinese saw the visit as a sign of weakness and said the pair had come to apologize to China, a theme echoed in official media. Of course, neither of the Americans made apologies to China, but Beijing was in no mood to talk to them in earnest.

In fact, Beijing during the Bader-Steinberg visit staked out even more aggressive positions. For instance, the Chinese for the first time labeled their ludicrous claims to the entire South China Sea as a “core interest” of their nation.

Obama’s good-hearted initiative had backfired, apparently encouraging the very behavior he sought to prevent. Yet what is the president doing now? He is sending even more officials to Beijing. The Chinese will see this as the Apology Tour, the Sequel. The White House is just not learning from its mistakes.