Perhaps the best recent news on the Sino-American front comes from Dallas, where Wang Zhizhi became the first Chinese to enter a National Basketball Association game. He played eight confident minutes, scored the points which won everyone in the audience a free Taco Bell chalupa and instantly made thousands of friends. Nor was it entirely a bad day on the spy plane front. American officials got their second visit with the 24 United States crewmen held on Hainan Island, the US ambassador had serious talks with the Chinese Foreign Minister and President Jiang Zemin said in Chile that both sides 'should manage this situation with maximum interest in bilateral relations'. In brief, a bit of blinking is under way as China and the US try harder to prevent an entirely avoidable showdown rather than drift into confrontation. Both governments recognise that vital interests could be endangered if the airplane problem is allowed to fester rather than be resolved. And neither wants that to happen for essentially accidental reasons. In the process, a few lessons may have been learned. For example, the avowed 'compassionate conservative', George W. Bush, may have discovered that expressing sincere regrets when loss of life occurs - not at all the same as taking full blame and apologising - can combine good diplomacy with basic sensitivity. When the US finally said it was sorry that a Chinese jet pilot was lost, Beijing promptly called it step one towards resolution. Mr Bush may also have learned that patience can be a virtue; give the other side time to sort out its own views. Meantime, Beijing may have been reminded that leaping to an absolutist position - I am entirely right while you are entirely wrong - is not a wise tactic. A degree of fuzziness can at minimum buy time while options are being considered. Although Mr Jiang also repeated his call for a US apology, yesterday's diplomatic flurry suggests the two nations do want a face-saving way past that demand. They should let Mr Wang show the way. Score the points, but don't lose track of friendship and continued good relations as you do.