China is trying to force President Obama to cancel his meeting with the Dalai Lama scheduled for today—demonstrating that although the economies of the two superpowers are increasingly interdependent, they continue to find reasons to fight over diplomacy as they flex their global muscle.
China is trying to force President Obama to cancel his planned meeting with the Dalai Lama scheduled for today—demonstrating that although the economies of the two superpowers are increasingly interdependent, they continue to find reasons to fight over diplomacy as they flex their global muscles.
China warned that if Obama met with the Tibetan spiritual leader, it would “seriously damage” ties between the two countries.
The status of Tibet has been a controversial international issue since Communist Chinese troops took control of the country in 1950. China claimed it had “peacefully liberated” the remote region that it says was mired in poverty, exploitation and economic stagnation, while the Tibetans say they are brutally oppressed.
The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959 and is considered a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by the Chinese, who say he advocates violence to establish an independent Tibet.
The Dalai Lama denies advocating violence.
“The United States’ arrangement for its leader to meet the Dalai would be a gross interference in China’s internal affairs and is a serious violation of the norms of international relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement. “It will seriously damage Sino-U.S. relations. We urge the United States to take seriously China’s concerns, immediately cancel plans for the U.S. leader to meet the Dalai, do not facilitate and provide a platform for Dalai’s anti-China separatist activities in the United States.”
According to the White House National Security Council, Obama is meeting with the Dalai Lama at the White House to exhibit concern about China’s human rights practices.
Curiously, the president has already met the Dalai Lama on two occasions, February 2010 and July 2011. The Chinese made loud noises at the time of the previous meetings, but nothing came of the threats.
The U.S. and China have been engaged in a delicate international dance for years, but the relationship has intensified in recent years after the Obama administration announced that it was pivoting its primary interest from the Middle East to Asia.
The Chinese took the announcement as an attempt by the U.S. to stifle its growing international clout. China is the United States’ biggest foreign creditor, holding $1.28 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds as of last July, according to Treasury Department data.
Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet at a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands next month.
Asked whether China would cancel the meeting, Hua said, “If any country deliberately insists on harming China’s interests, in the end, it will also damage its own interests and will harm the bilateral relations between China and the relevant country.”
“(If) the U.S. president wishes to meet any person, it’s his own affair, but he cannot meet the Dalai,” she said. “The Dalai is definitely not a pure religious figure. He is using the cloak of religion to engage in long-term activities to separate China, he is a political exile.”
Obama might be making a concession to the Chinese in scheduling the meeting with the Dalai Lama in the White House Map Room, which is considered less significant than a meeting in the Oval Office.
More than 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire, with most of them dying, in the last five years to protest Chinese rule.