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Dalai Lama Drama

cartoon from davegranlund.com

Nothing annoys the Chinese more than foreign officials meeting with the Dalai Lama or recognizing Taiwan’s sovereignty. In the last month, President Obama has done both. Let the games begin. Last month, the Obama administration announced a 6-billion-dollar arms sale to Taiwan. Yesterday, Pres. Obama welcomed the Dalai Lama to the White House for a much-anticipated meeting. Previously, Obama had spurned a request to meet with the spiritual leader in an attempt to calm the seas before a November visit to China. Little came out of this visit. In the past year, relations between China and the U.S. have not been great. Obama has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and called for a Chinese currency revaluation. China has reacted to the Taiwan arms sale with outrage and threatened to slap heavy sanctions on American companies involved in the sale.

What I find most fascinating is China”s response to meetings with the Dalai Lama. Historically, little has come out of these meetings. Mostly, it seems as if new political leaders enjoy the celebrity status of meeting with the Dalai Lama as their predecessors and other world leaders have before. It would be tactful for China to ignore the meetings. Instead, over the years the Chinese reaction has been overblown and childish.

  • When Nicolas Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama in 2008, China canceled an EU-China summit and rescheduled after France no longer held the rotating EU presidency.
  • After a 2007 meeting between Chancellor Merkel and the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government canceled a human rights meeting with Germany.
  • Also in 2007, the U.S. Congress honored the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S.’s highest civilian award. The same month, China pulled out of a multiparty meeting  to discuss Iran.

The list continues. Although, the reasons for China’s anger are clear, the responses are not. The Tibet issue is far from a compromise, but one of China’s attempts to gain control over the Dalai Lama is particularly interesting. When this Dalai Lama, the 14th, passes away, Buddhists believe the Dalai Lama will be reincarnated. China is ready to beat them to it. The Chinese government claims the authority to choose/”identify” the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. Obviously, any attempts to do this would be met with severe resistance from Tibetans. China’s chosen successor would have no credibility among the Tibetan people. It would be seen as yet another Chinese attempt to control Tibetan culture and society. China’s responses to the Tibetan conflict and the Dalai Lama are misdirected and simply ineffective.

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