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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama to meet Barack Obama as US relations with China worsen

February 8, 2010

President plans tougher line over trade surplus
while Beijing refuses to back down over Iran sanctions
Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Tania Branigan  in Beijing
Guardian (UK)
Februry 4, 2010

Beijing has lobbied against the Dalai Lama’s
planned visit to Washington. Photograph: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

The sudden deterioration in US-Chinese relations
is set to accelerate after the White House
confirmed today that Barack Obama will meet the
Dalai Lama in Washington later this month in defiance of Beijing.

The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, did not
set a date, but the Dalai Lama's secretary has
said he will be in Washington on 17 and 18 February.

Beijing claims Tibet is part of China, views the
Dalai Lama as a troublemaker and has lobbied firmly against the visit.

Although other US presidents have met the Dalai
Lama, China had hoped that Obama might adopt a
different approach, given the enthusiasm with which he wooed Beijing last year.

The controversial visit comes on top of a series
of rows over the last few weeks in which
relations between the US and China have taken a turn for the worse.

Obama told US legislators on Wednesday that he
will take a tougher line towards China over its huge US trade surplus.

Other grievances include US plans to sell arms to
Taiwan, the row with the leading search engine
Google over alleged cyber attacks, and US
disappointment at China's failure to support it
over climate change at Copenhagen and on sanctions against Iran.

China specialists in Washington said today that
the Obama administration had always planned the
Dalai Lama meeting and the arms sales to Taiwan,
but had simply deferred them while it established a rapport with Beijing.

But there had been a sudden coming together of
issues over the last month. These have created "a
perfect storm and the question now is how to
navigate out of it," said Evan Feigenbaum, a
China specialist at Washington's Council on
Foreign Relations and a former deputy assistant
secretary of state for South Asia. "I think it is going to be a rocky year."

What has made US-Chinese relations even more
volatile is that they have become part of
American domestic politics, in particular public resentment over job losses.

Obama, speaking to Democratic legislators in
Washington on Wednesday, urged China to open its
markets more to US goods. "The approach that we
are taking is to try to get much tougher about
enforcement of existing rules," he said.

He added that the China had to address currency
rates to ensure that the price of US goods was
not artificially inflated while imports were
artificially deflated. An even playing field, he
said, could help double US exports and create US jobs.

"If we just increased our exports to Asia by a
percentage point, by a fraction, it would mean
hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of jobs
here in the United States," Obama told the senators.

China, responding to Obama , said it will not
submit to US pressure to revalue its currency. A
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Ma Zhaoxu,
said the Chinese currency is not the main reason
for China's trade surplus with the US: "Accusations and pressure do not help."

China also showed no signtoday either of backing
down over Iranian sanctions. The Chinese foreign
minister, Yang Jiechi, on a visit to Paris,
rejected calls by the US, Britain and others to
back UN security council sanctions. "To talk
about sanctions against Iran at present was counterproductive," he said.

The US continued to ramp up pressure today. The
US deputy assistant secretary of state, David
Shear, told a Congressional panel that Beijing
would regret any action to punish US businesses
involved in the planned $6.4bn (£4bn) arms sales
to Taiwan. He said the US was "greatly concerned"
at the prospect of retaliatory action by China.

A common theme among Chinese specialists in the
US is that the breach is because China has become
overconfident about its rising world power status
and has been over-reaching itself.

Shear said that rising Chinese confidence was
prompting Beijing to assert its interests in Asia
more forcefully, but the US was making sure China
understood the US too had interests in the region.

Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist at Washington's
Centre for Strategic and International Studies,
said: "We are going to have a rough patch. No
doubt about it. Issues that have been on the
backburner are coming to the fore."

She saw the rows as part of a rebalancing of
expectations. "The US may have had a high
expectation for China and the Chinese may have
had too high expectations of the Obama
administration. I think both want to remain on
even keel. The Chinese would be worried if it
went to a downward spiral. And so would we."

Professor Susan Shirk, Bill Clinton's deputy
assistant secretary of state with responsibility
for China, and now at the University of
California, said she did not see a change from
Obama's side. "What I do see is some change on
the Chinese side that I believe is due to a
rather unfortunate combination of international
overconfidence and domestic insecurity."

Feigenbaum said that, in spite of Obama's efforts
in the first year to build confidence, "there is
an enduring lack of trust and confidence on both sides".
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