Join our Mailing List

"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Dalai Lama's very existence frays relations between China, Europe

February 13, 2009

By FRANK CHING, Japan Times
February 11, 2009

HONG KONG — At the core of Chairman Mao Zedong's revolutionary theory
was the strategy of the united front: Identify the main enemy and then
isolate it by forming a united front with as many other classes, groups
or elements as possible. Once that is done, the process can be continued
with the identification of the next main enemy. China's policy toward
Europe seems to reflect that strategy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy stuck his finger in Beijing's eye by
announcing that he would meet with the Dalai Lama the same week that the
European Union was meant to hold a summit meeting with China last
December. An infuriated Beijing canceled the summit conference. Now,
Beijing is seeking to isolate France by wooing other key EU members.

Premier Wen Jiabao recently concluded a trip to Europe, during which he
went to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos and then
visited Germany, Belgium, Spain and Britain. Wen pointed out that he had
circumnavigated France.

"I looked at a map of Europe on the plane," he said. "My trip goes
around France." He urged France to "mend and improve ties" with China,
saying the cause of the problem in the bilateral relationship "doesn't
lie with China."

It was particularly galling for China that when Sarkozy announced his
meeting with the Dalai Lama, France held the rotating presidency of the
EU. Now, it is the Czech Republic's turn to be president for six months,
yet the Dalai Lama had also been welcomed to Prague by Prime Minister
Mirek Topolanek before the Tibetan spiritual leader went on to Warsaw
for the meeting with Sarkozy.

Still, when Premier Wen was in Brussels at the beginning of his European
tour, he met with Topolanek and both men pledged to work for closer
relations between China and the EU. China refuses to accept the
willingness of European leaders to meet with the Dalai Lama.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who held talks with Wen in Berlin, was
on the receiving end of Chinese ire after meeting with the Dalai Lama in
September 2007. Still, she urged China to resume its dialogue with the
Tibetan spiritual leader when she saw Wen in January.

At the root of the problem is China's position that the Tibetan issue is
part of its core national interest and meetings by European leaders with
the Dalai Lama constitute interference in China's internal affairs.
European countries see Tibet as a human rights issue and urge the
Chinese government to continue talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives.

Last year, following the rioting in Lhasa, China did resume dialogue
with the Dalai Lama, but the meetings broke off amid acrimony in November.

Despite the Dalai Lama's insistence that all he wants is genuine
autonomy for Tibet, Beijing insists that he is secretly working for
Tibetan independence and accuses him of having tried to undermine the
Beijing Olympics.

The European Parliament also angered China last October by giving the
2008 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to an imprisoned dissident,
Hu Jia.

Current attempts by China to stop European leaders from meeting with the
Dalai Lama are reminiscent of its ultimately successful campaign in the
1980s and 1990s to halt the sale of arms to Taiwan by European
countries. In 1981, China downgraded ties with the Netherlands when the
Dutch agreed to sell two submarines to Taiwan. Normal ties were not
restored until 1984, when Holland agreed to halt arms sales to Taiwan.

In the early 1990s, France sold warships and fighter jets to Taiwan. In
retaliation, Beijing canceled large-scale projects with France,
including the Guangzhou subway project, the second phase of the Daya Bay
nuclear power plant and the purchase of French wheat.

In 1993, a new French government agreed there would be no further arms
sales to Taiwan. Germany also agreed to end arms sales. By 1998, all
European arms sales to Taiwan had stopped.

Beijing would like to repeat this success in its campaign to get
European leaders not to meet with the Dalai Lama. While this is unlikely
to happen in the foreseeable future, China appears to be pinning its
hopes on one thing that European leaders cannot change: the mortality of
the 73-year-old Tibetan leader.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator
(Frank.ching@gmail.com).

The Japan Times: Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank