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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Obama in China: his hosts are still grateful for the snub to the Dalai Lama

November 16, 2009

By Tim Collard
The Telegraph Blog (UK)
November 15, 2009

So President Obama is in China for the first
time. (First time as President that is -- no idea
whether he may have spent time gallivanting
around there in his youth.) In the international
fixture calendar, this ought to be the Big One:
the Liverpool-Manchester United of summitry. But
I think it’s unlikely that we’ll need to hold the front page this time.

That’s partly for good reasons. There do not
appear to be any major conflicts threatening to
boil over. Nowhere in the world are the giants of
the 20th and 21st centuries respectively facing
each other down like boxers at the weigh-in.
China does not feel the need, as Russia often
does, to act all truculent so as not to be
ignored. They know no one’s going to ignore them.

Of course the Chinese never lose the opportunity
to score a point. The opening Foreign Ministry
communiqué (issued by Mr Qin Gang, an old mate of
mine and probably the only government spokesman
in the world who has also umpired at Wimbledon)
focussed, on, of all things, Obama’s
much-appreciated refusal to meet the Dalai Lama
prior to visiting China. As a black president,
said Mr Qin, Obama was in a better position than
his predecessors to appreciate the fight against
slavery, which is what the Chinese were
conducting when they overran Tibet in the
fifties. (Can’t you just see the Dalai bestriding
the old plantation with his assortment of whips?)
Obama was also reminded of Abraham Lincoln, whose
concern for the unity of his country is now
matched by that of President Hu Jintao. So there
we have it: main item of concern a minor squabble
in which the US has already made the necessary
concession. Advantage People’s Republic of China.

This is not to say that the meeting room in the
Zhongnanhai Party Complex does not contain the
odd large grey pachyderm. As I mentioned in my
post of 3rd August, the economic issues between
the two giants are deep-seated, and they
constitute a total stand-off: the Chinese are not
going to take the risk of freely floating their
currency just to please Uncle Barack, and the US
still owes China two trillion big ones and isn’t
going to be wiping out the debt any time soon.
And if there is a real prospect of agreement
between the two major climate change players in
advance of the Copenhagen summit, they’ve
certainly done a good job of preserving secrecy on the matter.

It’ll certainly do Obama no harm to get a handle
on how China works, and to ensure that the mood
music is good (which is what he does best). But I
imagine they’ll have been scraping the barrel for
anything of substance to put in the final
communiqué. Still, better jaw-jaw than war-war, as the man said.
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