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

For Obama on China, no more Mr Nice Guy?

February 2, 2010

After a year of wooing China, President Barack
Obama is showing a new side by brazenly defying
the rising Asian power - while hoping that the rift will be temporary.
By Shaun Tandon, in Washington for AFP
The Telegraph (UK)
February 2, 2010

On Friday the Obama administration signed off on
a $6.4 billion (£4 billion) arms package for
Taiwan. China, which claims the island, had
repeatedly warned against the sale and retaliated
by vowing to punish US companies.

Obama may butt heads with Beijing again in the
coming weeks if he meets the Dalai Lama. The two
nations also have a number of trade rows
including Google's threat to leave China over the
hacking of political activists' email accounts.

Officials and experts doubted that Obama was
seeking to antagonise China. Rather, they said he
had long planned to sell arms to Taiwan and meet
the Dalai Lama but wanted first to develop a good rapport with Beijing.

Douglas H. Paal, a former top US policymaker on
China and envoy to Taiwan, said that Obama had
waited for the right time and saw an opportunity
after Beijing balked in mid-January at backing tougher sanctions against Iran.

"It became clear that Beijing was not going to
play on Iran and therefore there was nothing to
hold up the arms sales anymore," said Paal, vice
president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Obama opened his administration pledging to
expand cooperation between the world's largest
developed and developing nations, apparently
considering cooperation on issues from climate
change to reviving the global economy to North Korea.

But after a trip in November to China which made
no visible goodwill gestures to him, not freeing
any dissidents or even broadcasting nationally
his one public forum, the erpsident returned on the defensive.

A month earlier, Obama had avoided meeting the
Dalai Lama when he was in Washington so as not to
sour the president's trip. China accuses the
Dalai Lama of separatism, although the monk says
he is seeking greater rights for Tibet under Chinese rule.

The White House indicated last year that Obama
would meet the Dalai Lama at a later date. The
Dalai Lama is due in the United States this
month, starting with a public lecture on February 21 in Los Angeles.

Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies
Center at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative
think tank, said it would be impossible
politically for Obama to avoid the Tibetan leader again.

"It's the Chinese who are the real outliers here.
They're the only people in the world who have a
negative impression of the Dalai Lama," Lohman said.

"The real problem here was giving an impression
to the Chinese that there was some possibility
that the US was going to listen to them on the
Dalai Lama," he said, criticising Obama for being
"excessively deferential" to China.

China was largely positive about the previous US
president, George W. Bush. During his eight-year
presidency, China's exports and investments in
the United States rose considerably; China now
holds more than $800 billion (£50.2 billion) of the ballooning US debt.

While questioning the amount of leverage China
has, Lohman said: "I think they know the
perception is out there that they have this
leverage and are the new boss in town, and so they're playing off that."

But Nina Hachigian, a senior fellow at the
Left-leaning Center for American Progress,
dismissed suggestions that Obama had been weak on
China, saying that the new administration had set
out a path to work together on common interests.

"While it was not a reason for it, I do think the
arms package should quell the ridiculous
judgments that Obama was being too deferential to China," she said.

"I do think they've been successful, even though
there is still a lot of distrust, in reassuring
that we welcome a rising China and we don't want to contain China," she said.

She said that the United States and China were in
a "Bermuda triangle stage" of relations with Taiwan, Tibet and trade issues.

"That's going to mean rough sailing in the
relationship for a while, but the fact is we're
in this together," she said. "It's in neither
side's interest for it to get derailed, so after
a certain period it will get back on track."
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