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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."

US, China, Tibet and Taiwan: game on or game over?

February 8, 2010

Tim Collard
The Telegraph
February 7, 2010

So far President Obama is still firmly holding
the line on his intended meeting with the Dalai
Lama when the latter comes to Washington this
month. Having already received the usual
apoplectic Chinese response to the recent
announcement of a $6.4 billion arms package for
Taiwan, he is clearly hunkering down to let all
the ritualised indignation wash over him before,
he hopes, getting back to business.

Everyone knows the steps of this dance by now,
and none better than me, who had to field it in
person at least a hundred times. But none of the
steps can be missed. Simply allowing such a
meeting to go through without protest would be
regarded as a revolution in US-China relations.
Equally, if Obama were now to back down, having
done so once already in October in order to
protect his forthcoming China visit, this would
be seen as a complete surrender from which the
US’s position would not recover. And, as I have
pointed out before on this blog, neither side has
any real leverage over the other just at the moment.

This is why the ritual continues. Otherwise, as
the Chinese know, the protests would not really
be necessary. They can see that time will solve
the problem for them. The Dalai, however
excellent his health, can’t live for ever. And
when he passes on he will have two
reincarnations; one probably in Dharamsala, and
another in some tame monastery in a
well-controlled part of Tibet, under the full
protection of the Chinese bureaucracy and army.
Neither will be able to inherit the full
international recognition the present Dalai
enjoys. This does not mean the Tibetan autonomy
movement is doomed – it has some very resilient
people – but it will have to reconstruct itself without its most potent symbol.

And future US Presidents will be much more easily
dissuaded from according status to anyone from Dharamsala. It’ll be game over.

Taiwan is trickier, but there too the pressure
will be kept on. Even the current package is
deliberately defensively focused to make a nod to
Chinese concerns, whereas what the Taiwanese
really want is a counterstrike capacity. Now, if
the US starts selling F16s to Taiwan, then it really is game/

Tim Collard is a retired British diplomat who
spent most of his career in China and Germany. He
is an active member of the Labour Party.
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