Who is flexing muscles here?
1. The tension between US and China is growing in recent weeks, with range of issues in which both countries oppose to each other – from arms sales to Taiwan to sanctions on Iran. Is this just a coincidence or is the relationship deteriorating? Is China pushing the limits to try the Obama administration or on the other hand, is it Obama trying to appease domestic critics, who claim he’s weak in foreign politics?
2. Do you think China will react with some particular measures on Obama’s meeting with Dalai Lama?
3. Every single meeting of Dalai Lama with foreign official is accompanied with strong criticism from Beijing. Isn’t that counterproductive and only pointing to the importance of Dalai Lama?
Robert Ross, Professor of Political Science at Boston College, and Associate at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University
1. Both factors are at work. China feels more confident after 30 years of reform and after two good years during the financial crisis, so it is better able to push harder to realize its interests. Also, the rise of China now allows Beijing to use a harder foreign policy to appease its domestic nationalism and its critics.
2. This is unclear. The possibility of an April summit is the issue and China still has time to decide.
3. Greater Chinese resistance to meetings between heads of state and the Dalai Lama started with Europe and Germany in 2007. Since then, China has become even more to “separatist ” activities after the 2008 violence in Tibet. Domestic nationalism against the Dalai Lama and separatism has also increased since the 2008 violence in Tibet. Moreover, with the rise of China, Beijing also has greater ability to resist such meetings. So, China has stronger reason and better ability to push back. I do not think Chinese policy helps the Dalai Lama. His prestige internationally or inside Tibet will not be affected. On the other hand, the value of such meetings inside Tibet is non-existent.
Zhiqun Zhu, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Bucknell University
All the problems between China and the US are old ones–Taiwan, Tibet, Trade, etc. Even the Google incident, it is about information control/freedom of speech, not a new issue. And Iran, it’s about the dilemma between China’s own national interests and its global responsibility, again not a new issue.
Since US-China relations are so complicated, to some extent it is normal that they often quarrel with each other. Obviously the two powers have different sets of national interests even though they do cooperation in many regional and global affairs. Due to their different history, culture, political system, levels of development, China and the US will always have disagreements. They are neither friends nor foes; they are just two great powers that have become very interdependent in today’s world. The biggest challenge for them is to manage their co-existence in the world peacefully.
America’s policy towards China (including Tibet and Taiwan) has been consistent. Some people (especially some in China) think that President Obama has changed his China-friendly policy by selling weapons to Taiwan and meeting with the Dalai Lama. But this is not true. Obama is not doing anything new or different from his predecessors. Obama is facing tremendous domestic pressure, especially when the US mid-term election is coming up in November. He wants to appease his domestic critics and he wants to appear strong in foreign affairs.
The Chinese government has already protested against the Obama-Dalai Lama meeting. I do not think China will go too far and take further actions. I think the US side understands the importance and sensitivity of Taiwan and Tibet to China. But even if China attempts to sanction the US or “teach the US a lesson”, the US is unlikely to change its long-standing policy. Both sides have to calm down and focus on the broad picture. The US and China cannot live without each other now. They would have to put aside the differences and focus on areas they can cooperate.
I just published this op-ed in Edinburgh’s The Journal. Hope it also helps:
Filed under: Asia, China, North America, Politics, US foreign policy Tagged: | Barack Obama, China, China foreign policy, China politics, Dalai Lama, Robert S. Ross, Tibet, United States, US foreign policy, Zhiqun Zhu