March 30, 2008


Chinese view of Dalai Lama bodes ill for its Tibet policy (Howard W. French , 3/29/08, IHT)

The inflexibility in Beijing's position leaves Western countries with a problem. President George W. Bush and a roster of European and Asian leaders have called for Hu to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama as a first step toward reducing tensions in Tibet. If Hu declines to do so, those leaders seem likely to face pressure from their own constituents to take stronger diplomatic or political steps against Beijing at the moment it had expected to bask in the international limelight.

Already, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has suggested that he might consider using his presidency of the European Union this summer to organize a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Games.

The call for some kind of Chinese-Tibetan talks continues to mount. On Friday, the Dalai Lama, speaking in India, made his most extended comments on the Tibetan violence, accusing the Chinese state-run media of trying to "sow the seeds of racial tension" there but calling for "meaningful dialogue" with Beijing about how to reduce tensions.

Speaking of the possibility that Hu might pursue diplomatic talks with Tibetan exiles, Bush said "it's in his country's interest." Standing by Bush's side, Kevin Rudd, Australia's newly elected, Chinese-speaking prime minister, who was visiting Washington, said, "It's absolutely clear that there are human rights abuses in Tibet." [...]

Robert Barnett, director of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, dismissed the Chinese contention that the protest amounted to little more than criminal riots, calling their spread through several provinces significant. "Nothing like this has happened for the last 40 years, and no Chinese leader is going to miss that," Barnett said. "They have lost the countryside, and they are going to have to work very hard to get win it back."

Nationalism at core of China's angry reaction to Tibetan protests (Jim Yardley, March 30, 2008, NY Times)
If the tough tactics have startled the outside world, the Communist Party for now seems more concerned with rallying domestic opinion by using and responding to the deep strains of nationalism in Chinese society. Playing to national pride, and national insecurities, the party has used censorship and propaganda to position itself as defender of the motherland - and block any examination of Tibetan grievances or its own performance in the crisis.

But the heavy emphasis on nationalism is not without risks. With less than five months before the opening of the Beijing Olympics, China's sharp criticism of the foreign media comes precisely when it wants to present a welcoming impression to the outside world. Instead, Chinese citizens, including many overseas, are posting thousands of angry messages on Web sites and making crank calls to some foreign media offices in Beijing. that places like Tibet are separate nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 30, 2008 7:43 PM
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