Stanley's blog

China has postponed its 1 December Lyon summit with the EU saying it was unhappy that Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama would be visiting Europe at the same time. According to the EU, the decision was based “on the fact that the Dalai Lama will be visiting several EU countries and will meet with heads of state and government as well as presidents of European institutions,” French President NicolasSarkozy will meet the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland, at a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize winners. Sarkozy has always said he’ll meet the Dalai Lama not as a head of state, but as spiritual leader. So much for the Sino-European “strategic partnership”.

It might have been thought that two major entities with such a close relationship, who agreed sometime ago to enter into a strategic partnership could have prevented this happening, as it has been a running sore for many years. I have extensively blogged on Tibet and the Dalai Lama (eg 22 July and 28 June 2008) but on 25 November wrote that the EU and Chinese officials prepare for the bilateral summit in Lyon on 1 December with a large black cloud overshadowing them, in the shape of the Dalai Lama. “It is not beyond doubt that the Chinese will cancel the summit.”

The gulf of misunderstanding between China and the West over Tibet and the Dalai Lama is huge and misperceptions abound. No agreement is possible on the alleged rights and wrongs of both sides. The biggest single problem, whether historical or contemporary, is to separate fact from distortion , whether its source is Tibetan, Chinese or Western. How can the same man be a charismatic Nobel Prize Winner and the Devil incarnate? But anything seen as a threat to China’s territorial integrity is hypersensitive.

Tibetans are one of the biggest regional, ethnic grouping in China, 2 620 000 according the the 2000 census. Half live within Tibet itself, and most of the remainder in minority communities in the four neighbouring provinces of Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai and Yunnan. Tibet itself occupies one eighth of Chinese territory, more than twice the size of France, but there are 55 ethnic minorities in China, and several regions whose separatist feelings might be roused by what happens in Tibet.

No progress has been made, or is likely to be made in negotiations between Beijing and the Tibetan exiles. The Dalai Lama’s affirmation that he does not seek Tibetan independence is widely known, and believed. What he means by “meaningful autonomy” for the Tibetan people living in Tibet and the adjoining provinces is unclear. At the same time, some clarification of what Beijing means by an “autonomous region” is desirable. Does the region in practice enjoy any more autonomy than a ‘province’? Beijing in any case believes that autonomy will lead to independence.

China has not dissociated EU governments from the irresponsible behaviour of the European Parliament, media and protest groups. .The EU has failed miserably to coordinate its own approach, and use the collective authority that would result, and encourages Beijing to deal at its whim with different leaders. .Merkel seeing the Dalai Lama in the Bundeskanzleramt, Brown at Lambeth Palace and Sarkozy in Gdansk is pathetic. Everyone should decide together whether or not the meet the Dalai Lama. Talk about seeing him as a religious leader does not explain why a leader of only 3 000 000 meets so many western leaders so frequently. And what do they talk about? Religion?

It’s important to remember that all 27 Member States are committed to the territorial integrity of China and accept that Tibet is part of China. But if they decide that they all wish to meet the Dalai Lama at least let Bejing cope with a combined voice.

With the onset of economic depression, the vulnerability of the world’s financial system, climate change, energy security, terrorism ,,,, our leaders should not be distracted from working together by Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

Noone – the Tibetans, the Han Chinese, the US and UK in particular, can be proud of their.past behaviour jn Tibet. Short memories of history are dangerous, but so are long ones. It is essential that the Chinese do not see the Tibet isue as a continuation of their humiliation by the West. As Confucius said, “Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses”.

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  1. stanley, i was sure that you would write something on this. your comments are
    (surprisingly) balanced, but you fail to mention that china ‘not allowing’ europeans to meet the dalai lama classifies as ‘interference’ in european affairs. important to mention that as ‘non-interference’ in china’s internal affairs is beijing’s central foreign policy mantra and it seems that beijing is not prepared to grant europe the right to implement its foreign policies with chinese interference.

    plus i am not sure what you mean by the ep’s ‘irresponsible behaviour’ towards china. the ep is very critical on many issues-what is the problem with that? you would need to add some substance to this.

  2. @Alex Berkofsky: what if Chinese leaders meet regularly with IRA, or ETA members, provide a platform for them on the world stage. Do you think that will sit well with UK or Spain?

    The EU governments are hypocrites to say the least.

  3. I agree that the EU would benefit from some strategic coordination on the Tibet question, but I get a bit worried when I read statements like this:

    Talk about seeing him as a religious leader does not explain why a leader of only 3 000 000 meets so many western leaders so frequently. And what do they talk about? Religion?

    Actually there are 6 million Tibetans in China, but that is immaterial to the question. The treatment of minorities is a litmus test for the decency of a society and the Chinese government has not only failed that test, this year, it started to openly pander to Han chauvinist sentiments in order to counter the Tibetan movement.


    To compare DL to ETA or the IRA is wide of the mark to say the least.

  4. As a Chinese, I am totally disgusted by European’s manipulation with Tibet issue. It is beyond doubt that it is the wish of 1.3 billion Chinese to maintain our territorial integraty, as you can see in the protests against Free Tibet in and outside China. But in the European media and some politicians’s eyes, that wish is not human right
    and can be trampled on whenever they want. This is what I call blatant voilation of Chinese human rights.
    The truth redarding the Tibet under the Dalai Lama’s rule, the fact regarding his political role, his involvements with certain government agencies, his so called “Middle Way”, have never been disclosed factually in the European media. His activities have never promoted the understanding and racial tolerance between the Tibetans and Hun Chinese. In fact, he has been instigating hatrid and confrontation between them. The peace prize given to him is a sure indication of how the west has lost their basic ground of right or wrong. Or in a deeper level, how the west has twisted fact to fit their goal. You have lost our trust.
    Given the atrocities the Europeans have done to China and Asia in last centuries, what high moral ground can the Europeans assume? The Tibet issue is exactly the result of British Invasion. You said the Chinese should forget their 100 years humiliation. But don’t you think the Europeans should stop their 100 years habit of poking their finger in our apple pie?
    If the EC recognizes Tibet as part of China, then its leaders should not meet with any person who engages in separation. Your meeting should be regarded as supporting or plotting. If you are not leaders, nobody cares.
    Can China decide who the European leaders meet? Absolutely no. But a relation builds on mutual respect and trust. I repeat, mutual. Why does China have to live with the manipulatin?
    I fully support my government’s stance. There is no point in associating with two-faced, double standard, back-stabbing, manipulative EC leaders.
    Boycott French!

  5. Stanley, i always enjoy reading your blog particuarly because of the insights you help offer into the machinery of EU foreign policy

    and usually i am quite content to do so passively

    on this occassion however i am impatient to intervene (particularly as i have a classroom full of negotiation students puzzling away at the why of the breakdown)

    with all due respect to the moral positions highlighted by previous commentators – just how fundamental is this breakdown?

    is what happened last week a symptom of a relationship that has begun to take on a more adversarial dynamic? (i dont mean this in the sense that the pca touches on sensitive issues i mean this in the sense that the economics behind the relationship are becoming more politicised)

    is the snub “retribution”? a way of signalling to certain personalities (or as some have suggested other actors) that meeting with the dali lama are viewed as an act of disrespect, one that doesnt fit with strategic partner?

    i know there are other possible explanations for what happened and these will become more or less plausible with the benefit of more information

    irrespective of this – moving past the why of it – what of the what now

    is the eu and china relationship that has developed up til now still working (are the meetings still going on)?

    do the “partners” have the means available to repair the relationship quickly or to limit the damage?

    All bridges need support

  6. I also enjoy reading Stanley’s blog on China. I agree with Stanley on many issues about China. Stanley’s views are more realistic, comprehensive and not radical.
    @ John. Yes, the Chinese consider the EC leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama an act of disrespect. An act of betrayal at the expense of the Chinese territorial integraty. Why the Chinese national territorial integraty is treated so lightly and childishly by British leader, German leader, and the French leader? To them, it is an object, a rock to haul at the Chinese whenever they feel like it.
    Please don’t try to separate the Chinese government and the Chinese on this issue. Please don’t call the Chinese brainwashed.what make the Europeans think that Chinese will allow anybody, under the religious name or any other name, to break up their country. The European leaders know that too, and what is most absurd of it, they recognize Tibet as part of China. Still they manipulate this issue by massive biased criticism and meetings with the DL, awarding him the Prize. Do your Europeans consider these kinds of behavior moral and decent?
    The DL has been advocating the “middle way”. He said he did not want independence. But he wanted a greater Tibet, which includes the original Tibet, and part of Qinhai, Gansu, etc, because Tibetans live there, too. If that is allowed, should we claim China towns in Europe part of China too just because Chinese live there?
    He also wants all Hun Chinese leave his greater Tibet so that the Tibetan culture can be preserved. By the same token, shouldn’t all the white Europeans leave south America, Australia so that the natives can preserve their culture? I never quite understand the west, who promotes racial tolerance or at least claims to be, will support such racist segregation by the DL. Could it be the Hun Chinese not worthy enough for your racial equality?
    Not to mention why anybody wants the DL, a so called spiritual leader, to engage in political endeavours and calls himself head of the government-in-exile? Hasn’t the Europe leave the medieval dark age behind? Or the European politicians have lost all common sense, morals, basic universal virtues when it comes to Tibet issue?
    The cloak of the DL’s compassion can not cover all the ugliness.
    Stongly support the Chinese government’s decison to put off talks. Our territorial integraty is not your chocolate cake, enjoyed at your leisure.

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