U.S. President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama yesterday in the White House, the third such meeting since the president took office. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying had previously expressed China's deep concern and urged the U.S. to reconsider the decision. Although the U.S. has downplayed the political implications of the meeting, that the event is a brusque interference in China's internal affairs cannot be denied, a fact that will inescapably mean far-reaching repercussions for U.S.-China relations. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic ties between the two countries, and both sides are now striving to establish a new type of great power relations. The U.S. must respect China's core interests and cease pursuing policies that play both ends against the middle. It cannot play the "Dalai Lama card" time and again as a means of meddling in China's internal affairs. A failure to stop such behavior will not only negatively impact U.S.-China relations, but will moreover harm the interests of the U.S. itself.
Obama has met the Dalai Lama twice before, once in February 2010 and once in July 2011, incurring the fierce opposition of China on both occasions. This time, the White House has been careful to emphasize that the U.S. recognizes that Tibet is a part of China and that Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama is meant only as an expression of its support for upholding Tibetan human rights rather than Tibetan independence. As all are well-aware, the Tibetan issue is linked to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and also touches upon China's core interests. The Dalai Lama is a politician in exile who has long engaged in separatist activity under religious pretenses. Regardless of the context under which the U.S. president meets with him, it is a rude trespass into China's internal affairs that constitutes an egregious breach of standards in international relations, and will come as a sharp blow to U.S.-China relations.
Since Obama took office, he has made a show of his "new diplomacy" and claimed to China's leadership that he wants mutual respect between the U.S. and China. The U.S. leader has also previously expressed on multiple occasions that the U.S. and China are "in the same boat"* and has given his support to the establishment of a new type of great power relations. And at its core, the essence of establishing these new relations is a form of respect for the societies and paths of development that each country chooses to adopt, as well as for each other's core interests and major concerns. But just after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left China and U.S.-China relations began moving forward again, Obama once more met with the Dalai Lama. This first shows that the U.S. has a foot in both camps when it comes to the basic issue of protecting China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and second, represents the newest edition of U.S. unilateralism, essentially remaining wed to the principle of upholding U.S. interests above all else. It is nothing more than an effort to use the issues of human rights and Tibet to cause new problems for China and curb its peaceful development.
The U.S. and China are the world's largest developed and developing countries, respectively, and cooperation in trade between the two grows deeper by the day. It is the world's most important bilateral relationship, and the U.S. sorely needs China's cooperation in the Korean Peninsula and Middle East, as well as on other international issues. As for the issue of Tibet, a key concern for China, the U.S. must discard its zero-sum mentality, work toward cooperation for mutual benefit through seeking common ground and cease its insistence upon using the Dalai Lama to kick up a fuss. If it does not, it will only end up stabbing itself in the foot.
*Editor’s note: Quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified. However, this expression has been used on numerous occasions by members of both the Obama and Jinping administrations.