China stepped up its criticism of Washington yesterday after US President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama, but stopped short of threatening retaliation, indicating Beijing was keen to avoid escalating tensions between the world’s biggest economies.
Obama met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader for 45 minutes on Saturday, praising him for embracing non-violence while reiterating that the US did not support independence for Tibet.
Beijing responded with predictably vehement words yesterday via its tightly controlled state media, though without mentioning any broader retaliation that could deepen strains.
“Generally, the Chinese believe that the US government meets with the Dalai Lama either to appease its domestic hardliners or to vent its dissatisfaction with China in other fields,” wrote the Global Times, a popular tabloid published by Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily.
The Nobel Peace laureate is “a drop of spittle on China from the West,” the daily said in its editorial.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which published two predictably angry statements in the early hours of Sunday, has made no further comment on the meeting.
“The Chinese protest over Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama is routine and unlikely to have any real consequences,” said Pei Minxin (裴敏欣), a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, in e-mailed comments.
“As a matter of principle, China must make its displeasure known to the US, as it has done so for many years,” he added. “But the Chinese are also very pragmatic and understand that this meeting is symbolic. So they will not want to harm the substantive Sino-American relationship because of this incident. They will not take any retaliatory measures.”
While the latest spat has happened while leaders in Washington are at odds over how to raise the US$14.3 trillion US debt ceiling in time to avoid default, China is highly unlikely to dump its US Treasury bills to punish the US.
Selling US Treasury bills “would be a rather risky move and one which is openly hostile if explicitly framed as a ‘response,’” said Scott Harold, an associate political scientist with the RAND Corp.
“It would dramatically worsen US-China ties, and for what? After all, what, specifically, is the effect of the president’s meeting with the Dalai Lama that harms China’s actual control on the ground in Tibet? Zero,” Harold said.
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