The fall-out of the meeting between the US President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama in Washington on Thursday, will be more angry rhetoric from Beijing against American ‘interference’ in its sensitive internal affairs. Then, as one senior Chinese analyst told HT, Beijing will ‘manage’ to bring back the positive side of the Sino-US relationship.
Last year, Beijing allowed its official media to raise aggressive anti-India rhetoric over the border dispute, the Dalai Lama and Arunachal Pradesh, before making diplomatic overtures for the sake of mutual economic growth.
The world views the rise of a stronger China as the main reason behind Beijing’s high-pitched protests against the US arms sale to Taiwan and the Obama-Dalai Lama meeting. But within China, the Communist Party’s still insecurely obsessed with maintaining domestic stability.
“Now we have the Internet and people know everything,’’ Shen Dingli, executive dean of the Institute of International Relations in Fudan University in Shanghai, said. “In the old times, the government could compromise but now our leadership has its own political needs to accommodate its constituents.” One theory goes that if China had not threatened sanctions against American firms selling arms to Taiwan, the leadership would be seen as ‘losing face’ on the mainland with its world’s largest online population of watchful and nationalistic Chinese netizens.
Earlier this month, a comment on the China Daily said: “Obama is portraying himself as a man of double standards and of no principles in the Chinese people’s eyes.” The official Chinese media regularly reviles the Dalai Lama as a ‘splittist’, but personal attacks are rarely made against the foreign leaders who meet the exiled Tibetan leader.
A day ahead of the meeting, analysts like Shen made it a point to emphasise that Sino-US ties had an “overall unstoppable momentum” during the last five years. “After the Dalai Lama meeting the impact will be suspicion and lack of trust. But we’ll manage the US relationship,’’ Shen said. “This meeting is just one political dimension. The relationship’s positive side will continue to rise. People-to-people relationships will get stronger.’’
Chinese students will keep flooding the US and Obama aims to send one lakh Americans to study in China over the next four years. Even as Beijing fumed against the US, the Chinese media reported that over 1,000 Chinese tourists are on a shopping holiday in New York with plans to spend $30 million.