International ties

Britain will lose by criticizing China on Tibet issue

By Wang Hui (
Updated: 2010-07-15 16:40
Large Medium Small

The issue of Tibet has turned the edge of British Foreign Secretary William Hague's visit to Beijing this week. In fact, both sides have been expecting the trip, Hague's first to China after taking office, would build political trust and establish a working relationship between Beijing and London's new coalition government.

However, judging from the unpleasant exchange of remarks on the Tibet issue between Mr. Hague and his Chinese hosts, the divide between the two governments is as wide as the continent that separates the two countries.

Mr. Hague raised his concerns on Tibetans while meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. It is also likely that he picked up the same topic when holding strategic talks with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo. Both Chinese officials sternly refuted the British stance on the Tibet issue.

After lecturing Mr. Hague about a brief history of Tibet, Yang warned that the Tibet issue bears on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is part of the core interests and internal affairs of China, Yang stressed.

The first strategic dialogue between Beijing and the new British government held on Wednesday is a very important forum for both to discuss important issues concerning the smooth sailing of bilateral ties as well as major hurdles afflicting the world today. As far as the issue of Tibet is concerned, Beijing and London have failed to build on any new understanding, let alone bridge the gap.

As a government seeking stronger relations with Beijing, Downing Street should show real sincerity in respecting China's core interests. The situation of human rights in present-day Tibet is the best in history. Britain should not give any stage to Tibetan separatists led by the Dalai Lama.

Downing Street does need a new pair of glasses to see the issue of Tibet fairly. It needs to do a lot of homework on the history side as well as on its implications on Britain's bilateral ties with China.

All in all, raising the Tibet issue to upset the Chinese government is a lose-lose strategy Mr. Hague has adopted in this week's visit to Beijing. He may be counting on this to woo voters back home. However, the general British public is more concerned about the economic recovery of their own country than the welfare of Tibetans. They may wonder why their politicians cannot do a better job at home but enjoy barking around another's tree.

The fallout of political issues will leave indelible marks on co-operation in other fields sooner or later. It is a miscalculation that London could count on maintaining a partnership with Beijing on economic growth while criticizing the latter on political issues. After all, Chinese enterprises and companies are not accustomed to doing business with those from a country that is constantly pointing fingers at China's internal affairs. In the end, the British side will have to pay a dear price for this.

For the sake of stable growth in bilateral ties, Mr. Hague should take history as a mirror and avoid the mistakes made by the previous Labour administration. China-Britain relations turned sour last year under the Labour government after its Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband wrongly accused China of "hijacking" the Copenhagen summit on global warming.