Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

US must not use Dalai Lama against China

By Deng Yushan and Zhou Yan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-02-22 07:26

The White House announced on Feb 20 that US President Barack Obama will receive the 14th Dalai Lama in Washington next morning (US Eastern Time) for their third meeting since he assumed office in 2009.

The move is regrettable, and harmful for China-US relations. It is a flagrant breach of the US' pledge not to interfere in China's domestic affairs, and will damage the relationship the two countries have developed over the years.

In June 2013, less than three months into his presidency, President Xi Jinping traveled to California to meet with Obama at Sunnylands and usher in a new sunny period in cross-Pacific ties. Since then, guided by the shared vision of building a new type of major power relationship, China and the US have established closer cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and military fields.

Against such a favorable backdrop, the two global powers should have steered their cooperation toward productive interaction. But the US has chosen to do otherwise, and harm bilateral ties.

Some experts may say that Obama's unprovoked move is just an attempt to garner more votes in the upcoming US midterm elections, and argue that it is not intended to damage China-US relations. Such a line of thinking is both myopic and unrealistic. Even if the meeting with the Dalai Lama helps Obama gain some easy political points at home, it will cause unnecessary damage to the strategically significant China-US relations, which will translate into concrete loss for Washington.

Besides, Washington's idea of using the Dalai Lama to assume a moral high ground is fundamentally flawed. The Dalai Lama is essentially a political fugitive whose supporters instigate separatist activities, fueling them by committing self-immolation. Although the White House says Obama is hosting the Dalai Lama in the latter's capacity as a "respected religious and cultural leader", the meeting is apparently not one about religion or culture.

Announcing the meeting plan, White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the US supports the Dalai Lama's "middle way" approach.

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