Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 12:17 AM

World beware: China Calling In (Loan-Sharking) Debts

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Western leaders have made a mockery of their condemnation of the brutal crackdown on Tibetan monks by heeding China’s warning against meeting with the Dalai Lama in any official capacity.  In fact, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeased the Chinese by refusing to meet with him at No. 10, choosing instead to meet only at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This enabled Brown to claim that he was meeting the Dalai Lama ‘in a spiritual rather than political capacity.’

(“Punishing China for its brutal crackdown on Tibet? Hardly…,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2008)

As this opening quote indicates, the Chinese can be forgiven for thinking that even President Obama would heed their extraterritorial warning against meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. They were undoubtedly emboldened last year when Obama appeared to do just that; specifically, when he snubbed the Dalai Lama on the eve of his (Obama’s) first state visit to China.

His spokesman, Robert Gibbs, insists that Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama was always scheduled for later… Far more credible is that Obama is snubbing the Tibetan leader because the Chinese would consider such a meeting ahead of his state visit to China next month an insult. And frankly, given the unprecedented and unparalleled power China now has to affect the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States, appeasing the Chinese to this degree seems far more prudent than pusillanimous.

(“Obama Upsetting Liberals, Appeasing China?! Calm Down Folks, The iPINIONS Journal, October 6, 2009)

But the day of reckoning for this warning (for Obama and the Chinese) is drawing nigh.  The White House announced yesterday that Obama intends to welcome the Dalai Lama later this month. On cue, the Chinese reacted variously like an angry parent disciplining a willful child and a loan shark dealing with a delinquent debtor:

A meeting would be totally at odds with international accepted practices and would seriously undermine the political basis of Sino-US relations … If the U.S. leader chooses this time to meet the Dalai Lama, that would damage trust and cooperation between our two countries, and how would that help the United States surmount the current economic crisis?

(Zhu Weiqun, the Communist Party official in charge of enforcing China’s global effort to marginalize the Dalai Lama)

I applaud Obama for calling their bluff.  Not least because any real attempt to squeeze the United States financially would amount to an unprecedented case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. After all, the US market is even more indispensable to China’s economic growth than China’s credit is to the US’s.

Meanwhile, they’re only directing that the Dalai Lama should be shunned today, but who knows what extraterritorial directive the Chinese will issue pursuant to their perceived national interest tomorrow…?

Moreover, consider for a moment what passive-aggressive hegemony they have in mind if they already presume that they can dictate who the president of the United States invites to the White House…. And it’s an indication of their supervening jingoism that the Chinese are proffering the demonstrably specious notion that the US would be acting the same way if the president of China were meeting with the leader of a secessionist movement from the United States (if such a creature even exists).

Incidentally, much is being made of China’s concurrent grievance with the US over arms sales to Taiwan. But I believe China has a right to exercise a sphere of military influence over Taiwan based on the same principle (such as it was) that entitled the US to do so over Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis.  And I fully expect that, despite commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to defend Taiwan, if (or in fact when) push comes to shove, the US will defer to China over Taiwan just as the Soviet Union deferred to the US over Cuba.

All the same, this episode should serve as a warning to all countries around the world that are not just lapping up China’s largesse, but are heralding it as a more worthy superpower than the United States. After all, China is spitting imperious and vindictive fire at the rich and mighty United States over a relatively insignificant matter like meeting with the Dalai Lama. So just imagine what it would do to a poor and weak country in a conflict over a truly significant matter.

I anticipated that the Chinese would be every bit as arrogant in the use of their power as the Americans.  But I never thought they would use it for such an irrational and plainly unwinnable cause.

In point of fact here, in part, is how I admonished countries in the Caribbean and Latin America in this respect almost five years ago:

What happens if China decides that it is in its strategic national interest to convert the container ports, factories and chemical plants it has funded throughout the Caribbean into dual military and commercial use? Would these governments comply? Would they have any real choice? And when they do comply, would the US then blockade the entire region – as it blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis?

Now, consider China making such strategic moves in Latin America where its purportedly benign Yuan diplomacy dwarfs its Caribbean operations. This new Cold War could then turn very hot indeed….

(China Buying Up Political Dominion,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 22, 2005)

It clearly does not bode well that China has no compunctions about drawing moral and political equivalence between its beef with the US over the Dalai Lama and the US’s beef with it over internet espionage, unfair trade practices, and support for indicted war criminals like President Bashir of Sudan. Because irrational self-pity in a regional menace like North Korea is one thing;  in a global power like China it’s quite another.

Still, when all of the chest-thumping and saber-rattling are done, I am confident that cooler heads will act to prevent a trade war (or worse) between the US and China pursuant to the same principle that prevented war between the US and Soviet Union:  the sobering and inescapable recognition that it would only lead to mutually assured destruction; i.e., it would be MAD!

NOTE: China getting its nose all bent out of shape over the Dalai Lama’s visit is made all the more boorish and irrational when one considers not only that Obama is just following the precedent set by his predecessors, but that he has stated repeatedly that he considers Tibet a part of China and the Dalai Lama nothing more than a spiritual leader.

Related commentaries:
Punishing China…Hardly
Obama upsetting liberals
China buying dominion over Caribbean
Tibet – China’s Buddhist intifada

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