What Will We Do About Tibet?
The Chinese government continues to put down anti-government demonstrations by Tibetans both in Tibet and in China proper:
The flagship newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party called Saturday for efforts to “resolutely crush” anti-government demonstrations by Tibetans, while Beijing urged people to turn in those on a “Most Wanted” list of 21 protesters.
As Chinese troops smothered Tibetan-heavy areas to avert additional unrest, U.S. presidential hopeful John McCain, a Republican, and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, joined a growing international chorus of criticism against the crackdown.
The protests, which started in Lhasa on the March 10 anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, turned violent four days later and touched off demonstrations among Tibetans in three other provinces.
What will we do about Tibet? The answer, in a word, is nothing:
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States Wednesday called any potential dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama on Tibet “very positive.”
State Department Spokesman Tom Casey said the United States would “certainly encourage and call on the Chinese to engage directly in discussions with the Dalai Lama or his representatives.”
The position of the U. S. is that Tibet is a part of China and disturbances of any kind there are a purely internal matter. A closer relationship with China has been a bipartisan policy of the U. S. for thirty years.
I couldn’t find any mention of China on either Hillary Clinton’s web page or Barack Obama’s (although a year ago Hillary Clinton was talking about the danger of excessive reliance on Chinese investors). John McCain’s web site mentions China only as a possible “strategic competitor”.
We’ve already relinquished most of the things we could have used as leverage on China, notably most favored nation trading status and WTO membership. We won’t go to war with China over Tibet or place tariffs on their exports or cut off travel there. We won’t boycott the Olympics since the last time we tried that 25 years ago the most it achieved was denying a few American athletes their medals.
In the light of that reality I think that airy promises of symbolic “support” are unhelpful:
DHARAMSALA, India — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, visiting the Dalai Lama’s headquarters here on Friday, described recent protests in Tibet as “a challenge to conscience of the world” and pressed for an investigation into whether the Dalai Lama masterminded that unrest as the Chinese government has alleged.
The visit by Ms. Pelosi, accompanied by nine members of Congress, most of them Democrats, had been scheduled previously as part of a visit to India. It was unclear what her visit would yield for Tibetans, except a symbolic shot in the arm. For the Americans, the timing could not have been better.
Namely, photo ops and sound bites for the folks back home.
Realistically, there’s only one thing we can do with respect to the Chinese: embarrass them. I honestly suspect they’ll give us plenty of opportunities.