Over the almost two decades the Dalai Lama has been calling on American presidents at the White House, this Bystander can’t recall even once when Beijing had a good word to say about the visit. Equally we can’t recall a condemnation as strong as the one following the exiled Tibetan leader’s meeting with President Barack Obama. The White House choreographed the visit as artfully as it could to keep it low key (Map Room not Oval Office, for example) and Obama was deliberate in acknowledging Tibet as part of China. But to no avail. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu:
“The U.S. act grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, gravely hurt the Chinese people’s national sentiments and seriously damaged the Sino-U.S. ties.”
What is as interesting is commentary in state media. This presents the meeting in a context of a combination of Obama’s need to deflect attention from his domestic political and economic problems and America’s discomfort with the erosion of its power in the face of China’s rise. The several references to the U.S.’s “Cold War” mentality towards the U.S.-China relationship caught our eye, not so much because it subtly casts the U.S. as part of the past but because it implicitly suggests that China is writing new rules of international relations. Those, to borrow the jargon of the business world, will be for a world comprised of ‘frenemies’, for a new Great Game in which China will do much better than one in which its given role is to play the part of the old Soviet Union.