UK is not for ‘Tibetan independence’

By Zhang Chunyan and Li Xiaokun | China Daily

LONDON, UK/BEIJING China, 25 June 2013

Britain recognises the Tibet autonomous region as part of China, respects China’s sovereignty and does not support “Tibetan independence”, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday.

Hague’s words came as China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi had his first phone conversation with him, about one year after political relations between the two nations were affected by the Dalai Lama issue.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Hague said during the conversation that Britain attaches great importance to China-UK relations and hopes to further cooperate with China in various fields.

Fully aware of the sensitivity of Tibet-related issues, Hague said Britain will properly handle such issues on the basis of respecting China’s concerns.

Hague also said that the UK welcomes China’s prosperity and success, and wants to see it play a more important role in international affairs.

Wang said that mutual respect and care for each other’s major concerns is the premise to maintain political mutual trust and develop bilateral relations.

“China and the UK have comprehensive common interests, and there is wide space for the development of bilateral relations,” Wang said.

Wang stressed that China appreciates that the UK attaches importance to relations with China, and thinks positively of Britain’s reiterated position that it recognises Tibet as part of China and does not support “Tibetan independence”.

Wang hopes the UK brings positive energy to further the development of relations with China.

Zhang Jianxiong, a researcher on European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Dalai Lama issue has often played the role of a “firm knot” in relations between some Western nations and China.

That is because some Western politicians have played the Dalai Lama card to court votes, while Beijing sees the issue as its “bottom line” on which it will by no means compromise, he said.

Zhang said Western politicians, after meeting the Dalai Lama, always want the quarrel to end early so as to ease relations with Beijing at an early date.

Now Britain has come to the stage, partially due to its stagnant economy, he said.

“And President Xi Jinping’s visit to Germany as well as French President Francois Hollande’s visit to China earlier this year have served as catalysts,” he added.

Big deals were signed during both visits.

Zhao Junjie, another expert on European studies at the CASS, said both German chancellor Angela Merkel and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy used to play the Dalai Lama card but finally turned to mending relations with Beijing.

“And Merkel even developed very good personal relations with former premier Wen Jiabao in the process. I think that would be a good case for London to look at when it thinks over the prospect of its relations with Beijing.”

The episode in China-UK ties in the past year exposed a lack of political trust, despite their thriving business ties and growing communication mechanisms, he added.

In 2012, China-UK trade in goods topped $60 billion for the first time. Last year Britain was the only EU member that enjoyed growth in both exports to and imports from China.

Chinese investment in the UK surged to more than $8 billion in 2012. This is more than the total Chinese investment in Britain from 2009 to 2011.

Great advancements were also made in China-UK cooperation in infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, creative industry, research and development and offshore RMB business.

Last week, Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group said it would spend $1.6 billion to buy British yacht maker Sunseeker and develop an upmarket London hotel.

Zhao said the calm way China handled the diplomatic disturbance also reflected that Beijing’s foreign policies are getting more mature.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg met the Dalai Lama last year. China is firmly opposed to foreign leaders’ meeting with the Dalai Lama in any form as well as foreign countries intervening in China’s internal affairs under any pretext.

One can argue that bilateral relationships should not be held to ransom by any single issue, but given earlier precedents from France and Germany, the Chinese response should have been expected, said Tim Summers, senior consulting fellow of the Chatham House Asia Program in his comment on the think tank’s website in May.

“The UK government needs to work positively to move beyond this spat,” Summers added.

“It needs compromise and respect on both sides, including over sensitive issues.”

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