Commentary: Mr. Obama, playing the Dalai Lama card backfires

By Tian Dongdong | Xinhua

BEIJING, China, 5 February 2015

Though the degree to which US President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama will interact Thursday during the National Prayer Breakfast is unclear, any possible meeting or encounter between the two is sure to have negative consequences because the Dalai Lama is a political liability which backfires.

Issues regarding Tibet concern China’s core interests and national sentiments. Beijing has long made it clear that the Dalai Lama, who has for decades tried to separate Tibet from China, should never be hosted by leaders of other countries.

Chumming with a secessionist is playing with fire, which severely harms the mutual trust between China and the United States, and downgrades Obama’s credit as a national leader for breaking his commitments to China on the Tibet issue.

There may be self-claimed friendship between Obama and the Dalai Lama as individuals, but a meeting between a US president and a political fugitive goes beyond personal domain. What lies under their hypocritical relationship is nothing but political deals and cold calculations.

Frankly speaking, Obama needs the Dalai Lama not because the latter is respectful, as Obama claimed, but because the Dalai Lama is useful. For one thing, he is a separatist. For another, he comes from China and is against his own motherland.

In essence, the Dalai Lama is just a handy tool for Obama to scramble for short-term gains, show off his moral clarity and score easy points at home.

But Obama and other politicians who want to meet the political fugitive will soon find they have miscalculated as their losses outweigh their gains and they have to pay too much for the whistle.

Firstly, China’s determination to defend its core interests such as the Tibet issue should never be underestimated.

“We strongly oppose any country interfering in China’s internal affairs in the name of issues regarding Tibet,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson strongly reiterated on Monday.

Secondly, if Obama meets the Dalai Lama, he will simply reverse the positive trends established by China and the US in the development of their relations.

For all that, any possible meeting or encounter with the Dalai Lama planned by Obama will dampen the hard-won positive momentum in China-US relations.

Now the ball is in Washington’s court. It is highly advisable that the United States stick to its commitments and properly handle related issues with the overall interests of China-US relations in mind.

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