ON THE WEB, 7 May 2013
There are fears that a recent spat with China over David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama last year could cost the UK economy some £8 billion.
The question is: Are we going to follow the morals or the money?
When the Prime Minister and the Deputy prime Minister, Nick Clegg, met the Dalai Lama, who is the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet and disputes China’s territorial claim over his country, it annoyed the Chinese government. It all revolves around the sovereignty debate over Tibet, which is an extremely complex subject and obviously sensitive to the Chinese.
So the Chinese now want the PM to apologise and “normalise” relations between the UK and China. The PM has said that there is nothing to apologise for. But the fallout is that the PM it seems cannot visit Beijing for fear of being snubbed, and any trip that the Chinese premier was due to make to the UK has been put on hold. This compares to the very warm welcome that the French president, Francois Hollande, received on his recent visit to China.
This, says the Telegraph, puts projects like the HS2 rail link and nuclear power plans at risk from lack of funding.
So where does that leave us? We’ll probably have to make a decision (or more precisely Mr Cameron will have to make a decision) on whether we side with the Dalai Lama or follow the money. One would bet on it being the money of course. This will involve some sort of public wording that placates the Chinese without being seen as too grovelling for the UK.
But it could mean that, in future, official UK contact with the Dalai Lama will be firmly off the agenda. This would be a blow to any move toward self-determination for Tibetans if that is what they truly want. And HM government does take self.determination seriously, doesn’t it (Falkland Islanders for example). It may also make it more difficult for the UK to openly criticise the People’s Republic of China over human rights issues or its use of the death penalty.
Now instead of just toeing the US and EU lines, we now find we have another line to toe — maybe in future a more important line.
On a positive note for our government, it does give them an external excuse for cancelling or putting on hold HS2 and the building of new nuclear power stations.