China, Tibet and UK influence

9 May

David Cameron has recently been forced to state that the UK fully supports Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and that he seeks a “strong and positive” relationship with China. He stated that “the Chinese government is aware of our policy on Tibet. We recognise Tibet as part of China. We do not support Tibetan independence and we respect China’s sovereignty.” This has come about because of criticisms from the Chinese government over David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in May 2012, after he received the £1.1 million Templeton Prize for his work affirming the spiritual dimension of life and told reporters that China was in a “moral crisis”, among other statements denouncing the Chinese regime. This resulted in China halting ministerial meetings with the UK and apparently denying David Cameron from visiting, though this was denied and is unlikely to be true as Cameron is said to be visiting China this year by No. 10. This trip is reported to be aimed at boosting UK relations with China which appear to be on the rise, with 14 meetings occurring since May 2012 between UK ministers and their Chinese counterparts, in addition to the growth of trade with China in which the UK’s exports to China grew by more than any other EU country in 2012. However, there may still be friction between the two parties as the response by China’s foreign ministry to the meeting in May 2012 was that it “seriously interfered with China’s internal affairs” and “hurt” Chinese feelings. This was contested by a spokesman for David Cameron who stated “the Chinese government always lobbies hard against any meetings between foreign governments and the Dalai Lama. We have made clear in advance to the Chinese government that British ministers will decide who they meet and when they meet them.” This challenge showed that a disagreement was present about the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Tibetan leader last year and China has tried to use its soft power in achieving its goals over Tibetan sovereignty, as foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in May 2012; “we ask the British side to take the Chinese side’s solemn stance seriously, stop indulging and supporting ‘Tibet independence’ anti-China forces, immediately take effective measures to undo the adverse effect, and take concrete action to safeguard the overall development of China-UK relations.”

This is not the first incidence of Chinese pressure on the UK over the UK’s affiliation with the Dali Lama. In June 2012, the Dalai Lama was expected to speak at an international business convention in Leeds, which was also the training base for China’s Olympic athletes. However Chinese officials persuaded the Leeds city council to remove the affiliation with the meeting after they threatened to withdraw their athletes from the city, though it still went ahead despite Chinese disapproval.

This shows the level of soft power that China is willing to use in its lobbying of governments to support China in its ‘internal’ affairs. Despite Fabian Hamilton, the Labour MP for Leeds North East and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, saying last year that China uses “empty threats”, it seems that UK relations were affected by their affiliation with the Dali Lama. It could be argued that David Cameron’s recent speech on his support for China in their internal affairs is a product of the UK seeking closer ties with China ahead of David Cameron’s trip.

Sources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22437883
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18084223
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22457242
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-18440767
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-118/episode-3

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One Response to “China, Tibet and UK influence”

  1. btdb1g10 May 9, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    Politics, politics, what more can one say?

    Sun Tze stated, “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Perhaps the Chinese communist have applied the sage’s philosophy rather well. Even Great Britain has to bow down to China and admit defeat, alas! Quite certainly we witness China making her way towards being the next global power.

    We cannot blame Britain, considering the impact China has on her and the Prime Minister is making official state visit to the Communist country very soon. Human Rights? Where will the rights and values be, amongst the cold hard cash? It is not hard to see every country trying to be seen to be on the standing on the right lines as China especially, not only Britain.

    Maybe China can be save some British pride and be more tactful, in a diplomatic way before stating, The Telegraph reported that, “Britain will face severe diplomatic and economic punishment in response to the “pointless” posturing of its foreign policy toward China, Beijing has warned the Government.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9882278/Chinese-state-media-threatens-Britain-with-severe-punishment.html)

    Strangely Britain does not seem to exercise full freedom and discretion in whom she chooses to meet. Britain, a country built up on the very basis of equality, freedom and rights now has to think twice before meeting a political leader that is scorned and disapproved by China? Perhaps the ‘Great’ was rightly omitted from Britain.

    No. 10 released official statements explaining, “The Chinese government always lobbies hard against any meetings between foreign governments and the Dalai Lama. We have made clear in advance to the Chinese government that British ministers will decide who they meet and when they meet them.”
    (‘David Cameron to Visit China This Year, 7th May 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22437883)

    It was further added that UK exports to China had grown more than those of any other EU country last year. Moreover, Nick Clegg was reported to have told Sky News: “We have a very important economic relationship with them [China]. But that doesn’t mean we should somehow give up on what we believe in when it comes to human rights and freedoms which we will continue to express in a respectful but nonetheless firm way.” Reasonable and a right move for the politicians to save some British pride.

    The Communist Party of China stated, ‘still be friction between the two parties as the response by China’s foreign ministry to the meeting in May 2012 was that it “seriously interfered with China’s internal affairs” and “hurt” Chinese feelings.’ Indeed, on China’s part, who almost habitually lobbies against any foreign government who meets the Tibetan representatives. In which case, how is China not ‘seriously interfering’ with other independent government’s internal affairs and in this case, Britain’s?

    It was reported in the Telegraph, “China has more leverage than Britain has in their bilateral relations,” and “China cultivating more contacts with separatists in Northern Ireland and Scotland would make London quite uncomfortable. China’s GDP is close to that of Germany’s, France’s and Britain’s combined. (Chinese state media threatens Britain with ‘severe punishment’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9882278/Chinese-state-media-threatens-Britain-with-severe-punishment.html, The Telegraph, 20th Feb 2013)

    Understandably, we can see Cameron’s logic. Britain does big business with China, and is only sensible given that vast nation’s expanding global clout. He sees beyond the future and wants to benefit Britain. One cannot help but exclaim that politics is a strange game indeed! Amongst the practicalities and hard cold cash, we lose our values and sometimes, our pride.

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