President Obama and the Dalai Lama met yesterday at the White House. The White House issued this statement
The President met this morning at the White House with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. The President stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China. The President commended the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach, his commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government. The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China.
Of course Beijing protested over the meeting. But I think I can understand why a politically-weakened Obama might feel he had little choice but to meet the Dalai Lama. With the foundation of Sino-U.S. relations on pretty firm grounds overall, now really may be as good a time as any!
Still, even if the meeting must go on, I think the White House should have issued the following statement instead:
The President met this morning at the White House with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. The President stated his strong support for China’s efforts to preserve the unique religious, cultural and linguistic heritage of all her nationalities. The President also lauded sincere praise over China’s very impressive efforts to empower all her citizens, including ethnic Tibetans, to achieve a better way of life. The President relayed to the Dalai Lama his support of the Chinese government’s “Middle Way” approach, including her commitment to democratic development, social harmony, and economic justice, as well as her continued pursuit of dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The President stressed that to the extent appropriate on the International stage he would continue to encourage both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks. The president conveyed to the Dalai Lama in no unclear terms the utmost importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China and expressed hope that he would be able to see Dalai Lama return to China during his Administration.
OK – so much for politics. I think it’s really funny how the Dalai Lama continues to refer to Chinese policy in Tibet as “childish” everywhere he goes. I personally would not use the word “childish” to characterize a government that has taken upon itself the task of bringing within a few short decades 1+ billion people, including people in Tibet, out of poverty – of managing an economy that is leading the world out of a global recession – of presiding over the birth of the next Super Power. But I do admit it is always fun to see the Dalai Lama flying around, giggling and stammering, visiting and collecting prizes from dignitaries across the West.
Have you ever heard of the story about an old man, his keys, and a lamp post? It goes something like this:
A young man was walking down the street late one night and ran into this old man hunched over looking for something by a lamp post. What are you doing this late out, the young man asked? I am looking for my keys. Seeing how fray the old man is, the young man decided to pitch in to help. They crawled down on the ground, tore up the bushes, and went over every square inch of the area lit by the lamp two, three, ten, one hundred times. After a few hours, the young man blurted out in frustration, are you sure you last saw your keys here? No, the old man replied. I last saw it in the family room, pointing to a dimly-lit house not far from the lamp. But I am looking here because it is bright and well-lit here.
The Dalai Lama is like the old man. His continued allying himself with Western leaders is like the man looking for his key under the lamp post. It may be easier to do, but it does not get you one inch closer to your goal. The keys are in the house. You need to start looking in the house. The Dalai Lama needs to focus on talking with the leaders in Beijing, not rubbing shoulders with leaders in the West.