Tag Archives: Dalai Lama

Obama Says He Would Hear From Dalai Lama Before Going to Olympic Ceremony

Credit: Center for American Progress Action FundWithout saying definitively he would not attend the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing one month from today, U.S. Senator Barack Obama said as president he would skip the ceremony without hearing from the Dalai Lama that there had been progress on the Tibet issue.

“In the absence of some sense of progress, in the absence of some sense from the Dalai Lama that there was progress, I would not have gone,” Obama said at a news conference, according to the Associated Press.

From a Chinese perspective, the statement that Obama would take cues from the Dalai Lama is quite bold and constitutes a public articulation of which side the candidate has chosen in the Dalai Lama–P.R.C. disputes. While few would be surprised to hear a Democratic candidate support human rights in Tibet, it’s diplomatically significant if enunciated.

The AP article notes that Obama had encouraged President George W. Bush to skip the ceremony, as had Senator John McCain in April.

McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent, also issued a hypothetical ultimatum, similarly saying that he would only attend the ceremony if he saw improvements on human rights issues. McCain’s April statement was in some ways stronger than Obama’s most recent one, though he did not allude to taking cues from the exiled Tibetan leader.

“If Chinese policies and practices do not change, I would not attend the opening ceremonies,” said the Arizona senator, who has clinched the GOP nomination for president. “It does no service to the Chinese government, and certainly no service to the people of China, for the United States and other democracies to pretend that the suppression of rights in China does not concern us. It does, will and must concern us.”

These statements, which apparently promise to show symbolic support in exchange for concessions on human rights issues, recall the early Bill Clinton administration principle of conditional engagement: The United States would work with China on trade in exchange for rights improvements. What the candidates haven’t mentioned is that when Clinton tried this tactic, it either failed or was abandoned in favor of, say, less-conditional engagement.

Could the candidates be reacting to George W. Bush’s friendly behavior toward China in the way that Clinton reacted to George H. W. Bush’s? The current president, for one, comes near toeing the Chinese line in his most recent statement, promising to attend the ceremony. Skipping the event would be “an affront to the Chinese people,” he said.

Links: Net Filtering, Uncertain Green Beijing, and U.S.–China Business

I’ve been busy recently in Beijing and watching a lot of good stories go right by. You’ll forgive a Colorado native for using a baseball analogy: It’s time to make sure I don’t strike out looking. Here’s a quick summary of transpacific pitches I wish I’d had time to swing at.

    Greener Beijing?

  • Will Beijing’s air be ready for the Olympics? The Worldwatch Institute has a good summary of what’s being done, who’s doing it, and what the challenges are, from Yongfeng Feng, a journalist for China Guangming Daily.
  • Alex Pasternack picks up on a Christian Science Monitor story on the emergence of short-term bike rental service in Beijing. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned here is that folding bikes, trendy here despite being a pain to ride, have been banned on the subway recently to prevent overcrowding. Razor scooter, anyone?
    Internet Filtering and Reactions

  • Blogspot is blocked, again. It came back online along with Flickr, which I have just noticed is also blocked. Firefox users in the P.R.C. can use “Access Flickr!” to get those photo feeds back working.
  • The U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs voted the Global Online Freedom Act (H.R. 275) out of committee. The law, according to Forbes.com, would “penalize U.S. companies up to $2 million if they cooperate with the technological surveillance of political dissidents or share technology and information used for ‘Internet-restricting’ purposes.”
  • Rebecca MacKinnon has smart commentary as usual on this issue. Go read what she writes, but here’s her bottom line:

    GOFA’s intentions are honorable in many ways. I think many of the people who support it certainly have honorable intentions. I know and respect many of them, despite having had some pretty heated arguments with some members of the human rights groups who say they support it for strategic reasons. But from where I sit in Hong Kong, this proposed legislation comes off as something that my Chinese friends who hate censorship and surveillance would find arrogant, patronizing, and interventionist, with the likely result that it would kill U.S. tech companies’ ability to do business in China in the first place – a result which by the way they don’t think would enhance their freedom.

  • Also from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I haven’t mentioned yet that Chairman Tom Lantos is calling Yahoo’s Jerry Yang back to Congress under suspicion of misleading Congress in previous testimony. Go check with MacKinnon on this, too. She’s been on the story since a civil society group published a document that contradicted Yahoo’s statement that they did not know the nature of the investigation when they turned over information on reporter Shi Tao to Chinese authorities.
  • At Wired, a writer with firsthand experience being monitored on a reporting trip in China declares that the “Great Firewall” is futile. Maybe, but I had to enable Tor to get the full article to load. The article is a good read though for those interested in Oliver August’s experiences talking to Chinese dissidents.
  • Wikipedia‘s Chinese-language service was crippled by the mainland’s block, reports Eva Woo at BusinessWeek.com.
    In other news…

  • From the Tokyo Auto Show, Michael J. Dunne who works on China for J.D. Power and Associates, writing in the Detroit News, notes that the talk is about China, not Japan. My favorite is the writer’s casual contextual note about when his cohort got interested in China: “Fascination with the China market started when the Middle Kingdom first challenged Japan for sales leadership. Two years ago, Chinese bought 5.3 million vehicles, just shy of the 5.7 million cars and trucks sold in Japan.”
  • U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said she sees protectionism in both countries as a threat to U.S.–China trade.
  • Relatedly, Andy Scott at China Briefing Blog ventures a coinage for China’s WTO practices: “Compliance With Chinese Characteristics.”
  • It’s not just the United States hosting the Dalai Lama. Japan’s doing it too.
  • The questionably hyphenated Trans-Pacific Express will for the first time link the China and the United States with an undersea telecommunications cable.