Saturday, December 6, 2008

Speak Softly and Wear a White Scarf

Braving Chinese threats, Nicolas Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama. His words toward China were rather conciliatory. China's rhetoric in recent days has been more muted as well. So now that this symbolic Rubicon has been crossed, perhaps Sarko can get down to the business of defining what French policy on Tibet actually is. The Dalai Lama says he doesn't want independence. Sarkozy has no intention of challenging Chinese sovereignty. Jawboning has its limits, but France is now in a position to act as intermediary. The president's gesture showed that he was willing to pay a price--albeit a rather small one--for principle. It may even have earned him a little respect from China. Now he needs to demonstrate resourcefulness in making something of that gain and proving that his purpose wasn't merely to bolster his macho street cred back on the block.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let's hope Sarkozy can initiate some productive conversations Now with the global recession, perhaps China is a little more vulnerable economically, and would like being an international team player?

Off Topic: Prof. Goldhammer: what do you think of the WizzGo problem? Is the program dead in the water or might the case be overturned? I have thoroughly enjoyed watching french television via that program since you alerted us to it in May. I hope it comes back!

Unknown said...

I think WizzGo is done for. As you know, they've sent out an e-mail asking users to plead on their behalf to the government to change the law, but it's pretty clear that the government is serving the interests of the private networks in every way possible, so I think this is a dead letter.

kirkmc said...

You've got to admit, Sarkozy's got brass balls to meet with the Dalai Lama and take on the wrath of China. Would that other world leaders had the same courage to stand up to the ridiculious Chinese. I hope this inspires others to do the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Despite CHina acting like a kindergarten brute, Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama. I am impressed by him. Like you said Arthur, it is time, EU and France develop a cohesive China policy and also make their stance clear about Tibet. It is one thing to stress the importance of dialogue and another to truly work toward that dialogue to succeed. I have not yet seen any real support for dialogue between the Tibetans and the Chinese government.
We all talk the talk about building a peaceful world and an alternative to extremism. I believe this is one reason to support someone like the Dalai Lama who is the moderate approach towards fiding a solution.

Anonymous said...

I think it's good Sarkozy didn't back down but didn't many leaders do so before him, including GWBush?

Anonymous said...

Unrelated to the Dalai Lama but related to basic rights, as seen from France - look at the results from this online poll (over 2,200 respondents, mostly moderates) about basic rights and "libertés publiques".

http://www.expression-publique.com/expression-publique/resultat.php?type=r&id=palmh49

Boz said...

"Would that other world leaders had the same courage to stand up to the ridiculious Chinese."

The issue seems to be why China is fixated on Sarkozy, because yes, many other leaders have not only met the Dalai Lama, but even given him awards.

MYOS said...

I am as curious as Boz as to why China fixated on Sarkozy.
Perhaps because he wavered, waffled, spoke tough then backed down then acted tought finally, and is thus seen as potentially threatenable?
(sorry - made up the word)

Unknown said...

I think the Chinese believe that Europe is divided and that this is a wedge issue. Moreover, Sarkozy is particularly eager to sell nuclear power and other French technology (from state-owned or -influenced enterprises) to China, and this gives the Chinese leverage. Finally, the Chinese recognize a certain Western hypocrisy on this issue: no Western power would tolerate Chinese intervention for the mistreatment of their own minorities.

Unknown said...

Arthur, you are exactly right, I think. For some reason linked to the history of French-Chinese relations, China believes that France is a soft target that can be maneuvered. I myself feel no special attraction to celebrities such as the dalai lama and their media entourage. Yet, I consider that France and its President are free to see whomever they wish to meet, and would consider that France ought to tell China exactly that. But will it? I doubt so. Restlessness is no substitute for resolve. This all started with the sale of military stuff to Taiwan and French apologies. Other nations were not apologetic about what they did, and China respects them for that.

Anonymous said...

Bernard, the problems and sufferings of Tibetans in Tibet are real. Just because you think the Dalai Lama is some sort of celebrity, you are making the mistake of listening only to the voice of people in power. This is what leads to terrorism, when the weaker party in any issue is dismissed as having nothing worth listening to.

I think there is a growing confidence in the Chinese society that Europe can be brought on its knees, specially because of the economic crisis. I think they are just pushing to gauge the limit of their power.