On Friday, President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with the Dalai Lama at the White House — and China is pushing furiously for Obama to cancel, threatening a breakdown of good relations between the U.S. and China if he doesn't. Why? Well, the Dalai Lama is the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism, and according to China he's an anti-China separatist trying to stir Tibetan unrest. If Obama meets with him, China has warned, it could cause "serious damage" to the relationship between America and China.
In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying noted:
By arranging a meeting between the President and the Dalai Lama, the U.S. side will grossly interfere in the internal affairs of China, seriously violate norms governing international relations and severely impair China-U.S. relations.
A quick crash course in Chinese-Tibetan history: More half a century ago, the Dalai Lama was the leader of Tibet during the 1959 Tibetan Uprising in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The uprising, which was anti-Chinese and anti-Communist in nature, was directed against the Chinese Communist Party that had invaded in 1951 and asserted rule. After the uprising failed, the Dalai Lama relocated to India for safety.
Since then, the Dalai Lama has helped preserve Tibetan culture by instructing followers in the Tibetan language, history, and religion. He;s also called on the UN to pass resolutions to protect Tibetans' human rights.
While China calls him "separatist," Dalai Lame's website states plainly that he advocates a "middle-way approach whereby Tibet remains within the People’s Republic of China enjoying a high degree of self-rule or autonomy." Basically, he's not quite as much of a troublemaker as China makes him out to be.
This isn't the first time Obama has met with the Dalai Lama — the two held talks in 2010, and again in 2011 — and this also isn't the first time that China has threatened that China-U.S. relations will sour if Obama met with the Lama. The relationship between the two countries is fraught at present, partially thanks to U.S. ally Japan's ever-worsening relationship with China.
So, will Obama cancel? Most likely, no. However, in a small concession to China, the President will hold Friday's meeting in the White House Map Room, an area that carries less significance than the Oval Office, where Obama often holds high-level meetings.
And in response to China's statement, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden released a statement on the president's behalf.
The United States recognizes Tibet to be a part of the People’s Republic of China and we do not support Tibetan independence. The United States strongly supports human rights and religious freedom in China.