Globe Editorial

Obama: Pleasing China, at Dalai Lama’s expense

October 18, 2009

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President Obama was too quick to please China’s leaders when he recently put off meeting with the Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader of the long-oppressed Tibetan people was visiting Washington, but Obama said he did not want to meet with the exiled monk until after meeting President Hu Jintao of China next month. Obama’s consideration for foreign leaders’ sensibilities can be a virtue, but in this case the president showed China’s leaders and Tibetans alike that he is more susceptible than recent predecessors of both parties to pressure from Beijing. The informal chats presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush held in the White House with the Dalai Lama had no adverse effects on US-China relations. Obama should be using his persuasive powers to convince China’s leaders that their interest would be best served if they granted cultural autonomy and religious freedom to Tibetans.

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