China resolutely opposes the Dalai Lama’s activities in the international sphere, and China firmly opposes any foreign government or foreign leaders’ contacts with the Dalai Lama that might encourage talk of dividing China. How British policy manifests itself in practice will be crucial in determining whether future relations with China can proceed smoothly and constructively.
Dalai Lama [File photo]
The British Foreign Secretary William Hague made a commitment on the Tibet issue in a telephone conversation with his Chinese counterpart on June 24. He confirmed that Britain respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, recognizes that Tibet is part of China, and rejects any idea of "Tibetan independence". Acknowledging the sensitivity of the issue, in future Britain will handle the Tibet issue with a proper respect for China's concerns.
Sino-British relations have taken a downturn in the past year after British leaders met with the Dalai Lama in a move which seemed to issue a challenge to the Chinese government’s determination to safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Although the British side tried to keep the meeting low key, the Chinese government’s response was robust.
Tibet is an integral part of China. This is an irrefutable historical fact, and it is a perception that is shared by all Chinese people including the Tibetans. On Tibet, no one should have any illusions or idle expectations – there is no prospect of any bargaining on issues relating to national sovereignty.
Establishing a proper understanding of the Tibet issue is a matter of understanding China. China’s relations with the rest of the world have undergone historic changes. Nowadays, China's development is integral to development in the rest of the world, and the world needs to extend communication and cooperation with China. China and Western countries should deepen their mutual understanding and eliminate any misconceptions. Without a clear recognition that Tibet is an integral part of China, it will not be possible for Western countries to achieve sincere cooperation with China.
Hague has reiterated the stance of the British Government - a prerequisite for the normalization of progress in Sino-British relations. How this stance manifests itself in practice will be crucial in determining whether future relations with China can proceed smoothly and constructively.
Differences in the two countries’ history, culture, and social systems, and the fact that they stand at different stages of development, need not become sources of conflict or confrontation between China and Britain – on the contrary, they should provide conditions favorable to mutual understanding, and a motivation for each country to learn from the other. Currently, both China and Britain are at a critical period of development, with a need for greater interaction and exchange. The potential for cooperation between the two countries stands at a very early stage. Economic and trade cooperation between China and Britain will require a healthy political atmosphere. Mutual respect for each other's major concerns is a key premise on which to maintain political trust and improve bilateral relations between China and Britain.
Sino-British relations now seem to be back on an even keel, which is an encouraging sign. It will not be easy for China and Britain to reconcile their differences on the issue of human rights, but the key question is how to ensure that these differences do not undermine bilateral relations. Actions speak louder than words, and Britain needs to take demonstrable steps in the direction of generating positive energy to ensure the favorable development of Sino-British relations