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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Angry China flexing muscle with Europe over Tibet: analysts

November 28, 2008

November 27, 2008

BEIJING (AFP) -- China's unprecedented decision to cancel a summit
with the European Union over Tibet shows an increasing willingness
for Beijing to flex its ever-strengthening global muscle, analysts
said Thursday.

The China-EU summit, due to take place on Monday in France, was
called off at the last minute by the Asian giant, which said it was
unhappy at French President Nicolas Sarkozy's plans to meet the Dalai
Lama after the meeting.

"This is an unusually strong way of sending a signal," said Robbie
Barnett, professor of Tibetan studies at Columbia University in New York.

"The Dalai Lama has been visiting Western capitals since 1987 but
there has not been a response to this degree -- the cancellation of a
multilateral summit."

China has in the past called off visits or talks with foreign
officials -- Germany's finance minister, for example, was forced to
cancel a trip to China in December last year after Chancellor Angela
Merkel met with the Dalai Lama.

China has insisted for many years that it opposes foreign leaders
meeting the Tibetan spiritual leader, who it maintains is trying to
win independence for his Himalayan homeland that has been under
Chinese rule since 1951.

"But this is unprecedented, it's serious, China has never before
cancelled summits," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of
political science at Hong Kong Baptist University.

"China feels much more powerful than before and wants to impose its
rules on the rest of the world."

The decision to cancel the summit comes amid an accumulation of
irritants between the EU and China, Cabestan said, culminating in a
number of actions planned in Europe for December that were bound to
anger Beijing.

These included the Dalai Lama's visit to several countries in the EU,
his meeting with Sarkozy on December 6, and the European Parliament's
formal awarding of the Sakharov Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Hu
Jia on the 17th.

Xing Hua, head of the Europe research centre of the Chinese
government's China Institute of International Studies, said Beijing's
response was borne out of genuine frustration.

"China was forced to do this, as it cannot continue to tolerate heads
of state recognising so lightly the head of a secessionist movement,"
Xing said.

But more than a simple diplomatic signal, some analysts said this
could be a deliberate attempt by China to try and split nations within the EU.

"There are internal divisions among the EU powers, and this is a
squeeze to try and see who will stick to their principles and who
believes they mustn't upset China... it's a high-stakes game," said Barnett.

He cited several recent high profile U-turns in Europe, including the
refusal by Germany's foreign minister to meet the Dalai Lama in May
after Merkel's talks with the Buddhist spiritual leader caused
diplomatic problems.

The Pope also refused to meet him last year, despite having held
discussions with him before.

"These are spectacular successes for pressure politics on the Tibet
issue," said Barnett.

But others pointed out that it was doubtful China would have flexed
its diplomatic muscle in such a big way if it had been meeting with
the United States.

"If this was a meeting with the United States, then China wouldn't
have done this, so it shows that Europe just comes second," said Li
Fan, a researcher at The World and China Institute, an independent
think tank in Beijing.

"China thinks the Tibetan issue is more important than its relations
with Europe."

Still, the move came at a time when the US presidency was in
transition -- a move that Barnett said was significant.

"This is more than a chess play, this is diplomatic hard ball."
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