It was a low-key affair. There is only one photograph. But Barack Obama’s decision to host the Dalai Lama has infuriated Beijing, raising fresh doubts over already troubled Sino-American relations.
The US President’s White House meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader has “seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”, according to their government. Washington should “immediately take effective steps to eradicate the malign effects of the meeting” declared a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.
China has already summoned the US ambassador. Could further action follow?
“There is the question of whether or not the visit by Hu Jintao to the United States in April would be cancelled or not,” said Barry Sautman, a professor of Social Sciences at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “I am inclined to believe that it won’t be, because there is still a couple of months between now and April, so things generally cool off after a couple of months.”
By going ahead and meeting the Dalai Lama, Obama may be trying to show his resolve against an increasingly assertive Beijing. He was criticised at home for being too soft with China’s leaders on his trip there in November.