- By Peter FeaverPeter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy and Bass Fellow at Duke University, and director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. He is coeditor of Shadow Government.
I am glad to see that President Obama resisted Chinese pressure and met with the Dalai Lama at the White House. Since we at Shadow Government (meaning my wingman Will Inboden) did not shrink from dinging the White House when they succumbed to Chinese pressure in the past, it is only fair (and balanced!) to praise them when they stand firm.
There is still lots more the White House should be doing to develop a coherent American grand strategy that properly incorporates interests based on moral values and interests based on material values. And there is more that needs to be done to develop a coherent strategy for meeting the challenge and opportunity of China as an emerging great power.
But let’s leave those points for another day and just observe that President Obama is right to meet with the Dalai Lama. To be sure, no one is entitled to a meeting with the president. That is one of the scarcest resources the White House must steward, and so it is wrong for anyone, including a leader as celebrated as the Dalai Lama, to presume on the president’s time. Yet some people have a better claim than others. President Obama’s predecessors saw the value of meeting with the Dalai Lama from time to time and it is good that Obama sees it, too.
Regardless, we can all agree with the following principle: China should not get a veto over who the president of the United States gets to see.
As expected, the Beijing regime has protested about U.S. undue interference in domestic politics — as if the Chinese objection to the president’s daily calendar is not undue interference in domestic politics. There is always a chance that more serious repercussions will ensue, and it is reasonable for the president’s staff to have factored that into the calculus when making arrangements for this meeting. But such repercussions are unlikely, and they will become progressively unlikely when these types of meetings are routinized. When it is clear that Chinese protests will not stop the president of the United States from meeting with someone he deems it worthwhile to meet with, the protests will likely dwindle to the formulaic sort. [Ed. — you mean of the formulaic sort that you Shadow Government bloggers resort to from time to time? Uhhhm, no comment]
Actually, if China wants to really "retaliate" it should invite a domestic critic of President Obama, perhaps even someone who believes that President Obama has abused his governmental power to infringe upon human rights. As interesting as it would be to sit in on a meeting between Obama and the Dalai Lama, imagine what it would be like to sit in a meeting between President Xi Jinping and the leader of one of those Tea Party groups that received the suspicious IRS audits? A China that comfortable talking about political liberty would be something to behold.
By meeting with the Dalai Lama, President Obama restores some balance in his dealings with China and that is a praiseworthy development. Kudos to the White House for pulling this off.