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Ties to China

DW staff (sms/dc)December 8, 2008

China's state-controlled press said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's weekend meeting with the Dalai Lama could have a negative effect on trade. The French leader, however, has remained adamant in the dispute.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is welcomed by the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland
China said Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama could hurt Paris' relations with BejingImage: AP

"This development is indeed an unwise move which not only hurts the feelings of the Chinese people, but also undermines Sino-French ties," state-run Xinhua news agency said of the meeting in the Polish city of Gdansk on Saturday, Dec. 6.

"The Dalai Lama has long been engaged in activities worldwide to split China. He can by no means conceal the separatist nature of his activities no matter what by whatever disguise and whatever florid rhetoric he may use."

Beijing did not announce any immediate action.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Sarkozy said he's the one who determines with whom he meetsImage: AP

"There will be a heavy price to pay for such a malicious provocation on an issue related to China's national unity and core interests," said the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the Communist Party's main mouthpiece.

The English-language China Daily warned in its lead editorial that France could expect a Chinese consumer backlash.

"Government preference may determine the purchase of Airbusus or Boeings. But it cannot...make consumers buy from brands they feel bad about, be it Louis Vuitton or Carrefour," it said.

Paris not alone in meeting Dalai Lama

Sarkozy, who had been in Gdansk for ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize for Lech Walesa -- an occasion to which the Dalai Lama had been invited --remained adamant about his decision to meet with the 73-year-old Buddhist monk.

The Dalai Lama shakes Merkel's hand
Merkel's visit with the Dalai Lama also angered Chinese authoritiesImage: AP

"The Dalai Lama confirmed what I already knew, that he will not demand independence for Tibet, and I told him how important I thought it was to pursue dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese authorities," Sarkozy said after the meeting.

"Let's not make things tense, the world doesn't need it," he added, in a veiled appeal to Beijing.

French media meanwhile also played down the issue, with the Sunday paper Journal du Dimanche noting that Sarkozy's predecessor Jacques Chirac had received the Dalai Lama in the Elysee Palace in 1998 and that US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had also met with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

China expert Jen-Luc Domenach commented that China's hefty reaction could also be explained by Sarkozy's manner in which he publicly announced his aim to meet the Dalai Lama without prior consultation.

"With regard to China, Sarkozy has no clear policy approach, and China does not like this," Domenach said.