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Tibetan Spiritual Leader Dalai Lama episode: Beijing chooses to respond this India visit with an Outrage

The Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang, the town along the India-China border where the sixth Dalai Lama was born 334 years ago, has always had unnerving optics for Beijing

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Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama, wikimedia

New Delhi, April 12, 2017: India has to do no more than let the Dalai Lama be the Dalai Lama in order to rile China from time to time.

As diplomatic provocation goes, the Dalai Lama’s just-concluded visit to Arunachal Pradesh was quite like the six previous ones, the last one being in 2009. Yet, Beijing has chosen to respond to this visit with an outrage that feels discernibly sharper than in the past. Perhaps what has accentuated the Chinese anger was an accompaniment in the form of Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju.

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Beijing, which treats the Dalai Lama purely as a political animal even at the best of times, saw in Rijiju’s presence a calculated political dimension. New Delhi, being justifiably crafty about it, dismissed the suggestion.

The simple fact is that the Indian government is now more amenable to occasionally tapping into the Dalai Lama’s obvious political consequence than before. The logic seems to be that since China treats all things Dalai Lama short of his breathing as political, India might as well make the most of it.

The Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang, the town along the India-China border where the sixth Dalai Lama was born 334 years ago, has always had unnerving optics for Beijing. Quite apart from being a border town, it is also part of what China gratuitously calls South Tibet. Left to Beijing, Arunachal Pradesh being part of China is a no-contest claim. It is because India rejects that wholly and clearly regards Arunachal Pradesh as part of the Indian Union that it sees no controversy in the Dalai Lama visiting there.

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Of course, India’s foreign policy establishment is acutely aware of such visits’ potential for diplomatic provocation and approved of it not just irrespective of but precisely because of it. Although the Ministry of External Affairs insisted “no additional colour should be ascribed to the Dalai Lama’s religious and spiritual activities”, it knew well how it would be received in China. It was in a way aimed at riling Beijing by letting the Dalai Lama be the Dalai Lama. India-China relations have been going through a particularly rough patch, mainly because of a series of moves by Beijing in the past couple of years.

For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, China has not been a particularly rewarding or uplifting experience despite the fact that early on in his tenure he effusively hosted President Xi Jinping in 2014 in Ahmedabad. The two sat on Gujarat’s famous lacquer-work swing on the banks of the Sabarmati river whose front Modi had developed as the state’s Chief Minister. In the intervening two-and-a-half years the Prime Minister finds the bilateral relationship not living up to its promise.

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From opposing India’s bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to consistently thwarting New Delhi’s efforts to have the United Nations Security Council put Masood Azhar, the head of the Pakistani terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, on its blacklist, Beijing has been remarkably unhelpful. This is notwithstanding that early on Modi allowed Chinese investment into ports and telecom, something which was out of bounds earlier. Add to that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that China is building through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir much to India’s outrage, and an earlier incursion by its soldiers into Ladakh, and a pattern seems to form.

A case can be made that China has flattered to deceive in its dealings with the Modi government, while making some polite noises. Even as the Modi government has taken care to describe China’s latest fulminations over the Dalai Lama’s Tawang visit as “artificial controversies”, it has equally chosen to disregard its warnings of seriously damaging bilateral relations.

Although officially New Delhi would not acknowledge flaunting the Dalai Lama recognisably more than before, it could not be unaware of its consequences. It is Delhi’s way of letting Beijing know that the latter’s machinations on issues that deeply matter to India internationally have not only been lost on the government but may even be prompting a not-so-subtle counter.The crux of Dalai Lama’s visit was philosophical in terms of what he taught to thousands of Buddhists, but he did make it a point to say that the next Dalai Lama might also be a woman. On its part, of course, Beijing insists that the next Tibetan leader would be born in China. Its Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the next Dalai Lama will be chosen by drawing lots from a sacred urn in Lhasa. The Dalai Lama has dismissed the idea of Beijing choosing his incarnation as “nonsense”.

For New Delhi, the Dalai Lama remains significant leverage even though, at 81, time may not be on his side. (IANS)

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U.S. Tariffs on China Could Remain Same, Even After Reaching The Trade Deal

Tariffs on imported automobiles — as are being contemplated by the White House — "would be counterproductive, like we have seen with steel tariffs," said Srinivasan, who was part of former President Barack Obama's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership task force.

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Trade Deal
Shipping containers, including one labeled "China Shipping," are stacked at the Paul W. Conley Container Terminal in Boston, Mass., May 9, 2018. VOA

U.S. tariffs on China are likely to remain in place for a while, even if a trade deal is reached, President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday.

“The deal is coming along nicely,” the president said about the trade talks with Beijing, noting U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would be heading to China within days to continue discussions.

“We’re taking in billions and billions of dollars right now in tariff money, and for a period of time that will stay,” Trump said.

The president’s remarks indicated that Washington’s tariffs could stay in place until U.S. officials are convinced the Chinese are adhering to the terms of the agreement.

“They’ve had a lot of problems living by certain deals,” the president noted on the White House South Lawn just before boarding the Marine One helicopter.

President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio from the White House in Washington, March 20, 2019.
President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio from the White House in Washington, March 20, 2019. VOA

China might accept a deal in which most of the U.S. tariffs are rolled back, according to Brookings Institution senior fellow David Dollar, but he said he expected President Xi Jinping would not accept any pact in which no tariffs were lifted.

“It’s very hard for the Chinese president to agree to a deal that’s so clearly asymmetric. Chinese people are so active on the internet and social media, and President Xi will hear about it from the people if he makes a deal that looks bad for China,” Dollar told VOA.

Tit-for-tat tariffs imposed last year ignited fears of a trade war between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, which annually trade more than a half-trillion dollars’ worth of goods.

The value of Chinese products sold in the United States far outweighs the value of those sent to China, and that deficit alone represents about 80 percent of America’s overall trade gap in goods.

A pillar of the Trump presidency has been reducing that huge gap by negotiating bilateral trade deals and rebuilding the U.S. manufacturing base.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters as he arrives at Allen County Airport, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters as he arrives at Allen County Airport, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio. VOA

Trump traveled Wednesday to an area in Ohio where General Motors is set to shutter a car assembly plant, affecting about 1,500 jobs and undercutting the president’s manufacturing revival message.

“What’s going on with General Motors?” Trump asked during a speech. “Get that plant open or sell it to somebody and they’ll open it. Everybody wants it.”

“Intervening to try to keep one factory open isn’t going to do much for the economy” at a time when manufacturing is declining as a share of the overall job market, said Dollar, of the Brookings Institution. “It’s a bad precedent for politicians to intervene like that.”

A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Claude Barfield, agrees presidents should not intervene in individual corporate decisions.

“The president is woefully ignorant about trade and this part of the economy. He thinks it does help. I don’t think it does at all help,” Barfield, a former consultant to the office of the U.S. trade representative, told VOA.

The closure of the GM plant in Lordstown, according to a Cleveland State University study, will result in a total loss of 7,700 jobs in the region, including supply chain and consumer services employment tied to the auto plant, cutting 10 percent of the gross regional product in the greater Youngstown area.

Trump, in his remarks on Wednesday, placed some of the blame on the United Auto Workers, the union representing the GM workers.

“Your union leaders aren’t on our side,” Trump declared. “They could have kept General Motors” operating the Lordstown plant.

FILE - Employees watch as the last Chevrolet Cruze rolls off the assembly line at the General Motors Co. assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, March 6, 2019, in this photo obtained from social media.
Employees watch as the last Chevrolet Cruze rolls off the assembly line at the General Motors Co. assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, March 6, 2019, in this photo obtained from social media. VOA

Trump spoke at a facility in Lima that makes the M1 Abrams tank for the U.S. Army, about 300 kilometers from the idled auto factory.

“You better love me. I kept this place open,” Trump told workers at the General Dynamics facility, which was nearly closed six years ago after Army officials told Congress they did not need the additional tanks.

Workers listen as President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Lima Army Tank Plant, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio.
Workers listen as President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Lima Army Tank Plant, March 20, 2019, in Lima, Ohio. VOA

Ohio, which Trump won in the 2016 election by 8 percentage points, again will be a key battleground state in next year’s presidential election.

Polls in the Buckeye State, where the president relies on a strong base of working-class voters, show his approval rating slipping.

Trade and tariffs are “not even the core issue about retaining the manufacturing jobs in this region,” University of Akron associate professor Mahesh Srinivasan, who is director of the school’s Institute of Global Business, told VOA.

Srinivasan said the focus by the Trump administration should not be so much on trade agreements as on “the inevitable march of automation and technology that has displaced workers from traditional jobs. The need of the hour is doubling down with even more emphasis on worker training and education to prepare the workforce for tomorrow’s jobs.”

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Tariffs on imported automobiles — as are being contemplated by the White House — “would be counterproductive, like we have seen with steel tariffs,” said Srinivasan, who was part of former President Barack Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership task force. “It could attract retaliatory tariffs that will negatively impact numerous automobile manufacturers in Ohio and other Midwestern states, which today are supplying to automobile manufacturers globally.”

Some trade analysts agree that Trump’s metals tariffs on Canada and Mexico have hurt American manufacturing, including making U.S. auto plants less competitive. (VOA)