Serfdom in Tibet akin to slavery in US: China

Serfdom in Tibet akin to slavery in US: China

The conviction was clear but the message befuddling: China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman was equating serfdom in Tibet to slavery in the US, just ahead of President Barack Obama’s first trip to China.

Was it a monumental gaffe, a last-minute stab at finding a common frame of reference, or a canny piece of strategy designed to redefine the US-China dispute over Tibet?

Whatever the motivation or intended effect, the response so far probably won’t be to Beijing’s liking. Among academics, activists and commentators, the remarks have been labelled illogical, ignorant, and even insensitive.

Ministry spokesman Qin Gang’s argument broke down like this: Obama, as the first black US president and an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, should appreciate the importance of liberating slaves exactly what China says it did in Tibet in 1959.

“We hope that President Obama, more than any other foreign dignitary, can have a better and deeper understanding of China’s position regarding safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Qin said. Such reasoning struck some as patently offensive to Obama for linking his policy decisions to the colour of his skin.

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