China’s insistence on the withdrawal of Indian troops from the Doklam plateau as a precondition for negotiations is consistent with its position on Tibet, Taiwan or the South China Sea (SCS) — areas of hyper-sensitivity, where Beijing perceives that its “territorial sovereignty” is at stake.
While India’s alleged incursion into Chinese territory has grabbed headlines, the Chinese foreign ministry, over the past week, has adopted a similar unbending position on Tibet, embodied in the proposed visit of the Dalai Lama to Botswana, as well as the moves by the United States to re-open naval port calls with Taiwan.
Predictably, Indonesia’s cartographic dalliance by renaming a portion of the SCS as North Natuna Sea has also drawn China's ire. Beijing has raised the red flag over Jakarta’s decision to issue a new official map, which apparently intersects a part of the Nine-Dash line that defines China’s maritime boundary in the SCS, rejecting its (China's ) “sovereignty” in the entire area.
On July 14, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, in response to the move, said he hoped that “relevant country can work with China for the shared goal and jointly uphold the current hard-won sound situation in the South China Sea.”
On Botswana’s invitation to the Dalai Lama next month, the foreign ministry warned on Friday that the government in Gaborone must “correct” its decision. “The 14th Dalai is a political exile, who has long been engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion with the attempt to split Tibet from China. China is firmly opposed to Dalai’s trip to any country for activities aimed at splitting China in any capacity or name, and contact with any official in any form in any country,” said Mr. Geng.
“China’s stance is clear. We hope [the] relevant country can see clear the nature of Dalai, faithfully respect China’s core concern and make correct decision on the relevant issue,” he said.
Mongolia invited ire
Last year, Mongolia’s decision to welcome the Dalai Lama in Ulan Bator resulted in Beijing’s decision to impose stringent trade restrictions on its unequal neighbour. Earlier this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Mongolia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsend Munkh-Orgil over the phone that the Tibetan leader’s “furtive visit to Mongolia brought a negative impact to China-Mongolia relations.” He added: “We hope that Mongolia has taken this lesson to heart.”
China perceives any encouragement to the Dalai Lama by foreign powers or military or political support to Taiwan as a challenge to its “one China” policy — a clear and unambiguous no-go area. Consequently, Beijing had frowned on remarks by Pema Khandu, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, questioning the one-China policy, during the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh in April.
Slams U.S.-Taiwan act
Unsurprisingly, China slammed the United States on Monday, following the passage of the National Defense Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2018 in the U.S. House of Congress, which asks the US Defence Secretary to look into the feasibility of re-establishing port calls between the U.S. and Taiwanese navies.
As expected, foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang went ballistic in his response to a question related to Washington’s move. “Relevant contents go against the one-China policy of the U.S. and the principles of the three joint communiqués between China and the U.S. and interfere in China’s domestic affairs. China has lodged stern representations with the U.S. side,” the spokesperson asserted.
Mr. Lu added: “I must reiterate that it is China’s consistent position to firmly oppose any official contacts and military exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan. We urge the U.S. to fully recognise the gravity of the relevant clauses in the Act. The U.S. should not allow the Act with the relevant clauses to become law, nor turn back the wheel of history lest it should harm the general interests of China-U.S. relations.”
Coming to Doklam
Specifically on the Doklam standoff, the foreign ministry on Tuesday signalled that it was now ready to internationalise the issue. It said, “Some foreign diplomats in China, feeling shocked and confounded, reached us for facts through diplomatic channels.”