Tibet: France-China Spar Gets Serious
Below is an article published by AFP:
China's state-controlled press warned Monday [8 December 2008] that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama could have a negative impact on trade, but Beijing did not announce any immediate action.
Sarkozy met the Tibetan spiritual leader on Saturday [6 December 2008] in Poland, drawing a sharp rebuke from Beijing, which said the meeting had undermined China's ties with France and Europe.
State-run media said Sarkozy could expect the move to shrink the Chinese appetite for French products, in editorials that alluded to boycotts of French goods earlier this year  in a previous flap over Tibet.
"There will inevitably 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 of a potential Chinese consumer backlash.
"Government preference may determine the purchase of Airbuses, or Boeings. But it cannot... make consumers buy from brand names they feel bad about, be it Louis Vuitton, or Carrefour," it said.
China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for his Chinese-controlled Himalayan homeland -- despite his repeated denials -- and views it as a national affront when foreign leaders meet with him.
Weeks of anti-France demonstrations, targeting French commercial symbols such as retail giant Carrefour, erupted in April  after pro-Tibet activists disrupted the Paris leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay.
Sarkozy went ahead with the meeting despite repeated warnings from Beijing that bilateral relations would be harmed. China had retaliated even before Saturday's [6 December 2008] meeting by cancelling a planned EU-China summit.
France currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Beijing said Sunday [7 December 2008] the meeting between Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama had "undermined the political foundations of Sino-French and Sino-European ties."
But it remained unclear whether China would take firm steps to hurt trade with France or the European Union at a time when Chinese leaders are deeply worried that slowing economic growth at home could lead to social instability.
In a similar episode, China cancelled a number of political and cultural events with Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama in September 2007.
The two sides patched up the rift in June  with no apparent lasting damage to trade or other ties.
However, the government-run Global Times newspaper warned that Sino-French ties could suffer as they did in 1992 after France sold fighter jets to China's diplomatic rival Taiwan.
China responded by closing a French trade office in the southern city of Guangzhou and shutting French firms out of that city's subway project.
"Sarkozy has underestimated China's determination to defend its core interests," the paper said.