In a diplomatic move sure to ruffle feathers in Beijing, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in Dharamshala, India, on Wednesday (June 19). This visit, involving a bipartisan delegation of seven lawmakers, is poised to escalate tensions between the US and China.

The delegation, led by Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, arrived in Dharamshala on Tuesday. The visit coincides with President Joe Biden’s anticipated signing of a new bill aimed at urging Beijing to address longstanding issues in Tibet.

This bill demands the protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture and calls for renewed negotiations with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders, which have been stalled since 2010.

Dalai Lama and U.S. support for Tibet

Pelosi was forthright in her message: “This bill says to the Chinese government: things have changed now, get ready for that.” Her words were echoed by McCaul, who expressed hope that the Dalai Lama and his people would one day return to Tibet in peace.

Lawmakers presented the Dalai Lama with a framed copy of the “Resolve Tibet Act,” which condemns oppression of Tibetans and asserts their right to self-determination. This gesture underscores the US Congress’s support for Tibetan autonomy.

An enraged China

China, which maintains that Tibet has been an integral part of its territory since ancient times, is predictably incensed. The Chinese Foreign Ministry swiftly condemned the meeting, reiterating that Tibet is an internal matter and warning of “resolute measures” to protect its sovereignty.

The ministry also urged the US not to sign the bill into law, emphasizing the need for Washington to honor its commitment to recognizing Tibet as part of China and not supporting Tibetan independence.

The backdrop to this meeting includes a broader context of fluctuating US-China relations. Diplomatic ties have been strained since the Trump administration imposed tariffs on Chinese goods, and Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan in 2022 further exacerbated tensions. During that visit, China responded with aggressive military drills around Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its own.

Despite these frictions, President Biden has sought a more cautious and conciliatory approach towards China, aiming to mend relations post-pandemic. However, Beijing’s repeated calls for non-interference in Tibetan affairs continue to clash with US legislative actions supporting Tibetan rights and autonomy.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to travel to the United States on Thursday for medical treatment. It remains uncertain whether he will meet with any US officials during his visit. Such a meeting would undoubtedly add another layer of complexity to the already strained US-China relations.


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