The Tensions that Define China’s Relationship with the West

In the Guardian, Tania Branigan gives a primer on the key issues causing tension in relationships with Western countries, including Taiwan, Tibet, Iran, currency, human rights, and Internet censorship. For example:

Tension 1 The Dalai Lama
Meeting of Tibet’s spiritual leader with Obama is a passing irritant

What’s the problem?
China’s Foreign Ministry has urged Barack Obama to cancel his meeting with the Dalai Lama, in Washington on Thursday, warning it will damage Sino-US relations.
View from the west
Washington and Europe are anxious to highlight the cause of exiled Tibetans and concerns about human rights in the autonomous region, particularly since the unrest of 2008. Every US president for the past 20 years has met the exiled spiritual leader. Obama delayed their meeting because he wanted to visit China first. That led to accusations he was soft-pedalling.
View from Beijing
China accuses the Dalai Lama of heading separatist forces – he says he seeks only meaningful autonomy – and has taken a tough line on his meetings with heads of state, particularly since his high-profile 2007 visit to the US. In 2008 it cancelled an EU summit after learning that French president Nicolas Sarkozy was to meet him.

Meanwhile, an article in the Observer looks at the worries that plague China’s leadership even as they exert growing influence on a number of issues around the globe:

Analysts predict further tension, rather than a spectacular confrontation, between China and the west. Gao argues that the stakes are too high for both sides. “The decision-makers in this town are cautious, prudent people; not because they are afraid of the other side, but because they know increasing friction is bad for China, bad for the US and bad for the world,” he said.

Beijing may be increasingly confident, but it does not yet believe its smooth ascendancy is a given. Underneath the veneer of confidence lie persistent anxieties about the true strength of its economy and society, and how to handle issues such as soaring inequality and endemic corruption. Such domestic vulnerabilities enhance the appeal of promoting popular nationalism, yet also reinforce the potential dangers of international disputes.