French Minister Blasts China’s ‘Psychodrama’ Over Dalai Lama Meeting

Yesterday’s much-anticipated meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama has inspired heated comments from all sides. In response to the Chinese government’s angry reaction, a French minister said that China had turned the meeting into a “psychodrama”:

Rama Yade, the junior minister for human rights, said on RTL radio on Sunday that the French government could meet “whomever it wants” and that it had no plans to change its relations with China.

Yade said China and France should be pooling their efforts to tackle the global financial crisis instead of feuding over Tibet.

“We need to co-operate, calmly,” she said.

On December 8, James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly blogged about the China Daily’s coverage of the meeting, paying special attention to the state-run media outlet’s choice of words:

[…] it “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” This is the phrase I wait for in every Chinese government statement on matters of international disagreement.

Yes, there is a real concept buried beneath this boilerplate slogan. The concept might be expressed other places as “an insult to the dignity of our nation,” or “disrespect for our people and their principles” or something. But it is generally used quite sparingly in other nations’ pronunciamentos, because in the end listeners don’t find it that persuasive.

Yes, one nation should not gratuitously offend any others — a point my recent interviewee, the Chinese mega-banker Gao Xiqing, makes very effectively.* And, yes, in many personal dealings, saying “you hurt my feelings!” may be an important part of reaching a resolution. But you don’t find Talleyrand, Metternich, George C. Marshall, and even Sun Tzu recommending this complaint as a big part of international strategy. And remember, this is not some sand-bagging trick of mistranslation. These are the English words the Chinese government itself selects.


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