During a security conference in Munich over the weekend, United States senator John McCain cited recent tensions with Tibetans in southwest China in warning Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun that “the Arab Spring is coming to China.” From Reuters:
Zhang, speaking with McCain on a panel at the high-level Munich security conference, dismissed his comments about a looming Chinese Arab Spring as “no more than fantasy” and condemned foreign interference in Chinese internal affairs.
McCain, who ran for president against Barack Obama in 2008, told Zhang in front of an audience of ministers, diplomats and security officials: “It is a matter of concern when Tibetans are burning themselves to death because of the continued repression of the Tibetan people in your country.”
“I have said on many occasion and I will say again the Arab Spring is coming to China as well.”
Zhang responded by calling McCain’s claim “more than a fantasy,” and expressed China’s resentment of any lecturing on how to govern within its borders. While the two reportedly shook hands at the end of the panel, reports in China’s state media painted a less rosy picture of the exchange. From Shanghaiist:
The two apparently shook hands at the end of the meeting as McCain told Zhang, “I hope you didn’t interpret my remarks as anything other than the advocacy that I and others hold for every nation in the world, including yours.”
Back home, a report by People’s Daily described the confrontation as being “full of gunpowder smell”, and McCain as “aggressive”, notes the South China Morning Post.
“China has implemented different policies from those implemented in the West Asian and North African nations. China is different from those nations because the policies and governance of the country have the overwhelming support of the people,” the paper quoted Zhang as saying.