The Olympic Lever


BERLIN/BEIJING (own report) – Berlin is using the upheaval in the western region of the People's Republic of China to pursue its campaign of attrition against Beijing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is demanding that the Chinese government enter a "dialog" with the Dalai Lama, the most famous leader of the Tibetan secessionists. Roland Koch, prime minister of the German federal state of Hesse, would like to have international observers sent to Lhasa and does not exclude a boycott of the coming Olympic games. Since last year German politicians have been using the Olympic games as a means of applying pressure to force a change in Chinese policy toward Tibet and a destabilization of Beijing's control over Western China. This plan was the focal point of events organized last year by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, an affiliate of the Free Democratic Party, and a working group in the German parliament (Bundestag). Beijing gambled and lost with its preparations for the Olympics, alleges a government advisor in Berlin. The rising East Asian rival will be in a worse position after the games than it had been before.

German politicians' current interference in the domestic affairs of the People's Republic of China are based on the recent unrest in the Western Chinese region of Tibet. For the past few days there have been serious conflicts between secessionists and Chinese state power. The Secessionists are attacking businesses and institutions, whose owners or sponsors speak the standard Chinese language, and are waging pitched battles with the police. Numerous deaths have been reported. In this conflict, Beijing's sovereignty over the west of its territory is in jeopardy - and so is the influential potential of this ascending world power.


Berlin is using the conflict to weaken China. Chancellor Merkel is demanding a direct "dialog" between Beijing and the Dalai Lama – a valorization of the Tibetan secessionist leader, having personally laid the groundwork last fall, with an invitation to the god-king for talks in the German Chancellery. That meeting was part of the Dalai Lama's tour of several western capitals, ending in October in Washington DC, with the leader of the Tibetan exile government being elevated, in the international arena, to the counterpart of the Chinese government. The public relations and subversive actions placing into question Beijing's sovereignty over its western territories or even declaring this sovereignty "illegitimate," will be continued with the Dalai Lama's next visit to Germany in May.

"Team Tibet"

Berlin is tactically using Chinese preparations for the coming Olympic Games. A "Tibet-Conference" was held in Brussels, at the invitation of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, already last May. It was "the most political" conference ever held on the Tibet question, was the opinion heard in the Belgium capital. "This was also due to the opportunities that the Olympic Games (...) open to the Tibetans and which were also examined in Brussels."[1] A few months later, in November last year, the "Tibet Discussion Group in the German Bundestag" organized a meeting on "Tibet and the Olympic Games". According to a report on the meeting, the discussion focused "mainly on the question, if the Olympic Games could offer a lever for influencing China's Tibet policy."[2] "This is quite possible," declared the Dalai Lama's European representative on record. At the meeting in the German capital, the parliamentarians were introduced to the "Team Tibet Project" that "is aiming to send its own Tibetan team to the Beijing Olympics". This is an open provocation, seeking to use an apparent apolitical sportive event as a platform for discussing Tibetan sovereignty.

"Gambled and Lost"

The Olympic Games are used as a means of applying pressure to force Beijing onto its defensive from its rise to world power status. The Olympic Games will particularly expose "grievances in China" to the world's public and will harm more than help the People's Republic, A German government official speculated already last November. Beijing "gambled and lost" with the Olympic Games.[3] According to the prime minister of Hesse Roland Koch, a boycott of the Olympic Games could be the West's "last resort", if the Chinese government prevails over the Tibetan secessionists. Even though "last resorts"[4] are not yet in play, the discussion of a boycott has long since been initiated.

Secessionist Policies

Supporting extensive autonomy rights for Tibet and even its secession is in line with the traditional German East Asia policy. Already in the 1930s and 1940s, Berlin considered this region to be an important base for expanding its influence toward China.[5] Since the mid 1980s, Germany has been reviving this strategy, and organizations of German "Volksgruppen" (ethnic group) policy are among those actively promoting a "free Tibet"[6]. The secessionist policy is also aimed at other vast regions of China (Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang). Fearing its future power, Berlin is seeking to weaken its ascending East Asian rival. Last fall, published a series of special reports on the history and presence of German Tibet policy. Because of the current events we are providing free access to those analyses over the next few weeks. Click here to find Strategies of Attrition (I), (II), (III) and (IV).

[1] s. also Strategies of Attrition (I)
[2], [3] Protokoll der Veranstaltung "Tibet und Olympia - Die olympischen Spiele in China - Chance oder Risiko?" am 14. November 2007 in der Vertretung des Landes Hessen beim Bund
[4] Roland Koch: "Boykott ist letztes Mittel"; Financial Times Deutschland 17.03.2008
[5] s. also Strategies of Attrition (II)
[6] s. also Strategies of Attrition (III)