In a few days Stephen Harper is scheduled to meet officially with the Dalai Lama on government property although this has never happened before. (Paul Martin met with the Dalai Lama for five minutes in 2004 in a church residence). The Chinese government protested bitterly about the Martin meeting and at the time Canadian business leaders warned that such meetings could harm Canadian trade with China, now our fourth-largest export market.
While many Canadians admire the Dalai Lama as an individual, some nevertheless regard the role and teachings of Tibetan religious leaders as anachronisms in the modern era. Tibet was essentailly a feudal society and still manifests feudal practices today.
The Dalai Lama is particularly popular in right-wing circles in the United States – and with the Harper government — where he’s portrayed as a tireless crusader against godless communism.
But is it likely that such ideologically driven actions as Harper meeting with the Dalai Lama will advance the cause of democracy in China or relations between Canada and China?
Should we antagonize China with a meeting that has little or no real substance to it?
Update: (Oct. 29)
Today, Prime Minister Harper will meet the Dalai Lama on government property, the first Canadian prime minister to do so.