In between the many debt ceiling-related activities of the past weekend, top D.C. lawmakers still managed to squeeze in a visit with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on Saturday. Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, and other congressional members met with the Dalai Lama, who spoke about his admiration of the democratic system he has witnessed during his exile in India, compared to the dictatorial communist regime in China. Boehner and Pelosi praised the Dalai Lama's support for spreading the freedom of speech and peace around the world.
"His example humbles nations such as ours that work to spread freedom, tolerance and respect for human dignity, and it sustains those who struggle to secure these universal values for themselves and for their families,” Boehner said. “We appreciate that the Dalai Lama is taking time to speak with us about how we can help spread our shared values, not just in Tibet and China, but the Middle East as well."
I'm sure that few in America would support the Dalai Lama on every political level - he has expressed some decidely Marxist leanings - but the point is that, in America, the John Stuart Mill-ian spirit prevails and we are not afraid of dissenting opinions. That is why, last week, I wrote that China's little tantrum that we not host the Dalai Lama was one of the most petulant, overbearing 'requests' to ever cross the Pacific Ocean. I hardly thought it would only take a few days for China to top itself.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mullen was in China this weekend, and Monday morning, he and Chinese military officials held a press conference to promote a "shared vision" of cooperation. The charade was determinedly polite and only thinly veiled the many unresolved tensions between the United States and China, but best of all, China's chief of staff General Chen offered this little nugget for our consideration (as reported by the NYT):
He dismissed American concerns that the Chinese were deploying new and modern weapons to counter American forces, repeating China’s standard explanation that the military is a defensive force. China’s military technology is decades behind that of the Pentagon and will remain so, he said, and its spending is far behind that of the United States.
Indeed, he suggested, Americans should consider cutting their military budget. “The United States is still recovering from the financial crisis, still has difficulties in its economy,” he said. “It would be a better thing if you did not spend so much money on the military and a little bit more in other areas, so as to play a very positive role, a very constructive role in world peace and stability.”
A purely innocent piece of advice that we scale back our military so as to better follow China's economic expertise and strengthen the welfare state of our own nation? Or an underhanded, sneaky jab from a freedom-crushing, dictatorial, hegemony-seeking regime jealous of our military prowess and rapidly seeking to expand its own capabilities?
Thanks, but no thanks. Really.