China Focuses on Territorial Issues as It Equates Tibet to U.S. Civil War South

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BEIJING — The Chinese government had a special message for President Obama on Thursday: He is black, he admires Abraham Lincoln, so he, of all people, should sympathize with Beijing’s effort to prevent Tibet from seceding and sliding back into what it was before its liberation by Chinese troops: a feudalistic, slaveholding society headed by the Dalai Lama.

“He is a black president, and he understands the slavery abolition movement and Lincoln’s major significance for that movement,” Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference.

Mr. Qin added: “Thus, on this issue we hope that President Obama, more than any other foreign leader, can better, more deeply grasp China’s stance on protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

For many Americans, Mr. Qin’s analogy might sound like a stretch, but it revealed which issues Chinese leaders see as among their top priorities, ones that Mr. Obama will no doubt have to grapple with after he arrives in China on Sunday for his first trip here.

While much attention will be focused on broad international issues like trade and currency values, climate change and the ailing world economy, questions of sovereignty and territory remain an obsession of Chinese foreign policy. Some scholars and analysts see this as an expression of an aggressive expansionism that will only deepen as China moves toward superpower status. Others argue that China is driven more by the need to recover territory wrested from it during the decades it was known as the Sick Man of Asia, when pieces of it were humiliatingly annexed by European powers and Japan...

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