Norway wears its status as homeland of the Nobel Peace Prize proudly, which is why the decision by its prime minister not to meet with the Dalai Lama was so disappointing. The Norwegian leader, Erna Solberg, bowed to pressure from China and won’t meet with the exiled Tibetan during his visit next month.
China, which invaded Tibet in the early 1950s, accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting separatism, and has insisted that foreign governments cut off contact with him. For decades, though, most countries ignored those demands, and rightly so: All governments should listen to diverse points of view, and just because an official meets with a leader like the Dalai Lama shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement.
Now, with China’s rise as an economic power, more countries clearly feel that they can’t afford to antagonize Beijing. Norway’s strained ties with China, for instance, have reportedly hurt salmon exports. It’s to the credit of the Obama administration that the United States has maintained the policy of previous presidents by meeting with the Dalai Lama, just as the president meets with opposition leaders from other countries.
Solberg’s decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama will probably have little direct impact. But Norway’s decision is sadly reflective of China’s long efforts to reset the rules of the road in international affairs — at the expense of the values embodied by Norway’s most famous prize.