On the brink:

China’s leaders would be making a mistake if they treat this week’s talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama merely as a public relations ploy to avoid trouble before the August Olympic Games in Beijing. Their hope would be to avoid protests by Tibetans and to placate

foreign heads of state such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has said his attendance at the Aug 8 opening ceremonies will depend on the progress achieved in the dialogue with the Tibetans.

Beijing’s bosses have invested a great deal of effort in staging the Games, with the intention of demonstrating that they have succeeded at turning post-Mao Zedong China into a modernised great power. But their harsh repression of the Tibetan protests last March showed the world a different face. Inviting the revered leader of Tibetans to return to his homeland would do far more for Beijing’s image than the most clockwork Olympic Games.

If the Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa a half century after fleeing the Chinese PLA and preached the wisdom of Tibetan autonomy, China’s leaders would have a chance of fostering harmonious relations between Tibetans and Chinese. That is preferable to waiting for the Lama to die in exile in the hope that his people would submit passively to demographic submersion and cultural extinction. — The Boston Globe