You notice it right away. In President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, the setting is different. There is a little table between them and the chairs are smaller. It is a tiny table, barely a table at all, as if to convey to the Chinese that nothing will be on the table. And the president is casual in jacket and slacks, like you never see him, as if to convey to the Chinese that we do not consider this charmed holy man to be of any consequence.

The setting is meant to send these signals. But it is a mistake.

It is a mistake because it could just as well suggest a casual posture of studied dissent and conspicuous detachment, like that of high school kids who strategically pop gum and wear dark glasses in history class, or rose-tinted ones like Bono. The president looked bored, distracted, disinterested and disengaged. The simple maturity and quiet confidence of a Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanRyan tries to save tax plan Rift in GOP threatens ObamaCare repeal Overnight Tech: GOP split on net neutrality strategy | Trump's phone worries Dems | Bill in the works on self-driving cars MORE (R-Ohio) would have worked better — if that is still possible in Miley Cyrus’s America.

It is a mistake because China will read America as weak, confused and creatively unprepared as it considers moving its ships now from the East China Sea to the South China Sea.

Recently, the president said in an interview in the New Yorker that he does not now need the great WWII-era ambassador George Kennan to tell him what to do. But Harvard’s Niall Ferguson replied that a Kennan is exactly what he needs.

We are instead given the impression that the president takes his counsel from likes of Bono, whom the first lady has met with, and Irish punk rockers, who might be considered the architects of America’s globalist vision today, like Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats. It is an impression reinforced by the work of Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryFormer Obama officials say Netanyahu turned down secret peace deal: AP How dealmaker Trump can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict John Kerry to teach at Yale on global issues MORE, Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha PowerSamantha PowerTrump's top diplomat enters pressure cooker Russian official: Was Nikki Haley reading Samantha Power's speech? Haley: 'I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia' MORE, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonChelsea Clinton attends Muslim solidarity rally in NYC Congressional Black Caucus expected to meet with Trump soon Why liberals should accept a conservative carbon tax plan MORE.

America is making a "pivot" to Asia. That is why the Dalai Lama was allowed in the White House in the first place, albeit, meeting discreetly in the Map Room. It is an attempt to show the Chinese that we will not be pushed around. The Dalai Lama is key to everything. This simple monk is the symbol for Chinese dominance in this greatest of karate operas. You have to do one thing to deal with China: Renounce and publicly repudiate the jolly Tibetan monk. And if you don’t, you will feel China’s wrath.

Any fan of "The Sopranos" knows that it is a trial balloon. In such a symbolic situation you do not back down. Because if you back down now, they have you after. If you repudiate His Holiness, you have appeased China and they know they have you. Only if you stand fast can you then begin a fair and honorable dialog.

In 2001, Jim Webb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia and former secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal titled "The Struggle for Mastery in Asia." Obama and Kerry should read it tonight. Webb begins the piece with a quote from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War: “Draw them in with the prospect of gain, take them by confusion. Use anger to throw them into disarray.”

Sun Tzu wrote the book on staging symbolism, and this quote might reveal the pattern unfolding before us today. For 30 years we have been drawn in by the prospects of gain and now we enter into confusion, soon to be thrown into disarray.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at