Thursday, March 12, 2009

China, Tibet, Action!

“Don't consider your reputation and you may do anything you like” is an oft-quoted Chinese proverb, but not often enacted by the leaders of the country.

If China desires to be an international leader and receive respect from world powers than it must realize that its internal affairs are now international business. The Chinese government is most strongly criticized for its human rights violations, especially its military rule and refusal to compromise in Tibet. As the G-20 nears, it will be hard for other international leaders to work with China to solve economic problems unless the Chinese officials take actions towards remedying the situation in Tibet.

The time to act is now because the situation in Tibet is getting worse by the day. Tibet is closed to journalists and foreigners until the end of March. When Cambodia was closed to foreigners, the Khmer Rouge rose to power. Tibetans are viewed as terrorists by some Chinese; some even refuse to rent hotel rooms to Tibetans. Police are quick to use force or violence to prevent or quickly squash any form of protest. The Chinese authorities are attempting to stamp out a religion, a culture, and a people. Many Tibetans have not even learned their own language. Monks are not allowed to hold prayer sessions.

China claims that it helped end feudalism in Tibet and free serfs and slaves, but in fact, prior to China's seizing of Tibet in 1959, there was little difference between the rich and poor of the Tibetans.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his attempt at a peaceful protest and solution. The most recent strategy is to pursue the "Middle Way," a compromise between the two leaders. Tibetans want to protect their religion and culture and the Chinese want to retain possession and control of the region. Tsering Shakya, an expert on modern Tibet at the University of British Columbia perfectly expressed the situation in an Associated Press article "On Display: conflicting Chinese, Tibetan views" by Gillian Wong:
"Tibetans see their homeland as the exclusive territory of the Tibetan people, while China sees the absence of Chinese authority in Tibet as part of their national humiliation."

No major changes are likely to be made in this generation because the Chinese leaders and the Dalai Lama are both stubborn. The older Tibetans of this generation remember the freedom they enjoyed before 1950 but the Chinese leadership will not ever allow Tibet to revert back to that state, so we must wait until that generation has passed away and the new generation fully accepts Tibet as a part of China.

The international community must deliver a neutral third party to set up talks between Hu Jintao, the paramount leader of China, and the Dalai Lama, the head of the exiled government of Tibet, to prevent the situation from resulting in a serious show of military power and an eradication of the Tibetan culture. A Scandanavian country would be the best option to supply a moderator since they have the cleanest human rights protection records and least activities as colonizers, so they could be not criticized for contradicting their own country’s past.

It is critical that each side thoroughly understands each other in order to assure the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of Tibet and China. In fact, it is in the best interest of both groups to preserve the Tibetan culture and way of life because it is another reason for people to visit China and expanded tourism in the region could be a source of large revenue for the government.

The central government’s main concern with the Tibetan culture is that it is an extremely religious society and the Chinese government views religion as an extreme threat to its power. Tibet should be made a into a Special Cultural Zone that has limited autonomy such as Shanghai and a few other regions enjoy as SEZ's. China is a country of paradoxes and is often described as one country with two systems; there is no reason that should not apply to Tibet.

China wants legitimacy on the stage of world affairs for its economic and diplomatic growth but it will not gain the respect it desires until it lives up to promises to protect human rights and the religious freedom of all its citizens.


  1. Excellent post! I think it is about time that China started having to live up to the human rights travesties present in its country, most notably Tibet. I completely agree with your analysis of the situation and, unfortunately, because of the current economic power that China has, the rest of the world is not in a good situation to make demands of the emerging superpower. I would argue that eventually the Tibet issue will come back to bite China, along with its abused citizens, lack of health care, and non existent educational system. Equality and the preservation of human right are the corner stones to a good society and I would argue that eventually China will realize that Religion can be a healthy addition to society, as seen in Tibetan culture.

  2. It seems a bit unfounded to say that China would have to answer the Tibet-question based on international opinion. Firstly, separatist issues in other nations go largely ignored. Secondly, as long as China makes no threats to the sovereignty of other nations, the world can largely ignore this issue as they have other movements in China (i.e. Uighur nationalism):

    As a final note, the Dalai Lama has made several notable concessions in his demands for the territory, most important if which is his theoretical acceptance of a Tibet Autonomous Region, as long as said autonomy is real and measurable, unlike the falsehood of the current political situation. This would hardly seem to be "stubborn".