Democracy in Tibet?
This week on Facebook: It could be thought odd, even hypocritical, that NATO (as led by the USA) is so selective and clearly so inept at using military force to spread democracy. Democracy, it now appears, being as inconsequential to the USA as it is to communist China! Tibet was invaded by China in 1950, the Tibetan government in Lhasa appealed for help to both Britain and the United States (both NATO members) but non was given.
The Free Tibet campaign still has many adherents, unlike last week’s post ‘Democracy in Xinjiang‘ when the USSR’s loyalties switched to Chairman Mao and the Russians helped the communist People’s Liberation Army recapture Uighur East Turkestan. In 1949 East Turkistan became Xinjiang when it was once again integrated into Communist China. China’s expansion westward is reminiscent of Japan’s reasons for its empirical expansion during world war II. To the Chinese, there is the added dimension of interpreting their cultural history and the memory of the humiliation inflicted on China by western economic and military hegemony in Asia.
For its part there is a great deal of ‘western romanticism’ associated with Tibet, even amongst those who may not have seen the film ‘Lost Horizon’ or read James Hilton’s 1933 novel¹. The influence of Shangri-La is so great that China renamed the city of Zhongdian to Shangri-La December 2001. In an effort to promote tourism in the area Shangri-La was upgrading to a county-level city in December 2014 and is now the capital of the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the northwestern Yunnan province of China.
As I remarked last week, the justification for any conflict by one State with another is set by the victor in any conflict, in reality the contemporaneous reasons for conflicts are always subject to political changes. These are used to disguise the realities of the economic and political justifications behind the conflict, with the victor and the vanquished each presenting their own versions. In the cases of Tibet and Xinjiang, China always had strong military motivations for its invasions of these ‘autonomous regions’ and given the economic (and military) motivations China will not relinquish its political control over them.
The dichotomy facing many Tibetans (and Uighurs) — frustration over Chinese rule combined with a desire for an easier way of life. Tensions on the roof of the world
Why China needs an iron grip on Tibet: Since the source of China’s two major rivers is Tibet, the first reason China will never let go of Lhasa is water. China needs at least 10 billion cubic meters of rainfall annually. That will surely increase as the Beijing regime consistently tries to increase its gross domestic product to replace the US as the top international economic, and by 2049, the top military power as well.
China’s Money and Migrants Pour Into Tibet: But if the influx of money and people has brought new prosperity, it has also deepened the resentment among many Tibetans. Migrant Han entrepreneurs elbow out Tibetan rivals, then return home for the winter after reaping profits. Large Han-owned companies dominate the main industries, from mining to construction to tourism.
Tensions on the roof of the world: Much of the tension stems from concerns over the influx of Han Chinese — China’s dominant ethnic group — into Tibet. In 1964, there were just 39,500 Han Chinese in the remote region, just under 3% of the population, according to scholars. That figure now stands at 245,000, according to the 2010 census figures. While this is less than 10% of the population, Han Chinese traders, workers and investors have mainly settled in Lhasa, where they control many businesses and fill better-paying jobs — deepening resentment with Tibetans.
China promotes mixed marriages in Tibet as way to achieve ‘unity’: Government policy requires mixed couples to choose early on what ethnicity to designate their children in official documents. Many choose to name their children as Han rather than Tibetan, believing that it gives their children a chance at a better life, said a 28-year-old Tibetan woman who works at a local government department. She spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing her job.
China and the Tibetans: Many Tibetans accuse the Chinese of suppressing Tibetan culture, freedom of expression and worship. They are particularly resentful of efforts to supplant their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama with a communist-approved alternative. Another bone of contention is the increasing numbers of Han Chinese migrants arriving in the region, which causes resentment among the local population.
Referenced Articles & Books: A book or pdf (often free), or simply a url that may sometimes link to a download that is also usually free. Sometimes a link to JSTOR is used, this lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.
¹Lost Horizon by James Hilton (Gutenberg): Cigars had burned low, and we were beginning to sample the disillusionment that usually afflicts old school friends who have met again as men and found themselves with less in common than they had believed they had.
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