Course Correction

Newsweek reports on Beijing’s new approach toward Tibet, almost two years after deadly riots engulfed Lhasa:

“…Though local riots looked bad in the press, they never really threatened control of Tibet. And the Dalai Lama has consistently maintained that he does not want to separate Tibet from China. World leaders who have met him seem convinced of his sincerity and nonviolent approach to solving the Tibet issue.

So as concerns about actual separatism receded, China’s leaders recognized they really need a plan to govern the province. The money they had spent to buy the loyalty of Tibetans ($45.6 billion since 2001 for roads, trains, and housing complexes) had more or less come to nothing. “Even the most massive infusions of funds have never been able to buy the affection of the people,” says Tibetologist Parvez Dewan, who has just coauthored a book called Tibet: Fifty Years After with Siddharth Srivastava. “You can’t get rid of the alienation of a people through development.” Even in the less-authoritarian neighboring Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan, and Qinghai—where a majority of the 6.5 million Tibetans live—discontent among ethnic Tibetans is widespread. (Nearly 1,500 monks from the famous Labrang Monastery in Gansu province took to streets in the 2008 uprising that also sparked Tibetan protests in Qinghai and Sichuan.)

That’s why last week, after nearly 15 months of trading barbs—Beijing had shut down relations after the Olympic spotlight went dark—China’s leadership invited the Dalai Lama’s government in exile (based in the north Indian town of Dharamsala) back to talks about the province’s future. Soon, two of the Dalai Lama’s representatives, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, left for China along with three of their aides.

These talks are not going to solve the 50-year-old problem, which began with the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet after a failed uprising against the invading Chinese Army in 1959. But the administration of President Hu (who was himself in charge of Tibet in the late 1980s) seems serious about helping to develop the province.

See also “Silence on Tibetan talks is golden” from Asia Times.

January 28, 2010 2:52 PM
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Categories: Politics