Who Owns Tibet?

Tricycle Magazine reviews China’s Tibet?: Autonomy or Assimilation, a new book by Warren Smith that explores Chinese attitudes toward Tibet’s status:

Why are ordinary Chinese citizens so adamant, yet so sensitive? Why are they suspicious of international intentions? Why do they tend to assume that foreign concern for Tibet is, in fact, hostile – fabricated in order to denigrate, humiliate, and even split China? Where did their viewpoint come from? Are there two separate universes at work here?

Warren W. Smith, Jr.’s China’s Tibet? Autonomy or Assimilation – a groundbreaking study in disconnect – goes a long way in explaining why China’s bitter reaction to any and all criticism about Tibet, including religious and human rights issues, may be an abyss too vast to be spanned by traditional reason or negotiation. According to Smith, a research historian with Radio Free Asia’s Tibet Service in Washington, D.C., and the author of Tibet Nation, China’s possessiveness of Tibet is so infused with self-injected propaganda that normal rules of verbal engagement may not apply. His new book is the history of two conflicting versions of Tibetan history, the Tibetan version being subsumed by the Chinese. It is the story of Tibetan Buddhism defying, against all odds, China’s political gravity. It is a story of colonization. Anyone who is a Tibet activist, a serious student of Tibetan Buddhism, or a history buff will find Smith’s book indispensable. It begins with the two separate realities from which the Tibetans and Chinese respectively formulate their opposing views. Smith makes both universes worth visiting.

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