For many Tibetans, the case for the historical independence of their land is unequivocal. They assert that Tibet has always been and by rights now ought to be an independent country. China’s assertions are equally unequivocal: Tibet became a part of China during Mongol rule and its status as a part of China has never changed. Both of these assertions are at odds with Tibet’s history.
The Tibetan view holds that Tibet was never subject to foreign rule after it emerged in the mid-seventh century as a dynamic power holding sway over an Inner Asian empire. These Tibetans say the appearance of subjugation to the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries, and to the Manchu rulers of China’s Qing Dynasty from the 18th century until the 20th century, is due to a modern, largely Western misunderstanding of the personal relations among the Yuan and Qing emperors and the pre-eminent lamas of Tibet. In this view, the lamas simply served as spiritual mentors to the emperors, with no compromise of Tibet’s independent status.