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  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
Messages 1 2 3 

Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by tucsonmike on 1 December 2005 7:52am
Yesterday, my class asked a lot of questions about Tibet and its future.
I hope Mr. P reads this one (though he may not like what he is reading).

I'm putting this here, rather than under Series or Travel, because it covers politics.

My favorite books about Tibet are Orville Schell's Virtual Tibet and Heinrich Harrers Seven Years in Tibet.

First, a disclaimer. I haven't been yet (want to go when the railroad to Lhasa is complete). I wrote my Masters Thesis on Tibet, because there was a Tibet office in Manhattan. I had already written most of the chapters as term papers. In other words, another student cutting corners. There, I confessed. Absolution is expected later.:-)

Tibet-China relations. Tibet doesn't really have a traceable history before the Seventh Century (China's Tang Dynasty). Tibet adopted Buddhism over their ancient Shamanistic religion called Bon. Tibet was actually strong enough so the Tang Dynasty actually sent royal princesses to marry Tibetan kings (a highly unusual step, since in Chinese tradition, they were sending these women to an inferior place. Goes to show you how the Middle Kingdom can bend certain traditions when it has to).

Well, eventually Tibet weakened. The Qing (Manchu) Dynasty (1644-1911) conquered Tibet and considered it part of China. As the Qing Dynasty weakened, the control of Tibet weakened. Then Britian and Russia competed over Tibet because of the Great Game. A British force actually took Lhasa in 1904.

After 1911, when the Chinese Empire fell, Tibet gained defacto independence. Notice I said defacto. Both the PRC Government in Beijing,& the Guomindang government on Taiwan see Tibet as part of China. (Not many other things those two agree on).

China had turmoil for decades. When the Communists won, Mao decided Tibet needed to be liberated. The Tibetans asked who and what were they being liberated from? Good question. Their yaks? In 1950, The PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) entered Eastern Tibet. The Dalai Lama was forced to sign the seventeen point agreement allowing this.
Well, in 1959, after a rebellion against the Chinese in Lhasa (that was put down with great loss of life), the Dalai Lama fled to India. China's control over all of Tibet was complete.

Why does China want Tibet so badly? Again, China has claimed it for centuries. Mao wanted to enter it for ideological reasons. It also provides leverage in other places. China fought a war with India in 1962.

Why do we care whether China is in Tibet? I wanted to mention the history for a reason. Most of the world never cared about China being there before.
So why care now? Two reasons:
1. The present Dalai Lama is telegenic.
2. Celebrities have "bought" into the Tibetan cause.

John Cleese and his therapist Robin Skynner mention two things in the second book they wrote Life and How to Survive It. One, they discussed a visit to Ladakh in India and talked briefly about the Chinese occupation. Two, when they were talking about the United States, they mentioned how the celebrities have become the American "nobility." (Not sure how much pull say British and Canadian celebrities have for example).
Folks such as Steven Seagal and especially Richard Gere have gotten wrapped up in things Tibetan and have helped the Dalai Lama with his celebrity status.
This is why many care about Tibet now, where they would not have before.

Don't get me wrong. The Dalai Lama is a great man like Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King. Now I am going to say what would get the Free Tibet Movement and Richard Gere outraged.

Tibet is part of China. Period. Wishing it away isn't going to change that. Think Bismarck and Realpolitik. The Chinese aren't leaving. The time to oppose them was the 1950's, not now.

As I said. Mr. P has been there and may not like what I have to say. There it is though....

I left certain things out so there could be questions and debate.

Re: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by canaveralgumby on 1 December 2005 4:33pm
I gather from what I've been reading that NOW is the time to keep the Chinese (the Maoists) out of Nepal.
Re: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by tucsonmike on 1 December 2005 5:20pm
That is correct, Cori. One of my students is a Qigong instructor, who has been to Nepal. She said Chinese work crews are "helping" improve Nepal's roads. China has a massive Embassy (listening post) in Katmandu. When Tine spoke with people and saw what went on, it sure looked as though the Chinese were looking to build a foothold.
This weeks Economist had an article about Nepal. The gist was, that the main demand to stop the fighting is that the King abdicate and "democracy" be brought in. Should prove interesting. BTW, how do we stop China from invading Nepal?
Re: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by tucsonmike on 2 December 2005 1:41am
I asked the question about who is going to stop China, because of an article I read in the Atlantic Monthly last summer by Robert Kaplan (their foreign correspondent). It is called the Coming War with China. (China vs. U.S.). I will only summarize. His point is eventually, China will be strong enough to throw us out of East Asia. Michael Vickers, a former Green Beret and now China expert asked an important question. You can START a war with China. How do you END a war with China?
You would have to enforce a regime change. My point? If China DOES invade Nepal, who's going to stop them?
I can see the schoolyard bully being China in such a scenario. Who's going to be David and who's going to have the slingshot?
I'll answer any qeustions.
Re: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by Godfather on 2 December 2005 1:54am
Yep. Tibet is part of China. As you say, the 1950's was the time to do something if anything was going to be done. The politics of the world at that time was not interested. People campaining for an "un-occupation" are living in cuckoo land. Chinese will never leave Tibet (until they've got everything they want out of it), because to them there is no Tibet as such. Nowhere to leave. Nowadays, even ethnically Han have made massive relocation there. China has blended with Tibet in more ways than one. Now the railway is built, even more.

Even more because much of what the Chinese have brought, has infact improved the lives of Tibetans. Even the Dalai Lama admits this. Rather like "What did the Romans ever give us in return?". When Tibetans sit down and think about it, it's a bit like Reg's meeting in Life of Brian. On the other hand, people who campaign for the "rights" of Tibetans are doing a fine job, because the Chinese have an awful human rights record there (even within China too).
Re: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by tucsonmike on 2 December 2005 11:04pm
Thanks Godfather. True, China has it's own record among fellow Han. The thing is, China today is the "freest" it has ever been in its long history. A great book is Culture Shock China, written by a British journalist named Kevin Sinclair. China's is freer in the sense that you can now criticize certain things. You still cannot, and had better not question the partys right to rule.

I enjoyed your comment about Reg's meeting in Life of Brian, because it is true. Material things have improved in Tibet. Also computer surveys (impossible in the 1950's) have discovered all sorts of minerals in Tibet. So now the Chinese REALLY aren't leaving. Again, economic realpolitik has replaced Maoist ideology.

The Chinese will sometimes walk out of meetings if the issue of Tibet is brought up. To them it is like telling the United Kingdom Yorkshire is now an independent nation. Or in the U.S. Kansas.
They are flummoxed by folks like Richard Gere. The Chinese leadership can't figure out while supposedly educated folks with money would be interested in Tibetan Buddhism. Most of the present Chinese leadership are trained as engineers. They are technocrats, not idealogues. Very much a case of "just the facts, ma'am."

The railroad is supposed to be completed next year. Let me find my websites on them and post them.

Another reason China will not let Tibet go is as examples to other places. Some of that is on my blog
I will summarize some of that.

Some of What I Promised.Re: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by tucsonmike on 3 December 2005 5:50am
This is what I originally wrote.

I wrote my Masters Thesis about Chinese Communism and its impact on Tibet. Why? I hate to say this but it was quick dirty and easy. The Tibetan refugee office was at Second Ave. and 42nd St. in Manhattan and I put the thesis together from Term Papers.
This was in 1980, so much has happened since then. I had a class in International Politics at City College of New York. The year was 1977. My professor, Dr. Ivo Duchacek. It turned out he had been a major dipolmat in pre WWII Czechoslovakia. I found this out many years later by reading about former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Her father was a colleague of Dr. Duchacek in the Czech diplomatic corps.
He handled the class very well considering all the political points of view we had. Well my first introduction to Tibet(barring reading James Hilton's Lost Horizons about Shangri La and accounts of climbing Mt. Everest) was a Maoist. Dr. Duchacek always said everyone is entitled to his opinion. That kept the Jewish guy (me) from killing the ones complaining about Israel and through the back door Jews. Hey I was young and from Brooklyn. My mother has a shirt that says Brooklyn, Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten. Nuff said.
Anyway, moving right along (but not quickly enough), the Maoist went on about the brave Chinese people liberating Tibet. Wiseguy me wanted to know what the Tibetans were being liberated from. Their yaks? Expeditions climbing Mt. Everest? I guess if we conquered them instead it would have been No more Yaks Eat Big Macs? The Potala Palace would have been a theme park called Lamarama? Tibet, I'll bet? It would have been the highest elevation Casino and Theme Park on Earth. The Maoist had no sense of humor. He just thought I was another Capitalist Pig.
Well, this was when I started taking classes about China. I was facsinated. I was also raised to be fanatically Anti-Communist. Of course my gut reaction at the time was the Chinese (even as much as I liked the food and the women) were the aggressors and had committed a terrible atrocity. Other than ideology, China didn't seem to have a real reason for being in Tibet. There was no real strategic reason unless you wanted to keep India awake at night.
I hadn't thought much about Tibet after my Thesis until 2003. I read Orville Schell's Virtual Tibet about Tibet and all the Hollywood types such as Richard Gere campaign for Tibetan independence.
Before I say the next controversial thing, I have a great deal of respect for the Dalai Lama. He is one of those great world figures like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. He is a man of peace who cannot go home. Probably the only way he could ever go home would be as a dying old man as the head of the religion somehow being able to convince China he doesn't want independence for his people and he renounces any resistance groups.
Can Tibet be independent again? I would have to say in a modern world, no. Too much has changed.

* Tibet in a modern world cannot support itself economically. True, they might be better off tied to a nation other than China, but there you have it. They would starve.
* The Chinese are now the majority in Tibet. China has been absorbing neighbors for 2000 years. It's just this one wasn't a small tribe in South China and happened in the modern world.

People can resent this all they want. If the world really wanted to help Tibet be independent, the time was the 1950's, not now. Bismarck would have called this Realpolitik. The world didn't immediately liberate the Concentration Camps in World War II. Sad, but true. My being angry about it wont bring the people off all nations killed in it back. This does not downplay the things China did, especially during the Cultural Revolution. It's too late. Tibet is part of China and Realpolitik suggests working somehow within that reality. Y'all can call me cynical, but there you have it. I'm not sure what can be extracted from the Chinese government to treat ethnic Tibetans better. That is for more knowledgable negotiators to decide.
Besides Orville Schells book, read Heinrich Harrels Seven Years in Tibet. Harrer, a German soldier fled a British POW camp in India and made it over the Himalayas to Lhasa. He ended up the present Dalai Lamas tutor.

In other words, Tibet is an integral part of China now and the new railroad being build will make it even more so. Further on, you will get an idea of Chinese and other outside influence on the Roof of the World.

November 7th, 2005

China and It's Involvement in Tibet.
For those who think this began with the Dalai Lama fleeing to India, this isn't the case at all.
The Tibetans closest genetic relatives are the Mongols. The Tibetan Language they speak is a Sino-Tibetan language distantly related to Chinese. Probably 10,000 years ago, before the Chinese became settled and started building their civilization, Tibetans and Chinese were somewhat similar. Tibet would have been a barbarian land to Chinese dynasties and Tibetan history isn't really recorded until the Tang Dynasty. In 763 A.D. the Tibetans actually invaded and sacked the Chinese capital of Zhang an (present day Xian). The invading Tibetan king, Songsten Gampo had a Chinese wife. In other words, Tibet wasn't always subordiante. Chinese rulers had involvement with Tibet throughout. Tibet had de facto independence in the beginning of the 20th Century. Both the Communists and the Guomindang believe Tibet is an integral part of China.
There is nothing strange about the Chinese taking over lands of other people. They have been doing it for centuries. Tibet is just a larger territory than others. The Dalai Lama is a major world figure. This is one reason why Tibet is noticed.

Outside Influence in Tibet.
The Indians brought Buddhism over the mountain passes. Otherwise, Tibet is very much an isoloated place. Jesuits did make it to Lhasa, though they were hardly welcome. The present system of the Dalai Lama was brought by the Mongols in the 13th Century. The Monks were set up to rule the place. As Professor Schell says, Tibet is a fantasy land and what you want to make of it. It's not the size of nearby Bhutan and Nepal. It is the size of Western Europe in area, but picture Western Europe being almost completely devoid of people. It is almost as though Northern Scandinavia now prevailed over all of Western Europe.
Britain invaded in 1904 as part of the Great Game, because the Russians were looking for influence there. Like many areas of the world, Tibet was part of a bigger game worldwide that only had a limited effect on their local problems. This still goes on today. In Michael Palin's Himalaya, he talks in the beginning of the book about the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bottom line. It is a completely artificial border because the British lost three wars to Afghanistan, so an engineer named Charles Durant drew the border known as the Durant line. It's artificiality is why folks go back and forth and partly why Osama bin Laden is still at large.

It's inaccessability no doubt helped to make it interesting. Along with the fact that the altitude makes life tough up there.
During the Qing Dynasty, Tibet was forbidden to outsiders by both the monks and the Chinese government. The monks who feared their beliefs coming under attack. The Chinese fearing Tibet would end up a back door for more foreign intervention, especially after the Opium War.
When Mao wanted to enter Tibet, ideology and "liberation" were certainly a factor. China also resented being carved up (their description like a melon or fen gua in Mandarin). In other words, China was reasserting herself between this and in 1950, invading Korea.

China can't fathom much of the Chic's West fascination with Tibet and Lamaism. Prof. Schell describes Chinese President Jiang Zemin being incredulous about educated sophisticated people support such a thing.
I'm not a philosopher and don't understand Buddhism at all. So while I respect the Dalai Lama as a person and respect his human rights record, I don't understand the religion. I don't understand all these Hollywood types who are involved. It is their right and I would not stop them. My attitude is more what do they think they can do to change China's mind?
Heinrich Harrer explains some of the fascination. It is that there was an easygoingness among the Tibetans. They were happy with little and I suspect many Westerners feel Tibetans had the spiritual happiness Western wealth cannot necessarily bring.

Tibet in Mandarin isXizang, the literal meaning being "Western Storehouse." According to the 2002 Lonely Planet Tibet, it turns out Tibet may be very rich in minerals. A storehouse indeed. The fears from the past about Tibet being used as a backdoor invasion route may also back the Chinese mindset for Tibet as security zone, even though it would be a tough climb for Indian forces, now the only possible Western invader.
Well, Tibet especially once the railroad comes wont be isolated any more. I live in Tucson, Arizona. It is like Tucson when the railroad came in 1880.

From Wikipedia see the link on Foreign relations of Tibet.
The Railroad to the Roof of the World or Yaks to Tracks: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting th by tucsonmike on 3 December 2005 5:57am
Take a look at the following link. You will get the idea.

Re: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by Godfather on 3 December 2005 9:29pm
I haven't read that book, Tucsonmike. But one of the best and most informative books i've read in years was "Tibet,Tibet" by Patrick French. Delving way back into the ancient between Tibet and China all the way up to Modern times. Shatters the western idea of Tibet being a pacifist nation of sweet cuddly smiles, aswell as highlighting the misunderstanding that one sided activists may have about Tibet. As it was written by a man who had been both on the sides of naieve idealistic activism and also on the side of accurate history, i respected everything he said. A man who has been around a lot and knows what he is talking about. I'm pretty sure you would have read that book. Good one.
Re: Tibet: Because of Himalaya I am Putting this Up for Mr. P. by tucsonmike on 4 December 2005 7:43pm
Thanks Godfather. I forgot about that book and it is a good one.
As I tell folks, I was raised to be fanatically Anti-Communist. If I were to go on a strictly ideological track, I would see the Chinese government as all wrong on this one. I am a realist, though. I genuinely feel sorry for the Dalai Lama, and wonder what will occur when he dies.

There are some rough tought Tibetan groups such as the Khams in Eastern Tibet. They enjoy a good brawl. Then again, keep in mind the closest genetic relatives to Tibetans are Mongols. Something tells me they are next in the Chinese juggernaut.

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