The area in front of the Potala Palace is not a small space and to fill it up with people is no small feat. This mass gathering of people in July 2011 to listen to Xi Jinping (Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, and future leader of China) is indicative of the huge and growing support for and interest in larger China, even among the population of Tibet.
It would seem that with this kind of presence and government in Tibet, the chances of the Dalai Lama, his Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the exiled Tibetan community in India / Nepal returning peacefully to Tibet are becoming smaller and slimmer by the day. Any continued defiance, unrest and belligerent attitudes towards China would do nothing for the Tibetans but to shoot themselves in their own foot.
Rather, the best course of action for the Dalai Lama and his government, the CTA, would be to make friends with China, not rally against them. It would serve the Dalai Lama and CTA better to stop trying to lobby the support of Western nations against China but instead to request them, with humility and respect, to assist them in befriending China and strengthening diplomatic ties.
Fearing the Giant
It is important to acknowledge that the G7 nations no longer have any real standing to fight against the might of China. The world’s current financial, economic and political situation necessarily dictates this. For example, China is potentially the key to the new European Union bail-out and China is a buyer of the European Financial Stability Facility. As China is the key to providing stronger economic stability for entire regions, it is clear that everyone now wants to get on its good side, not antagonize a nation as economically powerful as this. So while the CTA may be sincere in its urgent wish to ‘free’ Tibet, their fight today against China has little more effect than hurling an egg against a mountain.
Unfortunately, no matter how empathetic the rest of the world may be to the plight of the Tibetans, the harsh reality is that displaying support for the Tibetan cause brings little return for them, politically or economically. They may lend moral and emotional support to the Dalai Lama, but when push comes to shove, we have seen nothing in writing nor any firm governmental policy from any country about the Tibet issue. The CTA is not even recognized as a government by any country, which was possibly the reason for its change of name from Tibetan Government-In-Exile to the CTA.
If the West was really angered by the actions of China towards Tibet, why haven’t they taken any firm and definite action, such as imposing economic, trade or political sanctions against China? Whenever countries of the Middle East contravene international policies, the West has been very quick to impose sanctions against them – why are they not doing the same with China, with regards to the Tibet issue? As countries that are not even Buddhists, the UK, US, nations of the European Union etc. receive not even the slightest benefit from supporting Tibet against China. The US has probably been the most supportive and the CIA has even been reputed to be funding the Dalai Lama – but only behind the scenes. When the Dalai Lama visited the White House last year, he had to leave by the back entrance next to the garbage. (In any case, the CIA support of the Dalai Lama may not necessarily be for Tibet’s freedom, but for the Americans to use the Tibet issue as a tool to keep China ‘in check’ and maintain a political upper hand.)
China itself remains completely unfazed by the Free Tibet protests, self-immolations and political rallies. In fact, the harder the Tibetans push their stance, the more the Chinese will resist their pleas. For example, after the 1989 Tibetan uprising, Hu Jintao had wanted to soften the Chinese Communist Party’s hardline stance against Tibet. A decree was proposed to “protect Tibetan culture” but Hu lost party consensus when the Dalai Lama accused China of “cultural genocide.”
The Chinese are clearly not at all embarrassed by their annexation of Tibet – if they were, they would surely have responded to all these protests and given Tibet their independence. No amount of international pressure would affect China. Even at times when China would have most needed Western support – such as in the 1980s or for the 2008 Olympics – they have not relented on the Tibet issue. Why would they budge now, when they are emerging stronger than any of their Western counterparts?
It is unlikely that anything can come in the way of China’s policies. The fact that it has been well over six decades and China looks no closer to returning Tibet’s independence is indication enough that they aren’t going to any time in the near future. Clearly, the approach of the Dalai Lama and CTA so far has not yielded any result. It’s time to change tactics.
Making friends with China would actually better the chances for the Dalai Lama to return to his homeland. Once there, instead of fighting for total independence, the Dalai Lama should request for Tibet to be developed as a Chinese Special Administrative Region – much like the status of Hong Kong. Once the Tibetans concede to the terms of the Chinese and agree to it being a province within China, the Chinese will be more likely to help them preserve their culture, give them financial and even political support on a global scale. It is simple psychology – appease the giant and please him first, then he’ll then be more than likely to help you with the things you want. There is a clear example of this in Hong Kong – while it is clearly regarded as a part of China, Hong Kong still has self-autonomy and given the economic, political ‘perks’ of being a part of this superpower. They get the best of both worlds.
Looking at the situation objectively, China has poured in tremendous financial resources into developing infrastructure for Tibet, creating jobs and improving their standard of living and education. For example, in July 2011, China’s State Council announced that “the central government will invest 138.4 billion yuan (US$ 21.38 billion) in the [Tibet Automonous Region] over the next five years to support 226 major construction projects involving a total investment of 330.5 billion yuan. The Projects envisage construction of facilities for TAR’s public services and infrastructure such as railways, highways, airports and hydropower plants.” (Jayadeva Ranade, “China uses 60th Tar Anniversary to Undermine Dalai Lama”, Centre for Air Power Studies, 16 August 2011.)
Tibet has no industries, no international trade and no economic strength. If China was to suddenly stop pumping in funds, the economy would fall flat and Tibet would be back to the agriculture-based farming community it has been for centuries. Economically, it is undeniable that the situation within Tibet in China far surpasses that of the exiled Tibetan community in India (as kind and generous as India continues to be to them). A genuine friendship with China and towing the line they set would bestow the Tibetans far more benefit than if they were separate entities.
This approach of friendship would then facilitate not only the Dalai Lama’s peaceful return to his home country but also to work from within to preserve Tibet’s ancient, rich culture, traditions, language and religion. Would it not be more effective and swift for the Dalai Lama to work peaceably within Tibet, maintaining friendly relations with China, than to continue fighting forever from the outside?
We would like to humbly suggest that His Holiness the Dalai Lama now work on an international platform with influential nations of the West and Asia-Pacific to establish good, friendly relations with China. At the same time, His Holiness should tell the Tibetans to stop fighting with China because each time there is unrest, the situation becomes worse for the Tibetans, creating an inescapably vicious cycle. As the Tibetans have such tremendous faith in the Dalai Lama, issuing a clear instruction like this to his people would most definitely have an impact and they will listen.
The Lamas Who Are Paving The Way
There are many examples of high lamas who are now befriending the Chinese and the government of China. This has softened the Chinese stance towards the Tibetan people and their culture. These lamas have done a great service to the Tibetans and it is because of their influence that China is now actively promoting Tibetan culture, religion and people, supporting them financially and providing resources to the largest monastic institutions there.
These great lamas include the incomparable teachers like Gangchen Rinpoche, Gonsar Rinpoche, Serkong Tritul Rinpoche, Yongyal Rinpoche, Lama Thubten Phurbu, Pabongka Rinpoche, 101st Gaden Trisur Rinpoche and Zawa Rinpoche. Sadly, all of them have been cast out of the mainstream Tibetan exile community, branded as traitors to the Dalai Lama and the cause for Tibet simply because they have chosen to continue their religious worship of the Protector deity Dorje Shugden.
Upon closer inspection however, anyone will see that these very lamas are the ones who are actually paving the way for Tibetans to return to Tibet, for China to open its doors again to the Tibetans, and Dharma to endure within Tibet. For example, H.H. Gaden Trisur Rinpoche has paid an official visit to the Panchen Lama who is backed by the Chinese; Gangchen Rinpoche has paid several visits to China and Tibet which has included attending the World Buddhist Forum in Hang Zhou and the 1st China Tibetan Culture Forum ; other lamas such as Yongyal Rinpoche, abbot of Shar Gaden Monastery, Zemey Rinpoche and Gaden Trisur Rinpoche have also been supportive of and attended initiations hosted by other lamas within China districts. This doesn’t look like the action of people who are against the Dalai Lama and their fellow Tibetans. This looks like people who are actually doing something for the cause of Tibet, rather than just talk and campaign for it.
We urge His Holiness and his government to consider using this same friendly approach towards China instead of the confrontational methods they have been using, which clearly have not brought the desired results. Time is of the essence now, especially as the Dalai Lama is getting older. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Tibetans could build such strong ties with China that the Dalai Lama would be allowed to return to his homeland before he passes away? Some of the greatest Buddhist masters today are already starting to do this. Imagine if the rest of the exiled Tibetan community, its government the CTA and the Dalai Lama himself extended this same peaceful friendship with China? And on that glorious day that the Dalai Lama returns again to Tibet, Tibetan culture, language and religion will stand the greatest chance they have had in six decades to revive and endure.