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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China Strategy is to Wait out Dalai Lama

May 11, 2009

Fareed Zakaria
May 8, 2009

Story Highlights

* Zakaria: Tibetans see culture, language,
religion as being extinguished by China

* "You need to look at the history to get a complete picture," he says

* In 1912, Tibet declared itself independent, but
China never recognized it as such

* Dalai Lama does not seek Tibetan independence, just cultural autonomy

Fareed Zakaria is a foreign affairs analyst who
hosts "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on CNN at 1 and 5 p.m. ET Sundays.

(CNN) -- The Dalai Lama says the key to stopping
violence around the world is to stop "destructive emotion."

In an interview to air Sunday on CNN's "GPS," he
tells Fareed Zakaria that he doesn't think even
Osama bin Laden wished for violence when he was a
child but that it grew of out hatred and frustration.

The Dalai Lama also addressed relations between
Tibet and China in the interview, which Zakaria discussed with CNN.

CNN: Why is Tibet such a hot-button issue for China?

Fareed Zakaria: China sees the issue as a
separatist movement, as President Lincoln did
when the South wanted to secede from the Union.
They feel their territorial integrity is being
threatened. And Tibetans see their culture,
language and religion as being slowly but surely extinguished by the Chinese.

CNN: So who's right?

Zakaria: Well, that depends on who you ask. You
need to look at the history to get a complete
picture. It all goes back to Genghis Khan, who
captured Tibet in 1207. He united Tibet » with
China under the Mongol empire. The Chinese have
claimed an unbroken line of sovereignty over Tibet ever since.

The Tibetans, however, reject that claim, saying
they have been an independent kingdom for many
periods during that time, some centuries long.

That was the situation until 1912, when Tibet
declared itself an independent republic. China
never recognized it, nor did the U.N. or any major Western power.

CNN: Well, that seems to indicate that China has a point. Does it?

Zakaria: It's not so simple, because although
China never recognized an independent Tibet,
neither did it exercise any control of Tibet.

That is, until 1950, when Chairman Mao sent the
Red Army in to liberate -- as the Chinese saw it
-- the Tibetan people from the feudal serfdom they were living under.

However, the Tibetans saw the act as an invasion,
and in 1959, the political and spiritual leader
of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama, fled to
India, where he set up a government in exile.

CNN: So we've been with the current situation
since 1959. Why hasn't there been any resolution?

Zakaria: Well, the Chinese are hoping to wait it
out. By letting the issue drag on, they are
hoping more and more ethnic Han Chinese move into
the region and slowly let the Tibetan freedom movement die out.

CNN: Will it work?

Zakaria:That could happen -- and has worked with
other regions. But, it could also work the other way.

The Chinese sometimes use force, as they did last
year against the Tibetan monks, which causes a
huge backlash in Tibet and outside. This has
resulted in some Tibetans becoming more strident
in their calls for independence and aggressive in their demands.

However, the Dalai Lama has repeatedly said that
he does not seek independence, only cultural
autonomy, and urged his followers to engage in no
violent protests whatsoever. If there were ever a
leader of a separatist group whom one could
negotiate with, he's it. And once the 72-year-old
Dalai Lama passes from the scene, Beijing might
have to deal with a far more unpredictable and radical Tibetan movement.

CNN: Do you think granting what the Dalai Lama is asking for makes sense?

Zakaria: If you look at other cases, such as in
Turkey and India, granting autonomy to groups
that press for it has in the end produced a more
stable and peaceful national climate. But that is
a lesson the Chinese government will have to
learn for itself; it is unlikely to take instruction from outsiders.

CNN: What ultimately causes this age-old mistrust
between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama? What's
the stumbling block that keeps them from finding resolution?

Zakaria: The Chinese government has always
believed that when the Dalai Lama speaks of
"autonomy," what he really means is independence,
a sovereign nation for Tibet. I asked the Dalai
Lama about this, and he denied it vehemently. He
insists that Tibetans would truly be content to
live within the Chinese system, as citizens of
its government, as long as they are allowed to
preserve their culture and practice their religion.

It is difficult to see how this gap -- the
difference in perception between the two sides -- can be bridged.

E-mail me to let me know your thoughts.
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