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PEACEKEEPING: Smothering Tibet?

August 12, 2010

Strategy Page
August 11, 2010

Over the last two years, China has changed its
approach to keeping the peace in Tibet. This was
triggered by anti-Chinese violence that broke out
in Tibet in early 2008, leaving hundreds of
Chinese dead or injured and thousands of Chinese
owned businesses damaged or destroyed. The
government responded vigorously, sending over
50,000 additional soldiers and police to Tibet.
The intensity of these new security measures can
be seen in the reduction of the number of Tibetan
refugees showing up in India. Since an
unsuccessful Tibetan rebellion in 1959, over
200,000 Tibetans have fled to India. Before 2008,
over 2,500 Tibetans a year were crossing the
border into India. Since then, that has been
reduced more than 70 percent. Security is now
much tighter in Tibet, as well as along the
Indian border. Where it used to cost $500-1,000
to pay a smuggler to get you out, it now costs
more than three times that. Smugglers demand more
money because of the greater risks, and the longer routes that have to be used.

The 2008 violence in Tibet, however, should be
put into perspective. Tibet is a big place (1.2
million square kilometers, compared to 9.8
million for the U.S.) , but has a tiny population
of only about three million (compared to 300
million in the U.S. and 1.4 billion in China).
Ten percent of the Tibet population is Chinese,
and this is growing. Many more Tibetans have
migrated to China, for better economic
opportunities. The total number of Tibetans in
China is about five million, meaning most of them live outside Tibet.

Tibetans have always resented Chinese domination,
which has been going on for thousands of years.
Most of the time, the Tibetans were able to run
their own affairs. But from time to time, the
Chinese take direct control. In 1950 the Chinese
marched in and took over, and show no inclination
to leave or grant autonomy. Parts of Tibet were
added to China proper, but most of Tibet became
an "autonomous region." There are about 325,000
Tibetans living outside of China, and many are
active in trying to get nations to pressure China
to either leave Tibet, or grant more autonomy.
China treats this as a public relations issue,
and has no intention of letting it influence how it deals with Tibet.

China is pacifying Tibet the way it has pacified
other frontier areas in the past. Better educated
and more entrepreneurial Chinese are encouraged
to migrate, and they eventually dominate the
economy, and politics, of the area. The Tibetans
know this, and so far have not been able to do much about it.
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