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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Why does China have such a short-sighted Tibet policy?

November 22, 2009

TP Saran
The Mauritius Times
November 20, 2009

For a country which can boast of the invention of
silk and a rich legacy of technology from its
ancient civilization and which has given to the
world Confucian wisdom, China’s stand on certain
issues is, to say the least, incomprehensible.

Currently China is fulfilling Alain Peyrefitte’s
prediction about the giant that will rise, at a
time that the prevailing view was that Mao’s
China was doomed. In spite of the attempt at
rationalization a posteriori by certain analysts
in recent times, arguing that Deng Zhiao Ping’s
change of direction towards more liberalization
was grounded in Maoism, the fact remains that
Mao’s rule was no less than a dictatorship in the
eyes of the Chinese masses that suffered under
it. Jung Chang’s Wild Swans and her biography of
Mao are an eye-opener in this regard, being as
they are a first-hand account of events as they
were lived and survived through.

 From these and other sources we learn that the
‘Cultural Revolution’ led by the Red Guards was
anything but. In reality it was a euphemism for a
long-drawn fratricidal, internecine and
ideological war in which everybody spied on
everybody else to gain apparent favour in the
eyes of the leadership. Apparent because even
many of those who thought they were in the good
books were mercilessly eliminated on the
slightest suspicion of so much as covertly dare
to think differently. For that matter, even the
circle of leadership was under watch, and there
were notorious victims amongst them.

But let us give credit where credit is due. There
has been a relative opening up of China which has
embarked on a high-level industrialization and a
sustained government-led agenda to fast-track
improvement in the lives of the common man. China
is justly admired and wooed for its manufacturing
strengths and the work ethic of its people. To
source for its rapid development needs, it is
perfectly entitled to mark its presence in Africa
without any ideological strings attached --
perhaps this is what may have goaded President
Obama to declare, a few days ago, that he had not
come to China to criticize the form of
government. This come-down if not condescension
is called American pragmatism, which is
tantamount to what a British politician famously
summed up as in the statement ‘in politics there
are no permanent friends, only permanent interests.’

So we will not tarry on the avowed American
‘pragmatic philosophy’ approach to China by its
President, save to say that as guiding principle
it may have some truth where private enterprise
there is concerned, but certainly as far as the
administration goes one cannot ascribe to it any
sense of loftiness. That is why President Obama,
toeing the line of his predecessors in this
respect, has made no reference to the Tianamen
Square massacre of 1989 nor to human rights
violations in China. After all, years ago Henry
Kissinger nevertheless invented enough sophistry
to justify granting China the Most Favoured
Nation (MFN) status so that business and trading could continue.

Where incomprehension arises is in relation to
China’s continuing backing of Pakistan, its
rejection of the Dalai Lama, and its paranoia
vis-a-vis its next-door neighbour India. All
these are interlinked. The present catastrophic
internal situation in Pakistan – its adapted
version of the ‘Cultural revolution’  -- confirms
that its foundational premise was utterly flawed,
and that both America and China should continue
to prop up the successive autocracies of Pakistan
derives from their common objective to prevent the rise of a strong India.

America’s hypocrisy is astounding, for President
Obama has told his Chinese counterpart that
America wishes to work with a strong China, that
he wants the US and China to be partners rather
than rivals. By the same reasoning, what about
all three powers -- the US, China and India --
growing stronger and collaborating as partners
rather than being rivals, and extending
cooperation beyond economic and business matters
to global issues, as Obama has pointed out across
the table to his Chinese counterpart?

As for Pakistan, from its very beginnings it has
allowed itself to be the pawn in the China-US
game of containment of India, with the US pouring
in billions of dollars most of which have been
diverted into military acquisitions, and China
transferring nuclear weapons capabilities amongst
other things. And this is despite knowing full
well that the suicide bus bombings by Uighars in
Beijing years ago and the recent uprising in
Xinjiang province by these same extremists may
have had inspirational roots in Pakistan. But one
must open a parenthesis here to commend the
Chinese authorities for their firm handling of
these terrorists: swift justice has been meted
out, in sharp contrast to India’s dilly-dallying
especially after the 26/11 attack in Mumbai. The
culprit Kasab is gleefully holding India and its
tortuous justice system to ransom, amounting to a
gross betrayal by India of its innocent fallen
citizens. Here it should learn a lesson or two from China.

On the other hand, for a change India has stood
firm and sent a strong signal by allowing the
Dalai Lama to go ahead with his visit to the
Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh, where the
population has given a stinging rebuttal to any
Chinese claim as to where they belong. After an
initial posturing, China has refrained from
raising any more objections, but President
Obama’s refusal to meet the Dalai Lama now and
when he visited Washington some time back has,
alas, removed some of the shine with which Obama
rode to glory. He has not only faulted
politically, but has missed a golden opportunity
to gain some enlightenment from the leader of the
nearly 400 million Buddhists in the world, whose numbers continue to rise.

To all intents and purposes, does the suave,
soft-spoken and ever-smiling Dalai Lama present
the image of a threatening insurgent? And why
should he not be taken at his word when he says
that Tibet is not interested in independence but
in more autonomy? What, for heaven’s sake, does
mighty China have to fear from the Tibetans so
steeped in their spiritual practices or from
their leader? They do not have their hands on a
nuclear trigger. On the contrary, China should
have realized that it shares more civilisational
values with Tibet and India, and if it were to
allow the Dalai Lama to continue the genuine
cultural underpinning not only of Tibet but of
the whole of China, it would acquire an added
dimension of strength. This, allied to its
economic clout and that of India, would have
allowed them to jointly lead both the region and
the rest of the world. All the indications are
that the Dalai Lama, Tibet and the Indians are
willing to go in the direction of mutual respect
and peace. The reluctance of China to engage
likewise gives Pakistan latitude to play spoilt
sport and impact negatively on the dynamics of the region.

China could very well be the true giant, and
exert a more positive influence by allying
strategically, economically and politically with
the other giant in the region, its neighbour
India which, to boot, is the only other country
that still has significant numbers of Maoists!
Instead, it prefers to play the monster vis-à-vis
Tibet and the dragon vis-à-vis India. Why? What
does it gain in so doing? It’s time for Chinese
leaders to shed some of their old reflexes and
take a broader, more long-term look at the future
of the region, and by extension of the world at
large. Only good can come out by such
realignment. Timing is all, and China will miss
the opportunity and a crucial rendez-vous with
history if it does not take the Dalai Lama, and India, into confidence.
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