Tibetan Independence Movement Essay, Research Paper
History of East Asia
The Tibetan Independence Movement
The Independence of Tibet is one of the hottest topics in the world today, undoubtedly due in part to the massive media exposure and attention given to the Dalai Lama and his movement in America. Recent Movies such as Kundun, The Wind Horse, and the extremely popular Seven Years in Tibet have had an astounding impact on the arousal of international awareness of Tibet s situation with China. This impact and the establishment of the Tibetan Independence Movement as a major issue on the international platform has lead to the argument by supporters of Chinese rule of Tibet that interventionists have based their arguments on history according to Hollywood .
Have these films swayed public opinion and perhaps even influenced America s foreign policy regarding China? My answer would be yes. But to argue that it is the basis and the only knowledge of the relationship between Tibet and China is a vain attempt by the Chinese to portray the stance of most of the free world as the work of capitalist propaganda. As an American, I find it insulting that Many of the Chinese-over-Tibet supporters look upon Americans as being so easily influenced by the media that we would use a Hollywood production as the basis for promotion of Tibetan Independence described by one Chinese advocate:
Humanitarian Interventionists and Benevolent Global Hegemonists, most of whom lack even a rudimentary understanding of China s long and complex history, share a particularly nasty trait. Many of these Globocops imagine because they have downloaded a few pages of seperatist propaganda from Tibet.org, and shed a tear or two while watching Seven Years in Tibet, that qualifies them as China experts. They believe this qualifies them to pass judgment about whether China deserves to remain intact or be forcibly Balkanized by the worlds only remaining superpower. Their attitude rivals that of the most contemptible 19th century imperialists (Chu, Tibetan Chinese are not American Indians).
Of course China has throughout history has viewed itself as the peak of civilization, but they have also suffered greatly due to their lack of awareness of the world around them.
It is, with little doubt, that China s position on Tibet is largely affected by anti-American sentiments. I would argue, even further, that Tibet is viewed by China and America alike as one of the last fronts of the Cold War. These issues however distracted me in my readings from the heart of the matter. The question to be answered is not whether Americans approve or disapprove of China s actions over Tibet, but rather is China s governance over Tibet legal?
In 1949-1951, The Peoples Liberation Army of China took control of China, in the same decisive action they took it upon themselves to liberate Tibet. In fact what they were doing was colonizing Tibet under the guise of liberation from feudal serfdom. The Chinese support this action with the claim that Tibet has been under Chinese rule since the Mongol Yuan (1260-1368) and the Manchu Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The claim of the Tibetan Government in exile is that the nature of the relationship between China and Tibet during those periods was not one of subject-ruler relationship but rather Tibetan Lamas established a political-spiritual relationship, known as Cho-Yon, or priest-patron relationship, with the Mongol empire (Smith, Tibetan Nation: A history of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations, p.93). During this period, Tibet remained politically autonomous, and isolated from any foreign presence. Relations did exist between China and Tibet, but they were more of a diplomatic than of a subjugative nature.
While Tibet had developed a definite ethnic and cultural identity, China argues that Tibet s national identity was always as a part of China, even going as far as to use such ridiculous arguments as In the 18th volume of The Encyclopedia Britannica for 1973 and 74, Webster s Atlas published in the United States in 1978, and The International Atlas published in the 1960 s, maps are marked with China in larger letters, and Tibet in smaller letters….All these show that these publications recognize Tibet as part of China (www.tibet-china.org, excerpt from China s Tibet, China International Press).
Tibetan nationalism always existed, according to The Dalai Lama and supporters who contend that when Tibet experienced modern imperialist pressures and Tibetan nationalism was aroused in response (Smith, preface p. xiii). Throughout history national Identities have grown out of imperial imposition of government, America, Ireland, Scotland, and even China via the oppression imposed on them following the Opium War. Most of those nations rose as a result of a bloodbath, with rare exceptions such as India under Gandhi. Following in Gandhi’s footsteps is the Dalai Lama, who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 (condemned as capitalist propaganda to favor a free Tibet by China).
To sidetrack for a moment, the passive approach has proven throughout history to be a successful one (ex Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu). Why does it seem to be such a long ordeal for the Tibetans? I think that India s biggest advantage was the media coverage they received during their protest of British rule. In Contrast, China closed Tibet s doors to the outside world until 1980, when China allowed tourism in putting Tibet in a time capsule for twenty years.
With the dawn of the conversion of the Chinese economy to a capitalist system, It is my thought that the issue of Tibet s independence will be resolved sometime in the near future. As I stated earlier, I think that the primary tension between China and Tibet exists out of the communist Chinese perception that Capitalists, America in particular have a vested interest in the liberation of Tibet, rather than a general concern stemming from a human rights perspective. Tibet has a remarkably distinct national identity and a desire for independence clearly and unmistakably expressed not only before the Chinese conquest but since, and is therefore undeniably deserving of the right to national self-determination, a right now egregiously denied by the Chinese state (Smith, preface p.xiii). Sources
1) Burman, Bina R., Religion and Politics in Tibet
1979 Vikas Publishing, New Delhi, India
2) Goldstein, Melvin C., The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet and the Dalai Lama. 1997 University of California Press, Berkley, CA
3) Harrer, Heinrich, Seven Years in Tibet
1996 Penguin-Putnam, New York, NY
4) Rowell, Galen, The Dalai Lama: My Tibet
1990 University of California press, Berkley, CA
5) Smith, Warren W. Jr., Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations. 1996 Harper-Collins Press, Boulder, CO
1) http://www.index-china.com (Chu, Bevin Tibetan Chinese Are not American Indians)
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