Home Contact Us  
   

China - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4009, 24 June 2013
 

IPCS Special Commentary:

China, Tibet & Beijing's New Thinking
Jayadeva Ranade
Member of the National Security Advisory Board(NSAB) & Distinguished Fellow, IPCS
Email: jayvins1@gmail.com
 

Click here for the PDF version.

As China’s new leaders began settling into their jobs soon after the 18th Party Congress held in Beijing in November 2012, indications became available that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s senior leadership would focus attention on the Tibet issue. This included making some key personnel appointments, including in the now more powerful CCP Central Committee (CC)’s Secretariat. The CCP leadership is also confronted with the growing discontent among Tibetans in China.

Meanwhile there is speculation among sections of the Tibetan community in exile, based mainly on wishful thinking, that Chinese President Xi Jinping would be influenced by his family background and adopt a ‘softer’ policy towards Tibetans and the Tibet issue. While there have been signs that China’s leadership is taking some initiatives intended to diffuse the situation, there are no indications whatsoever that the present tough policy on Tibet will mellow. For example, Xiao Wunan, a senior CCP cadre affiliated to the CCP CC’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), fronted two overtures, including one made directly to the exiled Tibetan hierarchy in Dharamsala last year. Both were aimed at undermining the Dalai Lama’s influence and creating schisms among Tibetan Buddhists. There have very recently been two other events which merit attention.

The first is a curious invitation extended on June 3, 2013, by the little known ‘Hong Kong Tibetan and Han-Chinese Friendship Organisation’. Suspected to be a pro-Beijing ‘front’ organization, it came to notice when it tried to disrupt pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on June 1, 2009. It is headed by Philip Li Koi-hop, the bankrupt former head of the ‘Hong Kong North West Express Shipping Company’ who is now reportedly a Marine Inspector.

The other is an interesting, and apparently important, interview by Prof Jin Wei of the CCP Central Party School which was published on June 6, 2013, by the Chinese-language Hong Kong-based ‘Asia Weekly’. Captioned ‘Reopen Talks and Resolve Tibetan Issues’, her interview to ‘Asia Weekly’ reveals important elements of the Chinese leadership’s thinking on the Tibet issue and the Dalai Lama. It confirms too that there will be no relaxation in Beijing’s increasingly tough policy concerning Tibetans.

The Central Party School is the crucible for training upward mobile Party cadres and is presently under the direct control of Liu Yunshun, member of the Politburo Standing Committee overseeing the propaganda apparatus and former Chief of the Party’s Central Propaganda Department. Prof Jin Wei is a senior member of its faculty with a pronounced background in minority issues. She is currently Deputy Director of Minority Issues in the Central Party School and has previously held the post of Director of Ethnic Religious Studies, Institute of Social Development Research at the Central Party School. Central Party School teachers are handpicked and periodically tested for ‘political reliability’.

Echoing Mao Zedong’s observation of 1952 that the Tibet nationality question is “extremely serious” and cannot be handled in a “routine” manner--an assertion reiterated recently by Yu Zhengsheng, the new Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) which oversees Dalai Lama and Tibet-related issues and the CCP CC’s United Front Work Department--in the interview Prof Jin Wei asserted that the “Dalai Lama Clique” is engaged in “separatism”. She noted that the official term “Tibet-related issue” is used to describe “social management and social development of the six million Tibetan people living in the five provinces of the TAR, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan”. Blaming “domestic and overseas Tibetan independence extremists” for pursuing the “Tibetan independence” issue and “infiltrators” for “sabotage”, she nonetheless conceded that “some of the domestic contradictions and conflicts that occur are mostly due to nationality and religious issues.” She was categoric that differences between the Chinese authorities and “the Dalai Lama Clique” are “antagonistic and irreconcilable” because the Dalai Lama had promoted “separatist activities for Tibetan independence” since 1959, and directly challenged China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

At the same time, Prof Jin Wei acknowledged that the Dalai Lama is considered a “living god” by six million Tibetan people and is “the object of their spiritual worship, and has considerable appeal”. Stating that how China deals with him “affects the feelings of thousands and thousands of Tibetans”, she said “we cannot simply treat him as an enemy”. Describing him as a “key figure” in Tibet-related issues, she said the “Dalai Lama issue and the Tibet-related issues” would be best solved with an eye towards the future and recommended re-starting the talks with his representatives that had remained suspended since 2010.  At the same time she endorsed that the “Dalai Lama question” should continue to be dealt with “in a hostile way”.

Prof Jin Wei advanced a framework for the new round of discussions. The first step, she said, should be to put aside disputes and break the current impasse. She clarified that this meant tackling easy issues first while setting aside the “Middle Way” and other political issues. Allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong or Macau purely in his capacity as a religious leader could be discussed, with the ambit being expanded later to consider allowing him to reside in Hong Kong. Subject to it being proved that his decision in 2011, to completely retire from politics and be solely a religious leader was genuine, he could even perhaps be allowed to visit Tibet.
 
Secondly, she stressed that it is imperative to ensure that the Dalai Lama, who has reached an advanced age, is reincarnated only inside China.  Failure to achieve this would mean “twin Dalai Lamas,” with one reincarnation recognized abroad and one domestically. Such an eventuality would have a “great impact on the stability and security of the Tibetan region”.  She said once talks resumed and the current impasse was broken, China would have to “fight” to ensure the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation inside the country.  While China could use “Drawing Lots from the Golden Urn” to prevent the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation overseas, she pointed out that there is a historical precedent for Living Buddha’s designating their own successors and China must “make every possible effort to avoid the embarrassment of the “twin Panchen Lama” event”.
 
A crucial assessment put forward by Prof Jin Wei was that after the present Dalai Lama, the obsession of people in Western countries with the Dalai Lama will “gradually fade” and international pressure on Tibet-related issues will “slowly reduce”.  The anxiety and “violent sentiments of Tibetan groups inside China” will be further calmed if a “believable Dalai Lama is produced by religious rituals” inside China. She anticipated that in the post-Dalai Lama phase, the exiled Tibetan government will probably join other extremist organisations to engage in extreme violence.  If China succeeds in resolving the “Dalai Lama Dilemma”, however, it will be able to disintegrate overseas Tibetan independence forces.

She emphasized that a couple of things had to be done prior to the Dalai Lama being allowed to return to China. First, it was essential to carefully assess the “trust and feelings of the six million Tibetan people towards the Communist Party”. Second was to correctly assess how the Tibetan people worship the Dalai Lama and how they feel about him.  Stating that she had made successive trips to Tibet, she disclosed that ordinary people had frequently and “straightforwardly” told her that: “In this life I depend on the Communist Party, in the next life I depend on the Dalai Lama”. These few words, she said, provided the key to her evaluation.
 
She averred that the Chinese Communist Party had every reason to be highly confident as, since the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet in the fifties, the Communist Party has devoted a great deal of care and love to Tibet and the general population of Tibetans”, and has extended massive support and assistance for its economic development.  There has been great progress in economic and social development in Tibetan areas over the last 50 years, with huge visible improvements in material life, health, education, and transportation.  For this, she said, the Tibetan people are “profoundly grateful to the Communist Party, and fully recognize the People’s Republic of China which is under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party”.
 
Nevertheless, she cautioned that despite all the effort and work by the Communist Party to enhance economic and social development, it is “impossible to deny the Dalai Lama’s status in the eyes of the general public”. It is similarly impossible to change the way the Tibetan people “worship the Dalai Lama and are dependent on him”. She emphasized, however, that “this worship has no political significance or plans” and that for most people “Tibetan independence” is just an empty phrase. They have no interest in it and do not understand what it means.  According to her the Tibetan people are actually full of gratitude for the Communist Party, which is highly recognized. She assessed, therefore, that “our leaders at all levels” and in all relevant departments could very confidently discuss the issue of allowing the Dalai Lama to return to the country.

Prof Jin Wei discussed the issue of self-immolations and, perhaps for the first time, provided an insight into the CCP leadership’s thinking on this phenomenon, which has seriously vexed them. She enumerated the following four attributes:
 
i) The spate of self-immolations has increased and become a kind of “virtual hysteria,” or an “infectious disease”. It has “become a movement”;
 
ii) Measures taken to stop them have not yet been significantly effective;
 
iii) The self-immolations have the potential to trigger more serious conflicts. Media reports, recordings, prayers for self-immolators, condolences and other acts have progressively widened their impact on the populace.  The agitated emotions of Tibetans and actions by local governments to stop confrontations have promoted tensions and transformed the self-immolations from a “religious movement” into a “political movement” and even one spreading “hatred”. Disaffection has now spread throughout the Tibetan ethnic group and evolved from being a problem between the central government and the “Dalai Lama separatist clique” into an ethnic conflict between Chinese and Tibetans; and
 
iv) Self-immolation is a violent emotional act that is performed after an individual is “instigated”. The reason for mainly the youth committing self-immolation, is because their feelings towards the Communist Party are different from that of the older generation of Tibetans.  While the latter are deeply grateful and thankful to the CCP for their emancipation and their share of land and livestock, the Tibetan youth are unable to compare the material improvement in their lives or the new and old governments. The younger Tibetans are also very impulsive and give expression to their emotions.

In conclusion, Prof Jin Wei advised cadres working in the Tibetan regions to be particularly careful while handling religious affairs and said the anti-religious bias of several former Party Secretaries of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) had contributed to present grievances. Significantly, she urged the separation of religion and politics. Saying that Tibetans have been influenced by religion for thousands of years, she described their philosophy as: “heavily spiritual and light on materialism, heavy on the next life and light on this life”.  The CCP, as the ruling party, needs to understand this huge difference between the Tibetans and the Han.  She stressed that Tibet-related issues are crucial for China and it is essential to promote social stability and prevent long-lasting division between the nationalities. It would also be useful for reunification with Taiwan and improving China’s international image.

Prof Jin Wei’s interview suggests that the CCP is probably reviewing its policy on talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives. Her recommendations acknowledge the importance to China of: working towards reincarnation of the Dalai Lama inside China; effectively tackling the issue of self-immolations; diffusing rising tensions between the Han and Tibetan nationalities including by being more tolerant of the latter’s religious practices; diluting international pressure on Tibet and Human Rights issues; and facilitating reunification with Taiwan. The objectives of the overtures being made by Xiao Wunan dovetail with these. Notable though is that Prof Jin Wei, quite pointedly, does not waver in her observation that differences between the CCP and “the Dalai Lama Clique” are “antagonistic and irreconcilable” and nowhere does she recommend an easing in Beijing’s steadily increasing stringent policy towards Tibetans.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Modi Sets a Regional Agenda

China: Document No. 9 and the New Propaganda Regime

No Tangibles

The Xi Jinping-Obama Summit

Intrusion in Ladakh: Warning from China

Special Commentary: China's Defence White Paper 2013

China-South Korea Presidential Summit: Fait Accompli?

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.