China sticks to its guns
Simon contends that the Dalai Lama’s latest position creates an opportunity for China to work out a compromise solution on the status of Tibet — not complete independence, but some kind of enhanced autonomy, specifically in the cultural and religious arena.
The question unasked: will common sense survive the Dalai Lama’s death? China should seize this opportunity to quickly achieve some kind of compromise that it can live with. If it is endorsed by the current Dalai Lama it will take much of the sting out of international criticism of China’s position in Tibet, regardless of whether it is justified or not. [Simon World]
But the Chinese government is showing no signs of budging from its stance. On the contrary it has asked the Dalai Lama to take an unequivocal position rejecting independence for not only Tibet, but also Taiwan; and when it comes to Taiwan, China gets particularly neurotic.
Rajan thinks China’s “My way or the highway” line wont work — unless China is willing to engage in a genocide in Tibet (and a military quagmire in Taiwan.)
China’s strategies in Tibet and Taiwan will be quite different because it holds territory in one, and does not in the other. It is much easier for China to play a slow and steady game in Tibet, relying on a combination of repression, modernisation, economic development and transmigration of Han Chinese to change the situation on the ground. It is thus in no particular hurry to proceed to the endgame in Tibet. Those “Save Tibet” rock concerts are minor pinpricks that dont really hurt China politically, neither do they affect its economy.
Taiwan is altogether a different proposition; China does not see any advantage in playing the waiting game — Taiwan will only get stronger militarily with time, and younger Taiwanese have no emotional links with the mainland, strengthening the case for total independence in the long run. Besides, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army may wish to take Taiwan before it declares a nuclear capability. Most factors therefore, weigh in favour of China forcing the pace on settling the Taiwan issue on its own terms.
What then prevents China from launching an invasion tomorrow — economic considerations, more than anything else. A conflict in Taiwan would have a disastrous consequences on the East Asian (indeed, the global) economy, and China would not be spared the pain. But if the Chinese economy runs hopelessly aground, or to a lesser extent, its leaders decide that it has become unsinkable, the Taiwan issue is likely to blow up.