China asks the Dalai Lama to try harder

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.

11 thoughts on “China asks the Dalai Lama to try harder”

  1. With China’s economy growing there are industries shifting from Taiwan to China. Also there is investment made in China by Taiwaanese people. The ties between Taiwan and China will therefore remain even with the younger generation comming of age.
    As for economic considerations, most countries in the world export to china and they will be more affected than China if a war takes place.

  2. Well if you have been to Tibet (or the nearby Tibetan regions of Yunnan, Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai, you will realise that China doesn’t have to do much). All they have to do is continue to create economic opportunities and the Tibetans will see it in their advantage to merge in. Also, among the younger Tibetans, you fill find people less wary of Chinese rule though they do complain of Han chauvinism.

    I think in the long term even the Tibetans need not worry about their culture diminishing. It won’t happen with the Chinese trying to wipe it out or even subdue it. Gone are the days of old when Mao quoted “Religion is Poison”. Now Tibet or Tibetan Culture earns $$$$ and the Chinese wouldn’t want to kill this cash cow. A lot of Eastern Chinese are now taking to Tibetan Culture and it is gaining the “cool” factor. If anything it will be the Tibetans themselves who will want to take advantage of growing Chinese economy and leave their old lifestyle and this happens in a lot of places in developing countries.

    Of course, the ones who will make a lot of noise are the Tibetans in India who have not much idea of what’s happening in China.

  3. I agree.
    Besides there’s nothiong like fear to focus the mind.
    The chinese have already committed genocide in tibet. By oneestimate way beack in 1949-50, within its frst year of coccupation, China killed off 1 million Tibetians – a sixth of the population – a full third of the adult male population. And the Tibetians know China can do it again, under a different name – “Evacuation” instead of “genocide’, maybe?

  4. China doesn’t have the military power to take Taiwan right now. Even with superior ground forces, sea invasions are always tough to pull off in the absence of naval/air superiority. Just ask Napoleon and Hitler. Thanks to American arms sales and superior pilot training, Taiwan’s navy and air force have major qualitative advantages over China.

    In addition, Taiwan’s symbolic value in the struggle for Asian hegemony, and its position as the northern gateway to the South China Sea, makes it too important for America, with its bases at Okinawa, Yokosuka, and Guam, not to get involved in the event of a Chinese attack. Japan, too, would probably involve itself.

    On the other hand, China could bring a lot of pressure to bear without mounting a full-blown invasion. An attempted naval blockade of Taiwan combined with threats to do a mass selloff of the American treasury notes it owns could be enough to force major concessions.

  5. it would be wrong to assume that chinese military superiority is only limited to ground forces and not capable of launching a seaborne attack on taiwan. Firstly the stand off range vis a vis taiwan too short for being an obstacle to any chinese offensive posture and therefore surface based missiles from the east coast of china would always be the no 1 threat to taiwan. these postures have already been exercised and we aware of the instabilty it created in the area. anyway i thought we were looking at tibet and the dalai lama. if the chinese position with the dalai lama is anything to go by than surely we are witnessing a china which is confident and surefooted about its moves both politically and diplomatically.it has covered up its flanks well over the period and therefore one may not see any overt support or reaction coming through.that includes us.what with support for the security council seat being offered. i told you nitin,the bottomline is our national interest!

  6. Sondur,

    Could’nt agree with you more. My own view is that India’s foreign policy should cater to the interests of its own billion citizens first, before the pursuit of loftier global goals.

  7. The main thing holding China back on Taiwan is the sure response from America. Economic factors are a consideration but far greater is China’s fear of dragging America into the game. China is clearly unimpressed with Taiwan’s President Chen and is hyper-sensitive to moves towards independence but they know they cannot act, no matter how much bluster they throw at Taiwan. As for Tibet, as I said China’s dogmatic line means they are squandering a chance to gain international kudos and take the sting out of a long standing problem. I agree that they already hold Tibet and can play the waiting game, but canny politicians (and the CCP are certainly that) know that sometimes appearing to compromise is as important as actually doing anything. Any settlement will be on China’s terms, not the Dalai Lama’s.

  8. kautilya: Similar links are being made between Singapore and China too. Does it mean that Singapore would want to unify with China? Malaysia’s largest trading partner, by far, is the US, and we can’t even have a pro-US foreign policy, no less consider giving up our independence to them.

    preetam rai: Precisely why the Dalai Lama wants Tibet to remain part of China. That doesn’t make this, however, a non-issue. There is still no complete freedom of religion in Tibet and the communist regime in Beijing have been interfering with Tibetan Buddhist institutions to prop up its rule of Tibet. And there’s the matter that Tibet have very little actual autonomy from Beijing (less so than, say, Fujian province) and most of Tibetan territory is splitted from Tibet and merged into surrounding territories and provinces.

    And the fact that the Dalai Lama is still barred from even visiting China is still a substantial one.

    sudhir: Genocide did happen. Did little to get rid of the Tibetan thorn by their side.

  9. Sondur, China isn’t considered to have a real “blue water” navy. India’s navy is arguably comparable in strength to China’s. And the technological edge of Taiwan and America in areas such as ground and air radar systems, anti-submarine warfare, and anti-ship missles, not to mention superior pilot training, shouldn’t be overlooked. The Taiwan Straits may be narrow, but their shortest point is still about 50km longer than the shortest point of the English Channel that stymied Hitler. The missles are certainly a threat, but Taiwan has decided to start building its own intermediate-range missile arsenal in response. It won’t rival China’s in size, but it could still do serious damage to Shanghai, and a strike on the Three Gorges Dam (recommended by the Pentagon as a deterrent threat) would be catastrophic.

    For these reasons, I don’t see China attacking Taiwan unless the Chinese government is faced with a major internal crisis (perhaps the result of an economic collapse) and uses a crisis over Taiwan as a last-ditch attempt to maintain its grip on power.

    But I agree with you regarding China’s present reasoning on Tibet. This is one more fiasco for India that you can place at the footsteps of Nehru, that great “anti-imperialist”.

  10. Mate Rajan,

    That is what China is trying to prove that religion is scam. Get people tuned into the money-economy and they will forget religion. Talking about culture, well that can be very easily diluted. One more generation of Tibetan kids growing up in Chinese pop-culture and then gone .. zilch.. you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart from the Chinese. Just a hundered year back there were the manchus up in dongbei. they used to rule china. where are they now??

    China is a great study in assimilation. Let me recommend Jared Diamond’s book Germs, Steel and Guns. Read the chapter called “How China became Chinese”.
    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0393317552/002-4363944-1507210?v=glance

    I have said this on other blogs and will repeat it here. Taiwan will also be a non-issue in the future. For the last 50 odd years the Greater Chinese and the Taiwanese have grown up under a different system. So today you ask a Taiwanese he or she may think that Chinese are backward – not as classy as them. They fear such people taking over them. But China continues to grow, and so will grow the desire to be associated with things Chinese. The taiwanese kids today listen to the same music or watch the same movies as the guys in Greater China. There will come a time when China will seem less of a bully. By then a lot more economic integration would have happened between China and Taiwan and re unification would follow. I say 25 to 30 years from now, if not earlier.

    The arms race is just posturing. China knows that the real way to win is by earning mindshare. That is why the spaceman and the olympics.

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