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Dalai Lama envoys prepare for China talks

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The Chinese government is not going to make any concessions that would reflect weakness. They feel they can ride out the bad international PR which their ethnic Han citizenry has dismissed as "biased." The Dalai Lama's position is a bit more complicated as this review article sketches out:

The first days after the crisis in Tibet highlighted the acute complexities that the Dalai Lama faces. Less surefooted than usual, he was somewhat slow to express regret at Chinese deaths as well as those of Tibetans; he urged his followers not to use violence but he did not condemn it; and he publicly stated that Chinese soldiers had disguised themselves as monks to instigate the Lhasa riot, a claim that has turned out to be dubious. In the longer term, he has been unable to wrest any concessions from the Chinese to show his followers that his strategy might work, despite the very major concessions he and his government have made (including the demand by the exiles' government last month that exiled Tibetans avoid using the word "independence" in their slogans). At the same time, he faces the dilemma that his increasingly frequent meetings with Western leaders, which are his only way to put international pressure on China, are seen by Beijing as provocations and thus are used as an excuse not to meet with him.

At the same time he has shown his capacity to bring to his policies both spiritual conviction and a sense of global community. He kept open the door to negotiations with China despite the aggressive crackdown, arrests, forced denunciations, and summary justice set in motion in Tibet, let alone the vitriolic attacks on him by the Beijing press and television. He said that he would resign as political leader of Tibetans if the violence by protesters goes "out of control," and he offered to open his files up to "thorough investigation by a respected body" into China's claims that "the Dalai clique" had instigated unrest in Tibet....

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21391

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I agree with Betzee that the Dalai Lama has weakened himself by shuttling between Bollywood and Hollywood, now its time for him to take some rest at Dharmsala and think over Tibet strategy with a cool head.

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Well put Betzee. The Chinese communist govt clearly does not intend to make any real concessions. The talks are pure spin to improve foreign perceptions of China and placate foreign leaders just before the games. I wonder, like Yasser Arafat, someone more hardline will take over the Tibetan cause.

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The thing is, the Dalai Lama is more a spiritual leader than a political strategist. Hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities kept him in the news and the cause alive in the international media. But it doesn't offer a way to extract concessions from Beijing and it's unclear how much longer the young hotheads in Lhasa will defer to him.

The young Chinese are just as bad. A Tibetan Monk, invited to speak on a California university campus with a large PRC foreign student enrollment, had both insults and water bottles thrown at him during what what was intended to be a opportunity to exchange opinions. Ultimately campus security had to restore order.

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Betzee, very good analysis of the situation. It just tears me up when i here that the Chinese diaspora has the right to demonstrate and the Tibetans are barred from doing so in Tibet. We know what the Chinese government is capable of. That they cannot be trusted to conduct meaningful negotiations is a given.

The Dalai Lama will continue to represent the real face of the Tibetan struggle, and it is unlikely that his position will ever be challenged regardless of how impatient his young supporters become.

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The Dalai Lama has a great deal of moral capital precisely because, in a world of media consultants and other types of image-makers, he is as he comes across. That is not an egomaniac or someone trying to use the cause to advance himself in the international public eye. The question is how long can he claim to represent the Tibetans in China. If violence increases he will become irrelevant as a negotiator simply because young militants will decide he can't deliver anything despite all his concessions.

I known the position of the Chinese students here in the USA, armed with photos of smiling Tibetan children, who emphasize material improvement in the standard of living of Tibetans thanks to Beijing's high levels of investment. Given this, it is only a small number of malcontents causing all the problems and frankly you find complainers everywhere....

The problem is this reflects GNP growth that is disproportionately "captured" by those who live off-farm, in Lhasa or towns. Almost all Han Chinese settlers, mainly merchants and traders, fall into this category whereas ethnic Tibetans remain overwhelmingly rural where these benefits only trickle down.

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The reason the Chinese government will continue to point the finger at the Dalai Lama as the instigator of the unrest is because he's an outsider chummy with all these celebs who want to harm China's international image. Those who perpetrated the violence in fact are homegrown. They've lived all their lives under the red flag and, given that violence erupted in communities far from Lhasa, may not have ever set eyes on a foreigner much less spoken to one.

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What happened to the Last Emperors of China and Korea will be likely to repeat again. East Asians tend to think history is cyclical. The religious reader (Dalai Lama) want to change this old set of thinking. The political leader (Hu) want to keep this old way of thinking.

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Dalai Lama has ruled before as a great serf master.

Most Tibetans are happy with the current thing and they don't want to change.

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老郭,

Most Tibetans are happy with the current thing and they don't want to change.

We cannot know what most Tibetans want because there is no way to determine this in the absence of a survey (and there's no way Beijing is going allow that). Photos of smiling children are not a proxy for such a survey.

The political leader (Hu) want to keep this old way of thinking.

The Chinese feel if you've got the force there's no need to change your thinking. And they've got the force. The PLA has been there for five decades and Beijing wants to retain control over Tibet as a border zone with India. The Tibetans cannot mount an effective insurgency without weapons (which they don't have). All the Chinese victims, incidentally, were private citiizens going about daily life, not agents of the state (police, soldier).

In traditional Tibetan society ordered was maintained through reliance on the group. Anyone who violated its norms risked being banished and faced uncertain survival prospects in a harsh environment. Lhasa, by contrast, has been turned into a police state under Chinese rule. Not surprisingly, the police station is the highest building in the city.

I doubt many Tibetans want to go back to the old way of life. They simply want to be masters of their own home. The chances for this have dimmed as Chinese settlers, many of whom exhibit a get rich quick "frontier mentality," and Chinese state investment continue to change the landscape leaving the Tibetans marginalized.

The Chinese government will certainly not make any concessions to the Dalai Lama. It will, however, quietly work to improve employment prospects for young men who filled the ranks of the rioters (they always do). The Tibetans best chance for change comes not from taking on state power but from more enlightened leadership in Beijing which can appreciate what "self-determination" means to ethnic/religious minority groups.

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