The following impressions come after meeting the Dalai Lama for the second time in August 2011 (for the first meeting in May 2006 in Buenos Aires see Hubertus Hoffmann, Dalai Lama Exclusive: Thoughts of Tibet’s Spiritual Leader) now in the German state of Hessen, near Frankfurt in the heart of Europe, and having discussed the breath-taking progress in the People’s Republic of China in Beijing and Hong Kong as well with members of the Central Committee, generals, and some of the most successful Chinese businessmen, journalists, intellectuals and China experts.
By Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann
China should re-set its relationship with the Dalai Lama and start a new policy of harmony in Tibet from 2012/2013 in the interests of its own harmony, stability and progress, not to please the West. Beijing should start a new improved Tibet policy of reconciliation and respect including the protection and promotion of the Tibetan culture within the design of ‘soft autonomy’.
After nine unsuccessful rounds of talks with Beijing, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama should on the other side establish and publish a precise, fresh and convincing Autonomy and Reconciliation Plan for Tibet integrating a new pragmatic approach, professionalize his negotiation team with top foreign advisors, contain the more radical youth in Tibet who have once already got out of control in the riots of 2008 and persuade them to continue his peaceful Buddhist “Middle Way” for Tibet.
The aim is not independence any more but an acceptable kind of autonomy only for Tibet as agreed in 1951 by the communists with the Tibetans under chairman Mao, thus a re-set of this delicate relationship against cultural nihilism within the People’s Republic of China promoting respect and peace between the Han-Chinese and the Tibetans.
To give up the desire for independence and to focus on concrete talks about improvements with the representatives of the Dalai Lama was a strategy promoted by Premier Wen Jiabao in 2009 and even paramount Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping already in 1979 – until now without positive results.
China has the flexibility to initiate various sets of ‘soft autonomy’ in several different ways letting a hundred new flowers of real harmony blossom: with or without an agreement with the Dalai Lama, in the larger traditional region of Old Tibet or in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) only.
Beijing’s focus on economic progress is not enough to stabilize Tibet. What is needed is a double strategy of progress and respect to harmonize the delicate relationship and avoid further frustrations and riots.
New 5th generation leadership needs better policies
Just like last year, for the next 18 months a struggle for positions and power takes place in the 24 members strong Politburo and the 300 people large Central Committee of the Communist Party in Beijing prior to the takeover of the top leaders from the 4th to the 5th generation planned for autumn 2012 and 2013.
Then the current No. 6 ranking Vice President Xi Jinping (58) will take over the position as new party general secretary and a year later as president. Former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew praised Xi as a “thoughtful man who has gone through many trials and tribulations. I would put him in the Nelson Mandela class of persons.”
Li Keqiang (56), currently the No 7 ranking Vice Premier, will become the new Premier in 2013.
Both men represent a new generation and have a very strategic approach. China needs that. Up to now it has focused on economic growth only, and it next needs a clever double strategy of growth and domestic harmony, integrating fresh new thinking and public justice into politics, including cutting back the corruption and mismanagement of the too strong local government level.
Until 2013 policy-design in China will be frozen, and no changes are to be expected in main political arenas like Tibet.
The harsh actions within the last months versus China’s most famous artist Ai Weiwei, as well as other intellectuals, the punishment of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo who was recognised for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China, or the removal of the status of ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius from the front of the new National Museum in Beijing in April 2011 after it was placed there opposite Tiananmen Square only three months before, are all signs of a longer game of power-poker leading to a freeze in social harmony and progress.
But behind the stiff curtains in Beijing and within the top committees of the communist party there are astonishingly controversial and open discussions about political options and the way China should reform and best treat other countries, its population and minorities.
One important area of interest is how to treat the two frustrated ethnic groups in Xinjiang (Muslims) and Tibet and to reconcile them with the Han-Chinese. This article intends to address these internal discussions and describe some political options for China’s next leadership for Tibet.
I am convinced that a true harmonious peace is possible in Tibet which is not only good for the five million Tibetans but the whole 1.3 bn. strong population of big mother China as well and the Han-Chinese living there.
This had been intended by Chairman Mao for Tibet in 1951 – and he was right – but later the lust for totalitarian power, the neglect of the diverse cultural and religious heritage of China, and the destructive cultural evolution of nihilism led Beijing for too long on the path of disharmony with its ethnic minorities which today continues to frustrate both sides. This – and not the desire for respect of the minorities – still leads to frictions with the central power and threatens stability in the Chinese Empire.
It is in the national interest for Beijing to make a fresh assessment of its policies with regard to the national minorities – which are local majorities – in order to stabilize the country internally.
As a less important side-effect it will also increase China’s prestige and influence globally and give its foreign policy the credibility desperately needed in our globalized world. China’s main challenge in becoming a respected new centre of power is not that it has only one aircraft carrier and less than the US but instead that so far it has no credibility as a front-runner of human ethnic progress and freedom.
In Libya it recently lost its influence by sticking to dictator Col Gaddafi for too long and for being very late in recognizing the Benghazi based diverse rebel-movement. In several other African countries anti-Chinese sentiments are popping up. Yet, the dictator in Sudan wanted by the International Criminal Court is still China’s best friend. The same could happen in the much more important Iran several years from now. China depends by 65 percent – and in some years 70 percent – on oil-imports from those regions and must therefore ensure its influence which declined this year.
China’s foreign policy is still too static, old communist style influenced, and missing a respected soul. It needs renovation and new direction and it must adapt to the new world which is diverse and multi-polar.
Respect and cultural sensitivity are important elements of a harmonious global order where no majority suppresses any minority. A promotion of codes of tolerance and respect is needed to stabilize our global village (see www.codesoftolerance.com). This is fully in line with the design of a new global order which China has promoted for years. But a logical strategic approach is still missing with a domestic start first, and not in foreign countries.
The Beijing government faces many problems in the next decades internally and must start to reduce all areas of conflict step by step now – the sooner the better – before it is too late.
Premier Wen Jiabao told CNN on September 29, 2008:
“China is NOT a superpower. Although China has a population of 1.3 billion and although in recent years China has registered fairly fast economic and social development since reform and opening up, China still has this problem of unbalanced development between different regions and between China’s urban and rural areas. China remains a developing country.
We still have 800 million farmers in rural areas, and we still have dozens of million people living in poverty. As a matter of fact, over 60 million people in rural and urban areas in China still live on allowances for basic living costs in my country. And each year, we need to take care of about 23 million unemployed in urban areas and about 200 million farmers come and go to cities to find jobs in China. We need to make committed and very earnest efforts to address all these problems.
To address our own problems, we need to do a great deal. China is not a superpower. That’s why we need to focus on our own development and on our efforts to improve people’s lives.”
Can a policy of no experiments and no changes promote Chinese interests better than a continuous reform-process which is not stopped again and again but flows smoothly?
Should Angst about a Jasmine-revolution stop any reforms needed and dominate or cool new design and forward looking political management of progress?
Should China’s policy be stiff and exclusive or flexible and inclusive, integrating also the critical ethnic, religious and political elements or just contain and destroy them?
This is the discussion within the communist party now.
China’s economic policies are excellent and this country is also sometimes better than the EU and the US in longer-term planning and implementation. The last 30 years the annual growth rate was 9.6 percent. It lifted 400m people out of poverty in just three decades – a world record and AAA.
According to the Five Year Plan for 2010-2015, it needs a minimum of 7 to 8 percent annual growth to absorb the 23m people who enter the job-market each year. Missing this – President Hu Jintao told German Chancellor Merkel – would start “social destabilization”. Growth at almost any price is the new God of China. Exactly the same amount of growth is eaten up each year by environmental sins and wasted, so Beijing needs a totally new approach to protect nature in the interests of stability as well.
In 2009 exports dropped by 20 percent showing how vulnerable China is as it lives 70 percent from export and needs demands from the US, Europe and the rest of Asia as well.
The Chinese save too much money, with almost 60 percent of income saved compared to only 5 percent in the US and 11 percent in the EU in 2010, so consumption has to be stimulated for growth which requires the 1.3bn Chinese to have a positive perception of their future and safety.
It is often forgotten that China’s Communist Party has no ideological legitimacy left but is only respected by people for the high growth rate. What happens if growth is slowed as we see in the US or Europe now?
Gucci, Prada, and Audi and BMW cars are now the new religion for the rich and the poor. Missing is a non-materialistic soul. The Chinese leadership needs to fill this spiritual vacuum with the elements of traditional wisdom from Confucius, Buddha and the Christian beliefs.
Beijing is fixated on fighting any regional autonomy at any price as dangerous “separatism” along with “terrorism” still. Is this wise or frustrating the people?
Are these the lessons learned from the Arabellion?
Or did those autocrats in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia fall so quickly within a few months because they reformed nothing or did too little too late?
Is there a danger of China becoming an empty shell of stability?
Or making the mistakes of the Emperors who thought wrongly that they did not need Western know-how when the British offered cooperation in the 18th century?
We should not transfer our Western thinking onto the Chinese who follow their own world and see it through different glasses and filters, but the logic of the downfall of autocrats is the same all over the world.
China’s leadership is in danger of a new Mandarin Syndrome:
- Too much China-centred thinking, and tight administration control as in 1793 during the Lord George Macartney mission, when it missed the opportunity to peacefully adopt diplomatic relations and share essential know-how with England.
- Overrating the power of the state – which in revolutionary times can be overtaken quickly by mass-movements – and
- Under-estimating the need for steady reforms, a balance of power system to avoid its misuse and the desire of the different groups within China for social and legal justice.
There is always a strong group within the leadership who realize these dangers, but they are blocked and repeatedly neutralized by so called conservative rival-groups who halt reforms in order to preserve the old system and the status quo as long as possible.
The task is not to adopt democratic values, human rights and a perfect Westminster democracy over night per se but to design and implement a new durable and credible Chinese concept of stability for a China designed by the communist party.
Like a good cook, China must mix its own spices with elements of freedom, power-control, economic progress and environmental protection.
Without human rights and the integration of the interests of the people and ethnic minorities, this Wok-dish will be not be digestible and will keep China hungry and unstable forever.
In 1992 Premier Li Peng wrote to Henry Kissinger that he is convinced that the Chinese people should have “more democratic rights and more influence on policy” – a clear sign that the leadership understands well the needs for reform. But where is the implementation?
The trauma and mantra of Chinese policy is to avoid being manipulated again by foreign powers. But in reality its own wrong stiff and arrogant Mandarin-policy in the 18th century enabled exactly this, and by a freeze of reforms and a policy of ignorance shifted China from the status of a great power to impotence.
The loss of realism and the arrogance of the power of the Chinese Emperor in the 18th century stopped progress and enabled the Western powers to obtain superiority over this large country: any new Red Mandarin should always remember this. Deng Xiaoping warned them, as did Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, whom Henry Kissinger praised as the most capable foreign minister he had met.
At the moment the legitimacy of communist rule is based purely on economic growth of more than 8 percent annually, ensuring a better standard of living for millions. If this growth cannot persist other conflicts can pop up quickly and the communist party will lose respect.
Is it not better to reduce all major factors causing tension now than to bet on stability by endless growth only? Is the current strategy of no political reforms not too risky for China?
Often we think that the Chinese politicians and diplomats are wise and super-smart as they represent a culture 3,000 years old and the biggest country on earth. In reality the movers-and-shakers are no better than those in Washington or Berlin, Paris or London. Many super-smarts are mainly involved in business. Most politicians and diplomats make a stiff impression, avoid risk-taking, and follow stereotypes and the demand for a broad consensus. Thus they could become victims of their own limited world-view – like the super-strong autocrats in the Arab world.
One lesson from the revolutions in the USSR, all over Eastern Europe, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya is this: never wait too long with reforms – it will be too late. In politics it is better to be bamboo than porcelain – broken later.
China has reformed its economic policy in the past 30 years but its foreign policy and policies towards minorities are still old-style and a risk for China.
Beijing missed its chance to get rid of the old elements of the cultural-revolution versus minorities and the stereotypes and old reflexes in foreign affairs. Both lack progress and new thinking.
It has not yet implemented its new strength in a modern self-confident and more relaxed foreign policy.
It is missing a Bismarck or Kissinger type of genius foreign minister to give it direction.
It is losing face and reputation by alignments with obscure dictators from Sudan to Iran to North Korea whom none of the other respected 190 countries would like to have as best friends and allies.
China’s foreign policy is still un-reformed in its teenage-phase and lacks strategic depth which is no good for the country and the world.
China’s policies in some aspects remind me of the many mistakes which German Kaiser Wilhelm II made after Germany had been united under Bismarck in 1871 and the genius Iron Chancellor was dismissed. The ambiguous Emperor set out on an aggressive and fatal course – including establishing a German colony from 1897 to 1914 in Qingdao (Tsingtau) in China and invading Beijing in 1900 with allied troops during the Boxer uprising. International adventures of the late-comer, too strong nationalisms, an aggressive policy towards the United Kingdom and France and the stop of inner reforms ended in the ruins of WWI and his resignation in 1918 and as well paved the way to the hell of WWII. Newcomer Germany became the strongest land- and economical power for four decades in Europe but lost everything within four years.
Any Chinese politician should study this phase in detail and avoid repeating the mistakes of a country coming late onto the stage of world politics without moderate, fair and balanced policies for its neighbours and its people.
New China is not the old Kaiserreich. Until now China has been defensive as in its previous history and promotes a multi-polar world-order where not only the US dominates. In his article “China’s peaceful Rise to Great-Power Status” in Foreign Affairs in September 2005, Zheng Bijian labelled the rise of China as a “democratization of the international order with China avoiding the mistakes of Germany prior to WWI and WWII and promoting open and harmonious relations on the basis of equality”.
In December 2010 Dai Bingguo, the highest ranking official in the foreign office, argued with Deng Xiaoping “who demanded that China should behave in a modest and careful way, seeking no leadership, hegemony or expansion” (in “Persisting with Taking the Path of Peaceful Development”).
But nationalism is also booming like nationalistic teenagers. In two best-sellers from 2009 and 2010 the authors argue that China has become hugely powerful and America has been weakened. The US will be always be aggressive therefore China needs powerful forces. China should become the number one country in the world and promote its values as well as its goods abroad.
Both groups will struggle from 2012 onwards when the 5th leadership will take over command in Beijing.
As a long-time admirer of China for more than 30 years, I am impressed by several of the excellent decisions of the central government and the progress which has been made.
I disagree with some American views that this country presents a threat to others and see the rise of China as a normal and positive development. As yet there has been no aggressiveness as there was with the German Kaiserreich. China has the right to have safe borders and to play a greater role in Asia. But it must reform its foreign policy and is behind schedule to do so.
Beijing should cut cosy alliances with North Korea, Iran and Sudan, turn the minority policy 180 degrees from confrontation to reconciliation and also establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican (see Dr. Hubertus Hoffmann: The Pope and Beijing) as part of a fresh empowerment of China in foreign affairs und the reduction of ethnic tensions domestically – in its own interest for real harmony. After these steps forward China will be more powerful.
This change is not a reaction to pressure from outside or foreign intervention into internal affairs but a reaction to requirements from inside China; it is not necessary to please the West but to make China more stable and stronger.
I also 100 percent agree with the main policy directive of the 4th generation of leaders under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to form a Chinese society and a world of harmony.
In his CNN interview in 2008 Wen Jiabao stressed the need for the respect for human rights:
“China has actually become more open. Anyone without biases will see — have seen that. The freedom of speech and the freedom in news media coverage are guaranteed in China. The Chinese government attaches importance to, and protects, human rights. We have incorporated these lines into the Chinese constitution, and we also implement the stipulation in real earnest. I think for any government, what is most important, is to ensure that its people enjoy each and every right given to them by the constitution.
Including their right to survival, freedom and to pursue their happiness.
We don’t think that we are impeccable in terms of human rights. It is true that in some places and in some areas, we do have problems of this kind or that kind. Nonetheless, we are continuing to make efforts to make improvements, and we want to further improve human rights in our country.”
But the middle-class-members of the Communist Party and bureaucracy and the local authorities have until now ignored this wise leadership. Even worse when Wen Jiabao spoke in CNN about the protection of freedom the propaganda officials dared to cut his words out of the news-stream in China. I have never before heard about the head of the government of any authoritarian government to be censored by people of much lower rank.
In January 2011 a statute of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius was placed in front of the new national museum in Beijing but removed and hidden months later on the demand of the old guard.
It shows division within the government which is dangerous and unacceptable: when the left hand struggles with the right hand to lead this huge country into the future – it is paralysing China.
Change of Tibetan government is opportunity to re-set relations
In August 2011 Zhang Qingli was removed – he had followed a hard-line policy in Tibet as the leader of the communist party there for five years including the suppression of the uprisings in 2008. His successor is Chen Quanguo – until recently the governor of the north-Chinese province Hebei.
The Dalai Lama stepped down as the political head of the Tibetan government in exile in March 2011.
In a first democratic process the Tibetans in exile elected in March 2011 with 55 percent of the vote Lobsang Sangay (43), who has a PhD in law from Harvard, as new Premier or Kalon Tripa and their new political leader. In his speech in the parliament of Hessen the Dalai Lama argued in August 2011: “The world belongs to humanity and to the people, not to any party.” (see WSN TV Interview: Dalai Lama, The world belongs to humanity)
Together with the influential monk Gyakwang Karmapa, who is only 26 years old, this new government of Tibet-in-exile brings fresh young faces and a new dynamic.
The obstacle of the Dalai Lama as political figure-head of Tibet in exile is now gone, so Beijing could and should re-set the button for better relations with its tiny minority on the roof of the world .
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria in 2008:
“Our issue with the Dalai Lama is not an ethnic, religious or cultural issue in the ordinary sense. It’s a major principled issue concerning safeguarding the country’s unity or allowing efforts to separate a country.
And we must adopt a two-pronged approach in viewing the Dalai Lama. On one hand, it is true that the Dalai is a religious leader, and he enjoys certain influence in the Tibetan region, and particularly in regions in which the inhabitants believe in Buddhism. And, on the other hand, we must also be aware that he is not an ordinary religious figure. The so-called government in exile founded by the Dalai Lama practices a theocratic rule. And the purpose of this so-called government in exile is to separate Tibet from China.
In many places all over the world, the Dalai Lama keeps preaching about the idea of a so-called autonomy in the greater Tibetan region. In fact, the so-called autonomy that he pursues is actually to use religion to intervene in politics. They want to separate the so-called greater Tibetan region from the motherland. Many people have no idea how big the so-called greater Tibetan region is – this region as preached by the Dalai Lama actually covers Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu – five provinces altogether. Moreover, the so-called called greater Tibetan region accounts for a quarter of China’s territory.
For decades, our policy towards the Dalai Lama remains unchanged: that is, as long as the Dalai Lama is willing to recognize that Tibet is an inalienable part of China’s territory, and as long as the Dalai Lama gives up his separatist activities, we’re willing to have contact and hold talks with him or his representatives.
Now, sincerity holds the key to producing a result out of the talks. After the Tibet incident back in the 1950s, the highest leader of the central government, Mr. Deng Xiaoping, also met the representatives of the Dalai Lama.
We hope that he can use real actions to show sincerity – by giving up separatist activities – and break the deadlock.”
So the doors are open for talks and compromises.
These thoughts are in line with Chinese ruler Deng Xiaoping. In 1979, this late Chinese paramount leader proposed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama that “except independence, all other issues can be resolved through negotiations”. This was very much in agreement with the Dalai Lama’s long-held belief of finding a mutually-beneficial solution. Immediately, the Dalai Lama gave a favourable response by agreeing to undertake negotiations and decided to change the policy of restoring Tibet’s independence to that of the Middle-Way Approach seeking autonomy only.
This fresh approach should be re-vitalized in the interest of China in 2013 by its new leadership.
Stop protests but ignore meetings with the Dalai Lama
First action is to give up the policy of protest when the Dalai Lama meets politicians – this harms China’s national interests more than it promotes them. Just ignoring these meetings makes much more sense for now.
Until now third-ranking spokesmen and -women from the Foreign Ministry, asked about the Dalai Lama by foreign correspondents, repeat negative stereotypes about him (“separatist” or “damon”) and protest about any meetings. When the Prime Minister of Hessen met the Dalai Lama in August 2011 the Chinese General Council protested as usual and intervened when the President of the Hessen parliament invited the Dalai Lama to speak.
First, is it not always an internal affair when you invite a foreigner to speak in your home-country?
Second, it is illogical, as the Beijing government holds decreed talks with ambassadors from the Dalai Lama – so who meets whom for discussion after now nine rounds of meetings in China? Why should a foreign dignity not meet him when the Chinese meet his delegates?
Third, the Western countries never complain when the Chinese President meets with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir even though he is wanted since 2009 by the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Fourth, all Western politicians have a positive effect on the Dalai Lama as they all promote peaceful dialogue. After the 2008 riots in Lhasa it is good for Beijing to have the Western friends of the Dalai Lama on their side as well. You never know what will happen next, so never act aggressively against someone you may need in years to come.
Fifth, Beijing may even need His Holiness to make a deal before a more aggressive young generation takes full control – remembering the riots in 2008.
Sixth, (most important from the view of politicians who want to contain the influence of the Dalai Lama), only the over-reaction of the Foreign Office makes headlines in the international news and make him politically important. The effect created is the opposite of the intension.
Seventh, it looks very strange when the strong Chinese dragon complains about such a minor event over and over again. Thus China reduces itself in the eyes of the global community and loses face.
If I were a hard-core nationalist in China I would feel ashamed: too much attention is given to the Dalai Lama. And is it really important for the 1.3bn Chinese when he meets whom?
These over-reactions are a clear sign of insecurity and an inferiority-complex among some in the Foreign Office which has to be stopped soon and supplemented by much better just-ignore-it policy for now.
No Separatism but Autonomy only
In an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in August 2011, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying argued again that the problem with the Dalai Lama is “that when you read his website he promotes an independent Tibet and Tibet is a part of China”. This statement shows that even high-ranking officials become victims of their own propaganda and lose face when not telling the truth to the world which should never be the PR of an up-coming super-power.
In a speech in March 2011 published on the Dalai Lama’s official website (www.dalailama.com) he said: “In our efforts to solve the issue of Tibet, we have consistently pursued the mutually beneficial Middle-Way Approach, which seeks genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the PRC. In our talks with officials of the Chinese government’s United Front Work Department we have clearly explained in detail the Tibetan people’s hopes and aspirations. The lack of any positive response to our reasonable proposals makes us wonder whether these were fully and accurately conveyed to the higher authorities.”
On his website the Dalai Lama describes in detail how autonomy should be established:
“Without seeking independence for Tibet, the Central Tibetan Administration strives for the creation of a political entity comprising the three traditional provinces of Tibet; Such an entity should enjoy a status of genuine national regional autonomy; This autonomy should be governed by the popularly-elected legislature and executive through a democratic process and should have an independent judicial system; As soon as the above status is agreed upon by the Chinese government, Tibet would not seek separation from, and remain within, the People’s Republic of China; Until the time Tibet is transformed into a zone of peace and non-violence, the Chinese government can keep a limited number of armed forces in Tibet for its protection; The Central Government of the People’s Republic of China has the responsibility for the political aspects of Tibet’s international relations and defence, whereas the Tibetan people should manage all other affairs pertaining to Tibet, such as religion and culture, education, economy, health, ecological and environmental protection; The Chinese government should stop its policy of human rights violations in Tibet and the transfer of Chinese population into Tibetan areas; To resolve the issue of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shall take the main responsibility of sincerely pursuing negotiations and reconciliation with the Chinese government.”
In our first meeting in Buenos Aires in May 2006 the Dalai Lama argued: (see Hubertus Hoffmann, Dalai Lama Exclusive: Thoughts of Tibet’s Spiritual Leader)
“Tibet does not strive to become independent from China, but rather to receive cultural and domestic autonomy. Foreign and security policy can continue to be represented by Beijing. Despite massive oppression for almost 50 years, more than 90 percent of Tibetans continue to refuse to accept the excessive control from Beijing. Murder, torture and intimidation have had and continue to have no effect. This is why Tibet is unstable-only autonomy can bring about real stability.”
60 years later China should return to the wise Tibet policy of Chairman Mao:
On May 23, 1951, the Central People’s Government and the local government of Tibet agreed on a 17 point plan to rule the relationship which was forced upon the Tibetans by superior China:
“3. In accordance with the policy towards nationalities laid down in the Common Programme of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Tibetan people have the right of exercising national regional autonomy under the unified leadership of the Central People’s Government.
4. The Central Authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet. The Central Authorities also will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama. Officials of various ranks shall hold office as usual…….
7. The policy of freedom of religious belief laid down in the Common Programme of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference will be protected. The Central Authorities will not affect any change in the income of the monasteries.”
In the preamble of this agreement the relationship between the Chinese and the Tibetans is precisely described as a harmonious big family of nationalities with guaranteed autonomy:
“In accordance with the Common Programme passed by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the Central People’s Government declared that all nationalities within the boundaries of the People’s Republic of China are equal, and that they shall establish unity and mutual aid and oppose imperialism and their own public enemies, so that the People’s Republic of China may become one big family of fraternity and cooperation, composed of all its nationalities.
Within this big family of nationalities of the People’s Republic of China, national regional autonomy is to be exercised in areas where national minorities are concentrated, and all national minorities are to have freedom to develop their spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their customs, habits, and religious beliefs, and the Central People’s Government will assist all national minorities to develop their political, economic, cultural, and educational construction work. Since then, all nationalities within the country, with the exception of those in the areas of Tibet and Taiwan, have gained liberation. Under the unified leadership of the Central People’s Government and the direct leadership of the higher levels of People’s Governments, all national minorities have fully enjoyed the right of national equality and have exercised, or are exercising, national regional autonomy.”
Was Mao wrong or wise?
Although he first disliked this agreement, now the Dalai Lama demands with his Middle-way-approach only what Mao already agreed in this document from 1951, so it should be in line with the Communist Party and the central government as well to come back to this fundamental agreement.
The local government still ignores the fair rules from 1951, and the need for cultural autonomy and identity, instead following a policy of suppression showing too little respect.
The Tibetan culture is linked to nomadic life with 2.25 million people still following this way of life. The Chinese want to re-locate them in ghetto-style-housing blocks. In the next five years 100,000 families living as nomads are to be forced to give up their 1000-year way of life and abandon their cattle to live in new anonymous housing complexes. 50,000 nomad families have been forced into this Han-Chinese life-style in the last few years, losing their traditional homes, life-style, independence and dignity.
Still there are few street signs in both Chinese and Tibetan language and official documents have Chinese as the only official language.
The numbers of monks and nuns are restricted and the monasteries controlled despite the guarantee in the 1982 constitution of the PRC granting freedom of religious belief.
Land is given to Chinese colonists and the focus of the economy is on resource extraction for Chinese companies.
In 2007 the Chinese government issued a report outlining the discovery of a large deposit of zinc, copper, and lead under the Tibetan Plateau estimated at USD 128 bn.
The Qingzang railway links the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) with Qinghai province since 2006.
In January 2010 a national conference on Tibet called for an increase of the Tibetan income to national standards by 2020 and free education for all children.
The annual growth of TAR GDP was 12.3 percent over the last nine years with USD 46bn invested by the central government.
Development is welcomed but not the domination of the Chinese over the traditional culture and life-style.
The Tibetans have become second class citizens and inferior to the Han Chinese in their own country missing real harmony and respect for the majority. This makes them angry and aggressive and caused the riots of 2008 out of sheer frustration.
Just waiting for the Dalai Lama to pass away may be the wrong strategy as more aggressive younger leaders could take over and complicate any settlement.
The Dalai Lama needs a new Autonomy and Reconciliation Plan for Tibet and a better team
On the other side the position of the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama are weakened by two factors:
First: no clear and short Autonomy and Reconciliation Plan for Tibet has been published and promoted by him with precise demands and proposals and outlining the first pragmatic steps forward. His negotiation team has concentrated in the nine rounds on confidence building measures, which lead only to vagueness and produce not even small results.
It must be made clearer which areas should be included in the Tibetan autonomy. The Dalai Lama wants to include “Old Tibet” with all three original provinces: U’sang, Kham and Amdo. But Kham and Amdo are now largely incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan.
Old Tibet is very large and covers 25 percent of the territory of the PRC now. When talking about Tibet the Chinese politicians mean only the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) established in 1965 which includes less than half of the traditional Tibetan land.
According to a Chinese census in 2000, ethnic Tibetans comprise 92 percent (2.4 million) of the population in TAR. Another one million Tibetans live in the province of Qinghai (23 percent), 455,000 in the province of Sichuan (53 percent), 117,000 in Kunan and 330,000 (51 percent) in Gansu.
In total approx. five million Tibetans live in China with a focus in TAR and Qinghai. So any autonomy must consider this population outside the TAR as well.
Second: his team of negotiators with China looks weak. It is headed by the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy Lodi G. Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen and supported by senior assistants Tenzin P. Atisha, Bhuchung K. Tseringnand Jigmey Passang from the Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations without long-term political experience in diplomacy and politics.
The negotiations with Beijing since the 1980s are burdened by these negative influences. The Dalai Lama is weak because his team is. He must integrate experienced foreign advisors and make a visionary plan for Tibet out of all elements known to be successful or he will not prevail within the next years.
The Autonomy and Reconciliation Plan for Tibet should start with elements from the 1951 agreement with the Communist Government and integrate the following points as a compromise:
1. In the next five negotiation rounds a pragmatic reconciliation approach and double strategy of economic progress and cultural respect implemented in small steps discussed and agreed between the Chinese and the representatives of the Dalai Lama. Both sides should enter the next rounds with a list of first steps and a time-table. Beijing could show goodwill to improve the cultural identity of the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama should praise the PRC for it and as well for economic progress. Thus trust can be build up in several small steps.
2. Separate standing working-groups to focus on important areas of progress like education, language and culture, religion in more detail.
3. It could even be possible to carve out the issue of political autonomy and which parts of Old Tibet should be included and agree on a ‘soft autonomy’ providing more religious and cultural autonomy all over Old Tibet only. After five years the second round could discuss the more complicated issues. Maybe by then China will have reformed itself and become self-confident enough to give more political rights to local communities.
4. The basis of the status of Tibet and reconciliation with China should be the re-vitalization of the 17 point agreement from May 23, 1951, between the Central People’s Government and the local government of Tibet including:
- The right of national equality and regional autonomy of Tibet.
- The Central Authorities will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the 14th Dalai Lama who is also entitled to pick his successor as a purely religious matter.
- The policy of freedom of religious belief will be protected as well as language, life-style, monasteries, Tibetan Buddhism and culture.
- Tibetan and Chinese as equal official languages for all documents, street-signs, and at schools.
5. No independence for Tibet but a ‘soft autonomy’ in domestic and cultural affairs. There are several benchmarks and best practices to learn from with concrete improvements such as the Accord on South Tyrol by the Republics of Italy and Austria from 1972; the bilateral agreement and treatment of the Danish and the German minorities in the state of Schleswig-Holstein in North Germany or the Sorbian minority in the German state of Saxony. Autonomy can have different faces. It is never separatism but a maximum of respect and cultural diversity avoiding the domination of the central state over the wishes of the local population. Small steps and signs are important and good-will day by day as well. Foreign, security and macro-economic policies will continue to be represented by Beijing.
6. ‘Flexible autonomy’ which can be limited to the Tibet Autonomous Region as the core of Tibet but with all cultural guarantees for all other parts of old Tibet in Qinhai and Sichuan as a territorial compromise. The term ‘autonomy’ could be filled with more or less content and maybe even changed to the term ‘harmonious friendship”. Important is real respect and preservation of the Tibetan culture and religion – including full autonomy of all monasteries and the Dalai Lama as religious leader – in all parts of Old Tibet and concrete reconciliation of the five million Tibetans with the Han-Chinese and the Beijing government. The benchmark in China could be the agreement and successful experience in Hong Kong.
7. Use of peaceful means only and a polite wording in the public.
8. General amnesty for both sides for any previous violations and establishment of a Tibetan Truth and Reconciliation Commission as was very successfully done by Bishop Desmond Tutu after the Apartheid in South Africa and copied by more than 20 countries to promote deeper reconciliation. Release of all prisoners.
9. Establishment of a Permanent Round Table in Lhasa with the local government promoting reconciliation efforts on all levels (see www.codesoftolerance.com for details for politicians).
10.Annual Progress Report Tibet published by the Round Table to be presented to Beijing. Before such an agreement is reached the exiled government of Tibet should publish an annual Progress Report Tibet including positive and negative developments.
The implementation of such an original best practice Reconciliation Plan for Tibet from 2013 to 2020 – based on Mao’s principles from 1951 and the wisdom of Deng Xiaoping from 1979 – will be one important corner-stone of a fresh stabilization-policy of the 5th leadership generation with several positive effects within China and outside.
Stability and progress of the Chinese society by integration and not domination is the golden path of the future. This has been shown very well in Hong Kong in the last few years by the policies of Beijing and the local authorities as best practice in China.
Only such a policy of true harmony and consensus fits into the 3,000 year-old Chinese wisdom and native traditions of Confucius and Buddha – and our global village. There rests truth, justice, peace and prosperity for China and its 1.3bn people. Any true China-loving nationalist must follow that path of the Chinese souls as well.
China will learn that it is in its own interests not only to preserve Mother Nature such as the few famous Panda bears that are now left but also its minorities with their cultural heritage as a bonus for the empire and internal and external harmony.
Harmony will prevail and cultural nihilism decline as the last element remaining from the destructive period of the Cultural Revolution.
Eight years ago, the now elected Kalon Tripa (Premier) of the exile government, Lobsang Sangay speculated in a discussion panel in Harvard:
“If a Chinese leader resolves the issue of Tibet and shows that China is changing, he may be the first Chinese to win the Nobel Peace Prize.”
After the decoration of Liu Xiaobo with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 he now would be the second Chinese recipient, but the first Chinese politician and also equal to decorated US Presidents Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama and China door-opener Henry Kissinger.