Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 9


HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES, RECENT RELATIONS Recent Sino-Tibetan Dialogue / Democratization Evolution of the Chinese Democracy Movement and the Tibetan Issue

Elliot Sperling, Moderator ELLIOT SPERLING Thank you very much. I know when I'm referred to as Professor Sperling, they mean business. Again, my apologies to the panel, as I'm going to have to really be something of a dictator on this [keeping strictly to time allotments]. Our first paper is by Dawa Norbu who, unfortunately, can't be with us today. But it will be read by Lobsang Gyatso. Dawa Norbu is a professor in The School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and is very well-known as a former editor of _Tibetan Review_, the author of several articles dealing with modern Tibet, and his well-known autobiographical account of his earlier days in Tibet, _Red Star Over Tibet_. His paper, as I said, will be read by Lobsang Gyatso, so give a warm welcome to the mellifluous tones of Lobsang Gyatso! (Editors' Note: Mr. Norbu expressed his regret for not being able to attend the conference, and also for not having had the time to revise his original paper. Mr. Norbu strongly urges all interested parties to read his "China's Dialogue with the Dalai Lama, 1978-90: The Pre-negotiation Stage or Dead End?" See Note 1.] PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON RECENT SINO-TIBETAN NEGOTIATIONS

by Dawa Norbu Elsewhere [Note l], I have analyzed the process of Sino-Tibetan negotiations, and there is no point of rehashing that substance into this paper. Instead, I shall present my personal reflections on the problems in Sino-Tibetan negotiations which have to be removed if negotiations are to resume in earnest. Secondly, I shall update my paper, warranted by recent changes in the American policy towards China. I believe such reflections are worth sharing with such a gathering as this; for as academics we often don't put in an academic paper all the thoughts that cross our mind while writing such a paper. This means I speak rather frankly.

1. CULTURAL BARRIERS Chinese in general and Communist authorities in particular usually suffer from a lack of understanding and appreciation of distinctive Tibetan civilization. This is not surprising for two reasons. First, Chinese usually hold a Sinocentric view of non-Han social groups, being always proud of Chinese historical achievement. This leads to a low estimate of Tibetan cultural achievement in history and therefore questions the Tibetan people's ability to govern by themselves. Second, Han habitual low estimation of Tibetans becomes somewhat understandable when we remember that Tibetan culture and language, social and political institutions differ so fundamentally from those of Han China. In this respect it is the duty of Chinese Tibetologists to give an historically accurate perspective on and a positive appreciation of Tibetan civilization to their public and leaders so that the latter get a reasoned view of the Tibetan people and their achievement in history. As long as the Chinese do not change their Sinocentric view of Tibetans, which amounts to milder version of "barbarians," Beijing will continue to rationalize its domination of Tibet as "Han-man's burden". This leads to the Chinese belief that they can do a better job of ruling and developing Tibet than Tibetans themselves which is ridiculous.

This is not an occasion to give a lecture on the various aspects of Tibetan civilization. However, I might mention an example. Recently (August 21 - 28, 1992), I attended the sixth conference of the International Association of Tibetan Studies in Norway. Over 200 Tibetologists from all over the world presented research papers on Tibetan history and socio-political institutions, language and literature, religious and philosophy, art and architecture, medicine and astrology, culture and society etc. etc. It is important to note that most of the participants are from Europe and North America, who think that there are intrinsic values in the academic pursuit of Tibetan studies. It is therefore high time that the Chinese change their biased view of the Tibetan race. There is no doubt that Tibetans had already reached a high level of civilization, no matter how different it is from the Chinese one. Logically the same intelligence and diligence reflected in Tibetan cultural achievement may be applied to the pursuit of modernization. The transition cannot be too problematic as shown by the Japanese example.

I have digressed into the cultural dimension in order to indicate the cultural barriers in Sino-Tibetan dialogue. For beneath the Chinese authorities' refusal to concede to the Dalai Lama's political demands may be the Han chauvinistic belief that Han can do better than the Tibetans in Tibet. However, according to ethnicity, there is no substitute for the self, no matter, how able the 'other' may be.

2. FAULTY CHINESE NEGOTIATIONS STRATEGY If cultural barriers stand on the way of general Sino-Tibetan understanding, Beijing's faulty negotiation strategy has proved to be the biggest obstacle to its dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This strategy would become apparent if we analyze the Chinese stand and statements between 1978 and 1990. Chinese leaders and diplomats abroad have always maintained the position that China is always ready to talk with the Dalai Lama, thereby implying that it is the Tibetans who are obstinate. This is not the truth as we shall demonstrate. For whenever the Tibetan delegates had gone to the negotiation table such as in 1982 and 1984, the Chinese had shown _no_ willingness to compromise on the fundamental issues affecting the future of Tibetan people. They simply dictated the basic terms and conditions which, they categorically declared, the Tibetans must accept, otherwise the negotiations is closed. This is not the generally accepted meaning of negotiations or dialogue. Successful negotiation outcome can result if both parties show sincere willingness to enforce compromised solutions to conflicting interests. Chinese dictated terms and conditions can't be called talks, dialogue or negotiation.

Why Beijing insists on declaring that its door to negotiation is ever open and yet when the Tibetan delegates participate in such a negotiation, the Chinese side invariably dictate the basic terms and conditions -- must be clearly understood. This propagandistic strategy is dictated by two ulterior motives. First, through this propaganda China hopes to diffuse the growing international pressure on Beijing to accept the Dalai Lama's reasonable peace proposal: "Five-Point Peace Plan" (September 21, 1987) and "Strasbourg Statement" (June 15, 1988). In doing so they hope to put the ball in the Tibetan court. It is a Chinese make-belief. Second, they hope to buy time until such time as the present Dalai Lama's passing which would, they hope, extinguish the Tibetan cause. The second motive indicates that Beijing is not keen or sincere in reaching a compromised solution to the Tibetan issue except one dictated by China, which is unacceptable to the Tibetans. This means stalemate in Sino-Tibetan negotiation but for propaganda sake China insists on calling for talks with the Dalai Lama so as to diffuse international pressure.

The assumption on which the Chinese negotiation strategy is based is the following: time is against the Tibetans and China can afford to buy more time until such time as the Dalai Lama's passing, after which Chinese will and design will be executed in Tibet. The long-term Chinese strategy is to kill the very idea of Tibet and Tibetans once and for all. This they believe can be done gradually and systematically, provided China resists the present international pressure.

This assumption may not prove to be correct in the light of the Tibetan culture and comparative knowledge of similar cases in the former Soviet Union. The idea of reincarnation institution is very much alive in exile as indicated by the recent discovery of the Karmapa and many others in South Asia. To be sure there might be some lull after the present Dalai Lama's death in Tibetan activity but his death won't spell the end of Tibetans. For the fact is that the idea of Tibet and Tibetans is a very ancient one, deeply rooted in Tibetan religion, Tibetan language, Tibetan social institutions, Tibetan history and literature, and indeed such ideas may be embedded in the very landscape of the Tibetan plateau. It would be practically impossible for the Han nationalists to eradicate Tibetan culture and identity even as a long term project. In fact the more the Han nationalists Hanize Tibetans, Tibetans will more strongly assert their identity as a reaction. If the Chinese do not believe in what I am trying to explain, they should consult their cultural anthropologists on the viability of their long-tern project in Tibet. It is a Stalinist fantasy which history and culture might prove to be wrong and unjustified.


Finally, we must briefly note the recent changes in the US policy towards China, which have direct implications to the progress of Sino-Tibetan negotiations. This means I must update the international political situation that previously formed the background of my 1991 article on Sino-Tibetan dialogue. In that article I described the pre-1991 Western pressure on China with regard to Sino-Tibetan dialogue as "loyal opposition". Now with the global changes since 1991, we may omit the adjective "loyal" from "opposition;" Western pressure now means more serious business than before. Why is this so?

In order to answer that question, we must understand the motives behind and the circumstances under which the Nixon-Kissinger policy toward Communist China took shape in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As far as President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger were concerned, China was perceived to function as a great Asian power that _could counterbalance_ Soviet power in Asia if not the world. At that time the function of China in the US global strategy was just being-China, and basically that was all. As such in the bi-polar structure of the international system that prevailed prior to 1991, China was courted by both super powers for more than fifteen years. I submit that favorable period for China is now over with the emerging unipolar world.

With the disintegration of the Soviet empire in 1991, the role that the USA assigned to China in 1971 became absolutely redundant. The 'other' super power that China was expected to counterbalance in Asia and the world in general practically disappeared. The change in American policy towards China became visible after the Gulf war as evident, for example, in President Bush's meeting with the Dalai Lama. Now it is clear that western policy towards China is how to _control_ the emerging Chinese power in Asia and check Chinese political ambitions in the global system. The US and France's decision to sell F-16s and Mirage 2000s to Taiwan is a good indicator of this new China policy to be followed by the US and Western powers in the years to come.

How does Tibet figure in this new international political situation? There is no dearth of public support for the Tibetan cause in the West, and there is little doubt that Western public pressure on their respective governments to take up the Tibetan issue will increase. Such has been the popular Western interest in Tibet for a long time. But now I see a compelling rationale in the new international situation for Western powers and actively with regard to the Tibetan Question. For example, the USA and India have usually found the Tibetan card a rather useful instrument to regulate and control their relations with China. Therefore, I see more danger in China's obstinate refusal to concede to some of the Dalai Lama's political demands. It might indeed be in China's ultimate interest to negotiate a compromised solution to the vexed Tibet issue, an issue that will be kept alive not only by the Tibetans but also by Western powers.

Despite the preceding changes in the international political scene during the past year, China does not appear to have changed it's intransigent attitude towards the Tibetan issue. its latest ten-point proposal (August 1992 ) [2] does not offer any new concession to the Tibetan people. It is a reaffirmation and elaboration of Deng Xiaoping's statement (December 3, 1978) and Hu Yaobang's five-point proposal (July 28, 1981). In particular the ten-point proposal declares that Deng's 1978 statement must be adhered to in future Sino-Tibetan negotiations, and lists "greetings to the Tibetans" in exile as one of the ten points: Although they are keen to resume the contact with China, most Dharamsala politicians are not happy with Beijing's latest peace offensive, the ten-point proposal. Notes 1. Dawa Norbu, "China's Dialogue with the Dalai Lama,

1978-90: The Pre-negotiation stage or Dead End?" _Pacific Affairs_ Vol. 64: No 3 (Fall 1991), pp 351-372 and reprinted in April and May issues, 1992 _Tibetan Review_, New Delhi.

2. Robbie Barnett, "Tibetans May Send Team to Beijing," Tibet Information Network, London: August 6, 1992.
Armed Struggle in the Offing Another editorial by Prof. Dawa T. Norbu (printed in 1976) If the various Tibetan youth publications are any indication, there is growing militancy among the youth in exile. Some of their writings are full of sound and fury of violence, and whether they will signify anything is yet to be seen. However, at least one thing seems to be certain: a sizable section of the youth has at last summoned enough courage to challange the heaven-ordained policies of their leader. Even if their militant mood is a sign of youthful impatience and frustration, it must be welcomed as an encouraging reminder that the Tibetan youth in exile, upon whose shoulder the national burden falls, have not forgotten their cause. . The current militancy and impatience among the young exiles is understandable enough, although pragmatists might scoff at the idea. Most of them have grown up in exile under alien influences being thrown aboard and submerged in a sea full of ideas and changes their parents never experienced before. They have witnessed great changes in world politics during the last sixteen years of their exile. They have watched with envy the creation of an independent Bangladesh, the consummation of a popular national liberation struggle in Vietnam, Bhutans spectacular entry into the United Nations as an independent nation, and more recently Yasser Arafats astonishing success in the United Nations, which seems to vindicate the use of violence or terrorism as an effective instrument of struggle for national rights. . The youth have also watched with great dismay Nepals disarmament of Khampa guerillas after a decade of tolerance if not connivance, Bhutans bully action against Tibetan refugees following a baseless accusation of Tibetan involvement in an alleged plot in the kingdom, and above all the benign neglect of the Tibetan Question by a world full of increasing apathy and indifference. All these seem to indicate to the youth the failure of non-violence - the way of prayers and petitions. . The failure of a strategies ultimately a reflection on a leadership that does not seem to take stock of the changing situation, a leadership that does not dare to take risks, a leadership that belives in survivalism. It must be admitted that the youth also have a share in this. As many a veteran Khampa points out the youth might know more and talk more but are not willing to suffer and sacrifice - They are soft. Apart from the current sound and fury of violence, there has been no actual demonstration of sacrifice for the national cause by any youth. There have been no hijackings, no bomb outrages or spectacular kidnappings. The lamas have done no better. While Buddhist monks in Vietnam or elsewhere immolate themselves for their faith, Tibetan monks in exile seem to abhor the prospects of life after death and content themselves with rituals for a struggle that they hope their gods will fight for them. . In an important sense the core of the Tibetan failure in an armed struggle is the peculiar nature of the Tibetan leadership. In peacetime such a leadership could be admirable but under the present circumstances it is totally unsuited, especially if it is to be an armed struggle as some sections of the youth are advocating now. There is a tragic irony in the whole structure of the traditional leadership; if it is

an asset for peaceful means, it is a liability in an armed struggle. And it has brought almost an equal proportion of advantages and disadvantages to its people. Whatever the Tibetan refugees have achieved since 1959 - and the achievement is quite remarkable by refugee standards - owes largely to the international stature and powerful personality of the 14 th Dalai Lama. While refugees from other parts of the world are forgotten one by one and never heard from again, the eighty-thousand Tibetan refugees have managed to remain as a cultural entity and a power to reckon with in their own right. The Dalai Lama is both the cause and effect of all this. Under his leadership they have managed to: set up a governement-in-exile of their own, create a Khampa force, rehabilitate themselves honourably, educate their children on a scale that is unprecedent in their history and above all managed to raise the Question of Tibet in the United Nations on a few occasion. Few other refugee communities, if any, have achieved so much. . But if the preponderantly spiritual nature of the Tibetan leadership is largely responsible for the Tibetan refugee achievments, it is equally responsible for the conspicuous lack of progress in their armed struggle for independence. The tragedy is that given the basic nature of the leadership, the present leadership would be incapable of any drastic or violent action, no matter how much the situation cries for such action. The Dalai Lama is a Buddhist both by training and conviction, and cannot obviously become a Ho Chi Minh, a Yasser Arafat or even a Sheikh Mujib, although that is the urgent call. To make the matter doubly tragic it is impossible for any other leader, secular or otherwise, to replace or even challange the Dalai Lamas leadership as long as he lives. This is not because he wants to perpetuate his rule like other worldly politicians, but because of the five centuries of papal authority and aura surrounding the name of the Dalai Lama which is convincingly substained by the remarkable character and personality of the present Dalai Lama. All this makes any alternative in the leadership impossible and adds a tragic inevitibility to the Tibetan drama. . Yet, if one were to objectively analyse the past twenty-five years of Tibetan resistance against the Chinese, one would arrive at the irresistible conclusion that the armed struggle could not produce much result because there was no Tibetan Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara or even a Tibetan Sheikh Mujib. The leader of a nationalist movement cannot successfully conduct a struggle from a palace or monastery divorced from the struggle itself. As the experience of national liberation movements in the third world demonstrates, success of any such struggle depends much on the extent to which a leader is able to emotionally and practically identify himself with his people, and also on the degree of his actual personal participation in the movement. Yet no Tibetan in his right frame of mind can imagine the living Buddha of compassion (the Dalai Lama) leading an armed struggle! The impact of his benign leadership and of Buddhism on the Tibetan struggle is a surprising lack of hatred against the national enemy, apart from the colourful wrath of the Khampas. The bullwork of most nationalist movements in other parts of the world has been a fundamental hatred against the oppressor, and without that anti-enemy feeling it would be almost impossible to mobilise masses and lead a nationalist struggle. . Under such circumstances the role of a God-King is far from easy. The Dalai Lama had been caught in an agonising dilemma, ever since the Khampas began their armed resistance. As he admits in his memoirs, part of him greatly admired the Khampa warriors revolting courageously although helplessly against the Chinese. But his surprising sense of realism and his belief in non-violence compelled him to view the Khampa struggle as futile and suicidal. As such he contented himself with the role of the only possible peace-maker between violent Tibetans who were desperately fighting for all that the Dalai Lama symbolises and the Chinese who were ruthlessly suppressing them. From this it is fair to conclude that the Dalai Lama opted for a peaceful means more under practical considerations rather than on ground of Buddhist teachings. In that case the notion that an armed struggle is incompatible with the Buddhist tenet of non-violence is only of conceptual importance. It should be remembered that it was only after the Chinese forces overhelmed the Tibetan army in Chamdo that they had to agree to a peaceful liberation. . The debate therefore is not whether an armed struggle is incompatible with Buddhist teachings; there is enough scope in the religion to find justification for violence, if necessary. The question, however, is a whether violence is worth the blood to be shed; and while the old guards in the Tibetan manner of horsetrading do not think so, the young on the other hand feel otherwise, especially in the light of recent terrorists experiences. Furthermore, they dismiss some of their elders toying with the idea of a Gandhian

technique of non-violence being totally unsuited to the Tibetan situation, as a part of the refugee syndrome which has developed in India among Tibetans. But the real question in the ultimate analysis is not only whether the Dalai Lama will sanction and bless violence as an effective means of struggle, which he might under compulsion and which he might go a long way towards fighting for their cause, but whether the leader himself can become a fighter as well and lead an armed struggle. And that is a most difficult thing for a Dalai Lama to do, but short of that would not make much difference to the cause. . Whatever their final resolutions, the Tibetan leadership must accept a truth: the efficacy of violence as means of national liberation struggle. To prove the validity of this truth one need not to go outside Tibets history. Tibet had an Empire from the 7 th to 10th centuries and it was build, like other empires, not by the miracles of religion but largely by steel and blood. Tibets dramatic reduction in size and power since Lamas became Kings, and her final disappearance in 1950 owes primarily to her obsessive preoccupation with religion and non-violence. A Struggle in Travail Editorial by Mr. Dawa T. Norbu (February/March 1975) It is now twenty-five years since the Chinese invasion, and sixteen years since the Lhasa Uprising when China turned Tibet, for all practical purposes, into a Chinese province. During this period Tibet has witnessed the biggest upheavals in her history, and Tibetan response to such challenges has also changed according to changing circumstances and situations. . It is only inevitable that the old-fashioned Khampa-type of resistance should come to an end. For one thing that gallant but cumbersome generation is ageing, but more importantly the Tibetans have acquired in the course of their protracted struggle valuable experience. They have learned new ideas and new techniques of guerilla warfare. Now with the emergence of a new generation of Tibetan freedom fighters both in and outside Tibet, the whole conception of Tibetan nationalism has changed. If the ageing generation fought for the glory of their faith, the new generation is at pains to view the struggle in terms of nationalism as it is prevalent in the third wolrd today. Although there is some confusion at present as it usually happens during a transition, the new conception of Tibetan national liberation struggle has the potential to acquire greater clarity and in due course to crystalise into something concrete. . One of the tragedies of the Tibetan struggle has been the agonising dilemma between a total armed struggle and a peaceful means. In the past both the nature of the Tibetan leadership and prudence preferred a peaceful means. As such the struggle has been characterised by a conspicuous lack of hatred against the enemy; at best it is a strange love-hate struggle. It is a monumental tribute to the allembracing compassion preached by Tibetan Buddhism. But while praiseworthy in the realm of ethics, it has played a significant negative role in the Tibetan freedom struggle. . While Muslim leaders can declare jahed against their national enemies, the Dalai Lama has made no such declaration: he has so far stuck to his belief. His stand is to be defended both on grounds of pragmatism and his non-violent creed. While Arafat forced his way into the UNO and occupy a seat in the world body, the Tibetans in exile continue to petition and pray. It is true the Palestinian Liberation Organisation is being greatly aided and armed by the Arab countries, while the Tibetans are not so fortunate. But unless a movement is at least moving in some direction and unless its leaders can demonstrate their capacity and show promising results, no external aid can be expected. . No power wants to be involved uselessly in a cause that shows no substantive results. It is up to those who are commited to a cause to convince other friendly powers by their demonstrative results, not by pleading. At the same time to ignore the serious handicaps of the Tibetan struggle would be unfair. In Tibet, for example, although the nature and dialectic of the struggle has changed remarkably for the better, the young freedom fighters face greater difficulties than ever before. The Chinese occupation troops are

deeply entrenched and Chinese colonial power is considerably consolidated during the past 25 years. This means that the Tibetan populace is kept under an efficient military subjugation and the chances of revolt are minimised by terror. Added to all this is that the Tibetan population is scattered over a continental area which makes mass mobilisation difficult. All thesepartly explain the phenomena that resistance exists mostly in pockets and generally lacking co-ordination. . But the redeeming feature of the new trend is that it is not the old Tibetans who have now more or less resigned to their fate but the young, many of whom are educated in China, who are now spearheading a more effective, though on a smaller and less colourful scale, resistance against the Chinese overlordship in Tibet. Their perception of nationalism is clear and simple: Tibet belongs to the Tibetan people. And the dialectic of their struggle is that they see an antagonistic contradiction between what they have learnt in Chinese socialist schools and what the Chinese actually practise in Tibet. . There is nothing surprising about the emerging new trend in Tibetan resistance against the Chinese. The recent history of Marxism indicates the Marxist ideology in a closed society in which it must necessarily function if it is to paradoxically succeed, has promoted more nationalism and chauvinism than proletarian internationalism. Sadly proletarian internationalism and exploitation-free society remain as romantic and remote as the pious goals of various religions. Such lofty goals are reverendly shelved away in the time future and therefore do not concern much except for occasional invocations. What matters most and hence shapespolicy thinking is what matters now and here: national interest.