There is something predictable in the reactions to the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising that led to the Dalai Lama seeking sanctuary in India. Beijing has flooded Tibet with paramilitary soldiers and expelled all foreign journalists. The Dalai Lama is holding a prayer meeting commemorating the Tibetans who died in 1959 and last year’s riots in Tibet. More unusual are the reports from China of two bomb explosions in Qinghai province and clashes between Tibetans and the local police.
Finally, there is the silence of India and most of the world, out to avoid a nasty exchange with a superpower-in-the-making. Unfortunately, almost none of these is furthering its interests by pursuing the present courses of action. China has the most to loose. Beijing looks weak and paranoid when it mounts hysterical over-the-top attacks against a man theologically enjoined against hurting a fly. The contrast between its unconstructive attitude to Tibet and its talk of partnering the United States in a world-spanning ‘G-2’ could not be greater. Beijing’s fear of an impoverished Buddhist minority makes a mockery of its great power status. Tibetans may be moving down their own path of unreality. Last year’s riots and this year’s bomb explosions underline that the Dalai Lama’s nonviolent creed is finding fewer takers among younger Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has long understood that the battle for Tibet is not about independence, it is about preserving his people’s slowly disappearing culture. Which is why he has been prepared to compromise on self-rule. Much of the world knows well China’s extreme allergy to the five-letter region.
As a consequence, other than the odd token reception for the Dalai Lama, the world does not talk to Beijing in any serious fashion. Yet such engagement may be exactly what is needed to make China recognise that its present course does little other than reduce its own global stature and drive Tibetans towards violent resistance. Protests and prayers will attract everyone’s attention on this anniversary. What is needed is a hard re-look, especially by China, as to how the status quo on Tibet can be changed to everyone’s advantage.