Why Tibet has been so important to China?

Aurora Forum of Stanford University hosted an interesting discussion about Tibet two months ago. The title of the discussion is Tibet: Where Continents and Cultures Collide . The main topic of the discussion covers environmental and historical issues of Tibet. Today I find out that the transcript of the discussion is available for download, and would like to share it with you.

One question raised by the audience is, why Tibet has been so important to China? Lyman P. Van Slyke, Emeritus Professor of History at Stanford, gave an excellent explanation of a part of the answer, and I quote it below:

“I would not for a moment discount the force of history as the Chinese see it. The past century of Chinese history – the century leading up to 1950, let us say, from 1850 to 1950 – was a disaster for China, and many of the areas that it had traditionally thought it had influence in or a degree of control over were taken from it by the European powers, by Japan, by Russia, by others. And there was a sense that Tibet might fall into the hands of either the British or the Russians, to the great strategic detriment of China. And so when the People’s Republic of China was established in 1950, there was a strong sense that no more is to be taken from China, and that what China had and can claim and had always claimed is a claim that can be disputed. I’m not for a moment saying that this is a claim that all would recognize or should recognize, but for the Chinese leaders from Sun Yat-sen to Chiang Kai-shek to Mao Tse-tung, Tibet was a part of China and Taiwan is a part of China, and it must be that way just as we would not ever permit any part of
the United States to secede. We are a nation integral, and if Florida decided that it was going to establish an independent republic, we would resist that notion. So this historical and cultural imperative, I would almost say, the nationalism that Emily referred to, is extremely strong. And from a balance sheet standpoint, China has invested far, far more, and continues to invest on an annual basis, far more money and other resources, including prestige, in the international arena, where it is generally criticized for its policies in Tibet, far more is invested there than it derives from the mineral deposits or other tangible assets that Tibet may have.”

Not surprisingly, Da-Lie Lama’s representative, Tenzin Tethong tried very hard to distort the history and reality. For example, he kept repeating that there was deforestation in Tibet. Indeed, as an audience and the other guests pointed out, Tibet is mostly covered by grassland. The area he referred to is a part of “the Great Tibet” and actually was rarely controlled by the Tibet government in history. Asserting that “the Great Tibet” is the actual Tibet is just like referring California as a China territory because there are many Chinese living here. It simply does not make any sense. Unfortunately, Da-Lie Lama and the exile group never recognize this problem in their arguments, and this actually causes some huge gaps in their talks with the Chinese government that cannot possibly be filled. The other example is that Tethong kept ignoring the reality and using the past to attack the Chinese government. Recently, the Chinese government has recognized the environmental damage caused by development in the past, and are making great efforts to restore the forests and grassland, as the guests have confirmed. One can never hear anything from Da-Lie Lama and the exile group about this kind of development. A similar example is about the monastery temples in Tibet. Even though many were damaged by the Tibetans themselves in the Culture Revolution, most of them have been repaired and restored after that by the Chinese government. From the propoganda from the Da-Lie Lama, the exile group, and the western media, one can only get the impression that they were all destroyed by the Chinese government and there is no temple left in Tibet today. The last example I want to give, is Tibet’s status before 1950s. He did not mention that the Da-Lie Lamas’ were actually approved by the Qing emperors. Even the famous flag that the exile group used as their “national flag”, is a flag approved by a Qing emperor. So Tibet was always independent from China? Somebody must be lying or out of his mind.

Overall, I feel that it is an interesting discussion. The pities are, 1) Tenzin Tethong tainted the supposedly academic forum with his zero-credibility political junks; 2) there is no scholar from China joining the forum.



Filed under History, Tibet

12 responses to “Why Tibet has been so important to China?

  1. luyi99

    Good to know. Thank you.

  2. unneeded

    i can’t tell whether you are for or against China in Tibet
    Also, you say that many Tibetans destroyed monasteries during the Cultural revolution but the chinese artillery used many of the ancient monasteries for bombing practice
    also the cultural revolution was enacted by the chinese and was carried out mostly by chinese soldiers, many of the artifacts that had important metals were melted down and shipped to the central government and a lot of the wood structures from the buildings were taken from the monasteries and used in government buildings

  3. unneeded

    also you spelled Da-lie Lama wrong, it is Dalai Lama

  4. Alessandro

    As far as I know it, cultural revolution was carried out mostly by very young students, called later the “red guards”….Yes, the “revolution” was enacted by the chinese…and on this u’r completely right, in fact the tibetans are chinese citizens, so they also distroying monasteries is “chinese citizen” destroying monasteries..
    As for Da-lie Lama, I really don’t think he mispelled it, it was intentional…read it again and carefully, and u’ll understand 🙂

  5. forfreedom

    You seem to be pro China.And the Da-lie Lama fact…thanks for that.
    Lyman P. Van Slyke has stooped(yes STOOPED) to greater heights with this argument.
    China should leave the world alone and concentrate on making a positive future for themselves.
    Their motto is “live but don’t let live”.
    China–stop eyeing Arunachal Pradesh,Sikkim and many other places that you do.
    You can live happly in a 10 by 10 room with the blessings of others and a few good friends.
    But sometimes even a 1000 by 1000 space seems small for people with this(China) ideology.

  6. Humanity

    It’s like you have no idea about the Tibetan in Tibet their living conditions, human rights violation and no global media interference no freedom of religion as far destroying of temple is concern Tibetan are very religious they even show compassion to little tiny insects or organism because of their religious minded so how could u even imagine about destroying monastery by Tibetan in their own soil and why don’t you mention about true appropriate means that Tibet is a part of china. Let the dalai lama and Chinese leader discuss about this issue in front of international media but china they refused several times to do so

  7. dolma tsering

    if Tibet is integral part of China, why can’t China let Tibetan lives as other minorities in China. why China is trying to destroy Tibetan culture and civilization. this is not the right way to protect national unity. no one know better about history and reality of Tibet than the Tibetan know about their life. If you are scholar that doesn’t mean you know every thing rightly. personal perception about particular issues destroy the authenticity of research and writing.

    • terminatorii

      It looks like you have witnessed what China is doing in Tibet all these years, or you just hear what have happened in Tibet from Da-Lie Lama and the “free press”? If China is truly “trying to to destroy Tibetan culture and civilization”, please back up your assertion with your first-hand evidence and tell us more about your findings. But please, do not repeat what Da-Lie Lama and the “free press” have said. We have heard enough about so-called “truth” of Tibet from them already.

      When you sit in a court to hear a case, both parties of the case have to present their evidence and argument, right? How can people make a judgment solely based on the evidence and argument from one side? In the case of what have truly happened in Tibet and China, why do people only believe the stories from Da-Lie Lama and “free press”, and turn down anything on a second opinion, even though it is not sourced from the Chinese government at all?

  8. All sources in a controversial, high-stakes conflict like this should be treated with some skepticism, but it’s undeniable that the situation in Tibet is not good right now. The difference between the “free” press in the West and the press in China is that the Western press, even if it’s biased, is able to be checked by those with free speech, like bloggers. Who can check the power of the press in China? Only outlaws and dissidents. Time for China to recognize the value of a free press.

  9. no need to go in deapth or go very far back,, we tibetans are not chinese so why u r forceing us to be you..PLA get the fuck out of TIBET..

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