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(Letter from Otto Kerner, Opposing Viewpoint) Tibet: A Way Forward?

September 1st, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the comments to an earlier post related to Tibet, I found it striking that, although by different routes, bianxiangbianqiao and wuming and I have reached roughly the same conclusion, viz that there’s no logical reason why Tibet should remain part of China, but, at the same time, it is completely impossible for China to let it become independent, since that would invariably be seen as China giving up 19% of its land area (or even 13%, which is what the TAR is). Particularly so since, as bxbq points out, the boundaries of “Tibet” are quite fuzzy. I could draw a border that I think would be a fair delimitation of “where Tibetans traditionally predominated and still do”, but obviously there would be a lot of people who would disagree with any given attempt.

My suggested solution then, is that Tibet should remain within PRC sovereign territory, but it should be cordoned off into a separate “nation within a nation”. This would effectively recreate the traditional arrangement in which Chinese empire had suzerainty over Tibet; except that, because there is no concept of suzerainty in modern international law, China would never describe the situation as suzerainty, but would continue to insist on legal sovereignty in order to avoid challenges to its sovereignty in the future. When I say “cordoned off”, I do not mean that Tibet would be isolated from the world like a hermit. It would continue to have extensive links through tourism and media, but a) immigration into Tibet would be restricted and b) it would not necessarily be governed under exactly the same legal system as the provinces. Technically, both of these are already true: the former under the Regional Autonomy for Minority Nationalities Act of 1984; and the latter under the basic law of the PRC, because the TAR is an autonomous entity. It is not autonomous of CCP rule, of course, but it is autonomous of the provincial legal structure.

I would suggest that the CCP could implement this change as part of a deal with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exiles by keeping the Tibetan CCP in control of Tibet but radically altering its personnel. This would allow Beijing the following advantages: 1) it would not directly undermine CCP rule in the rest of the country; 2) there would relatively less risk of losing face, as the change would be described positively as “reform” or as an affirmative action measure; 3) there would be an easy way to back out of the deal in the future, simply by altering the party leadership again. I have heard it said the #1 obstacle to detante between Beijing and Dharamsala is the TAR party leadership, which contains a lot of holdovers from the bad old days. Party central in Beijing should get rid of the entire TAR party leadership: the Han members would be re-assigned to positions in the provinces and the Tibetan members of the party leadership (of whom I think there are not many) would be encouraged to retire with full pension. The party leadership would be replaced with Tibetan CCP members who are amenable to conciliation with the Dalai Lama and autonomy for Tibet. The exact membership of the new leadership would be agreed to as part of the agreement with the government-in-exile. The only restriction would be that the individuals chosen should be existing CCP members living in the TAR. The exiles probably don’t trust most the Tibetan CCP cadres, but surely they must be able to find a few party members in Tibet who can be relied upon to implement the agreement if it has Beijing’s imprimatur.

High-level government (as opposed to party) offices would also be reformed, but not as dramatically. Jhampa Phüntshog could remain as governor of the TAR for a couple years as a gesture toward continuity. A few of the Dalai Lama’s cronies from Dharamsala – but mid-level ones, not the elite cronies like Lodi Gyari – could be given mid-level positions in the government, but it would otherwise continue to be staffed by current party members. As the political system of PRC reforms itself and opens up in the future, the same could be implemented at the same time in Tibet, gradually leading to a more democratic and genuinely autonomous status.

Ideally, after everything else was settled, the Dalai Lama would sit down with me and a representative from the Bureau of Religious Affairs to discuss reforms of the monastic system to prevent the type of abuses that have rightfully enraged bianxiangbianqiao from ever happening again. While, it is somewhat unlikely that I would actually be invited to such a meeting, hopefully the results would nevertheless satisfy bxbq.

This agreement would not necessarily be applied only to the Tibet Autonomous Region; nor would it necessarily be applied in every Tibetan autonomous area. The second most important Tibetan area in China is Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, which is historically the heart of the Kham region. Perhaps the same deal could replace not only the TAR party leadership but also the Garzê TAP party leadership, while other areas continue to be governed as they currently are. In the future, if the new arrangement is considered a success, both sides might find it agreeable to expand it into other Tibetan autonomous prefectures.

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  1. TommyBahamas
    September 11th, 2008 at 02:17 | #1

    Sorry, , I forgot to add, Mark Twain said that: If the man doesn’t believe as we do, we say he is a crank and that settles it. I mean it does nowadays, because we can’t burn him. All the talk about tolerance, in anything or anywhere, is plainly a gentle lie. It does not exist. It is in no man’s heart; but it unconsciously, and by moss-grown inherited habit, drivels and slobbers from all men’s lips.

  2. tontp4
    September 11th, 2008 at 18:09 | #2

    The water resource is so critical to China that she will not give it up – 100% sure. All the efforts including foreign demonstrations only lead to more bloodshed to Tibetan folks that I would not like to see. Tibetans get more from China than giving it back (the train is one example) except the strategic water resource. It is one of the 56 minorities and at least 2 ruled China for a long while. Just keep it as it is now, self-governing region. It will be happier for all. Allow more freedom, esp. religion, in the foreseeable future.

  3. tontp4
    September 11th, 2008 at 20:35 | #3

    Eddy, sorry about how the Tibetans suffer. Chinese culture has been destroyed in the “cultural revolution”. Many Chinese suffered in the last 300 years until recently. To be realistic, integration to China could be the best, peaceful way.

  4. Wahaha
    September 11th, 2008 at 20:40 | #4


    Do you know how native suffer in Canada and Australia ?

  5. tontp4
    September 11th, 2008 at 20:51 | #5

    I do not. I know how the US Indians suffer by receiving too many welfare from the US government to encourage them not to work and drink all day long if they do not break out from the reservation.

  6. Wahaha
    September 11th, 2008 at 20:53 | #6


    Search on the internet.

  7. NMBWhat
    September 11th, 2008 at 22:59 | #7

    I leave you with: The adventures of Mark Twain…


  8. BMY
    September 12th, 2008 at 00:12 | #8

    @tontp4 #304

    I dare to say the same thing of indigents in Australia from what I can see just cross the street from where I am typing now.

  9. The Trapped!
    September 12th, 2008 at 02:03 | #9


    “Tibetans get more from China than giving it back (the train is one example) except the strategic water resource.”

    Do you have some implicit meaning behind this sentence? If not, then I think you should recalculate. Do you know since when Geermu–Xining railway exist? What these trains have been transporting since that railway construction?

  10. The Trapped!
    September 12th, 2008 at 02:13 | #10


    “Though chinese government is not democratic, it is no doubt that this government try to help Tibet improve their economy.”

    Well, there is a folk joke in Beijing about Zhongnanhai internal conversation, which goes, “If Inner-Mongolia comes and ask for money, don’t give them. If Xinjiang comes, give them as much as they need. If Tibet comes, give them money by force even if they don’t want.”

    Can you see anything from this joke?

  11. BMY
    September 12th, 2008 at 02:45 | #11

    @The Trapped

    That’s a good one.

    I remember there was another joke some years ago when Li Peng was the prime minister.

    One day Li Peng came home after work.

    Zhu Lin(his wife) asked: what did you do today?
    Li Peng: we had a all day Politburo meeting
    Zhu Lin: what’s the meeting about?
    Li Peng: I don’t know
    Zhu Lin: how come you don’t know while you were in the meeting?
    Li Peng: Because everyone else was talking in Shanghainese.

  12. Wahaha
    September 12th, 2008 at 03:00 | #12

    The Trapped!

    Sorry If I had offended you before.

    One thing you must keep in mind : lot of Tibetan kids died before age 5, ( CCP claimed 430 per 1000 of kids died before age 5 in 1951,) put that issue above your dignity.

    I will not talk about Tibet anymore.

  13. Wukailong
    September 12th, 2008 at 03:17 | #13

    @Wahaha: Personally, I’m interested in reading these discussions. No need to stop.

    @+all others: On the other hand, this thread has grown very long (>300). I tend to think that’s when discussions should stop, or at least move to a newer thread. Any ideas?

  14. The Trapped!
    September 12th, 2008 at 03:47 | #14

    @Wahaha # 311

    I agree with about life expectancy issue. It is very true that maternal and child health care situation was very bad before 1950s.
    Sorry to put a “but”, but I want to. But, life expectancy and maternal and child health care situation has been improved dramatically over the last 50 years all over the world, not just in Tibet. I do not think it’s too realistic if you point that Tibetan life expectancy and maternal and child health care situation of today will be same as 50 years ago if there was no the Chinese intervention. The world is moving forwards, Tibetans won’t be stuck in the ice of Himalayan Mountains with or without Chinese help. Post Word War II economic development of the world is unprecedented, Mao kept China away from that fast trend of development for around 30 years.
    Anyway, it would be foolish to think that 21st century would not have come to Tibet without Chinese help.

  15. Wahaha
    September 12th, 2008 at 03:59 | #15

    The Trapped!

    # 279.

  16. Wahaha
    September 12th, 2008 at 04:12 | #16


    My father loved literature since he was a child, but he studied engineering in a university in 50s, cuz China at that time needed engineers. He often complained to us about that, and one day (when I was 19), I told him that he would be dead had he studied literature cuz of culture revolution, and he hasnt complained anymore since then.

  17. Jerry
    September 12th, 2008 at 04:14 | #17


    #296, 297

    Wahaha, those are pretty good guidelines.

    I think It is dangerous and naive for people to make assumption when they talk about political system that If people can vote or protest, the government is people’s government and will work for people.

    I could not agree with you more. Appearance/illusion and reality can be totally different. The use of appearance to “keep the rabble in line” happens frequently in the US (As Noam Chomsky has so eloquently and articulately often pointed out).

    5) If the government is driven by idealism (China under Mao) or religion (Iran) or hatred (Hamas), then the people under such government is hopeless, economically.

    Several comments.

    I am not sure China would be where it is now if Mao had not pushed “government is driven by idealism”. Who knows? I do not espouse how Mao ruled. Transformation is a strange process.

    Iran (Persia), the mullahs and ayatollahs rule the people via religious authority and cold-eyed pragmatism. President Ahmadinejad is a powerless figurehead, a situation from which the previous president, Khatami, also suffered. I think that Iranians are better off with the present form of government than being ruled by the CIA, MI5/MI6 and their proxy, the Shah of Iran.

    Hamas is a very complex group. They have their militaristic “terrorist” and political elements, for sure. But it also has social welfare and education elements. This may explain why they are so popular and won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections with a majority of members. Furthermore, Hamas is more flexible than the US and Israel will admit. They dismiss Hamas out of hand. The US is trying to bully Hamas into extinction.

  18. Wahaha
    September 12th, 2008 at 04:19 | #18

    I am not sure China would be where it is now if Mao had not pushed “government is driven by idealism”.

    China would be better, but not much, maybe the economy would be like India during the same period cuz there were both central controled economy, the reason is cuz of #4.

  19. Michelle
    September 12th, 2008 at 05:12 | #19

    “I think It is dangerous and naive for people to make assumption when they talk about political system that If people can vote or protest, the government is people’s government and will work for people.”

    Perhaps not, but if your aim is a government which works for people, the ability to vote and protest is a step in the right direction. The fact that some countries where people can vote and protest have governments that do not work for the people does not mean that voting and right to protest are disposable notions.

  20. Wukailong
    September 12th, 2008 at 05:31 | #20

    @Wahaha: “China would be better, but not much, maybe the economy would be like India during the same period cuz there were both central controled economy, the reason is cuz of #4.”

    That might be true. In the 50s, socialism had a much better name and India created their own form of heavily government-controlled economy. Later they, like China, moved on with the times.

  21. TonyP4
    September 13th, 2008 at 02:54 | #21

    I wrote the following for fun. 10% true.


    Free Tibet, my ass

    Please do not liberate my country. I understand you energy, your good nature, and your idealism. I was the same when I was your age.

    First, thanks you all. Now, I’m a naturalized US citizen collecting generous welfare benefits. You do not understand how my life has been improved staying here. Just imagine living in the tallest mountain in your country year round.

    There are always folks want to be kings and queens. They have their ambitions and revolutionary ideas. The last ones went to India. They do not speak for the common folks who just want a peaceful life.

    The Chinese will not give up Tibet. It is the major water source for most of Asia. We get more from the Chinese than giving back. The new train is a recent gift. It is the same as opening a casino in an Indian reservation. The benefits outnumber the drawbacks.

    China had been ruled by Mongolians and Manchurians. We’re one of the 50 or so minorities, same as the blacks in your country or the Quebec French in Canada.

    Unless you can convince your congress to send soldiers to ‘liberate’ us, please do not stir up our rebellious sentiment towards the Chinese. The more you do, the more our folks suffer.

    Spend your energy elsewhere. The choices are unlimited. It sounds like propaganda. I want you to know that I have no connection with the Chinese government. I just want to be realistic and the world will be more peaceful without your demonstrations.

  22. Michael
    November 19th, 2008 at 11:40 | #22

    Why should we give tibetans anything?

    Do you think we are investing billions in tibet just for fun, to stroke our fantasy on how great and compassionate we are? No! Nobody wastes so much money just for that, even if western countries like to do that very thing.

    Tibet is rich in natural resources and serves as a security buffer against other countries. More importantly it gives us control over the water supplies to China and rest of asia. From here we can expand China and our unemployed population into central asia and southern tibet which is occulpied by india and lying unused- that region alone is far richer in resources than rest of tibet. We must continue our expansion as population pressures requires greater farm lands outside China.

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