Area Studies
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Monday, October 5, Morning Session II:



  Recent Sino-Tibetan Dialogue / Democratization

  Evolution of the Chinese Democracy Movement and

     the Tibetan Issue

Elliot Sperling, Moderator

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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.]


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 


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.


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 

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.


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.


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