Twofish's Blog

March 18, 2008

Conversation about the Dalai Lama on RConversation

Filed under: china, tibet — twofish @ 6:21 am

clarke: engage with the Tibetan exiled leadership, bring them into the political process.

I think this can’t be done loudly. I think it would be good thing if Beijing and Dharmasala had quiet talks but this is not the sort of thing that would be useful to be made public.

A good model for what could work is Beijing’s quiet talks with the Vatican. The difference is that Beijing basically trusts the Pope that he isn’t out to divide China. That trust doesn’t exist with the Dalai Lama, and then the question is what happens after the Dalai Lama passes away.

clarke: If they don’t then this new generation will have no choice but to revert to more violence….perhaps terrorism.

And then they lose. If Tibetans start setting off bombs like the IRA does then they lose all their Western support, any possible sympathy from the majority Han Chinese, and then you have a massive crackdown that’s going to be hundreds as times as harsh as anything you see now.

One thing about the Dalai Lama is that he realizes the hard reality that non-violence is the only solution. Any other approach is as he himself puts it “suicidal.” One interesting thing about the Dalai Lama is that at Sundays news conference in Dharmasla, he actually said some nice things about China, but then he says “cultural genocide” and that gets printed on the front page of every newspaper.

The Dalai Lama is under a lot of political constraints. At Sunday’s news conference, he could have come out more forcefully against violence against people of any ethnicity, and expressed some sympathy for innocent bystanders that have gotten beaten by mobs. He could have avoided using the term “genocide”.

The fact that he didn’t makes him look very, very untrustworthy to a lot of Han Chinese even people who are on the outside of the firewall. Yes the Chinese government is going to twist anything that he says to make him look bad, but if he says something loud and often enough, the message will get through. The trouble is that he says a bunch of things and then the Western newspapers remove anything that is somewhat nice to China, and by the time the government censors get done with that, there is nothing left.

But I feel sympathetic to the Dalai Lama. Because people in the Tibetan community already are against him because he is too “soft.” He probably said as much as he could, and I think he is tired.

The Dalai Lama is wildly popular among Western audiences. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t matter any more. China can basically ignore the West if the West pushes too hard, and if the conditions for holding the Olympics are too high, then to hell with the Olympics. We are far, far past the point that the West can push China around, and it took generations of blood, sweat, and tears to get to this point.

Getting China from a broken nation to the point where it can do what it wants with the West just standing by is why people in China care about issues of national unity so much. If Tibet becomes independent, then everyone else will go independent, and if everyone goes independent, then China will go back to where it was a hundred years ago, begging for sympathy and not generally finding it.

Tragic that we are all playing roles that make each other miserable. Ironic that the same sort of energy that drives the Tibetan demonstrator also drives me to place the role I do against them. It could end tragically, sadly, in a way that no one wants. It’s making me miserable. I’m sure it is making them miserable, but Buddhism teaches that we end up in these roles to atone for something that we did to each other in some past life.

Buddhism teaches that life is suffering, sometimes there is no happy ending. and if we suffer well in this life, then maybe we will do better in the next one.


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