As a teenager, I was sent to the countryside of northeastern China to be “reeducated.” One day I drove the carriage to the commune to get food aid. In the Food Control Office, I found a bound collection of the newspaper News Digest (cankaoxiaoxi) and immediately grabbed a copy to read. In those days this was the only newspaper that had news from overseas. Though its news was still ideological, it was at least different from the standard party newspapers of the day. Among the news was an interview with the Dalai Lama by a foreign reporter. I have forgotten the specific content of the article, but an image remains in my head － a young and lanky Dalai Lama in his lonely exile, heatedly criticizing China to his visitor. I had heard of him before, but in the communist party literature, the word “Dalai” was just a synonym for the dark days of
In the time that has passed since that day,
In light of my long study and many experiences, I was not surprised by the March riots. The current discontent bubbling to the surface in
A Little Carrot, a Lot of Stick
Beijing’s approach to Tibet can be generalized as a “carrot plus a big stick” policy. In the 1980s, Beijing implemented the “carrot” portion of the policy with huge increases in financial support to promote rapid economic growth in Tibet, hoping a combination of individual prosperity and secularization would lead Tibetans to solidarity with the rest of China. This policy was clarified by former secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) committee of the Tibetan Autonomous Region who had been in charge of Tibet for nearly a decade: “The CCP Central Committee and the State Council have mobilized the country’s entire population to assist Tibet, helping Tibet speed up its development and the Tibetan nationality rid itself of poverty and become rich. This is the most realistic and concrete nationality policy of the CCP.” The past three decades have been a period in which
Although most Tibetans admit that their standard of living has improved, the current economic “carrot” has not been the peace offering that Beijing intended. In the process of economic growth and secularization, Tibetans living in cities have gradually been culturally and economically marginalized. While the government does not organize large-scale immigration, it nevertheless encourages it. This has resulted in a Chinesization of Tibet; the root cause of the conflict today.
In the past, immigrants to the Tibetan regions were relatively few. But now, the economies in cities like
For a period in the 1980s, Beijing contemplated winning over the Dalai Lama himself. A special agency was set up to “win over the Dalai clique and overseas Tibetan compatriots and return them to the motherland.” The “win over and return” project, however, made no meaningful progress because the gap between the two sides was too wide to bridge. What Beijing promised the Dalai Lama was merely to restore his nominal titles as vice chairman of the National People’s Congress and vice chairman of the National Political Consultative Conference. He would have been confined to
From 1987 to 1989 scores of riots erupted in
Beijing’s logic in targeting the Dalai Lama was fundamentally flawed. Since the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan religion are inseparable, any anti-Dalai movement cannot be limited to political matters, and inevitably becomes an issue for the whole Tibetan religion. For instance, how can the Dalai Lama be “exposed and repudiated” while all the temples and most of the Tibetan families enshrine and worship his image? Yet from 1996, orders were issued to confiscate and destroy all images of the Dalai Lama, and monks were forced to publicly denounce him. New regulations were decreed to limit monasteries’ activities. For instance, temples could not be built without government permission, the size of monasterial staff was limited, contact between monasteries was prohibited, and religion could not be propagated outside the monasteries. The Chinese government’s campaign did not stop at the monasteries. Every CCP member, cadre and state employee in Tibet was explicitly required not to practice religion. This meant that they had to regard the Dalai Lama as the enemy, and refrain from displaying the Dalai Lama’s images or arranging shrines in their homes, inviting monks to recite scriptures and provide services, displaying any religious symbols, and sending their children to schools established by the Tibetan government in exile. Violators were threatened with being ousted from the party and dismissed from their state jobs; if the violator was a retiree, his or her pensions would be suspended, and, if a student, his or her opportunity to continue in school would be terminated.
It would be against the essence of religion to demand that religious followers love a temporal party or government more than their faith. Therefore,
Economic benefits plus the “carrot” and “big stick” policy of high political pressure has maintained peace on the surface in Tibet for the past 13 years. But, the recent Lhasa riots once again proved that this policy cannot solve the Tibet question, and under China’s political system, the authorities have no other way to govern Tibet. Chinese policies thus far have failed to recognize that the power and influence of the Dalai Lama supercedes the power derived from the economic advantages the Chinese government has given to Tibetans.
The Middle Way
The Dalai Lama has advocated a “middle path based on mutual benefit” which would grant Tibetans a high level of autonomy, but with a promise that the region would remain part of
The Dalai Lama has claimed that the middle way is a nonpartisan and moderate position that safeguards the security and territorial integrity of the motherland for the Chinese. But the middle way has fallen on deaf ears precisely because
A stepping stone to independence
If Tibet implements the Dalai Lama’s method of democracy, the result of elections will surely be the ascendance of leaders who champion Tibetan independence. This situation is created by the close link between the public and the autonomous government’s decision-makers. Members of the House of the People are directly elected by the voters and members of the House of Regions are elected by a council of regional leaders, who are elected by the people. This means that members of the legislature are highly vulnerable to the impulsive mood of voters. Those in the exile government who drafted this plan seem to believe that the legislature is a sufficient buffer of public irrationality which could withstand public pressure to pursue an unwise course of action. Indeed, similar representative political systems in the West adequately serve this function. But the key difference is that in developed Western democracies, there is no common goal or object for hatred pushing the society to an excessive course of action. However, in a suddenly democratized Tibet, all of these factors exist in the extreme. Members of parliament would be defenseless against the force of the public, and left with no other choice than to follow the masses.
In a democratic election, each member of parliament faces a number of competitors looking to unseat him or her. The most expedient tactic for a challenger is to attack the incumbent. This strategy often works. The masses love heroes and are fond of seeing heroic deeds and lofty words. In the face of such competitions, members of parliament cannot avoid being spurred on to join a race to the extremes. On that racing course, whoever runs in front will be cheered on by the masses and will win the electoral prize. Thus, not only will members of parliament be unable to buffer public mood, they will often race down the road of radicalism for the purpose of consolidating their own position. In the Dalai Lama’s political system, the involvement of “representatives” in “government” reaches an unprecedented level. In this system, the chain of intensified conflict between
Autonomy, then what?
The middle way approach does not address a number of practical issues in Tibet. Revolution is a grand holiday for the people: during the revolution, people might exultantly celebrate, but problems usually occur the day after the revolution succeeds. Once
If Tibet achieves the “high autonomy” designed by the Dalai Lama, how can the interests of the “emancipated slaves,” “communist Tibetans” as well as Han Chinese and other ethnic minorities in the Tibetan regions be ensured? Currently in Tibet, there are still a large number of people called “liberated slaves.” Before 1959, they were at the bottom stratum of feudal serfdom. It was precisely the Communist Party that has helped them to get land and raise their economic and political positions. Will it require them to return their land to the former owners? Although the Dalai Lama has always emphasized that
There is also the legacy that the Communist Party has left in
Once self-governance is achieved, the Dalai Lama suggests that people of the Han, Hui and other minorities who were not born inside Tibet should leave the region. Non-Tibetans who were born in
Progressive Democracy Model
The realities in
The basic building block of this model of democracy is the village-level election. However, these differ from the village elections already taking place in
Moreover, this focus on democracy at the village level is appropriate to
The progressive democratic model can both achieve high autonomy for Tibet on the basis of democracy and also ensure that Tibet does not set on a reckless path to independence. In the Dalai Lama’s design of Tibet’s future political framework, there is an interactive chain in which opinion leaders use the media to influence voters, who in turn elect the government, which causes a “plaza effect” to pursue national independence. This form of democracy, with fairly direct representation, would only exacerbate the situation because politicians would rely on inciting public sentiment to get votes. The progressive democracy model, on the contrary, weakens the link between the public and the members of parliament, insulating the leadership from irrational and emotional public desires. If Tibet adopts the progressive democracy model, the committee which would consist of regional governors in Tibet could fully understand the disadvantages of independence and act in the best interest of Tibetans, regardless of public mood.
Creating a pluralistic society
The progressive democracy model can also stabilize heterogeneous groups in Tibet, particularly in regions where many ethnic minorities live together but remain concentrated in their small communities. First, self-governance may be implemented for people of the same ethnic minority in small areas, where minorities live to ensure that their lifestyle and culture are not marginalized by other groups. At a higher level, the people elected from different ethnic minority areas would form a joint administrative committee to achieve the common harmony of multiethnic minorities.
Furthermore, one of the first challenges facing a Tibetan government with high autonomy will be how to deal with the Party and government personnel, retired personnel and employees of state-owned enterprises and utility units supported by the central finance during the communist period. When two distinct camps compete in Western style democracies, the losing side is often disenfranchised in the resulting government. But since progressive democracy guarantees the representation of all village level groups, no one party possesses overwhelming advantages over another, thus ensuring that different camps can coexist in peace. Each group will have its immediate self-governing body which will protect constituents and implement their principles. Different self-governing bodies coordinate and exchange with one another at a higher level of progressive democracy. This structure promotes the co-existence and cooperation of heterogeneous groups until there is sufficient transitional time for the antagonism to weaken and the integration to begin.
Reigning in religious influence
Therefore, how can the cultural role of religion in
A smooth transition
The most important aspect of the successive multitier electoral system is that it nonviolently transforms the totalitarian system from the bottom up, and does not need to directly challenge the highest totalitarian authority from the very beginning. Thus the totalitarian powers are less likely to violently oppose it. In contrast, top-down movements for self-governance inevitably clash with the totalitarian powers at their inception － the stage where one must eliminate the other. In the successive multi-tier electoral system, only in the final stages － when the chiefs from all the regions in Tibet come together to elect the highest leader － would the system completely replace the totalitarian powers in Tibet. By that time, the current regime may no longer have the motivation or power to repress the new system. The advanced self-governance of
There is no doubt that obtaining permission for self-governance directly from the Chinese government requires only a few words from
The final point of progressive democracy is that it can proceed without
No matter how much pressure the international community exerts, external forces cannot solve the
Pressure from the international community on
However, The Dalai Lama’s success in the international community is not meaningless. Without a certain level of international pressure, the Chinese government would never believe in the need for change. The many economic benefits that the Tibetan regions receive can easily be seen as a result of the efforts of the exiled Tibetans and other international pressures. The primary failure of external Tibetan activists has been a too narrow focus which only attempts to influence decision-makers in Beijing. The exiled government should instead broaden their perspective and recognize that
 Chen Kuiyuan’s speech at the fifth conference of the responsible party members of the Sixth People’s Congress and Political Consultative Council of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, 14 May 1997.
 Yang Miao&Lu Zhan, “Perspective of Religion and Economic development in
Han Qingjun, “The Evolvement of Economic Policy of Central Government in
 Information Office of the State Council of the People\’s Republic of
 The Tibetan Autonomous Region’s
 Wang Lixiong, ““Dalai Lama Is the Key to the ‘Tibetan Question.’”
 Zhang Hong, “2006, Events in the Train-line of Qing-Tibet,” China Today, Issue 9, 2006.
 “CCP secretary-general Hu Yaobang’s conversation with the Dalai Lama’s brother Gyalo Dondrup in
 The United Front work Department of CCP,“Description of Third Symposium on Tibet Work”
 “The Middle-Way Approach: A Framework for Resolving the Issue of Tibet,” Issued by the Department of Information and International Relations, Exiled Central Tibetan Administration, updated 2006. See, http://www.tibet.net/en/diir/sino/std/imwa.html
 “Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to All Tibetans,” published by the office of Dalai Lama, 5 April, 2008. See, http://www.dalailama.com/news.222.htm
 The Tibetan Autonomous Region’s
 The headman system was officially abolished under Mao, but returned in the