China and Tibet

By lchxian Foreign doctor. Chinese, born in Malaysia. Educated in Malaysia, Belfast, Sydney.

Being a Buddhist and a Chinese, the relationship between China and Tibet is close to my heart. It is indeed very distressing hearing stories of Tibetan Monks being beaten up, even more distressing to see supposedly pro-Tibetan protesters disrupting the Beijing Olympic Torch relay.

The China-Tibet issue is more than merely about China and Tibet. Many other parties try to exert their influence, hoping to achieve their personal goals.

The English media often talk about Chinese “invasion” of Tibet in 1950. However, it often fail to point out that, Tibet was part of China back in 1700s during the Qing Dynasty. In fact, in the late 1700s, Nepalese Gurkha invaded Tibet, the Chinese Qianlong Emperor’s army together with local Tibetan troops were called upon to defend Tibet, which is part of China. Without Qianlong’s army, Tibetan history could have been very different.

The western world cannot be seen as a neutral party in China Tibet issue. In the recent history, The western imperial power have been using all kind of lies and excuses to achieve their ambition. The “weapon of mass destruction”; the invasion and destruction of Iraq was one such example.

In the early 1900s, the British and Russian competed for supremacy in Central Asia, Tibet was the jewel to be captured in this conflict. British forces invaded Tibet in 1903, it was reported that the British soldiers mowed down the Tibetans with machine guns as they fled. With this recent history in mind, can we trust that the Western world does not have ulterior motive when they interfere in China’s internal affair?

Promoting independence of Tibet from China is infringing China’s sovereignty. Tibet is part of China, just like Scotland is part of United Kingdom. If China start supporting Scottish Separatist movement, I am sure UK will be really unhappy too. Separatist movement are not well tolerated throughout history, just look at Ester Rising (1916) in Ireland, many civilians were killed, 15 separatist leaders were executed, 3000 political prisoners were put behind bars by the British. Unfortunately, the reality is suppression of separatist movements are equally harsh all over the world.

On the other hand, I hope China would start to see Dalai Lama as part of the solution rather than problem in China-Tibet relationship. Dalai Lama is not seeking independence for Tibet; His Holiness is seeking preservation of Tibetan Culture and religion. Dalai Lama had openly appeal for non-violence and encourage Tibetan to co-exist with the ethnics Chinese. He understand that for Tibet to progress economically, Tibet is better off being part of China.

Hopefully the people of Tibet would follow the advice of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Non-violence and co-existence. Violence and instability in that region will not benefit Tibet or China. May China show restrained and compassion when dealing with China-Tibet relationship.

May we all have wisdom to see beyond what is reported by the media. May we all have more compassion. May peace prevail.

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21 thoughts on “China and Tibet

  1. Michael Follon

    You write:

    ‘Promoting independence of Tibet from China is infringing China’s sovereignty. Tibet is part of China, just like Scotland is part of United Kingdom.’

    The United Kingdom is NOT a country it is an abbreviation for the formal name – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Scotland became part of the United Kingdom firstly when James VI of Scotland also became James I of England in 1603 and then formally in 1707 through the Treaty of Union, when it joined with England to form Great Britain, which was the cause of riots throughout Scotland.

    Under Scottish constitutional law sovereignty rests with the people, currently that is the total registered electorate. This is an extract from a 1954 legal finding by Lord Cooper in the Scottish Court of Session –

    ‘The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law…I have difficulty in seeing why it should have been supposed that the new Parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English Parliament but none of the Scottish Parliament, as if all that happened in 1707 was that Scottish representatives were admitted to the Parliament of England. That is not what was done.’

    SOURCE: McCormick v Lord Advocate 1954 (1953 SC 396)

  2. John

    Is it not true that Tibet was invaded by China in the 1950s and until then had been an autonomous state since at least 1912? And am I wrong in believing that at one stage China was ruled by Tibet? It seems to be stretching the truth to say Tibet has always been part of China. And why should China be immune from criticism by other nations about how it treats people?

  3. Author says that Tibet has been part of China since Qing Dynasty in 1700s. Qing is a Manchu Dynasty. Manchu are not Chinese, they were from an independent nation called Manchuria. Manchu occupied China, as well Tibet and Outer Mongolia during this period Just like during Yuan Dynasty in 1200s,Mongolians occupied all of China and Tibet under it. It doesn’t mean we are part of Mongolia now, otherwise China should be part of Mongolia as well.

    The Manchu empire originally was formed by three provinces, Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning. The land that it occupied extended much farther than it does in present day China containing most of Mongolia.

    In 1644, the nomadic Manchu people left the Manchurian plain and entered Peking. The Manchu established the Ching dynasty of rulers. With the power of the Manchu growing, they made the Chinese wear the traditional pigtail and clothing. In 1646, the Manchu invaded Chekiang, Fukien, and Szechwan, and, within one year, they took Canton. In 1966, the leaders of the Manchu ordered evacuation of all the costal regions to keep them from being exposed to outside cultures. Then, in 1668, Manchuria was closed to all Chinese. No outside trade or customs were allowed. In 1670, Manchu people took Turkestan. Wu San-kuei was the first real rebellion against the Manchu, in 1673. The rebellion was not successful.

    Manchu continued conquering Outer Mongolia and Tibet. The Manchu were also responsible for the massacre and extermination of the Dzungars, another cultural group of people. During the late1700’s, the Manchu took their armies to Nepal to fight the Gurkhas and defeated them. By mid 1800, the Manchu territory slowly started to disappear by the advancements of Russians, British and French troops. In the early 1900’s, the Manchu people where down to only about eighty percent of the previous conquering population. The Manchu empire that expanded over much of present day China and Mongolia was reduced to one-tenth the size.

    So I never understood when Chinese as well as the author here misinterprets history and they are not alone, they are western scholars with limited knowledge of Eastern culture and history who would cite the same.

  4. Well those who argue that Tibet was part of China from the Qing would also argue that the Manchu were in fact Chinese, although the Manchu were not ethnic Han that doesn’t mean they were not Chinese.

    Yes, the Manchu discriminated against the Han peoples and were also different from them, but that doesn’t necessarily make them non-Chinese. The Manchu viewed themselves as different from the Han of course, and from the policies they put in place like the “willow palisade”, they prevented Han settlers from traveling into Manchuria, meaning that they wanted to prevent being dominated by the Han. That shows that they didn’t obviously view themselves as being Han, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t view themselves as Chinese.

    The Qing dynasty itself were Manchus who were descendants of the Jurchens who ruled the Jin dynasty in China. In fact the Qing dynasty was orginally named the Jin dynasty and then later renamed.

  5. Qing dynasty occupied claiming that they are related to Chin Dynasty, just like China occupied saying it`s a part of China.It doesn’t mean they are Chinese, it just means they they just this pretext to occupy China. And I know Tibetans are Tibetan and they are from Tibet. Just as Manchurians are from Manchuria and not Chinese.Just as Chinese are from China, just as Mongolians are from Mongia..etc..! No matter how deep we dig the history,this fact doesn’t change.

  6. If this is how they justify history, then may be everyone of us Tibetans as well Chinese should be Mongolian according to Yuan Dynasty. China should be part of Mongolia.And it dated before Qing, more reason why we should stick to this era.

  7. snowlionsroar

    I really enjoy this blog a lot, and it’s much more professional than mine, but do you think you could feature my entry? Or even linking to it’s fine, I just think that, despite its amateur composure, it does shed some light on many of the different points of view and such.


  8. Otto Kerner

    Although this essay seems at first blush like the same old, same old that we are used to hearing from the pro-Chinese side, this is a good reminder that these opinions are held quite earnestly by many Chinese people, both inside and outside of the PRC. That being the case, there is nothing to be lost and potentially much to be gained by engaging in a cordial dialogue on these points — and a essay in English is a particularly good opportunity for those of us who do not understand Chinese (or, as in my case, understand it not very well). I applaud tibettalk for putting this out there.

  9. Oliver

    Too often in recent Western media reporting and from speaking to overseas Tibetans involve in the independence movement, I notice an undercurrent of racist sentiment. Many in the media and the Tibetan independence movement asserted that Tibet was not a part of China during the Yuan and Qing dynasties because these two dynasties were not “Chinese” but Mongolian and Manchurian since their founders were not of the “Han race”.

    However, many Tibetans and Westerners seem to forget that “China” did not exist back then. China as a political entity in the Western political sense came into existence at the founding of the modern day Republic. Previously, the political entities that have succeeded each other in occupying that landmass have always marked its successive political governments by individual dynastic names. This is equivalent to European monarchies marking time by the name of kings and the birth of Jesus or the French numerically designating its successive republics since the French Revolution; i.e. the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Republic.

    Han as a racial designation is also a conceptual fallacy for it was originally used simply to denote a person of the political Han dynastic empire. As a “tribal” designation, Han only gain wider usage during the Yuan and Qing dynasties in reaction to the two nomadic tribes. Even then people would just as often referred to themselves as a person of the Yuan or Qing dynasty as Han, Mongolian or Manchurian, while ironically the first wave emigrants to SE Asia and the Americas more often than not referred to themselves as the Tang people rather than “Chinese”.

    Consequently, because of its history and geopolitical location, today’s China and its predecessors have always by necessity been multi-cultural and multi-ethnic in every modern sense, such that during the Han and Tang dynasties it included peoples that we today know them as Mongolians, Koreans as well as Tibetans etc.

    Dynastic names were therefore used as both historical and political reference points as well on traditional calendars. They were never ever used as a racial designation. The Mandarin words for the English word race is “Jong Ju” which seperately means kind/origin and tribe. It has no biological connotation. Frankly, racial designation is an unhealthy perversion/obsession that grew out of the Western scientific tradition of categorisation and were taken to extreme in the political eugenics of Western and Japanese imperialism and colonialism. It is a legacy that seems to have survived to this day and have unfortunately also “infected” the psyche of many young overseas Tibetans who grew up in the West, their Western sympathisers and the Tibetan cause.

  10. Why would the first wave of Chinese immigrants to SE Asia and the Americas refer to themselves as the ‘Tang People’? Wouldn’t it be ‘Qing People’?

    I understand what you are saying though in terms of Chinese arguing that they always perceived themselves as a multi-ethnic people not just confined to one particular ethnic group, this is what I was essentially trying to say in my post before.

    However I would say that I’m not 100% sold on the notion. Throughout history pre-modern nations have almost always been always been comprised of peoples who have shared a common language, ethnic identity, or culture.

    So if this argument of Chinese multi-ethnic identity is true, then what was it about China that allowed it to be different in this aspect?

    What was it that bound all these different ethnic groups together to view themselves as ‘Chinese’ or whatever other name they used to group themselves all together.

  11. Also I want to add that it should be recognized that there could also be some political motivation behind the arguing of this view of China or being Chinese as encompassing those periphery areas of China that many people don’t consider as “traditional China”. Then again, the same could be said about the opposite argument.

    Also I want to add religion to the list of binding components in most pre modern nations that I mentioned before. So in this argument’s case, religion is another that also doesn’t seem apply since the different ethnic groups we’re talking about don’t all share a common religion.

  12. jing

    First of all, thanks for provide this online talk web site.

    I agree with Oliver’s opinions. China is political concept. Chinese does not only mean Han race. I am Mongolian, I am also a Chinese. I can speak Mongolian, Chinese and English. I enjoy Mongolian culture with Chinese culture together. Which one I need to keep, it depends on your personal situation. I’d rather to keep all of them.

    I don’t like Chinese communist party or Chinese government, but I still like Chinese people and Tibetan people. We just like brothers in a big family with different characteristics. Independence is not only resolution.

    The Dalai Lama can convince the western world by his Holiness and compassion, hope he can do the same thing to Chinese people in China.


  13. Well of course China or being Chinese is now a political concept almost every nation in the world today, especially one as large as China, would say the same about themselves.

    But that is missing the point. We are talking about the argument in which people state that China has historically always been multi ethnic and that it has historically always, or prior to the modern age always encompassed the various ethnic areas and peoples as being part of China and Chinese.

    That said, prior to modern times we didn’t really have nationalism where people from whatever background are brought together under one national identity through the concept of a shared goal, struggle or quality.

    So prior to the modern age we don’t really see nationalism since the nationalist ideologies or sentiments are spread through modern inventions like mass media, modern communication, etc.. So instead before this time people usually associated themselves under one title or group by means of a common language, ethnic identity, culture, or religion, like I mentioned earlier.

    None of these seem to apply for this argument of China always being a multi ethnic nation.

    So if this argument is right, could someone who shares this view (Oliver, Jing), explain what it was that brought all these different ethnic groups together? What was it that allowed historical China to have a “multi-ethnic” identity?

  14. Pingback: Being Chinese: Historically a Multiethnic Identity? « Tibet Talk

  15. lchxian

    🙂 Good to see that my post is generating such a lot of discussion here, actually more than in the original post.

  16. Hi, at my high school i am doing a play on the issue of China vs. Tibet. I have done a lot of research on this topic, but i have one question that i have not found the answer to. My question is ‘what actually caused China and Tibet to argue?’ This website has answered alot of my questions except for this one, and i am hoping that someone can answer it for me

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