What Will We Do About Tibet?


The Chinese government continues to put down anti-government demonstrations by Tibetans both in Tibet and in China proper:

The flagship newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party called Saturday for efforts to “resolutely crush” anti-government demonstrations by Tibetans, while Beijing urged people to turn in those on a “Most Wanted” list of 21 protesters.

As Chinese troops smothered Tibetan-heavy areas to avert additional unrest, U.S. presidential hopeful John McCain, a Republican, and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, joined a growing international chorus of criticism against the crackdown.

The protests, which started in Lhasa on the March 10 anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule, turned violent four days later and touched off demonstrations among Tibetans in three other provinces.

What will we do about Tibet? The answer, in a word, is nothing:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States Wednesday called any potential dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama on Tibet “very positive.”

State Department Spokesman Tom Casey said the United States would “certainly encourage and call on the Chinese to engage directly in discussions with the Dalai Lama or his representatives.”

The position of the U. S. is that Tibet is a part of China and disturbances of any kind there are a purely internal matter. A closer relationship with China has been a bipartisan policy of the U. S. for thirty years.

I couldn’t find any mention of China on either Hillary Clinton’s web page or Barack Obama’s (although a year ago Hillary Clinton was talking about the danger of excessive reliance on Chinese investors). John McCain’s web site mentions China only as a possible “strategic competitor”.

We’ve already relinquished most of the things we could have used as leverage on China, notably most favored nation trading status and WTO membership. We won’t go to war with China over Tibet or place tariffs on their exports or cut off travel there. We won’t boycott the Olympics since the last time we tried that 25 years ago the most it achieved was denying a few American athletes their medals.

In the light of that reality I think that airy promises of symbolic “support” are unhelpful:

DHARAMSALA, India — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, visiting the Dalai Lama’s headquarters here on Friday, described recent protests in Tibet as “a challenge to conscience of the world” and pressed for an investigation into whether the Dalai Lama masterminded that unrest as the Chinese government has alleged.


The visit by Ms. Pelosi, accompanied by nine members of Congress, most of them Democrats, had been scheduled previously as part of a visit to India. It was unclear what her visit would yield for Tibetans, except a symbolic shot in the arm. For the Americans, the timing could not have been better.

Namely, photo ops and sound bites for the folks back home.

Realistically, there’s only one thing we can do with respect to the Chinese: embarrass them. I honestly suspect they’ll give us plenty of opportunities.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. The US Capitalism will soon be slave of eastern money contributions…
    I really think it is the moment to boycott China government… This cold-war situation is no more acceptable to me!

    My opinion here on my blog


  2. William d'Inger says:

    We can (and should) browbeat them over the human rights issue every chance we get. Of course we hope nobody will mention our Indian … oops … Native-Ameri … er … First Peoples’ reservations and the living conditions in those places.

  3. So for nearly eight years we’ve been told that the US has a civilizational duty to spread freedom that requires a seemingly endless war in Iraq, yet when it comes to the question of freedom for Tibet, we’re supposed to do nothing because it’s wrong to interfere with the internal matters of another country?

  4. DC Loser says:

    I find western press reports of Tibetan “anti-government” demonstrations to be disingeuous. To most Chinese, and also overseas Chinese, the pictures shot by western tourists during the “riot” were nothing short of racist attacks and murders of innocent civilians. We won’t tolerate this kind of stuff in this country, why should the Chinese? Read the posts compiled by Roland at ESWN

  5. DL says:

    It is a helluva good question to ask those leftist candidates -Hillary and Obama-just to watch them squirm as they try to thread the eye of a needle answering, without doing what their “save Tibet” leftists demand.
    Why don’t you just go talk to them Obama -tell them aboout your plan for peace and unity? And you Hillary -you’ve spent years sharpening up your military CIC credentials in order to get elected. Perhaps you can ressurrect those old Peter Sellers costumes from that old movie “The Mouse That Roared” If you prefer to attack with a small group of special forces at night, Bill can supply you with a bright red beret to look the part.(After he removes the ML monogram)

  6. First up:

    the pictures shot by western tourists during the “riot” were nothing short of racist attacks and murders of innocent civilians.

    Holy dangling modifier, DC Loser!

    Living here (here is China), I’m puzzled as to the Chinese reaction to Western media coverage of the violence in Tibet. I mean, have any Chinese considered that the reason Western reporting has been sloppy is that all foreign journalists have been ordered out of Tibet? Chinese critics are trying to have their cake and eat it too.

    A point my friends and I have been making when talking about the topic is that China is actually hurting itself by limiting foreign media coverage, since most of the footage (Chinese and foreign alike) seems to suggest that the Tibetan side has spilled more blood. Chinese may dislike this: but no one will believe the Chinese side’s account if only the Chinese side is doing the reporting. And I’ve seen the Chinese side’s reporting on CCTV, where the body count almost never includes dead Tibetans.

    Moving on to the point of Dave’s post, one of the reasons I think the US shouldn’t jump into any one position on the Tibet issue is that the rioting and protests feel like a replay of Kosovo: an aggrieved minority engages in ethnic violence against the majority (and other minorities) with the hope of inviting a disproportionate response from the majority and, in turn, an international intervention against the majority. In this case, I highly doubt that Tibetans wanted the West to attack China militarily, but certainly the Olympics must’ve seemed a tempting target.

    I think the US position ought to be that ethnic violence is simply unacceptable and call on both sides to peacefully resolve the matter. In other words, what we’re doing now is about right.

  7. Bill H says:

    Pretty hard to condemn China for the use of force in its military occupation of Tibet, when we are using force in our military occupation of Iraq. How many Iraqi civilians have died in the past five years?

  8. mike says:

    Why not boycott the Olympics? If the US lead the way, I think other nations would do the same and China would be embarassed as well as lose millions and millions of dollars b/c tv coverage would be less, tourism etc… Sorry but to me human rights is a much more important issue than seeing who can run the fastest or jump the highest esp since we toppled a regime b/c of human rights abuses (well, that is the latest reason being used since the WMDs disappeared).