China’s Chance To Impress World As A Great Power: Negotiate ‘True And Final Automony For Tibet’

dalai_lama.jpgOur guest blogger is Nina Hachigian, a Senior Vice President at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Tibetans are all peaceloving Buddhist monks and the Chinese government instantly quashes all organized dissent. Even though the events of the past two weeks do not fit neatly into these mental slots, Beijing will not be able to convince the western world otherwise unless it changes its Tibet policy quickly and dramatically.

According to the LA Times, Tibetans randomly and savagely beat and killed Chinese “solely on the basis of their ethnicity.” Gangs of Tibetans burned and destroyed Han and Muslim owned shops. The Chinese authorities held back at first — making the situation much worse — and then they used lethal force to stop the violence, firing live ammunition into crowds of people and beating suspects, by some accounts. Eventually, China sent in enough police and equipment to take on Russia.

The resentment that triggered the riots is Beijing¹s doing, and Beijing ultimately has to account for it. Tibetans do not enjoy the automomy they were once promised. Their religious practice is highly compromised, they fear for the survival of their culture, and they are excluded from any positions of real power in their own society. (In a sad irony, the high profile of the Tibet cause in Hollywood and Western Europe, argues Patrick French, may well have worsened the plight of Tibetans, offering symbolic gestures that have made China dig-in but haven’t actually done anything to improve life for Tibetans)

Time is not on Beijing’s side. The Dali Lama condemns violence and does not advocate independence for Tibet. Many Tibetans of the next generation are not so restrained on either score, having grown up on a diet of cultural repression‹some exile groups openly advocate terrorism. Moreover, the basic bargain that has worked in most of China to keep the Communist Party in power — we improve your standard of living and you agree to shut up about us — has not worked and will not work in Tibet.

Beijing’s only choice right now — to ensure the Beijing Olympics are not forever tarnished and to convince the world that it should welcome China’s ascent as a great and responsible power ­is to negotiate sincerely, respectfully and flexibly with the Dali Lama toward true and final autonomy for Tibet. China has a chance to pull an astonishing policy and PR coop — to take a decades old albatross of its neck and have the world leave Beijing not only impressed with the fantastic economic progress of China, but also with the wisdom of the Chinese government. Too bad they probably wont grasp it.