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The violently peaceful struggle for Tibet

Dr. Andrea Galli

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Prayers in front of the Jokhang temple

Many years later, as he faced how the Dalai Lama became a political inconvenience for an increasing number of world leaders, the former emissary of the Dalai Lama, Gelek Rinpoche was to remember those distant afternoons when the poet Allen Ginsberg, the composer Philip Glass, the author Robert Thurman and the actor Richard Gere jointly planned fully-booked glamorous events for his Buddhist Jewel Heart organizations based in Ann Arbor, Chicago, and New York. At that time, the end of the Cold War was so recent that many notions lacked names, and in order to describe them, it was necessary to invent.

The belief of the Dalai Lama as a “man of peace” was pragmatically shared by all Western politicians, media and left-thinking intellectuals who depicted the people of Tibet as by nature honest, gentle and kind. This belief helped spread the perception of Tibetan culture as a compassionate and non-violent one, and of Tibet as a civilization where, under the Lamas, peace and happiness prevailed and that this condition of happiness could be taken up worldwide.

Just a few years before the end of the Cold War, the film Seven Years in Tibet featuring Brad Pitt posited that Tibetans revere life so much that they refuse to kill even worms and that the “Chinese are brutal; the Tibetans are gentle.” The Tibet activist and actor Richard Gere spoke of “Beijing’s savage oppression of the gentle Tibetan people.” Western media referred to the Dalai Lama as an apostle of world peace and happiness, and the idea that the Tibetan people are naturally peaceful became an obvious truth for all.

The rhetoric of the (cultural) genocide

In 2001, a few days before the International Olympic Committee met in Moscow to award the 2008 Games to Beijing, Gelek Rinpoche, acting as the Dalai Lama’s envoy for the occasion, approached the General Director of the International Olympic Committee and confident in the Tibetan struggle narrative that had gained good traction by then, demanded that the Games should be denied because “China has been executing a policy in Tibet of ethnic and cultural genocide against the Tibetan people, and intended to erase the Tibetan people from the face of the Earth.”

In 1959 after Gelek Rinpoche accompanied the Dalai Lama in his flight to India, both thought that in the near future China would totally exterminate the Tibetan race. In reports from 1959 and 1960, the CIA-funded International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) claimed that China was committing genocide in Tibet by eradicating the Tibetans through restrictions on religion that were destroying their way of life. A few years later the Dalai Lama mitigated his certitudes and admitted that China’s aim was not physical annihilation, but assimilation and subordination, stating that China “seems to attempt the extermination of religion and culture and even the absorption of the Tibetan race.”

Today it is historically irrefutable that there were substantial causalities in Tibet due to the vicious actions of Mao-era China, as there were throughout the country. However, there has never been credible evidence showing that physical genocide has been perpetrated in Tibet aiming at the extermination of Tibetans. Claims that a fifth of the Tibetan population was annihilated from 1959 to 1979 through executions, famines, imprisonment, and other means are without any evidentiary roots. Mao was at war with an ideology, not the nation of Tibetan people alone. Absent the nexus to physical genocide, a claim of cultural genocide becomes no more than a rhetorical construct, a conjecture in need of a name that would become the foundation justification for the Tibetan struggle.

The notion of cultural genocide in Tibet resonated in the West because it is a largely unexamined concept. Even where the phrase itself is not used, Western media reflexively alluded to the idea. For example, in late 2017, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, headed by Senator Marco Rubio, invited the actor Richard Gere as “someone who is knowledgeable about the political situation in Tibet” to testify before the committee. In his testimony, the actor stated that “under Chinese rule, the Tibetan language and culture have been suppressed”. In reality, the education system in Tibet has been tailored to the cultural specificities of Tibetans by developing primary level schooling in the Tibetan language and secondary level schooling on a bilingual basis, adding Chinese languages and supplementary English lessons to the curriculum. Gere’s assumed expertise in Tibetan matters has never been called in question because it fitted a definite agenda.

Others have posited that cultural genocide does not only mean killing, it also means limiting births among Tibetans. A lawyer who headed the US-based Tibet Justice Centre advanced such allegations, and the Dalai Lama stated that China is “forcing strict family planning rules on my people” in order “to make us a minority in our own land.” The fact is, family planning and the “one child” policy, however, even where coercive, were part of China’s policy over the entire Chinese territory for decades, and not just imposed on Tibet.

Some Tibetan leaders in exile and Western NGOs claimed that “Tibetans are not even permitted to undertake routine religious activities”. They asserted that 6,000 monasteries were destroyed before or during the Mao’s Cultural Revolution and that “the handful of surviving monasteries are being used as public toilets and barracks while monks and nuns in Tibet have been forced by the Chinese to defecate on religious objects”. Such claims are anachronisms designed to imply that a second Maoist Cultural Revolution is ongoing in Tibet. Yet mass participation in routine religious activities is evident to even sceptical observers and the occasional tourist.

Western journalists reported that in Tibet many hundreds of Tibetans prostrate themselves at temples daily, while US human rights officials visiting Lhasa saw pilgrims crowded in front of the Jokhang, one of Tibet’s most important temples, to perform ritual worship. They do not challenge China’s claims that every year more than one million people visit the Jokhang. As for the major monasteries on the Tibetan plateau, Western reporters have noted that the there are now 300 more lamaseries and temples in the Tibet than existed in the region before 1951. Again, such figures are not disputed.

Chinese state efforts to preserve Tibetan cultural accomplishments and popularize Tibetan culture by creating venues for its development are ignored in Western discourse because such efforts conflict with the idea of cultural genocide in Tibet. Rather, exile Tibet leaders and Western NGOs reject performing arts in Tibet as inauthentic and have stated that “in this calculated cultural genocide the Chinese make every effort to remove any vestige of Tibetan character in the performing arts.”

Even artists educated in contemporary Tibet who emigrate to India, such as Gongkar Gyatso, are spurned as polluted. Exiled Tibetan authorities are unhappy that the main trend in Tibetan art, in or out of Tibet, has been modernistic. They consider religious scroll painting to be the only authentic Tibetan style, and disapprove all other painting styles produced by ethnic Tibetans as being corrupted by Chinese influences. The reference to the arts and cultural genocide is a classic nationalist juxtaposition of the inauthentic in “occupied Tibet” to the “pure” preserved culture of the exiles and allied Western-based NGOs. One exponent of those NGOs is the New York-based Tibet House, founded in 1987 by Robert Thurman (father of actress Uma Thurman), actor Richard Gere and composer Philip Glass (among others). Ironically, in the fields of literature, architecture, art, film, and music alike, Chinese intellectuals and artists have been turning more and more frequently to Tibet as a source of inspiration.

Lhasa, like many large cities around the world, has abundant outlets for prostitution, gambling, and drugs. Exiled Tibet leaders and Western NGOs try to attribute such “vices” found in Tibet’s cities to cultural corrosion due to the Chinese presence. The Washington based International Campaign for Tibet, represented by its main public exponent, the actor Richard Gere, has stated: “We are concerned that more and more young Tibetans are being tempted by the very worst aspects of Chinese culture.” However, none of the “vices” complained of are specifically Chinese, and might equally be attributed to the influence of “the West”. While exiled Tibetan leaders and Western NGOs object to the cultural impact of the Han-Chinese in Tibet, they are usually much less concerned about the Western influence on traditional Tibetan culture.

Even the late Elliot Sperling, an expert on Tibet and passionate supporter of the exiled Tibetan cause, observed that “within certain limits China does make efforts to accommodate Tibetan cultural expression” and “the cultural activity taking place all over the Tibetan plateau cannot be ignored.” Other supporters of the exiled Tibetan cause, including Tibet scholar Professor Robert Barnett and German Green Party leader Antje Vollmer, also recognized the inaccuracy of the cultural genocide claim.

It has been said that the notion of genocide is marked by conceptual confusion, often compounded by its rhetorical and populist use on the part of those seeking to inflame and stigmatise social and political discourse. It is equally common for nationalists to deploy a charge of cultural genocide against changes they oppose in traditional lifestyles. The Dalai Lama often states that he is concerned most of all about the preservation of culture. His main international alliance, however, is with politicians in the US, a country whose hegemony plays a major strategic role in eroding traditional cultures, including in Europe, China and Tibet.

The unanimity on pacifism

But let’s go back to the few crucial days before the International Olympic Committee met in Moscow in 2001 to award the 2008 Games to Beijing. Gelek Rinpoche approached the General Director of the International Olympic Committee as envoy of the Dalai Lama, and claimed that there “has not been one single terrorist incident in all the 50 years of the Tibetan struggle for independence”. The dogmatic stance on non-violence was always effective in obfuscating memories and attracting consent. Yet Gelek Rinpoche must have remembered the bombings in Lhasa, the large-scale armed revolts, the guerrilla warfare, the large quantity of weaponry airdropped by the CIA, the gangs of rioters that burned dozens of policemen and killed hundred of civilians, the hate campaigns demonizing opponents of the Tibetan government in exile, seen as antagonistic to the authority of the Dalai Lama, the oppressive measures against the Dorje Shugden religious practice banned and considered heretic by the Dalai Lama, the related series of dynamite blasts in the Tibetan Dartsedo and Lithang counties driven by hatred of Dorje Shugden practitioners, the endorsements of terrorism by the largest Tibetan exile organization, the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) and its extreme nationalist slogans, like “no Chinese in Tibet is innocent”… while the Dalai Lama encouraged others to use such expressions to make himself look more conciliatory in comparison.

In fact, exile leaders have only in the last few decades claimed that nonviolence is essential to Tibetan culture and underlies Tibetan strategy. While the Dalai Lama gives a speech every March 10 to mark the 1959 Lhasa uprising, his first mention of nonviolence in that speech only came in 1988. And it was only in 1996 that the Tibet Parliament in Exile adopted nonviolence as a fundamental principle of the Tibetan Government in Exile.

The Dalai Lama at a public event in Europe

Over the years, the Dalai Lama propagated its “middle way” approach of Tibet as an autonomous region inside China, with the use of such terms as “peace” and “non-violence”, affecting compassion and benevolence in order to gain international empathy and support. Looking beyond the conciliatory words and charismatic smile, however, it is not difficult to find evidence that the exiled Tibetan leadership has been willing to both threaten and resort to violence, and to carry out violence under the guise of non-violence. In truth they have never abandoned their ultimate goal of “Tibetan independence”. This undisclosed intent is explicitly reflected in all known Western-based NGOs advocating for human rights in Tibet which openly proclaim “Tibet Independence” (or “Free Tibet” or in the Tibetan language “Rangzen”) as their ultimate objective.

The image of a pacifist Dalai Lama facing a belligerent China has obstructed any settlement of the Tibet question. It has reinforced the idea that a “Free Tibet” can only be possible if China disintegrates. It has allowed Western elites to demand that because the Dalai Lama is perceived as a “man of peace” China has to negotiate with him unconditionally, which it would not do unless he first accepted Tibet as an inalienable and legitimate part of China. Because he refused to do so, the Chinese government linked him to hostile Western forces who seek China’s dismantling.

However, in recent years, the massive economic power China has become has made the Dalai Lama a political danger for an increasing number of world leaders and nations, who now shy away from him for fear of inciting China’s ire or endangering economic relations with China. Even Pope Francis, considered an audacious religious leader, reportedly declined a meeting in Rome with the Dalai Lama. And President Donald Trump, who might be expected to endorse the decades-long US efforts to destabilize China and to back US-based NGOs active in propaganda campaigns for human rights in Tibet, suggested that financially supporting the “Free Tibet” cause is a “waste of money”. Of late, even the Indian authorities hosting the Tibetan leadership and the Dalai Lama have cancelled important commemoratory events with him.

In reality, the Dalai Lama’s persona impedes a compromise for as long as the discourse prevents differentiation between his religious and political roles and the narrative remains a binary one which idolises him as peaceful and demonizes China as the brutal perpetrator of a cultural genocide in Tibet. China has over the last three decades relaxed draconian and cruel Mao-era rules, by opening the door to private sector capitalism. With its adoption of capitalistic mechanisms, China has accumulated immense financial assets which are today vital to the nourishment of the worldwide economy, particularly in Western countries that have accumulated huge debts.

Also over the last three decades, China has relaxed the draconian Mao-era rules on religion by allowing individuals to practice a religion of their choice. There are now significantly more adherents of Buddhism than members of the Communist Party – there are 90 million members of Communist Party of China, compared to some 250 million Buddhists and 200,000 registered Buddhist monks. Additionally, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, is constantly moderating his attitude to Tibet and Buddhism, among other reasons because his wife is profoundly Buddhist.

The reverence for (non)-violence

When in 2001, Gelek Rinpoche approached the International Olympic Committee to protest against the 2008 Olympic Games being awarded to Beijing, he must have remembered the distant years before the Chinese invasion in 1951, when the Tibet was ruled by aristocrats, clerics, and manor owners and had a brutal social hierarchy and a system of serfdom similar to pre-feudal times; he must have remembered the distant year of 1959 when the Dalai Lama and two of his brothers enrolled by the CIA, along with other clerics and aristocrats, launched a large-scale armed revolt against officials stationed in Tibet and massacred local Tibetans who supported Chinese communism. The Dalai Lama was not only well-informed of the action but gave it his active blessing. Years later he wrote in his book My Spiritual Autobiography: “Every one of them is armed to the teeth, and even my personal cook is carrying a bazooka, with his waist belt full of ammunition. He has been well trained by the CIA…”

After the Dalai Lama fled to India, escorted by his entourage of clerics and aristocrats, he reorganized an army and waited to fight his way back to Tibet. In 1960 in Mustang, a county in northern Nepal, he rebuilt an anti-Chinese guerrilla force. In 1962, with support from external powers, he built a Special Frontier Force composed of mainly Tibetan exiles, most of them from aristocrat families. From 1961 to 1965, these forces sneaked across the border 204 times to harass Chinese border troops and Tibetan civilians. According to disclosed US archives, the Dalai Lama first established contact with the US government in 1951. During the armed rebellion in Tibet, the CIA not only sent agents to help the Dalai Lama and his entourage of clerics and aristocrats to flee but also purposefully trained militants to support his forces and airdropped a large quantity of weaponry.

On September 21, 1987, the Dalai Lama made a speech to the US Congress, calling for Tibetan independence. On September 27, in the square of the Jokhang Temple, a group of lamas shouted separatist slogans, attacked police, and injured many civilians. On October 1, a small gang of rioters raided the police station on Barkhor Street in Lhasa and burned seven cars, leaving dozens of policemen injured. The rioters proclaimed that the Dalai Lama was fighting for Tibetan independence. They demanded the support of spectators and the general public and threatened personal retaliation against those who failed to join them. On March 5, 1988, during the Monlam Prayer Festival, a gang of rioters stormed into local Party and government offices and police stations around Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Street, smashing and burning cars and shops, leading to 299 police and civilian casualties. From March 5 to 7, 1989, Lhasa witnessed another riot in which one policeman was shot dead, 40 others were injured, and 107 shops, 24 government offices, primary schools and neighbourhood committees were destroyed. On March 11, 1992, nine Tibetan separatists attacked the Chinese embassy in India with firebombs.

The (non)-violence around the Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing

“The Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing will be a symbol of peace, friendship, and progress, which is welcomed and cherished by all peoples” commented the International Olympic Committee in 2001, during the ceremony awarding the 2008 Games to Beijing.

In May 2007, the Tibetan independence movement, including exiled Tibetan leaders and Western NGOs supporting them, held a meeting in Brussels and agreed on a strategic plan to launch a campaign to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Later, two NGOs in the US (International Campaign for Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet) and two in India (the Tibetan Youth Congress and the Tibetan Women’s Association) advocating for human rights in Tibet put forward a proposal for an uprising in Tibet, believing the 2008 Olympic Games was the last chance to achieve Tibetan independence. They decided to take advantage of this occasion while China was the spotlight of international attention before the start of the Olympic Games.

On January 4 and January 25, 2008, Tibetan independence activists held press conferences in New Delhi, releasing proposals for this uprising, spreading the news on more than 100 websites, and encouraging the instigation of constant large-scale uprisings for March 10, 2008, the date corresponding to the anniversary of the uprising in 1959. On March 10, the Dalai Lama made a speech, urging his followers within Chinese territory to engage in violence. On the same day, the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) made a statement, claiming that it would “now seize a most important opportunity never before seen in our struggle for independence – the upcoming Olympic Games,” and that it would “spare neither blood nor life for Tibetan independence.”

Uprisings took place in Tibet four days later than planned, on March 14, 2008. That day, a mob converged in the downtown area of Lhasa, assaulting innocent bystanders with weapons including rocks, daggers, and clubs, smashing and looting vehicles, shops, banks, the Telecom business offices, and government properties, severely disrupting social order, and causing heavy losses of life and property. During the violent incidents, there were over 300 cases of arson, while 908 shops, seven schools, 120 houses, and five hospitals were severely damaged. Ten bank branches were looted, at least 20 buildings were burnt to the ground, and 84 vehicles were torched. Most seriously, a total of 18 people were burned or hacked to death, and 382 people were injured – 58 of them seriously.

After these incidents, the Dalai Lama himself released a declaration through his personal secretariat, describing the riots as “peaceful protests.” On March 16, he said in an interview with BBC that he would not ask the rioters to stop because their demands came from the Tibetan people, and he had to respect their will. In the meantime, the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), passed a resolution to “immediately organize guerrillas to infiltrate China for armed struggle.” The head of the TYC claimed that they were ready to sacrifice another 100 Tibetans to reach complete victory.

Western NGOs advocating for human rights in Tibet, and in particular activists from “Students for a Free Tibet” engaged in a series of sabotage activities directed at the Beijing Olympic Games. They interfered with important ceremonies, including disrupting the torch-lighting ceremony in Greece, and attempting to grab the Olympic torch during the torch relay in various countries, provoking a strong reaction from the international community and a pandemonium at the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, as its General Director, Urs Lacotte, revealed during a lunch at the edge of Lake Geneva, explaining how the Committee did not foresee such an organized outbreak.

The main claims of the activists were: China continues its crackdowns on freedom of religion in Tibet; China is using the Olympics to misrepresent the unique culture of Tibet as Chinese, as it has chosen an endangered Tibetan animal, the Tibetan antelope, as one of its Olympic mascots; China has failed to follow the call of the International Campaign for Tibet to end human rights abuses in Tibet and negotiate a peace agreement with Tibet’s exiled leader, the Dalai Lama…

The self-immolation marathon after the Olympic Games 2008

After the Western media coverage of riots in Tibet in 2008, in which the Dalai Lama was identified as a peacemaker to whom China refused to talk, the proportion of journalists who saw China as the world’s biggest threat doubled. Time magazine named the Dalai Lama the most influential person in the world and the Western general public saw the Dalai Lama as the most respected world leader. The notion he is a pacifist was so pervasive that it circulated from the West to China for some months.

Following some success in drawing media attention during the Beijing Olympic Games incidents, the exiled Tibetan leadership began to encourage Tibetan lamas and lay followers inside China and India to engage in acts of self-immolation, leading to a series of such incidents in a number of regions. This ongoing campaign started in 2009 but had its roots in a few isolated cases that began around 1998 outside Tibet.

The US-based NGOs stated that self-immolation acts by Tibetans were an assertion of the Tibetan identity in the face of “cultural genocide”. This proclamation, however, disregarded the fact that suicide is forbidden in Buddhism. The campaign was heavily exploited around the world and praised by NGOs advocating for human rights in Tibet, but also by NATO-backed think tanks. These included Freedom House, whose specific role is to monitor freedom of the press around the world and which ranked Tibet as the worst possible place, saying self-immolations were the result of a lack of freedom. However, the most extreme illustration of the alliance of the US government in the self-immolation campaign can be seen in the documents of The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (www.cecc.gov). This body promotes the self-immolation strategy aimed at achieving “Tibetan freedom” and the Dalai Lama’s return in Tibet, and sees the collapse of China as an implicit goal.

In some cases acts of self-immolation were exploited to support fundraising activities, particularly in the US, and to obtain governmental subsidies for NGOs or the exiled Tibetan leadership, with wide support from cultural exponents like Hollywood actors and famous musicians, whose numbers had boomed since those distant afternoons when the poet Allen Ginsberg, the composer Philip Glass, the author Robert Thurman and the actor Richard Gere first laid their plans to drum up support for US-based Buddhist organizations.

US-based NGO banner praising self-immolation in Tibet

On May 29, 2012, at a TYC candlelight rally to glorify Tibetans who had set themselves alight, the leader of the rally claimed, “Tibetan independence will neither fall from the sky nor grow from the earth; rather it relies on our efforts and action and needs sacrifice.” From September 25 to 28, 2012, the exiled Tibetan leadership convened the Second Special Meeting of Tibetans in Exile, proclaiming self-immolation as the highest form of non-violence, hailing its victims as “national heroes,” building memorials and raising special funds for them. They still vigorously preach that “self-immolation does not go against Buddhist doctrine” and that “self-immolation is martyrdom and a Bodhisattva deed,” duping Buddhist believers in Tibet, and particularly innocent young people, and setting them on an incendiary path to ruin. The unavoidable consequence was a rapid increase in self-immolations. In addition, the TYC issued the Martyr Award in 2013 to Monks of the Kirti Monastery who self-immolated and in 2016 to self-immolators in Tibet and in exile who sacrificed their lives.

Investigations by China’s public security organs into incidents of self-immolation clearly revealed that these protesters were being manipulated and instigated by the highest levels of the exiled Tibetan leadership. Kirti Monastery in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture is where the greatest number of self-immolation incidents took place; it has been proved that those promoting these incidents have close links with the Tibetan exile leadership.

The investigation of the security organs revealed that the Tibetan exile leadership has four ways of instigating self-immolation: first, planning incidents from abroad through a so-called “press liaison group” based in the Kirti Monastery in Sichuan and the Kirti Monastery in India; second, sending TYC members into Tibet to incite self-immolation; third, mobilizing activists returning from overseas to assist in self-immolation; and fourth, using the Internet and NGOs’ social media reach to hype up self-immolation.

The exiled Tibetan leadership has allegedly released a Self-immolation Guide on the Internet – an instruction manual to incite and instruct Tibetans residing within China to burn themselves. The author of this manual is Chabdak Lhamo Kyab, who served for two terms as a member of the Tibetan government in exile, known now as the Central Tibetan Government (CTA) and was the head of a clandestine resistance movement and also a public relations counsellor of the Dalai Lama. He now resides in France.

The Self-immolation Guide is a book consisting of four parts: the first part advocates the idea that self-immolators are great, honourable and intrepid heroes and that both these male and female heroes should always be prepared to sacrifice themselves for a just cause. The second part gives detailed instructions on preparations for self-immolation, including picking important days and places, leaving written or recorded last words, and asking trustworthy friends to help record videos or take photos. The third part introduces self-immolation slogans, instructing victims to always shout the same slogans. And the fourth part illustrates other activities that might accompany self-immolation. The book also contains the timeline of protests since 2009; the life stories of the protesters; the international community’s support for the movement; and the exiled Tibetan leadership’s efforts to gain global support. “The book”, said one source of the leadership “has nothing to do with encouraging self-immolation”. At present, the existence of the book has been officially denied by the exiled Tibetan leadership.

Performing self-immolation in public is itself an act of violence, intended to create an atmosphere of terror and of horror. On this issue of principle, the Dalai Lama played an important role. For example, on November 8, 2011, when a new series of self-immolations had just begun, he said in an interview that the point was that self-immolation demanded courage and that “cultural genocide” was the reason behind these “courageous acts”. He thereby both showed his appreciation for and approval of self-immolators and promoted his rhetoric of cultural genocide.

On January 3, 2012, he defended self-immolation on the basis that it was superficially an act of violence, but what differentiated violence and non-violence was the motives and aims behind each act, and only an act driven by hatred and anger could be defined as violence. It was clear that he regarded self-immolation as non-violent protest. On October 8, 2012, he said in an interview that he was sure that self-immolators were sacrificing themselves with a sincere motivation and for the benefit of Buddhism and the well-being of Tibetans, and that, from the Buddhist point of view, it was a positive act. Through these words, he has repeatedly and explicitly offered his approval of and praise for self-immolation. He has also hosted a dharma assembly, in his capacity as a religious leader, to expiate the sins of the dead, chant scriptures and pray for them, a promise which turns out to be very persuasive to believers in Tibetan Buddhism. Only recently has the Dalai Lama revised his views on the effectiveness of self-immolation.

Since the Olympic Games of 2008, over 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest, including 41 monks and eight nuns. Only very few of Tibet’s Buddhist clerics or exponents of the human rights community have dared to speak out in Western countries against glorifying, praising or promoting acts of self-immolation for political gain. Also among exile Tibetans, any advocacy against self-immolation is considered incompatible with the agenda of the Tibetan government in exile, and very few would dare provoke the rage of the Dalai Lama for fear of reprisal. Recently, personalities that dared to speak out against the campaign of self-immolation were systematically attacked on social media in what appeared to be a coordinated slander campaign, organized through anonymous accounts. One luminary who did speak out was Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the Malaysian based Buddhist organisation Kechara, who publicly and forcefully opposed the campaign of self-immolation, particularly after a succession of incidents prior the vote of the US budget bill 2018, which included grants to the exiled Tibetan leaders that were in danger of being rejected by Congress. He was severely punished on the social media for his call for non-violence and was tagged a ‘Chinese spy’ because he upheld a core Buddhist teaching of non-violence.

The fading unity for the Tibetan cause on the path to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

These violent initiatives succeeded in gaining world media focus on the Tibetan issue but ultimately failed to change the equation with China and tilt the balance in favour of the Dalai Lama’s government in exile. As questions of the Tibetan leadership’s adequacy became louder over the years, the Dalai Lama and exile leaders have constantly stoked the flames of division between Tibetans, sowing discord and inciting  inter-religious animosity and divisions. Part of the motivation it was to distract Tibetan refugees from the reality that their exiled Tibetan leaders were unable, after 60 years, to offer a realistic prospective for their return to Tibet, or at least formulate a plan for their integration into Indian society.

Since the failure of the attempted rebellions in 1959 and 2008, a series of particularly divisive issues for the Buddhist community, both within Tibet and abroad have been introduced by the Tibetan leadership. The Karmapa controversy was one where the Dalai Lama created conditions for rivalry to beset the Karma Kagyu sect, the second largest school of Buddhism which prevails until this day. As for the largest Tibetan Buddhism school, the Gelug, enmity was introduced by outlawing the worship of one of the sect’s most popular deity, Dorje Shugden, a nearly 400-year old practice that began in the 17th century and has become a major practice in Tibetan Buddhism. The Dorje Shugden de facto ban has already existed for two decades since it was initiated by the Dalai Lama and has slowly stirred disunity in Tibet and among the exiled Tibetan communities, leading the Chinese government to consider the Dorje Shugden conflict an important front for undermining what it says are efforts promoted by the Dalai Lama aimed at destabilizing China.

This religious hostility has been fed by considerable propaganda and counterpropaganda efforts during the last two decades and it is still an ongoing battle. It has been continuously observed that Dorje Shugden followers, monks, and monasteries in Tibet and abroad are used as scapegoat and portrayed as heretic, demonic and sectarian, and are branded as Chinese Communist Party supporters or Chinese spies by most NGOs advocating in western countries for the exiled Tibetan leadership’s goals. In historical terms, the situation and implications may call to mind Martin Luther’s reformation of Christianity centuries ago.

Most nations acknowledge Tibet as a part of China, while none formally recognizes the exiled Tibetan leadership, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) – yet a number of them sustain the cause of the exiles in other ways. Because of the need for Western support of the exiled government and the significant role played by externally-based NGOs supporting Tibetan independence, democratizing elements have been added to self-governance in exile, and the vocabulary of human rights, development, environmental protection, and so forth has been deployed by the CTA and supported by Western NGOs. In reality, spirituality and aristocracy are linked through Tibet’s traditional system of theocratic government, in which politics and religion were tightly knit. Many exiled government officials continue to promote this system as ideal for Tibet, including the present prime minister of the CTA, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, who recently reaffirmed the urgency of strengthening efforts to facilitate the return of the Dalai Lama to his native land and his former residence in Lhasa, the Potala palace.

However, the repeated requests of many exile leaders to pass orders banning critical voices from any Tibet-related events, accusing such voices to be Chinese spies and/or Dorje Shugden heretics, stand in stark contradiction to democratic principles. Critical voices expose, for example, claims of corruption inside the CTA; some complain that instead of focusing on practical efforts to improve the everyday lives of Tibetan refugees in India, the CTA has often preferred political point-scoring against China; others still have expressed criticism of the Dalai Lama or of the CTA’s theocratic orientation.

The US President’s attitude reflects the waning support for the Tibetan cause and a change in perception of the Dalai Lama’s role as peacemaker. The cause has suffered a gradual dissipation of international goodwill, particularly among the CTA’s immediate neighbours and Indian hosts. Countries such as India, Mongolia, and Nepal have traditionally tolerated the activities of the exile leaders and the Dalai Lama, and by doing so risked annoying China, the region’s most powerful nation.

“The Winter Olympic Games in 2022 in Beijing will be a symbol of peace, friendship and prosperity, which is welcomed and cherished by all peoples” comments the International Olympic Committee, recognizing its world-class venue legacy from the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. In the last years, the Dalai Lama has embodied an intensified sentiment of political embarrassment among world leaders who seek stable political and profitable economic alliances with China. Beijing 2022 will form part of the future narrative of Tibet and it will be interesting to see if the support for the Dalai Lama will completely evaporate into the clouds of nostalgia for the poems of Allen Ginsberg, the music of Philip Glass, the books of Robert Thurman or the movies of Richard Gere.

Political leaders often conquer international stature by conducting war, but the personas of only a few men of peace – such as Gandhi, King, and Mandela – are prominent. The Dalai Lama’s “apostle of nonviolence” persona was built at the end of the Cold War, alongside a campaign to internationalize the Tibet struggle by fostering protests in Tibet, mobilizing Western converts to Tibetan Buddhism, and exploiting the Dalai Lama’s capacity to engage Western political and media elites. Boosted by his 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, US excoriations of China and the expectation of its collapse after the Cold War, the Dalai Lama became an international symbol of peace. He successfully combined his divine significance with his political struggle in exile under a veil of non-violence, compassion and selflessness. After decades of internationalization as he reaches the last lines of the book of his life, synonyms of the Dalai Lama as peacemaker are still discursive givens. Only time will tell whether he will be immortalized on the celestial Olympus with Gandhi, King, and Mandela or exiled from the collective memory of mankind.

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East Asia

China’s great geostrategy for trade and defense

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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The primary policy line of the People’s Republic of China, above all at sea level, is to defend its strategic and military interests, but anyway without undermining the trade routes and economic relations between China and its neighbouring countries.

 Just think about the Spratly issue, but also about the Chinese position on the ownership and nationality of the Senkaku Islands, as well as about the pressure made on China by India in 2017 to block the road that China had planned and designed on the border with Bhutan.

 From this viewpoint, China’s tensions in its neighbouring countries have immediately affected Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

 We should also recall, however, the naval confrontation with the United States in May 2009, especially with the USNS Impeccable and Victorious, for the right to operate in the 200 nautical miles off the Chinese Special Economic Zones.

 The United States does not like at all China’s protection of its regional seas, but it will be hard to change China’s mechanism of full protection of its coasts, which partly inhibits the use of old and traditional checkpoints, from Malacca to the Paracel and Ryuku Islands – all areas in which the United States could impose a blockade on the  trade and military flows of China’s vessels.

 This is still the first goal of China’s regional naval security.

 This is one of the primary strategic features of the Belt and Road Initiative, i.e. to get out of the Eastern maritime region and, hence, credibly offset the inevitable imbalance of the Chinese strategic formula on its regional seas with a significant geo-economic presence on Central Asia’s Heartland.

 As well as to provide China with a possibility of military (but also geo-economic) countermove capable of blocking the opponent on the sea or, alone, on its land borders.

 Therefore the aim pursued by China is its full security and absolute freedom of manoeuvre, within the “first circle” of peripheral islands, but with the possibility of projecting a significant interdiction power beyond this limit.

 One of the essential strategic meanings of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is that, at geo-financial and economic levels, the Chinese leaders are well aware that the global financial crises – the past ones, but also those looming large – make the Chinese economy too vulnerable to global flows.

  This is even more severe if you have planned a neo-mercantilist and export-oriented economic development, as the Chinese leaders have done since Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernizations.

 At that time there was no other alternative option.

 We also need to consider the tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang, which have also a geo-economic significance.

 It should be recalled that in 2000 the Chinese government launched a “Great Development Program for Western Regions” to finally establish a close connection between the land areas of Xinjiang and the Tibet region – which is essential for China’s nuclear defence and intelligence -and the coastal areas’ economic development.

This is also a very useful logical pathway to understand the Belt and Road Initiative well.

 Also at military level, which – in the Chinese logic – is closely linked to political decision-making, so far all the 2008 and 2009 “White Papers” of the Chinese Armed Forces have always emphasized the rule of the “three functions and a role”.

 It is a rational and operational criterion, which envisages that the Armed Forces should: a) provide the strength to enhance the Party’s leading role, which has always been  the first aim of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA); b) provide support to take advantage of this period of great strategic opportunities for China; c) also provide support for the defence of China’s national interests; and, finally, d) play an important role in maintaining world peace and promoting global economic development.

 These are not empty words. These are programs.

 Reading between the lines, it is said that – beyond the regional seas and networks outside its borders – China will operate in such a way as not to create definitive tensions with its competitors or allies.

 Therefore what we need to know is that currently the CPC has the urgent need to define a stable economic development for China.

 Thirty years ago the CPC leaders argued – and history has proved them right – that the war between the superpowers would never occur, in line with Mao Zedong’s thinking, whereby imperialism “was a paper tiger”.

 A regional, Soviet, Euro-American and partly Middle East paper tiger, in which no one had any interest in firing the first shot.

 At the time, however, China was already thinking about  Asia, Africa, the “Third World” devoid of “capitalists” or Soviet “revisionists”, left as breeding ground for a new growing great power, which had not been ruined by the crazy Cold War, namely China.

 Now – and this is also implicit in the Belt and Road Initiative – the current Chinese leaders obviously think that additional 30 or 40 years of peace and development are needed to enable China to really become a stable and great power.

 Hence in terms of current strategic doctrine, so far China has adapted to fight what the Chinese strategists call “a war and a half”. This means that it can and must successfully wage a major war on its own borders, in addition to effectively resisting attacks carried out around other Chinese borders.

 We also need to consider the stable Indian garrison of 60,000soldiers in Southern Tibet, in addition to the very recent Quad 2.0 alliance between the United States, India, Japan and Australia, established precisely to counter the Belt and Road Initiative.

  In this case, we have the whole range of potentialities and contrasts facing the Belt and Road Initiative.

 Obviously it should also be recalled that at least 22% of Japan’s and Australia’s foreign trade currently depends on China.  Hence it is very unlikely that regional and military tension will turn into a real clash.

 In its future strategic planning, however, China is preparing to resist an Indian land invasion from the South-East and to simultaneously lead a victorious regional naval confrontation, especially in Taiwan’s peripheral area or in the South China Sea.

Certainly present-day China is simultaneously carrying out the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with the ten ASEAN countries and the six ones with which ASEAN has further free trade treaties, as well as with the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area. The United States, however, has already created its anti-BRI commercial and economic network with the US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), and then with the probable reformulation of a  proposal from the old Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) or with the new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

 Hence, while the United States is rebuilding its geo-economic centre of gravity in Asia – that it considers to be of primary military and commercial interest – obviously China has turned to Africa, where currently the United States is not particularly engaged.

 A Zen game of void and full, where everyone represents both characteristics.

 At political and technological levels, the United States is causing severe trouble to China, particularly with the recent creation of a special agency called Review of Controls for Certain Emergent Technologies, an office for “dual use” control regarding biotechnologies, Artificial Intelligence, advanced navigation and positioning systems, data analysis and above all big data, robotics and biotechnology.

 This is, in fact, the broader scene of the clash on Huawei and 5G which, as we can imagine, is much more important than the simple organization of an evolved Internet network.

 For example, in the 2018 US Cyber Strategy it is argued that the USA must “win two cyber wars simultaneously”, which are clearly wars against the Russian Federation and, above all, against China.

 Hence, should the United States led by President Trump fail to fully win their current trade war with China, it could use the cyber leverage to redress the global balance of power, with a clear support action taken by the other NATO countries – an action which is necessary from the political and military viewpoints.

 One will be used in the absence of the other  – the greater the Chinese commercial presence in the leading sectors, the greater the tendency and likelihood of a cyber war against China.

 And the other way round.

 There is more, however, in relation to the clash between the United States and China and, hence, in relation to the necessary and logical shift of China to a closer bond with the EU, its individual Member States and the rest of the world.

 For example, The National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, published on August 13, 2018, focuses on the operations of the Chinese ZTE corporation, while the US government is prohibited from purchasing all Huawei’s materials –  as is now well-known – but also the products of Dahua, which deals with video surveillance, as well as the products of Hytera, which manufactures advanced radio systems and, finally, of Hikvision, the current largest producer of video surveillance systems in the world.

 As has long been happening, in all the US government official documents China is also seen as a dangerous competitor of almost equal rank and power.

 Is it a realistic project? The answer is both yes and no. At technological level, probably in the future. At financial and commercial levels, not yet.

Nevertheless the matter here is tuer dans l’oeuf, namely to nip in the bud.

 It should also be recalled that, again in August 2018, US President Trump announced 25% additional tariffs and duties on 50 billion US imports/year from China and later 10% additional tariffs and duties on other 200 billion Chinese goods exported to the United States. Last September further duties on Chinese exports to the USA were announced to the tune of additional 267 billion dollars.

 Last autumn, at the UN General Assembly, the United States made public the “alleged” China’s influence operations against the Republican Party (only?) in the midterm elections while, at the same time, Terry Branstad – the  US ambassador to China since 2017, a “friend of President Xi” and former Governor of Iowa twice –  published an article condemning China’s “influence operations” in Iowa.

 The United States has also put great pressure on El Salvador to avoid it breaking with Taiwan. Later, however, the United States exerted further very strong pressures on the IMF, with a view to stopping funds for Pakistan that would partly be used to repay old Chinese loans to the country.

 Also President Trump’s move to withdraw from the INF Treaty – which apparently concerns, above all, the Russian Federation – anyway puts also China under military pressure.

 Nevertheless, there is the stick and also the carrot for the future US friends in Asia: last August, in fact, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo proposed a package of financial aid for Asia to the tune of 300 million dollars, to which other 133 million dollars would be added, albeit only for specific support to private companies operating in the region.

 The BUILD Act has created a new US government agency, namely the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, with as many as 60 billion dollars of US funds  already available abroad, above all to Asia – a very evident response to the Belt and Road Initiative.

 Hence what will the United States do in the future, considering that the bilateral clash with China is now seen as structural?

 Surely, the battle over duties will continue and it is now possible that, in only two other moves, all Chinese imports to the USA will be heavily and selectively taxed.

 In any case, the United States will try to hit the companies that are most active in the Chinese project known as Made in China 2025.

 The current Chinese leaders’ project is modelled on the German one, known as Industry 4.0, and is already focused on the general technological upgrade of Chinese public and private companies, with the predetermined increase of components and spare parts manufactured nationally from 40% in 2020 to 70% in 2025.

 There is also the construction of centres for productive innovation – that is already at an advanced stage – which will be 15 in 2020 and 40 in 2025. There will also be a change and a significant strengthening of internal intellectual property rights.

Innovation will be mainly focused on: 1) a new information technology; 2) robotics and the automated production of consumer goods and capital equipment; 3) aerospace and aeronautics; 4) hi-tech shipping; 5) railways; 6) vehicles with new energy and motion systems; 7) energy; 8) agricultural technologies; 9) new materials; 10) biopharma and advanced biomedical technologies.

 In the official Chinese documents, there is no mention of “autonomous innovation “in all these sectors – as was the case in previous projects as from 2006 – and it is not here just a matter of innovation, but of entire production processes.

 Autonomous innovation is internal activity and here the Chinese government makes us understand that there is a global research and experimentation activity open to collaborations with the EU, Japan and Korea.

 Hence, where possible, the United States will hit exactly in these sectors, by avoiding – to any possible  extent – any kind of technology transfer or, in any case, any transfer ofad hoc scientific information.

 Furthermore, in the future, the United States will have the opportunity of convincing both Japan and the EU to implement practices against China featuring sanctions and open trade restriction, not only at technological level. Certainly Italy will harshly experience this kind of  operations, whether they are known or not to our intelligence Services.

 How will China respond to these practices? Probably with a hard and close dialogue, although with some significant concessions to the United States.

 Furthermore, in the framework of China’s technological upgrade program, its leaders will have the chance to increase the non-State sphere in China’s production system. Finally China will look for new foreign markets. This is the first CPC’s response.

 Most likely, the Chinese leaders will also avoid the additional burden of public debt on companies and, above all, they will largely limit the growth of real estate speculation.

 In all likelihood, China will spend a lot of money on productive investment – as already envisaged in its 2025 Plan – and will look for new external markets, above all (but not only) with the Belt and Road Initiative.

 It should be recalled that currently the BRI countries account for 27.3% of the total Chinese foreign trade with the United States alone.

 Moreover, China will soon develop excellent regional free trade agreements, such as with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the enlarged ASEAN.

 Furthermore, nothing forbids to reach a great agreement with India.

  In the future, however, China’s trade interest will be, above all, in Japan and South Korea.

 Meanwhile, the United States can carefully assess the  military and commercial cost of an all-out economic war against China, which will certainly not be irrelevant.

 This is context in which we can see the weak and tired interests of the European Union, which does not know its destiny and hence will not have one. The same applies to Italy which could use the potential of the Road and Belt Initiative, but will not be in a position to do so and, above all,  will have no way out of the US strategic, military and financial pressure.

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Xi Jinping’s visit to Italy and the relationship between China and the Catholic Church

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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No official meetings between President Xi Jinping and Pope Francis are officially scheduled on the agenda for the Chinese President’s next visit to Italy.

 Neither party wants to jeopardize the agreement reached last September on the appointment of bishops and, however, as is well-known, both diplomacies like silence, long processes and long time schedules.

 Whoever remembers the old diplomatic precedents, also remembers that, just ten years ago, there was the possibility of another meeting between Benedict XVI and Hu Jintao in Italy for the G8 in L’Aquila. The Chinese leader, however, had to return quickly to Beijing, for a revolt in Xinjiang which was – as usual – more dangerous than we could believe.

 From the outset, however, Cardinal Zen opposed the “parallel” appointment of bishops by China and Italy, as  envisaged by the agreement currently in force between China and the Vatican.

  It should be recalled that, from the beginning, Cardinal Zen who was Archbishop of Hong Kong until 2009, dismissed the agreement between the Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, and the Chinese regime as an “incredible betrayal of Faith”.

 The old prelate was born in Shanghai in 1932, just a year after Mao Zedong founded a sort of Soviet republic in Jiangxi.

 Nevertheless, the new strategies and opportunities or new contrasts are beginning to take shape.

 Since January 30 last, for example, Peter Jin Lugang has no longer been a clandestine bishop from Nanyang, while Cardinal Filoni has recently gone to Macao to inaugurate some new facilities of the Saint Joseph University.

 In 2018, as many as 48,365 people were baptized in the churches and parishes of the People’s Republic of China.

 Currently there are almost ten million Chinese Catholics.

  There are also 104 dioceses recognized by the government of the People’s Republic of China, with 30 national provinces.

 Currently the largest number of newly baptized people in China is found in the Hebei province, with 13,000 new people baptized in 2018, followed by Shanxi, with 4,124 new Catholics, as well as Sichuan with 3,707 new people baptized, and finally Shandong with 2,914 new Christians.

 Even in Tibet as many as 8 baptisms were celebrated. In Hainan there were 35 baptisms and in Qinghai 43. This applies even to the Islamic Xinjiang, with as many as 57 new Catholics.

 On point of law – and not only canon law – Cardinal Filoni requires that the members of the unofficial Chinese Catholic communities should not be forced to join the specific “Patriotic Association” – as is instead subtly envisaged by the Chinese government.

 Nevertheless, for the Chinese government, this Patriotic Association is still a “people’s association” and hence has no ecclesial relevance. Moreover, participation in it is always “voluntary and never imposed”.

 This is what China, not the Vatican, maintains.

 Nevertheless, the Vatican precisely knows that in the areas in which – as we have seen above – there is a greater presence of new Catholic vocations, the People’s Association puts strong pressure to make priests and bishops be nationally independent “from the Vatican and from any foreign interference”.

 Without very strong nationalism, however, there is never any Chinese ideology – and certainly not the Communist one born from the Party founded in Shanghai in 1921.

 Hence currently a political and cultural policy – and even a religious, cult and sapiential one, if I may say so – would be needed to make the Chinese regime understand that a Chinese Catholic is all the more Chinese precisely because he is truly Catholic.

  Being Catholic is precisely the moment in which, as Saint Josemaria Escrivà de Balaguer used to say, we understand that “conversion is the matter of a moment, sanctification is the work of a lifetime”.

 And the sanctification of work and daily life applies to everybody, both believers and non-believers.

 This means that the universality of Catholicism includes everything, namely being Chinese, Italian, Indian from America or anybody else.

  For a Chinese, there is not being a Catholic outside being fully and absolutely Chinese.

 Moreover, the current Chinese law does not oblige priests and bishops to join the Patriotic Association, while in all the areas in which the Catholic faith is more widespread, the Chinese government tries to push clerics to join the aforementioned Association, which not too implicitly proposes “independence” from the Holy See.

 In Chinese politics, this is the heritage of a weak and divided Catholic Church, as experienced at the time of the “Chinese Rites Controversy”, which started in the early seventeenth century under the pontificate of Gregory XV and lasted almost three centuries until 1939.

 As you may recall, on the one side there were the Jesuits, who accepted and condoned the pagan practices and beliefs relating to the traditional cult of the dead according to the ancestral Chinese local traditions, but on the other there were the Franciscans and Dominicans, who thought that those practices – essential in the Chinese symbolism and tradition (even at political level) – should be radically changed in relation to the new, but perfect and unique, Catholic faith.

 Hence currently – and here the problem of its Communism is even marginal – China still fears to lose its “soul” and its profound identity, while the Catholic Church cannot certainly afford to be turned into a sort of Protestant Church, also subjected to the political power even in its Rites.

 Obviously the penetration of the Protestant-style sects – often of American tradition – could become dangerous both for the Catholic Church and, all the more so, for the Chinese government.

 There is also the issue of the four priests of the unofficial community of Zhangjiakou, Hebei, who are still detained in a secret place by the People’s Police.

  According to Chinese Catholic sources, the issue began in late 2018.

 Local governments’ factionalism and different CPC configurations in the various regions, as well as a proxy struggle between the Centre and the Periphery, are all factors which could explain the different approach of the various regional governments to the issue of Chinese Catholicism and its official presence in present-day Chinese society (and also in its the power system).

 There is fear for a dangerous competitor in the power game, but it should be clarified – especially at political level – that the Catholic person has not his/her own State, but is defined by the side of the currency in which Caesar is engraved.

There is nothing else – and a true Catholic is not allowed to worship anything else.

 According to some Vatican sources, however, while Pope Francis did not mention the issue of the priests detained in Hebei, the Vatican’s “policy line” could currently be to consider the Patriotic Association an organization to which the adhesion of bishops and clerics is fully optional.

 Again in Hebei, a priest accused his Bishop, Monsignor Agostino Cui Tai, of wanting to “oppose” the Sino-Vatican agreement and even asked the police to arrest him.

 Once again petty internal settling of scores, old tensions, as well as the usual problematic personal relations fit into the grand design of regularization of the Catholic Church in China, as certainly happens also on the government side.

 However, all the Chinese bishops to whom Pope Francis removed excommunication are in favour of abolishing the “Church of Silence” and massively adhering, instead, to the Patriotic Association.

 While recognizing the Chinese government’s full right to control the political activity of the Chinese Church, what about thinking about a very different instrument from the Patriotic Association, which is the obvious heir to an archaic Third International logic, together with the “United Front” and the other organizations that control political, religious and cultural heterodoxy in China?

 This is a topic about which Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping could talk if they met in Italy.

 Nevertheless, also for this negotiation by which China sets great store, there is the key issue of relations with Italy.

 The Chinese media notes that currently Italy has substantially adhered to the One Belt One Road project (OBOR), but that hopefully the agreement should be officially signed during Xi Jinping’s State visit to the country.

 Should this not happen, it would be an irreparable offense for China.

 It should also be noted that the Chinese media’s attention is very much focused on the “Special Working Group on China”, a structure recently organized by the Italian Government. In particular, China underlines the fact that both Greece and Portugal have already agreed to be part of the OBOR project, without the United States having had much to say about that.

Certainly the strategic relevance of Italy in the Mediterranean is very different from Greece’s and Portugal’s geopolitical function for China only regards its Atlantic projection and its traditional ties with Western Africa.

 For the Chinese media, however, Prime Minister Conte’s position is extremely important and, in all likelihood, China will enhance on the media the success it is already expecting to have in Italy.

 According to Chinese analysts, the US nervous reaction to Italy joining the OBOR project stems from the fact that is a crucial and decisive country for the European Union, from both an economic and geopolitical viewpoint.

 China is subtly trying to make us understand that while the United States finally wants to thwart the single currency and weaken the great network of duties and protections that the EU is essentially for it, China has no interest in undermining the EU nor certainly in plunging the Euro area into a further crisis.

 Surely, according to Chinese analysts’ economic projections, the flow of goods and services going from Italy to the United States would decrease – albeit to the benefit of  China – while it is likely that, in the near future, the 5G issue will emerge again, and hence China could have some more chances.

 Hence a clear loss of US relevance in Italy, which would give rise to a long series of very harsh countermoves by the United States.

 Over 60 countries, including 12 European ones, have so far signed a Memorandum of Access to the OBOR network, in whatever manner.

 We enter here directly into the project that Xi Jinping has recently outlined in the “Two Sessions” of the National People’s Congress, which are always held in the first two weeks of March.

  In this year’s two sessions, President Xi Jinping has underlined that the limit whereby the President of the Republic and CPC Secretary, as well as the President of the Central Military Commission, shall serve no more than two consecutive terms has been removed.

 The meaning is clear: my power lasts and is stable, possibly until 2027 – hence the many factional areas of the Party and the State would do well to conform again with the Party’s policy line and not to cause too much trouble.

 President Xi Jinping emphasized once again the importance of the anti-corruption campaign, with 621 civilian officials and military officers punished in 2018 alone.

 He also highlighted the new widespread presence of the Party’s committees in Chinese private companies – a presence that has now reached 70% of companies – as well as the huge reduction of NGOs operating in China from 7000 to just 400. Finally, there was the reaffirmation of the “mistakes” made by the Western propaganda, as well as the reaffirmation of the pillars of the CPC doctrine and practice.

 Certainly this has much to do with the relationship between the Chinese government and the Catholic Church.

 With specific reference to foreign policy, after the “two sessions”, Xi Jinping currently tends to finalize as soon as possible the negotiation for a “Shared Code of Conduct” between China and the ten ASEAN countries, while the Chinese control over the Taiwan and Hong Kong seas is expanding.

 It should be made clear that China will never conquer the Kuomintang island militarily, but it will wait for its internal political transformations to lead to a de facto reunification.

 China also knows that an attack on Taiwan would enable the United States, in particular, to massively and harshly return to the Asian continental region.

 As we will also see in Italy, for President Xi Jinping, China must define – as soon as possible – a “Chinese” model to resolve all current international tensions, so as to ensure that China can become a “contributor and promoter” of both global free trade – in contrast with Trump’s US trade policy – and of multilateralism.

 In the “Two Sessions”, President Xi Jinping also proposed “Xi’s five Study Points”.

 They concern above all peaceful unity, also referring to the fact that Xi in Chinese also means “to learn, to study, to put into practice”.

 As can be easily imagined, peaceful unity is directly related to the Taiwan issue – to which the rule of “one country, two systems” will soon be applied.

  In Xinjiang, the Chinese government will soon accept a UN mission, provided it “does not interfere in domestic matters”.

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Geostrategy After the Deadlock in U.S.-North Korean Relations

Eric Zuesse

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George Friedman, the head of the ‘private CIA’ firm Stratfor, issued a report on March 5th, “After Hanoi: North Korea, the US and Japan”, and it said:

The strategy since World War II, built on the assumption that U.S. conventional forces can defeat any foe and pacify the country, is being abandoned. And in the case of the Hanoi talks, the U.S. is following a new strategy of diplomatic deadlock without recourse to the insertion of force. …

The U.S. has decided to accept that North Korea is a nuclear state, so long as none of its nuclear weapons can reach the U.S. mainland. This completely destabilizes Japan’s strategy. Under that strategy, first imposed by the U.S. and happily embraced by Japan, the U.S. guarantees Japanese national security. The U.S., in exchange, has been able to use Japan as a base from which to project force across the Korean Peninsula, threaten China and block Russia’s Vladivostok fleet from accessing the Pacific Ocean. Japan, unencumbered by defense expenditures and any responsibility in American wars, could focus on the monumental task of its dramatic post-World War II recovery. Most important, the U.S. nuclear umbrella has guaranteed that any nation that might attack Japan with nuclear weapons would face retaliation from the United States. …

The Hanoi talks subtly shift that guarantee. The new U.S. position is that it cannot accept a North Korean nuclear program that threatens the United States. Implicit in that position is that it can tolerate one that threatens Japan.

His last sentence there is false, because it excludes the following important possibility, which now actually needs to become the reality, especially after this “deadlock” that he referred to: The U.S. and North Korea can meet together in an entirely different discussion, of whether, in return for North Korea’s verifiable commitment never to possess or station any missile that can reach the United States, the U.S. will do the following three things:

1: Guarantee to Japan, and to South Korea, that any nuclear attack against Japan and/or against South Korea, will be met by a U.S. nuclear attack against the attacker (regardless of whom that attacking nation might be). The U.S. would then be taking Japan (as well as South Korea) entirely under its nuclear umbrella, so that an attack against Japan or against South Korea would be equivalent to an attack against the United States itself. No troops would need to be stationed in Japan (or South Korea) in order to be able to do this. America’s real nuclear umbrella for those two countries is precisely this (the nuclear intercontinental U.S. arsenal outside of Japan and South Korea, including the missiles at sea and including in mainland U.S.), and no stationing of either troops or weapons from the United States, inside either of those two countries, is necessary, at all, in order to achieve this. That’s the reality, notwithstanding George Friedman’s false assumption, to the exact contrary: that “Implicit in that position [“that it [[the U.S.]] cannot accept a North Korean nuclear program that threatens the United States”] is that it can tolerate one that threatens Japan.” Not at all is that presumption (America’s needing to station troops in Japan in order to protect Japan) by Friedman true. American troops there are superfluous for the protection of Japan — and also of South Korea. U.S. Troops aren’t needed in either country, for the protection of either country’s inhabitants.

2: Withdraw all U.S. troops from both Japan and South Korea. Those troops are there only for possible uses against Russia and China (as Friedman himself acknowledges by saying “The U.S. … has been able to use Japan as a base from which to project force across the Korean Peninsula, threaten China and block Russia’s Vladivostok fleet from accessing the Pacific Ocean”). The U.S. has secretly continued the old “Cold War” after the Soviet Union’s end, though no longer on an ideological basis (since Russia is no longer communist). It’s been doing this secretly ever since 24 February 1990, purely with the aim of ultimately conquering the entire world. That, too (though secret), is the reality: America has been, and is, secretly trying to take over the entire world.

3: End all sanctions against North Korea. Under the stated conditions, there would be no realistic future possibility that that country could pose a national-security threat to the United States. North Korea’s nuclear weapons would then pose no more of a national-security threat to the U.S. than do Israel’s nuclear weapons (since those are only local threats). Any further aggression (including sanctions) by the U.S. against North Korea would therefore violate Article 2 of the U.N. Charter, because North Korea would no longer even prospectively constitute a threat to America. North Korea would, of course, expect the U.S. to end all sanctions against it if North Korea would no longer be able to pose a threat to the U.S., and it wouldn’t sign the deal otherwise.  

This arrangement that’s proposed here between the United States and North Korea would end the Korean War, and it would end the major international tensions which have prevailed in the Asia-Pacific region since the end of World War II. It would bring security to North Korea, U.S., South Korea, and Japan. 

This deal would be an authentic quid-pro-quo between the United States and North Korea, which would greatly benefit the economies of the United States, Japan, and South Korea (removing the unnecessary financial burden of maintaining and arming those occupying U.S. troops — troops which are superfluous to everyone except America’s billionaires, who want to impose their corporate wills upon every nation — including upon Russia and China). It wouldn’t benefit merely North Korea (though it also would do that). It would also set the foundation upon which, ultimately, the two Koreas might finally agree to become again one nation, much as did East and West Germany; and, it would also protect both Japan and South Korea — and block any threat from North Korea against the U.S. itself. Consequently, this would also greatly serve the interests of the American people. It would serve EVERYONE’s interests (except approximately 2,153 people, as will subsequently be explained here).

Unfortunately, the world isn’t so democratic internationally, nor within the United States, for the security and welfare of the public anywhere to be actually a high priority of international policy-makers — especially not in the United States, which serves only the interests of its billionaires and extracts as much as it possibly can from its own public and from every other country on the planet. U.S. President Barack Obama even was so arrogant as to assert publicly — and he said it many times — that “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation,” which was Obama’s version of Hitler’s “Deutschland über alles,” and means (like Hitler’s German version did) that every other nation in the world is “dispensable” — only the imperial nation is not. Any other nation which allies itself with a nation such as this, is being headed by a regime that has no patriotism, no national self-respect at all — it’s a mere vassal-nation, enslaved (in this case) to the tyrannical U.S. regime: “the one indispensable nation.”

If the United States really had ended its side of the Cold war after the 1991 termination of the USSR, and of its communism, and of its Warsaw Pact military alliance that had mirrored America’s NATO alliance, then the arrangement which has been described here would have been instituted long ago, in 1991, when the other side ended the Cold War, and NATO itself would simultaneously have been dissolved when the Warsaw Pact was, instead of being expanded right up to Russia’s borders (as it since has done), but the U.S. regime in 1990 secretly ordered its allies to continue the Cold War on America’s side, and that one-sided aggression continues by the U.S. and its allies, until now

And that’s the real problem — America’s continuation of the (originally ideological) Cold War, now purely for aggressive purposes: global conquest. It’s permanent war, for permanent ‘peace’ and ‘justice’ and ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’, and other brazen lies, now against Venezuela and so many other countries.

Just a few years after the 1991 supposed end of the Cold War (when East and West Germany merged), Spokane Washington’s Spokesman-Review newspaper headlined on 2 November 1995, “U.S. Won’t Reduce Troops in Japan”, and opened: “Defense Secretary William J. Perry said here [in Tokyo] Wednesday that the United States has no plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Japan, despite a groundswell of local opposition” in Japan.

And as was reported, on 5 March 2006, from “Asahi,” by the U.S. Embassy in Japan, to the CIA, and to the Joint Chiefs, and to all top U.S. national-security officials, “Japan can expect to reduce the number of US troops in Japan and to alleviate the burden of base-hosting localities while maintaining deterrent capabilities against China and North Korea. Meanwhile, the United States can swing its reduced troops around the world with Japan’s backing. The two countries’ expectations coincided.” But it didn’t actually happen — the U.S. occupation still continues. The U.S. Government is dedicated to militarily occupying as many countries as it can. Getting rid of those occupying troops is strongly opposed by the occupying power, which continues its voraciousness to control Russia and China.

As of 2017, the U.S. had 38,818 troops in Japan, and 24,189 in South Korea. The U.S. military-industrial complex (MIC) refuses to end such military occupations in foreign countries, but the only real beneficiaries from this are the MIC itself, which controls the U.S. Government. Firms such as Lockheed Martin are 100% dependent upon the U.S. Government and its allied governments (especially the Saud family) for their sales, and selling more weapons is essential to their cancerous growth. Americans pay in taxes and many other ways, and so do the local foreign governments pay, where America’s troops are stationed. This is one of the reasons for the extreme inequality of wealth in today’s world: that inequality is enforced, by the U.S. international regime. The U.S. military enforces it around the world, in all of America’s vassal-nations. It’s supporting the local aristocracy there, but also (and above all) America’s aristocracy. The U.S. has over a thousand military bases worldwide, the vast majority of which are in foreign countries. It benefits only the billionaires, but the billionaires control the governments, and so this continues and even gets worse. George Friedman ignores that crucial fact. He needs to retain his customers, and they benefit from this barbaric status-quo. He’s not actually a free man. He (like millions of others) speaks for the billionaires; he’s one of their millions of agents. He’s a bought man, so he says “The new U.S. position is that it cannot accept a North Korean nuclear program that threatens the United States. Implicit in that position is that it can tolerate one that threatens Japan.” If this statement from him is not clearly and publicly rejected by the American Government, then all Japanese (except Japan’s billionaires, who depend so much upon America’s) must recognize that the U.S. Government is their enemy, and that Japan needs to find authentic friends, elsewhere — and kick out its existing regime. 

Friedman says, approvingly, that the U.S. “has been able to use Japan as a base from which to project force across the Korean Peninsula, threaten China and block Russia’s Vladivostok fleet from accessing the Pacific Ocean.” All of those  — against North Korea, and against China, and against Russia; and implicitly against Japan itself as an American stooge-regime — are, in fact, international-war crimes, aggressions by the U.S. military. Regardless of which country (Japan or any other) allows occupying troops, as part of some “deal” between those two nations, neither of those two nations is allowed legally to do any of those things against any third nation (such as against China, Russia, North Korea, or any other). If two people agree to threaten or rob a third person, then no matter how much both of them say it’s a ‘legal’ agreement and only a matter between themselves, it’s not. It still remains a criminal arrangement, and it’s an illegal threat to their intended victim-nations. Of course, if the U.S. is an international gangster-nation, a country that ignores any international laws (except ones that it can cite against weaker nations, such as the U.S. and its allies routinely do do, as mere PR ‘justifying’ their many coups and invasions) — if the U.S. ignores international laws simply because no entity will enforce them — then, the U.N. has already been destroyed, effectively nullified, by the U.S. gangster-regime. But in that case no argument could even possibly be made that the U.S. is a democracy. No nation can be both a dictator abroad, and a democracy in domestic (or intra-national) matters. To presume to the contrary is simply to lie — even if only to oneself.

The U.N. Charter says: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” The American regime has been violating that with impunity, ever since the end of World War II (such as in its infamous 1953 coup against Iran — a coup which enjoyed the support of Iran’s mullahs). Most recently, it did so in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Ukraine, and a number of other countries, which it and its allies have destroyed, all in the name of advancing things such as ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’, so as to cover over their authentic, actually vile, motivations, which are insatiable greed, and a craving for even more power than they already possess. All of this is barbaric, and they cover over that reality by kind-sounding words, in order to fool the rubes, who, thus — via their irresponsibility by trusting those serial international invaders and coup-perpetrators — accept the rightfulness of what those international invaders and coup-perpetrators have been doing, such as invading Iraq in 2003 on the basis of sheer lies, etc.

RT — a reliable news-source, but one which America’s very unreliable major ‘news’-media instead call a source of ‘fake news’ because it reports truths they hide — reported on March 5th:

Washington is leading a “revolution against international law and against international order,” with its calls for regime change and efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro in favor of pro-US opposition leader Juan Guaido, former UN rapporteur to Venezuela and professor of law Alfred de Zayas told RT.

Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Gutierrez should “remind” the Lima Group of Western Hemisphere countries that US actions in Venezuela violate “articles 3, 19 and 20 of the Charter of the Organization of American States” (OAS) and that the charter should be “rigorously observed,” De Zayas said.

The OAS charter holds that no state has a right to intervene “directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State.” Neither can any member state “encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another State.”

The violation of the charter has been “so crass and so obvious that you wouldn’t think that you would have to remind the Lima Group of it, but they seem to be caught in their own web,” de Zayas said.

Throughout the world, the reality is: peace, and equality of economic opportunity, are tied together and cannot survive apart from one-another, and both of them are resisted by the people in power, the few billionaires, who fund all of the real contenders for the U.S. Presidency and for Congress. And equality of economic opportunity can exist only where wealth is approximately equally distributed and where the necessities of life (such as education, adequate food, essential health care, and a safe environment) are supplied by the government equally to all, regardless of personal wealth. (The billionaires can pay extra if they want, but such basics need to be equally available to all, in order to have the most productive type of economy — one which takes the fullest advantage of each individual’s actual potential.) Making access to any of those basic things dependent upon how much wealth one already has is like pouring hydrochloric acid onto even merely the barest hope for equality of economic opportunity. The result of doing that is always a putrid mockery of ‘justice’, and any honest person would call that a dictatorship, no democracy, at all. (It certainly is  a dictatorship against the less-wealthy 90%, or even — such as in Saudi Arabia — dictatorship against the less-wealthy 99%, of the entire population.) If this corrupt aristocratic system which determines power isn’t soon replaced (stripping all billionaires of any and all types of political — i.e., governmental — influence and power that’s connected to their grossly excessive wealth), then things can (and will) only continue to go from bad to worse, throughout the world, in every way. This is out-of-control and racing inequality, but it can get even worse than it now is. The solution isn’t to have an international gangster-nation imposing its ‘democracy’ on the nations it targets for conquest. The solution is the exact opposite: a global public repudiation and rejection of that lying gangster-regime. 

George Friedman happens to be part of that corrupt and rotten system, but he didn’t create it. He exploits it, instead of attacks it, but the system is the problem, and no solution to it can be achieved without replacing that entire system — replacing it by one that no billionaire wants, and that all billionaires will employ every subterfuge in order to prevent authentic democracy from coming into existence.

As regards Japanese national security: relying upon the United States’ military occupation is complicity in a crime not only against the public in Japan, but also against the publics in North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia — and every nation. Only billionaires and their retinues benefit from it. Heeding the advices of the billionaires’ agents (such as Friedman) will advance it, instead of end it and replace it with an improved world. Only the billionaires and their retinues benefit from the prevailing system. Money is power, and they have enough of it to control the governments. That desperately needs to change. 

There is a very fundamental conflict-of-interests between the billionaires and all the rest of humanity; and the billionaires definitely control the United States and its allies. The reality is that there is no way in which billionaires, who have come to control not only their own countries but other nations, will tolerate a world which is more peaceful, more productive, more equalitarian, healthier, happier, and less polluting — a world that’s far better for the public. That wouldn’t be the type of world they control, and in which they possess obscene wealth. They not only cling to their billions but they demand to become even more obscenely wealthy. As Warren Buffett, of the U.S. aristocracy’s liberal (meaning hypocritical) wing, was quoted in the 26 November 2006 New York Times“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” And the statement is true. (Buffet’s condemnations of that class-warfare are the hypocritical part.) And it’s even more true now than it was in 2006. It needs to become false, but it becomes truer each year that passes. Here is how true it is, on a global scale, as reflected in the 

Credit Suisse “Global Wealth Report 2018″

p.20:

“Figure 1: The global wealth pyramid 2018”

Wealth%, Wealth$, %/World, Wealth-range

0.8%=$142T=44.8%=$1M+

8.7%=$124.7T=39.3%=$100,000 — $1M

26.6%=$44.2T=14.0%=$10,000 — $100,000

63.9&=$6.2T=1.9%=<$10,000

100%=$317.1T=100%

For example: The poorest 63.9% own $6.2 trillion, which is 1.9% of the total, and this is the wealth of everyone whose net worth is below $10,000.

The richest 0.8% own $142 trillion, which is 44.8% of the total, and this is the wealth of everyone whose net worth is above $1,000,000.

The richest 0.8% own 23 times more than the poorest 63.9% do.

On 5 March 2019, Forbes came out with their 2019 list of 2,153 billionaires in the world during 2018, and their combined wealth is $8.7 trillion, which is 40% more than the combined wealth of the poorest 63.9% of people in the world in 2018 as shown in the recently released Credit Suisse “Global Wealth Report 2018″. The richest 9.5% had 84.1% of the total wealth. So, since money is power, democracy can’t possibly exist, and so if you aren’t among the richest 10%, the government’s doing what you want it to do is practically impossible to achieve. This is what is meant by saying that it’s an aristocratic, not a democratic, world we live in.

And that’s why this is a world of permanent war for perpetual ‘peace’ and (in)’justice’. That’s (those lies are) the problem (both nationally and internationally), and it can’t be solved without conquering economic inequality — by ending obscene personal wealth, and by placing government under the control of the entire public, no longer under the control (if billionaires control it now) of only the richest 2,153 people divided by the current world population of 7.6 billion, or 0.000000283 of the world’s population, or in percentage terms, of only 0.0000283% of today’s population. That’s not democracy. It is aristocracy. It’s even an extreme case of that. Democracy would instead represent the other 7,599,997,847 people, the other 0.999999716 or 99.99997%. To pretend otherwise than this reality is to serve only that 0.0000283%, and to try to fool the remaining 99.99997%. It’s theft by lying. It is force that’s used against the mind (deceit), instead of force that’s used against the body (violence). Theft (either type) has enormous costs, especially when it’s the actual system, instead of violations of the actual system. And, now, it is the actual system. It’s the system itself. And that’s the real problem.

Rightfully, there is universal condemnation of bigotry — prejudice — against ethnic minorities, but there is no similar public outrage against bigotry against the poorer 99.99997%, who are the vast majority of the world’s people. This is sick, and is sustained only by constant deceits. It is a system that’s built upon deceit. Anyone who wants to know how this system functions within the U.S. itself can see that here.

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

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