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.
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.
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.
Politicizing the COVID-19 pandemic and Xi Jinping’s vision to reshape the new world order
– First: The internal and external strategic objectives of Comrade Chinese President “Xi Jinping“, in parallel with the international partnerships and relations of the Communist Party of China “CPC” around the world
– Second: The recognition of Chinese Comrade President “Xi Jinping” before the leaders and youth of the Central School of the Communist Party “CPC” of the profound global changes post (Covid-19) world
– Third: The relationship between the global achievements of the Communist Party of China, and the Chinese President, Comrade “Xi Jinping” call for establishing an international multipolar world, and the politicization of the “Covid-19” pandemic in the USA and the West
– Fourth: The relationship between the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic and the test the (new global governing systems and global governance) from the Chinese perspective
The Egyptian researcher was invited as an expert in Chinese and Asian political affairs, by the “Friends of the International Chinese Belt and Road Initiative Forum” in the Pakistani capital “Islamabad”, on Friday, September 10, 2021, to talk about:
“Politicizing the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic and linking it to China, and the reasons behind this matter“, in a meeting that was intensively covered by the international media, in several international, Chinese and Asian websites, newspapers and news agencies, in reference to the importance of this event for Beijing.
In fact, it is not possible in any way to separate the attempts of the United States of America and the West to distract China towards achieving its primary goal of (building a multipolar, multilateral world and international poles), and the vision of Comrade Chinese President “Xi Jinping” on (reshaping the world order and makes it more compatible with Chinese interests and values).
Where China’s leaders see that the liberal international system reflects the (global vision of the white colonial powers victorious in the Second World War), which it created to serve their interests at the headquarters of the United Nations “UN”. Accordingly, Comrade “Xi Jinping” has formulated a strategy for China consisting of (two points), as follows:
- China is increasing its power, personnel, and financial influence within existing global governing institutions.
- At a time when China’s leaders, on the other hand, must work on (building new institutions centered around China), such as:
(Belt and Road Initiative, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Silk Road Fund) … besides, some other relevant Chinese international institutions.
– Hence, the Egyptian researcher sought to draw attention to the “real reasons behind the principle of politicization of the origin of the “COVID-19″ pandemic, and its relationship to China’s international achievements”, through the following division:
– First: The internal and external strategic objectives of Comrade Chinese President “Xi Jinping”, in parallel with the international partnerships and relationships of the Communist Party of China “CPC” around the world
China has developed a comprehensive plan that the United States of America and the West tried to obstruct, in order to prevent China from internationally rising. The most important successes of China internationally are represented, by:
1) The ruling Communist Party of China has sought to establish international partnerships and party relations under the supervision of the senior and central leaders of the party, which is known as, the strategy of the (relationship between the Communist Party of China “CPC” and the other international parties), as an important part of the Chinese long-term strategy.
2) The Communist Party of China has internally developed a plan adopted by itself, represented in the (realization of the original goal of seeking the happiness of the Chinese people and the renaissance of the Chinese nation, as well as the unity of the world).
3) The Communist Party of China, in cooperation with the international parties with the same ideological thought and even intellectually opposite with it, seeking to the (commitment of achieving consensus and mobilizing the international forces to build a new China).
4) The Chinese President, Comrade “Xi Jinping“, raised an important international Chinese slogan with many connotations, represented in:
“The world is common to all, and we are a nation with one common destination for humanity”
5) In order to achieve these Chinese priorities externally, the Communist Party “CPC” and its Committee on Foreign Communications and external Relations of the “CPC” worked in parallel and in line with the “Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, as an official institution together, through the (strategy of the Communist Party of China to deepen exchanges and cooperation with international political parties, and give full play to the for the advantages of contacts between the various political parties with the Communist Party in Beijing), in response to the call of the times to build a community of a shared future between China and the world, especially African, poor and developing countries.
6) Chinese President “Xi Jinping” was keen to (confronting international hegemony and unilateralism by Washington), and President “Xi Jinping” in his capacity as “General Secretary of the Communist Party of China”, stressed that “the fate of the world should be controlled by all countries on an equal footing, as international rules should jointly be formulated by all countries, and all countries of the world together manage the various affairs of the world”
7) Indeed, the senior communist leaders in Beijing have succeeded in transforming this global economic strategy into a (trustworthy support for the votes of the members of the Group of 77 in its favor in various forums, and at all known international parties).
8) To achieve the previous priorities, President Comrade “Xi Jinping” personally supervised the (transformation of the People’s Liberation Army from an institution based on the Continental Defense Army into a force to project power and influence beyond China’s borders), through the expansion of (navy, air, cyberspace capabilities and satellites). Here, Comrade Xi’s stated mission is to “build a world-class military institution to fight and win wars” in the post (Covid-19) world.
9) We also find the continuation of Chinese national efforts aimed at transforming China into a (technological superpower), imposing its global power and technical progress on (fifth generation networks of communications, semiconductors, supercomputing, and artificial intelligence).
10) The Chinese President, Comrade “Xi Jinping“, and the leaders of the Communist Party of China, supported what is known as the “sovereignty of the Chinese people”, as the (first priority). The Communist Party “CPC” officials and Comrade “Xi”, in their political speeches, considered that:
“The position of the Chinese people is the basic political position of the Communist Party, making sincerely serving the Chinese people the basic objective of the Party, realizing the people’s aspirations for a better life, due to their constant pursuit and struggle, and promoting reform and development to achieve greater benefit and better well-off of living for all”
Thus, the Communist Party “CPC” has always and along the way won the support and support of the masses of the Chinese people.
11) Many Western researchers, experts and academics themselves confirmed that the goals and endeavors of the Communist Party of China at every stage are very clear, and it adjusts its policies, according to the changing domestic and external situations in order to meet the needs of the Chinese people, and here, we can indicate out to a (research report issued by Kennedy College of Government at Harvard University) in 2020, which showed that:
“The Chinese government, led by the Communist Party of China, enjoys more than 93% of support and satisfaction among the Chinese people”, as another survey conducted by (York University in Canada), which is showed that:
“The Chinese people trust their government by up to 98%, and that trust has increased, especially after the emergence of Covid-19”
12) The Chinese President, Comrade “Xi Jinping”, and the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party were also keen on deepening (belonging and unity) among the Chinese people, with Comrade “Xi’s affirmation” that:
“History’s journey has no end, but the future has already begun”
13) The “anti-corruption campaign” led by Comrade “Xi Jinping” in the Chinese interior, which was dubbed “Tigers and Flies“, included more than one million senior and junior officials of the Communist Party of China.
14) In order to achieve China’s goals internationally, the Chinese leader “Xi Jinping” presented his vision of the (future of China), which he called as the “Chinese Dream“, within the framework of a project entitled: “Rebirth of the Chinese Nation“, and succeeded in carrying out economic reforms that contributed to reducing the decline in economic growth, limiting state ownership of industry, combating pollution, and most importantly implementing the giant land transport project, known as the “Silk Road Initiative”
Hence, China’s global achievements and its call for a multipolar international world made it as a primary target for attempts to obstruct it by the United States of America and its allies in the West.
– Second: The recognition of Chinese Comrade President “Xi Jinping” before the leaders and youth of the Central School of the Communist Party “CPC” of the profound global changes post (Covid-19) world
President “Xi Jinping’s realization” of the importance of (political education for Chinese youth) in the post (Covid-19 world), came as Comrade “Xi” affirmed to the youth and leaders of the Communist Party, that the most important reason for China’s success and steadfastness now is to work together on the necessity of mobilizing leaders and the youth of the Communist Party of China and its president with the (Network of Friends around the World), because of those current profound international changes that the world is going through now, through the following affirmations:
1) President “Xi Jinping” believes that there is a “politicized war” against China, as a result of the changes that the world is currently witnessing, by saying:
“The world is currently undergoing profound changes that have not been seen in a century and is rapidly evolving after the Coronavirus pandemic”
2) Comrade “Xi Jinping’s affirmation” of the profound indications for the global changes came in his speech before the (Central Institute of the Communist Party), which is an educational institute of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party, as a signal from him to keep pace with the Communist Party of China with current international events.
3) In the same context, the Chinese President, Comrade “Xi Jinping”, confessed that:
“China is bothering with its international stances”
4) The most dangerous message of the Chinese President was what came from Comrade “Xi’s affirmation” before the leaders and youth of the Central School of the ruling Communist Party, about:
“China must not budge one iota on matters of principle, and adhere to China’s sovereignty, security and development interests with unprecedented firmness”
5) In the context of “Xi Jinping’s keenness” to pay attention to the Chinese youth to lead the Chinese nation, Comrade “Xi”, called:
“Young officials should uphold their ideals, adhere to the party’s loyalty, seek truthfulness from reality and facts, shoulder responsibilities, and strive to become the backbone of a society in which the Party and the people will trust together”
6) In the context of Chinese President “Xi Jinping’s assertion” that: “China strongly confronts any attempts against it”, emphasizing “China’s military and economic renaissance, as matters, according to Comrade “Xi Jinping” that are “irreversible”, and stressed out these points in his international speech, which was globally highlighted, on the occasion of the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China on July 9, 2021.
7) Believing in the role of the “Chinese people” in the struggle against Washington and the West and their attempts to distort China’s international image, President “Xi Jinping” addressed in front of crowds of Chinese audiences in the “Tiananmen” famous Square, location in the center of the Chinese capital, “Beijing”, with the affirmation led by “Xi” in his speech to the Chinese masses, by confirming that:
“China does not oppress other countries”
8) Chinese President “Xi” also warned that “no one should try to “persecute China”, saying:
“They beat their heads against a steel fence”
9) What stopped the Egyptian researcher most during Comrade “Xi Jinping’s discourse” to the Chinese masses on the occasion of the centenary of the Communist Party of China, while the Comrade “Xi’s affirmation” of his rejection of foreign attempts to distort the image of the Communist Party of China.
10) Today, Comrade “Xi Jinping” is keenly to internationally talk about the (role of the Communist Party in the modern history of China), by saying:
“The Communist Party of China has an essential part to the growth of the Chinese state, and attempts to separate it from the people will fail”
11) We find Comrade “Xi’s affirmation” of the necessity of (unification and the unity), as the only way that can (save China), and is capable of achieving the “development in China” in both of the internal and external side.
12) In the context of attempts to politicize the “Covid-19” pandemic, and stigmatize China with it, Comrade “Xi Jinping” confirmed that:
“We will never in China allow anyone to bully, oppress or subjugate China”
13) In a reference by “Xi Jinping” to the strength of the Chinese people in defending of their ruling Communist Party, his assertion came that:
“Anyone who dares to threaten China, its leaders and its ruling Communist Party, hits their head at the mighty steel wall represented by more than 1.4 billion Chinese citizens”
Thus, we can understand the overall current international situation, that the increase in the intensity, strength and fierceness of the American-Western competition, in the face of China and the attempt to mobilize certain regional and international parties against each other, especially after the outbreak of “Covid-19“, which has contributed to the deepening of the global differences and the intensification of conflicts. So, China has repeatedly accused unfair forces of trying to curb its growth, and these statements were taken as an explicit and clear Chinese signal to Washington in the first place.
– Third: The relationship between the global achievements of the Communist Party of China, and the Chinese President, Comrade “Xi Jinping” call for establishing an international multipolar world, and the politicization of the “Covid-19” pandemic in the USA and the West
Chinese President Comrade “Xi Jinping” has repeatedly warned against “politicizing the issue of the COVID-19 virus” or stigmatizing it as the Chinese virus. In his international political discourses, he has explicitly pointed out that:
1) Refusing to marginalize or exclude others or certain countries from working with the international community, by the call of Comrade “Xi” in his speeches on:
“We must reject the attempts to build blocs to exclude others and oppose the zero-sum approach. We must view each other as members of the same large family, continue to win-win cooperation, transcend those ideological differences and not fall into the trap of clash of civilizations”
2) Comrade “Xi Jinping” linked as well the relationship between the Coronavirus pandemic and the current international concepts, by emphasizing in his political discourses, about:
“The COVID-19 pandemic reminds the world that we are living in a global village that is interconnected and has a common interest, in which all countries are closely linked and share a common future”
3) In an important speech by President “Xi” at the (Annual Boao Forum for Asia) in April 2021, Comrade “Xi Jinping” criticized the efforts of countries that aimed at “building barriers” or “separating countries from others and dividing the world into warring or conflicting fronts”. Here, Comrade “Xi Jinping” has asserted on:
“Dividing the world into many competitors and building barriers between nations without working together or adopting the principle of common destiny of humanity will inevitably harm others and completely will not benefit anyone”
4) President “Xi Jinping’s long-standing call” for “reform of global governance” came to better reflect a broader and more diverse range of visions and values from the international community, including their own, rather than those of a few major countries. This was as expected has rejected by Washington that has deeply warned of achieving the Chinese objectives, and the American officials have been claiming that:
“USA is a leader of the libral democratic values in the world, and is globally leading the paths of defending human rights”
5) Comrade “Xi Jinping’s statements” at the “Boao Forum for Asia“, in April 2021, confirmed the purpose of his calls for a (new world order), because:
“The world wants justice, not hegemony”
6) Here, Comrade “Xi”, along with the leaders of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, are keen, in all international events, to emphasize that:
“The big country must appear with an international appearance worthy of it, with its ability to assume more international responsibilities”
We can understand and conclude from this above understanding that the Chinese President, Comrade “Xi Jinping” was keenly to referring to the concepts of “hegemony, unilateralism and isolationism”, besides the other related terms, but Comrade “Xi” didn’t mention or refer to a specific country in his statements or all of his political speeches, but the Chinese officials have recently explicitly referring to the American “hegemony”, in a public criticism of Washington’s imposition of its power and influence in trade and geopolitics in an unfair manner that harms the interests of other countries.
– Fourth: The relationship between the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic and the test the (new global governing systems and global governance) from the Chinese perspective
The Chinese President, Comrade “Xi Jinping“, has called in all his current political discourses on the need to work to establish “international economic blocs” that work for the benefit of developing countries, a multipolar system and a multilateral international world, which is directly and reflected largely in the “increased American competition in the face of China, and the attempt by Washington and its allies in the West to politicize the origin of the Coronavirus, by calling for its stigmatization and appending it to China“.
Washington’s attempt to turn the world against China by causing the spread and outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, which was documented by Chinese President “Xi Jinping” in his political speeches, through the following points:
1) President “Xi’s admission” that the world’s ruling systems are the main criterion for their success in combating the global epidemic, certainly came in an international speech to him, by stressing out:
“The spread and spill over of “Covid-19″ is a major test of the ability of countries’ governance systems to withstand or decline, and a test of the global system of governance”
2) Comrade “Xi” goes extremely beyond, by calling for a “global governance system”. China developed its philosophy and features, through “Xi’s emphasis”, on:
“The global governance system must adapt to evolving global political and economic dynamics, as an attempt to face the global challenges and adopt the fundamental direction of peace, development and win-win cooperation”
3) Comrade “Xi” was also keen to set clear moral standards that guide China’s relationship with the world, and the world’s relations with each other, by calling:
“Countries must not violate ethical standards and comply with international standards, provide the global public good, bear due responsibilities and be in the good faith of their citizens”
4) In the talk of Comrade “Xi Jinping” about the (relationship between the current global economic system and the Corona pandemic), Comrade “Xi Jinping”, indicated that:
“The spread of COVID-19 reminds the world that economic globalization is an indisputable fact and a historical trend”
5) In order to achieve the success of any governmental system or political system, President “Xi” has stressed the need to adhere to the following criteria, as:
“We must strike an appropriate balance between government and market, equity and efficiency, growth and income distribution, technology and unemployment, to ensure full and balanced development that benefits people of all countries, sectors and backgrounds in an equitable manner”
6) Here, we find that what was and still angers the United States of America and the West the most against Comrade “Xi Jinping” is his call that:
“We must continue open and inclusive development, commit to building an open world economy, and support the multilateral trading system with the “World Trade Organization” “WTO” as the cornerstone”
7) Here, we find that China’s attempt to create and strengthen regional and international ties, by strengthening its relations with countries within (collective frameworks), each of which is specialized in a specific region, such as: (ASEAN Organization, Shanghai Cooperation Organization), and others. In the sense that these institutions are working to create (parallel frameworks) for those on which the current international system is based, which is dominated by the United States of America with the help of its allies, which has provoked the United States of America with the continuation of Chinese calls and efforts to have a “central leadership role in a new pluralistic international system”, in order to globally extend its influence.
8) With the increasing calls of Comrade “Xi Jinping” for Chinese involvement in the international multilateral issues, from here, China found it in its interest to call for new global regimes, in order to enhance its international standing, thus China contributed to reaching a “climate agreement“, and increased its efforts in confronting the multiple international issues, such as: (confronting poverty, the spread of epidemics, all global and development efforts), and other related mechanisms, which aroused the ire of the United States of America by inviting China to lead the international efforts in the field of global governance systems and to develop a preliminary vision for the shape of new systems of governing institutions and Governance, which are mainly for (labor and management), additionally the peacekeeping efforts are under the direct supervision of the United Nations “UN”.
9) In an understanding from China of the reality of the current international situation in the post (Covid-19) world, the Chinese comrade “Xi Jinping”, has confirmed by saying:
“China’s situations may have been negatively affected by the global ordeal of the outbreak of “Covid-19″, but China is not in a hurry to transform itself into a great power, but rather announced that it has three decades to reach, and the future is still open for it to achieve this possibility”
10) China is currently working to deepen several other goals, through which it sees that:
“The best way to enhance China’s international standing is to safeguard the interests of the largest number of countries, strengthen the foundations of economic dependability, and stress out on achieving the mutual benefits of relationships among the different nations, not just their own interests”
11) For achieving the above-mentioned objectives, China, through the (International Belt and Road initiative “BRI”), has implemented infrastructure projects in multiple countries, established road and railway networks, and built electricity and water plants, which makes it easier for it to globally promote its call in “multi-polar world“.
China has focused its efforts to be the “largest trading partner of many Asian and African countries”, facilitating its international efforts to establish a new administrative system, known as: (Global Governance and Managing Political Systems from a mainly Chinese perspective), which greatly angers Washington and its Western allies.
Through the previous analysis of the Egyptian researcher, we note that “by comparing the American strategic goals with their Chinese counterparts and their development initiatives around the world”, the United States of America shows its achievements by being the (maker of peace through force and not peace), the call for a new Middle East, and a unilateral climate agreement, and others.
Perhaps this is what was actually put forward by the speech of the former President of the United States of America “Trump” when he spoke about the “achievements of the United States of America internationally in confronting China“, during the (deliberations of the seventy-fifth session of the World General Assembly of the United Nations “UN”), and from here, it becomes clear to us the difference between the Chinese initiatives of development to serve (global development goals), and among those American goals that support the use of force, with their failure to use it effectively, as happened in (Afghanistan and Iraq), and others.
Hence, the attempts of the United States of America to stigmatize the “pandemic of the Coronavirus” and attach it to China, by confusing the “scientific reasons for the causes of the global outbreak of the pandemic, and those real underlying political, economic and strategic reasons behind the principle of American and Western politicization of Covid-19”, mainly aims to:
“Distracting Chinese attention away from those American international problems and crises by raising the world against China and paying attention to it for causing the spread of the Corona virus, so that the United States of America is unique in leadership on the international scene within the framework of international hegemony and unilateralism”.
The war and the treaty that proclaimed Japan’s emergence as a world power
September 5 marks 116 years since the end of the Russo-Japanese War, with the signing of the U.S.-mediated Treaty of Portsmouth. Fought in the beginning of the 20th century, it has a unique place in history, as the warring sides fought over the territory of two neutral states – China and Korea – and it also saw a European power being defeated by an Asian power for the first time in the modern era.
1904-05 was a tense period in the history of Asia. The story begins a few decades back when the island nation of Japan emerged from over two-and-a-half century of isolation, following the Meiji Restoration of 1868. In the next three to four decades, the country would undergo a rapid modernisation of its society, army, navy, and industry, with the adoption of Western methods and standards. The Russian Empire which already had control over Siberia was looking to expand further into East Asia, particularly towards the east of River Amur which would give them outlets of warm-water ports in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, and thereby in the Pacific Ocean. Since the 1850s, Russian urban settlements appeared along the left bank of River Amur, despite protests from a weakening Qing China.
Owing to the domestic turmoil in the backdrop of the struggle against British and French aggression and the Taiping Rebellion, imperial China was not in a position to resist Russian power. Finally, China was forced to cede to Russia all the territory from the mouth of the Amur till the frontiers of the Korean peninsula, including the region where the port of Vladivostok would emerge soon. Russian expansionist policy went unchallenged for the next three decades. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, Russia’s interest in Siberia, Russian Far East and East Asia saw a revival, but this time there it had to confront a newly emerging Asian power – Japan.
The decisive victory of Japan in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, which was fought over the control of Korea, demonstrated Japanese power and the weakness of the Qing Empire. Before the war, Korea had long been a key client state of the Chinese empire, but its strategic location opposite the Japanese archipelago, with all its natural resources like coal and iron, attracted Japanese interest in the peninsula. The war ended in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed in 1905. After the war, Korea was removed from the suzerainty of China and was placed under the Japanese sphere of influence. Taiwan and parts of Manchuria also came under Japanese control.
Japanese power emerges from the shadows
In the next ten years, Japan, a collection of islands in the Pacific with a largely rugged terrain, would go into war with a European great power and a bi-continental giant – Russia. With the 1894-95 war with China, Japan now has control over the Korean Peninsula. This signalled Russia that an upcoming face-off with Japan was inevitable due to its own conflicting interest in the region. A slew of diplomatic efforts by Russia followed as a run-up to the war. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia led the efforts along with his cousin, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, and France, a part of the so-called ‘Triple Intervention’, trying to persuade Japan to give up its territorial demands in Northeast Asia in return for an increased indemnity.
In 1896, Russia even forged an alliance with the Qing Empire to protect the latter’s territorial integrity from foreign aggressions in the future. But, in fact what followed was the scramble for China’s coastal territories among the Russians, Germans, French and the British in the remaining part of the 1890s, which culminated in the rise of resistance movements against the Qing dynasty, including the Boxer Rebellion. In the meantime, Japan was building up its own armed forces by the way of increased conscription that gathered momentum in the late 1890s.
The breakout of war
The Japanese strategy was such that it never intended of attacking Russia directly, but the focus was put on winning an early and decisive victory that would secure their hegemony in Northeast Asia without any rivals. Russian leadership was also ineffective to counter a well-prepared and well-equipped land and naval forces like Japan’s. Realising Japanese strength in the region, Russia’s minister of war, Aleksey Kuropatkin, in fact, recommended the Tsar to abandon his imperial ambitions in Manchuria and the Amur River region.
Even though the Tsar accepted his minster’s proposal, the extremists at the imperial court and other influential commercial interest groups behind the Russia’s expansionist project in East Asia acted as a hindrance for its execution. Meanwhile, the Russian military was left in the lurch to fight the Japanese, who were well-determined to win any battle. In short, Russia heavily underestimated Japan’s military edge. Thus, in February 1904, the Russo-Japanese War broke out with the Battle of Port Arthur, then a naval base and currently in the Liaodong Province of north-eastern China, which was then leased to Russia by the Qing dynasty of China from 1897 onwards. It was a surprise night attack by the Japanese naval forces on the Russian fleet stationed in the port.
The war escalated and went on for the next one-and-a-half years. Russia suffered a number of defeats in the battles that followed, both in land and sea, with some being indecisive. Tsar Nicholas II thought that Russia could win if it continued to fight, and he chose to remain engaged in the war and wait for the outcomes of key naval battles. By May 1905, Russia’s final glimmer of hope for victory faded in sight with its defeat in the Battle of Tsushima, a strait located halfway between the Japanese island of Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula.
Negotiations begin in Portsmouth, the peace treaty is signed
By August 1905, negotiations to end the Russo-Japanese War began when the then American President Theodore Roosevelt invited both nations to conduct direct negotiations at a neutral site of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in the north-eastern coast of the United States. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was specifically selected as the site for the negotiations by President Roosevelt. The final treaty was signed on 5 September 1905, affirming Japanese presence in south Manchuria and Korea. It also ceded the southern half of the island of Sakhalin to Japan. It was the first international treaty to be signed in the U.S. and also with American mediation.
The Treaty of Portsmouth would set the balance of power in East Asia and the Pacific for the next four decades. It effectively ended Russia’s expansionist policies in Northeast Asia. The war and the subsequent treaty announced the emergence of Japan to the status of a world power. American diplomacy, thus, began its journey, which would reach it zenith following the two world wars. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the Russo-Japanese War. The following four decades would witness Japan going on a rampage across Asia in pursuit of its militaristic ambitions, particularly in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia, before it would savour defeat at the hands of the Americans in 1945.
Russian Far East and Arctic: Emerging Arenas for India-China Competition?
In a speech this year in Moscow, Indian Foreign Secretary highlighted the three strategic geographies- Eurasia, Indo-pacific and the Russian Far East (RFE), and the Arctic, which will be the key emerging theatres of geopolitics that upcoming diplomats will be engaged in throughout their careers. He further stressed that not only is Russia crucial to all the three regions, but there is also an inherent need of multi-polarity for the security and prosperity of these regions. Also, a multipolar world and a multipolar Asia is not possible without India and Russia.
Did the Foreign secretary underline the increasing Chinese ambitions in these regions and the need for countering these ambitions by pointing towards the necessity of multipolarity in Asia? Several questions arise when we take in consideration the recent rejuvenation in the relationship between India and Russia, and the narrative that strategic hedging against China is the main motive behind this rejuvenation.
For answering these, one needs to understand why China is interested in these regions and what has been China doing in these key areas. Further, what are India’s stakes in these regions and whether India can think of competing with China here. Moreover, how Russia looks at the competition if it exists. This piece tries to analyze these questions and highlight the ongoing geopolitical dynamics in the RFE and Arctic and the pertaining Indian and Chinese foreign policies, in their past, present, and future goals.
Importance of RFE and Arctic
Geographically, RFE comprises of the Far Eastern Federal district that is the easternmost territory of Russia sandwiched between eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean. The district shares land borders with Mongolia, China, and North Korea to the south and shares maritime borders with Japan to its southeast and with the US to its northeast.
Having never known serfdom, this region has been culturally, religiously and politically different from Moscow and the Russian heartland for a major part of history, by virtue of more entrepreneurism and autonomy. Today there exists an additional dimension to this ‘difference’ between the RFE and the center. In the Soviet period, the region was tied to Europe economically but in past decade it has become increasingly clear that several of the Far Eastern krais and oblasts (units of governance in Russian political system like districts), especially those bordering China are now economically dependent more on Asia than on European region. This situation is compounded by migration related demographic issues. For more than a decade now the region has witnessed exodus of ethnic Russian population and seen a growing influence of Chinese businesses and migrants. The extent of this phenomenon is widely visible as over the years large tracts of land in this region have been leased to Chinese for farming, infrastructure projects and energy exploration, with a low tax regime and a considerable amount of autonomy over the activities. As a result, the region has witnessed emergence of Chinese run farms which look like fortresses, surrounded by high fences and red flags.
The Arctic is deemed as the northernmost region on Earth. While most part of this region used to remain covered with snow for a major part of the year, this phenomenon has been on a downfall due to changes being purported by climate change. The Arctic region not only contains plethora of mineral resources but is extremely important from strategic point of view. During the cold war era, the Arctic held a prominent place in the political and military standoffs between the two superpowers- US and USSR. The region observed a drop in the geopolitical and geostrategic relevance in the 1990s and remained of ‘low tension’ due to commitments made by the Arctic states to keep the Arctic a zone of peace.
The unfreezing of snow makes way for the possibility of opening of the Northern Sea Route which can provide a cost-effective and shorter duration alternative for global shipping routes. Also, scientific developments taking place in hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation can lead to full-scale utilization of the resource base of the Arctic in near future.
Since the rise of Vladimir Putin at the helm of Russian Federation, Moscow’s approach towards development of the RFE has been to inject money into existing industries which according to many analysts of the field has not worked due to the lacunae in addressing the problems of infrastructure and regional integrity. Moscow desires to integrate the region with the broader Asia-Pacific region to solve the problems of development, investment, and connectivity.
In last few years, Moscow has taken decisions like encouraging the return of Russian ‘compatriots’ from Central Asia to accelerate large scale projects. It has also created Special Economic Zones with low tax regimes, focused on modernizing the ‘Trans-Siberian railway’ network, and emphasized on plans to invite investments in the region from nations like India and Japan, beyond the biggest investor in the region- China.
It has to be noted that any developments in the RFE cannot be in isolation from that in Arctic. With the aim of developing both the regions in concurrence, Moscow created the ‘Ministry of the RFE and the Arctic’ which is now working on creation of a corporation in order to supervise the economy and to assume control over elements like ports and exchanges. For the Arctic, Russia rolled out its ‘Strategy for Developing the Russian Arctic Zone and Ensuring National Security through 2035’ in October last year, which aims to advance the development of the region’s abundant resources (especially oil and gas), and improve living conditions for the population. As a long-term objective, Russia hopes to establish the Northern Sea route as a new global shipping lane. These aims and policies need to be considered while understanding Chinese and Indian policies and ambitions and the emerging geopolitical triangle between the three countries, resulting in both cooperation and competition.
The India-China Competition
The perception of China has seen a rise and fall in the last three decades in Russian society. Unlike the 1990s, when there was much skepticism regarding a rise in Chinese immigration, Russia became less wary of engaging with China when relations with the west deteriorated in the aftermath of conflicts in Georgia in 2008 and in Crimea in 2014. Gradually, China became the leading source of foreign direct investment in the region as well as the leading exporter to the districts at the Russia-China border. The extent of asymmetry in terms of trade resulted in a situation where while the exports from this region are diversified among the three northeast Asian states- South Korea, China and Japan, the imports are heavily dominated by China, mainly consisting of machinery, equipment and metals. This imbalance has been further aggravated by factors such as sanctions by the west- leading to declining investment from European nations, and the dramatic rise of China in realm of manufactured goods- which has led to stagnant conditions for the local industries of these regions which are now dependent on export of mainly raw materials and minerals.
As observed by some experts, Beijing’s interest in the region increased after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 when the Chinese investment was followed by an influx of Chinese migrants in the five districts at Russia-China border, namely- Amur oblast, Jewish autonomous region, Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai. From amongst these regions, Amur oblast has the largest gold reserves in Russia, while in another near-border district of Oktyabrsky, there are large Uranium deposits. Adjoining Amur is Sakha (or Yakutia), which carries the world’s largest diamond deposits.
However, mineral resources are not the only source of motivation for Chinese investment in the region. RFE contains huge potential for infrastructure development in realm of power generation (where Chinese electric companies have already shown interest to gain foothold), and upgradation of railway infrastructure which can connect the RFE, Northeast China and Japan with Europe with a land-based network and thus reduce the sea-dependence. Invariably, there has been an increasingly accepted reality that like the Russian Asia-Pacific policy, the policy in RFE too might become lopsided due to the factor of overdependence on China.
Kremlin on its part remain aware of the increasing dependence on export of raw materials to China. China on the other hand is working actively in diversifying its own energy imports and is now seeking to compete with Russia in realm of exports to traditional Russian markets for weaponry and technology. Ideas like temporary placement of skilled manpower from India in RFE are being explored. Besides this, the pledge by India for a $1 billion Line of Credit for development of the RFE highlights the importance being placed by the two countries to make this region a source of renewed cooperation. For now, the plans have been in phase of conceptualization and once the implementation stage arrives, China’s stance towards the potential competition here will be interesting to observe.
Unlike the case of RFE, the changing dynamics and increasing Chinese interests in the Arctic region have been debated and speculated much more in the global geopolitical arena. In the last two decades, not only has Beijing accumulated memberships in all Arctic-related regional associations in some form, but Beijing has also made it a surety that China actively participates in all international organizations whose responsibilities cover the Arctic Ocean and laws related to it. To this end in the past decade, Beijing has started projecting its interest and speaking up on issues pertaining to Arctic. The extent of this activism can be verified by the aims and objectives mentioned in the white paper published by China on 26 January 2018, titled ‘China’s Arctic Policy’. This policy paper very explicitly states that China will participate in regulating and managing the affairs and activities relating to the Arctic, and that ‘respect’ is the key basis for China’s participation in Arctic affairs.
Beijing has made it clear that it has formulated policies and have interest in every realm in the Arctic, ranging from development of shipping routes, exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and minerals, conservation and utilization of fisheries, tourism, as well as strengthening her leadership credentials by having a say in Arctic governance. In totality, if RFE is a region for China’s increasing influence in Russia’s domestic landscape, Arctic is much more of an opportunity to put on display the increasing clout and aspirations for being accepted as a ‘great power’ who now has interests in every corner of the world. India, even if starting to present itself as an alternative to China in the RFE, will find it difficult to match the Chinese position in the Arctic.
In January this year, India rolled out a draft Arctic policy of its own and highlighted that India seeks to play a constructive role in Arctic by leveraging its vast scientific pool and expertise in Himalayan and polar research. India remains aware that Arctic might be becoming an arena of increasing power competition. But beyond planning, goal setting, and utilizing the existing mechanisms for scientific development, in coming years, the economic base of India will not let New Delhi go all-out for claiming a position on the Arctic high table. This is bound to increase tensions in Moscow who would not want a challenge to its hegemony in the Arctic by an increasingly ambitious China.
On its part, Moscow has taken several steps to develop the RFE region to reduce its overdependence on China. However, remoteness of the region, outmigration and difficult business environment are some other issues which append the complex dynamic of the region. Beijing is aware of the benefits available due to scarce ethnic Russian labor, lack of investment from other sources for Russia, the geographical difficulties for nations like India for smooth access, and the absence of deep pockets like China for other nations. In case of the Arctic, Beijing is going for proactive diplomacy and wooing the smaller states. Although Beijing would not want to come to blows with Washington or Moscow in any ways, creating a discourse where China starts being seen as a ‘Arctic’ and not just a ‘Near-Arctic’ state will be a big win for China even before any other advantages as mentioned above are realized. India while looking to initiate presence in RFE can be deemed capable to some extent, but the credentials in case of Arctic region seems no match to that of China. Russia on her part, will want India to at least think about trying to punch above its weight and rise to the task of providing Moscow a way for hedging against Chinese hegemonic ambitions. Recently, India has expressed interest in cooperating with other nations like Japan in these key strategic areas. How Moscow responds to these plans by New Delhi will shape the geopolitical dynamics between Moscow, Beijing, and New Delhi in these two emerging regions which look all set to witness a competition in the coming years.
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