When Dr. Lobsang Sangay, head of the Tibetan government in exile, spoke before a Canadian Parliament Committee on 12 June, he claimed to speak for six million Tibetans not actually under his authority, while failing to articulate even one concrete measure his or previous governments in exile have taken to either improve the lives of about 100’000 exiled countrymen actually under their jurisdiction, or to expedite their return to their homeland.
Instead, he spent most of his address to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, and much of his response time in the questions and answers session, lamenting the Chinese occupation of Tibet and its subsequent annexation and exploitation of the territory. His remarks came notwithstanding the official position of the government in exile, known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), which backs the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” approach of viewing the territory as an autonomous region within China.
A week later he quietly visited Israel for five days in a low-key bid to shore up support for his campaign. Dr. Lobsang Sangay claimed he deliberately chose not to meet with government officials, saying he wanted to learn more about the country first, but intends to return to Jerusalem next year to step up his advocacy. When Dr. Sangay spoke with The Jerusalem Post at the tail-end of his five-day trip to Israel, he claimed again to speak for six million Tibetans, comparing the situation of the Tibetans to the situation of the Jews searching for the Promised Land in Palestine, today Israel. However, he systematically avoided commenting on issues related to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
In his Canadian and Israeli visits, Sangay ran through an often-repeated litany of grievances in his efforts to tick the boxes of human rights and environmental organisations, a litany dictated by his monetary and ideological patron, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC). Somewhat ironically, the U.S. recently withdrew from the UN Human Rights council, while the CECC is headed by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, not well known for a strong stand on human rights or environmental issues elsewhere.
In Canada, Sangay spent some 15 minutes lamenting Chinese actions in its subjugation of Tibet before taking 45 minutes of softball questions which could almost have been copied from the CECC website. At no point did he offer a set of proposals to indicate what the CTA itself might do if it were ever in a position to govern both the 100,000 Tibetan refugees that it purportedly represents, and those six million Tibetans already living under China in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Similarly, in Israel Sangay spent most of his time explaining the ecological and humanitarian situation in Tibet to the Israeli public, citing the same grievances as in Canada, visiting the symbols of the Jewish state and forgetting to mention grave human rights issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor did he visit the Palestinian territory. In the future, Sangay said, he plans to seek support from Israel for the Tibetan people, recalling that the current Dalai Lama has visited Israel on several occasions.
In both Canada and Israel, so scant on detail were Sangay’s discussions that those in attendance are unlikely to have learned much at all about what the CTA actually does to advance conditions for those Tibetans it theoretically serves. Perhaps the only thing that Canadians and Israelis learned from Sangay is that he uses two measures to weigh human rights. Territorial occupation may pass without comment in the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, but China’s occupation of Tibet is a grave human rights violation.
Not a single mention was made of how the CTA might implement government in the remote case that Tibet achieved independence, nor yet how the land might be governed as an autonomous region. There was no discussion on how the CTA might transition from a small administration serving 100,000 refugees to a national government of six million citizens. Nor was there any allusion to how the CTA would develop the regional economy, promote health and education, administer a judicial system or conduct foreign relations, all areas for which any government-in-waiting should at least have a basic plan.
But maybe that was by design. Drawing attention to any of these issues would have risked revealing how little, in reality, the CTA does or has done in concrete terms, and how short in substance its efforts have been in these areas since the Dalai Lama and his followers first fled Tibet following a failed uprising against Chinese occupation in 1959. While the CTA was first formed in September 1960 and has since received hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian donations, in all that time it has failed to develop even a rudimentary plan of action outlining the steps that would be needed and the areas of most urgent focus should it one day actually take on the role of representing all Tibetans. While it has devoted a large amount of resources to waging a costly and often successful propaganda war against China, the CTA appears to have spent far less on dealing with the real issues facing even the relatively small number of refugees in its charge.
While China’s ascendancy is one factor, the sheer deficiency of tangible CTA policies and measures in its 60 years as an exile government explains the despairing state of the Tibetan cause today, and shows why many Tibetans refugees have taken matters into their own hands, some becoming Indian citizens, others choosing to return to the Tibet Autonomous Region under Chinese rule.
In place of policy development, the CTA has preferred to produce a constant stream of rhetoric against China, exploiting the charm of the Dalai Lama and China’s unworthiness in order to develop a persuasive international public relations strategy, to focus its efforts on maintaining the fiction of a determined population presenting a united front in the face of a mighty oppressor. In the meantime, it has silenced any and all dissenting voices from within and without the exile community, sometimes vigorously. For example, Lukar Jam, who opposes the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way and has therefore been labelled anti-Dalai Lama, was fiercely opposed by the sitting Tibetan leadership in his 2015 campaign to head the CTA, with leaders actually manipulating electoral rules to scupper his campaign. In the meanwhile, Tibetan monks pushing for dialogue with China such as ex-Tibetan Prime Minister Professor Samdhong Rinpoche do not seem to be getting much support and may even have had their efforts sabotaged. The message of amity and reconciliation from advocates of world peace such as Mingyur Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Tsem Tulku Rinpoche seem to fall on deaf ears in Dharamsala where the CTA is headquartered. Those who are more outspoken about the urgency of accord such as Tsem Tulku Rinpoche have been mercilessly harangued at every opportunity for daring to suggest that in the interest of peace and for the sake of the Tibetan refugees who are now in the third generation as exiles, that the CTA should create a climate of détente to return China to dialogue, instead of constantly agitating Beijing, precisely what the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way is advocating.
The rhetoric has been directed at a Western audience to stir up a common fear: “China destroys the environment and will soon conquer the whole world with the Silk Road project”. It is a hollow soundbite, but does little to promote the Tibetan cause for autonomy. This at a time when clear proposals would be especially vital, given the increasing attention to the Dalai Lama’s supposed ill health (several rumours suggest he is afflicted with terminal cancer). It is now critical for the CTA to restore confidence by showing that it is up to the task of governing six million Tibetans along with some extremely complex geopolitical/cross-border issues.
Smug claims bear little scrutiny
During his Canadian address, one of Sangay’s most ludicrous claims was that the CTA was an example of “a well-practiced implemented democracy” that could actually be a role model for the world. The claim is so flawed that it can be countered on several fronts. Both cynically and shamelessly, he claimed that in the Tibetan concept of democracy, the opposition does not exist (it does, even if it is not welcomed with open arms) and that this notion of governance is a characteristic of the Buddhist culture.
But his somewhat smug assertions do not stand up to scrutiny.
It should not be forgotten that numerous travellers and scholars who visited Tibet prior to the Chinese occupation described a country in which warlords and Buddhist monks lived very well indeed, sharing the country’s riches among themselves, whilst much of the population, and particularly those who worked the lands belonging to the wealthy, lived a form of feudal serfdom, little better off than slaves. A large amount of documentation indicates that these people could be literally bought and sold with the land they lived on, and that condign punishments, including execution, amputations and other forms of torture, were frequently used against those who sought to push back against the authority of their “masters”.
That hardly indicates a democratic tradition, and makes a mockery of Sangay’s claims of a “well practiced” democracy based on consensus rather than adversarial politics. Moreover, his claims gloss over the lengths the government in exile will go to keep dissenters in line.
A case in point is the long-standing rejection of the practice of Dorje Shugden, a centuries-old devotion to a deity considered by many to be a protector of the “Geluk”, or “yellow hat” school of Tibetan Buddhism to which all Dalai Lamas belong. Since 1996, the CTA has maintained an effective ban on the practice, producing a large body of directives, literature and videos claiming it is harmful to Tibetan unity and accusing practitioners of being Chinese stooges. This is in spite of Article 10 of the Tibetan Constitution, itself drafted by the CTA, which guarantees freedom of religion.
The CTA also maintains an ambiguous position on autonomy for the Tibet region as it performs what a somewhat ludicrous balancing act aimed at keeping external proponents of Tibetan independence onside. We only need to consider that the CTA happily accepts support from many Western-based NGOs advocating for human rights in Tibet, virtually all of which openly support Independence for the territory (in the Tibetan language “Rangzen”) as their ultimate objective. But with the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” proposals forming the basis of the official CTA position, any mention of “Rangzen” among the exile communities is discouraged in the harshest of terms, and any pro-independence voices have been systematically stifled by and excluded from the government in exile.
In effect, the Canadian Standing Committee and the Israeli public could learn as much from what Sangay did not say as from what he said. He spoke of how China had exploited Tibet since first occupying the region in 1951, appropriating all water and mineral resources to its own end; how China was shipping its own citizens to the region in order to “dilute” the local population and was using discriminatory wage practices by paying more to ethnic Chinese than to Tibetans doing the same job; and how China’s ultimate goal was to assimilate the local population to such an extent that the Tibetan identity no longer had any meaning.
What he did not mention was, as noted above, that prior to Chinese occupation only wealthy Tibetan landowners, warlords and monks drew any benefit from the country’s resources, while the vast majority of the population were in effect indentured labourers with no democratic rights at all. Nor did he mention that, since its formation, the government in exile has failed to come up with any sort of plan for governing the vast region of Tibet, should it ever achieve its ambition of doing so. He didn’t say, either, that the CTA’s constant antagonising of China has begun to erode the goodwill of the CTA’s hosts, India, and of neighbours including Mongolia, which are seeking to develop better relations with China, now the world’s second-largest economy.
Sangay’s presentation of a Tibetan tradition of consensual democracy may have struck his hearers in Canada and Israel as quaint or even desirable. But those with a deeper knowledge of the CTA would probably point out it is hardly a tradition – as noted above, even in country’s most recent history as an independent nation, the majority of its citizens were little more than slaves. They might also note that in the CTA’s efforts to present a picture of unity to the outside world, it appears more willing to silence dissenters than engage in discussion; and that, when faced with concerted opposition among the people it is supposed to represent, the CTA’s response is generally neither consensual nor democratic.
If the CTA is to go beyond grandiloquent speeches, bizarre and erroneous claims of a “democratic tradition” and other empty grandstanding, it needs to develop real and achievable policies that can both improve the lives of the Tibetan diaspora in a real and measurable way, and engage China openly in order to seek some degree of common ground. As major economies around the world seek to improve relations with China, Tibet is no longer a cause célèbre that ruling Western governments use as a bargaining chip in negotiations. Instead, the Tibetan question has become a marginal issue, raised by opposition politicians in western democracies – with diminishing effect – when they wish to get noticed. Unless it can come up with a concrete programme that can ultimately achieve real benefits for the Tibetan diaspora, the CTA risks becoming irrelevant in the very near future.
Assad’s visit to China: Breaking diplomatic isolation and rebuilding Syria
The visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to China to participate in the opening of the Asian Games came as a serious step to try to break the diplomatic isolation from Syria. Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” was keen to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China, where the Asian Games are being held, as this was the Syrian president’s first visit to China since 2004. According to the Syrian regime’s Al-Watan newspaper, Al-Assad will attend the launch ceremony of the (nineteenth edition) of the Asian Games, which will open on September 23, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou. This visit to Bashar al-Assad reflects the great coordination between Moscow and Beijing, as it is likely that the Russians pushed for this visit at this precise time. Perhaps, through his visit to China, Bashar al-Assad is trying to deliver a specific message about the start of “international legitimization” of his regime. Syria’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative in January 2022 is an indication of the possibility of implementing vital Chinese projects, especially since it is located between Iraq and Turkey, making it a vital corridor for land routes towards Europe.
Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China also comes in an attempt to attract it to reconstruction projects in the affected areas in Syria, as China has the ability to complete reconstruction infrastructure in residential and civilian areas with exceptional speed. This is the same as what the Chinese ambassador to Syria “Shi Hongwei” announced in August 2023, that “Chinese companies are actively involved in reconstruction projects in Syria”. The war in Syria led to massive destruction of infrastructure and the destruction of many vital sectors of the Syrian economy, including oil, while the Syrian government is subject to harsh international sanctions. We find that the Chinese side has shown great interest in the reconstruction projects in Surba, such as the presence of more than a thousand Chinese companies to participate in (the first trade exhibition on Syrian reconstruction projects in Beijing), while they pledged investments estimated at two billion dollars.
China played an active role through diplomatic movements in Syria, as it participated in the “Astana” process, and obstructed Security Council resolutions related to Syria, to confirm its position in support of Damascus, using its veto power more than once in the Security Council, against resolutions considered to be a blow to Assad’s “legitimacy”. In September 2017, the Syrian regime classified China, along with Russia and Iran, as “friendly governments” that would give priority to reconstruction projects. Therefore, Al-Assad affirmed during his meeting with Chinese President “Xi Jinping” that: “this visit is important in terms of its timing and circumstances, as a multipolar world is being formed today that will restore balance and stability to the world, and it is the duty of all of us to seize this moment for the sake of a bright and promising future”.
According to my analysis, China follows the policy of “breaking diplomatic isolation on presidents and countries against which America is angry”, so the visit of “Bashar al-Assad” comes within a series of visits that China witnessed during the current year in 2023, to presidents who are isolated internationally by the United States of America, such as: Venezuelan President “Nicolas Maduro”, the Iranian President ”Ibrahim Raisi”, and the Belarusian “Alexander Lukashenko”.
China is also keen to conduct interviews in its newspapers and official websites affiliated with the ruling Communist Party with many presidents and officials of countries isolated internationally and diplomatically by the United States of America and the West, such as the Chinese keenness to conduct and publish an interview with Syrian Foreign Minister “Faisal Mekdad” on September 21, 2023, and the Chinese reviewed his statements, saying that “the United States of America has plundered oil, natural gas, and other resources from Syria, causing losses worth $115 billion”. The Chinese newspaper “Global Times”, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, also focused on the United States’ greater role in the deterioration of “Syria from stability to chaos” . The Chinese newspaper compared this to China’s policy, which constantly calls for peaceful dialogue and opposes “foreign interference” .
Through his visit to China, Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” is trying to lay the foundations for joint cooperation between China and Syria within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, with full Chinese support for Syria’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner. China has always affirmed its firm support for Syria’s efforts against foreign interference, with the Chinese rejection of the stationing of illegal forces on Syrian territory. China is also making great efforts with many countries to lift sanctions and the illegal economic blockade on the Syrian people, in addition to Chinese support for building Syrian capabilities in the field of combating terrorism. Knowing that despite its alliance with President “Bashar Al-Assad”, China did not participate in supporting him militarily, but it used the right of criticism to obstruct the passage of resolutions against him in the Security Council.
We can reach an important conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China has a greater political track, and that Beijing is trying to play a greater role in the issue of resolving conflicts or to have a greater actual role in negotiations related to sensitive issues in the region. The implications of Assad’s visit to China are also politically significant, as China is trying to play a greater political role in the region, as China has been trying since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the emergence of a vacuum in the Middle East as a result of the decline of Russian influence due to its preoccupation with the war, so Beijing is trying to expand in the Middle East and Africa.
China’s Inclusive Diplomacy for Global Cooperation
President Xi Jinping’s address at the recently held 2023 CIFTIS resonates as a powerful call for inclusive development and cooperation in the services trade sector. China’s commitment to expanding market access, increasing connectivity, and aligning policies with global standards demonstrates its commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all nations.
This commitment extends across different sectors, including telecommunications, tourism, law, vocational examinations, and the larger services sector. President Xi’s address emphasized China’s intention to expand broader, broaden market access, and support inclusive development in the services trade sector. His sentiments resonate with the global world as China seeks to create new prospects for openness, cooperation, and economic equality.
Over the last few decades, the services trade landscape has changed drastically, becoming an essential component of international business. However, this expansion has not been uniform, with developing countries frequently encountering difficulties such as limited market access, complex rules, and capacity limits that prevent them from fully participating in international services trade.
Notably, China is committed to promoting inclusive growth in the services trade sector. It assured of taking continuing steps to accelerate Chinese modernization through high-quality development, to open up new avenues for openness and collaboration for all countries.
Through openness, cooperation, innovation, and shared services, China emphasized the need for inclusive growth and connectivity. Recognizing that a rising tide in services trade should raise all boats, particularly those from nations with limited resources, China has launched a series of ground-breaking initiatives. Additionally, China is actively expanding its network of high-standard free trade areas, participating in negotiations on the negative list for trade in services and investment.
China is setting an example by aligning its policies with international standards. President Xi highlighted in his speech that national integrated demonstration zones for increased openness in the services sector, suitable pilot free trade zones, and free trade ports will be at the forefront of aligning policies with high-standard international economic and trade regulations. These zones demonstrate China’s commitment to fostering an atmosphere conducive to international cooperation and growth.
Real-world examples vividly demonstrate the practical impact of China’s assistance to developing countries in the services trade. China’s investments in transport infrastructure, such as the Standard Gauge Railway, have considerably facilitated the flow of goods and people in Kenya, boosting the services sector indirectly.
Pakistan’s experience with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is similar, with improved physical connectivity catalyzing the expansion of digital services and e-commerce. Various infrastructure developments in Indonesia have resulted in spectacular advances, opening up new potential for services trade.
Ethiopia, too, has reaped the benefits of China’s commitment, with active participation in industrial parks reviving the services sector, which includes logistics, banking, and education. These real-life success stories highlight China’s critical role in facilitating the expansion and development of services trade in developing countries.
China’s commitment to capacity building and technical aid is critical in its support for developing countries in the services trade. China provides these countries with the knowledge and skills they need to participate effectively in the services trade by offering specialized programs. Furthermore, China’s significant investments in infrastructure projects such as ports, logistical hubs, and telecommunications networks play an important role in facilitating the smooth flow of services.
Furthermore, China’s commitment to reducing entry barriers and optimizing regulations indicates the country’s persistent commitment to creating an equitable environment. This approach not only promotes equitable possibilities but also simplifies market access, making it easier for developing countries to export their services to China’s enormous and dynamic market.
Furthermore, China gives significant financial support in the form of loans and grants for service trade-related initiatives, recognizing the financial problems that many developing countries confront. This financial assistance enables nations to overcome economic challenges and invest in the expansion and improvement of their service sectors, thereby encouraging economic equality and cooperation.
As the world continues to evolve, services trade will play an increasingly important role in global economic growth, and China’s leadership in this realm is helping to shape a future where opportunities are shared, disparities are reduced, and cooperation knows no bounds. It is a vision worthy of appreciation and support since it is consistent with the ideals of justice and equality, moving the globe closer to a more linked and wealthy global community.
China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20
The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.
The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.
Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.
The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.
Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.
China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.
To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.
The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.
Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.
All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.
Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.
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