Bold report by Beijing scholars reveals breakdown of China’s Tibet policy; Reflects demands for greater state and Party accountability

ICT Report, June 1, 2009

A bold and remarkable new report by a group of Chinese scholars in Beijing challenges the official position that the Dalai Lama “incited” the protests that broke out in Tibet in March 2008, and outlines key failings in the policy of the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) on Tibet. The report, which is translated into English by ICT below, is the first such analysis from inside China and comes at a time of crackdown in Tibet when the PRC government is taking an increasingly hardline position against the Dalai Lama.

Until now, the report which was posted online on May 12, 2009, has appeared only online in Chinese and it is unlikely to be disseminated publicly in China. It is the result of a month-long investigation by a Beijing-based lawyers’ organization and thinktank called Gongmeng (Open Constitution Initiative). The report’s authors, several of whom attended the prestigious Beijing University Law School, conclude that China’s strategies to ensure ‘stability’ in Tibet have failed, and that China’s propaganda offensive has created divisions and further exacerbated tensions.

Lodi Gyari Gyaltsen, Special Envoy for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, said, “It is gratifying that a group of Chinese academics have themselves taken up the responsibility to conduct an independent study of the circumstances that led to the spring 2008 demonstrations across Tibet. We hope that other progressive voices, including those within the PRC government, will support them and their findings, and help us find real solutions for Tibet.”

Since protests against Chinese rule broke out across the Tibetan plateau last March, state repression has been dramatically stepped up and the Chinese government has hardened its position on Tibet and the Dalai Lama, saying that the protests were planned and instigated by “hostile foreign forces” and the “Dalai clique.” The Open Constitution Initiative report, based on fieldwork conducted by scholars who traveled to Lhasa and a Tibetan region of Gansu province, is critical of this claim and appears to be directly aimed at policy-makers, recommending alternative and ground-breaking approaches.

The authors of the report state: “Even though research was carried out in the field for only a month, we deeply sensed the popular discontent and anger behind the incidents [of the spring 2008 protests], and the complexity of their social roots… An important perspective for interpreting the 3.14 incident [March 14, 2008, when protesting turned to violence in Lhasa] is that it was reaction made under stress by a society and people to the various changes that have been taking place in their lives over the past few decades. The notion that appears impossible to understand is the implication that reasonable demands were being vented, and this is precisely what we need to understand and reflect upon.”

Tibetan scholar Tseten Wangchuk, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Virginia in the US, said: “The report is significant because it points out specific problems in China’s Tibet policy for the first time in China, representing a major challenge to the state as it continues its repressive policies in Tibet. It is also a significant indicator of progressive views within China - these scholars are not alone. While this is the first time that an entire investigation on the causes of the protests has been produced and disseminated online, these views reflect other criticism circulating in China about Tibet policy. These views are going to become harder for the government to ignore.”

The authors, who spoke to numerous Tibetans and Chinese before completing the report, quote Baba Phuntso Wangye, a key figure in Sino-Tibetan relations known for founding the Tibetan Communist Party and who in later years wrote directly to Hu Jintao to urge dialogue with the Dalai Lama, as saying: “They [government officials] take every opportunity to play the splittism card. They are unable to admit their mistakes and instead put all of their effort into shifting accountability onto ‘hostile foreign forces’.”

The authors cite as a contributing factor to the protests that began in March 2008 the high levels of marginalization among Tibetans as a result of Chinese economic policies, saying: “From the level of actual benefits, the current rapid process of modernization has not given the ordinary Tibetan people any greater developmental benefits; indeed, they are becoming increasingly marginalized.” The report also refers to deepening rural-urban inequality in Tibetan areas, and notes the government policy of not interfering with the numbers of Chinese migrants flooding into Tibetan cities, and the undermining of the Tibetan language leading to disempowerment of Tibetans.

The report notes that in Lhasa, taxi drivers are mainly non-Tibetan, travel agencies are nearly all owned by outsiders, tourist stalls are not owned by Tibetans, and large numbers of Chinese work in businesses and the tourism industry. The scholars relate the impressions of a taxi-driver from the Chinese interior in Lhasa, who said: “When the land you’re accustomed to living in, and the land of the culture you identify with, when the lifestyle and religiosity is suddenly changed into a ‘modern city’ that you no longer recognize; when you can no longer find work in your own land, and feel the unfairness of lack of opportunity, and when you realize that your core value systems are under attack, then the Tibetan people’s panic and sense of crisis is not difficult to understand.”

Speaking about the lawyers’ motivations for the report, legal scholar Xu Zhiyong, one of the founders of the Open Constitution Initiative, was quoted by Time magazine as saying: “We want to help society, and help build rule of law. We want to be objective. On questions like Tibet, human rights, and so forth, the Chinese government has a standpoint, foreign governments and foreign media have a standpoint. But it’s also important to have an independent look at the problems.” (Time, May 26, 2009). One of China’s top leaders, Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of China's legislature, the National People's Congress, asserted the importance of the official line on Tibet when he told US Speaker Nancy Pelosi on May 27 that of issues to be dealt with in the US-China relationship, Tibet and Taiwan are the two “most important and sensitive”. (Xinhua, May 27, 2009).

The Open Constitution Initiative report is carefully worded, presenting its arguments in Marxist language typical of that seen in much of China’s social sciences, and it frequently quotes phrases and vocabulary used by the Chinese Communist Party leadership. Perhaps exercising the same caution, and possibly based on an intention not to alienate policy-makers, the report portrays the issue of Tibet only as one of governance and policy, without exploring the more politically sensitive issue of the relationship between Tibet and China, nor do they go so far as to use the concept of colonialism to describe the situation in Tibet.

The authors do however refer to “contradictions” inherent in the state’s approach: “…Particularly in the modern era, two problems have faced the social situation in the two Tibetan regions of Amdo and U-Tsang [central Tibet, roughly equivalent to what is now the Tibet Autonomous Region]: one has been a problem with structures of the ruling state’s power systems, or to put it another way, the process of incorporating Tibetan regional culture as a regional society into the politicized structures of the ruling state’s systems; and two, the problem of adapting a society’s internal structures… as of now these problems have still not been properly resolved.”

There is also no discussion of the status of the Dalai Lama in relation to the Tibetan people or his key role in finding a solution to the Tibet question. Loyalty to the Dalai Lama and calls for his return to Tibet have underpinned the overwhelmingly peaceful protests over the past year in Tibet; Tibetans have risked their lives to assert their allegiance to him, as opposed to the Chinese state.

There are a number of inconsistencies in the reporting; for instance, the authors state that “Regional ethnic autonomy has generally been realized in the Tibetan region of Amdo, and the Tibetan people have exercised the right to be their own masters,” when much of the report indicates an acknowledgement that the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law has clearly failed to ensure genuine autonomy for Tibetan people within the PRC. A key recommendation of the report is that the government should “increase effective supervision over local power structures in the implementation of regional ethnic autonomy policies”.

The authors make explicit reference to a new “Tibetan aristocracy” of ethnic Tibetan cadres and officials with “low administrative abilities and backward understanding of governance”. The authors note: “’Foreign forces’ and ‘Tibet independence’ are used by many local officials as fig leaves to conceal their mistakes in governance and to repress social discontent.” They blame these local officials for such acts as canceling or postponing important religious festivals in Tibet, although some observers will point out that these actions are consistent with the increasingly aggressive approach of the central authorities to Tibetan religion and culture. This is a politically sensitive issue to raise because in some ‘ethnic minority’ areas of the PRC, including Tibetan areas, the incompetence of local ethnic cadres has been used as a justification for placing more Chinese officials in the area and furthering the assimilation process. Focusing on the failings of local Party cadres could also be a strategic approach by the authors who may be aiming to influence the central government. In their recommendations, the authors clearly assert the need for Tibetans to be involved in local governance, for training and education for Tibetans to be prioritized, and for the proper implementation of the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law.

One of the most important points in the report, which has led to intense debate among Chinese and Tibetan bloggers since it was posted, is the way in which a virulent propaganda campaign has stoked divisions among Chinese and Tibetans. The scholars say: “The ensuing over-propagandizing of “violence” was used to make the 3.14 incident ever larger, which created certain oppositional ethnic sentiments… Such propaganda actions are in the long run detrimental to ethnic unity. The fascination that Han citizens have expressed toward Tibetan culture changed to fear and hatred of the Tibetan masses.”

The authors acknowledge the resurgence of pride in Tibetan cultural identity among many young Tibetans: “In the language of the older people, we’d often hear such vocabulary as ‘cadre’ or ‘commune member’. However, this was not so among the youth, where phrases such as ‘we Tibetans’ or ‘our nationality’ often appeared in their speech.”

Tseten Wangchuk says: “The propaganda offensive after March 14, 2008, became a turning point in Chinese nationalism. It is very challenging to China that Tibetans are searching for their own identity and expressing their views. As China is becoming more powerful, it would seem to follow that Tibetans would be prouder about being Chinese, but that’s not the case they’re becoming more proud of being Tibetan. China’s propaganda is focused on the positive changes, the ‘democratic reform’ that they say China brought to the ‘backward’ Tibetans. The Chinese people are susceptible to this but Tibetans feel it’s an insult it is inflaming prejudice.”

The report concludes with a series of detailed recommendations by the researchers, who advise first and foremost that the Chinese government should “Earnestly listen to the voices of ordinary Tibetans and, on the basis of respecting and protecting each of the Tibetan people’s rights and interests, adjust policy and thinking in Tibetan areas to formulate development policies which are suited to the characteristics of Tibetan areas and which accord with the wishes of the Tibetan people.”

Chinese intellectuals speaking out on Tibet

The Open Constitution Initiative report is representative of a movement among intellectuals in the People’s Republic of China that seeks political space and accountability from the state. Groups like this one include some of China’s most eminent legal scholars and practitioners and represent the trend that has led to the Charter 08 movement and engendered attempts to use the courts to challenge the Communist Party’s and state’s abuses of power. These lawyers take on politically sensitive cases that, for example, included in April 2009 the legal defense of a senior Tibetan Buddhist cleric facing implausible charges of possession of arms and misappropriating state property. (www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/verdict-tibetan-lama-deferred-chinese-lawyers-statement-charges-against-phurbu-rinpoche). In another case, the mere visit of two such lawyers with a monk who had been detained for six months without charge was enough for police to release him from custody.

The Party has now threatened not to re-register the licenses of some of the most prominent individuals unless they back away from such cases. (“Doomsday for Chinese Human-Rights Lawyers?” By Leslie Hook, Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2009). Others have been beaten and arbitrarily detained by police. One of the most famous of these lawyers, Gao Zhisheng, disappeared in February following months of harassment, and his wife and children have fled to the United States.

Xu Zhiyong and the Open Constitution Initiative, together with other lawyers and rights advocates, has been actively involved in identifying cases to test the new Regulations on Open Government Information (OGI Regulations) that became effective in the PRC on May 1, 2008. This law requires PRC government administrative agencies, subject to certain conditions, to publicize information they have created or obtained in the course of carrying out their duties, and to provide information to members of the public upon request. Given the Party’s agenda of political control, analysts believe it is unlikely that the OGI Regulations will be allowed to provide a platform to challenge the basic political system, but NGOs in China, concerned lawyers and scholars including the Open Constitution Initiative, are still mobilizing the law to push for a more open government. (Human Rights in China report, http://support.savetibet.org/site/www.hrichina.org/public/contents/article?revision_id=161072&item_id=161071#ft3).

Following the beginning of the protests in Tibet last year, more than 30 leading Chinese intellectuals, including the Chinese writer Wang Lixiong, released a petition that appeared on several websites in Chinese, entitled 'Twelve Suggestions for Dealing with the Tibetan Situation'. The petition, demonstrating great courage among its signatories, strongly urged the Chinese government to "stop the violent suppression" in Tibet, and appealed to the Tibetan people likewise not to engage in violent activities. It also urged the Chinese government to end the propaganda and news blockade, saying: "The one-sided propaganda of the official Chinese media is having the effect of stirring up inter-ethnic animosity and aggravating an already tense situation. This is extremely detrimental to the long-term goal of safeguarding national unity."

The signatories, include Chinese writers Wang Lixiong, Liu Xiaobo and Yu Jie, Professor Ding Zilin, of the pressure group Tiananmen Mothers, as well as other scholars, and several lawyers and artists.

The petition states that the language used by the Chinese government to describe the Dalai Lama is not "in keeping with the situation, nor is it beneficial to the Chinese government's image," saying: "As the Chinese government is committed to integrating into the international community, we maintain that it should display a style of governing that conforms to the standards of modern civilization."

An influential columnist and deputy editor of Southern Metropolis Weekly, Chang Ping, was sacked last year after he wrote an article about how censorship had hindered truthful coverage of the Tibet protests. In an article entitled, ‘How to find the truth about Lhasa’ published in April, 2008, Chang Ping urged his readers to reflect about the lack of press freedom in China, instead of pouring scorn on prejudice in the western media. (http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2008/05/chang-ping-i-am-ashamed-of-self-censorship/). Chang Ping was labeled as a “rumor monger” by a columnist at Beijing Evening News.

The new report by the Open Constitution Initiative is the first investigative report on the protests last year and the Tibet situation, based on fieldwork and analysis. The full text of the report is available in Chinese here: https://docs.google.com/Doc?id=df4nrxxq_91ctcf6sck, and the English translation by the International Campaign for Tibet follows, and will be available online at http://www.savetibet.org/.

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, ICT
Tel: +44 7947 138612
email: press@savetibet.org


An investigative report into the social and economic causes of the 3.14 incident in Tibetan areas


Gongmeng Law Research Center

Contributors: Li Kun, Huang Li, Li Xiang

Research: Li Kun, Huang Li, Li Xiang, Wang Hongzhe


Contents


Foreword


I: Economic and social changes in Tibetan areas amid a process of rapid modernization

a) The centrally-directed rapid process of modernization

b) The social consequences arising from a process of rapid modernization under a specially formulated path


II: Hardships faced by young Tibetans born in the 70s and 80s


a) Serious problems in basic education


b) Vocational education and the lack of social opportunity


c) The sense of relative deprivation while living in a more open process of modernization as a catalyst for strengthening nationalist sentiment


d) The loss and forgetting of one’s nationality’s traditional culture and history

III: The main problems with structures of governance in Tibetan areas

a) The evolution of structures of governance in Tibetan areas

b) Problems in power structures within regional autonomy in Tibetan areas

IV: The government’s errors in handling the follow-up to the 3.14 incident


V: Problems of Tibetan religion and culture during this current complex phase


VI: Conclusion and recommendations


Appendices: [not available]


1) A review of the background history and culture in the Amdo and U-Tsang regions

2) Changes and modifications to the state’s nationality policies and legislation in Tibetan areas

3) Compilation of research and interview materials

4) Contact information for the subjects of this research

Foreword


From March to April of 2008, a series of mass violent incidents occurred in the Lhasa, Gannan [Tib: Kanlho, in Gansu province] and Aba [Tib: Ngaba, in Sichuan province] regions of our country. The locations of these incidents were the two Tibetan regions of U-Tsang and Amdo.[1] More than a thousand local youths and monks participated in the destruction of government offices, shops and other public installations, and even resorted to violent attacks against innocent people. What could have made the youths in these Tibetan areas including monks become protagonists in these violent incidents? Was it, as the propaganda tells us, a set of violent political and religious demands, or was it a concentrated release of discontent with life in this society? Chinese and western media have been engaging in a heated debate with each other using all manner of ideological approaches to explain these incidents including “Tibetan independence,” “human rights” and “cultural genocide.”


The 3.14 incident[2] of course had its external causes, such as the political and religious demands from groups of Tibetans in exile overseas, and the influence of the Dalai Lama abroad. However, such a large social contradiction could not have been created solely by external factors; there must have been internal causes, but the news reports gave little detailed consideration to exposing the social roots of these violent incidents. Under the influence of nationalist sentiment, there were some reports that even broadened mistrust and mutual criticisms between the nationalities. The lack of field research into the living conditions of Tibetans has been detrimental to clearly understanding the nature of social contradictions in Tibetan areas on a theoretical level, and has been detrimental to resolving problems on a practical level. What is the current state of education and employment in Tibetan areas? What are the lives and thoughts of ordinary people? The strong motivation for Gongmeng to undertake this research is an attempt to analyze the social roots of the background to this “sudden” incident, and by means of local research and interviews understand in a relatively objective way Tibetan areas in a state of change, to deepen understanding and inclusiveness between the nationalities, and to promote harmonious relations between the nationalities.


Since reform and opening up, enormous changes have occurred in the mechanisms of China’s social power and wealth distribution. In a society undergoing such dramatic changes and opening up ever quicker to the outside world, all nationalities in our country are facing entirely new developmental needs and directional choices, and relations between the nationalities are evincing a complex intertwining of old and new contradictions. The original intention and core aim of our survey is to “understand,” with the theme being “The social origins of the Tibet problem and changes to social life in Tibetan areas in recent years.” As the times change, the lives of each of the ethnic peoples also change. Choosing the perspective of “change” enables covering the old people who have experienced “serfdom to land reforms to reform and opening up,” but even more it is hoped attention thus can be focused on those Tibetan youths who were born during and after the 70s and who have grown up in Tibetan areas facing the impacts of globalization and modernization. As the future of Tibetan areas, the circumstances and perspectives of their lives are very different to those of their parents, and there is now a new frame of reference for measuring reality. No longer is it the serf society of before, but a modern life where one stands alone in the throng of the world; and no longer is it a self-sustaining Tibet protected by the natural environment, but a realm which whether actively or passively is intimately connected to all of China and the rest of the world. In the intense process of evolutionary social reform, the problems and challenges faced by society in Tibetan areas seem even more severe and pressing because of their special nature.


This survey chose as its research locations Hezuo city [Tib: Tsoe] and Xiahe [Tib: Labrang] county in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the Tibetan region of Amdo, and Lhasa City and Naidong [Tib: Nedong] county, both in the Tibetan region of U-Tsang. Gannan autonomous prefecture in the Tibetan region of Amdo is an important source of the Tibetan people’s culture and art. Over the course of a long history, the Tibetan region of Amdo has been at the frontline of cultural exchange and intermingling between Tibetan and Han peoples. This region is a classic model for researching Tibetan people’s social changes. Lhasa and Shannan in the Tibetan region of U-Tsang are the ancestral lands of Tibetan culture and the ancient political and cultural centers of Tibet. Since reform and opening up, both U-Tsang and Amdo have been experiencing a rapid process of modernization. External factors continue to impact upon and alter their appearance. The reason for choosing these two regions is also because both have differing historical traditions and structural characteristics. The differences and similarities between them highlight the complexity and difficulty of the problems in Tibetan areas. Based on the sourcing and compilation of documentation, the panel visited scholars and specialists, monks, farmers, nomads, artists, entrepreneurs and migrants in the above-described locales, and it is hoped that by means of coming into personal contact with these voices that a more clear and objective outline of ordinary people’s living conditions in Tibetan areas can be gained.


In light of previous experiences and limited research times, structured interviews and questionnaires are not suited to the low levels of education locally, in addition to language and cultural differences on the actual circumstances of the research. Unstructured interviews acquired rich social material to the greatest degree, and were able to adapt flexibly to the interviewees’ situations. Therefore, the panel adopted a combination of participatory observation and unstructured interviews as a social research methodology, combining general observations of the social situation with individual case analyses. The two eventual methodologies were in-depth interviews and small group discussions.


We consider that the problem of nationalities in the context of globalization is the most important matter in the political life of an ethnic country [a multi-ethnic state]. Based on the principles of understanding and respect, the protection and amelioration of relations between all nationalities should receive even greater attention. For a long time, the “Tibet Question” has been one of the hottest and most complex nationality issues. In recent years, contradictions and conflicts in Tibetan areas have taken an ugly turn, which on the one hand has been due to theoretical blind spots created over a long period due to ideological considerations, and on the other hand because there has not been enough attention paid to the new and prominent problems and contradictions that have emerged as a result of change.


Under present conditions, if contradictions and problems in ethnic autonomous areas such as Tibetan regions are to be fundamentally resolved, it is most important that there be thorough investigations into the thinking, economics and living conditions of those regions’ masses. Understanding is a precondition for discussion, unity and development. If the promotion of healthy development in Tibetan areas is truly desired then there must be a change in thinking and an adjustment in thinking behind the current nationality theories and policies; the transformation must be from being a state of nationalities [a multi-ethnic state] concerned about nationalities from a macro perspective to one which is concerned with real problems such as the basic livelihoods of ethnic minorities in the nationality areas, the protection of their rights and interests, and the fostering of civic awareness and long-term social development.


We call for more to take the standpoint of the Tibetan people and non-Han and non-politicized ideologies in order to seek out a path of development which respects Tibetan social characteristics and motivations, and constructs a harmonious society with Tibetan characteristics. In reality, in facing traditional contradictions and the conflicts of modern development, the Han and Tibetan people are facing the same problems, and need the wise appreciation of each other and to learn from and encourage one and other. We hope that by means of our report, the central government and Chinese people outside of Tibetan areas will be able to deepen their understanding of social change in Tibetan areas, and it is hoped that on the basis of mutual trust that a truly healthy and harmonious Tibet can be established.

I: Economic and social changes in Tibetan areas amid a process of rapid modernization


Research remains focused on the true situation of social structures and the 3.14 incident. Even though research was carried out in the field for only a month, we deeply sensed the popular discontent and anger behind the incidents, and the complexity of their social roots. All of the various contradictions that arose during the incident have their historical sources, and there is no way to avoid reasons of religious sentiment and ethnic identity, nor the profound reality of problems of conflicts of interest. Our research can only touch upon the broader questions, but attempting to go into the topic of the process of rapid modernization in Tibet should elicit more attention and deeper discussion of this question. Of course, the rapid process of modernization in Tibetan areas was not the cause or fuse that directly led to the 3.14 incident, and indeed that is not necessarily the nature and core of the Tibet question. However, we hope that it will provide a background for an understanding to changes in Tibetan society and offer an avenue for appreciating the thoughts and actions of the masses in Tibetan areas today.


In just a few short decades, the Tibetan people’s world has changed from tradition to modern against the background of a great and unified China’s rise, and the renaissance of a modern China on a rapid path of marketization. From a relatively closed and traditional religious society with a tribal culture, it has moved toward being a modernized and open society; from the simple life of farming and herding it has moved toward marketization and a commoditized modern economy; and from a life of deeply held religious convictions toward a modern values system in conflict with religious sentiment. In a nationalities state [a multi-ethnic state] and in other modern systems of legal discourse, the Tibetan people face multiple schisms and dislocations including their status as citizens, their status as an ethnic people and their religious status. Any nationality or people facing such hurried and imposed changes would inevitably feel ill at ease and full of contradictions. Objectively speaking, this hurried process of modernization and the path it has taken are not the result of choices made by Tibetans of their own volition; there were very many powerful external forces at play. Changes to economic and social structures and the legacies of history in Tibetan regions have all become interwoven. In the course of researching and interviewing, we saw on more than one occasion the schisms, bitterness and hardships being faced in Tibetan areas today.


Following 3.14, as far as Han people and the government were concerned there was a lot of misunderstanding and even recrimination against Tibetans: the state has given so much support and assistance to Tibetans and Tibetan areas and so why were they “making trouble”. But as far as Tibetans are concerned, the sole standard for modernized lives and the various “developments” shouldn’t just be the standard of prosperity. The assistance and “development” brought by the Han is often accompanied by forced change and conflicts, and the wishes of the Tibetan people themselves are not respected. “A Tibetan’s prosperity is more about freedoms such as religious belief, a respect for people, a respect for life, the kind of prosperity you get from extending charity to others.” (Interviewee, Longbu [Tib: Norbu].) “Reform and opening up brought with it new values for the Tibetan people […] forcing people to accept ‘development as the last word,’ and forcing them to accept ‘consumption as the last word’. In this process […] of transforming a people who had originally based their values on faith at the same time as transforming Tibet itself by means of modernization the lives of the people there were also transformed.” (Interviewee, Li Xiaoshan.) From the level of actual benefits, the current rapid process of modernization has not given the ordinary Tibetan people any greater developmental benefits; indeed, they are becoming increasingly marginalized.

An important perspective for interpreting the 3.14 incident is that it was reaction made under stress by a society and people to the various changes that have been taking place in their lives over the past few decades. The notion that appears impossible to understand is the implication that reasonable demands were being vented, and this is precisely what we need to understand and reflect upon.


I, a) The centrally-directed rapid process of modernization


The scholar Andrew Martin Fischer points out in his book “State Growth and Social Exclusion in Tibet: Challenges of Recent Economic Growth,” that since the establishment of the new China, Tibetan areas have undergone an entirely new modernization process. This process has been carried out under the direction of the new China. On the one hand this process of modernization has transformed Tibetan areas from traditional to modern, greatly improving the fundamental appearance of Tibetan areas and raising the standards of living for the Tibetan people. But this process of development the logic of development and the path and speed of development has also had adverse impacts upon Tibetan areas. Tibetans in Tibetan areas are being increasingly socially marginalized. Mel Goldstein describes his understanding of the 1989 incident in his book “The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet and the Dalai Lama”. He considers that it was not solely due to historical reasons, and that one must also look at the contradictions and problems created by rapid modernization and planned economic development. Since the 90s onwards, the rapid process of modernization (marketization) in Tibet and the thinking behind the “development” policies has not in truth helped Tibetan regions realize a smooth transition to modernization, and in fact in many fields (economics, society, culture, recognition of ethnic identity) structures have been created which marginalize Tibetans, and which have intensified a series of contradictions. This is also why that before the 80s and 90s even though the levels of social and economic development in Tibetan areas were more lagging than they are today, compared to today the stability was far better. This derives from the inevitability of fierce conflict between traditions in Tibetan areas and among Tibetan people and the process of modernization; and to a certain degree it derives from the Tibetan people’s own inability to guide and control with any true significance the path and speed of the modernization process. First, there follows an overview and brief analysis of the main stages of the modernization process in Tibetan areas promoted by the Center.


Establishing a new modernization process for Tibet has been the main theme of decisions on the fate of Tibet and the Tibetan people since the 20th century. From the 50s onwards the central people’s government has promoted comprehensive reforms in Tibetan areas, breaking away from traditional social, political and economic structures to establish new social foundations. This modernization movement has important political significance aimed at promoting the establishment of a new legitimacy; and at the same time as impacting profoundly upon the political, economic and social structures in Tibetan areas it has also impacted upon such deep-rooted core issues in Tibetan areas as religion and culture. And therefore, since the founding of the new China the central government’s policies on the process of modernization in Tibet can be roughly divided into two phases: the first phase is the reforms in Tibetan areas from the founding of the new China until the Cultural Revolution, and the second phase continues on with reform and opening up and the process of marketization across all of China, and the rapid process of modernization that started in the 80s and 90s.


I, a) (1) The first phase: comprehensive reform of the original Tibetan political structures and economic forms, and the establishment of a systematized foundation.


After the new political regime was established in China in 1949, “political integration” was promoted throughout the entire country in order to clarify power relations between the Center and the localities, and to renew local power structures. In ethnic minority regions the system of ethnic autonomy was established based on the demarcations of “nationalities” and their recognition, modeled on the Soviet system. By means of the “gradual” establishment of different levels of government in nationality areas, and by abolishing the privileges of religious leaders and tribal chiefs, and then moving on to abolishing theocratic systems and tribal systems, an effective means of governance over the ethnic minority regions was established by the central government. Due to some historical and particular differences in the Center-local power relations, in political and religious relations, and in Han-Tibetan relations, U-Tsang showed more complexities and passivity than Amdo when changing from a theocratic system to a system of local regional ethnic autonomy under the central leadership. However, whether in the region of Amdo or U-Tsang, the systematic changes were a process of destroying the old and establishing the new.

On the economic front, starting from the end of the 50s the Center promoted land reforms in the regions of U-Tsang and Amdo, abolishing such basic economic systems and structures as the monastery and tribal economies, abolishing feudal serfdom and bonded indenture, and distributing the fundamental means of production such as the land and livestock among the farmers and nomads. Following reforms to the fundamental means of production, the farmers and nomads acquired production materials and there was a large rise in the standard of living for the entire Tibetan people. At the time, the core industries in Tibetan areas were agriculture and basic handicrafts. Changes to this economic foundation brought great changes to the people’s standards of living in Tibetan areas, and to a certain degree successfully established a new legitimacy and approval in Tibetan areas. (The research panel saw during visits to the homes of many of the farmers and nomads that portraits of Chairman Mao were on display.) Under the system of the planned economy, Tibetan areas started receiving a large amount of human, material and financial support from the Center. On a systematic level, changes to the political system and the economic foundations put all Tibetan areas on a par with Han areas. At the same time, changes were occurring to social structures throughout all Tibetan areas.


I, a) (2) The process of modernization against the background of comprehensive marketization in the 1980s and 1990s.


With the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the Center’s policies on Tibetan areas entered a new phase. This phase was a period of the Center comprehensively resuming and refocusing its work in Tibetan areas in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. In the early 80s, even though there was now systematic “unity,” the overall state of society and the economy in Tibetan areas and the living conditions for the Tibetan people still lagged far behind those in Han areas. Furthermore, when the Center was reflecting on Cultural Revolution-era policies in Tibet, they hoped they would be able to regain their prestige among people in Tibetan areas by means of focusing on economic development and people’s standards of living. At the heart of the new policies was the rapid development of the economy in Tibetan areas with an even greater degree of support from the Center, promoting stability by means of development and promoting development by means of stability. With a further increase in speed in the process of modernization raising the standard of living for the Tibetan people, it was hoped to further change the traditional political, economic, cultural and identity structures in Tibetan areas, and establish and strengthen the legitimacy and recognition of long-term stability in Tibetan areas. This basic spirit is fully reflected in the last two decades of Tibet work. Policies in the new phase have on the one hand been a continuation of those started by the Center in 1959, the progress of which was interrupted by the Cultural Revolution in Tibetan areas, and on the other hand a clear promotion of the comprehensive and deep changes in Tibetan areas brought by modernization and directed by the Center.


In March 1984, the Center convened the Second Tibet Work Forum, and in the summary pointed out: on the basis of the new situation of continuous development, revise concrete policies to promote reforms to the economic body, placing the economy without any shadow of a doubt on top, and making the Tibetan people prosperous as soon as possible. The Center invested in the construction of more than 40 large-scale infrastructural projects, providing enormous support for constructing a modern economy in Tibetan areas, particularly in the Tibet Autonomous Region. In October 1989, the “Summary of the Central Politburo Standing Committee’s Forum on Tibet Work” emphasized: two main issues must be firmly grasped in Tibet work, namely stability in the political situation and economic development. From June 25 to 27, 2001, the Party Center and the State Council convened the Fourth Tibet Work Forum, where it was decided to extend cadre’s Aid Tibet work to 20 years, at the same time as being made to comprehensively cover all counties, cities and prefectures in Tibet.


With regard to agricultural areas in Tibetan regions, the main policy changes took place in the 80s and at the start of the 90s. Tibetan areas promoted the household contract responsibility system. In farming areas, the promoted policy was the “long-term right to use and independently operate land by individual households”; in nomadic areas the promoted policy was “the long-term policy of individual households’ ownership, raising and management of livestock.” This promoted the farmers and nomads’ enthusiasm for production.


In the course of industrialization and urbanization, the state used financial preference to speed up investment in the construction of large-scale infrastructure projects such as road and rail, driving economic development in the entire region, improving communication conditions and the investment environment in Tibetan areas, and driving related industrial development including the tourism industry and various natural resource extraction and service industries. Some industrial projects and industrial development was consciously supported in Tibetan areas, promoting the development of the service industry and tourism industry. At the same time, and starting in the mid-90s, non-Tibetans were allowed [yunxu] into Tibetan areas (mainly in the Tibet Autonomous Region) to start their own businesses.


In the area of social welfare, core regions in Tibetan areas (mainly important cities such as Lhasa) were given major funding to provide free education and various other social benefits and public undertakings. Impoverished agricultural areas were given state support and funding for poverty relief. In the area of grass-roots power structures, attention was paid to non-Tibetans who had a good education going into Tibet in order to further stabilize the local power structures. In the fields of culture and education, a new Tibetan elite was nurtured by means of basic education in Tibetan areas and the establishment of Tibetan schools and Tibetan classes in the interior.


The direction of the new policies in fact contained two levels. One was a focus on the development of a modernized economy and social welfare, and the other, reflecting on errors during the Cultural Revolution, was to concentrate upon and respect “Tibetan” characteristics in Tibetan areas, supporting local Tibetan officials and paying attention to cultural and educational undertakings in Tibetan areas in order to carry on and recover Tibetan cultural and religious life and encourage use of the Tibetan language. This was manifested within two important trends, one was marketization and the other was a revival of religious life.

The new systematic structures in the first phase changed the nature of the relationship between the Center and Tibetan areas both the Tibetan regions and localities. The system’s uniformity and direct rule meant that the development of Tibet and of all China was directly bound together. In the 80s and beginning of the 90s while all of China was starting to feel its way into a development phase of rapid and comprehensive marketization, development in Tibetan areas was consciously integrated into the rapid modernization process across all of China. Economic development and the marketization and modernization of all social life in Tibetan areas became the core thinking for resolving problems in Tibetan areas.


After the Cultural Revolution, the Center’s Tibet policies went through a process of recovery and relaxation. This was manifested to a certain degree in hopes for policies that would respect the characteristics of “Tibetans and Tibetan areas.” But these relaxations did not overcome the fundamental demands for political legitimacy and stability. With regard to the contradictory attitude toward religion in Tibetan areas, at the end of the 80s a period of instability in Lhasa and calls for dialog with the Dalai Lama which were repeatedly frustrated, inevitably made the Center unwilling to cede any more ground. The core of policies throughout all Tibetan areas increasingly fell into the logic of “development” a focus on economic development and a process of modernization led by the “Han nationality.”


The engine for this “development” taking place was the direct transfer of large amounts of finance and the construction of basic infrastructure. This preferential treatment demonstrated a strong intent to pour money into Tibet’s ethnic minority regions (with Lhasa as the center). Tibet’s own economy, based on traditional agriculture, had not truly developed or become dynamic. Throughout the entire process, too little attention was paid to truly understanding Tibetan areas, the characteristics of development in Tibetan areas or the broader needs and desires of the Tibetan masses.


I, b) The social consequences arising from a process of rapid modernization under a specially formulated path


Specially formulated policies and development logic and specially formulated development paths and speeds of development have all given rise to specially formulated social consequences, which have created various characteristics in economic forms, social structures and social psychology in Tibetan areas.


I, b) (1) Economic life in Tibetan areas under the “diffusion” model of economic development


From the start of the 50s and 60s Tibetan areas underwent two distinct phases of modernization and change. Several scholars have already noted the internal logic of this modernization process. Professor Ma Rong pointed out in “Tibet’s economic form and its changes” that changes to Tibetan areas’ economic form manifest a “diffusion model” of modernization, where the social structures and economic structures in the central areas “diffuse” out toward the outlying regions. This “diffusion” has been carried out under the guidance and promotion of the central government, making it impossible to escape the demands for consistency toward the concept of “unity” and the narrow Han view of development.


The process of modernization in Tibetan areas is first and foremost built on the foundations of the “great destruction and great reconstruction” of political, economic and social structures in Tibetan areas, with the complete overthrow of former structures and systems replaced by a new “unified” system implanted into Tibet. This process has served the establishment of a new political legitimacy. Secondly, the maintenance and promotion of this process of modernization to a certain degree relies upon the external support and aid of the central government. Thirdly, the choice of path for modernization can never escape the effects of political stability and the logic of ideology, which exposes an internal contradiction between “development” and “stability”.


Research by scholars such as Professor Ma Rong into Tibet’s economic structures, particularly in the Lhasa area, has shown that a process of rapid urbanization is directly concomitant with financial support from the Center. In view of natural and social conditions in Tibet, “implanting” processes of industrialization have all ultimately failed. With the help of high welfare and government purchasing, Lhasa has created a consumer economy. But as far as ordinary agricultural areas are concerned, they invariably face the same difficulties as China’s interior countryside natural weaknesses in the modernization process of a poor and primitive agriculture industry. In the last 20 years (or more accurately, in the last 30 years), there have been great changes in urbanization, basic infrastructure construction, the degree of activity in the market economy in Tibetan areas and even the degree of closeness in economic ties with Han areas.


In this process of modernization, agriculture as the traditional industry is in a vulnerable position, and evidently restricted by poor natural conditions. As representative of a traditionally agricultural area, Gannan prefecture is located in a relatively vulnerable place. During our research in Gannan, Gannan autonomous prefecture was still a nationally designated poverty relief area. The economic structures based on animal husbandry have left Gannan’s Tibetan areas relatively poor, and the standard of living for ordinary farmers and nomads is below the subsistence level. Aside from investing in production, the normal farmer and nomad’s disposable income each year does not amount to much. When researching in Xiahe, local scholars told us that aside from basic agriculture, local industrial systems are practically absent. Former processing industries surrounding agriculture, such as weaving and slaughtering operations, have all closed. And the tourism industry, based around Labrang monastery in Xiahe, only has an open season for around six months between May and October of each year. Restricted by specially formulated industrial structures and natural conditions, the majority of regions in Tibetan areas are always in a vulnerable position within the modernization process, whereas those developed areas with Lhasa at the center receive welfare and important supplementary payments under the preferential support from the Center. Starting in the 90s, the large amounts of preferential financial support to the local government, the large investments in basic infrastructure construction and the high benefits for urban residents all rapidly changed the appearance of Lhasa, and drove a thriving commodity economy. Levels of income among Tibet’s permanent residents reached the same levels as developed regions such as Beijing and Shanghai, far above and beyond normal farmers and nomads in Tibetan areas. As a modern city, Lhasa has all the signs of prosperity. Through our interviews we sensed that Lhasa’s position and appearance as the central metropolis of Tibetan areas started to gain pace in the late 90s, and that after 2000 this formation became rapid. By coming into contact with the research of former scholars and people from the city of Lhasa itself, we discovered that Lhasa’s urban standard of living, the income of its permanent residents and its modern lifestyle is no less than in any city found in the developed Han areas. This is in stark contrast to Tibetan areas outside the central area, such as Amdo (where agriculture is the main industry). When comparing Tibetan areas and Han areas amid the process of rapid modernization and hastened marketization, different regions within Tibetan areas and urban and rural areas within Tibetan areas all demonstrate a relentless trend of growing disparities.


Additionally, under major government policies such as the “Western Development Campaign” and strategies for the rapid development of Tibetan areas, as well as other enormous investment projects, the development of the urban commodity economy and with the thriving tourist industry, there has been a constant stream of people from the interior flooding into Tibetan areas looking for economic opportunity. New economic opportunity is stirring population movement within Tibetan areas, as well as drawing in large-scale populations of incomers into the middle of Tibetan areas. Lhasa is a prominent example of such economic migrants. All along, the government has had a policy of not interfering in this process.


I, b) (2) The increasing marginalization of Tibetans in the modernization process

Starting in 1959, there was an evident development in agricultural production in Tibetan areas, but fundamentally there were no changes to the economic structures centered around agriculture. With the deepening of the modernization process, the weakness in the position of agriculture became ever more evident, and there was a variety of reasons for the stagnation of agriculture’s modernization process. At the same time, leading industries in urban areas failed to be set up from the start, and the state’s continued support and investments in fact led to large-scale losses. The same modernization path in the interior when implemented in Tibetan areas was impractical, irrational, and lacked the social basis for success. The Center’s strong support only made Tibetan areas overly dependant upon the central government, and a “dependency model economy” evolved. Gannan local government’s fiscal income amounts to an extremely small part of the total annual finances (often less than one tenth), with the source of most finances being central funding. This same sort of situation exists in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Even though the state injects a great deal each year, the funds are actually of very little help to the independence of the local economy. Due to the lack of any core superior industries, agriculture is still in an elementary phase, and the motivation for a commoditized economy in the central areas comes from the non-Tibetan masses. The modernization process throughout all Tibetan areas has no vitality of its own, and cannot bring any benefit to ordinary Tibetan people.

The state’s major preferential policies and support have not been of any effective benefit to the main body of Tibetan people. Tibetan people have no way of quickly entering the comprehensive modernization process, and genuine support and protection for each individual is in fact lacking. A marker of the modernization process is people escaping from traditional arrangements to engage in the progress of modernization. This is related to the question of opportunity and is also connected to the question of skills. With regard to Tibetans, there are enormous problems in these two areas in the current process modernization in Tibetan areas.

First is the problem of opportunity. If it is said that the 50s and 60s changed the lives of ordinary Tibetans and brought benefits to the majority of Tibetans, then what is possibly being brought by the current rapid process of modernization is Tibetan areas becoming disparate, and a gap growing between rich and poor. The specially formulated modernization process and the logic of the policies and preferential support have been divisive in consequence and created a sense of relative deprivation which is in need of examination.


In our interviews we discovered among ordinary Tibetans (particularly those Tibetan masses who experienced the 50s and 60s) a high degree of reverence for Mao Zedong. Following the “Liberation of the Serfs” and the thorough smashing of the former economic and social structures in Tibetan areas, changes to the grass-roots government and the economic foundations as well as the conflict between the new ideology and tradition in Tibetan areas actually favored Tibetan individuals. A lot of people recalling the Chairman Mao era said it was good and very fair. Many local intellectuals admitted that they had been raised to their current positions and lives because of Chairman Mao and the government.


Following the 90s a trend emerged of Tibetan areas becoming increasingly disparate and less equal. The state’s support and various assistance programs were all focused on cities, on large-scale infrastructure construction, and on servicing the urban populations. There has been far from adequate guidance and investment in agriculture the main industry in Tibetan areas; and there has been inadequate attention on the production and enterprise of ordinary farmers and nomads. When interviewing farmers and nomads in Xiahe county in Gannan a lot of farmers and nomads told us that they didn’t have the funds to expand production and could only maintain a certain scale of production. If they wanted to raise more sheep or cattle they were restricted by limitations on pasture and funds. They wanted to open a store but had no capital. There were in fact very few Tibetan stores along the most thriving local streets, where most were run by Hui[3] people. And these operators had been running for more than 10 years and their families were relatively well off. When we asked if there were any local assistance programs such as small loans where they lived, they all said it was extremely difficult to borrow money without capital. It was discovered during the interviews that because a lot of people had no opportunity to develop locally (no livestock, land or no capital to start any other enterprise), they were considering leaving to find work. On the one hand they are restrained by the production characteristics of traditional agriculture and the demands of labor, and on the other hand they are restrained by language and skills, and have very few true opportunities. Furthermore, the opportunities and long-term prospects presented by agriculture are limited. Many young Tibetan migrant workers who leave in search of work head for the cities where they either engage in petty trade or do the most unskilled laboring work on building sites, relying on introductions by people from their hometowns who had previously left and found work.


When interviewing teachers in Tibetan areas, they all said that Tibetan children who received an education were all unwilling to return home and do farm work. Having been educated and seen the outside world via all kinds of media they tended toward the outside world but had no way of getting there, but there was no way back either. A lot of young people congregate is some towns, where they see their own lack of attainments and feel a sense of powerlessness through not being able to participate, as well as experiencing exclusion to various degrees (in terms of language and in terms of opportunity).


Following the large-scale development of urban infrastructures, tourism and service industries in Lhasa, the economy has increasingly flourished, and the state has adopted a completely open strategy on economic development opportunities and employment opportunities in Tibetan areas. Large numbers of Han and Hui have been drawn into small businesses, food services and tourism industries. The people drawing the greatest benefits from the thriving economy are the incomers, the non-Tibetans; and because Tibetans lack capital and skills, this is contributing to them becoming increasingly marginalized. In Lhasa, there are Sichuan restaurants everywhere, run by people from Sichuan. Taxi drivers are mainly non-Tibetan outsiders from Henan, Sichuan, Hunan and Shaanxi. Travel agencies are nearly all owned by outsiders, and the tourist souvenir and handicraft trade in the stores around the Barkhor are mostly owned by Hui from Gannan and Qinghai, and not Tibetans. Many items of Tibetan handicrafts come from Yunnan, they come from Zhejiang, and they come from Nepal. A professor in art history from Tibet university told us it was painful to see that most of the purely local handcrafts in the streets were shipped in, and a lot of the “fake Tibetan jewelry” had been made by traders from Zhejiang in workshops in the suburbs of Lhasa.

And secondly is the question of skills and mentality. In the larger modernized cities such as Lhasa, participating in large-scale infrastructure construction and the urban economy and social development that it drives requires the individual to have the necessary skills, capital and levels of education. And these are what Tibetan people lack. We discovered during our visit to Gannan that seeing as the majority of young Tibetans born in the 80s were only educated to the level of elementary school, the levels of education among young people of our own generation are far lower than in Han areas. Even three to five years ago, the drop-out rate in elementary schools in Tibetan areas was as high as 30%, and the average education was only elementary school-level. (Problems of education and Tibetan youth are detailed below.) In interviews with numerous Tibetan youths, they all said leaving to search for work was not easy. One of the main problems was language, because they can’t communicate fluently in Chinese. In Lhasa, being able to speak Chinese doesn’t mean being able to find a job. A lot of people are unwilling to employ Tibetans because they consider them to be “lazy”. This lack of skills coupled with a lack of “enthusiasm” for commercial concepts makes it difficult to compete for work with non-Tibetan labor from the interior and surrounding areas. To a large extent, non-Tibetans control all major aspects of the local economy. Economically, in terms of skills and in terms of adapting to value systems, Tibetans have no way of competing with non-Tibetans in the modernization process.


In the ever faster process of modernization, Tibetan areas are becoming increasingly disparate. The differences between Lhasa, which is cast in the role of a window onto a “modern Tibetan city,” and normal Tibetan pastoral areas in terms of their social and economic structures and basic appearance are getting bigger by the day. Why should attention be paid to the question of this “split Tibet”? Because we discovered in the interviews that Tibetan people’s feelings and understanding for modernization don’t come directly from Han areas but from Lhasa. Many of the ordinary Tibetans we interviewed in Gannan said they had been to Lhasa looking for work, on business, or visiting friends and family in Lhasa. As the center of the Tibetan people’s religion and ethnic identity, at the same time as being a modernized center, Lhasa has an extremely important influence on how Tibetans see their people and themselves within the process of modernization. And furthermore, via mass media and the experiences of friends and family who have left to find work, differences in development in Tibetan areas and non-Tibetan areas are being experienced daily by Tibetans.


“People in the 60s and 70s, people who went through the Cultural Revolution, that generation of people’s faith in the Communist Party is 100%, including people in the nomadic areas. But people in their thirties and under, especially people who graduated from upper-middle and lower-middle school and have traveled, or people who know a little about Tibetan history, they’re actually quite radical. […] The 80s and 90s seemed to be a turning point, and the Tibetan birth-rate was higher. But they couldn’t get into higher education and an awful lot of them remain idle at home. […] They know a lot about the outside world and have very active minds. They think, why is everyone so developed and why are we so poor, why are we sitting on dirt and tending flocks.” (Interviewee, researcher Dongzhi [Tib: Dhundup].)


I, b) (3) The Tibetan people’s sense of panic and powerlessness amid rapid modernization


A taxi driver in Lhasa described to us a scene he saw when he first arrived in Lhasa in 03: A Tibetan was urinating into the gutter by the side of the road. As an outsider, the taxi driver didn’t know what to make of what he was seeing. And as far as Tibetans are concerned, they feel awkward and embarrassed when faced with such external conflicts. When the land you’re accustomed to living in, and the land of the culture you identify with, when the lifestyle and religiosity is suddenly changed into a “modern city” that you no longer recognize; when you can no longer find work in your own land, and feel the unfairness of lack of opportunity, and when you realize that your core value systems are under attack, then the Tibetan people’s panic and sense of crisis is not difficult to understand.


Taking the Tibetan monastic masses as an example: traditionally, monks were the most cultured and the most influential strata in all Tibetan society, they were the Tibetan intelligentsia, receiving broad reverence and esteem. As far as Tibetans are concerned, for whom religion is central, a religious life and the monks were the most important part of their lives. During the course of our interviews, practically all of the Tibetans maintained their religious lives, sometimes taking circumabulations, going to the monastery on the 15th day of the 1st month, and requesting prayers from the lama when they encountered hardships. They included old people and included young people and children. But what cannot be denied is that the process of modernization has been in constant conflict with the monks and the religious life in Tibetan areas.


The researcher [Tib: Tsatsa] (Deputy Director of the Xiahe Tibetology Institute) said when he received us for an interview, religious life in Tibetan areas and the monks are currently facing an enormous transition and conflict: the problem of how to face secularization. He thinks that young monks have a sense of crisis. This comes from the modernized life-style that more and more is seeping into society in Tibetan areas, and even into the lives of monks. Visiting many of the monks’ homes, we saw that they had DVD players and movies from Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the evening a lot of the monks rushed away to go online and chat using instant messaging. The younger monks knew even more about the outside world, and they’ve started magazines and love all things new and actively study English. We asked a lot of Tibetans what they thought of this, and the majority of Tibetans took a very lenient attitude, thinking that such things in themselves were not actually in conflict with pure faith. But there were also several scholars who said that this manifested the difference between the young monks and the older monks. When interviewing Renqing [Tib: Rinchen] lama at Hongjiao [‘red hat’, Tib: Nyingma] monastery, he said that the teachers there wouldn’t let them go to such places, that they’d beat them if they did, but they were actually powerless to do anything. Concern for the affairs of the world is a very important part of faith, but how to strike a balance between concern for the real world and the purity of faith is a difficulty faced by all monks, and indeed all Tibetans. With the steady infiltration of modernized values, it has become very important to the future of Tibetan areas how monks see themselves and their position in the changing Tibetan society. Having been through the Cultural Revolution, there’s now a gap in the ages of the inheritors of religious culture in Tibetan areas, with a lack of middle-aged monks leaving a weakness in influence and transmission from older monks to younger monks.


In the process of modernization, economic structures and political structures in Han areas and Tibetan areas have been made uniform. As “backward” areas, Tibetan areas had to catch up with “progressive” areas and keep up with the “modern”. But the Tibetan people have not had adequate opportunity or skills to respond. Large numbers of incomers and rapid social changes have brought conflicts to culture, lifestyles and even to values. In the past, contacts between Tibetan areas and the interior were often very limited, but the specially formulated development process opened up Tibetan areas in an instant, opening up for attack every single key area of nationalities’ life from the economy, power structure, religious life, lifestyle and population structures. When the Tibetan people have a sense of unfairness and loss in the economic and social changes resulting from the modernization process led by Han and by the state, this can strengthen yet further their ethnic identity and how they identify with their traditions, giving rise to conflict between the traditional and the modern, and conflict between the ethnicities.

In sum, to understand the 3.14 incident, the present in Tibetan areas must be understood, and close attention must be paid to the core question of the process of modernization in Tibetan areas. If it’s said that the modernization process of the Tibetan people is an irreversible historical trend, then how the Tibetan people and Tibetan areas progress toward modernization is worthy of in-depth consideration. The prominent contradictions and conflicts in Tibetan areas are not solely the remnants of history, they are also problems arising from the current situation in the path of modernization and the strength and manner of its implementation. From the 1989 incident until the 3.14 incident this year, an important dimension to social structures has been the adverse effects of the modernization process the core of which is the marginalization of the Tibetan people and the discontent this has brought.

II: Hardships faced by young Tibetans born in the 70s and 80s


The main participants in the 3.14 incident were young 20- to 30-year olds, and the attitudes and behavior of these young people cannot escape our close attention and consideration. Young Tibetans born during reform and opening up had a far higher material standard of living that their parents’ generation, but they still harbor some extreme grievances which exploded out in violence. As described above, this new generation of young Tibetans has been living in a rapidly changing society, and their lifestyles and thinking is different from their parents’ generation. We discovered during our survey that young Tibetans face the following kinds of difficulties:


a) Serious problems in basic education


2007 statistics show: the average term of education in Tibetan areas is less than four years, and the high-school enrolment rate is extremely low. The employment problem is extremely protracted, with the poor levels of education among nationalities meaning they have no competitive advantage. Even those Tibetan university students in education are still mostly studying the arts and humanities, and less are studying engineering or the sciences; more are studying traditional topics, and fewer are studying new topics; more study theoretic aspects and fewer study practical areas which does not harmonize with the needs of education and society, and even creates a disconnect.


First, basic levels of education are extremely low, and the majority of adults at the grass-roots are illiterate.


Traveling in towns and the countryside in Tibetan areas, there’s a dizzying array of large-character banners propagandizing “universalize nine-year compulsory education,” and encouraging farmers and nomads to send their children to school. But it was learned from the local masses that these policies have only been implemented in the last three years, and even only in the past year. According to the “Gannan Prefecture ‘Two Basicallys’ Resolute Implementation Plan,”[4] the timetable for universalizing nine-year education is “Hezuo [Tib: Tsoe] city and Lintan [Tib: Lintan] county in 2005, Diebu [Tewo] county and Zhuoqu [Tib: Drugchu] county in 2006, Xiahe [Tib: Sangchu] county in 2007, Zhuoni [Tib: Chone] county in 2008, and Maqu [Tib: Machu] county and Luqu [Tib: Luchu] county in 2010 will universalize nine-year compulsory education, striving for basic nine-year compulsory education throughout the entire prefecture by 2010 and basically eradicating adult illiteracy.”


In the Sangke and Qingshui areas of Xiahe in Gannan we visited the homes of a dozen or so farming and nomadic families, where children under the age of 10 almost without exception were in school. Due to the large amount of subsidies issued by the government, a farming or nomadic family could send children to school without any further costs, and could even receive bonuses and awards. Parents are therefore naturally willing to send their children to school, and planned for children to stay in school until lower middle school.


However, the majority of children of farmers and nomads who are over the age of 15, and particularly those over the age of 20, hadn’t even graduated from elementary school and are even illiterate. While it is gratifying to see work on universalizing nine years of compulsory education in full swing, it is feared that the effects will only be seen 10 years from now, and the “problem as a remnant of history” of adult illiteracy is set to remain with us. The rate of adult illiteracy is enormous, which has its reasons in conditions of external deficiencies as well as its internal reasons.


There is a traditional view that the study of books has no use. Production structures among families in Tibetan areas are still based on raising livestock, and when children go to school they no longer have the time to help the family tend animals. When they finish their studies, it’s difficult for them to remain in the towns without the necessary contacts, but when they return to their old homes they’ve lost their animal husbandry and farming skills. There’s a sentiment gaining ground that “reading books is useless” where study is of no help in making ends meet for the family. At present, there have been no qualitative changes in family production structures in semi-nomadic and semi-arable Tibetan areas, and therefore there hasn’t been much change in families’ attitudes toward education. Sending children under the age of 10 to school is connected to a large extent to government policies those who don’t send their children can be fined and those that do can be rewarded; but heads of families are still unclear about the benefits of education. During the interviews, heads of families often expressed that if children stayed in school until lower middle school as the policy demanded, then that was all that was needed the family needs work hands to tend the animals. And youths around the age of 20 are not keen on receiving a basic education. Local governments in Tibetan areas have in recent years carried out illiteracy eradication work, but the policies are very to difficult to implement at the grass-roots level with all of the male youths having gone elsewhere to earn money, leaving no one willing to take part in the free training. When conducting interviews in the Qingshui region, the local villagers said that whenever the higher administrations came to inspect illiteracy eradication work, the township called the youths who had left to work back for 10 days of mandatory training. Ten days later they’re issued with an elementary school graduation certificate, and as such they’re counted during the inspection as having “escaped illiteracy”. In the nomadic areas, we only came across one student who had stayed in school through senior middle school in Xiahe, who was a girl by the name of Cairang Zhouma [Tib: Tsering Dolma]. Her cousin is the head of the village and her family is relatively well off. She has relatives in the town and was therefore able to study all the way through until senior middle school, but when she was asked whether any of the girls in her village were also able to go to school, she said “They all married young.”


In addition, the local quality of teachers and standards of education are low. The conditions in many grass-roots schools in Tibetan areas are extremely poor with backward education foundations, extremely difficult work, and it is very hard to attract basic-level teaching talent. In particular, there is a lack of high-level and highly educated teaching talent, and in remote areas there is even only “one school, one teacher.” The panel interviewed two graduate students, Yu and Wei, who had gone to Lhasa from the interior to help teach at the Tibet Teacher Training College in Lhasa, and they said: “We saw the lack of teachers in the mountainous areas, and even though we wanted to go there to help out, we just couldn’t even our most basic living requirements couldn’t be met in places like that, never mind about teaching.”


In Xiahe county, we interviewed an elementary school teacher who was teaching in the countryside, and because there were so many students and so few teachers, each teacher worked more than 13 hours a day. After the “two basicallys” policy was implemented, remuneration for the students was good, but remuneration for the teachers did not improve and even got worse. According to this teacher, his salary had only risen by 500 yuan since 1998. Eighty percent of the teachers at the school wanted to change profession, and they were only continuing to teach because there was no other trade for them to turn to. Under such conditions, the teachers’ enthusiasm for their work can only be guessed at. Cairang Dongzhu [Tib: Tsering Dhondup], who researches the state of education in Tibetan areas at the Xiahe Tibetan Studies Institute, says “When we go and conduct research in the field, some teachers say that their only wish would be for a cell-phone mast to be built close to the school in their village so in the evenings they could chat with family then they’d be happy.”


All students taught by Yu and Wei, the two research students working as teaching support Tibet Teachers Training College in Lhasa, are studying to be teachers, and during vacations they also give correspondence courses to students who are middle and elementary school teachers from villages and towns all over Tibet. According to what they told us, there is cause for serious concern based solely on the level of education among these teachers themselves, with even their Chinese not up to grade including some very elementary errors, and even being unable to find correct answers during open-book physics exams. And teachers such as these are made “Elementary Teaching Specialists” after 14 days of specialist training.


II, b) Vocational education and the lack of social opportunity


Tibetan youths broadly lack the technical skills and social paths to lead them into a modern industrial society, and it is very difficult for them to go back to a traditional agricultural society. Along with basic education, Tibetan youths’ vocational skills are also cause for extreme concern. By means of practical observation, the panel thinks that when considered from an even more practical point of view, as far as people of 20 years old and above are concerned, realizing universal basic education would be extremely difficult to attain, and that furthermore the reality of the problem cannot be immediately addressed. Resolving the problem of employment for urban Tibetan youth is far more urgent. Having the ability to practically apply labor skills will enable quicker and more effective integration into modern society.

The reality of the situation is that employment skills training in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture got off to a late start and has developed slowly. At present there are five vocational middle schools, but the schools and their buildings are all old and dilapidated, and there is no teacher training apparatus, severely impeding the coordinated development of basic education and vocational skills training throughout the entire prefecture. Professor Awang Jinmei [Tib: Ngawang Jigme] from Tibet University gave a very concrete and representative example. “When Lhasa railway station was being built the land used to be agricultural, but it was razed to build the station. The state gave the farmers a great deal of compensation, but the education levels of the farmers was very low, and they didn’t really know about money. In a flash, they had several tens of thousands of yuan. And so they spent it wildly, with the children buying cars and motorbikes and hanging out, and within one or two years all the money was gone. They’d previously relied on growing crops to make money, but now they had no land, they had no education, no work, and under such social pressure is it any wonder they became so easily led as soon as they were provoked? And so policies such as these actually bring out the worst in them.” This example shows the difficulties faced by many Tibetan youths, where originally they lived in a traditional agricultural society, and with the progression of reform and opening up they were rolled into an industrial society. But they had grown up and lived in agricultural or nomadic families, and their skills were in planting fields and tending herds. As soon as they got to the cities, they couldn’t do factory or building site work, and from language to work skills it is very hard for them to compete with job-hunters from the interior. Nomads on the Ganga grasslands interviewed by the panel had many youths from their village who had left to find work but their Chinese was not good and so they could only work on building sites or do menial heavy lifting work.

Of all the factors restricting Tibetan youth from going to cities to live and work aside from a lack of technical skills, a “social path” is also a well-known but little acknowledged obstacle. A so-called social path is also commonly known as a “connection” [menlu].[5] As presented by the panel in descriptions in the sections above, the majority of heads of households had a very passive attitude toward their children going to upper middle school or taking the university entrance exam. “Even though they’ve finished high school, the university entrance exams are very difficult, and even if they get in the family has no connections [menlu] and so they can’t stay in the town and work for the government.”

Duoji Caidan [Tib: Dorjee Tseten], the boss of the Zhuoma [Tib: Dolma] restaurant in Xiahe county, says: “Families who want to send children to university have to sell livestock, and then what do they do later? If you go to school but don’t get into university then generally all you can do is go to Hezuo [Tib: Tsoe] Teacher Training college, and if you want to stay in the town after graduating from teacher training the only option is to be a teacher. To be a teacher in a city, you also need connections [menlu], jobs are not guaranteed for students who graduate from the teacher training college, except to officials or people from well-to-do families.” Duoji Caidan’s father is a businessman, who over the years accumulated some wealth. And although he himself had never been to school he was still regarded as successful. When mention is made of the men he grew up with since being a child together, Duoji Caidan uses a single word to describe their lives: “Muddled.” They’ve never studied, have no connections [menlu], have no family wealth, and they are not willing to go home and tend the herds, but they can’t just loiter in the cities and so become a surging undercurrent of “unstable factors”.

II, c) The sense of relative deprivation while living in a more open process of modernization as a catalyst for strengthening nationalist sentiment

If it can be said that the standard of living among Tibetans in their 50s and 60s represents the enormous transformations that have taken place since liberation and reform and opening up, then in can also be said that the lives of younger Tibetans in their 30s and under are a manifestation of the increasingly wide gap between Tibetan areas and the interior, and the growing gulf between the power-holders in Tibetan areas and the ordinary people. During the course of our interviews we could sense an evident difference in the way the elderly, young people and youth referred to themselves. In the language of the older people, we’d often hear such vocabulary as “cadre” or “commune member”. However, this was not so among the youth, where phrases such as “we Tibetans” or “our nationality” often appeared in their speech.

Along with a sense of relative deprivation comes various kinds of senses of difference, including the differences between center and margins, Han and Tibetan, and officials and ordinary people. Dongzhi [Tib: Dhundup], a researcher at the Gansu Tibetan Studies Institute, said: “The greatest outcome of reform and opening up has been the elimination of traditional outlooks among young people, the transformation of outlooks. (After the 3.14 incident), people in their 50s and above were extremely upset, wondering why they caused so much trouble. The older ordinary people and the older monks all thought this was a bad thing.”


The research panel was amazed to discover that Tibetan ethnic awareness was actually inspired by the 3.14 incident. This was especially because after the 3.14 incident and before the conclusion of the Olympics, a series of “preventative measures” adopted by the government such as Tibetans receiving “special treatment” at airports and public spaces in the interior made the Tibetan people, and in particular the youth, sense their “differences” even more obviously. A Tibetan girl called Baima Jizong [Tib: Pema Jetsun] described what she endured in Beijing during the Olympics: “I went to Beijing representing a certain company in Lhasa to participate in training by the Central Communist Youth League, and because I was Tibetan not a single hotel let me stay. I got angry and argued, saying what they were doing was racist!”


II, d) The loss and forgetting of one’s nationality’s traditional culture and history

Amid the impact of modern concepts from the outside, youths in Tibetan areas expressed to different degrees the forgetting and loss of their own nationality’s traditions, history and culture. This was manifested most in the form of barriers to the passing on of the Tibetan language and script, and the lack of any systematic knowledge about their nationality’s history and culture.

First of all, as an important catalyst for Tibetan culture, certain impediments have appeared to the transmission of the Tibetan language and script. Which teachers are most lacking in Tibetan areas today? When we started we would have guessed it was English or Chinese teachers, or mathematics. But in the course of our survey students and teachers broadly reflected that the largest shortfall of teachers in Tibetan areas today is in Tibetan language teachers. And furthermore, in interviews with a dozen or so elementary school students, when asked what was the most difficult subject to study, they all responded “Tibetan” and the easiest to study was “Chinese.” Even though they could speak Tibetan, there were however extremely few teachers who could undertake the teaching of Tibetan, and give in-depth explanations of the Tibetan language to the students.

The importance of language for transmitting a nationality’s culture goes without saying, and there are many in the Tibetan language teaching elite expressing concern about the current status quo. As the ethnic studies scholar Professor Ma Rong has written, “The formal texts of a people’s history, and the recalling for later generations of the people’s own epic poems of heroism, a people’s astronomy, mathematics, medicine, architecture, literature and agronomy this collection of knowledge and culture is all recorded in that people’s written language. It is therefore a catalyst for that people’s traditions and culture, entrusting and manifesting the deep emotions that a people’s elite groupings and broad masses has for their history and culture. A people’s language becomes an emblem of that people’s culture. And therefore the future prospects of a people’s language and script often receives a great deal of attention from that people’s leadership figures, elite groupings and broad masses, who consider that the language and the future development prospects for that people are very closely connected.”

Secondly, there is a lack of systematic knowledge about their own nationalities’ history. The occurrence of the 3.14 incident and the lack of historical knowledge among some Tibetan youths is in fact very closely related. They do not understand the connection between their own nationality and the motherland throughout the historical course of development, and do not understand their nationality’s cultural traditions and historical demands. In the course of our survey, we learned that current teaching materials in middle and elementary schools in Tibetan areas that there is an extreme lack of historical content about the Tibetan nationality themselves, not to mention any kind of systematic study of Tibetan history. Professor Awang Jinmei [Tib: Ngawang Jigme] from Tibet University said that some university students in the Fine Arts Department could make immaculate copies of Thanka paintings, but if they are asked what they have painted, they are unable to answer, they don’t know who these people in the paintings are, nor what is the historical allegory. Wei, the teaching support at the Tibet Higher Teaching Training College, said that when he told students in class about the Heavenly Branches and Earthly Stems in Han culture, the students were very interested. When he’d finished, he asked if any of the students could tell him about the Tibetan calendar, and there wasn’t a single student in the entire class who could explain the Tibetan calendar to him. The Tibetan translations of teaching materials from the interior which are used by students in Tibetan areas do not have separate syllabuses on Tibetan history and culture, which has led to a desensitizing to the transmission of culture and an increase in the numbers of Tibetans who have no interest in their nationalities’ history, and it is extremely difficult to find any youths who have a thorough understanding of their history and culture.

III: The main problems with structures of governance in Tibetan areas

The 3.14 incident in Tibetan areas has a complex social background, and aside from going into the confusion and conflict brought about by the “development” logic discussed above against the background of modernization, the research group also paid close attention to the historical and current political ecology in Tibetan areas. Under the guidance of the powerful logic of “development,” politics took on a role of unrivalled importance in social processes.


Since the Ming and Qing, and particularly in the modern era, two problems have faced the social situation in the two Tibetan regions of Amdo and U-Tsang: one has been a problem with structures of the ruling state’s power systems, or to put it another way, the process of incorporating Tibetan regional culture as a regional society into the politicized structures of the ruling state’s systems; and two, the problem of adapting a society’s internal structures, in particular, the problems of adjustments to society and politics within a process of adaptation to face a process of modernization. Objectively speaking, as of now these problems have still not been properly resolved. Naturally, the evident contradictions in Tibetan areas are mainly products of the process of modernization, but among them there are also historical ailments which have been transformed and changed under modern conditions, and which are the accumulation of certain unsuccessful factors in the search since the Qing dynasty to find a model of governance for Tibetan areas.

III, a) The evolution of structures of governance in Tibetan areas


Han departmentalism developed to its most extreme form during the Qing Dynasty, where a central and already established ruling state was entered into by ethnic minorities. In order to ensure their own legitimacy and to construct authority for the ruling state, Emperor Shunzhi and Emperor Kangxi vigorously promoted “Manchurian-Han Unity,” and Emperor Yongzheng clamped down hard on anti-Qing nationalist sentiment exclusionary of the Manchu, creating an ideological campaign which rejected the debate of Chinese and non-Chinese. They attempted to use the ideology of Confucianism to instill a patriarchal practice of rites in all levels of society in order to demonstrate that the Manchurian Qing had orthodox Confucianist and political legitimacy, constructing a ruling state authority that comported to tradition. However, these efforts unavoidably created inner structural contradictions. First, even though the Qing Dynasty rulers all along spoke of “Manchurian-Han Unity” and “one family under heaven,” in reality there were still differences of “Manchurian-Han” and “Chinese-foreign,” and the distinctions of “inner-outer.” Secondly, although part of the polity, it seemed that all non-Han in the country were no longer the “barbarians”, but as far as the Han in the interior were concerned, the non-Sinicized peoples, or the peoples whose Sinicization progress was still relatively low were the “barbarians” outside the Confucian family circle. This could not but have an impact on the nationality policies of the Qing Dynasty and its Confucian culture, which on the one hand enabled it to look at its shortcomings and adopt a political strategy of “soft and moderate”; on the other hand, the strong sense of identity toward the state political authority created by the cultural tensions possibly made the Qing Dynasty treat ethnic peoples with discrimination and bias, adopting differing strategies and governance policies from repression to appeasement.

Even though the Qing Dynasty’s political strategies of rule over the various nationalities changed from “outside” to “inside,” the fundamental aim pursued however was one of “to not cause trouble is prime,” one which never actually changed. Under the guidance of the patriarchal concept of “races not like I,” local officials did not actually rule their regions actively. Serious but localized incidents were treated as “locals against locals” with no bearing on them; but if the contradictions grew greater, it was called “the locals, unusually boorish, are ignorant of the law,” and it was requested “apply extreme force and show no mercy”. Such cultural tensions created a weakening of identification with the authority of the ruling state, which not only reduced the effectiveness of the state’s power and operations, it also made the state unwilling to become too involved in social life in Tibetan areas. With the arrival of the modern era and in order to cope with the growing crises in the border areas, the Qing Dynasty did everything they could to exert a “unified” policy for the western regions and the interior to try to eradicate the possible threat brought by the disaffection of the ethnic minorities in the border areas. However, when the state authorities were faced with the regional social authorities in Tibetan areas, they were already in a weakened condition.

The political power of the Qing Dynasty collapsed in the 1911 revolution under an anti-Qing wave. Republican China replaced the old feudal empire, and promoted a course for China’s political modernization. However, the disintegration of the old authority did not produce a correspondingly new authority. The absence of the political authorities’ role during the period of Republican China meant that the government had no choice but to rely on old structures to maintain local society. Furthermore, even though the Republican government in Nanjing declared the “Republic of Five Races,” they still unconsciously regarded the ethnic areas in the western regions as a cultural border, and equated ethnic peoples as representative of remote and backward barbarians. The so-called standard of the central plains emphasizes a degree of similarity in cultural traditions. With this dual central and marginal cultural and political perspective, Tibetan areas are regarded as a cultural desert. Under this influence, the Republican government’s policies no matter whether it was the direct rule over Gannan or the indirect management over U-Tsang and Qinghai with a heavy reliance on other forces there was no ability or will to effect any change to the society and lives of all nationalities living in Tibetan areas.

It must be pointed out that the degree of contradictions in the Amdo Tibetan regions was different than in the U-Tsang region. Under the traditional political setup, an extremely remote place where state political order was negligible. In the empire of the central plains based on an agricultural civilization, the system of “counties and prefectures” had a great impact on the Tibetan area of Amdo, its system of rule maintaining a semblance of unity with the central plains; but because U-Tsang had never been a part of a system, even just this semblance did not exist in the slightest. During the Republican period, the title of “Security Commander So-and-So” could earn the recognition of the upper classes in Amdo, but it was completely unfamiliar to the elites of the U-Tsang region. The U-Tsang region of Tibet was more “pure” than the Amdo region in terms of a singular culture and the composition of the people, where in particular there was a lack of Amdo’s widespread bilingual elites, and the local elites instead held traditional Tibetan culture in very high esteem. In addition, at the start of the late Qing period, the elites in U-Tsang learned a great deal about foreign culture via India, and there were many in the aristocracy who were fluent in English. And therefore, efforts to insert U-Tsang into the systems of a modern state inevitably brought even more drastic changes which were particularly felt by the elite strata. The knowledge that the local power elites in Amdo had of the modernization process was closely related to the modernization process in the interior, and they themselves were very active in taking initiatives. But as far as the majority of the elites in U-Tsang were concerned, such modernization was more imposed and more sudden, and the modernization described by many of the U-Tsang elites was not that modernization was a natural component of the modernization of all China, but the result of compulsion from the political authorities on the central plains. Under the influence of the modern concept of “ethnic self-determination,” part of the overseas U-Tsang elite regarded the “Center-U-Tsang” relationship merely as a relationship of “religious conferral,” which produced the illusion of a “state”.

In 1949, the Republic of China was replaced by the People’s Republic of China, completing the second regime-change in the process of China’s political modernization. After the new government was established, it similarly promoted “unified” polices; however, the “unified” policies this time had new content. The so-called new content no longer borrowed from or upheld the old grass-roots community organizations or the old social structures, but instead smashed the old and established the new; and no longer would the benefits and privileges for extremely small numbers of the aristocracy and religious leaders be upheld in ethnic nationality areas. These new “unified” policies gained the support of the broad masses in Tibetan areas, and a good mass foundation was put down for the new and mandatory changes to be made to the social system. Under the new system of unified governance and economy, there were prominent changes made to society in Tibetan areas, and the ruling positions, traditional privileges and benefits of the old aristocracy and upper echelons of the religious personages came under attack. Among these, a small number of people took the risk of starting a rebellion in 1958 [sic] to oppose the historic and great changes in nationality areas. But once the rebellion had been put down, and particularly during the Cultural Revolution and under the impact of the ultra-leftist line, the state authorities and local government ignored characteristics of social history, cultural traditions and folk production, lifestyles and religious beliefs in the nationality regions, and ignoring also development levels of productive forces in these areas and differences with the interior in the process of modernization, attempted to use even more forceful administrative means and organizational methods to carry out in a short time a mandatory and thorough transformation of society in the nationality areas. Even though these attempts to “help shoots grow by tugging them” and meddling in the affairs of others were able to produce superficial results in the short term, it was very difficult to fundamentally resolve problems, but very easy to lead to a conflict in people’s hearts and a strong reaction due to various cultural factors.

It can therefore be seen from this that the process of political modernization in Tibetan areas without doubt needs the effective implementation of nationality policies by the state, along with handling connections with local power structures in Tibetan areas. Two strategies are seen to be at play when the state is faced with local societies: causal system change, and mandatory systems. First, the state’s actions and abilities in Tibetan areas are decided upon by two aspects: (1) The political authority of the state and the strength of the state’s mobilization of resources fundamentally decides the scale of a state’s ability to change a regional society, and whether it adopts causal change or mandatory change; (2) the degree to which the normative values professed by the state coincide with the regional social values dictates the direction of the state’s treatment of those regional social values, as well as the degree of the regional society’s acceptance of the state’s political authority. Second, and as far as Tibetan regional society is concerned where the regional characteristics of culture and society have always been so deeply ingrained, depending on different powers or on local power structure with long and twisting tendrils that have grown over a long time, the greatest contradictions appear in the struggles and cooperation between the state and the local power structures, the using, the hoodwinking, the controlling and toying. This not only includes the game between state and local political and economic groupings, it also includes the game played against time between the roles of modern and religion, and cultural and ideological forces. What direction this will eventually take is strongly related to power and strategy, but in the final analysis the standard for government policies in Tibetan areas lies in the question of identity.


Summarizing the reasons for the development of unhealthy power structures in Tibetan areas since the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China, subjectively appears in the acceptance of status in Tibetan areas. (1) The state has not regarded the people living in these regions as being equally qualified as subjects or citizens, and regards them as outsiders; (2) Representatives of the state’s political power in these areas are seen as playing the role of a cultural superior who cannot face up to cultural diversity, cannot conceive of how to adapt to the culture, cannot create new understandings to complete the transformation of the masses’ identity status in Tibetan areas, and establish a concept of nation. Therefore, under conditions of lacking a basic concept of nationhood, there is no way of avoiding the contradictions between status and roles. History’s greatest lesson is that the main body of the masses in Tibetan areas lack a fundamental ideological identification with the state. This has led to a strange situation where state authorities within areas of authority in Tibetan areas have to rely on religious authority or local key cadres in order to function effectively.

The People’s Republic of China during the 60s and 70s resolved the problems of status and identity relatively well among the masses in Tibetan areas, completing the first large-scale mandatory system change in the process of modernization, as well as firmly establishing an overwhelming advantage for the state’s political authority within the local power structures. However, due to ideological rigidity and the reality of factors within the establishment, Tibetans went from “putting down the rebellion” to the new establishment of new power elites which gradually replaced the traditional elites in Tibetan areas. This became a political force heavily relied upon by the central government, but this force gradually created new problems during the changes. The contradictions between uni-polar political thought and the multi-polar regions once again appeared, and under the dual impacts of globalization and the renaissance of religious forces upon identity along with the “filter” of the new local power elites, the acknowledgment of “errors” between the state powers and the ordinary people in Tibetan areas is now a relatively concentrated contradiction in society in Tibetan areas.


III, b) Problems in power structures within regional autonomy in Tibetan areas

The Qing political maneuvers of “locals ruling locals,” and the modern political concept of “ethnic autonomy” along with the early successes of the Soviet models have all had a profound impact upon our nation’s planning for the basic system of “ethnic regional autonomy.” Ethnic regional autonomy is a theoretical guide and planning system, the value of which was affirmed during its implementation in our country’s Tibetan areas from the 60s to the 90s. However, its implementation in recent years has presented some new problems and challenges to be faced.

The central government considers that: “Ethnic minority cadres understand their own people’s history, they understand their own people’s language and customs, they have a strong desire for the revitalization of their own people, and they are able to fully reflect the wishes and requirements of their own people. They have an irreplaceable role to play when resolving nationality problems, when handling the relationship between an ethnic area’s interests and the interests of the entire nation, and when upholding the legal interests of nationality regions and the ethnic minority masses.” In November 1950, there was the central government State Council’s promulgation of the “Pilot program for the training of ethnic minority cadres,” there then came the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Party Congress and its demand to speed up the training of political and specialist ethnic minority cadres, and in December 1993 there was the “Suggestions for further improving work to select and train ethnic minority cadres” issued jointly by the Organization Department and the United Front Work Department, all the way through until 2005 when Hu Jintao at the Central Nationalities Work Conference emphasized the need to “recognize the importance of training ethnic minority cadres, to have not only warm concern and strict demands of ethnic minority cadres, but also to have full confidence and offer a free rein, and select even more outstanding ethnic minority cadres particularly young cadres to be installed into leadership positions at all levels.” Over more than 50 years of efforts by the central government and the localities, a “relatively ample in number, rationally structured, and basically professionally equipped” corps of ethnic minority cadres was formed in each ethnic minority locality. As of 2007, the number of ethnic minority cadres had grown from around 10,000 during the early period of the nation’s founding to 3 million people now. In addition, the uniqueness of Tibet also lies in the tens of thousands of cadres from the interior who have answered the Party’s call in the more than 50 years since the peaceful liberation to “Aid Tibet” and participate in construction. Since 1994 and the start of the Aid Tibet project, four groups of almost 4000 cadres have been dispatched to work in Tibet by the Center, by state organs, provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and state-owned enterprises.

Autonomy is based on areas where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities, and is necessarily accompanied by a localized system of officials, and over the course of several decades of organization and construction a large number of administrative officials and power-holders has been created. Subsequent problems have started to become more difficult:

III, b) (1) Unlike in non-autonomous areas, it is difficult for local officials in Tibetan areas to cross over the large distances for exchanges and to assume or leave a posting. Historical experience has told us that the mobility of officials has been poor, which can create locally fixed power networks, which inevitably lead to a high incidence of corruption and dereliction of duty. “Deep-rooted” local power elite networks have formed in many Tibetan areas, where it has become routine for the local authorities to be rent-seekers and for the administration to be inefficient. The complexity of Tibetan areas also shows in the renaissance of traditional religious forces over the past 10 years and more, where officials, the new economic aristocracy and religious forces have bound together to create a new power framework and a “new aristocracy”. “In reality, the background to the planning system in Tibetan areas has become a question of the right to distribute natural resources. There are vested interests at every level, and significant obstacles to breakthroughs in the system.” (Interviewee, Dr Wei Ming, a scholar at the Northwest Nationalities Institute.)

Unlike the traditional aristocracy, the characteristics of this new aristocratic class are: (1) the senior positions they occupy are legitimized, they have more complex social resources, and they are even more powerful; (2) If the traditional aristocracy can be said to have derived their legitimacy more from the “internal source” of clan and religious associations in Tibetan areas, then this new aristocracy derives it legitimacy more from the “external source” of central government affirmation. The differences in these forms of legitimacy become apparent during times of social contradiction when the “new aristocracy” are unable to become the “authority” that ordinary Tibetan people themselves can approve of. When differences appear between the state and ordinary people, it is difficult for the “new aristocracy” to play the role of a “buffer”. (3) Although the degree of power held by the “new aristocracy” may not be as great as the old aristocracy, their loyalty to the central government is much stronger. The first pursuit of the old aristocracy between the dual imperatives of “their land” and the “state” was “protect the land and calm the people,” and to seek “political balance”. Conversely, due to the gradual fragmentation of local, tribal and religious restraints upon the new aristocracy, more often than not, ordinary people in Tibetan areas will not regard them as “one of their own,” and therefore the consequences of some of the new aristocracy’s misconduct are then “logically” borne by the central government.

III, b) (2) Due to the special nature of the political environment in Tibetan areas, “stability” in the state’s Tibet policies has special significance. The Center considers that “If there is not a stable social environment, then all talk of development is empty.” Even though “development and stability” are the trains of thought for government work in ethnic areas, in the actual exercise of power “stability” takes on an overwhelming importance. Relying upon Tibetan officials and cadres for stability in Tibetan areas has become logical and they have been greatly empowered by the Center. But there is a lack of any effective supervision over the local officials, and there are many people who have learned how to use stability to protect themselves. Under “stability and development,” a blindspot in power supervision in nationality areas has been created. “Foreign forces” and “Tibet independence” are used by many local officials as fig leaves to conceal their mistakes in governance and to repress social discontent. Some officials will often turn social problems under their jurisdiction into “matters of the utmost concern,” elevating everything to the level of splittist forces in order to conceal their errors. In its follow-up interviews, the research panel discovered that in a certain county the government defined its handling of a compensation dispute between nomads and a local hydropower station as an incident of “anti-splittism and upholding stability.” As one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet, Mr Pingcuo Wangjie [Tib: Phuntso Wangyal] has said “There’s a large group of people in the government who eat the food of anti-splittism. They take every opportunity to play the splittism card, and while on the face of it they shout about anti-splittism, in reality their personal interests are involved. They are unable to admit their mistakes and instead put all of their effort into shifting accountability onto ‘hostile foreign forces’. And thus they are able to consolidate their positions and their interests, allowing them to accumulate even more power and resources.”

The pursuit of stability and fear of chaos has taken root in the inertia of some officials, which in reality is a psychological deflection of their low administrative abilities and backward understanding of governance. Under the concept of “one less thing to do is better than one more,” religious gatherings of relatively large numbers of people have been postponed, restricted or even canceled; with an attitude of “policies from above, countermeasures from below,” local authorities contravene the Constitution and “Regional ethnic autonomy law,” but at present the corresponding supervisory and accountability systems are still incomplete. Basang Luobu [Tib: Pasang Norbu], the Private Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People’s Congress says that implementing and breaking the law, legal corruption and poor understanding of legal concepts are prominent problems for legal construction in nationality areas. During the research panel’s interviews in Gannan there was a nomad who said “Security is a mess. They (the police) don’t care. If our sheep or cattle are stolen by someone, you can report it to the police and they’ll take the thief in, hold them for two days then let them go. But you don’t get your sheep or cattle back: the money from selling them is split up among the police.” (Interviewee, a nomad in Qu’ao, Xiahe.)

It should be added that because of the influence of religious thinking and levels of education, the degree to which ordinary people in Tibetan areas are inculcated with politics is far lower than in the interior, to the extent that many people cannot differentiate between central government policies and local regulations, or the difference between central decision-making and local actions, and the central government is often made the scapegoat for local errors. The research panel also discovered in the course of its interviews that many among the masses use “cadre” and “nomad” to differentiate between their own and all other levels of government, and think that “before, the cadres were good, now the cadres are sometimes good, sometimes bad.” (Interviewee, a nomad on the Dajiutan grasslands.)

III, b) (3) The expenditure model of financial structures and obstacles to cadres’ governance abilities. During the period of the Eleventh Five Year Plan, the total amount of money sent just to Tibet using normal transfer payments, system subsidies and special subsidies amounted to 4.75 trillion yuan [US $693.5 billion], with funds given by the central government amounting to 90% of Tibet’s total expenditure. When researching in the Tibetan area of Amdo, an official said that a certain county’s fiscal income was more than 10 million yuan, but financial support is more than 400 million yuan, meaning the shortcoming is made up forty times over from central transfer payments.

At the Third Tibet Work Forum in 1994, it was decided to adopt practices of “division of responsibility, targeted support, and regular rotation,” and transfer cadres from relevant provinces, metropolises and central government organs to do focused aid work in Tibet. At the Fourth Tibet Work Forum in 2001, it was decided to extend the period of cadres doing focused aid Tibet work by another 10 years, and at the same time it was decided to cover all counties, cities and prefectures in Tibetan areas. For many years, favorable policies in Tibetan areas have given a great deal of support in the form of funding, projects and materials, and improved the basic infrastructure conditions in Tibet. But at the same time it has also created officials in Tibetan areas who put all of their efforts into ways of demanding money and projects from the Center, and they take far more interest in operating their own social networks than they do in practical social and economic construction.

At present, the problem of cadres’ knowledge structures in Tibetan areas is becoming more prominent: on the one hand, there is a shortage of specialist cadres and personnel needed for social and economic development; on the other hand, there are large and swelling numbers of Party, government and industrial work unit personnel. The political cadres are largely redundant, whereas there’s a serious lack of technical, managerial and technology cadres. During the panel’s interviews in Tibetan areas, it was discovered that deputy officials in a certain prefectural Recreation and Sports Bureau were only educated to the level of elementary school.

In December 1993, the Central Organization Department, the Central United Front Work Department and the State Ethnic Affairs Commission jointly issued “Suggestions for further improving work to select and train ethnic minority cadres,” which was to “train and create a corps of ethnic minority cadres who are equipped with both morals and talent, who are politically pure and diligent, who closely connect with people of all nationalities, a corps which is multi-talented, equipped with specializations and rationally constructed, and which is able to adapt to the requirements of reform and opening up and the development of the socialist market economy.” Judging from the present, if this aim is to ever be achieved there is still a very long way to go.

IV: The government’s errors in handling the follow-up to the 3.14 incident

The research panel discovered that the 3.14 incident was caused by the confluence of many factors, including psychological loss created by development, discontent among economic classes, the question of migrants, influences from abroad, religious sentiment, and on-scene “mass reactions,” which cannot be simply reduced to “splittist violence.” We advocate that the handling of the aftermath of the 3.14 incident should have been to quickly pacify the incident, to decisively resolve contradictions, actively appease the masses, handle officials’ dereliction of duty, and actively promote the roles of stronger inter-ethnic unity and harmony. But looking at the handling in the current situation, there are some quite major errors in government policy. The government’s forceful propaganda and incautious handling have in fact driven outcomes in the opposite direction.

IV, a) The ensuing over-propagandizing of “violence” was used to make the 3.14 incident ever larger, which created certain oppositional ethnic sentiments. Depictions of the violence in Lhasa and Gannan were seen barely 10 hours later on television and the internet and seen all over the country and even the entire world, with an intensive depiction of violent acts by some Tibetans. And the sole cause given for the protests was simply “foreign forces,” which made Han citizens, who lack any practical understanding of Tibetan areas, form feelings of racist sentiment toward the Tibetan masses as a result. Such propaganda actions are in the long run detrimental to ethnic unity. The fascination that Han citizens have expressed toward Tibetan culture changed to fear and hatred of the Tibetan masses, and Tibetans were rendered as a people incapable of gratitude. After the incident, the research panel discovered many Internet discussion forums were filled with fanatical abuse by Chinese and Tibetan Internet users, which only deepened the misunderstandings. Mr Nongbu [Tib: Norbu] told the research panel that when his Han friends saw the pictures they almost cut all communication with him, which was extremely difficult for him to take. (Interviewee, Nongbu, international NGO worker and Khampa Tibetan.) It can be seen therefore that the government’s press releases went out quickly, intuitively and effectively, but their potential negative effects cannot be underestimated. When handling matters in such a way, what’s damaged is the Tibetan people’s support for unity, and what’s harmed is relations between the Han and Tibetans.

IV, b) Defining the 3.14 incident as “beating, smashing, looting and burning by Tibetan splittists” lacks political wisdom. The armed insurrection in Tibetan areas toward the end of the 50s has been defined as class struggle, and has not risen to being racial confrontation. The main thrust of policies was to “strike hard against a few arch culprits and appease the broad masses of farmers and nomads.” The policies were adjusted, and reform of ownership systems became means for resolving problems at the time, and contradictions were quickly resolved. But today, when faced with “beating, smashing, looting and burning,” and “the Dalai clique’s organized, premeditated and meticulously planned” splittist activities, the excessive response of governments all over Tibet was to regard every tree and blade of grass as a potential enemy soldier. Local policy turned to strict monitoring where everyone was suspect, “everyone has to pass a political test,” which was bound to lead to even more Tibetans becoming discontented, and created discord and dissension far and wide. Even more dangerous was that this suspicion and exclusion of Tibetans slowly spread to many places in the interior and there was some very unfair treatment. During the course of the panel’s interviews, many Tibetan elites said that they had been heavily searched at airports and hotels, and that their sense of patriotism had suffered.

IV, c) The poor understanding of the Tibetan people’s religious sentiment led to errors in the way monks and monasteries were treated in the wake of the 3.14 incident. Monks are the clergy in Tibetan areas who not only offer people spiritual guidance, they are also Tibet’s traditional intelligentsia, and Tibetan astronomy, the calendar, medicine and law were all produced by this grouping. In Tibetan areas where there is widespread faith, monks have extremely high social prestige. Therefore, the government’s serious handling of relations with monks and monasteries and positive interactions would in the long-term be extremely beneficial to Tibet’s stability. Furthermore, when handling matters post-3.14, many high status monasteries were ordered to be investigated, and for a short time closed for rectification; itinerant monks with household registrations elsewhere were driven out and traveling stopped; and all monasteries had to carry out “socialist and patriotic education.” In reality, such actions were a form of interference for the monks who wanted nothing to do with politics and were concentrated on their practice, and the outcome may not be positive. The panel happened to chance upon several rule of law propaganda activities which had interrupted the normal activities of services and practice, and the monks were complaining.

V: Problems of Tibetan religion and culture during this current complex phase


In the process of promoting the process of modernization in Tibetan areas, the question of Tibetan religion and culture is eternal and unavoidable. Any social and economic activity by humanity is carried out within a determined system and culture, and then interacts with it. The main body of Tibetan religious culture is Tibetan Buddhism: it is not only an important constituent part of Tibetan culture, it is also the main source of thinking for how Tibetan religious culture comports with the logic of historical development. And in this regard, the connection between so-called modernization and Tibetan religious culture can more importantly be regarded as the connection between modernization and Tibetan Buddhism. The director of the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences, Ciren Jiabu [Tib: Tsering Gyalpo] says, “Our government does not interfere with freedom of religious belief, but nor does it encourage religion. In reality, Tibetan Buddhism is not merely another form of religion, it is a field of learning, and it is more accurate to call it the Dharma Law than the Law of the Buddha. How to guide Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to the construction of a harmonious society is a key question.”

When we understand modernization as the social changes and transitions brought about by the gradual strengthening of the modern and the gradual weakening of the traditional in the modern era of the history of the world, a possibility is presented to us of re-examining the relationship between modernization and religion from a new and broader perspective, and to open a new path. The latest developments in modernization theory state that there is not a state of antithesis between the modern and the traditional, and that “the traditional interior of every society has the possibility of developing into the modern, and therefore, modernization is the process where systems and value judgments within traditions respond on a functional level to the demands and constant adaptations of the modern.” The strengths and weaknesses of such adaptability are defined by the compatibility of the modern and traditional, and in situations where there is little compatibility and there is a lack of modern factors, then the power of government authorities must be relied upon to effect mandatory system changes. Of course, when the state is promoting transformation, the systems in advanced countries should not just be blindly copied, but they should start out from the cultural traditions found within the country, otherwise “if the cultural values of a society and the differences in its social customs are ignored, then the foreign systems that are introduced with new technologies have no way of serving the desired outcomes and can only cause social chaos.” Evidently, as far as post-modernized countries and regions are concerned, the start of the modernization process is usually founded on mandatory systemic changes, and on the basis of the consequent outcomes of mandatory change, causal systemic change can be effected. On the basis of this significance, we consider that Tibetan Buddhism is the basis of traditional Tibetan systems and culture in Tibetan areas, and not only should it not be regarded as an obstacle to modernization, it should actually be regarded as a reliable traditional resource for providing a functional basis for promoting the process of modernization in Tibetan areas. Only then can we hope to see the early realization of modernization in Tibetan areas.


On the other hand, we have to break through the arguments from the radical proponents of secularization, and get over the old-fashioned religious epistemology where religious systems, behaviors and ideologies have lost their social significance, and establish an understanding that religion can fully go hand-in-hand with modernization. This has already been proven to be the reality in the modern world. The process of secularization is a reductive force upon Tibetan Buddhism, but it cannot lead to fundamental change of the disappearance of Tibetan Buddhism: “Secularization only changes Tibetan Buddhism and weakens its traditional roles, and this is an inevitable process of change brought about by Tibetan Buddhism’s own transformation of its internal structures.”

To conclude the theoretical discussion, we will look back once again at the Tibetan areas of our country, where it can be seen that in practice there are numerous variations and contradictions arising from the intertwining of the process of modernization and religious culture. First of all, the mandatory systemic changes by state political forces cleared obstacles and presented conditions for the modernization of the Amdo Tibetan region, but it has not been possible to carry out causal system changes, and it has not been possible to eradicate the impact of errors made during the process of mandatory change. Since the establishment of the new China and under the leadership of the Party and government, regional ethnic autonomy has generally been realized in the Tibetan region of Amdo, and the Tibetan people have exercised the right to be their own masters. This earthshaking social transformation has brought vitality to the government, economy and culture of the Amdo region: with the gradual elimination of feudal and religious privilege, the state of impoverishment has improved greatly. However, due to the malignant developments of the extreme left during the Cultural Revolution which damaged the Party’s nationality policies and religion policies, customs created over a long historical period in the Amdo region and the masses’ normal religious activities were completely disregarded in a deliberate attempt to destroy religion, to irrationally destroy all monasteries, to denounce senior religious personages and compel them to return to secular life. This forced religious activities underground, seriously wounding the religious sensibilities of the believing masses and giving rise to mass discontent. Following the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Party Congress when out of the chaos order was restored, policies to protect and respect the freedom of religious belief were enacted and religious activities at the monasteries gradually resumed. The newly re-opened monasteries operated on principles of democratic management, and monastery democratic management committees were established, and were composed of monks who uphold the Party’s direction and policies and who are patriotic, and who were elected by the faithful masses and the monastery’s monks, thereby gradually putting religious policies onto a standardized path.

However, two types of contradiction remain at present: (1) There is a rigidity and backwardness in political discourse at the national level with regard to religion and relevant policies and measures, which has led to inconsistencies in the relationship between modernization and religion and the relationship between socialism and the realm of religion, and inconsistencies between theory and practice; (2) Local officials still have no understanding of how to recognize the relation between the status of citizen and the status of religious individual, an there is even a phenomenon of monks being forced to retire by means of patriotic education. The existence of such a situation will inevitably have an impact on how religious believers regard the political authority of the state, and how the state’s causal changes to Tibetan Buddhism enacted on the basis of mandatory change will impact the transformative functions of Tibetan Buddhism to functions of modernization.

Secondly, once Tibetan Buddhism was released from mandatory repression there was a period of strong flexibility and renewal, and its own schisms and contradictions inevitably appeared. In the early period of reform and opening up in the Amdo area where the masses’ deep religiosity had been repressed, they showed a very warm enthusiasm for religious activities. Later, and in the wake of regional economic construction, cultural education and the development and progress of scientific, technical and communications undertakings, there was a fundamental change to the formerly feudal and semi-feudal society, and there was a change in people’s thinking particularly the thinking among people in the arable areas along communication lines, where there were enormous changes. Among some of the middle-aged, religious concepts had already started to gradually weaken. Under such circumstances, a trend started within the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries themselves toward secularization: (1) there was an increase in “lay characteristics” among religious personnel; (2) monasteries’ organizational functions became more utilitarian, and the monasteries’ organizational management became more democratized; (3) the beliefs of the faithful were transformed, their motivations became pragmatic, there were formative changes to religious practices and rituals, and where reverence was towards the morality of senior teachers. Nevertheless, due to the special nature in which Tibetan Buddhism is propagated and which makes it an indispensable element in the socialization and internalization process for every single person in Tibetan areas, it therefore has an extremely broad influence. However, such changes are likely to eventually bring changes to religion’s internal power structures as well as changes to the role and hue of authority, thereby bringing about a change to the internal structures of religion as well as renewed adjustments to its relationship with society. And under such circumstances, there are questions of how should Tibetan Buddhism’s religious authority and local power be regarded, and how should the questions of monasteries and monks be managed.

In summation, at present the state lacks adequate preparation and actions for changes under the new situation, and there are serious shortcomings on how to effectively use the traditional resource of Tibetan Buddhism to promote the process of modernization in Tibetan areas, as well as how to adjust strategies to the changing situation, how to coordinate the relationship between the state and religion, to reduce unnecessary ideological conflicts, or how to remodel Tibetan identity and their self-image within nationality and religion policies. This should be the root cause that created the current complex problems in the Tibetan areas.

VI: Conclusion and recommendations

For the sake of the long-term harmony and unity of the state, the 3.14 incident in Tibet is worthy of our deep reflection. If external factors alone are emphasized and we ignore reflections upon internal social and political structures, this would be irresponsible to the long-term interests of the state. Against the great background of modernization, although there have been great developments to the economy in Tibetan areas, compared to other provinces, other countries, and even ordinary people of other nationalities living in Tibetan areas, it is still evidently backward. This is particularly so when more and more people from elsewhere are acquiring great wealth in Tibetan areas, and unintentionally creating a sense of relative deprivation. At the same time, religious traditions have come under attack from modernization, and many young Tibetans have been cast into a state of puzzlement and confusion. Behind all of these questions lies an urgent problem, and that is the problems in our country’s political structures. Power relations from top to bottom have created a group of local Tibetan cadres who use the resources of authority that come to them from above in order to build a complex network of contacts in nationality areas, where the state’s economic assistance largely becomes used for career projects for the few, or for the personal wealth of the few. They are not good at facing the masses, not good at facing a society in the process of development and with a plurality of thought, and they frequently stir up social contradictions and then hope that the central government will foot the bill. Ordinary Tibetans have a far keener and evident sense of deprivation than any sense of government help, and like many people living in provinces in the interior, are deeply discontented with the local power-brokers. This accumulation of frustration and anger over a long period of time with the added fuses of religion and external forces led to the 3.14 incident.

We believe that at present, there is no factual basis for the “extinction of Tibet” as described by some. In the main, Han-Tibetan relations are good. However, following the chaos of 3.14 in Tibetan areas we discovered that there are many prominent contradictions and hardships in society in Tibetan areas. We tried to understand this situation by means of research and documentary analysis, and to understand the living conditions of the masses in Tibetan areas. This report is only the reflection of a merest glimpse, and such perspectives can in no way cover all of the issues facing Tibetan areas. However, it has been based on the intention to understand the changes taking place in Tibetan areas, and at the same it is hoped that it will bring about further and ever more detailed exploration.


We call for ethnic relations of “unity, equality, mutual assistance, harmony and people first,” and “a unified multi-ethnic joint struggle, common construction, common prosperity and shared success.” The prerequisite is for the government to fully recognize the citizen status of ordinary people in Tibetan areas, to ensure the rights and interests of ordinary Tibetan people, and that conceptual thinking needs to adapt to the social reality of Tibetan areas in a period of rapid modernization, where it is hoped to be able to be unencumbered by current ideological frameworks to broaden horizons and make policy breakthroughs.

In focusing its research on the social factors of the “3.14 incident,” the research panel presents the following suggestions:


1. Earnestly listen to the voices of ordinary Tibetans and on the basis of respecting and protecting each of the Tibetan people’s rights and interests, adjust policy and thinking in Tibetan areas to formulate development policies which are suited to the characteristics of Tibetan areas, and which accord with the wishes of the Tibetan people.

2. Guide the rational development of economic structures in Tibetan areas, paying particular attention to guiding all Tibetans to share in acquiring ample benefits from opportunity and development. Pay attention to nurturing local economic entities; in the process of support, pay close attention to changing the degree of serious inequalities, reducing the discrepancy between urban and rural rich and poor in Tibetan areas; extend the scope of Aid Tibet to Tibetan autonomous areas outside Tibet. Continue the model of economic development based on a combination of financial aid, technical assistance and human resource expertise, and adopt measures to attract foreign investment at the same time as taking appropriate measures to protect local industries. In the labor market pay close attention to fully protecting the employment rights of Tibetan people. In farming and nomadic regions within Tibetan areas, promote support and protections which benefit the individual.

3. Increase effective supervision over local power structures in the implementation of regional ethnic autonomy policies, and speed up the process of democratizing power structures. End tolerance of corruption, poor administrative abilities and dereliction of duty which is apparent in government in Tibetan areas, and in particular of those officials who suppress local social problems in the name of “anti-splittism.” Establish more rational and democratic selection policies for Tibetan cadres in order to optimize current cadre structures.

4. Pay close attention to the living situation of young Tibetans, and with the greatest good faith resolve current education problems in Tibetan areas, particularly the problems of rural education and education for farmers and nomads, and by means of subsidies and guidance entice children to complete nine-year compulsory education. Continue to develop and encourage training mechanisms for highly skilled personnel in Tibetan areas, and to optimize specialized knowledge structures among college students. Speed up and improve grass-roots professional technical education in Tibetan areas, and using the method of joint work and study as used in schools in the eastern provinces, allow Tibetan students to set out and increase the degree of training in schools’ high-tech content and training in practical production in Tibetan areas, in order to train up skilled workers and eliminate all barriers for encouraging varied Tibetan employment and entrepreneurship. Particular attention should be paid in school education on extending and developing appropriate content on Tibetan history and culture, and increasing the civic awareness content of the training. Education and training must be regarded as the most important long-term resolution to the question of Tibetan areas.

5. Fully respect and protect the Tibetan people’s freedom of religious belief, resuming and supporting normal religious lives and activities. Fully recognize the important significance of religion and a religious life to Tibetan areas and to the Tibetan people. In the area of culture and religion, make best use of the situation and pay close attention to the role of religious authority. Respect and resume normal religious activities such as Dharma events, the practice of traveling to study, receiving teachings, and the monastic examination hierarchy. Pay close attention to protecting the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism. Fully protect and respect the Tibetan people’s religious sentiment in propaganda activities.

6. When resolving problems in Tibetan areas, thinking must be transformed; adopt appropriate measures and thinking which is more positive and wise. With the guiding thought of facilitation, understanding and integration, reduce inter-ethnic prejudice, ignorance and injury. When handling sudden incidents, change the overly-strong attitude of “from top to bottom,” and wisely mobilize positive forces in Tibetan areas (such as religious forces) to solve them.

7. Promote rule of law in governance processes in Tibetan areas. Urge the introduction of laws and regulations as represented by ordinances in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other autonomous areas, to change the current status quo of a lack of lower laws since the promulgation of the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law. Regulate the ownership rights and disposal rights of key natural resources. Encourage positive expert participation in advising and discussing all aspects of policy in Tibetan areas.

8. When upholding and propagandizing construction to the state of ethnic unity, propagandize the successes of reform and opening up in Tibetan areas instead of depicting the past system of serfdom. At the same time as manifesting the vitality of development, admit to the social problems facing Tibet. Be vigilant against the dark racist waves of secession and ethnic revenge.


9. When handling crisis situations, it must first be discerned whether there is a social problem, an economic problem, or a religious problem, with different problems having different means of being handled. The central government should be in the position of “arbiter,” and maintain a distinction to the best of their ability from local officials’ inappropriate conduct. Sensitive incidents should be “de-sensitized” to the greatest degree.

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[1] U-Tsang, sometimes rendered as Central Tibet, is the Tibetan region roughly equivalent to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which was established as a provincial-level administration in 1964; Amdo is the name of another Tibetan region mainly comprising modern-day Qinghai, as well as being the name a prefecture within the TAR. Throughout this report, the terms Tibet (Xizang), Tibetan areas (zangqu), and Tibetan regions (diyu), etc., have been used inconsistently and interchangeably, but it would appear that generally, the report broadly refers to Tibet as covering the various Tibetan autonomous jurisdictions as demarcated by the Chinese state.

[2] “3.14” refers to March 14, 2008, the date when peaceful protests over several previous days in Lhasa turned violent.

[3] The Hui are a Chinese-speaking Muslim people indigenous to large areas of northwest China.

[4] The ‘Two Basicallys’ (liang ji) is a centrally-led policy to ‘basically’ universalize nine-year compulsory education, and ‘basically’ eliminate adult illiteracy.

[5] The term menlu using the characters for door and road implies an advantage gained by nepotism or favor, and is very similar in meaning to the more commonly heard term guanxi ­literally meaning connection or houmen meaning back door.



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