Wednesday, the Information Office of China’s State Council released a new white paper on Tibet, lauding Tibet’s current “path of development” — and denouncing the Dalai Lama and his “middle way” concept.
The Dalai Lama defines the “middle way approach” as “the policy and means to achieve a genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet within the framework of the People’s Republic of China.” The middle way, according to the Dalai Lama, “safeguards the vital interests of all concerned parties”:
[F]or Tibetans: the protection and preservation of their culture, religion and national identity; for the Chinese: the security and territorial integrity of the motherland; and for neighbors and other third parties: peaceful borders and international relations.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Beijing, however, has unswervingly rejected the “middle way.” The recently issued white paper outlined China’s objections in great detail in a section titled “The Essential Intent of the ‘Middle Way’ Is to Split China.” The white paper argues that “under the ‘middle way,’ the Dalai group feigns acceptance of China’s sovereignty in Tibet to seize the reins of power and set up a semi-independent political regime.” In particular, China takes issue with the Dalai Lama’s proposal for a “high degree of autonomy” in Tibet, saying “the essence of ‘a high degree of autonomy’ is to set up ‘a state within state’ free of any control from the central government.”
Beijing brought Hong Kong back under PRC control with an identical promise of a “high degree of autonomy,” something that has been pointed out by the Dalai Lama and his advocates. Beijing denied the comparison, however, stating in the white paper that “the Tibet issue has nothing in common with the situation in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.”
The white paper concludes that “there is no prospect of [a “high degree of autonomy” for Tibet] ever coming to pass.”
Beijing also attacked the Dalai Lama — both the specific person of the current Dalai Lama and the institution as a whole. The white paper accuses the Lamas of historically using “spiritual terrorism” to rule over “the last fortress of feudal serfdom in the East.” A separate Xinhua article on the white paper dismisses the Dalai Lama and his allies as “remnants of the feudal serf owners… [with] a sentimental attachment to the old theocratic society.”
The current Dalai Lama, meanwhile, is accused of using violence to pursue his goal of Tibetan independence , including the charge that he encourages self-immolations. “Investigations by China’s public security organs into incidents of self-immolation revealed clearly that they are being manipulated and instigated at the highest level by the Dalai group,” the white paper claims.
In addition to attacking the Dalai Lama, the white paper argues that Beijing’s policies have been greatly beneficial for Tibet. The white paper emphasizes how “backward” Tibet was before it came under PRC control. It cites a number of statistics on woeful conditions prior to 1951:
Tibet did not have a single school in the modern sense; its illiteracy rate was as high as 95 percent among the young and the middle-aged; there was no modern medical service, and praying to the Buddha for succor was the main resort for most people if they fell ill; their average life expectancy was 35.5 years…
Beijing compares that to the rapid development and modernization that has occurred in the past 60 years:
In 2013, the Gross Regional Product (GRP) of Tibet reached 80.767 billion yuan [$13 billion]; the per-capita net income of farmers and herdsmen was 6,578 yuan [$1,060] and the per-capita disposable income of urban dwellers was 20,023 yuan [$3,228]… In 2013, the population of Tibet rose to 3.1204 million, and average life expectancy was 68.2 years. These represent a tripling and a doubling of the respective figures from the early 1950s… Illiteracy has been wiped out among the young and the middle-aged, and the average length of time spent in education for people above the age of 15 has reached 8.1 years. A basic medical and health service system has been established.
Beijing uses this progress as evidence that its rule over Tibet is the only possible path for development. “Any person or force that attempts to resist the tide will simply be cast aside by history and by the people,” the white paper concludes.
Last year there were rumors that the Dalai Lama was engaged in talks with Beijing, even that he might be allowed to visit China on a pilgrimage. This white paper, with its unequivocal denunciations of both the Dalai Lama and his “middle way,” shuts the door on that the possibility.