An analysis of China’s policy towards Tibet and Taiwan

China may be touted as the next superpower of the world, with an economy that is rising at a sky-rocketing pace, and reflecting a positive change in the living standards. But it still faces a number of obstacles on the path of being numero uno. The growing tension arising from separatist issues has dug up old wounds and is posing as a major threat to china’s growth.

The recent uprising of Tibetan protestors, demanding an independent state has added fresh fuel to the fire that dates back to 1949, when China had “gained sovereignty” over Tibet. It was just three days after China was uninvolved from human rights violation blacklist by USA, there began a period of political unrest in Tibet, the worst since 1980’s. On 10th march 2008, Tibetans celebrated the 49th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising in 1959 through peaceful demonstrations that eventually gave way to violent protests and riots. The death toll went soaring and the Tibetan-non Tibetan clash claimed over 150 lives in 5 days. It was a reflection of the Chinese policy towards the Tibet issue. China has often used measures of extreme suppression while dealing with these movements, quoting mass arrests of thousands of monks and nuns and subjecting them to physical torture in Chinese prisons. The dilemma of vanishing cultural identity and loss of ethnicity in minority areas due to mass influx of “non ethnic” Chinese in those regions is surprisingly inter-related with historical sentiments. Traditionally, the term ‘Chinese’ refers to “the one belonging to the Han Dynasty”, whereas Tibetans and other minority groups have a historical background separate from them. The history may have been forgotten, and the meaning lost with the formation of People’s Republic of China, but the nostalgia mixed with the separatist sentiment continues to dwell among the “non-Chinese” minority groups..

China has applied a policy of maintaining sovereignty over Tibet by military and economic means. Beijing expects to be able to deal with instability in a number of minority areas through its “western development program” whereby it shall pump money and other resources in the western parts of Tibet and other minority areas of unrest in the region for local development as well as to reduce ethnic conflict..

Despite such measures it is dubious whether material and economic measures shall be successful in preventing social and political unrest in the region..

The two other important elements of china’s Tibet policy is one, gain time and two, diplomacy. Firstly, it is indulging in numerous fruitless talks with the Dalai Lama who it otherwise is declaring to be a “separatist” and “anti-china”. This is being done to gain time relying on the factor of Dalai Lama’s approaching mortality as the wild card to solving Tibet issue. However, China is committing a grave mistake in perceiving the Tibetan leader as an obstacle in its efforts at resolving the Tibet crisis, for he is only a moderate influence in instigating the protests, and was quoted persuading the Tibetans to ask for autonomy and not separation. The second element of the policy is the diplomatic approach it has adopted towards India to gain its neighbor’s support in the Tibet issue, by arm-twisting it on the border dispute..

China’s leadership is a firm believer in its stark policy of “One-China”, and is dedicated to the goal of a unified country as is evident from its Tibet policy..

However, Taiwan’s emergence as a democracy has posed renewed threat to the country’s stability. The upward movement of the issue of Taiwan’s sovereignty on china’s foreign policy agenda has caused a parallel and equal force in aggravating tension due to apprehended confrontation with the US, which has claimed to provide full support to Taiwan. Since the separatism sentiment is not strong in Taiwan, China has not used its military force to the extent it has been used in Tibet. Economic glorification of Taiwan seems to be the Chinese policy to keep Taiwan under its own umbrella, but it seems to bear no fruit. Beijing’s proposed unification on the basis of “one country two systems” has also failed to appeal Taiwan just as economic development of the place has failed to lure the people of Taiwan..

The higher Taiwan moves up Beijing’s political and foreign policy agenda, the more Beijing raises tension in the region and in relations with the United States, which could hamper its main goal of economic growth and development. Yet the issue is very much alive and high up on its agenda, as a justification to the immense military expenditure, and import of high tech defense..

There is an increasing stigma being attached to China as a “human rights violator” that has jeopardized its progress as a powerful nation. However, in spite of being swarmed with allegations of suppression and violence, Beijing’s leadership continues to stand its ground as a strong believer in the goal of a unified country and is taking all possible measures to achieve it. It is undisputable that such policies of the Chinese government, as above, though different in their modus operandi, aim at achieving the same goal- the goal of “One China”. .

Mir Habeel

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