China has failed, despite billions of dollars in aid, to win over Tibetan loyalty. And now Beijing is finally realizing just how badly it mishandled things.
（Hannah Johnston / Getty Images）
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama could achieve rapprochement with President Hu Jintao.
After the mass riots there in March 2008, Tibet faded once again into relative obscurity—the province of foreign-affairs wonks, adventure tourists, and a few well-organized protest groups who object to China's rule there. But during that time, Beijing has come slowly to two painful realizations. First, the restive plateau it had treated for decades as a colony is central to its national plan: development and stability are "vital to ethnic unity, social stability, and national security," President Hu Jintao recently told his Politburo. And second, a corollary realization: China's government has been mishandling the issue of Tibet all along.
It's true that the government in Beijing bridles at anything that reeks of secessionism. Just last week, Hu kept up his public attack on the "separatist forces led by the Dalai clique." The Chinese leadership is against the "meaningful autonomy" demanded by the Dalai Lama, who is described over and over as a "separatist" bent on fomenting trouble and splitting Tibet from China.
But though local riots looked bad in the press, they never really threatened control of Tibet. And the Dalai Lama has consistently maintained that he does not want to separate Tibet from China. World leaders who have met him seem convinced of his sincerity and nonviolent approach to solving the Tibet issue.
So as concerns about actual separatism receded, China's leaders recognized they really need a plan to govern the province. The money they had spent to buy the loyalty of Tibetans ($45.6 billion since 2001 for roads, trains, and housing complexes) had more or less come to nothing. "Even the most massive infusions of funds have never been able to buy the affection of the people," says Tibetologist Parvez Dewan, who has just coauthored a book called Tibet: Fifty Years Afterwith Siddharth Srivastava. "You can't get rid of the alienation of a people through development." Even in the less-authoritarian neighboring Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan, and Qinghai—where a majority of the 6.5 million Tibetans live—discontent among ethnic Tibetans is widespread. (Nearly 1,500 monks from the famous Labrang Monastery in Gansu province took to streets in the 2008 uprising that also sparked Tibetan protests in Qinghai and Sichuan.)
因而当现实的分裂主义担忧消退之后，中国领导人意识到他们的确需要一项控制这一地区的计划。他们用来收买西藏人忠诚的资金（2001年以来在公路、铁路、住房等项目上投入的资金约为456亿美元）或多或少地打了水漂。“即便是最大规模的资金注入也从来没能买来西藏人的感情，”藏学家帕维茨•德旺（Parvez Dewan）说，他与西德哈斯•斯里瓦斯达瓦（Siddharth Srivastava）合著了《西藏：五十年之后》（Tibet: Fifty Years After）一书。“你无法通过发展消除人们的异心。”甚至，在控制相对不那么严厉的周边中国省份，诸如四川、甘肃、云南和青海——这里居住着650万西藏人口的大多数——藏人中的不满情绪也相当广泛。（2008年的起义中，甘肃省拉卜楞寺有大约1500名僧人走上街头，这也触发了青海和四川的藏人抗议。）
That's why last week, after nearly 15 months of trading barbs—Beijing had shut down relations after the Olympic spotlight went dark—China's leadership invited the Dalai Lama's government in exile (based in the north Indian town of Dharamsala) back to talks about the province's future. Soon, two of the Dalai Lama's representatives, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, left for China along with three of their aides.
正因为如此，在中断往来大约15个月之后——在奥运会的聚光灯熄灭之后，北京终止了双方的联系——中国领导人邀请达赖喇嘛的流亡政府（设于印度北部城镇达兰萨拉）回到谈判桌上来讨论西藏地区的未来。不久，达赖喇嘛的两名代表嘉日洛地（Lodi Gyari）和格桑坚赞（Kelsang Gyaltsen）以及他们的三名助手将动身前往中国。
These talks are not going to solve the 50-year-old problem, which began with the Dalai Lama's escape from Tibet after a failed uprising against the invading Chinese Army in 1959. But the administration of President Hu (who was himself in charge of Tibet in the late 1980s) seems serious about helping to develop the province.
Fifty Years After brims with surprise at the affluent, breathtakingly planned city that Lhasa has become—with sparkling six-lane roads and glass-front shops that sell all the top international designer labels. "But we could not find any Tibetan who showed his loyalty to the Chinese," says Dewan. The authors also found that Tibetans remained excluded from most senior-level jobs. For example, of the nine top officials in the Tibet Mineral Development Co. Ltd., seven are ethnic Han Chinese, the largest group in China. (Officially the province is run by an ethnic Tibetan governor named Pema Thinley, a hawkish military commander, but real power lies with Communist Party Secretary Zhang Qingli, an ethnic Han.) Similarly, they point out that of the nearly 13,000 shops and restaurants in Lhasa, barely 300 are owned by Tibetans. "And despite the threat of punishment, we found deep respect and admiration for the Dalai Lama," says Dewan. Tibetan exiles say that nearly 60 percent of Lhasa's more than half a million people are now Han Chinese immigrants, although the Chinese-government census disputes that claim. But Dewan and Srivastava point out that the vast number of Chinese troops and officials, as well as the floating population of Chinese traders and businessmen, are not counted in Tibet's census. "You can see nattily dressed handsome Chinese men and women everywhere in Lhasa," says Dewan.
《五十年以后》一书对拉萨已经成为一座如此富足并规划得令人吃惊的城市充满了惊叹——崭新的六车道的道路、窗明几净出售各种世界顶级名牌商品的店铺。“但是我们没有发现任何西藏人表现出对中国人的忠诚，”德旺说。作者还发现藏人依然被排拒与绝大多数的高级别工作岗位之外。例如，西藏矿业有限公司（the Tibet Mineral Development Co. Ltd.）九名高管中有七名是汉族人，（形式上这一地区由一位名叫白玛赤林的藏人主席领导，他是一名鹰派的军事将领，但实权则掌握在汉人党委书记张庆黎手中。）同样，他们还指出在拉萨将近13000个商店和餐厅中，仅有300个属于藏人所有。“而尽管面临受到惩处的威胁，我们依然看到了对达赖喇嘛发自内心的尊崇，”德旺说。西藏流亡政府说，在拉萨五十多万人口中现在有超过60%是汉人移民，而中国政府的人口普查（数据）则驳斥了这一说法。但是德旺和斯里瓦斯达瓦指出，大批的中国军队和官员，以及由汉族的生意人和商人组成的流动人口没有计算在西藏的人口普查数据中。“在拉萨，你到处可以看到衣着光鲜的汉人男女，”德旺说。
Suddenly, then, the Dalai Lama is not the problem but rather a pivotal part of the solution. As Tibet expert and author Robert Thurman says, the Dalai Lama is the key to giving China legitimate sovereignty over Tibet as an autonomous region within China because he would inspire his people to stay inside China in case of a referendum on independence. His growing following within mainland China (the number of Chinese Buddhists attending the Dalai Lama's teaching sessions in Dharamsala is growing quickly) can also help calm the simmering discontent among the Chinese who have been left untouched by the benefits of China's impressive economic growth, which has created a hunger for spiritual growth.
The Dalai Lama will be 75 in July. He is revered by the Tibetans and admired around the world. Any deal with him will have the unquestioned legitimacy and support that is so vital to China's aspirations. And his absence will spell uncertainty and a lack of moral authority over Tibetans—which can only hinder China's aim of becoming a global superpower.
It would be naive to expect President Hu to recant overnight the Tibet policies that he himself devised and executed over the years. But it's not quite so farfetched to see him inching in that direction during his last few years in office as China's supreme leader, or even organizing a face-to-face meeting with the Dalai Lama before he leaves. It would not only make him a frontrunner for a Nobel Prize but also bring China the respect and admiration that it so acutely lacks.