Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What's the big Dalai?

Apparently there is going to be another round of discussions between Beijing and the Dalai Lama's reps. As par the course, The Economist does a superb job of explaining why they won't amount to much. For those of you who could use a refresher on Tibet and China, the U.S. Congressional Research Service has a handy report.

I always chuckle inside whenever topics concerning China's borders come up, mainly because there are cultural forces at work. The West has been big on drawing lines in the sand (or dirt or stone) to establish administrative regions and the borders of empires and states. In imperial China things worked a little differently, where nearby rulers of various civilizations (Korea, Japan, Tibet, Mongols, and loads more) would travel to the capital and recognize the Chinese emperor as the big cheese. Then trade would commence (along with some parties). Imperial China cared more about spheres of influence than direct administration because all the other nearby rulers accepted China's superiority. As such, they had no need for drawing hard borders. Then the Europeans come along with their maps and love of drawing lines. Not a good recipe for agreement. Fast forward to present day and we are having the same argument.

I find it ironic that China, under a supposedly communist government, is laying claims to Tibet when it was an imperial power (although one could make the strong argument they're claiming what the Republic of China claims). One would like to think that the new China (read PRC) would practice what it preaches about socialism and anti-imperialism, but let's not kid ourselves. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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