Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lessons from Charlie Brown

The relationship between China and the Dalai Lama reminds me of Lucy and Charlie Brown from the Peanuts comic. For those of you unfamiliar with the comic and its stories, in one running gag Lucy holds an American football and tricks Charlie Brown into kicking it several times, only to pull the ball away and having poor Charlie fall on his back.

This comic can easily be applied to China and the Dalai Lama. They've had several dialogues about the status of Tibet, only to have Beijing refuse any change to the status quo. So to drive home the point, China is Lucy, the Dalai Lama is Charlie Brown, and the football is Tibetan autonomy. In the latest development, China has refused to consider greater autonomy (or real autonomy depending on your viewpoint) for Tibet, something that shouldn't have come as a shock to anyone. The international community can pressure China to holding more meetings with the Dalai Lama's representatives, but nothing will come of it - the Chinese government will always cling to its hold on Tibet (much like Lucy and the football).

It makes sense actually. If Beijing were to grant greater autonomy to Tibet, Xinjiang would most likely demand it, along with some powerful provinces of China proper. Consequently any shift by the Chinese government on Tibet could result in a weakening of the central government's control over other parts of the country, something that the CCP wants to avoid at all costs. The Chinese have long memories and it was only 100 years ago that they were on the cusp of warlordism. As such the international community should not expect any shift on the CCP's position on Tibet or any other part of China.

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