Beijing and the Dalai Lama: Machiavellian Strategy or Driving Off a Cliff?

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Beijing is apparently ignoring the Dalai Lama’s comments about giving up on making a breakthrough and Chinese officials said yesterday that the next round of talks between the two sides would go ahead as planned. This is in accordance with their apparent long-term game plan, to  wait until the 73 year old current Dalai Lama, with his unchallenged position among ordinary Tibetans, dies. Whoever suceeds him (and however they are chosenl cf the controversy about the picking of the Panchen Lama I mentioned a few posts back), the new Dalai Lama won’t have anything like the spiritual and political authority of the current incumbent. Beijing officials presumably calculate that, without a rallying point, the whole issue will as a consequence be much less of a thorn in their side and more amenable to the kind of slow attrition that was successful in inner Mongolia and is resumably behind their approach to Xinjiang. This on the surface would seem a sensible, if icy cold, strategy: play out the clock, make noises about negotiation but basically stall. As author Wang Lixiong points out in a recent blog, however, there’s a problem. He predicts that when the DL dies–and particularly if he’s still in exile and Beijing has continued to vilify him–it could spark a massive series of protests in Tibet that will make the March incident pale in comparison. The inimitable John Pomfret has translated the post on his blog here. Give it a read. It’s persuasive–and scary from a man who is one of the leading experts on Tibet (and who, as John points out, is more or less under house arrest along with his Tibetan wife Woeser, the writer and blogger).

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