I should begin by saying I haven’t read this book and in all honesty probably never will. There are plenty of other recommended books on Tibet to read and more important things to do than follow up on a book review from Xinhua. So, for what its worth, congratulations to the author; I hope he received a large advance for the book and I would love to see him present his “research” to the Dalai Lama and all of the former “serfs” who live in Tibet or chose the uncertain journey of a life in exile.
Articles from China’s state-run media outlets such as this are nothing new. It seems that any movie, book, article, or ad hominem attack is quickly repackaged by the PRC’s propaganda machine for distribution, so please forgive me if I hesitate to pick up a copy of their latest recommendation.
I’m not interested, at least in the present case, in going point-by-point and detailing how the arguments put forth in these types of articles not only contradict China’s own historical records, but also often display some very impressive Olympic-level feats of logical and rhetorical gymnastics.
So, while I’m not in a position to directly critique this particular book, for the sake of argument, brevity (and my own sanity), let’s set aside the history that books such as this purport to detail, and take a look at one of the most prominent messages (if not the most prominent message) that is woven into nearly every article mentioning the Dalai Lama that is produced by the state-run media, and that is: it’s all his fault. Everything. His fault and his alone. This is, of course, part of a concentrated effort to demonize the Dalai Lama and discredit his calls for “genuine autonomy” for Tibet. It is also a reflection of the official PRC approach to the dialogue process: there is no “Tibet issue” and all that there is to discuss is the personal future of the Dalai Lama.
To read these articles, you would think that the Dalai Lamas controlled every minutiae of Tibetan life from the time of the first Dalai Lama, all the way until the 14th fled into exile in 1959. These articles are so single-minded in their focus on demonizing the Dalai Lama that they quickly reveal their authors’ ignorance of Tibet’s history (e.g. the long periods between Dalai Lamas during which regents controlled the Tibetan government). Unfortunately, the authors probably don’t care, or are so consumed in their attempt to demonize the Dalai Lama that they’ve rendered themselves incapable of incorporating any information that falls outside the scope of the official PRC narrative on Tibet.
While it is disheartening and frustrating (to say the least) to read these types of articles, the positive take-away is that they expose just how weak the foundation upon which the arguments against the Dalai Lama rest. These articles also serve as a very important reminder of how important it is to continue reporting on what is happening in Tibet today, given the punishments meted out to those Tibetans who attempt to counter the PRC’s ongoing efforts to manufacture a history for Tibet and dare to expose that there is actually a “Tibet issue” that needs dealt with, and it isn’t simply an issue of one man’s personal future.