Dalai Lama

Party policy sanctions routine vilification of the Dalai Lama in Chinese state media.

Chinese state-media is no stranger to articles featuring false accusations, selective reasoning, and extreme argumentation, especially when it comes to the Dalai Lama and what are now 124 Tibetan self-immolations. The latest in the line of such articles appeared recently on the main English-language web portal for state-produced news and commentary on Tibet, China Tibet Online. This particular article weaves impassioned quotes from the Dalai Lama regarding Tibetan self-immolations with cynical commentary that attempts to blame him for Tibetans setting themselves on fire in political protest, yet ends with an appeal for his involvement in helping end such protests. It is often easy to dismiss such articles based on their propagandistic purposes to convey the Party’s self-serving version of the truth. Read more closely, however, and we can see that these articles don’t simply appear as isolated responses to contingent circumstances, but largely derive from the policy decisions the Party has made regarding its approach to the Dalai Lama.

Such vehement attacks on the Dalai Lama that appear with seeming regularity in state-media have in large part been sanctioned by the Communist Party for nearly 20 years, since the Party’s Third Tibet Work Forum, held in 1994. The Tibet Work Forums are major policy meetings held on occasion to set the Party’s overall strategy as it relates to Tibet (the most recent forum, the fifth, was convened by the Party’s top echelon in January 2010). At the crucial Third Tibet Work Forum, however, Party leaders abandoned what had been a relatively less hostile approach, and began to publicly condemn the Dalai Lama, and citing him as the root cause of instability in Tibet.

Prior to the Third Work Forum, denigrating the Tibetan spiritual leader was not an explicit goal of Party policy. It follows that without that key decision, or a subsequent one like it, we probably wouldn’t see such articles teeming with utter contempt for the Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Laureate. We would see Party leaders better positioned to sincerely engage with the Dalai Lama on the problems in Tibet, rather than shrouding their invitations for his greater involvement with cynicism and spurious claims, which has the effect of actively working against attempts at mutual cooperation.

As long as the Party leadership maintains their course of giving license to public condemnations of the Dalai Lama, they will face the contradicting goals of seeking to diminish the Dalai Lama’s influence, while at the same time seeking to utilize that very stature in order to address issues, such as the Tibetan self-immolations, that the Party itself has proven ill-equipped to face.

Perhaps recent suggestions emanating from within the Party that leaders in China cannot simply ignore the Dalai Lama’s religious significance could pave a way forward, and create the pretense needed for authorities to safely begin to confront the reality of the Dalai Lama’s role in Tibetan society. However, without ending the public condemnations, Party leaders allow themselves few realistic avenues for engaging with the Dalai Lama in order to address what is taking place in Tibet today. The first step Party leaders must take, is to stop denigrating the Dalai Lama.

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2 Responses to “Seeking help from one you criticize: the CCP boxes itself in on the Dalai Lama”

  1. BTW, great photo of H.H. — the man is certainly 180° from Beijing, despite being a political figure.

  2. The ChiComs are a hysterical lot, always have been — that’s ideology for you.

    But in terms of working with the Dalai Lama, I’m not so sure the Party cares to. Why should they? As Goldstein documented in “The Snow Lion and the Dragon,” being upstaged over the Panchen Lama (the Dalai Lama announced his choice when Beijing had understood from secret negotiations at the time that there would be mutual consultation and agreement first) was the last straw. Now the Chinese government is just biding its time.

    The public histrionics are simply to show that there will be no further dealings with this Dalai Lama and his entourage…perhaps speaking to those “reformers” or “moderates,” those “from within the Party”…maybe it’s more for internal consumption, made publicly to underscore the entrenched nature of the policy.

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