Saturday, May 09, 2020

Tibetan Common Citizens May Not Agree With The Tibetan Elites In Exile

historicly.substack |  The American position on Tibet's sovereignty changed depending on how they felt about the current government of China. During World War II, the US government claimed China held sovereignty over Tibet. In 1948, when Tibetans claimed autonomy, the US state department accused them of having "ill-faith." Tibetan officials even possessed Chinese passports.

However, all of this changed in 1949 after the Communists took control of China. The State Department wrestled with the question of whether or not they should strategically recognize an independent Tibet. They reasoned that it would be advantageous because “Tibet will be one of the few remaining non-Communist bastions in Continental Asia." As the People’s Liberation Army victory became imminent, the US government decided that they supported an “independent Tibet.”

 In August 1950, the PLA crossed over into Tibet. Within the first few months, nearly 20,000 Tibetans joined the PLA to fight against the local ruling class. As the PLA marched further into Tibet, they started distributing free food to the hungry serfs, which earned them popular support and aid.  

The PLA could have invaded Lhasa in October 1950, but they stopped their advancing troops and sent an envoy to the Dalai Lama asking him to negotiate an agreement. The Dalai Lama, with the advice and consent of the British, agreed to send delegates to negotiate. The PLA soldiers were redeployed to build a road from Beijing to the capital city of Lhasa, Tibet. 

In May 1951, the Tibetan delegates did end up signing an agreement that was quite favorable to the aristocrats. Point 4 of the agreement said, "The central authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet. The central authorities also will not alter the established status, functions, and powers of the Dalai Lama. Officials of various ranks shall hold office as usual." 

While the rest of China had immediate land redistributions, Chairman Mao made a concession, and the agreement said, “In matters relating to various reforms in Tibet, there will be no compulsion on the part of the central authorities. The local government of Tibet shall carry out reforms of its own accord, and, when the people raise demands for reform, they shall be settled by means of consultation with the leading personnel of Tibet."  

In the next few years, CCP's government did, indeed, build infrastructure projects. The PLA built roads that allowed trucks to travel within the interior. One vehicle, in two days, could carry what sixty yaks took twelve days to transport. Tibetans received more food, and the price of goods dropped by two-thirds in two years. Tibet got electricity. As the New York Times reported, Tibet got its first radio broadcasts. The CCP government also set up a state-bank in Tibet. Peasants received non-usurious loans and very low-interest rates, which made them less dependent on the feudal estates. According to the CIA, PLA also canceled the extremely onerous taxes for the peasants for three years.  

They built new schools. According to Dawa Norbu, serfs were given $1 to $1.50 to have their children attend schools, giving serfs more leverage to bargain against the elite class.