TIN: Tibetan Scholars Assess Chances for a Sino-Tibetan Dialogue

March 1, 2005

The East-West Center (EWC), a U.S. think-tank based in Honolulu, has published a report entitled, "Sino-Tibetan Dialogue in the Post-Mao Era: Lessons and Prospects," according to a February 24, 2005, report by the Tibet Information Network (TIN). The EWC paper analyzes the complex relationship between China's leadership and the Dalai Lama since the late 1970s, when Deng Xiaoping introduced the notion of reconciliation. The Tibetan authors are Tashi Rabgey, a Harvard Ph.D. candidate, and Tseten Wangchuk Sharlo, a Washington-based journalist. According to the EWC's Web site, the paper is one of a series of policy studies that focuses on "key domestic and international political and strategic issues in and affecting Asia."

Noting that the Dalai Lama has already renounced independence, the authors express doubt that the exiled Tibetan leadership would be willing to make "further concessions." Meanwhile, Beijing has pressed ahead with economic development in a manner that "appears to be creating a heightened sense of ethnic cleavage and dispossession among the Tibetans." The report does not predict an imminent breakthrough, suggesting that both sides may continue "talking about talks." The authors warn that, "Unless the Tibet issue should erupt as a violent conflict, the factors pushing Beijing to negotiate are likely to be regarded as insufficiently compelling to justify the risks entailed. On the other hand, if the current talks break off, Beijing will be going it alone as it manages the chronic threat of ethnonationalist discontent."

Despite the negative factors, Rabgey and Sharlo find, "In many ways, prospects for Sino-Tibetan engagement are better now than they have ever been. Greater access to information, increased professionalization, and two decades of experience with hit-and-miss talks have prepared both parties for the development of more informed and serious relations." But they remind readers that, as China continues to avoid dealing with "its problem of legitimacy in Tibet," and as the pursuit of legitimate autonomy intensifies, the window of opportunity for negotiating a durable solution is closing.

A PDF version of the publication is available on the East-West Center Web site. The CECC’s 2004 Annual Report provides additional analysis of the status of dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama.