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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Western Views on Tibet - Heart of the Matter

June 8, 2008
June 5, 2008

In Chinese, the word "crisis", (weiji), is made up of two characters:
wei (meaning "danger") and ji (meaning "opportunity"). So, in each
crisis, one simultaneously faces both danger and opportunity. China
faces a crisis over Tibet; its fundamental policies towards this
region and its people are being called into question. This has also
accentuated the sharp juxtaposition between Chinese pragmatic,
dialectic materialism and Tibetan idealistic, abstract spirituality.
While these two opposite world views may clash, there is no reason
for them to be in conflict. Actually, both are needed.

The Tibetan crisis has brought both danger and opportunity. As with
all things in China, one extreme must give way to another before a
"middle" way can be reached. For all its hypergrowth, China now faces
its worst crises since the commencement of its reforms: open and
violent ethnic conflict; deadly children's epidemics; Olympic
protests; and the worst earthquake in a generation. What may be next?

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama is sitting in Dharamsala waiting for China
to signal a breakthrough. That is precisely what China needs at this
time - the world's most prominent morally persuasive leader, the
Dalai Lama, to give it a spiritual lift in this sensitive and
difficult Olympic year.

Breaking the ice, Beijing did invite the Dalai Lama to send a
personal envoy for talks and, on May 4, his envoys, Lodi Gyari and
Kelsang Gyaltsen, met two Chinese vice-ministers in Shenzhen. Both
sides agreed to disagree on many circumstances and events. But it is
better to disagree than not talk at all. Then, on May 9, Lodi Gyari
gave a press conference in Dharamsala, outlining some ideas: open
Tibet to journalists and tourists to restore economic normality, and
stop criticising, moreover demonising, the Dalai Lama. From this we
can see an emerging road map of what needs to be done by both sides.
If Beijing can loosen its tight security grip over the Tibetan
regions, people will feel more relaxed, tourism will revive business
fortunes, and income will return.

Moreover, if it can stop criticising the Dalai Lama as part of its
"patriotic education", China can begin winning the hearts and minds
of Tibetans. In turn, if the Dalai Lama can use his influence to tone
down global protests before the Beijing Olympics, he will be giving
the Chinese government the support it so badly craves.

Surprisingly, on May 22, foreign journalists reiterated the Dalai
Lama's recent statement in London that he would be willing to attend
the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing if China issued an invitation.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman responded: "If the Dalai Lama wants to
do something meaningful for the motherland and the Olympics, then he
must take practical action." That was followed by a list of
rhetorical, separatist accusations. Regardless, this was still quite
a new tone.

The Sichuan earthquake struck a region that is home to many ethnic
groups, notably Han and Tibetans. It is a propitious time for the
Dalai Lama to once again publicly offer prayers to all.

While he has already prayed for those killed and left devastated by
the quake, his message of compassion was not heard by Beijing. If the
meaning of his sincerity was understood in Beijing, that might change
the atmosphere.

If China can respond with even a cordial meeting between President Hu
Jintao and the Dalai Lama, this would give China more face than any
gold medals its athletes could win, while giving hope to Tibetans and
the world. It would change history.

The entire environment would improve, paving the way for a more
grounded policy rethink. Yes, Tibet needs the economic means that
China can provide - specifically education, medical facilities and
equal opportunities.

China, in turn, needs what its own policies of material hypergrowth
have failed to deliver - spirituality and a new-age national
ideology. The Olympics can stir nationalism, but it cannot deliver
either of those.
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