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The Dalai Lama and Obama meet: Historic significance

Sidney J Gluck

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.

The meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama [1a] should be viewed in a positive sense. Obama's personal understanding of China has been expressed to me in a letter June 6th of this year [1b]. "I believe there is much to be gained from a closer working relationship with China. Indeed, there are very few global challenges, if any, we can address effectively without China's active cooperation." [1c] [1d]

As for the Dalai Lama, he is still invited to Beijing on one condition, accepting federalization and finding a form of integrating Buddhist politicalization. At Radio City in New York in 2009, he even generalized that Communism is better than Capitalism [2].

The necessity for national integration, federalization, and ethnic integration underlies the changes in China that are taking place under the leadership of the Communist Party. It had gained control of a backward colonial country that had been vandalized by colonialism and emerged to independence less than forty years before they gained power with little having been developed. The process will no doubt take one or two generations, even though, in the past thirty years, China has become the second largest industrial producer in the world supplanting Japan and predicts that it will overtake the gross national production of the USA by 2016 (although, personally, I would think it would be closer to 2018-2020) [3a] [3b]. They would still have to produce three-and-a-half times as much to reach the per capita production of the USA, though they have become an economic power.

However, integrating the peripheral undeveloped areas culturally and economically is a delicate process and requires special consideration by the Han-dominated political structure and industrialization, especially with care to avoid industrial accidents that damage the lives of ethnic people in the process.

As for the cultural impact, ethnically based music and art, which encompasses the lives of 8% of the population, with 92% Han [4], must be viewed on both sides with mutual respect in China's industrialization and politicalization. An article in the New York Times on July 17th deals with the integration of ethnic musicians and relates suggestions for non-conflicting integration with Han culture to avoid contentiousness.

No doubt the Dalai Lama discussed the question of self-rule rather than independence for Tibet. I would guess that Obama cautioned him not to create more conflict and consider how this would be reflected in the relationship of other peripheral territories. The separation of Church and State may be historically difficult for Buddhism since it held state power under the Emperor, an unusual combination that lost its historic content with industrial development.

It is commendable that the meeting was private, which augurs understanding rather than conflict, as both leaders take an objective view of the legitimacy of federalization in China that has promised to develop new forms of democracy as industrialization knits the country together and eliminates regional states' rights.

Dear Colleagues,

We had a very active response to our paper and decided to respond with an expression of the basis for my point of view since most of the differences of opinion centered on criticism of the Beijing government with few concessions and only one not only agreeing but giving additional information.

Attached is the follow up article titled "Basic position on Tibet/Beijing relations: A conflict of states' rights under federal leadership, law and economic development" on which I would also appreciate comments.

Sidney J. Gluck

Basic position on Tibet-Beijing relations: A conflict of states' rights under federal leadership, law and economic development

Sidney J. Gluck

What is not accepted by many in the United States in regards to changes in Tibet's relationship to the Beijing federal government is its planned drive for national industrialization and the world's first high tech industry as it builds socialism. Social and economic activities have been changing incredibly rapidly in the past few decades since the revolution with industrialization in only one-third of the country so far and expectations that Chinese gross national production, now second highest in the world, will equal that of the United States by 2020 (the Chinese say 2016).

Feudal relationships, culture, and human nature still dominate its western regions, encompassing almost two-thirds of the country and 8% of China's non-Han nationalities, which has lead to conflicting human relations in the changing Chinese national culture. Even among the 92% Han population, economic and political developments under centralized political and economic direction are a new national phenomenon being faced by Beijing in its efforts to create the country's new economic structure leading through a combination of private and social capital to socialism.

A national trade union movement is growing very rapidly in the industrialized areas since early 2010 following the suicides at FoxConn [5] and local recognition of the national trade union established as far back as 2005 with little success due to states' rights that dominated federal law under leadership of local corrupt Communist leaders. They have now been removed and replaced by young leaders trained in the last six years to follow the leadership of Beijing and help build a mass movement among the organized workers to ultimately affect the growth of democracy in the country.

In Tibet, the shifting from a feudal economic base into industrialization, though not heavy industry, has created a new economic situation challenging feudal serfdom under a Buddhist political regime exercising states' rights superceding the central government that was established and perpetuated by all the Emperors.

Nonetheless, the federal government has recently recognized the non-deistic character of Buddhism and its social content, which augurs well but requires the Buddhists to give up secular power and retain its religious position, living in harmony with the central government of China. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

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From the editor: For those of you who are interested in the background history of Tibet, I would highly recommend you to watch the movies "Seven Years in Tibet" (starring Brad Pitt and David Thewlis who were both banned from entering China; the film is also banned in the country) and the 1997 epic biographical film "Kundun" directed by Martin Scorsese. Both films bring you the early life and writings of the 14th Dalai Lama, the exiled political and spiritual leader of Tibet. You may also wish to get a copy of Heinrich Harrer's "Seven Years in Tibet." By the way, for those of you who wondered why some Tibetians light themselves up on fire, please read the Global Post article "Tibet: 50 self-immolations later", dated August 21, 2012, or check out the other articles in "Tibetans in Turmoil, an in-depth series."

Note 1a: From the Examiner – Despite objections from China, U.S. President Barack Obama has met with the Dalai Lama twice at the White House, in February 2010 and July 2011. China has accused the Dalai Lama and his supporters of sparking off the restiveness in Tibetan areas, creating a bad image for the Beijing regime. Read more from the Examiner article: "China lobbies to prevent Dalai Lama from meeting world leaders" dated August 11, 2012 and from the Tibet Sun: "China opposes world leaders meeting Dalai Lama" dated August 11, 2012.

Note 1b: See Obama's letter dated June 6, 2011 (408KB)

Note 1c: Read also the Newsweek Magazine article "A Chinese vision of Tibet: Happy lamas, sacred snows, and nary a dissident in sight" by Rob Verger, dated August 19, 2012, to see how the Communist Chinese government attempts to present Tibet as "part of China" in a photo exhibition held at Asian Cultural Center in Manhattan and how Nicholas Bequelin (from Human Rights Watch's Asia division) sees it otherwise – a problem of massive human-rights violations.

Note 1d: See "First Tibetan Olympian wins medal for China" - Fox News, August 11, 2012 on the Tibetan Olympian who sworn in as a member of China's ruling Communist Party in July before going to the London Olympics 2012 – Obviously there's not much choice for Tibetans in Tibet. Read further on why people in Hong Kong fear being indoctrinated and brain washed with Communist propaganda.

Note 2: See "The Dalai Lama's initial view on communism", Interview with the Dalai Lama, TIME Asia, dated September 27, 1999 vol.154 no.12. See also the Examiner article, dated August 20, 2012, on "Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay (of the Tibetan government in exile) says no one man can fill shoes of Dalai Lama" as well as the Zee News piece dated August 26, 2012 on "China wants to maintain instability in India's north east", suggesting the intentions of China to keep India out of Myanmar. See also veteran journalist-writer Bertil Lintner's latest book, "Great game east: India, China and the struggle for Asia's most volatile frontier" (Harper Collins India). Lintner says at the core of China's covert interference in the region is the Indian Ocean, which the country wants to penetrate for strategic gains without India's interference. See also "India evaluating China's military exercises in Tibet", The Hindu, "Goans urged to back Tibet independence", Times of India, both dated August 26, 2012 and "Does China's next leader have a soft spot for Tibet?", Reuters, dated August 31, 2012.

Note 3a: See "2016: when China overtakes the US", The Guardian at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/apr/27/china-imf-economy-2016. Retrieved April 27, 2011.

Note 3b: See "US still ahead of China GDP by 2016: IMF spokesman", Want China Times at http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20110426000027&cid=1102&MainCatID=11. Retrieved April 26, 2011. Please read as well the Christian Science Monitor's article, dated August 20, 2012, on "3 reasons why China isn't overtaking the US" - growth rates confused with total growth; flawed indicators used to gauge Chinese economic power; and, people mistake size for power.

Note 4: Han Chinese, an ethnic group native to China, constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China (mainland China), 98% of the population of the Republic of China (Taiwan), 74% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the entire global human population. For details, see Wikipedia on Han Chinese

Note 5: The Foxconn suicides occurred between January and November 2010, when eighteen Foxconn employees attempted suicide with fourteen deaths. Long working hours, discrimination of mainland Chinese workers by their Taiwanese coworkers, and a lack of working relationships have all been cited as potential causes. See also Foxconn suicides on Wikipedia and details of Foxconn