March 17, 2008


Tibetan culture is about as Chinese as the French are punctual; Jinky Pacquiao is tasteful; Paris Hilton is classy… you get the picture. You need to land at the Lhasa airport to understand just how different the two cultures are. The food, language, art, religion and people are uniquely Tibetan, with moderate to minimal influence from the outside world (China excluded). Not entirely difficult to believe considering that they are flanked by treacherous mountains and live basically in the clouds. Of course I am coming from the perspective of a Filipino, where everyone tracks and proclaims Spanish/Chinese descendants, whether real or imagined. In most cases, Filipinos just need to look in the mirror to definitively disprove any relation to some grand Spanish duke or prince. Like most countries that have descended from other civilizations, Filipinos carry traits, mannerisms, words in their language—maybe a bit of art, or facial features from their original bloodline. In the case of Tibet, I would say that these similarities are hardly visible in just about every quality that makes them the people that they are. Which is why they are a fascinating race and why I find the Chinese position: That Tibet was under china much longer than they were independent, an accurate but weak basis for their occupation.

Beijing’s tactful mayor stated in a press conference: “We didn’t enforce martial law there and the situation in Tibet as a whole is good at present.” Yes, absolutely, especially since most Tibetans live OUTSIDE Tibet and assuming that he did not include the recent deaths and burning city as part of the “present.” This situation is very different from Taiwan and the slowly brewing Spratly Islands. I do not agree with the Chinese enforcing control over this swath of barren and inhospitable land. Time should not be considered a factor in this debate.

I have to say that for Tibet, this is excellent timing. Close enough to the Olympics to make Beijing sweat out a solution, while achieving a resurgence of international recognition right when people are starting to look East. Of course, without international support, these rebellions will be ground to the bone, like salted chicken feet in a Cantonese restaurant. The question really is whether the world is willing to incur the wrath of China, the largest producing nation, soon to be the greatest military and economic power of our century. My guess is not.

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