16 April 2008

Oh, Tell Me the Truth About...Tibet

Amidst the sound and fury of the current standoff between China and the West over Tibet, this National Geographic Magazine feature - presumably written before current events - is about the most balanced that I've read anywhere. Here's a sample:

Tibetans I met acknowledged that along with oppression China has brought a standard of living far higher than that of their parents under the Dalai Lama's rule. The Chinese have built hundreds of schools, where until the 1950s there had been just a handful of nonreligious schools. They've built hospitals. Everywhere I traveled, they'd halted deforestation and are replanting trees, having learned through bitter experience in the summer of 1998 that the denuding of Tibet caused the Yangtze to flood, drowning 4,000 people. They've built airports and are beginning the first Tibetan railroad. They've also installed a telecommunications network, one that enabled me to dial directly to the U.S. Despite having a phone line to India, the best the Dalai Lama could do to send word across Lhasa from the dim recesses of the Potala Palace was to dispatch a runner.

Yet Tibetans almost invariably also said that China was implementing development solely to help exploit Tibet's natural resources. "Their goal is to extract all our treasures—timber, wildlife, gold, uranium—"and to make China rich and powerful," said a man in his late 20s in Chamdo, a town on the banks of the Mekong River.


Anonymous said...

Isnt that what all colonisers do? p

Glyn Moody said...

True. But surely you're not suggesting China is colonial...?