The riots in Tibetan-inhabited areas in our country in March are not as simple as some members of the Western media seem to think. People will see that the so-called "Tibet issue" is a "pawn" in the United States' game of keeping China in check and is closely linked to Washington's China policy. All they have to do is look back at the international backdrop since the end of Cold War and especially the evolution of the China policy of the US.
The wartime alliance between the US and the Soviet Union was quickly replaced by a state of cold confrontation after the World War II ended. The emergence of the Truman Doctrine in 1947 symbolizes the start of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union.
When the People's Republic of China was founded in October 1949, the US chose to continue supporting Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang regime and implement a containment strategy against the Chinese nation.
Washington built up what it called a line of blockade around China, stretching along the country's coasts and southwestern neighbors all the way to its northwestern border region to trap the newly risen people's government. In the 1950s and 1960s, the US maintained a dual strategy of "helping Chiang (Kai-shek) against communist China" strategy off our southeastern coastal regions, and "using Tibet against China" in the southern inland area. Thus the Tibet issue in Sino-US relations has been deeply associated with the "anti-China, anti-Communism" Cold-War thinking from the very beginning.
In 1947, the separatist clique among the upper-class Tibetans started seeking "international recognition" and gaining international support for their cause of "Tibet independence" by sending a "delegation of goodwill" to wartime allies such India, Britain and the US.
Back then the US was already in the thick of its anti-communist, anti-Soviet global Cold War and needed China (the Kuomintang regime) as an ally. That is why it officially recognized China's sovereignty over Tibet. However, Washington was not comfortable at all with the Tibetan dilemma, as it really wanted the vast resource-rich region in its own pocket.
In 1949, the US consulate in Hong Kong issued visas to members of a "Tibetan business delegation" without Kuomintang's consent and brought them to America to engage in "Tibet independence" activities. The separatist, theocratic elites in Tibet joined the conspiracy by launching an "oust the Han people" campaign as a step toward splitting China. The US media also played its part by propagating that "the US is ready to recognize Tibet as an independent and free country".
In June, 1950, the outbreak of the Korean War finalized the US policy of "helping Chiang (Kai-shek) against the Communist Party" and "using Tibet against the Communist Party of China". The China containment strategy featuring limited military aid for Tibetan separatists and containing China with covert warfare thus became the basic characteristic of Washington's Tibet policy. As a result, Tibet in Southwest China and Taiwan in the country's southeast stood out with their geo-strategic significance as two key pieces in the China-containment section of the US Cold War strategy, while the issue of Tibet became a "favorite subject" of the Cold War.
In the early 1950s when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) marched into Lhasa and liberated Tibet peacefully, the US government encouraged and supported the separatists in Tibet to obstruct the liberation of Tibet with armed resistance.
In 1951, the Truman administration tried to persuade the Dalai Lama to flee abroad in the hope of making him a political factor in its anti-China campaign overseas. In 1956, US agents from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) promised support for Tibet's independence in their talks with Tibetan separatists. And in March, 1959, Washington instigated the separatist forces in Tibet to launch an armed rebellion and helped the Dalai group rebuild its military arm known literally as the Four Rivers and Six Ranges Religious Guards" (Sishui liugang weijiaojun), while funding the formation of the "Indo-Tibet Special Frontier Force" by India and the Dalai group. These armed forces then launched numerous attacks in China's border areas against the PLA troops stationed there as well as against civilians.
It should be noted that the US National Security Committee and the State Department were responsible for making Tibet-related policies, while the CIA executed them. These included specific actions in its secret war against China, "spearheading" all conspiracies to abet and help the Dalai group in its separatist attempts.
On March 26, 1959, then CIA Director Allen Dulles claimed at the 400th meeting of the US National Security Committee that it was the Chinese government's plan to abduct the Dalai Lama to Beijing that triggered the armed rebellion in Tibet. On April 1 that year, his elder brother, then Secretary of State John Dulles, reported to President Dwight Eisenhower that Tibetan rebels insisted on forcing the Dalai Lama to flee to India and a plan was completed. All this proves the rebellion in Tibet and all other separatist activities hatched and carried out there were under the control of the US all the time.
In October 1959, the US manipulated the United Nations to pass a resolution over the so-called "Tibet issue" in a bid to internationalize something that was entirely China's internal affair.
In the early 1960s, the CIA also teamed up with India and established a spying outpost with three "education centers", two "hospitals" and a "leprosy hospital" in the latter's northern district of Almora. These institutions served as a base for the CIA's secret activities.
The CIA also expanded its spy network in Tibet with the help of the Dalai Lama's second elder brother Gyalo Dhundup (who has been a key figure in the whole "Tibet independence" conspiracy from the start). They formed the "Religious Guards" and "Ethnic Self-defense Army" to launch surprise attacks on PLA troops along the roads in Tibet.
Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s the CIA was fully involved in the Dalai's campaign in Tibet, providing the separatists with weapons, military training, money and airlifting service.
In the 1970s and the 1980s the Dalai group became an "orphan" during the Cold War, as the US adjusted its China policy to facilitate its anti-Soviet strategy and reduced its support for the Tibetan separatists while seeking to establish diplomatic relations with China.
Then US President Richard Nixon suspended open political support as well as military and financial backing for Tibetan separatists led by the Dalai Lama prior to his historical visit to Beijing in 1972.
The Dalai Lama himself kept his silence and was scarcely seen in public as his subordinates were sacrificed and his separatist cause forced to lay low in tatters.
Since the reform and opening-up began in the late 1970s, the Dalai Lama found it necessary to mend matters with the central government and contacts between the two sides were resumed as a result. For a while afterwards he rarely mentioned "Tibet independence" in public and praised the Chinese government and state leaders more than once in a show of goodwill toward the central government.
To sum it all up, the Cold War- era Tibet policy of the US served Washington's purpose as part of its China-containment strategy in a very coherent fashion, which was strictly in sync with the "anti-Soviet and anti-Communism", "anti-Communism and anti-China" global strategy of that time. After the end of the Cold War, the Dalai Lama was again used as an instrument of the Western anti-China campaign and treated as a "brat" of the US. The drastic changes in East Europe in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union afterwards marked the end of the Cold War scenario as the world entered the "post-Cold War era".
The US began trying to build a "new world order" under its leadership as the only remaining superpower, but what it is really after is maintaining its hegemonic status.
In the eye of Washington a socialist China with growing national strength is a major rival capable of challenging the US hegemony. Naturally, checking China's rise became the core objective of the US' China policy, while the "Tibet issue" was once again employed as an important and realistic means to attack China. The US sees Tibet as a breeching point for paralyzing China, very much like the role many former Soviet republics played in bringing the Soviet Union to an end, and needed no convincing to reuse the Dalai Lama for the purpose.
The Western anti-China alliance resumed hearty financial support for the Dalai group. It also came through the Nobel Peace Prize for the Dalai Lama himself, who returned the favor by traveling around the world as the "spiritual leader of Tibet", as a "human rights activist", a "Nobel laureate" and what not. In his new avatar, he went around meeting with political elites wherever he went, holding press conferences and making speeches at various gatherings to pedal "Tibet independence."
Since the late 1990s and particularly the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001, the Dalai group saw its place on the US' anti-China pop chart drop a rung or two yet again as the China-US relations improved with the peaceful development of China. However, we should keep in mind that his instinct to draw attention by flirting with foreign powers and pushing for internationalization of the "Tibet issue" will never go away.
The author is a researcher with Peking University
(China Daily May 7, 2008)