15 years ago, I was in Kathmandu, Nepal when an Israeli traveler, who stayed in the same hotel, asked me this question: “As a Chinese, do you think Tibet should be part of China?” “Hmmm…they said Tibet has been part of China for thousands of years.” I was too young then to have thought critically about the issue. I didn’t know how to answer then and so just quoted something I heard, something the Chinese authorities and media have always said.
Recently, there appeared a video on YouTube about Tibet, attracting millions of hits. The title says “Why Tibet was, is and always will be a part of China”. The arguments and “solid facts” claimed are all familiar to the Chinese. Among others, it claims that Tibet has been part of China since 1271, the Yuan Dynasty. Only that this time the arguments are put into English and made into a video for a wider world to see.
It seems that the world of China has remained static during those 15 intervening years and more, despite its economic ascendancy. Many people there have thought alike and the government has more or less been saying the same things to its people (such as quickly blaming the “Dalai Lama clique” for any protests and riots in Tibet).
My conversation with the Israeli traveler did not end there. The traveler then asked me: You said Tibet has been part of China since a certain point of time in history. But dating back is subjective, isn’t it? You can also say that dating back this and that point of time, Tibet was not part of China. Or, how much further can you date back so that you can assuredly claim that China has been part of China? History is long, you know.
15 years have passed and I still vividly remember the conversation. Since then I have been to Tibet, have cared more about the place and its people, and have travelled more, read more and listened more, to have formed my own view about Tibet.
Thanks my fellow traveler, though I can no longer recall your name.