Common Hour with Robert Barnett explores Tibetan conflict

By Samantha Greenfield II Staff Writer

Robert Barnett, Director of Modern Tibet Studies Program at Columbia University, spoke at this past week’s Common Hour about the conflict between the government of the People’s Republic of China and the Tibetans.

The Tibetan people, he explains, desire independence or autonomy for Tibet within China. The speaker provided a perspective look at the complexity of this conflict.

Barnett explains that we need to figure out the kinds of questions to be asking in order to find a solution to this contention.

TCR 2-2-15 CL Common Hour

This Tibet issue has been going on for 60 years and has seen thousands of deaths. Barnett explains the history of the conflict in that the first 30 years saw much more violence than the latter 30; however, a resolution is still not in sight.

The conflict began with Mao’s control of communist China and the People’s Liberation Army was sent into Tibet to take over. In the beginning of this conflict, however, Mao and the Dalai Lama were actually friends. Tibet was left alone as long as it accepted that it was a part of China. But in 1959 there were uprisings in Tibet and the Dalai Lama was exiled to India, where he and his exiles still remain.

Chinese government from this point on has flooded money and modernization into Tibet to make it more Chinese. Barnett shows the influence of China through images of the ruins of monasteries and the growing Chinese architecture.

Barnett explores perspective first from the view of the West. Westerners see this conflict as one of Chinese oppression and Tibetan resistance. The images of resistance in our media depict Tibetans worshipping the Dalai Lama, an act that has been outlawed by the Chinese government.

Barnett then illuminates the skewed image from the Chinese perspective by showing the audience images from Chinese media. The official newspapers of China show the Tibetan people as grateful to the Chinese. Unity, happiness, and success are portrayed. The view from the inside is also skewed because Tibetan history is banned from being taught or even discussed. Tibetan culture is being eroded through a loss of history and religion; however, religious life does continue. The Tibetan people still pursue their worship of the Dalai Lama despite its illegality.

Barnett does not explain a clearcut solution to this conflict because there is no simple solution. The answer to this complex conflict must continue to be explored.

Senior Samantha Greenfield is a staff writer. Her email is sgreenfield@fandm.edu. Photo by Sophomore Emma Brown.

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