January 1, 2017

Tibet: Cultural Genocide

Much like the American West, a people are being destroyed by a dominant, more populous and aggressive culture.

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What’s it about?

The Economist writes a briefing on the effects of modernization and China’s administrative methods on Tibetan culture. Social transformation sometimes welcome, often resented.

Tibet: Cultural Genocide:

  1. The Chinese government has coerced hundreds of thousands of Tibetan nomads into settling into new villages.
  2. Han Chinese make up 90% of the population of China. Tibetan’s are less 0.5%. Most of them are in areas that are now occupied by Han Chinese.
  3. Central Tibet, because of its forbidding environment, is still Tibetan dominated but that is changing. Lhasa the capital now compromises 22% Han, up from 17% in 2000.
  4. New roads and railway lines connect central Tibet to the rest of China and have brought an influx of Chinese tourists, most of the benefits flow to other Han Chinese, who run the hotels and restaurants where tourists stay.
  5. Traditional Tibetan culture is under attack from both modernization and the in-flux of Chinese culture. Monasteries, once a central feature of Tibetan culture, are closing as the young lose interest and the Chinese government restrains their influence.
  6. Through a mixture of coercion and choice Tibetan culture is eroding. Some woman, for example, now use skin-whitening products following the common Chinese practice.


The Dalai Lama accuses China’s government of “cultural genocide”, a fear echoed by a tour guide in Qinghai, one of five provinces across which most of the country’s 6m Tibetans are scattered “We know what happened to the Jews,” he says. “We are fighting for our existence.”

Less commonly told is the despair felt by many young Tibetans who feel shut out of China’s boom. They are victims of Tibet’s remote and forbidding topography as well as of racial prejudice and the Chinese Communist party’s anti-separatist zeal. They often cannot migrate to coastal factories, and few factories will come to them.

Even fluent Mandarin speakers rarely find jobs outside their region.

A far away land (and problem)

Chinese and foreigners alike have long romanticized Tibet’s high-altitude vastness, Buddhist culture and simple nomadic economy, seeing in it a place of peace and tranquility. The reality for Tibetan’s is different.

China’s campaign to eradicate support for the Dalai Lhama and ensure no further uprisings, has broken whatever peace they had.  Even nursery school’s often teach in Mandarin Chinese. A singer who tried to protect the language was imprisoned for three years. Educated Tibetan’s are co-opted into Han government positions. Tibet’s economic wealth flows to Han migrants and Tibetan society falls under strict Han control.

Take Away Points and Context

  • Much like the American West, a people are being destroyed or assimilated by a dominant, more populous and aggressive culture.
  • While most traditional pastoral cultures face problems when they modernize, Chinese repression compounds the problem.
  • Because of China’s wealth and influence, and the often romantic view Westerner’s have of China, little is done to protect and assert Tibetan’s rights.


Full Article:

Tibet: The Plateau, Unpacified

The Economist

See also: Free Tibet a charity that promotes the rights of Tibetan’s.


Tibet: Cultural Genocide. Your comments are welcome below.

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