The Tibetan independence issue has manifested itself into a new, somewhat unique case of colonialism. It is colonialism, not in the sense that Tibet is being invaded or taken over by a foreign nation. Rather, Tibetans are being culturally and economically assimilated by its own countrymen, the Han Chinese.
An article by the New York Times looks at the current situation.
Tibet has been an unstable region ever since the violent uprising in 2003. It has become apparent now that the Chinese government has more or less abandoned its militaristic approach to stabilize the region and has adopted a quieter, much more effective approach. Capitalism.
“Chinese leaders see development, along with an enhanced security presence, as the key to pacifying the Buddhist region.”
Many prominent scholars and economists have claimed that good economics equals stability. Thomas Friedman, for example, has long believed that a globalized world economy dramatically reduces military conflicts (look up “the Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention”). But good economics are often confused with homogenized, integrated economics. Tibetans are now faced with an overwhelming scale of economic ‘development’, but it is development by outsiders, for outsiders.
“Migrant Han entrepreneurs elbow out Tibetan rivals, then return home for the winter after reaping profits. Large Han-owned companies dominate the main industries, from mining to construction to tourism.”
The Han Chinese are there for one reason and one reason only: to make money. The Communist government knows this and is using a capitalist development agenda to assimilate Tibet into China. Major Chinese corporations that are based elsewhere have laid their eyes upon Tibet’s vast mineral reserves, which includes “China’s biggest chromium and copper deposits.”
“A prominent mineral water company called 5100… named after the altitude of the glacier, produced almost two million gallons of water. The water is shipped out on the Qinghai-Tibet railway. The water that is collected would otherwise flow through wetlands where yak graze. It is unclear how the factory’s work has affected the ecosystem.”
Good or bad, the factory has seriously altered the local ecosystem, and it will end only when the company stops making a profit bottling up glacier water. This method of natural resource exploitation in the name of economic development is taken straight out of the global capitalist playbook, and the Chinese are employing it onto their own people.
“All classes are taught in Mandarin Chinese, except for Tibetan language classes”
The next most important factor in colonialism, behind capitalism, is language. It is the most efficient, and perhaps most harmless way to integrate one culture into another. People put up less of a fight against language imperialism because no one is getting physically hurt, but their culture will slowly disappear and their language a thing of the past.
History has suggested that not very often can locals effectively resist economic colonialism. It usually takes a drastic downturn in the quality of life (ex. Argentina, Bolivia) for the local people to rise against external forces. If Tibet does not gain independence soon, it will quickly fall into the hands of the government, and its nationalist cause will be lost.