Context:

Tibetan groups talk about China’s leader Xi Jinping and his Communist party as seeking to imprint on virtually every aspect of life across the vast county which has lately increasingly encompassed religion, both in central China and on its fringes, such as Tibet.

The party is pressing a programme to Sinicise Tibetan life to separate Tibetans from their language, culture, and especially, their devotion to the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s traditional spiritual leader who has lived in exile since 1959.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbours, Foreign Policies and Developments affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Tibet
  2. India and Tibet
  3. Sino-Indian Conflict Over Dalai Lama
  4. What is Sinicization?
  5. Modern examples of Sinicization
  6. Concerns of Tibetan population

About Tibet

  • Tibet is a region on the Tibetan Plateau in Asia, spanning to nearly a quarter of China’s territory.
  • It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups.
  • Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 metres. The highest elevation in Tibet is Mount Everest.

History of Tibet

  • From 1912 until the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, no Chinese government exercised control over what is today China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
  • Many Tibetans insist they were essentially independent for most of that time and have protested what they regard as China’s rule imposed after the People’s Liberation Army occupied TAR in 1950.
  • The Dalai Lama’s government alone ruled the land until 1951. Tibet was not “Chinese” until Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched in and made it so.
  • The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 following a crackdown on an uprising by the local population in Tibet.
  • India granted him political asylum and the Tibetan government-in-exile is based on Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh since then.
  • Since 1959, Tibet has been witnessing periodic incidents of violence, unrest and protest against Beijing.
  • China asserts that Tibet has been its part since the 13th century and will remain so forever.

India and Tibet

  • Apart from the border disputes, another major irritant for China has been over the Dalai Lama, who enjoys a spiritual status in India.
  • China considers Dalai Lama a separatist, who has great influence over Tibetans. It must be mentioned that Dalai Lama gave up his support for Tibetan independence in 1974, and only wants China to stop repression against the community.
  • The Government of India has built special schools for Tibetans that provide free education, health care, and scholarships. There are a few medical and civil engineering seats reserved for Tibetans.
  • While India’s role in the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees has been criticised by China, it has drawn praise from international bodies and human rights groups.

Sino-Indian Conflict Over Dalai Lama

  • Apart from the border disputes, another major irritant for China has been over the Dalai Lama, who enjoys a spiritual status in India.
  • China considers Dalai Lama a separatist, who has great influence over Tibetans. It must be mentioned that Dalai Lama gave up his support for Tibetan independence in 1974, and only wants China to stop repression against the community.
  • Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to provide all assistance to the Tibetan refugees to settle in India until their eventual return.
  • The Government of India has built special schools for Tibetans that provide free education, health care, and scholarships. There are a few medical and civil engineering seats reserved for Tibetans.
  • While India’s role in the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees has been criticised by China, it has drawn praise from international bodies and human rights groups.

What is Sinicization?

  • Sinicization, sinofication, sinification, or sinonization (from the prefix sino-, ‘Chinese, relating to China’) is the process by which non-Chinese societies come under the influence of Chinese culture, particularly Han-Chinese culture, language, societal norms, and ethnic identity.
  • Areas of influence include diet, writing, industry, education, language/lexicons, law, architectural style, politics, philosophy, religion, science and technology, value systems, and lifestyle.
  • In particular, sinicization may refer to processes or policies of acculturation, assimilation, or cultural imperialism of norms from China on neighboring East Asian societies, or on minority ethnic groups within China.
  • Evidence of this process is reflected in the histories of Korea, Japan, and Vietnam in the adoption of the Chinese writing system, which has long been a unifying feature in the Sinosphere as the vehicle for exporting Chinese culture to these Asian countries.

Modern examples of Sinicization

Xinjiang

  • The Hui Muslim 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) governed the southern region of East Turkestan (named Xinjiang by the Chinese government) in 1934–1937. The administration that was set up was colonial in nature, importing Han cooks and baths, changing the Uyghur language-only street names and signs to Chinese, as well as switching carpet patterns in state-owned carpet factories from Uyghur to Han.
  • Strict surveillance and mass detentions of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang re-education camps is a part of the ongoing sinicization policy by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Since 2015, it has been estimated that over a million Uyghurs have been detained in these camps. The camps were established under CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping’s administration with the main goal of ensuring adherence to national ideology.
  • Critics of China’s treatment of Uyghurs have accused the Chinese government of propagating a policy of sinicization in Xinjiang in the 21st century, calling this policy a cultural genocide, or ethnocide, of Uyghurs.

Taiwan

  • After the Republic of China took control of Taiwan in 1945 and relocated its capital to Taipei in 1949, the intention of Chiang Kai-shek was to eventually go back to mainland China and retake control of it. Chiang believed that to retake mainland China, it would be necessary to re-Sinicize Taiwan’s inhabitants who had undergone assimilation under Japanese rule.
  • Examples of this policy included the renaming of streets with mainland geographical names, use of Mandarin Chinese in schools and punishments for using other regional languages (such as the fāngyán of Hakka and Hokkien), and teaching students to revere traditional ethics, develop pan-Chinese nationalism, and view Taiwan from the perspective of China.

Tibet

  • The sinicization of Tibet is the change of Tibetan society to Han Chinese standards, which has been underway since the Chinese regained control of Tibet in 1951.
  • In present-day Tibet, traditional Tibetan festivals have “been turned into a platform for propaganda and political theater” where “government workers and retirees are barred from engaging in religious activities, and government workers and students in Tibetan schools are forbidden from visiting local monasteries.”
  • According to president of the Central Tibetan Administration, Lobsang Sangay, with the ongoing expulsion of monks and nuns from monasteries and nunneries, and destruction of the Larung Gar monastery, Tibet’s largest Buddhist institution, “unfortunately what is happening is that the Chinese government is reviving something akin to cultural revolution in Tibet.”

Concerns of Tibetan population

  • China is investing huge sums of money for infrastructure investments in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) albeit at the cost of its environment.
  • Tibet’s downtown Lhasa has all the trappings of a modern city. But this is by destroying the unique Tibetan culture and mainstreaming Chinese culture into the region and also notably leading to significant demographic shift.
  • The outflow of refugees from Tibet has been curtailed by the Chinese authorities by convincing Nepal to close a popular route.
  • Many third generation Tibetans settled in India have no idea about their motherland and India’s attitude towards giving them citizenship has been stern.
  • In recent times there is also a rise in the younger and more radical “Rangtsen” (freedom) groups demanding an independent Tibet.
  • The primary concern that looms over the community is that of its future leadership.
  • This is because the present Dalai Lama is getting older and there is no firm announcement about their next leader.

-Source: The Hindu

Share this article on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enable Notifications    OK No thanks