Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Celebrating Tibet

With the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the conflict between the People's Republic of China and the Tibetan government in exile, led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there are a few reasons to celebrate this relationship.

First and foremost, the presence of a conflict implies a bond between the parties. The Chinese government cannot speak about the issue without referring to its Tibetan counterpart, and the Dalai Lama cannot refer to the conflict without mentioning the Chinese.

Second, both parties have focused more on attacking the Other than on pointing out what they could contribute to the Other's cause. Especially, there has not been a clear will to achieve a harmonious interaction between both parties, being harmony a value shared and promoted by both: Tibetans from a Buddhist perspective, and Chinese from a Confucian approach.

Third, the time dimension of this conflict is the greatest adversary for both parties. So, the sooner they are able to start the process of transformation of the conflict, the sooner they will both start profiting from the process. If the Dalai Lama dies and the process has not began, he will surely become a martyr. As we all know, martyrdom becomes a motivational force that comes from above or from beyond this life. This could mean more -not less- trouble for the Chinese aspirations of controlling the conflict. On the Chinese side, aiming at controlling the situation by the use of force represents a contradiction of its government principles of achieving a "global harmonious society," in detriment of its country-image abroad. Country-image results in perhaps the most important tool for trust-building with other countries and regions worldwide. If and when China becomes a global power, it would do itself much good if it was able to achieve so by peaceful means, distinguishing itself from the world powers that have attempted at dominating the world during the last five centuries.

Fourth, in fifty years of conflict there have been no serious and consistent efforts on behalf of the parties involved to work on a joint diagnosis of the conflict. Doing so will help the parties and the international public opinion understand the dimension of the problem. Only then can it be possible to start elaborating -the parties themselves- proposals for the transformation process necessary to move from this state of conflict to a state of constructive peace.

Fifth, both parties could gain a lot of political capital if there is a peaceful transformation of the conflict. Tibetan Buddhism could represent a valid option of a religion that strives for peace, along with all the positive public opinion it could harvest from this worldwide. China, on the other hand, could show the world, especially the mainstream Western diplomatic community, how to do effective peace-building.

Sixth, it would clearly set a difference between the way of interacting in conflict in Western cultures, and the way of interacting in non-Western cultures.

Who should take the initiative? The party that feels strongest, definitely. As Gandhi said, only the strong can forgive; and only the strong can stretch an open hand as a sign of peace.

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