Human Rights Review

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 7–17 | Cite as

The future of Tibet: A Chinese dilemma

  • Michael C. Davis


In a recent speech Amartya Sen argued that democracy had become a universal value. He argued that at this time the burden is on those who would deny democracy to justify their position. He argued that this was a historic change from not long ago when the advocates for democracy in Aisa or Africa had to argue for democracy with their backs to the wall. In Asia, China has historically championed the fight against imperialism and has celebrated the fact the the Chinese people have stood up to take their much-deserved place in the world. For China, which as worked so assertively to bring its nation into the modern world, it is a sign of failure if Tibetans, and even Chinese, have to continue to argue for genuine democracy and self-government with their backs against the wall. The Tibetans really face no dilemma since they are offered no choice except to defend their basic interest.

But at present the Chinese leaders face a profound dilemma whether to embrace the modern values that are consistent with their own development and reform process or to continue to defy, especially in respect of Tibet, the very values they have championed in their relationships with the rest of the world. It is with regard to these universal values, against imperialism and in favor of democracy and self-rule, that solutions to the Tibetan problem should be found. To subjugate the Tibetan people is not only inconsistent with contemporary values but is also in contradiction of the pressures for change being spawned by China’s own emerging order in its reform era. It is within China’s power at present to set about solving the issues it confronts with Tibet. It can do so in ways that are consistent with its long-term developmetn interests or, alternatively, insist on old style imperial domination at the long-term costs of fostering a territorial and political structure for development that is inadequate both for itself and Tibet.


Foreign Affair Chinese Communist Party Democratic Institution Reform Process Chinese Leader 
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© Springer 2001

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  • Michael C. Davis

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