Tibet in Transition, 1951–1954



Such, then, was the Tibetan governmental structure which confronted the Communist authorities in 1951 and which they promised to respect within the constitutional context of the Chinese People’s Republic. On the surface, the pledge was to a large extent observed, at least until the uprising of 1959, and the formal institutions of native Tibetan administration were altered but little. Nevertheless, while outright refashioning of the local State mechanism remained minimal during this first phase of Sino-Tibetan relations, the Chinese almost at once began introducing sundry indirect changes into the fabric of the area’s political organization. Hence, the course followed by Peking in its circuitous approach to the touchy question of implementing reforms in Tibet well deserves attention, for, in the long run, it is thus that the Chinese prepared the ground-work and made possible the concerted action subsequently initiated by them with a view toward transforming altogether the physiognomy of the Tibetan society.


Chinese Authority Tibetan Population Administrative Committee Chinese Position Chinese Record 
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  1. 1.
    W. Levi, “Tibet Under Chinese Communist Rule,” loc. cit., p. 7. See also, New York Times, February 1, 1952, p. 2.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    E.g., New York Times, October 19, 1951, p. 3. It was claimed at the time that the program was based on the 60 secret clauses of the 1951 agreement, one of which allegedly provided for a policy “to narrow the gap between rich and poor.” See, too, Facts on File, 1951, P. 346.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Asian Recorder, 1956, p. 670.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Lowell Thomas, Jr., The Silent War in Tibet, pp. 129–130: “One such ‘improvement’ was the alteration of the status of the dzongpon. … Under the reform, the dzongpon was paid a fixed monthly salary and forwarded all revenues to Lhasa. Also, he was appointed for a fixed term of three or four years. The reform, however, did not stop here. Older dzongpons now were pensioned off and new dzongpons were appointed. And all dzongpons, whether new or old, were to perform their official functions ‘only after consultation with and advice from the local Chinese military commander.’ The notice which informed the dzongpons of their new status pointed out that the Dalai Lama himself was governing ‘with the advice of the Chinese Commander-in-Chief.’ Thus the Chinese hoped to enforce co-operation of the Tibetans at the dzong level.”Google Scholar
  5. 1.
    Facts on File, 1952, p. 419; B. P. Gurevich, Osvobozhdenie Tibeta, p. 182.Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    Lack of effective Chinese control over the Tibetan troops came out into the open at the time of the 1959 revolt. First, the Chinese charged that the Tibetan army was cooperating with the insurrectionary bands, by furnishing them with arms and men. There is some evidence of the truth of these charges. Second, the Chinese, when they wanted the services of the Tibetan units against the rebels, had to request the Dalai Lama’s permission for that purpose and it was refused to them. Thirdly, at the time of the 1959 hostilities in the capital, the Tibetan soldiers cast off their Chinese uniforms and joined the fighting against the P.L.A. under their own officers. All of this demonstrates that the original Chinese claim of fusion of the Tibetan army with the P.L.A. had been premature and erroneous and that the Tibetan troops remained largely separate and led by their own officers. The other charge, then, voiced in 1959, that the Tibetan government had secretly expanded the size of the army no longer sounds incredible, given the falsehood of the earlier claim of practical Chinese control over these troops. As a matter of fact, such expansion apparently did take place, although since the troops in question consisted of the palace guards and corps of personal bodyguards of the Dalai Lama, there was little room for growth and Chinese assertions to the contrary are vastly exaggerated. Besides, the fighting quality of these troops remained questionable and their performance in the March uprising was by no means outstanding, so that Peking was really making much ado about nothing. Things could not be very much different from the situation observed by Tsung-Lien Shen and Shen-Chi Liu, Tibet and the Tibetans, p. 115: “The Tibetan army, with its complete lack of modern equipment and poor leadership, is not taken seriously even by the Tibetans themselves. The monks detest it as an imported hybrid. The nobility distrusts it as a potential menace. And the common people fear it as a public scourge.”Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    B. P. Gurevich, op. cit., pp. 192-193. For a summary of the decree, see KCA, 1953, pp. 12785, 13819.Google Scholar
  8. 2.
    For the texts of some of the enactments of this period concerning the constitutional status of the lesser ethnic elements, see Policy Towards Nationalities of the People’s Republic of China (Peking, 1953).Google Scholar
  9. 3.
    Text in Jen-min jih pao, August 15, 1952. For text in Russian, see N. G. Sudarikov (ed.), Konstitutsiya i osnovnye zakonodatelnye akty Kitaiskoi Narodnoi Respubliki (Moscow, 1955), PP. 113-118. Other early provisions on national autonomy may be found in the law on Basic Principles for Realization of Local National Autonomy in the Chinese People’s Republic of February 22, 1952, Jen-min jih-pao, August 13, 1952, and the Electoral Law of February 11, 1953, in N, G. Sudarikov (ed.), op. cit. pp. 82-96.Google Scholar
  10. 1.
    Jen-min jih-pao, August 28, 1956; V. P. Leontiev, Inostrannaya ekspansiya v Tibete v 1888-1919gg (Moscow, 1956), p. 208.Google Scholar
  11. 2.
    G. M. Valiakhmetov, “Vnutrennee ustroistvo Tibeta,” Sovetskoe gosudarstvo i pravo, 1956, No. 7, pp. 114–115.Google Scholar
  12. 3.
    V. Ovchinnikov, “Reportazh s ‘kryshi mira’,” Zvezda, 1956, No. 8, p. 139.Google Scholar
  13. 1.
    The Dalai Lama, My Land and My People, pp. 64–66.Google Scholar
  14. 1.
    Facts on File, 1952, p. 3; B. P. Gurevich, op. cit., p. 183; Lowell Thomas, Jr., op. cit. p. 122, describes the process as follows: “They [the Chinese] limited the profit margin for all traders. In many cases they discouraged the trader from pursuing his business, suggesting that he lend his capital to the Chinese at a modest interest rate and not bother about making the tiresome trip at all.”Google Scholar
  15. 1.
    B. P. Gurevich, op. cit., p. 186; Chang Po-chun, “First Highways to Tibet,” China Reconstructs, Vol. 4, No. 5, pp. 2-5 (May, 1955); Daily News Release, January 3, 1955, p. 16; January 21, 1955, p. 122; September 11, 1956, p. 89.Google Scholar
  16. 2.
    Daily News Release, May 18, 1954, p. 185; March 14, 1955, p. 83; April 27, 1955, p. 340; June 4, 1955, p. 41.Google Scholar
  17. 1.
    B. P. Gurevich, op. cit., pp. 186-187; V. P. Leontiev, op. cit., p. 207; Chang Kuo-hua, “A New Tibet Is Arising,” People’s China, 1953, No. 10, p. 7; Survey of China Mainland Press, No. 1369, September 13, 1956, p. 26, and No. 1377, September 26, 1956, p. 27 (hereafter abbr. SCMP).Google Scholar
  18. 2.
    On the volume of Sino-Tibetan trade, see Daily News Release, January 21, 1955, p. 122; February 14, 1955, p. 116; Jen-min jih-pao, January 8, 1956, and November 18, 1956; V. Kassis, “Ninety Days in Tibet,” New Times, 1956, No. 9, p. 28.Google Scholar
  19. 1.
    B. Gurov, “Tibet: Chinese Press Review,” New Times, 1952, No. 48, p. 13; B. P. Gurevich, op. cit., p. 184; Daily News Release, May 23, 1955, p. 203.Google Scholar
  20. 1.
    Chang Kuo-hua, op. cit. (p. 62 above), p. 9: Daily News Release, August 21, 1954, p. 231.Google Scholar
  21. 2.
    Daily News Release, October 7, 1954, p. 96; September 16, 1955, p. 132; I. Epstein, “Tibet Beyond Lhasa,” People’s China, 1956, No. 2, pp. 17-25.Google Scholar
  22. 1.
    International Commission of Jurists, The Question of Tibet and the Rule of Law, p. 66.Google Scholar
  23. 2.
    Cf. R. Ford, Captured in Tibet (London, 1957), p. 251. Also G. M. Valiakhmetov, Organy vlasti i upravleniya Tibeta, p. 19.Google Scholar
  24. 1.
    See, for instance, Lowell Thomas, Jr., op. cit., pp. 120-142.Google Scholar
  25. 1.
    F. Moraes, The Revolt in Tibet, p. 90.Google Scholar
  26. 1.
    “Hungarians in Tibet, The Genesis of Revolt,” East Europe, Vol. 8, No. 8, pp. 17-18 (August, 1959); these are excerpts from a book by Imre Patkó, Tibet (Budapest, 1957), in Hungarian.Google Scholar
  27. 1.
    New York Times, November 26, 1952, p. 3. A. G. Yakovlev, Reshenie natsionalnogo voprosa v Kitaiskoi Narodnoi Respublike (Moscow, 1959), p. 89, for example, openly treats the issue as one of massive immigration from China’s interior.Google Scholar
  28. 1.
    Cf. M. L. Niemi, “Recent Trends in Chinese Communist Control of Tibet,” Far Eastern Survey, Vol. 27, No. 7, pp. 104–107 (July, 1958).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1964

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State University of IowaUSA
  2. 2.Planning Research CorporationUSA

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