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A History of Modern Tibet, volume 2

A History of Modern Tibet, volume 2: The Calm before the Storm: 1951-1955

Melvyn C. Goldstein
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 674
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  • Book Info
    A History of Modern Tibet, volume 2
    Book Description:

    It is not possible to fully understand contemporary politics between China and the Dalai Lama without understanding what happened-and why-during the 1950s. In a book that continues the story of Tibet's history that he began in his acclaimedA History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State,Melvyn C. Goldstein critically revises our understanding of that key period in midcentury. This authoritative account utilizes new archival material, including never before seen documents, and extensive interviews with Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, and with Chinese officials. Goldstein furnishes fascinating and sometimes surprising portraits of these major players as he deftly unravels the fateful intertwining of Tibetan and Chinese politics against the backdrop of the Korean War, the tenuous Sino-Soviet alliance, and American cold war policy.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93332-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    (pp. xxiii-xxx)
  9. MAPS
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
  10. Introduction: Tibetan Society on the Eve of Incorporation into China
    (pp. 1-16)

    Political systems have ideologies that summarize and rationalize their basic premises. In Tibet, society and government were based on a value system in which religious goals and activities were paramount. The Tibetan state as headed by the Dalai Lama was founded in the mid-seventeenth century after decades of bitter sectarian conflict. The new theocratic government saw its mission as the support and enhancement of Buddhism, particularly its own “yellow hat” (or Gelugpa) sect. Tibetans conceived of this as a system of “religion and government joined together” (tib. chösi nyiden), because the ruler, the Dalai Lama, was an incarnation of the...


    • Chapter 1 Chinese Perspectives: Radio Beijing
      (pp. 19-40)

      On 27 May 1951, the sixteen-year-old Dalai Lama was living in Yadong, a small town on the Sikkimese border, where he and his leading officials had moved a few months earlier so that they could easily cross into India if the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were to invade Central Tibet suddenly. A group of top officials headed by the Kashag ministers Ramba and Surkhang accompanied him, while the remainder of the government stayed in Lhasa, headed by two acting chief ministers (sitsab) and two acting Kashag ministers who were specially appointed to remain in Lhasa just before the Dalai Lama...

    • Chapter 2 Tibetan Perspectives: Contacts with the Chinese Communists
      (pp. 41-58)

      The Tibetan government, for its part, was also pursuing a two-track approach. On the one hand, its main effort was focused on securing military and diplomatic support for its de facto independence. To this end Tibet sent appeals to Western nations such as Britain and the United States and started reinforcing its army along the Chinese border (in Eastern Tibet).¹ In December 1949, for example, it decided to send three high-level missions to the United States and India, Great Britain, and Nepal to explain its precarious situation and seek assistance.

      On the other hand, it also decided to make contact...

    • Chapter 3 Tibet Appeals to the United Nations
      (pp. 59-81)

      Although Tibet had no experienced diplomats, its first appeal to the United Nations was surprisingly sophisticated and eloquent, and it effectively presented the Tibetan government’s view of Tibet’s historical relationship with China and of the events from 1911 to the present.¹

      Appeal to the Secretary General of the United Nations

      The attention of the world is riveted on Korea where aggression is being resisted by an international force. Similar happenings in remote Tibet are passing without notice. It is in the belief that aggression will not go unchecked and freedom unprotected in any part of the world that we have...

    • Chapter 4 Negotiations with Beijing
      (pp. 82-113)

      Tibet’s first appeal to the United Nations had failed, undercut not by communist countries such as the Soviet Union but by friendly democracies such as Britain and India. However, since the Tibet appeal was technically only tabled, the United Nations had not completely shut the door on it, and the Kashag, desperate to secure international support, immediately tried to widen the remaining opening with a new appeal and campaign. However, at the very same time that the Kashag was appealing again to the United Nations, the Chinese side made a new push to use its Chamdo victory as leverage to...

    • Chapter 5 The United States Intervenes
      (pp. 114-137)

      In March 1951, at the same time that the Yadong negotiating team was en route to Beijing, James Burke of Time-Life brought Heinrich Harrer to see Loy Henderson, the U.S. ambassador in India.

      Harrer was an Austrian who had fled to Tibet from internment in India in 1943 and had worked there for the Tibetan government for the next seven years. He had just returned to India from Yadong and was close to the Dalai Lama and his family. He was seeking to secure American support for the Tibetans and told Henderson that the Dalai Lama very much needed advice...

    • Chapter 6 The Dalai Lama Returns to Lhasa
      (pp. 138-166)

      The final decision about whether the Dalai Lama should return to Lhasa came after a three-day Assembly meeting of all government officials present in Yadong in early July 1951.

      The largest group in Yadong was composed of officials who felt strongly that the Dalai Lama should return to Lhasa. This included virtually all of the monk officials. They were supported by the sitsab and other top officials in Lhasa, who also wanted the Dalai Lama to return, as did the abbots of the Three Monastic Seats (Drepung, Sera, Ganden). Chabtsom, the aristocratic government official who was the Lhasa Kashag’s secretary...


    • Chapter 7 Initial Contacts and Strategies
      (pp. 169-205)

      When the Dalai Lama arrived in Lhasa, the pressing issue facing his government was whether conciliation was the right course. If so, should the Tibetan side make every attempt to develop a friendly and collaborative partnership with the Chinese as a means of persuading them to interpret the Seventeen-Point Agreement in a manner favorable to Tibet? Or alternatively, should a tougher, less conciliatory approach be adopted to try to pressure the Chinese side to change key aspects of the agreement, and, if so, how should they be pressured? Or even more extreme, should a course of active or passive resistance...

    • Chapter 8 The Advance PLA Force Arrives in Lhasa
      (pp. 206-243)

      On 9 September, approximately six hundred troops of the Eighteenth Army Corps’s Advance Force, under the command of Wang Qimei, arrived in Lhasa accompanied by Ngabö.¹ These were the first PLA troops to enter Lhasa, so the Chinese wanted to make their entry impressive. Phünwang, who accompanied Wang, recalled their entry.

      We entered Lhasa in a grand way. Carrying pictures of Mao and Zhu De, Wang Qimei and I marched around the Barkor at the front of the troops. … There were thousands of Tibetans watching us and I recall being surprised to hear one lady say, “These are the...

    • Chapter 9 The Food Crisis
      (pp. 244-264)

      Lhasa’s population at the end of 1951 was small—approximately thirty thousand people¹—so the influx of over eight thousand Chinese troops and officials in the three months from September to December represented a dramatic increase of roughly 27 percent. In regard to housing, this created no major problems, because the Tibetan government gave the Chinese several large park areas in the south of the city beside the Lhasa (Kyichu) River, where they could set up tent camps.²

      Housing for the officials and offices also posed no great problem. As was mentioned, when Zhang Jingwu first arrived in Lhasa, the...

    • Chapter 10 The Panchen Lama and the People’s Liberation Army
      (pp. 265-300)

      In addition to the lack of a unified strategy within the Tibetan government, there was also a long-term divisive conflict between Tibet’s two greatest lamas, the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama. Throughout the 1950s, this conflict was like a dangerous riptide pulling all sorts of issues into its midst, not only on the Tibetan side, but also on the Chinese side, where it created a deep split between the leaders of the Northwest and Southwest Bureaus in Tibet.

      The Panchen Lama was based at Tashilhunpo Monastery, in Shigatse, and owned vast territories with thousands of agricultural and pastoral serfs....

    • Chapter 11 First Steps toward Implementing the Seventeen-Point Agreement
      (pp. 301-313)

      By the end of October 1951, the Dalai Lama had formally accepted the Seventeen-Point Agreement, and the main PLA force had arrived. This set the stage for the Tibet Work Committee to initiate serious discussions on starting to implement the agreement. The committee’s problem, however, was deciding which items to push and how hard. The Chinese leaders in Lhasa clearly understood they should avoid volatile issues such as land reforms and class struggle campaigns, but beyond that, things were murkier.

      In November and December 1951, the Tibetan and Chinese sides still had completely separate administrative structures, so one of the...

    • Chapter 12 The Tibetan People’s Association
      (pp. 314-340)

      Tibetan politics traditionally was the prerogative of a tiny elite of lay (aristocratic) and monk officials.¹ There was no notion of popular democracy— no political parties and no freedom of political expression. Public opposition to the government or its policies was not permitted. Tibet’s traditional political ideology was simple and straightforward: the work of governing was not the concern of its subjects. However, the signing of the Seventeen-Point Agreement and the arrival of thousands of Chinese officials and troops led to the emergence—for the first time in Tibetan history—of an organization of nonelite Lhasa residents whose aim was...

    • Chapter 13 Turning to the Dalai Lama and Removing the Sitsab
      (pp. 341-384)

      Upset by what they saw as a deteriorating situation, orchestrated, in their view, by the sitsab, the Chinese turned directly to the Dalai Lama, hoping he would intervene. Between 31 March and 4 April (1952), Zhang Jingwu sent three letters to the Dalai Lama (via the Kashag) about this. The first, sent on 31 March, made two points.

      1. For the past one or two days we witnessed that there are a lot of improper monks in Lhasa from Sera and Drepung monasteries who have disguised themselves as common people and have come bringing weapons. They organized some officers and soldiers...

    • Chapter 14 The Return of the Panchen Lama
      (pp. 385-396)

      With the Dalai Lama back in Lhasa, a key issue for the Chinese was ensuring that the Panchen Lama returned to Tibet with his rights and powers restored. As we have seen, it was at their insistence that this issue had been included as part of the Seventeen-Point Agreement. Despite this inclusion, Mao and the Central Committee had decided to treat Tibet as a unified entity, with the Dalai Lama as the head. In keeping with this, Mao had rejected the Back and Front Tibet model advocated by the Panchen Lama and Fan Ming and was concerned lest the Panchen-Dalai...


    • Chapter 15 Winds of Change
      (pp. 399-421)

      With the Kashag now in charge on the Tibetan side and Mao directly controlling and moderating operational decisions in Tibet on the Chinese side, a new era of cordiality and cooperation began. The dire predictions of the Chinese destroying religious and social institutions had not transpired, and with the exception of the inflation fiasco, by and large life was continuing just as it had before the PLA arrived. The Chinese were respectful of Tibetan customs and institutions and were not trying to incite class hatred among the masses. And critically, Mao Zedong had ordered the Tibet Work Committee not to...

    • Chapter 16 Conflict within the Communist Party in Tibet
      (pp. 422-453)

      As the Chinese side’s relationship with the Tibetan government and local Tibetans was improving, party unity was deteriorating within the Tibet Work Committee when fundamental differences between Northwest and Southwest bureau officials exploded over the status of the Panchen Lama and the overall strategy for reforming Tibet.

      The debacle at the Panchen Lama’s ceremony in Lhasa reinforced the decades of animus that the Panchen Lama’s officials had held toward the Lhasa government. It also exacerbated the split between the Northwest and Southwest bureau officials within the Tibet Work Committee. Fan Ming and his Northwest colleagues felt the party should have...

    • Chapter 17 Tibet’s First Steps toward Socioeconomic Reform
      (pp. 454-463)

      The removal of the sitsab placed Ngabö in a powerful position, and he set out to use this to reform Tibet from the inside. As mentioned earlier, Ngabö believed that in the long run Tibet could not retain estates and serfs as a part of Communist China. But he was also convinced that it would be best for Tibet if Tibetans themselves took the lead in reforming the current system. One Tibetan official recalled hearing Ngabö express his views on this at a meeting called to discuss reforms after the fall of the sitsab.

      It would be very good if...

    • Chapter 18 Events in India
      (pp. 464-477)

      The Dalai Lama’s twenty-four-year-old brother Gyalo Thondup arrived in India in late June 1952, rejoining his wife in Darjeeling, where she had stayed while he had gone to Lhasa. Ignored and frustrated in Tibet, as mentioned earlier, he had gone to India to publicize what he considered the “plight” of Tibet and, even more, to develop relations with India, the United States, and perhaps Taiwan to assist the cause of Tibet. At the same time he hoped to make contact with Shakabpa and other active figures outside Tibet, such as Coocoola, Thando Rimpoche, Lhalungpa, Dadang, and Phünkang Sey, and to...

    • Chapter 19 The Dalai Lama Goes to Beijing
      (pp. 478-490)

      In the spring of 1954, the Central Committee set September as the date for the inaugural meeting of the National People’s Congress. This was a milestone event in the history of the PRC, because the new National People’s Congress would be adopting the PRC’s first constitution and electing the leaders of the nation. The central government, therefore, decided to invite the Dalai and Panchen lamas to Beijing to participate, setting the stage for one of the most dramatic moments of the 1950s. With things going well in Tibet, this was to be China’s first chance to gain direct access to...

    • Chapter 20 The Dalai Lama in Beijing
      (pp. 491-522)

      The arrival of the Dalai Lama and his top officials in Beijing on 4 September 1954 opened a critical window of opportunity for the Chinese leadership. Winning over the Dalai Lama had been central to Mao’s gradualist strategy, but until then direct access of the Chinese to the Dalai Lama had been extremely limited. The CCP now had a rare opportunity to create a favorable impression about China, the CCP, and socialism. It also afforded the Chinese an excellent opportunity to revisit a number of outstanding issues that had been left in abeyance in 1951 and 1952, such as the...

    • Chapter 21 The Return to Lhasa
      (pp. 523-540)

      The Dalai and Panchen lamas began their return trip to Tibet together, traveling to the Northwest, where they performed a religious teaching at Labrang, a famous yellow hat monastery in Gansu Province. It is reported that a crowd of over ten thousand Tibetans attended. One eyewitness recalled, with a touch of hyperbole, “It was so crowded my feet could not reach the ground.”¹ Following this joint appearance, the two lamas, as they had done on the outbound trip to Beijing, returned by different routes. The Panchen Lama and his people went via the northwest (Qinghai-Tibet) road, and the Dalai Lama...

    • Chapter 22 Conclusions
      (pp. 541-550)

      The return of the Dalai Lama from his year-long trip to inland China marked the high-water mark in Sino-Tibetan relations in the 1950s. The Dalai Lama was deeply influenced by what he saw in China and by the attitudes of Mao and other Communist Party leaders, with whom he developed excellent rapport. Moreover, he became intellectually enamored with communism as an ideology and as a force for social and economic change and for improving the life of the poor Tibetan masses. He returned to Tibet filled with enthusiasm for developing and modernizing Tibet as a part of China. Mao had...

  14. APPENDIX A. Lobsang Samden’s 1952 Letter to Tsipön Shakabpa
    (pp. 551-552)
  15. APPENDIX B. Kashag’s 1953 Edict Reforming Debts in Tibet
    (pp. 553-560)
  16. APPENDIX C. Agreement of the Secret Resistance Organization in India, 1954
    (pp. 561-564)
  17. APPENDIX D. List of Correct Tibetan Spellings
    (pp. 565-582)
    (pp. 583-604)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 605-639)