Common Assignment Sharing State: Tibet

In my class Tourism and Ethnicity in China we have been focusing on the different ethnic minorities who live in China and how tourism is impacting their lifestyle. For my common assignment I focused on Tibet and created a National Geographic style paper about the struggles that they have been facing over the past 50 years. For those who don’t know, China has at control over Tibet since the 1950s, they consider Tibet to be part of China and under Chinas rule. Tibetans on the other hand, do not want to be part of China and in fact consider the two countries to be very different. Unfortunately for Tibet, China has too much power and they have been unable to successfully gain the freedom that they desire. What makes it worse is that the Dalai Lama, the political and religious leader of Tibet, has been living in exile for 50 years. He is doing a ton of work all over the world to gain awareness support for Tibetan human rights, but not being able to visit Tibet takes it’s toll on the campaign. In my paper I go into detail about all of these things and many more issues that the Tibetans have been struggling with for over half a century

Along with going over the history, I also talked about what life is currently like for the Tibetan people. Today, there is a total Tibetan population of about 3 million, with 150,000 Tibetans living in exile, mostly in India. It is dangerous for locals to talk about any unrest of unhappiness about the situation in Tibet, but if you were to get the opportunity they would tell you that they do not consider Tibet and China to be the same. The land is different, the language is different, as well as the food and the clothes Life for Tibetans has not been easy in the 21st century. The average yearly income for a local Tibetan was $328 in 2007 compared to Han Chinese living in Tibet who were making $1,558 a year. Aside from this, they are unable to express themselves freely for fear they might be imprisoned. Even mentioning the Dalai Lama’s name is considered a punishable offense. There is no freedom of speech and no freedom of religion, no freedom at all, really.

I also talk about how tourism has affected Tibet in particular. Tourism in China is huge, and it affects all of the ethnic minorities, but in Tibet it is a little different. Like a lot of ethnic minorities in China, Tibetans are known to cater to what the tourists want to see instead of showing them an authentic experience. For example, a lot of Chinese tourists want to see a primitive lifestyle, not a modern one, so even though Tibet has started to modernize, tourists aren’t interested in seeing that. This is something that is prevalent all throughout China. Since the Chinese government has such a strong hold and so many regulations in Tibet, they are basically 100% in charge of the tourism trade. There are a lot of restrictions for tourists who want to travel to Tibet. For example all foreign travelers can only go to Tibet if they are part of a sanctioned tour group, and can only visit sites approved by the Chinese authorities. These restrictions have not stopped people from travelling there; Tibet receives millions of visitors each year. Since tourism has become prevalent in Tibet, critics have expressed concern over the “touristification” of Tibet. Many see the massive tourism boom in Tibet as a strategy set in place by China to force Tibet to assimilate into a true region of China, and strip it of any cultural differences. There is an increasing fear that any semblance of an authentic cultural Tibet free from Chinese influence will soon be lost.

4 thoughts on “Common Assignment Sharing State: Tibet

  1. Lucas Bienvenue

    Having read a lot about Tibet, mainly from China Roads by Rob Gifford, I can see how Tibet culture is soon to be lost if nothing is done. China have cornered the Tibetans , forcing them into the Chinese culture. The only way for Tibetan to fight off this assimilation is by refusing to attend Chinese schools. The problem with this is, without education, they are not able to succeed and get a good job. As time goes by, the more China will try to make “Tibetans more “Chinese,” so that if the crunch comes (or even if it doesn’t) they will be too well integrated into China to want to opt out.” (Gifford, 244).

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  2. Deane Banker

    The challenge that Tibet faces as it pushes for its independence from China are interesting and remind me of the challenges that many nations faced under Ottoman rule. In this regard china is much the same way in that it sees an opportunity to expand and grow its economy and it is succeeding considering it is GDP is 9.24 Trillion U.S. Dollars and is only rivaled by the EU and US. However it is quite apparent that this growth is paralleled with numerous human rights abuses and discrimination against native populations such as the Tibetans.
    At the peak of Ottoman rule when their empire was at their greatest similar instances occurred, Islam was the state religion and the Sultan used it to maintain socio-political control. In the same vein China strictly adheres by the beliefs of the Communist Party and Mao which has enabled them to maintain political control. Similarly the Ottoman Empire was marked by periods of massive growth followed by centuries of stagnation. By World War I the once great Empire was only a shadow of its former self and through the Treaty of Lausanne much of the empire was cut up into smaller countries.
    As a consequence of the Treaty of Lausanne people began to question what it truly means to be Turkish. Under Ataturk (translates to Father of the Turks) Turkey fought against the treaty of Lausanne in a bloody civil war and redefined the Turkish Identity. Through Ataturks reforms the state became Secular, modernized, and an economic boon. So keep on the lookout for the next Great War may not happen tomorrow but it could bring the change which the Tibetans desperately need.

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  3. Daniel Havener

    As global citizens we can now freely travel the world and the tourism industry has grown because of it. In our travels, we often see commonality among groups we thought might be very different. For example, there is commonality between the Tibetan people and the Jordanian Bedouin tribes. Life for both the Tibetans and Bedouin has not been easy: they have very low average yearly incomes, and many families live in poverty. The governments of both areas have found economic value in marketing these original inhabitants of the area. As in Tibet, tourism in Jordan has also become a big business, with more than a million visitors a year coming to see its many archaeological sites. Both Tibet and Jordan cater to what tourists want to see: the primitive lifestyle of the peoples. Both groups have become more modern over time, but the governments continue to promote the “Hollywood-like” image that we expect to see.
    Although we are globally connected, we still have cultural differences. That is what people want to see when they travel, and it seems to be a global trend for nations to preserve and promote their individual cultures. Most nations worldwide, including Tibet and Jordan, encourage tourism. It is good for the economy and for the people. However, it seems that China has made tourism difficult by putting a lot of restrictions on travel. It is also disappointing to see that China is stripping Tibet of its culture. Thankfully, this is not the case in Jordan where the government places value on its native people and products.

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  4. Christopher Duplay

    Culture is something that is almost always important to a group(s) of people, especially when it is trying to be pushed away for good. We learned this in Life in Jordan by looking at their cultures and traditions and how they are cherished and practiced still today. It is unfortunate that the Tibetan population living in China is not allowed to express themselves freely like the Jordanian population is. The Bedouin tribe we learned about earlier in this semester also relates to some of the struggles that the Tibetan people struggle with. Both peoples live in poverty and the government has found ways to exploit the people and land to benefit themselves more than the actual people living here. This is a practice that I think needs to change sooner than later especially in places of the world where people are barely making enough money already to live

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