Yesterday’s Foreign Policy Web site ran an interview with Robert Barnett, author of Lhasa: Streets with Memories, about the current situation in Tibet. In the interview Barnett, talks about the significance of the protests in Tibetan rural areas, the possible impact of the protests, how the Chinese and Indian governments are likely to respond to the uprisings, and what the press has missed in their coverage. Barnett writes of the recent protest movment:
We have to put aside these questions that fascinate some people, such as, “Is the Dalai Lama losing his power?” That’s the opposite of the issue here. The exile complaints are not about power. And we have to put aside suggestions that the protests in Tibet are because people are unhappy about economic loss. That really is reductive. And I think we have to get over any suggestion that the Chinese are ill-intentioned or trying to wipe out Tibet. It’s obviously horrible that people are being savagely beaten up and killed. But crucially, this is a historic change in the profile of Tibetan politics. We’re looking at something much larger than any immediate anxiety about Olympics, or whether somebody planned one of these things, or whether people are upset about economic disadvantage. Historians are going to tell us that we missed the big picture if we didn’t notice that this is the big story here. All the party cadres are going to be sent to the countryside areas to listen to the Tibetans’ complaints and find out what has gone so wrong with the policy machine in China.