China: Minority Region of Tibet

About the conflict between China and Tibet throuhout history.

Tibet--An autonomous region with 1.3 million people, Tibert covers about 13% of the Chinese land area. As the highest and largest plateau on earth, the Tibetan highlands are the source of many of Asia's great rivers such as the Yangtze, Mekong, and Indus. The people are primarily farmers and nomadic herdsmen.

Before the Chinese take-over, Tibet was led by a holy man and king, the Dalai Lama. Both he and the Panchen Erdeni, another civil-religious leader, were generally confirmed by the Chinese Emperor. All the land was owned by less than 3% of the population: the noble families, feudal lords, and Buddhist monasteries. The remaining 90% were serfs; 5% were slaves. Nearly 1/5 of the male population at any one time were monks, most of whom had quasi-serf status.

After their successful revolution at home, the Chinese communists defeated the small Tibetan army in an effort to bring Tibet back into the fold. As a result, in 1957, the Dalai Lama agreed to come under the Chinese umbrella so long as the political structure and religious culture remained intact and the Chinese army remained outside. For their part, the Tibetan leaders promised to reform serfdom gradually. But the reform didn't come quickly enough for the Chinese, who finally invaded Tibet and took outright control in 1959. The Chinese freed the serfs and, with the exception of a few showplaces, converted the monasteries into granaries, barracks, prisons, and offices.

Today the Chinese army remains in Tibet as an obvious military presence and as a service for the agriculture and grazing economy. The Peking Government has poured more capital and development projects into Tibet than its small population and economic return warrant in comparison with other provinces. Roads have been built to Lhasa and small-scale industries begun in the other small urban areas. Although all this effort helps secure China's border with India, pockets of resistance against the Chinese overlords still exist in Tibet's isolated upland valleys.

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