and Conflicts Between Tibet and China
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's
exiled spiritual leader
Tibet is a mountainous region located between
India, China, and Nepal. Tibetan history, as a separate and
independent country, dates back at least to the early 7th century,
with the establishment of the Tibetan Kingdom. Modern Tibet gained
independence from the Manchu Chinese Empire in 1911, and enjoyed
independence until the Communist Chinese invasion of
Tibetans are a Buddhist people, and the lure of
this faith is so powerful in Tibet that the secular leader of
Tibet since the late 1500s has been the primary Tibetan Buddhist
religious leader, known as the Dalai Lama (meaning "Ocean of
Relations between Tibet and China have been
often hostile, sometimes friendly, since the two nations first
made contact in the 700s. At times, both Tibet and China came
under the domination of foreign conquerors. In the 1200s, the
Mongol warlord, Genghis Khan and his heirs ruled Tibet and China,
and beginning in the 1600s, both Tibet and China came under the
influence of the Manchu Empire. The Manchu ruled China from 1644
until the Chinese Revolution of 1911, and began to gain influence
in Tibet in the 1720s. When the Chinese Revolution took place in
1911, ending the Manchu Empire, the people of Tibet rose up
against the Imperial troops in Lhasa and regained
Below is a partial listing of wars and
conflicts between Tibet and China. It should be noted that the
several conflicts from 1911 into the 1930s were attempts by Tibet
to throw off Manchu/Chinese domination and to reclaim ethnic
Tibetan territory occupied by the Chinese.
670 --War between Tibet and the T'ang
dynasty of China. Following this war, Tibetan influence in the
Central Asian trade routes grows.
692-- China retook western border lands
from the Tibet after defeating Tibetan forces at
763--Tibet seizes the Tang Chinese
capital city of Chang'an (now Xian)
822-- Peace Treaty between Tibet and
China defines the border between them
1207- Tibet surrenders to the Mongol
Genghis Khan, who also conquered China.
1368--When the Mongols' Yuan Empire fell
in 1368 to the ethnic-Han Chinese Ming, Tibet reclaimed
independence and refused to pay further tribute to the new Chinese
1911-1913--Tibetan Uprising --During the
anti-Manchu Chinese Revolution, Tibetans revolt and force out the
Manchu Chinese garrison. The surviving Chinese troops evacuate
Tibet by way of British India.
1918--Sino-Tibetan War-- China, having
never accepted Tibet's independence, sent troops into eastern
Tibet in 1918. This conflict is considered as a stalemate, and
ended due to British diplomacy.
1930-1932--Sino-Tibetan War--A Tibetan
army attacked Sichuan Province in China, which was then ruled by a
warlord named Liu Wen-Hui. China was at the time divided among
dozens of "Warlords" who often fought amongst themselves as well
as against the central Chinese government. Liu Wen-Hui battled the
Tibetans for several years, sometimes with the aid of other
warlords, such as the Qinghai province's warlord Ma Bu-Fang. A
peace agreement was finally signed in 1932, setting Tibet's
eastern border at the Yangtze River.
1950-1951--Chinese Communist invasion and
occupation of Tibet. The subsequent occupation and
consolidation of Communist control over the Buddhist kingdom
resulted in the destruction of thousands of Buddhist temples and
the deaths of at least tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and
other Tibetan civilians.
Tibetan Soldiers during the
1950 Chinese Invasion
1956-1959-Tibetan Revolt--Khampa rebels
in eastern Tibet rebelled against Communist Chinese rule. Up to
20,000 Tibetan guerrillas battled the Chinese army. By March,
1959, the situation in the capital city of Lhasa had deteriorated
as tens of thousands of Chinese troops occupied the city and made
preparations for an attack on the Dalai Lama's palace and his
guard force. On March 17, 1959, after two Chinese mortar shells
landed near his palace, the 14th Dalai Lama escaped from Lhasa
with his bodyguards and headed into exile in neighboring India. In
Lhasa, the Chinese troops attacked the Dalai Lama's palace,
killing thousands of Tibetan civilians who had encircled the
palace to prevent the Chinese from seizing their spiritual leader.
Over the next several days, severe urban warfare played out in the
Tibetan capital, as the Chinese consolidated their control over
the city, killing thousands of rebels and civilians. Many Tibetan
monks and civil leaders were publicly executed.
Since the Chinese takeover of Tibet, in
addition to the acts of brutality against the native population
and the religious leaders, Chinese policy has led to a large
influx of ethnic Chinese into Tibet. This is termed by many as a
form of "Demographic Genocide," with the Chinese culture beginning
to supplant the native Tibetan culture.
1956-1974-Chushi Gandrug Resistance
Movement--The American Central Intelligence Agency aided
Tibetan rebels from 1956 through 1974, when China and the U.S.
began to re-establish relations. The Tibetan guerrillas used
American-supplied weapons and training to wage a war of resistance
to the Communist occupying army. After American aid ended in the
early 1970s, the surviving rebels fled to Nepal, where they were
wiped out by Nepalese security forces.
March/April, 2008--Tibetan protests
against Chinese occupation gain the attention of the world media,
in part because China was the host of the 2008
Lama stepping down as Tibetan political leader: Speech comes on
anniversary of 1959 uprising against Chinese
control --MSNBC, March 9,
Kohn, George C. Dictionary
New York: Facts On File Publications. 1986.
3. Steems, Peter and
William L. Langer., ed. An
Encyclopedia of World History.
Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
4. Banks, Arthur S.,
Handbook of the World.
5th ed. Binghamton, NY: CQ Press, 2004.
Chronology of Tibet's History--From
History/Background of Tibet
History of Tibet--from Friends of
Secret War in Tibet--An article from
leading up to March 10th 1959--From the
Tibetan Government in Exile
Media, Blogger, and Opinion
will hold on to Tibet: US security think
tank-April 17, 2008--Times of India
article, commenting on how China will not/cannot let go of Tibet
for strategic reasons.
more sour than sweet-March 20, 2008--by
John Birmingham, author and social critic. Birmingham reminds
readers the Chinese occupation of Tibet is more accurately seen as
a brutal, amoral Communist act of repression.