"The pen is mightier than the sword." For nearly a decade, Brahm has used newspaper articles, magazines and authored over 20 books to explain current affairs, reshape stalled negotiations, and provide a communication platform to Asian leaders and policymakers. His writings reveal underlying central challenges facing Asia over the past decades.

Conciliatory Dalai Lama Expounds on Winds of Change

Written by Laurence Brahm - Published by South China Morning Post on 03/14/2005

Money is not sufficient. China is seeking a new spirituality, he says

I met His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in a Tibetan monastery near Buddha’s Bodhi tree in India, where he had been leading prayers for world peace. In a private meeting, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader expounded on the reasons for his olive-branch gesture to the Chinese government.

The Dalai Lama greeted me at the entrance of his reception chamber, rather than waiting inside. He seemed anxious to talk and keen to know about the latest infrastructure in Tibet, specifically roads, and economic conditions. Having filmed many remote regions throughout Tibet, I was able to present a clear picture of what I had seen.

He then spoke, clearly with compassion: “This is the message I wish to deliver to China. I am not in favor of separation. Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China. It is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Tibetan culture and Buddhism are part of Chinese culture. Many young Chinese like Tibetan culture as a tradition of China.”

I was taken aback. The Dalai Lama’s clear reference to the Chinese government and Tibet being an autonomous region of China was tantamount to recognition of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule and acceptance of Tibet’s current status. I asked for clarification.

The Dalai Lama then explained his position. “As the material development of China moves forward we gain materially, like the railway. If we were a separate country it would be difficult and we would not benefit,” he said.

The Tibetan government-in-exile has many factions. Moderates seek a solution and accommodation with Beijing, while radicals oppose compromise.

The Dalai Lama explained: “The Tibetan youth organisation criticises me as taking this approach out of desperation.”

He shook his head. “No, it comes out of a broader interest.”

He pointed to Europe as an example of such interest. “In the European Union each [country] carries self-interest but what is more important is common interest. It is more important than individual sovereignty,” he said. “Currency is the most potent symbol of individual sovereignty but they are willing to give it up to dissolve into common interest.

“Tibet is underdeveloped and materially backwards. We want modernization. So for our interest, we are willing to be part of the People’s Republic of China, to have it govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture, spirituality and our environment. But we can contribute to the spiritual side of China,” he said, indicating knowledge of the Chinese Communist Party’s search for new identity. “China will turn to its 5,000 year history of tradition, of which Tibet is a part.

“China seeks a new ideology. Marxism succeeded and worked for two decades. Then it became confused. This is because class struggle fostered hatred. Our teaching is non-violence. Now, the market ideology of capitalism fails to build meaningful society. Cultural heritage is easily destroyed. The CCP feels now that people must have money and this will give the party credibility. It must learn from the US and Europe that money alone does not fulfill human beings.”

The Dalai Lama’s words could have been those delivered by President Hu Jintao discussing the CCP’s crisis of ideology and the need to promote spirituality to balance China’s newly embraced materialism. Suddenly, I realized the gaps are not so wide.

“China is an ancient nation,” the spiritual leader spoke passionately.” Money is not sufficient. China is seeking a new spirituality. Tibetan Buddhism is our own culture, one part of our own culture.” In saying “our own” I realised he was including himself within China.

“they [the CCP] find it easier to accept [Buddhism] rather than western religions like Christianity. With Buddhism in the spiritual field we can help internal values, while the Chinese provide external values, and both will have mutual benefit. They will understand our centuries-old culture is rich. They will then respect Tibetan culture more and understand what we mean in our demand for meaningful autonomy.”

The Dalai Lama apparently now sought only autonomy in guiding policies on religious and cultural matters, not political, economic or diplomatic affairs, an official of the government in-exile later said.

I asked the Dalai Lama whether he was interested in visiting China. He replied: “It is China’s interest … As long as I am there I can make Tibetans calm. If I am not there, I do not know what will come. The Chinese government should use commons sense rationally, not look at things with narrow perspective.”

The Dalai Lama seemed disillusioned with developments in the west. he condemned unilateralist “warfare, exploitation, science, and technology used for killing, expanding imperialism and colonialism and discrimination”, but recognized the importance of democracy and the rule of law.

Dalai’s change of heart

1959-1979: Dalai Lama has no contract with Beijing

1979-1980: He sends three fact-finding delegations to Tibet.

February 1983: Dalai Lama expresses a desire to visit Tibet. There is little progress. He begins to speak out internationally on the issue.

September 21, 1987, in an address to US Congress Human Rights Caucus, he proposes: “Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace … Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations on between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.”

June 15, 1988, in a “Five-Point Peace Plan” submitted to the European Parliament: “ The whole of Tibet known as Cholka-Sum [including Qinghai and sections of Sinchuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces] should become a self-governing democratic political entity … The PRC could remain responsible for Tibet’s foreign policy. The government should, however, develop and maintain relations, through its own Foreign Affairs Bureau, in the fields of religion, commerce, education, culture, tourism, science, sports and other non-political activities … the government of Tibet will have the right to decide on all affairs relating to Tibet and the Tibetans.”

June 1993, in a letter to Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin: “If China wants Tibet to stay with China, then it must create the necessary conditions for this.”

October 23, 1996, in a speech to the European Parliament: “I am striving for a genuine self-government for Tibet.”

March 10, 1999, the 40th anniversary of 1959 uprising: “ The root of the Tibetan issue lies in Tibet’s long, separate history, distinct and ancient culture and unique identity … A just and fair solution on the Tibet issue will enable me to give full assurance that I will use my moral authority to persuade Tibetans not to seek separation.

July 2000, in Time magazine: “We don’t want complete independence. Beijing can manage the economy and foreign policy, but genuine Tibetan self-rule is the best way to preserve our culture.”

October 2004, in Time interview: “SO if we remain in China, we might get a greater benefit, provided it respect our culture and beautiful environment and gives us some kind of guarantee.”

December 2004, in Newsweek: “Time is running out. We need some sort of action to protect the Tibetan Culture and environment. For the foreseeable future our only possibility is within the Chinese constitutional framework … Many Tibetans – particularly the younger generation – want to modernize Tibet. It would be difficult for Tibetans to achieve this alone. Within PRC, it would be much faster.”

January 26, 2005, speaking to Laurence Brahm: “We are willing to be part of the People’s Republic of China, to have the PRC govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture, spirituality, and environment.”


Laurence Brahm is a global activist, international mediator, political columnist and author. He is the leading advocate of a fresh development paradigm - The Himalayan Consensus - an innovative approach to development.

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