China’s State Council Information Office released its latest white paper on Tibet on November 10, 2023. The document is titled “CPC Policies on the Governance of Xizang in the New Era: Approach and Achievements.” This is the 19th white paper that the Chinese government has released on Tibet. The fact that Beijing has felt the need to issue so many such documents is seen by some as a reflection of insecurity over its rule of the Tibetan people and Tibet, and a continued quest for legitimacy of its rule.
The Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have been severely criticized for its policies in Tibet. The new white paper is squarely aimed as an official rebuttal and contains a laundry list of all the achievements and progress that the Chinese government and the CCP claims to have brought in Tibet. The report covers a eleven-year period dating back to 2012 which also marked the beginning of Xi Jinping at the helm.
This is the first white paper where the name Tibet is completely missing from the document. It has been replaced by Xizang which is the Chinese name for Tibet. This, observers say, is part of a systematic and politically-driven effort by the Chinese government to replace ‘Tibet’ with ‘Xizang’ in official Chinese documents. This effort is also part of the hardline policy of assimilation and sinicization being pursued by Xi Jinping where the Tibetan people’s separate history and identity is being erased and repurposed to advance the goals of the Chinese government and the CCP.
The document’s language around “Xizang adopts a proactive approach to combat secessionism” and how the regional government “relies closely on the people of all ethnicities to resist all forms of secession and sabotage” reveals the government’s ongoing concerns around security. The language around reincarnation of Tibetan religious leaders is also important as this is an area that the Chinese authorities have been trying to assert more control. The document states that “reincarnated Tibetan living Buddhas, including Dalai Lamas and Panchen Rinpoches, must be looked for within the country, decided through the practice of lot-drawing from the golden urn, and receive approval from the central government.”
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) denounced and rejected the Chinese white paper as a propaganda document filled with “misconceptions, misinterpretations, and lies.” It called efforts to replace Tibet with Xizang as China’s “attempt to dissociate Tibet from Tibetans and the international community.” The CTA also drew attention to the fact that the white paper only covered the Tibetan Autonomous Region and not all of Tibet.
International Campaign for Tibet said in its analysis “the State Council’s white paper offers insight into the Communist Party’s repressive strategies and assimilationist ideology on Tibet through what it omits, how it manipulates and reframes terminology, and what can be read between the lines. After deducting the patently absurd sugarcoating, what remains is a people who are totally subjected to a regime that does not understand the value of their culture, does not understand the Tibetan people, their religion, their traditions and their aspirations. Such paternalistic elaborations of an autocratic one-party dictatorship should be rejected by anyone who reads the white paper.”