The Dalai Lamaâ€™s Realism The situation in Tibet cannot be resolved until and unless the future of Chinese individuals is resolved, too; the majority of the citizens of Lhasa, after all, are already Han Chinese. And one of the Tibetans in exile who knows China most intimately, and over more than half a century, is the Dalai Lama, who has been working with the Beijing leadership since the early days of Communist rule, 58 years ago, and who traveled for a year across China, against his peopleâ€™s wishes, in 1954, meeting Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. The fact that so much of the world is rising up in support of the Tibetans, and their rightful need for freedom, is clearly a wonderful thing, and this may be the one moment when China needs and seeks the approval of the larger world, and therefore might be moved to be more accommodating. But the fact remains that the Middle Kingdom, with its great tradition of pride and not taking advice from outsiders, will only respond with more violence if confronted too violently, and a delicate touch is needed if more suffering is not to descend on Tibetan and Chinese citizens who have suffered too much already. As the Dalai Lama has been saying for a long time, the important thing right now is not to focus only on right now, but on what happens after the Games are over, when the world is looking elsewhere (at Iraq, at the U.S. presidential election, at our many other problems), and China is free to execute its policies behind a curtain and with maximum ruthlessness. That is part of what moves him to urge the world to speak out on behalf of Tibet, but not lash out at the Chinese; to call passionately for the restoration of Tibetâ€™s basic rights to freedom of speech and thought, but not to denigrate the Chinese in the process (in part because so many Chinese individuals live and suffer under similar restrictions). All the world feels, acutely, the completely understandable human frustration and sorrow of the Tibetan people, after five decades and more of oppression; but impatience always backfires, and throwing a stone through your neighborâ€™s window will only lead to more ill-will and possibly decades of unwanted and unanticipated consequences â€” especially if, as in the case of China and Tibet, you are likely to be living next to one another for many more years to come. It is disingenuous for the Chinese leadership to claim the Olympics is just a sporting occasion (I know, as one who has covered five Olympiads for Time magazine); the Games are a chance for China to show off its stunning recent accomplishments to the world, as Japan did in 1964 and South Korea in 1988. But if it opens its doors truly to the world, it cannot expect the world to look past all that is so egregious and inexcusable in the Chinese governmentâ€™s denial of basic freedoms to its people. The world needs China, and China needs the world, as the Dalai Lama said when I traveled across Japan with him five months ago; freezing China out might only prompt it to create demons in its head instead of the humans who are waiting to talk tom it. But tolerance does not mean accepting what is clearly wrong, as he always stresses, and if China indeed seeks the worldâ€™s friendship, that means frank and trusting criticism and suggestions as well as mere approval. The world can be expected to listen, but not to kowtow to a China that has not shown itself hitherto very eager to listen to the world. At the same time, though, it is folly for the Tibetans to put their hopes on gestures and protests alone, when they are outnumbered by 200 to 1, and facing a neighbor who is so easily offended. The greatest asset Tibet has is a leader who speaks always for dialogue and friendship, who also happens to be the most seasoned ruler on the planet (head of his people for 67 years) and the most realistic and pragmatic political leader I have encountered in my 26 years of covering the world as a journalist. The Dalai Lamaâ€™s difficult life has never allowed him to entertain wishfulness or abstraction; he is an empiricist who works in and with the circumstances of the moment. China must be reminded of its larger responsibilities, but without excessive force; and those who despair might think of the Dalai Lamaâ€™s friend and champion Vaclav Havel, one day in prison and eight weeks later unanimously chosen president of Czechoslovakia, or his friend and colleague Desmond Tutu, one day waking up in a land of apartheid, where for 62 years he had never been allowed to vote, and the next morning in a free (but still troubled) South Africa. â€œUntil the last moment,â€ as the Tibetan leader always says, â€œanything is possible.â€ Pico Iyer is the author, most recently, of â€œThe Open Road,â€ an account of 33 years of talks with the Dalai Lama and more than 20 years of travels through China and Tibet. (2008, Knopf) http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/14/the-dalai-lamas-realism/ ************************* A dated commentary but it shows the reality of the situation how it stands, even today! It is foolish to think moral pressure will work on the Chinese, who, in the first place a devoid of morality, wherein they support regimes with arms who put down their own people as in Zimabawe and Sudan and elsewhere. It is time for the Tibetans and the Uighurs to smell the coffee!