It is not possible to fully understand contemporary politics between China and the Dalai Lama without understanding what happened in the 1950’s. The third volume in Melvyn Goldstein's History of Modern Tibet series, The Calm before the Storm, examines the critical years of 1955 through 1957. During this period, the Preparatory Committee for a Tibet Autonomous Region was inaugurated in Lhasa, and a major Tibetan uprising occurred in Sichuan Province. Jenkhentsisum, a Tibetan anti-communist émigré group, emerged as an important player with secret links to Indian Intelligence, the Dalai Lama’s Lord Chamberlain, the United States, and Taiwan. And in Tibet, Fan Ming, the acting head of the CCP’s office in Lhasa, launched the “Great Expansion,” which recruited many thousands of Han Cadres to Lhasa in preparation for beginning democratic reforms, only to be stopped decisively by Mao Zedong’s “Great Contraction” which sent them back to China and ended talk of reforms in Tibet for the foreseeable future. In Volume III, Goldstein draws on never-before seen Chinese government documents, published and unpublished memoirs and diaries, and invaluable in-depth interviews with important Chinese and Tibetan participants (including the Dalai Lama) to offer a new level of insight into the events and principal players of the time. Goldstein corrects factual errors and misleading stereotypes in the history, and uncovers heretofore unknown information on the period to reveal in depth a nuanced portrait of Sino-Tibetan relations that goes far beyond anything previously imagined.
A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 3 The Storm Clouds Descend, 1955–1957
When the Dalai Lama returned from his trip to Beijing in 1955, five years had passed since the Chinese had invaded Tibet's easternmost province, in October 1950. Mao at that time had decided to make Tibet a part of China for nationalistic and geopolitical reasons and was willing to do so entirely by force if need be, although he preferred to accomplish it through "peaceful liberation"-that is, through a written agreement with the Tibetan government/Dalai Lama. Mao understood that Tibet was unlike all other areas that Beijing sought to "liberate," in the sense that after the fall of the Qing dynasty, despite Chinese claims that Tibet was part of China, it operated as a de facto independent country. Not surprisingly, the Tibetan government did not want to be "liberated" and had deployed most of its armed forces-about six thousand regular and militia troops-to defend the Sino-Tibetan border (the Upper Yangtze River).
Mao, of course, knew that achieving "peaceful liberation" would not be easy, so he employed a classic "carrot-and-stick" strategy that offered the Dalai Lama especially attractive terms to return to the "motherland" while simultaneously threatening a full-scale military invasion if he did not. Beijing, therefore, called for the Dalai Lama to send a negotiating delegation to Beijing and, when the Tibetan representatives did not arrive in a timely fashion, unleashed the "stick," ordering the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to invade Chamdo, Tibet's easternmost province. After a two-week blitzkrieg-like offensive, the PLA surrounded and captured the Tibetan troops, including the Tibet governor general and his staff.The total defeat of the main Tibetan army left the road to Lhasa wide open to further invasion, but since Mao really sought "peaceful liberation" rather than military conquest, he instructed the PLA to stop and wait while China renewed its earlier call to the Dalai Lama to send representatives to negotiate the terms of an agreement to become part of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Mao commented on this in a telegram to the Southwest Bureau (SWB):
After you take Chamdo, leave only three thousand of our people there during the winter. Do not get to Lhasa this year. Withdraw our main forces to Ganzi [Xikang Province]. From the Tibetans' point of view, they may take this as a friendly gesture by us.
Mao Zedong 23 August
The Tibetan government responded to the defeat by moving the Dalai Lama to the Indian border, where he could easily escape if the Chinese invasion continued toward Lhasa, and by desperately trying to secure assistance from countries it had dealt with in the past, such as Britain, the United States, and India, as well as the UN. Tibet, however, received no assistance. The West was fighting to stop Communist aggression in Korea, but would not do the same for Tibet. That left the Tibetan government with two bad options: to fight militarily as best they could until the end, or to negotiate to secure whatever they could.
The PLA had over one million battle-hardened troops in uniform at that time, about forty thousand of which were actively participating in the Tibet campaign, so conventional warfare against the PLA, as Chamdo had demonstrated, stood no chance of success. However, a guerrilla strategy might well have been effective given Tibet's high altitude, difficult mountain terrain, and total absence of motorable roads. Supplies for a PLA force invading Lhasa from Chamdo would have had to be sent over 650 miles on pack animals, so coordinated guerrilla attacks might have slowed down the PLA's advance and bought more time for the Tibetan government to garner support from the international community and the UN.
Tibet, however, did not do that, because it was not prepared to organize and implement a guerrilla strategy. After it became a de facto independent polity in 1913, Tibet had consciously declined to modernize. In particular it had refused to create a modern and effective army and so had no professionally trained military corps in 1950. Its generals and commanders in chief were regular government officials who were appointed for short terms to these military positions and had virtually no special military training or experience. Not surprisingly, no contingency plans had been prepared to oppose the PLA through guerrilla warfare should the Chamdo army be defeated. Consequently, with its army decimated, its morale low, and the PLA poised to launch a full-scale invasion of its heartland, the Tibetan government and the Dalai Lama opted to negotiate and reluctantly sent two delegations to Beijing, one from Chamdo headed by the captured governor general, Kalön Ngabö, and another from Yadong (Tib. Tromo) through India. They arrived in late April 1951.
The Tibetan representatives had no real negotiating points, so they agreed to start the discussions using a ten-point Chinese document that laid out terms for what a peaceful liberation agreement might look like. This document, initially drafted by the Southwest Bureau under Deng Xiaoping,embodied the core of Mao's Tibet policy and was the carrot in Mao's carrot-and-stick strategy. It became the basis of the Seventeen-Point Agreement that was signed on 23 May 1951 and which gave China what Mao wanted-Tibet formally accepted that it was part of China and agreed to allow Chinese troops and officials to enter Tibet peacefully. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had achieved its paramount goal in Tibet-the legitimization of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.
In return, China agreed to allow the Dalai Lama and his government to continue to administer Tibet internally with its own laws and officials, basically as it had been doing up to then. At the same time, it also allowed the huge monastic establishment and the ubiquitous manorial estate system to continue to operate unchanged until such a time that the elite and masses in Tibet agreed to accept reforms. In other words, unlike in inland (neidi) China, where the traditional sociopolitical system and elites had been totally destroyed in the land reform movement right after liberation, in Tibet, Beijing agreed to allow the traditional sociopolitical system to remain intact for some unspecified time. Land and class reforms (called "democratic reforms" in Tibet) would need to be implemented eventually, but not until Tibetans were ready to accept such changes, although how to know when that point was reached was never clearly discussed let alone operationalized in the Seventeen-Point Agreement. Nevertheless, for the time being the CCP and PLA would have to work with the Tibetan government, not replace it. Mao's carrot, therefore, the Seventeen-Point Agreement, became the initial legal framework for Sino-Tibetan relations.
Over the next six months, roughly eight thousand Chinese troops and officials peacefully entered Lhasa, receiving polite welcomes by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government. A new chapter in Tibetan history and Sino-Tibetan relations was under way.
Incorporating Tibet territorially, however, turned out to be the easy part of China's goals for Tibet. The hard part was persuading the Tibetan elite and masses to have a positive attitude toward their new role as "citizens" of the PRC. Mao believed that long-term stability and security in Tibet were best obtained not by forcing compliance but by gradually winning over Tibetans. This ambitious goal of transforming Tibetans' attitudes was at the heart of Mao's top-down "gradualist policy."
Mao's Gradualist Policy
Mao understood that the elite had the most to lose by reforms and would be the most hostile to them, but he also believed that trying to bypass the elite by going directly to the masses, although theoretically a possibility, was unlikely to yield positive results because of the backwardness of the masses and the powerful influence of religion-lamas and monks-over their attitudes and beliefs. The CCP's options in Tibet were also limited because there were virtually no Han in Tibet who could be counted on to help them. Consequently, Mao was convinced that in Tibet the CCP's initial efforts should concentrate on winning over the elite, especially the young Dalai Lama, rather than rushing to push for reforms using their theoretical natural allies, the masses. To facilitate this, Mao emphasized that when Tibet underwent reforms, these would be what he called "peaceful" reforms, in that the elite would receive compensation for their property and would be guaranteed subsequent income comparable to what they were accustomed to in the old society. In addition, the humiliating and vicious militant "struggle sessions" that were inflicted on the elite in inland China would not be held in Tibet. Many in the elite, in fact, were to be given positions in the new socialist institutions. Mao's gradualist strategy, therefore, prioritized pragmatism over ideology and stipulated that work should proceed slowly and cautiously with respect to making changes to the traditional society. The cadres working in Tibet, therefore, were instructed repeatedly not to let their ideological enthusiasm for creating a fully socialist China impel them to start reforms in Tibet prematurely-that is, before the elite were ready-even if that meant having to leave the traditional system in place for some years. In the meantime, the CCP cadres were to treat the elite with respect and cordiality, despite their ongoing exploitation of the Tibetan masses (in the CCP's view). Deng Xiaoping's final instructions to the Sichuan troops under him who were about to leave for Tibet in 1950 illustrates this emphasis: "If the soldiers go to Tibet with the ideal of class struggle in their heads [as they did in the Han areas], when they get to Tibet and see the exploitation of the landlords they will become very anxious to intervene [and] so will do something against our [gradualist] policy. Therefore, in order for that not to happen, go to Tibet with one eye open and one eye shut."
The Chinese who arrived in Lhasa, therefore, maintained a strict code of discipline and presented themselves as a new breed of Chinese-"new Chinese" (Tib. gyami sarpa)-who had come in friendship and brotherhood to help Tibetans. In this, they contrasted themselves with the old Chinese, the Guomindang (GMD) and the Qing dynasty, whom they said were arrogant and had come to exploit and oppress Tibetans. The PLA's troops, therefore, from day one were under strict orders to expropriate nothing from the local people and to not respond to verbal insults or even to being jostled by Tibetans on the roads and in the markets. And they strictly followed this. A Chinese cadre in the Tibet Work Committee (TWC), the office of the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet (Ch. zhonggong xizang gongwei), recalled that initial period:
In the beginning, we were soldiers, but after arriving in Tibet we took off our uniforms and we became civil cadres. At that time, the discipline was very tight. We were not allowed to go to market recklessly. In those days, there were many times when the masses beat us with their fists and spit on us. We just had to clean up the spit and leave. We were not allowed to fight and scold them. The reason for tolerating this was the hope of leading them on a good path [winning them over].
Local Tibetans had not known what to expect from these "Red" Chinese and so were pleasantly surprised by their mild-mannered and well-disciplined behavior. That, however, did not change the fact that they were still aggressors who had invaded Chamdo, killed many Tibetan troops there, and forced their government to accept Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. So together with some relief that the behavior of the Red Chinese was better than expected, they also felt anger and resentment at what had befallen Tibet. They feared, too, that the initial good behavior of these atheist Communists was not genuine, and that soon their true colors would show and Tibet's great religion and way of life would come under attack.
The Tibetan elite initially responded to the presence of thousands of Han Chinese troops and officials in Lhasa and elsewhere in Tibet in a number of different ways that can roughly be aggregated into four broad categories.
The Kashag (Council of Ministers) was the main administrative office in the Dalai Lama's government, and was the Tibetan government office that would deal directly with the Chinese in implementing the Seventeen-Point Agreement. Although the Kashag strongly disliked the large Chinese military presence in Tibet, Tibet's hopeless military and diplomatic position led them, like Mao, to conclude a pragmatic strategy should be utilized, so they tried to make the best of this bad situation by developing good working relations with the Chinese officials in keeping with the agreement. The kalöns (Kashag ministers) hoped that by acting cordial, cooperative, and professional, they could gain influence with the Chinese, which could affect the extent and rate of change that the traditional religious, political, and social institutional spheres would have to undergo. By contrast, they felt that angry confrontation and opposition might provoke the PLA to go on the attack and destroy traditional Tibet.One of the kalöns, Lhalu, explained that, in the first year, "I didn't think that the old society could continue, but I also didn't think that it would vanish at once. I thought that the reforms would occur slowly, over time." So the Kashag set off to pursue a strategy of working cooperatively with the TWC.
On the other hand, there was a second, quite small, segment of socially progressive government officials who had a very different view. Their desire for change and modernization had been thwarted by the religious conservatives who had thoroughly dominated the Tibetan political system for decades, so for them the arrival of the Chinese was a long-awaited opportunity to finally develop and modernize Tibet-for example, start newspapers and build schools, hospitals, roads, and the like with the help of the Chinese.
A third segment of the elite was exemplified by the two sitsabs (acting chief ministers) who openly and actively sought to oppose the Chinese however and whenever they could. For these hard-line nationalists, whether or not the Chinese improved life in Tibet by building new schools or roads did not change the fact that the Chinese had invaded their peaceful country and were occupying it against the will of Tibetans. They wanted not "some" autonomy under close Chinese Communist control but complete freedom as had existed before 1951 in the de facto independence era, or at least the loose protectorate status they had held during the Qing dynasty era. Getting the Chinese troops and officials out of Tibet, or at least all but a small contingent, therefore, was their goal, and for the first year they tried hard to pressure the Chinese to revise the agreement and withdraw most if not all of their troops. In essence, the two sitsabs were working at cross-purposes with the Kashag, and neither office coordinated their activities. By mid-1952, the sitsabs, working with the newly created Tibetan "People's Association" (which is discussed in chapter 2), had brought Lhasa to the verge of open violence. At this point the Kashag intervened to restore calm by persuading the Dalai Lama to remove the two sitsabs from power as the Chinese were demanding.
Finally, most of the Tibetan government's lay and monk officials-that is, most of the elite-thought much like the Kashag. They did not want to be part of a Communist China and did not want a large contingent of Chinese troops stationed in Lhasa, but they did not see confrontation and violence as a useful strategy for dealing with the militarily dominant Chinese. As mentioned earlier, they had found that the Chinese troops and officials were not nearly as bad as they had previously feared. Troops and officials were showing great restraint in dealing with the populace and were not stealing or looting or bullying Tibetans, and unexpectedly they were also showing respect for core Tibetan institutions such as monks, monasteries, and temples. So in day-to-day life, the Tibetan government was administering Tibet much as it had been doing before their arrival, and its monk and lay officials were simply continuing to perform their government jobs as before, leaving the big decisions about Sino-Tibetan relations to the Kashag and the Dalai Lama.
Nevertheless, Mao's gradualist policy did not mean that the CCP was not interested in making changes or that they had accepted a loose protectorate model for Tibet, as Wang Lixiong suggested when he wrote, "The intention of the CCP ... was to 'manage' the country from afar through something very like the Qing model." To the contrary, Mao and the Central Committee wanted to start to integrate Tibet into the PRC as soon as possible, albeit clearly with the agreement of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan elite. There were a number of items, for example, that were specifically mentioned in the Seventeen-Point Agreement that the TWC cadres in Lhasa felt could be quickly implemented within the context of the gradualist policy. Some of these, like starting primary schools, would be acceptable, they felt, because these did not involve changes to the position of the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan government and did not negatively affect the underlying manorial estate and monastic systems. Others were more substantial and structural. One of the most important of these early attempts at substantial change occurred in late 1951-early 1952, when the TWC sought to implement point 15 of the agreement, which called for the creation of an official Chinese government office called the "Military-Administrative Committee" that would oversee the implementation of the Seventeen-Point Agreement. Point 15 specified:
In order to ensure the implementation of this agreement, the Central People's Government shall set up a military-administrative committee and a military area headquarters in Tibet, and apart from the personnel sent there by the Central People's Government shall absorb as many local Tibetan personnel as possible to take part in the work.
Local Tibetan personnel taking part in the military-administrative committee may include patriotic elements from the local government of Tibet, various districts and leading monasteries; the list of names shall be drawn up after consultation between the representatives designated by the Central People's Government and the various quarters concerned, and shall be submitted to the Central People's Government for appointment.
Despite the fact that this would not replace the Tibetan government and was specified in the agreement, the Tibetan side strenuously objected to implementing this change, so Mao, in keeping with his gradualist policy, decided it was best not to force this and backed off, placing the plans for the Military-Administrative Committee in abeyance.
As a consequence, during the 1951-55 period, the Chinese side had no separate governmental organization in Tibet, and the TWC, which was the Communist Party organization in Tibet, took on this role. It initially drew its members from the northwest and southwest army troops; and while shallow in organization in the beginning, it quickly grew and expanded with deployments from the Southwest Bureau in Chengdu and the Northwest Bureau in Lanzhou.
However, the CCP won a minor symbolic victory when a "joint" Tibetan Area Military Headquarters was established in February 1952 with two kalöns (Ngabö and Ragashag) being appointed vice commanders in the PLA. Here too, however, they lost out on the main issue when the Tibetan government refused to place what was left of the Tibetan army under the jurisdiction of this military headquarters.
Tibet, therefore, in the period covered by volume 2 (1951-55) of A History of Modern Tibet, continued to be governed internally by the traditional (Dalai Lama's) government, which basically made all decisions regarding its own land and people as it had before 1951. The Dalai Lama's government continued to recruit, train, and promote its own officials and administer its laws internally through its own system of districts. It also adjudicated disputes and prosecuted and punished criminals according to its own laws, and it even created new offices, such as its own "Reform Office." Similarly, the Dalai Lama's government collected and utilized taxes as before and not only continued to utilize its own currency but also refused to utilize Chinese paper money, accepting only Chinese silver dollar coins (Ch. dayan). On top of that, four divisions of the traditional Tibetan army (about three thousand troops) were still intact and continued to use their own uniforms and weapons and carry their own flag (which was almost indistinguishable from what now is the Tibetan national flag). Its army officers were appointed by the Tibetan government through its own Military Command Headquarters, so the PLA had no administrative control over the Tibetan military.
Tibet's vast monastic system, too, continued to function without interference from the Chinese. It performed its regular calendric rituals, held its daily prayer chanting sessions, lent out vast sums of money and grain, and collected taxes from its estates. The Chinese officials in Lhasa, in fact, were constantly trying to influence the attitude of the monks and monastic leadership by showing respect in their face-to-face meetings and by giving generous alms at religious ceremonies. And in the countryside, the political and economic situation did not change for Tibetan farmers and nomads, who continued to be under the control of estates and lords. The TWC, moreover, did not launch mass propaganda campaigns in rural Tibet to teach peasants about their exploitation by landlords and the advantages of "democratic reforms."
In addition, the Tibetan government's decisions and actions regarding internal Tibetan affairs did not have to be vetted first by the Chinese side, but the converse was not true for things that affected Tibetan society. For example, when the TWC wanted to start Tibet's first primary school, it first approached the Kashag and secured its input and consent. While the Kashag agreed to most such things, on some issues, such as the army and the Military-Administrative Committee, it did not. Consequently, much of what the TWC did in Tibet between 1951 and 1955 was what the Chinese call "united front" activities-that is, building relationships with the Tibetan elite and masses by starting new youth and women's associations in which members, mostly from the elite, were educated about socialism and its benefits; setting up schools and free medical clinics; giving out loans to villagers; and significantly, organizing trips to inland China for the elite and others.Together, these were expected to be an important mechanism for widening the horizon of Tibetans to include the modern world (the Chinese version), and to gradually prompt Tibetans to desire modernization and development in Tibet-that is, to develop more progressive views.
However, while Mao believed that his gradualist policy of effecting change by means of the elite, especially the Dalai Lama, could induce a substantial segment of the elite to accept the need for reforms, his Tibet policy also had another major component that called for rapidly solidifying and stabilizing China's position in Tibet in terms of supplies and transportation. To this end, the TWC from the start sought to stabilize the food supply for its troops and cadres by securing land from the Kashag on which its troops began growing some of their own food. At the same time, it negotiated permission from India to transship Chinese rice, sent first via sea, though India. In addition, construction was immediately started on northern and southern motor roads that would link Tibet to inland China and guarantee a steady flow of supplies. The northern road was to go from Golmud in Qinghai Province to Lhasa and the southern road from Dartsedo in Xikang Province to Lhasa. A total of a hundred thousand soldiers, farmers, and workers were engaged in the road construction before it was finally completed in December 1954. Moreover, while the Dalai Lama's government was allowed to continue to administer Tibet internally, the TWC took control of borders and foreign affairs, creating a new "joint" Foreign Affairs Assistance Office under the central government and a system of border entry-exit posts staffed by its own cadres and troops.
Finally, although Mao's aim of winning over Tibetans was the main focus of his realpolitik Tibet policy, the "stick" was always there in the background as a last resort. Mao and other top Chinese leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping, frequently said internally that if the gradualist policy failed and Tibetans tried to revolt, the PLA would counterattack, destroy the threat, and transform Tibet by force. Mao's attitude was that even if the best strategy (winning over the elite) failed and the worst strategy (resorting to military force) had to be used owing to a Tibetan uprising, that would not represent a total failure, since China would win such a confrontation and it would mean that reforms would be implemented sooner. Nevertheless, it is clear that Mao felt the long-term interests of China were best served by winning over Tibetans through the elite, especially the Dalai Lama. Consequently, his gradualist strategy, as will be seen in later chapters, was not simply a ploy to buy time until the position of the CCP and PLA was stable and secure and the CCP and PLA were strong enough to put down a revolt, but rather it reflected Mao's realpolitik understanding of how best to incorporate Tibet for the long run, and it continued long after the CCP and PLA had achieved real stability and security in Tibet.
One of the most common and serious mistakes made by writers trying to understand the history of the CCP in Tibet has been to view it and the army as if they constituted a monolithic entity with a homogeneous policy. In fact, Mao's gradualist policy was not without opposition. As was examined in detail in volume 2, Fan Ming, the senior official from the Northwest Bureau and First Field Army in Tibet, disagreed fundamentally over policy with Mao and Zhang Guohua, the senior figure from the rival Southwest Bureau and Second Field Army.
Fan Ming believed it was futile to expect that the Dalai Lama and his aristocratic-religious elite would ever voluntarily give up their power and positions, so it was pointless, even counterproductive, to pursue Mao's top-down, gradualist policy. He was convinced that the Dalai Lama and the Kashag were trying to dupe Beijing by externally talking cordially and progressively in order to actually keep the old society in place and gain time to try to split Tibet from China. Letting them administer Tibet internally for more time, therefore, was precisely the wrong tactic and not only would ultimately fail but also would foster more splittist activities, not more loyalty, as well as leave the Tibetan masses under what he viewed as the exploitive control of manorial estates and lords. And of course, it meant that these tough PLA officers and troops also had to continue to treat the type of elite that they had destroyed and humiliated in the rest of China with deference and respect in Tibet. Fan felt, therefore, that it was in China's and the Tibetan masses' best interests to force reforms as soon as possible. The 10th Panchen Lama was to be his main vehicle for achieving this.
The 9th Panchen Lama had fled to China in 1924 after a serious dispute with the 13th Dalai Lama and never was able to return to Tibet, dying in exile in Qinghai Province in 1937. A few years after that, in 1941, the officials of the late Panchen Lama, who were still in Qinghai Province, found his successor in that province. This four-year-old boy became the 10th Panchen Lama, although the Dalai Lama's government did not recognize him as the genuine incarnation at that time. Because of this and other issues stemming from the 9th Panchen Lama's flight from Tibet, the 10th Panchen Lama and his entourage were never able to return to Tibet either and hated the Tibetan government for this. Consequently, as the Chinese civil war was ending, they decided to support the CCP, whom they felt would best be able to facilitate their return to their rightful status and property in Tibet. So on 1 October 1949, the twelve-year-old Panchen Lama sent telegrams to Mao and Peng Dehuai (the head of the NWB and Second Field Army, under whose authority Qinghai fell), congratulating them on the founding of the PRC and extending his support for the commitment by the PLA and CCP to "liberate" Tibet. As the Panchen Lama's entourage had hoped would happen, the CCP and PLA subsequently insisted that the Seventeen-Point Agreement include a point on the restoration of the Panchen Lama's property and status, and he returned to Tibet from exile in China in March 1952, escorted by troops and officials from the NWB.
Fan Ming's plan involved convincing Beijing that the Panchen Lama's home area in southwestern Tibet (Tib. tsang) should, as the Panchen Lama's officials claimed, be treated as a political and administrative unit equal to that of the Dalai Lama's. Fan Ming was, basically, trying to persuade Beijing to recognize the Panchen Lama as the head of an autonomous region, using as evidence the old Qing dynasty concepts of a "Front" and "Back" Tibet-Front Tibet (Ch. qiang zang) referring to the Dalai Lama's area, and Back Tibet (Ch. hou zang) the Panchen Lama's area. Fan Ming believed that if this could be achieved, he could easily persuade the Panchen Lama to voluntarily start democratic reforms in his own region and end the manorial estate system there (since the Panchen Lama would then have been able to do this without first having to secure permission from the Dalai Lama's government). Fan was sure that, when the peasants in the Dalai Lama's region saw the Panchen Lama's peasants getting their own land and not having to provide corvée labor to their lords, they would demand the same reforms and the Dalai Lama would have to comply.
Fan Ming was also at the center of a bitter internal conflict in Lhasa between the NWB and SWB over the leadership of the TWC. This conflict pitted Fan Ming against Zhang Guohua, and it actually started the moment Fan Ming and his First Field Army cavalry troops arrived outside of Lhasa at the end of November 1951, a month after Zhang Guohua had arrived with the main Eighteenth Army Corps.
Fan Ming believed that he should be the first secretary of the TWC in Lhasa and that Zhang Guohua should act only as the head of the Tibetan Military Region-that is, the army. Zhang, on the other hand, believed equally strongly that it had been agreed in Sichuan and Beijing before he left for Tibet that he would head both the TWC and the Military Headquarters, so he refused to allow Fan to become head of the TWC.
A Chinese cadre who came with Fan Ming in 1951 recollected how the Fan Ming-Zhang Guohua conflict began and escalated:
This was trouble inside the party.... Although Fan Ming was a party member, he was the one who caused trouble and did bad things. I arrived in Lhasa on the fifteenth of November in 1958 [sic; 1951]. I was there as a staff member of the [NWB] secretariat and was also ... a deputy battalion leader....
Zhang Guohua was the commander of the Eighteenth Army Corps, which was the main PLA force staying in Tibet, so in accordance with the rules, when his forces first marched into the city [Lhasa], he had held a very elaborate [entrance] ceremony, playing music, and so forth....
When we [the NWB cavalry troops] arrived, ... because the Eighteenth Army had already held a big [celebratory] event when they entered the city, he [Fan Ming] didn't need to have another celebratory entrance, but he insisted and said openly, "My duty is to take over responsibility for local affairs." What he meant was that he would take responsibility for local affairs and that "your duty [the PLA's Eighteenth Army and Zhang Guohua] is to defend the border. I am the one who must do the internal work." ... Actually when the Eighteenth Army departed from Sichuan, the Central Military Commission had carved a wooden seal ... on which was written, "The CCP Tibet Work Committee" [Ch. zhonggong xizang gongwei], and this seal was held by Zhang Guohua, its head.
Fan Ming ... was the head of another work committee, called the CCP Northwest Tibet Work Committee [Ch. zhonggong xizang xibei gongwei].... [However,] ... unlike the [SWB's] Tibet Work Committee, which had been given permission to work in Tibet by the Central Committee, the Northwest Tibet Work Committee had been given permission only by the Northwest Military Administrative Committee [Ch. xibei jun zheng wei yuan hui]. They hadn't received permission from the Central Committee, which didn't even know about that.
When we first arrived at Lhasa, [we stayed] on the very big sandy plain below Sera Monastery where the local government held its horse races at the Tibetan New Year's celebrations. [This was a few miles north of the city.] I was the one in charge of the tents.... We [Fan Ming and the NWB cadres] were saying that we must hold a big ceremony when we first enter the city, so we stopped on the sandy plain [to arrange this]. At that time, Zhang Jingwu was also in Lhasa as the representative of the Central Committee, but when they talked to each other about this, Zhang Jingwu didn't agree [to have another celebration]. Fan Ming, however, was insisting, saying that he will not enter the city without holding a ceremony. So although we arrived [below Sera] on the 15th of November, it was only on the 1st of December that the dispute over this was settled.
Q: You mean you couldn't decide about entering the city, right?
A: Yes. To tell you the truth, this person [Fan Ming] was not good. No honest ordinary person, let alone a party member, would do that unless he was audacious [Tib. ham pa tsha po].... Later, Zhang Guohua compromised and agreed to [let him] hold a ceremony when entering the city.
At that time, very disgraceful things were done that I will tell you now. The cadres with ranks above the county level all had their own riding horses as well as one horse for carrying the bedding of two people. ... When we arrived at Lhasa, these horses had become thin, and they didn't have hay to eat [in Lhasa], so most of them were sent to the Damshung pasture area [about sixty miles northwest of the city to graze]. However, he [Fan Ming] insisted that the horses and camels be brought back so people could ride their horses and load the [other] horses with their bedding [for the celebration].
The worst thing was that we had brought a U.S.-made jeep [from World War II]. We took out the engine and loaded it on mules and then made two mules carry the jeep's body like a palanquin. From Chamdo [sic; Xining] to Lhasa about fifty mules died from carrying the jeep.... I swear by the three jewels that this happened. Before the departure [from Qinghai] we sent these mules to the best pastures in Qinghai, so all the horses and mules had become fat. However, when he arrived at the Damshung area, our riding horses had become very weak and couldn't walk well, and many mules had died....
On the day we entered [into Lhasa], we used the jeep, which we had reassembled. It was good-looking and there were two drivers. They took off the top of the American jeep and made a frame to hold a large portrait of Chairman Mao, which they tied in front of the jeep's windshield. They placed a bodyguard near the portrait, and we followed the jeep in two lines riding our horses. When we reached the front of the Potala [Palace], all of a sudden a very strong gust of wind blew down from the east gate of the Potala and knocked Chairman Mao's portrait forward onto the jeep's hood with the sound of tok.
This was a disgraceful thing to have occurred, and on the next day, the Lhasa people, who were very skillful at composing sarcastic things [songs/verses] that insulted high personages, made up [a verse/song]: "When the Chinese came to Lhasa and arrived in front of the Potala, the Buddha probably got agitated and blew on Chairman Mao's portrait, making it fall down on the jeep so people couldn't see his face."
After that, they [Fan Ming, Zhang Guohua, and Zhang Jingwu] argued; and when the TWC was to be formally set up, Fan Ming didn't agree [to the leadership], insisting that he had to be the main party secretary [not Zhang Guohua].... So he spent a week and wrote a plan of almost ten thousand characters ... whose title was: "Some Strategies on the Present United Front Work Line in Tibet." Then he called a meeting of the work committee and presented it there, but nobody agreed, so finally he submitted it to the Central Committee. Consequently, the TWC could not set up according to the [original] plan, so the Central Committee was in a desperate situation.
This dispute dragged on for months and placed Mao and the Central Committee in an awkward position. They did not want to insult or alienate either the SWB or NWB by choosing either Zhang Guohua or Fan Ming as first secretary, so they finally decided to appoint a "neutral" figure, Zhang Jingwu, to head the TWC. He was initially sent to Tibet from Beijing as the representative of the Central Committee and was expected to quickly return to his position in Beijing, but because of this dilemma, on 7 March 1952 the Central Committee instructed him to stay in Lhasa as first secretary of the TWC, although he also retained his position in Beijing. Zhang Jingwu was a perfect choice, since he was a Beijing official and so, technically, was part of neither the SWB nor NWB. On the other hand, he had previously worked in both the NWB and the SWB and had good relations with both sides. The instructions also specified that Zhang Guohua was to be appointed first deputy secretary (and head of the Tibetan Military Region), Tan Guansan (of the SWB) was to be appointed second deputy secretary, and Fan Ming was made third deputy secretary. However, to placate Fan Ming and the NWB, he and his NWB colleagues were given important authority over the day-to-day operation of the TWC; for example, Fan was appointed head of the important United Front Work Department, which managed relations with Tibetans, and Ya Hanzhang was given the position of general secretary of the TWC. Other top NWB cadres, such as Mu Shengzhong, also were given important positions. Consequently, although Zhang Jingwu supported Mao's Tibet policy and therefore also sided with Zhang Guohua, he was sufficiently politically neutral in the SWB-NWB conflict to ensure that the conflict did not escalate further.
Fan Ming, however, continued to push strongly for treating the Panchen Lama and Back Tibet as equal to the Dalai Lama, while Zhang Guohua argued strenuously against this and Zhang Jingwu backed him. This issue was resolved when Mao again intervened and summoned the main figures to Beijing in 1953 for a meeting to settle the intraparty discord. A Chinese cadre recalled,
Then finally ... in 1953, the Central Committee, out of desperation, called them to Beijing.... At that time, from the Northwest, Fan Ming, Ya Hanzhang, and Mu Shengzhong came to the meeting, and on the other side [from the Southwest] Zhang Guohua and Wang Qimei came. Tan Guansan didn't come.... They met ... for fifty-nine days over a two- or three-month period, but [still] couldn't reach a unified resolution.... Finally, in June-July , at the Fourth Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee Assembly of the CCP, a resolution was passed, called, "The resolution on having unity and friendship in the party." The purpose of this resolution was [to deal with] an antiparty group within the party that consisted of three people, Gao Gang and so forth. They were destroyed in order to strengthen the unity inside the party.
[Deng Xiaoping then] came to the Tibet cadres' meeting and distributed this resolution [to the TWC representatives], telling them to study it for two days. They [Fan and his NWB colleagues] got scared by this [fearing that they too might be labeled as an antiparty group], so they yielded [and agreed to the primacy of the Dalai Lama over the Panchen Lama]. However, although the matter was finally settled, Fan Ming must have been angry, because he said that he was not going back to Tibet, but the Central Committee persuaded him to change his mind and sent him back.
Despite this defeat, Fan Ming continued to try to implement his views and start reforms quickly in Tibet. As is detailed in later chapters, he almost succeeded in 1956.
The Dalai Lama in Inland China
The Dalai Lama visited Beijing in 1954-55 to attend the first National People's Congress (NPC) and to meet Mao and the other top Chinese leaders. This presented Mao a unique opportunity to interact directly with the Dalai Lama, since in Tibet the Dalai Lama was cloistered and not easily accessible to either Tibetan or the Chinese officials. Mao hoped that this direct access would enable him to convince the Dalai Lama (and the top officials in his entourage) that the CCP saw Tibet as a valued part of the new China and was committed to helping develop and modernize Tibet through the Dalai Lama. At the same time, Mao hoped he would be able to secure the Dalai Lama's agreement to now implement the changes the Chinese had placed in abeyance in 1952.
China's top leaders were pleased to find that the Dalai Lama not only was intelligent but also was open to new ideas and was socially progressive in his outlook. Seeing a modern country with roads and factories made a deep impression on the nineteen-year-old Dalai Lama and solidified his own feeling that Tibet was hopelessly poor, backward, and badly in need of material development and modernization. And critically, the Dalai Lama came to see modernization not as competition with or a threat to Tibet's religious institutions and system of mass monasticism, which he and Tibetans in general saw as the defining feature of the Tibetan civilization's greatness. With the Dalai Lama thinking this way, the process of starting to reform Tibet seemed close at hand. Mao's gradualist policy now appeared to have been the correct strategy and a great success.
The Dalai Lama also came to learn about Marxism through many informal discussions with Liu Geping and Phüntso Wangye, two high-level CCP cadres who were accompanying him while he was touring in eastern China. As a result of their many discussions, the Dalai Lama came to the conclusion that Buddhism and Communism had a lot in common-for example, both were ideologies whose goal was to end people's "suffering." Being a part of an otherwise atheist Communist state, therefore, seemed less incompatible and threatening than it had at first glance. The Dalai Lama commented on this in an interview:
In 1954, I went down to China and met Mao Zedong many times; and when I went on tours, whichever place I got to, it was easy to talk to Communist party members. When they gave an opinion, it seemed that they really gave meaningful ones.... From their mouth they used to say "comrade," and it really looked like they were really comrades; [it was] kind of strange [in a nice way]. When the nonparty members spoke, it seemed like they were too polite and without substance.
My nature since young had a strong urge to help the poor. So from this perspective, the Marxist philosophy of the proletariat used to seem very attractive and believable to me.
I also liked their internationalism, which advocated the nonexistence of national boundaries or race, but the equality of all mankind. The poor were to become a worldwide proletarian [sic] in an International Movement. So from this perspective, I liked the ideas and the equality of all people under socialism. When the Communists called each other comrades, it seemed like they really trusted each other and were really dedicated persons. So I went down to China in 1954 and came up in 1955. At that time I liked [the socialist ways] quite a lot. I had great hopes that we could make progress in Tibet, sort of with the help of the Chinese.
The impact of all this on the Dalai Lama was so profound that he actually asked to join the Communist Party.
Q: You said a number of times, Your Holiness, that you would like to become a party member. To whom did you say that?
A: Yes. Because there was an attraction. Not [for] power. Because Phüntso Wangye and Liu Geping- And during, I think, [the] six- to seven-months' tour within China, every place I had talk[s] with leaders, so when I met a party member like the [party] secretary, ... those party members' discussions [were] always very useful; nonparty member[s], too much polite, and sometimes there is nothing to talk about; they are very polite and talking about the weather: "Tibet in winter it is windy, and in summer rainy." Silly. Wasteful.
The party member: hard work, lead people, and change. I remember in Jiangsu, the fu shengzhang [deputy provincial governor], one member of the Long March who had been injured, his voice [was] very weak. I remember his voice and face very clearly. And we just casually discussed about New Years, and I mentioned some of the ceremonial in Tibet, in Lhasa. Long ceremony. Then he told me [that] to change old ceremony [at] once [is] impossible. Each time reduce [it] by one hour. Like that, always their side some commitment, how to change, how to improve. So I have very good impression. And then, of course, there was Peng Dehuai. Very straightforward. Not much talk. Lobsang Samden gives him nickname, "Dobdo," also called him "Guri" [shaven head]. Also Chen Yi, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Deng Xiaoping: all these party leaders, top party leaders, something, something. Then nonparty member ... all have very high position but already experienced that they are just a name, so accordingly they act like everything [is] very superficial.
So through that, [the] long lecture[s] from Liu Geping translated by Phüntso Wangye, I got genuine interest on Marxist revolution. So therefore I still describe myself as half Marxist and half Buddhist. So still I have some admiration [and] agreement with Marxist theory. ...
So that is my main motivation. I wanted to join the party. And Liu Geping told me it is not good. It is better to postpone. Phüntso Wangye and, I think, Liu Geping both told me you can participate in party meeting with the status of nonparty member but can [still] meet.... So Phüntso Wangye [is] one Khamba revolutionary I am one Amdo revolutionary, I think.
Tara, then a monk official in the Dalai Lama's entourage (now his private secretary), summed this up similarly in an interview:
In 1954, His Holiness went down to China, and in 1955 he came back. At that time, His Holiness, the two tutors, most of the kalöns, and a large number of Kudrag [officials] were there-at that time they all liked what they saw in China, and they were very happy. They thought that if we could make things work and really have good relations, then Tibet would also develop. They had a very strong belief that it was good to stay with China. So, because of this, the advice that was being given was: don't make problems now. You have to have good relations with the Chinese, so don't argue and lift your hands immediately about small things. Have tolerance. We have to develop our country, so be industrious in your studies. Whatever religious work you have to do, do it well. Have good relations with the Chinese and be on good terms. So His Holiness as well as the lamas always and constantly advised like this.
For the Dalai Lama, the trip was also a huge personal success. His entourage's initial fear that he would receive shabby treatment from the atheist rulers of China that would tarnish his stature-or even worse, that he would not be allowed to return to Lhasa-had proved totally false. With only one exception, in Chengdu on the return trip, China's top leaders treated the Dalai Lama with great dignity and respect. As a result, he now felt more comfortable about working out a future for Tibet in which the core of Tibet's greatness-Buddhism and monasticism-would continue to flourish, while close cooperation with the Chinese government would bring development and modernization in the form of things like roads, schools, vehicles, factories, and the like to improve the standard of living of all Tibetans.
The Chinese side, as indicated earlier, hoped the Dalai Lama's visit would create the cordial and cooperative atmosphere in which they could persuade him to agree to the previously mentioned reforms that had been stipulated in the Seventeen-Point Agreement but not implemented in 1952-54 owing to Tibetan opposition. These were (1) the creation of the Military-Administrative Committee, (2) the elimination of Tibet's traditional currency, and (3) the incorporation of Tibet's remaining army units into the PLA.
The Tibetan side expected to discuss issues such as this, but was totally surprised when Mao told the Dalai Lama at their first meeting that he now agreed with them that the Military-Administrative Committee was inappropriate for Tibet. After informing the Dalai Lama that it was still too early to implement all of the points stipulated in the Seventeen-Point Agreement, he said that it was no longer necessary to create a Military-Administrative Committee. Such "committees," Mao explained, were meant to be transitional-until people's governments could be started-and had already been phased out in all large regions in China. He proposed that Tibet could skip this stage and go directly to creating in its place the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR); the Dalai Lama would be its head and the Panchen Lama the deputy head. An autonomous region, Mao said, would also be better because China's new constitution specified that minority regions would exercise autonomous rule. Mao suggested that a "preparatory committee" be created to oversee the establishment of a full Tibet Autonomous Region. This came to be known as the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region, or PCTAR (Ch. xizang zizhiqu choubei weiyuanhui; Tib. pö ranggyongjong tratri uyön lhengang).
Mao had conveyed some of his thinking about the creation of the TAR and its leadership when he spoke to the Constitutional Draft Committee in Beijing three months before the Dalai Lama left Lhasa for Beijing. In a revealing comment, Mao informed this committee that conditions were not then appropriate in Tibet to create a people's congress and people's government as had been done elsewhere in China, so appointing the Dalai Lama to head a new TAR was a necessary compromise that, he said, adhered to the "spirit" of the constitution. Mao's logic for this was, like the rest of his Tibet policy, pragmatic. Given Tibetans' strong belief in the Dalai Lama, he explained, his position was a functional equivalent to his having been elected by the people, which would have had to be done to create a people's government and people's congress. Mao said,
In order to give special consideration to minority nationalities and the situation in Tibet, we created the third point of the sixty-first item in the draft [constitution]. It states, "The actual form of the autonomous government in the areas where minority nationalities live should be determined according to the will of the majority people of that nationality."
At present, the Dalai manages Tibet. If we follow the second point of the sixty-first item, we will have to hold a conference of the People's Congress to elect officials for the People's Government [there]. If that is that case, the Dalai probably won't be happy. He could raise questions with us regarding the Seventeen-Point Agreement that he signed with us. What shall we do? We should act according to the third point. It is not feasible to set up a people's government, but we can choose other formats. The Dalai is a living Buddha. He is a living god. He was not elected by the people. However, we cannot hold an election right now, so we should let the majority of people decide what is the form of the new power. They believe in the Dalai and the tusi[local chiefs] much more than they believe in us. It is impossible to shake his position. Therefore, let us act according to the will of majority of the people [who support the Dalai Lama as their leader]. If we do not do this, what else can we do?
I once told a group of representatives from Tibet that we will not force you to do anything. You will decide yourselves whether you want land reforms or elections. However, can we discard the Seventeen-Point Agreement? No. We must realize it. However, if they do not want to realize one of the points in the agreement right now, we could hold up doing that temporarily, because the agreement did not stipulate that the points must be realized before a certain date. We have delayed it by three years. If necessary, we can wait three more years. After three years, we can wait for another three years, or even another three years after that. It will be fine even if we wait nine years.
We cannot do things that other people dislike. We should wait for the day that the people [masses] gain the initiative. We believe that the people will understand these. We once published in an editorial, "The Han cadres should not do things that the Tibetan people dislike. They should act according to the will of majority people."
In the third point of the sixty-first item, should we add the will of the leaders of minority nationalities besides the will of people? It is okay if we do not add this [a reference to the will of the leaders]. In a word, they absolutely support their own leader and believe that their leader is sacred and inviolable. However, in the constitution, if we added these words, it would look bad. So we did not.
Printed according to the recording of the speech of Chairman Mao kept in the Central Archives.
The Dalai Lama recounted his surprise at Mao's comments and suggestions at their initial meeting in Beijing:
So the main thing was that in the Seventeen-Point Agreement it was said the Military-Administrative Committee should be established. So when I was in Beijing, Chairman Mao suggested to me that now the Tibet situation over the past few years has made much progress so there is no need to establish that Military-Administrative Committee. So instead of that, the Autonomous Region should be established. So for that there should be a preparatory committee.
To us, it seemed that the very name TAR was much nicer than the Military-Administrative Committee, so we appreciated this and promptly agreed. ...
Q: How did the Chinese explain it was going to function? The Tibetan government existed, and now there is going to be a TAR. How did they explain the difference between these two in terms of work?
A: I can't remember clearly anything about how to dissolve the Tibetan government. But for the PCTAR, they said that all the important people should be Tibetan. They used as an example Ulanhu [an ethnic Mongol who was a high central government official], as the chairman of the Mongolian Autonomous Region.... So when that started, I was to be the head, and the Panchen Rinpoche the deputy.
The two Kashag ministers in Beijing, Surkhang and Ngabö, convened a meeting of the senior officials to act as a kind of informal assembly to discuss this. Like the Dalai Lama, they interpreted Mao's suggestion as a Chinese concession to their concerns and so, in this sense, were pleased. They also liked the fact that the Chamdo region, control over which had been lost after their defeat in 1950 when the Chinese created a Chamdo Liberation Committee to administer it separately from the Dalai Lama's government, would be reunited politically with Tibet (the TAR). However, they disliked the Chinese side's conception of the proposed TAR as being comprised of three discrete Tibetan stakeholders: the Dalai Lama's government, the Chamdo Liberation Committee, and the Panchen Lama's Administrative Council (Tib. nangmagang), because Chamdo and the Panchen Lama had really been subordinate parts of the unitary Tibetan government in the past. In addition, some-high officials like the anti-Chinese Phala, the Dalai Lama's lord chamberlain (Tib. drönyerchemmo)-were suspicious and apprehensive about the long-term implications of the creation of a TAR. The Dalai Lama recalled Phala's reluctance: "When we were in China and were talking about the TAR, Phala was a bit of a hard-liner. He was suspicious of the Chinese. He wondered what they were up to."
Ultimately, however, all agreed, albeit with different levels of enthusiasm. The Dalai Lama thought this was a good idea and a major improvement over the "Military-Administrative Committee." He was enthusiastic about his reception in Beijing and the prospects of developing and modernizing Tibet, so he wanted to demonstrate to Mao his willingness to be an enlightened partner. In this atmosphere of friendship and cordiality, the Dalai Lama did not want to appear backward-looking and uncooperative.
The Kashag, too, found it difficult to oppose a TAR. Ngabö, the kalön who headed the delegation that signed the Seventeen-Point Agreement, felt strongly that Tibet had to move forward and adapt to the new reality that it was part of the PRC. More than the other kalöns, he was convinced that the Tibetan government had to be a serious and cooperative partner with Beijing, and that meant it was time for Tibet to begin to change and reform major aspects of its traditional system such as the manorial estate system. He felt that the fate of Tibet was in the hands of the CCP, and that Tibet's best chance to preserve its core religious institutions and substantial political autonomy under the Dalai Lama was not only to employ a strategy of cooperation and partnership with the Chinese government but also to show that it was proactive by actually starting to implement reforms itself. So he strongly advocated accepting a TAR. He used to say that wearing a hat one made for oneself is more comfortable than wearing a hat made for someone else.
Surkhang, the other kalön in Beijing, was, like Ngabö, smart, and he understood intellectually the need for good relations and collaboration with the TWC, so he, too, agreed to the TAR. However, he believed that in the end the Communists would destroy the old system and, with it, the elite like him, as they had done in the rest of China. So although openly cordial and friendly in his role as kalön, he had few illusions about the future under China and believed it was only a matter of time before he would have to leave Tibet and shift to India. As was mentioned earlier and will be discussed further in chapter 2, he had been behind the sending of a secret cable in 1951 from Yadong telling the acting kalöns and acting sitsabs in Lhasa to start trying to orchestrate common people to organize, so that they could be used as leverage to apply pressure on the Chinese to not force major changes.
Surkhang also decided at the last minute not to return to Tibet in 1951. He had left Yadong with the Dalai Lama, but feigned illness when the entourage reached Gyantse, and returned to Kalimpong for "treatment." He stayed in Kalimpong until mid-1952, when strong letters from his parents telling him to come home changed his mind. Moreover, when Surkhang accompanied the Dalai Lama to India in 1956, his family too went to India; but when the time came for the Dalai Lama to return in 1957, Surkhang left his son and younger brother, Khenjung, in Kalimpong to set up a household there with some of their wealth. Then the next year, he quietly sent his daughter and niece to India. Kalön Surkhang's wife said that he had been sending things out to India in batches since 1956. So while he understood that he and the other kalöns had to interact cooperatively with the Chinese, he was, from the start-unlike Ngabö- personally dubious about any long-term future for the autonomy of the current Tibetan government and for the position of the aristocratic and monastic elite.
In any case, the Kashag had been telling the TWC since 1951 that it was not possible to create the Military-Administrative Committee because it was inappropriate for the "military" to be involved in administering Buddhist Tibet, so Mao's offer to create an "autonomous region" headed by the Dalai Lama left them with no obvious grounds to continue to object. Consequently, the leading officials followed the Dalai Lama in agreeing to establish the TAR, although Phala and some others did more than simply "wonder" what the Chinese were up to and sought to reverse these agreements after he returned to Lhasa.
Once the TAR proposal was accepted in principle by the Dalai Lama, Li Weihan, head of the United Front Work Department, organized a meeting of representatives from the four constituent groups (the Tibetan government, the Panchen Lama's Administrative Council, the Chamdo Liberation Committee and the CCP's Tibet Work Committee) to discuss the issue. Beginning in late November, this group held numerous meetings and private discussions to iron out the structure of this new institution and, on 30 December 1954, issued a unanimous report that set out the concrete measures to be taken to form the Preparatory Committee. The State Council approved this on 9 March 1955.
The PCTAR would consist of fifty-one members, 90 percent of whom would be Tibetans. Of the fifty-one members, 29 percent (fifteen) would come from the Tibetan government, 20 percent (ten) from the Panchen Lama's Administrative Council, 20 percent (ten) from the Chamdo Liberation Committee, and 10 percent (five) from the Chinese cadres in Tibet. The remaining 22 percent (eleven) would be important individual Tibetans from throughout Tibet. In terms of leadership, the Dalai Lama was to be the chairman, the Panchen Lama the first deputy chairman, and Zhang Guohua the second deputy chairman. Ngabö was to be the secretary general, and two deputy secretary generals would come from the Chamdo Liberation Committee and the Panchen's Administrative Council.
This arrangement gave the Han only a small role numerically and situated the Tibet government and the Dalai Lama in a dominant position, because the Dalai Lama would be the head of the PCTAR, Ngabö the secretary general, and the Tibetan government had the most representatives of the four component units. However, at the same time, this arrangement posed serious problems for the Tibetan government. It was not unlikely that for many issues, the representatives of the Panchen Lama and the Chamdo Liberation Committee would side with the Chinese cadres rather than the Dalai Lama, and together these three entities represented 50 percent of the PCTAR's total representatives. In addition, since the PCTAR was to be under the authority of the State Council, Han Chinese cadres were likely to exert significant influence, or try to.
The PCTAR called for fourteen administrative departments, to be set up on a provisional basis according to the requirements of the work:
1. General Office: to be in charge of clerical, administrative, protocol, and confidential work.
2. Finance and Economy Committee: to lead and plan the local financial and economic construction agreed upon through consultation on all sides, under central unified financial and economic direction and planning, and in the light of the concrete circumstances of the region.
3. Religious Affairs Bureau: to unify all the religious sects of Tibet, carry out the policy of freedom of religious belief, examine the execution of that policy, and handle matters related to religious affairs.
4. Civil Affairs Department: to be in charge of personnel work and the work of setting up local political power agreed upon through consultation; to promote social welfare undertakings, arbitrate in civil disputes, promote pensions, relief, and other work in connection with civil administration.
5. Finance Department: to be in charge of local financial receipts and disbursements as agreed upon through consultation; to establish a financial system; and to prepare and audit budgets and financial reports and other matters concerning financial administration.
6. Construction Department: to be in charge of the planning and construction of cities and the organization and allotment of labor and other relevant matters, such as wages and salary and so forth.
7. Culture and Education Department: to be in charge of culture, education, publications, scientific research, and other matters relevant to culture and education.
8. Public Health Department: to be in charge of public health and sanitary installations-of public sanitation and other matters relevant to public health.
9. Public Security Department: to be in charge of maintaining social peace and order, carrying out public security work, and handling other matters in connection with public security.
10. Agriculture and Forestry Department: to be in charge of the supervision and improvement of agricultural production and the protection and cultivation of forests; to promote farm water-conservancy work and other matters relevant to agriculture and forestation.
11. Animal Husbandry Department: to be in charge of the development of animal husbandry and to promote veterinary work, the prevention and curing of animal diseases, and other matters.
12. Trade and Commerce Department: to be in charge of local commercial administration, local industrial construction, and other matters relevant to industry and commerce.
13. Communications Department: to be in charge of the administration, management, and construction of local communications.
14. Judicial Department: to be in charge of the judicial matters of this region and to perform concurrently the functions of supervisory and procuratorial organs and courts before such organs are set up.
The PCTAR was to convene a plenary meeting once every six months and the Standing Committee was to meet weekly. At this point there was no talk of the TAR replacing the Tibetan government, but that, of course, was Beijing's long-term goal.
Nevertheless, on the surface, the Tibetan government would continue to administer Tibet internally, while these new offices were to take the lead with respect to the task of developing and modernizing Tibet. And although not explicitly written in the plan, the PCTAR would operate in cooperation with the Tibetan government, at least at first. This meant it would maintain a close liaison with the Kashag when specific activities were being planned and implemented.
While this plan was being finalized in Beijing, discussions occurred about two other items: the Tibetan government's use of its own currency and its maintenance of a separate army. The Tibetans themselves had anticipated that the army issue would be raised in Beijing and tried to forestall conflict by telling the Chinese just before the Dalai Lama left that they were planning to reduce their army by half, to fifteen hundred troops. Ironically, this worried the TWC, which sent a telegram to the Central Military Commission (on 5 July 1954) stating their opposition to this plan, since they did not want to risk giving the impression they were forcing changes in Lhasa while the Dalai Lama was about to leave: "Our idea is that since their sudden reduction of the Tibetan army would happen at a time when the Dalai Lama is leaving for Beijing, it is not appropriate. We would like to persuade the Kashag not to reduce the Tibetan army while the Dalai is out of Tibet and to maintain the status quo."
Beijing agreed, and in the end the Kashag was persuaded not to go ahead with the plan, but the military issue did come up in Beijing. The Chinese argued that since they were taking full responsibility for guarding the borders, there was no longer any need for a separate Tibetan army. The Kashag was unwilling to give up its army or completely merge it into the PLA; but since it had already been willing to reduce the number of its troops by half, it countered with reductions in the number and distribution of troops. The Tibetan side prevailed on this issue, and the Chinese settled for an agreement to decrease the total number of Tibetan troops by two-thirds, to only one thousand. Of these, five hundred would comprise the Dalai Lama's Bodyguard Regiment and the remaining five hundred would be a Lhasa police force. There would be no Tibetan troops stationed outside of Lhasa. The Chinese government agreed to pay the expenses and salaries of these troops, as well as to help the soldiers who would be laid off. The Tibetan government, however, would continue to be in charge of these one thousand troops.
Regarding eliminating Tibet's currency, the Chinese said the central government would buy back all outstanding Tibetan currency notes and replace them with Chinese paper notes. Since this meant the Tibetan government would no longer be printing its own currency, Beijing agreed to provide annual funding to the Dalai Lama's government. In the existing atmosphere of cooperation, this too was reluctantly accepted.
Kundeling Dzasa, a Tibetan monk official who was in the entourage in Beijing, said his understanding was that these "decisions" were left to be finalized according to the opinion of the Tibetan people after they returned. The Chinese government's records on this are not clear, but one Central Committee document appears to confirm this, since it uses the word tentative for the army and currency agreements.
The Dalai Lama arrived back in Lhasa on 23 June 1955, three weeks shy of one year from the day he had departed for Beijing. The key question for him as he settled into life in Lhasa was not should Tibet reform and modernize, but how should he bring about greater consensus in Tibet among the elite to secure their agreement to reforms without generating either internal conflict or conflict with the Chinese.
During the Dalai Lama's absence from Lhasa, life had gone on pretty much as usual. Nothing negative had happened to the way of life, wealth, or stature of either the lay people or the religious elite, and many in the elite were gaining confidence that perhaps the Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet might not be the end of Tibetan monasticism and religion or their elevated status, as they had initially feared. One segment of the elite, as mentioned earlier, actually welcomed modernizing changes such as the implementation of new schools, which had been blocked by the conservative monastery and monk official leaders in the past. For example, a number of elite aristocratic wives saw the creation of the Women's Association as major step toward improving the status of women in Tibet. Mrs. Surkhang, the wife of the Kalön Surkhang, talked about this in an interview:
[Mrs.] Samling and [Mrs.] Tsögo [leaders of the Women's Association] and their type were very much against our old society. They said it was all rotten.... They would say that today we women have a lot to be appreciative about regarding the CCP. The Communist Party has given equality to women, and it is just great that we can meet in an office ... .
Q: I see. So ... they worked hard in the Women's League. Were they like the women of today who say that they want their rights? So was it from this point of view, or was it a political leaning toward the Chinese?
A: It was from the women's rights perspective. They didn't know much about politics. They were not that educated and deep-thinking.... It was like this: they wanted women to be highly respected. Equal rights for women, calling meetings, and doing things in the meetings. They had found the ability to boldly do things.... They were saying that in the old days we Tibetan women were hopeless. Even regarding school, it was like they [women] didn't need education. They were just kept at home. So today women are on a par with the men and can be educated.
One well-known Tibetan aristocrat, the late Mrs. R.D. Taring, similarly recalled, "So when this was started, there was great hope that things may not be so bad.... Some felt that the Chinese might not do so badly, [and that in any case] some of our old traditions could be done away with." So for some, the treatment of the Dalai Lama in Beijing, and the positive attitude of the Dalai Lama about the reforms and the PCTAR, worked to create a growing confidence that perhaps the Chinese invasion and incorporation of Tibet might be the start of a new modern Tibet under the Dalai Lama as part of a new China.
Soon after the Dalai Lama's return in June 1955, an assembly meeting was convened by the Kashag to discuss the Beijing accords. It included representatives of the monk and lay official elite and the Three Monastic Seats (via their monastic abbots and ex-abbots), but this time also the kalöns. Normally, the latter did not attend assembly meetings and merely sent the topic for discussion, but to this meeting they came, and Kalön Ngabö, who had a phenomenal memory, presented a detailed report to the assembly on what had transpired in Beijing. Shatra, a politically savvy Tibetan lay aristocratic official, attended the meeting. He recalled,
After they arrived, Ngabö gave a briefing for about a week [in the Tsidrung Lingka Park].... He spoke about what happened from the time they first went down to China, including the discussions and the results, what was said, and so forth. During the whole thing, Ngabö was the main person. Surkhang was there too ... but Ngabö was the main one who explained everything. ... He mentioned that they were able to secure a [Preparatory Committee for the] Tibet Autonomous Region instead of the Military-Administrative Committee, and that this was done by all three [Tibetan] units together: the Tibetan government, the Panchen Lama's entity, and the Chamdo Liberation Committee. So everyone was happy.
Q: Did Ngabö say this was a good achievement?
A: Yes, Yes. It was presented as the accomplishment of His Holiness's visit. He said that since the Dalai Lama went and discussed these things, we should undertake to do them. He said that very strongly. He made everything very clear, saying that on such and such a month, on this date such and such happened, and so on. He was so precise that one wondered how anyone could remember so much.
At about the same time, the Dalai Lama gave a public teaching in the Jensel Phodrang (palace) in Norbulinga that was attended by monks and lay people, as well as by some Chinese officials. He took that occasion to make some explicitly political comments that publicly revealed his thinking about the future of Tibet at that time. The Dalai Lama explained in an interview how the decision to make these comments came about:
But still, [I had] full confidence [when] I returned.... [I was invited] to do an Avaloketisvara initiation ritual [Tib. jenrezi wangchen] at the Jensel Phodrang. There I mentioned some important policy matters. [I said] with full confidence [that] we are equal [to the Chinese]. [The] Chinese came to us as helpers, and we must utilize this opportunity [and] build our own country by ourselves.
My statement of this, before I talked to the public-I discussed [it] with Fan Ming and he also agreed.... [In the speech] I mentioned exactly Phüntso Wangye's point of view. Unity must be built on trust. Trust must come equally [with equality]. So I mentioned that with full confidence. So that was my peak.
In his comments, the Dalai Lama, like his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama in 1932, called for Tibetans to eschew personal, sectarian, and regional differences and to commit themselves to unifying and working for the development of Tibet, but he also differed from the 13th by conveying a positive representation of Sino-Tibetan relations and Communism. The Dalai Lama told his people that Tibet was poor in its secular knowledge and skills, and so it needed to cooperate with the Chinese to develop the secular, material world. The translation of this part of his teaching follows:
Regarding [our] secular matters, they are not well managed and the methods we use are weak. Therefore, you must improve these. The main thing is that we ourselves should strive vigorously and work hard. However, because of our lack of experience and work in secular matters, it is very difficult to be effective quickly, so it is important to rely on help from the Chinese [Han] nationality. In general, you should be friendly with [all] the nationalities, and in particular, you should be friendly with the Chinese [Han] nationality.
Some people have the concept that the Chinese and the Tibetans are like lord and servant, but it is not like this. We have genuine nationality equality. For example, if a father had five children, even if there are differences in their knowledge and capability, they possess equal rights. So the Chinese nationality cadres living here came to help us because we couldn't manage secular matters well. They didn't come to be our lord. Also, putting into practice this help for us should be done when the conditions are appropriate according to the local situation and when all people want it. If the conditions are not appropriate, we have to be patient.
The Central Committee sent Chinese cadres here for the benefit of Tibet. They were not sent to cause trouble. So if some Chinese cadres have a kind heart, but do something inappropriate for the local situation, it won't be beneficial. Therefore you should not try to save face [for them], but should rather point out their errors directly to advance the good and the block the bad and reform them.
As for the few Chinese officials who have erred due to matters of principle, if there isn't any hope for them to become beneficial for Tibet, we can just send them back. As for Tibetan cadres, in the future we should be able to take our own responsibility; this is called autonomy. For example, in a monk's household, if the people in the household could do all the work of the household [themselves], this is autonomy. If the people could not do one's work and if it is done by hired people, this is not autonomy. Therefore, it is important to have Tibetan cadres, including monk and lay officials.
Among the current cadres, there are many who think about religion and politics and the welfare of the people and are working honestly. Last year, in order to manage the government's income well and address the welfare of the subjects, the management of the districts and their estates was taken back by the government. I am very glad from the bottom my heart for the officials who made such a great accomplishment. If you serve religion and politics with sincere loyalty, even if you can't live in a hermitage and practice the dharma, it will be beneficial for both this life and the future life. In the future, all people should accomplish one's tasks with a great sense of responsibility and you should take into account the consequence of karma in this life and in future lives.
Some people are only concerned with their private affairs. This is because they are too narrow-minded. You people all know that at one time, in order to achieve goals, some of the political people in charge [of Tibet] did everything [only] for money and gifts [bribes]. Therefore, government affairs were delayed and subjects were tortured and had to suffer, which caused more harm than benefit. So people should repent what they did and make a fresh start and improve themselves.
Some people are using the revolution as a pretext and ignoring native customs and habits and they are acting in a disturbed manner and using crude conduct. This is wrong. That which is called revolution is not acting disorderly [Tib. gonju khunglung mepa]. These actions [of leftists] should also be reformed.
If the monk and lay officials and cadres have good internal unity, they can work effectively on government tasks. Among the cadres, you should point out the errors directly and promptly. It is important not to instigate and be deceitful. For example, if there is a big stone that one person cannot carry, four or five people can carry it. So if you can be friendly with your neighbors, you can help and save each other.
The monks in the monastic colleges [Tib. tratsang], and [within these the] residential units [Tib. khamtsen] and subresidential units [Tib. mitsen], are also acting biased in favor of their own units.
As for the new and old Buddhist sects, if they are not impure, all of the sects are the same as they are seeking to achieve enlightenment. So there should not be any prejudice and unfriendliness between the sects. Similarly, regardless of the region, whether it is the central [Ü], the west [Tsang], the east [Kham] or the far west [Tö], all of us are Tibetans, so you should not be prejudiced and you should have strong unity.
I think there might be quite a lot of people who, because they don't know about the PCTAR, have hopes and doubts based on superstition [not reality; Tib. redog gi namdo], but this PCTAR is going to be done only in accordance with the actual situation by means of steady steps; it is not going to be done in a rash manner. You will gradually know about this in detail.
In short, the fundamental characteristic of Tibet is that we have Buddhism, which is the life of all of us. So we should develop and improve it so that it will last for a long time. This is our principle. According to the combination of the two, the religious and the secular, all people should act in a way so as to be beneficial for this life and the future life.
The Dalai Lama's comments again reveal his belief that maintaining Buddhism (i.e., monasticism) was compatible with modernizing Tibet as part of the PRC. The Dalai Lama did not personally approve of the medieval-like manorial estate system, with its hereditarily bound peasants, so could easily have agreed to eliminate it so long as Buddhism, which, as he said in the quoted sermon, was the "fundamental characteristic of Tibet" and the "life of all of us," was preserved in a modern Tibet. The unresolved, undiscussed issue in all of this was whether there would be enough autonomy in a fully functional TAR to satisfy the Dalai Lama.
When I asked the Dalai Lama what he thought at that time Tibet could have achieved, his reply was clear and powerful:
To modernize Tibet, and sort of equal terms to us with the Chinese helping to build Tibet; and to the Chinese we did not argue whether Tibet was an independent or separate nation or not. We didn't bother. Phüntso Wangye also had that feeling. He knows that Tibet is a separate nation, but we have to develop our country; so for that the Chinese Communist [are] not like the previous Chinese. That was what Phüntso Wangye belief and he told me. The previous Chinese had very strong chauvinism, but the Communists were not like that. Equal. And in fact, worldwide revolution of the worker class, so national boundaries are not important; so with that belief, there was no inconvenience and we could work together to build a nation. So that was our aims and beliefs. So like that, Phüntso Wangye and some other party members became best friend of mine. Really.
Mao's gradualist policy of working from the top down, beginning with the elite, and especially winning over the Dalai Lama, had, therefore, achieved an impressive success. As the Dalai Lama said, it was his "peak"; and as it would turn out, it was also the peak of Mao's gradualist policy. Mao had wanted the Dalai Lama to start to play a more active leadership role in developing a consensus for change in Tibet, as well as in enhancing Tibet's ties of friendship with the Chinese and China, and this speech reveals that the Dalai Lama was prepared to do both. Mao, however, also understood the depth and power of conservatism and religious fundamentalism among the elite, and so had warned the Dalai Lama not to rush back to Lhasa and force reforms too quickly-that is to say, before the elite were prepared for them-since this could precipitate strong opposition even to him. The question, therefore, was whether the Dalai Lama had the political skills and personality to play such a difficult role, shepherding change and development without harming his own stature or alienating the elite. At issue was how he could become a key force in molding a new Tibetan outlook while embedded in a political system that kept him cloistered, and in which there was no custom for the Dalai Lama to regularly give public speeches and write materials to publicly mold the views and values of the elite, let alone the small, literate middle class and the vast illiterate masses. The initial effort of the Dalai Lama at his teachings was a step toward influencing opinions, but it was limited. While his sermon mentioned his support for the PCTAR, it did not mention the changes to the army and currency, and as we shall see in the next chapter, it had no follow-up as opposition arose. The Dalai Lama apparently had no clear conception of what steps to take to start to change the conservative views of the majority of the elite, and he was hamstrung in developing new tactics by the fact that the key official in his court, the Lord Chamberlain Phala, was the head of a hard-line group that opposed the Chinese and wanted to expel them from Tibet, not cooperate more effectively with them to reform Tibet. This is discussed in chapter 2.
Nevertheless, it is remarkable that five years after the Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet's eastern province, Mao's nuanced and pragmatic Tibet policy had inspired this degree of progressive optimism in the Dalai Lama. And if there was anyone in Tibet who could alter Tibetan opinions and shepherd the people toward Mao's goal, it was the Dalai Lama. The following chapters examine the complicated story of what transpired over the next two years.