The U.S. is usually painted as a fighter for freedom of belief and expression. However, there are lesser-known instances when America did little to nothing to support these causes. In the case of Tibet and its ongoing fight for freedom against China, the U.S.’s complex relationship with China resulted in the nation siding with the oppressor. Unofficially, the U.S. supports Tibet and its campaign for freedom but has been able to do little to nothing to help. It is predicted that this trend will continue, and Tibet will eventually lose its pristine culture due to ethnic Chinese immigration and strict cultural and religious restrictions.
Tibet’s complicated relationship with China began during the 13th century Yuan dynasty when Tibet offered spiritual guidance to Chinese emperors in turn for spiritual protection. From China’s viewpoint, Tibet was considered a part of their empire and has continued to be a part of it for many centuries. Tibet, however, claims that after the Qing dynasty collapsed, it expelled the Chinese and gained back its independence.
Today, America’s role in the conflict is hindered due to its ties with China, but that was not always the case. During the Cold War, China was considered by the U.S. to be a communist threat, and the C.I.A. covertly funded and armed Tibetan guerilla forces to fight against China. However, by 1971, the U.S. had warmed up to China and it stopped the covert funding. Little has been done since to resolve Tibet’s conflict with China. President Obama managed to bring up the topic of Tibet’s freedom in a meeting with the Chinese president in 2014, but the U.S.’s fragile relationship with China held it back from making much progress. Though President Obama did meet with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader exiled by the Chinese government, the meetings were unofficial in order not to anger China. The Dalai Lama himself claimed that he only wished for true autonomy, not independence. However, China claims that it has already granted Tibet full autonomy, and its filtered media has, in many ways, painted the Dalai Lama as an enemy.
China fears that if it loses control of Tibet, places like Taiwan will also rebel for their freedom. The U.S. does not to break its fragile ties with China, drawing out this stalemate of a situation between China and Tibet. As the U.S. spends more time refusing to make a move, the pristine culture of Tibet is withering away, and the spirit of the beautiful mountain nation continues to be crushed by its powerful oppressor.