Tibet & China: A Consociational (Power-Sharing) Approach


A few years ago,  U of Waterloo –   Professor emeritus, Peter Woolstencroft taught a course on the issue of power-sharing between two governing bodies. Usually, one nation-state may hold more sway over a smaller region that may be close to encroaching on it, or, as we have seen recently with Russia-Ukraine, they (Russia) have a tacit belief that this parcel of land (Crimea  Ukraine) , belongs in their hands, for historical or strategic reasons.

 In Chariots of Fire, I explain that, historically, Tibet & China have never shared a consociational arrangement in their history. Tibet, had a similar Patron – Priest relationship with  the Mongolian Empire & Godan Khan, offering military prowess to Tibet and Sakya Pandita. China claims Mongolian power had become vulnerable and China, not Mongolia,  were the proper stewards of Tibet. Historically, we see Tibet in a vacuum after WWII and the transition in China from Chiang Kai-shek who was Chairman of the National Military Council, and then President of the Republic of  China for one year during China’s transition to a communist economic model.

Tibet was considered mired in its feudal past and in need of modern infrastructure. China, with Mao in firm control saw Tibet as a pearl, a stratagem to influence its position in Asia and an independent India, which was partitioned in 1947 into Dominion of Pakistan and the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh.

The Dalai Lama – Tenzin Gyatso- was 15 years of age in 1950 when China made promises of modernisation without loss to Tibetan monastic and cultural values. Chinese authorities procured a ’17 Point Agreement’ in 1951 that laid out terms for these changes that seemed palatable at the time for the young Dalai Lama,  who was without peer  or regent to guide in governmental and spiritual matters. However, by 1959, The Dalai Lama had seen Chinese hysteria denigrate the typical Tibetan way of life, and socialism manifest through the central government in Beijing.  The Dalai Lama, upset with the state of affairs in Tibet,  failed to generate an effective uprising, and on March 10, 1959 he was spirited out of Tibet and into exile  in Dharamsala, India.

China has maintained total control over Tibetan affairs since this point in time (1959.)  There continues to be a degradation of monasteries, spiritual artifacts, the incursion of nuclear waste and pollution, deforestation, and strict limits on what people can practice regarding Buddhism and how they conduct themselves in public, so, as not to criticize Chinese authorities, which is punishable.  Indeed, it is punishable to possess and or display a picture of the Dalai Lama.  The continued oppression has led to a period of revolt since 2008, where individuals – mostly monks or nuns – are “self – immolating” to create awareness of the suppression that is taking place inside  Tibet.

The international community failed to answer Tibet’s  call for help after China invaded Tibet in 1949.  The United States has taken an interest in Tibetan affairs, and at one point was training CIA officials  to counter Chinese authority, however, this has ended around the time of the Nixon/Kissinger administration.

As the number of Tibetans that self   – immolate continues to rise, the international community needs to look at the issue of human rights abuses in Tibet.   The dilemma is that the international community is quite happy with inexpensive Chinese goods that helps to bolster their economies, similar to Western nation-states reliance on middle eastern oil to drive our economies.  Though, the price of that oil has spiralled into a stratosphere that makes it not as an attractive commodity as it was before OPEC was instituted (Currently, crude oil has plummeted.)

The number of demonstrations and conflicts in China continues to escalate and put pressure on the PRC.  Reuters reported  on June 16, 2014 that China had executed 13 people for terrorist attacks in Xinjiang province, providing an example of Chinese oppression in restive provinces. Hope abounds that democratization will find its way into China and spread west to Tibet.

A  consociational  approach to the Tibet issue provides Beijing an opportunity to work with the international community and the Tibetan government in exile on a power-sharing arrangement that provides benefits to both sides, while everyone saves face.

Consociationalism defined:




Proportional Representation: A clarion call for Ontario


Ontario voters faced with questionable choices at the ballot box, surprised many political pundits by granting incumbent, Kathleen Wynne and The Liberal Party, a reprieve.   The campaign was a rancorous affair resembling more of a U.S. model that has found it’s way north in recent memory. Amidst all the squabbling over copious amounts of tax dollars frittered away on gas plants, proposed public sector layoffs, and growing provincial debt, it seems a tall order to ask a small group of people to do what is right for Ontario’s faltering economy. Fix it! The credit rating agencies are warning anyone who cares to listen that Ontario’s credit rating will be downgraded. To service our debt will mean that compounded interest rates will push the Province’s debt – ceiling higher (are we watching our cousin’s in Michigan whose state has filed a bankruptcy petition.) Toronto’s hand will be stretched open a little further to allow Ottawa to pull from it’s grab- bag of transfer payments, more funds, to help Ontario make ends-meet.

Prime Minister Harper smiles knowing that when Ontario elects a Liberal government, Canada hires a government on the opposite end of the political spectrum to balance the political structure. (Trudeau – Davis/Mulroney – Peterson/Rae, Chretien- Harris, Harper-McGuinty.)   As the credit agencies circle Wynne and her Finance Minister? decisions are going to have to be made to curb the deficit. Enjoy the honeymoon, Ms Wynne. The way of doing business in Ontario, and how the political  system functions is out of balance. Note: Ontario’s anorexic manufacturing base, that is, and has been abandoning the lucrative Southern Ontario market for approximately twenty years. This  requires fresh thinking soon, as eventually we  will all come- a- cropper when the printing press slows down, the government refuses to raise the debt-ceiling, or the credit agencies downgrade our rating acting as a proxy-cabinet .


‘Proportional Representation,’ according to Oxford is”An electoral system in which parties gain seats in proportion to the number of votes cast for them.”  Sounds pretty reasonable, and fair. However, a lot of heavy – lifting and currency needs to be wielded in a not so proportionate way to make it a reality.

As we hope to rebuild our economy in Ontario, we should consider philosopher John Locke’s (1632-1704) notion that, “For, when any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, they have themselves made that community one body, with a power to act as one body, which is only by the will and determination of the majority.”

Proportional Representation is the “quid pro quo” to the antiquated “first-past-the-post” system that we are currently mired in, which, breeds “gerrymandering,” “logrolling,” “pork-barrel” or what have you, to pit one against the other, no matter the medium. So, let us think long-term in the aftermath of the Ontario election,  and in the future about systems of governance  and people in our community.

For a list of nation-states employing ‘Proportional Representation’ please click on the following link from Wiki: Proportional Representation

gerrymandering: Manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favour one party or class. (Oxford)

logrolling: North American 1 • informal The practice of exchanging favours, especially in politics by reciprocal voting for each other’s proposed legislation: they have gained leverage on Capitol Hill by a talent for political logrolling [from the phrase you roll my log and I’ll roll yours] (Oxford)

pork-barrel: North American • informal Used in reference to the utilization of government funds for projects designed to please voters or legislators and win votes: the lesson that power is based on the pork barrel and purchased with patronage (Oxford)

First-past-the-post: British Denoting an electoral system in which a candidate or party is selected by achievement of a simple majority (Oxford)

Tiananmen Anniversary: Redux


Reuters correspondent, Sui-Lee Wee reports on the stringent control of the media during the 25th anniversary of the debacle in China. Mothers who lost a child formed a support group: “Tiananmen Mothers,” are under constant surveillance by Chinese authorities during this delicate period. Beijing’s response in the aftermath of 1989 was to offer brighter financial prospects to those who preferred that, rather than oppose the state and it’s attachment to socialist values, despite the confinement of social and political freedoms. Many chose financial wealth which is helping to drive China’s economy, though not without FDI (Foreign Direct Investment,) a booming export business, and a move towards privatisation that has seen a reduction in SOE’s (State Owned Enterprises.)

China has learned from the mistakes of it’s cousin in the region-Russia, and possibly with some influence from Thatcherism and Reaganomics. However, will China continue to constrain Tibetans who seek fairness in economic, spiritual, and familial matters? Democratisation offers hope, though, is fraught with many perils for Tibetans and native Chinese. Your thoughts?