There’s something about China’s attitude toward Tibet that eludes me, and it’s been bugging me lately. As Western awareness of and support for Tibet grows, China insists more vociferously that Tibet has always been part of China, that China has always reserved the right to name important lamas, that Tibetans are much better off under Chinese rule. I guess what I wonder is . . . do the Chinese not think that people can check up on these things? Tibet was nominally a Chinese province for centuries, except for the part where Tibet didn’t send any taxes or tribute and the Chinese left everything but foreign affairs mostly up to local leaders. In other words, it was a province on the edge of an empire like any other province on the edge of any other empire–under more control when central government was strong, but practically independent for most of the time. We all know that China’s in charge of Tibet now; in imperial terms, they’ve got the “Mandate of Heaven.” And as in the past, how do you know when the Mandate is lost? When someone stronger can wrest power away, of course. China’s a great power looking to assert its authority, but the presence of PRC troops and money doesn’t make history just go away. And that right to name lamas just sounds absurd coming from a secular state–imagine the French president demanding the right to name the Archbishop of Paris. I can’t help but feel that the public relations efforts of the PRC is a futile, ultimately silly attempt to convince the world of an obvious falsehood.