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From: China Daily 2012-06-20 08:47:00
by: Zhu Yuan
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The real Tibet is not a museum

Too in thrall to an imaginary Tibet to be reasonable is the impression I got of some Westerners after I attended meetings between three Chinese scholars in Tibet studies and some US and Canadian politicians and journalists.

For example, some of them accused the Chinese government of "migrating" Han people from the interior of the country to Tibet Autonomous Region, which they said threatens the integrity of Tibetan culture. Some pointed their fingers at the teaching of mandarin as a way of sidelining the local Tibetan language. And some even claimed the improved transport links from the interior areas to Tibet were constructed just so the resources in Tibet could be exploited.

These people think Tibet should be isolated from the rest of China in order to keep its culture intact, its resources untouched and its language pure from any influence of other languages.

To achieve that, the Chinese government would have to ban any residents in other parts of China from entering Tibet and the other way around. I bet that these Westerners would jump up and accuse the Chinese government of violating basic human rights if it did impose such a ban.

When daily necessities were rationed during the hard times before 1978, the free flow of people was unimaginable since one would be unable to live without coupons issued by a local government to buy food and other necessities. Now anyone can go anywhere as long as they have the means to support themselves. This is true for Tibetans and their counterparts in other parts of the country. So the free flow of people within China or between China and other parts of the world represents progress.

I don't believe that segregation is the way to protect the integrity of a culture. History shows that a culture can only develop in a healthy manner when it interacts with other cultures. Maybe some physical cultural heritage and traditional customs need to be preserved to prevent them from disappearing. But it has never been the right thing to do to keep a culture from contact with other cultures just to protect its original form and content.

As far as the language is concerned, mandarin has incorporated a lot of words and expressions from other languages over the centuries. It is a natural process for languages to influence one another, particularly amid today's fast globalization. And when an increasing number of Tibetans have realized that they can make more money working in other provinces, it is only natural for them to learn mandarin, which will make it easier to live and work in the interior areas. The bilingual education in Tibet is the choice that the majority of Tibetans have made because it is in their own interests. Similarly people of other ethnic groups in the country are also keen to learn mandarin.

[editor : ]
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