Chinese officials and academics have proposed revamping the English language terminology used to describe Tibet in an effort to “reconstruct” the region’s international reputation.
A suggestion to use the Chinese term Xizang even in international discourse originated from a conference on the region’s image conducted in Beijing from August 14-16, changing the region’s image.
The official Chinese media gave the seminar great coverage, and over 320 academics attended, including several from outside. The United Front Work Department, a CCP-affiliated organization dealing with China’s ethnic minorities, ran the WeChat account that provided information about the seminar.
The Tibetan plateau, sometimes known as “the Roof of the World,” is a culturally and linguistically distinct territory that has played a key role in world history. Proponents of the change believe it is part of Beijing’s larger push to change the conversation on Tibet and highlight the region’s key role in China.
Scholar Wang Linping of Harbin Engineering University’s College of Marxism said that it is crucial for an English translation to reflect China’s viewpoint on Tibet. He said that the common use of the word “Tibet” has led to “misunderstandings” over the precise location of the area.
China Tibetology Research Centre vice-director Lian Xiangmin backed the proposal by referencing international norms that had previously advocated for the use of pinyin, the romanization of Chinese characters, in English place names. According to him, using the name “Xizang” is consistent with these ideals and may help promote a more positive image of the area.
According to Xia Yan, an editor at the China Tibet Information Centre, employing “Xizang” might “help reconstruct Tibet’s media image and enhance China’s international discourse on Tibet.”
However, there is pushback from people who see this as another step in China’s drive to establish its historical and territorial claims, therefore the initiative faces obstacles and criticism. The exiled Dalai Lama’s declarations of independence from China have made the area a sore spot both inside China and internationally.
General Manoj Mukund Naravane, a former head of the Indian armed forces, claims that exiled Tibetans have a right to return to their homeland. To paraphrase his words: “Over the decades, China has fully occupied Tibet and made territorial and administrative changes that would transform the identity and culture of the Tibetans.”