What is Tibet?

China’s nomenclature aggression against Tibet is a vile “naming and claiming” scheme that cannot be justified — not historically, linguistically, or otherwise.

Map of Tibet showing the three provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham. (©Tibet Museum)

We must remember that Tibet is composed of the three traditional provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham. In these three provinces live the descendants of miudhung-drug (Tibetan: mi’u gdung drug). They are the first six original clans of Tibet since the dawn of civilization on the Tibetan plateau. The name “Tibet” has evolved over a long period of time from Thibet, Tubbat, Tufan, Tubot, etc. Italian explorer Marco Polo referred to Tibet as “Tebet.”

Second of three parts

First part: Erasing Tibet From the World Map: China’s Nomenclature Aggression
Third part: Remember Tibet and Make China See that Democracy Is Inevitable

After the brutal occupation of Tibet in 1950, China divided the Tibetan provinces in 1965. It combined U-Tsang and some parts of Kham as the Tibet Autonomous Region. It also merged Amdo and a major part of Kham with the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan. 

China adopted this policy of divide and rule to weaken Tibetan unity and distort Tibetan geohistory. Now, by removing the name “Tibet” from official documents, the CCP wants to deceive the international community into thinking that there is no such thing as “Tibet” or the Tibet issue. The CCP wants the world to believe that there are only Xizang, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan — and that these are all Chinese provinces. 

Wiping Out Tibet

This is a despicable colonial policy to wipe out the historical existence of Tibet as a land and nation and Tibetans as a distinct race. Professor Wang Linping of Harbin Engineering University’s College of Marxism says, “The use of Tibet had seriously misled the international community over the geographical scope of the region.”

As explained in part one of this series, Beijing organized the “7th Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies” in August. This so-called “seminar” only invited scholars on China’s approved list. The aim of the event was to advance the CCP’s agenda of erasing Tibet’s identity under the guise of academic discourse.

Capitalizing on the seminar’s proceedings, China’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) has been fiercely advocating the erasure of “Tibet” from official documents and daily usage. The UFWD stated, “This geographical scope overlaps with the so-called ‘Greater Tibet’ that the Dalai Lama clique has long advocated for.”   

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, India on September 5, 2023. (©The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by Tenzin Choejor)

The Historical Evolution of Tibet

The UFWD is the primary body with whom the Tibetans have been long negotiating to resolve the Tibet issue. It is a pity that UFWD does not understand what exactly comprises Tibet. In October 2008, Tibetans submitted the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People to the UFWD. Its content makes it clear that the Tibetans are seeking genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three provinces of traditional Tibet. Moreover, the memorandum does not ask for a Tibet that is greater or less than the traditional three provinces of Tibet: U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham. 

The nomenclature “Greater Tibet” comes from the old Chinese name for Tibet “Tufan and Tubod” around the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. This was how ancient Tang China referred to Tibet in those days. In fact, the name “Xizang” came up only during the Qing dynasty to refer to western Tibet only. Thibet, Tubbat, Tufan, and Tubod are all holonyms of Tibet. On the other hand, “Xizang” is just a meronym created by the Qing regime (1644-1911 AD). So, the nomenclature of Tibet far precedes and predates the Chinese word “Xizang.” 

Quad leaders stand together for a photo

Nomenclature Aggression

Lian Xiangmin is the Vice Director of the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing. He claims that the use of “Xizang” would be in line with a proposal approved by the United Nations in 1977 and State Council Guidelines from 1978 to use pinyin for Chinese place names in English. 

This may be so, as far as the usage of pinyin is concerned. But this does not allow China to go on erasing the colonized territories’ nomenclature and replace it with Chinese pinyin. It is illegal and immoral on the part of the occupying force to change the name of places it forcefully occupied. This is what Russia has done in Ukraine

China renamed 15 places in the Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh. It continues to create skirmishes from time to time. In response, India has strongly objected to this new form of Chinese aggression.

Senkaku Islands

The Japanese Senkaku Islands were reverted to Japan in 1972 under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement between the United States and Japan. China raised no issue about the territory at the time.

It only started claiming the Islands later and renamed them “Diaoyu Islands” after the mid-1950s. This is one of CCP’s many devious tactics. It makes claims to neighboring territories by positing a non-issue as a disputed matter. The CCP does this first through nomenclature aggression, followed by fierce verbal claims, and then by military threats and forced incursions. 

Senkaku Islands
Uotsuri Island in the Senkakus on January 30. (Provided by Ishigaki City)

Scott Harold is a Washington-based senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation research group. In an interview with the Voice of America, he said, “I think the Chinese view is that part of narrative warfare, part of shaping a narrative about what a conflict is about, is wrong-footing or putting your adversary or rival claimant or disputant in a position where they are disadvantaged, and China holds an advantage.”

News Desk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *