The politics of active engagement

I heard something on NPR yesterday that gave me pause.

It was a news report about the recent violent protests in Tibet.

In the report, a Tibetan government official affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party referred to the Dalai Lama, spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism and the leader of Tibet's government in exile, as "a monster with a human face and the heart of an animal."

All I could come up with when I heard that was: Seriously? The Dalia Lama?

I've seen the Dalai Lama speak. I've read a number of his books. I mean, this guy won the Nobel peace prize. To call him "a monster with the heart of an animal" is a stretch.

We may never know exactly what has gone on in Tibet this week. Maybe the exiled Tibetan government is culpable in the violence. Maybe this is just the latest in a long series of similar events, with newly heightened international scrutiny because of the buzz around the Olympics. Or maybe this is just one slightly crazed Tibetan official with a bad translator.

But a few things are clear: With more and more of their economy engaged in foreign trade with democratic nations, China is going to eventually have to do something to mollify the people of Tibet. And they're going to open up news coverage inside China, and share with the rest of the world an uncensored account of what is really going on there. Otherwise, it's almost guaranteed that the rest of the world won't be comfortable doing business with China.

... or at least I hope that's true.

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