The Dalai Lama urged Tibetans to show restraint Tuesday, saying that "if things become out of control," his "only option is to completely resign," The Associated Press reported.I think the Dalai Lama's recent statement could have two explanations.
First, there are reports of Tibetan involvement in rioting and other violence against Han Chinese. That's the gist of what was expressed by one tourist-blogger on the ground in Tibet, a blogger I linked to earlier, Kadfly. Now Dalai Lama may be aware of such reports* and have reason to believe that there is some validity to them.
The Dalai Lama's threat to resign could have a second strategic -- though not incompatible -- explanation. It could be calculated to jolt the Chinese government into reconsidering it's refusal to negotiate with him. After all, the Dalai Lama is a true moderate. If he steps out of the picture, who is to say the Tibetan resistance won't turn to more dangerous ways?
China may have more to fear from the Tibetan protests than many of us living in the outside world believe. The Han Chinese rule over 130 million people who are classified as "ethnic minorities." Theirs is an empire that has expanded and contracted many times over its long history. Many experts in the West assume China is in empire-expansion mode,** but they could be mistaken. The central government has shown many signs of weakness, particularly concerning its demonstrated inability to enforce the rule of law (i.e. with regards to pollution, healthcare, or peasants' rights).
China may regret losing such a moderate and influential ethnic leader as the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government is silly to overlook him today. A recent statement by US Sec. of State Rice is right on the mark.
*Further evidence is this account of foreign resident of Lhasa published in the Guardian (hat-tip Anonymous): "Oh my God. Oh no. That's crazy. One hundred people are trying to stone one man. . ."
** Cover of this week's Economist is about China's "new imperialism."