Rethinking Security in Tibet (Part 2 of 2)

April 30, 2008

Human Security Applied

So if traditional human rights, development and national security approaches to community vulnerability have all proved insufficient by themselves to equip China to tackle the fundamental insecurities that plague Tibet, what then?

The answer lies in creating a model to tackle insecurity which combines the insights of all three, but also focuses on the needs of the people themselves rather than the needs of the state. Individual insecurity breeds instability at the community level and communal insecurity breeds insecurity at the state level. Human security provides a people-centered model of security which recognizes that economic, communal, health, environmental, political, and personal threats to individual lives are interconnected and should be addressed comprehensively in order to enhance security for the larger community.

While human security is defined differently by different observers, I would argue that, in addition to its focus on individual rather than state needs, the following characteristics serve to distinguish this approach to alleviating insecurity and suffering.

Security as a Multidimensional Phenomenon

Human security recognizes the need for a multi-faceted and integrated framework for grappling with the various levels of individual vulnerabilities. In today’s world, basic security is no longer simply the absence of threats of crime and violence. Human security in Tibet as elsewhere has a cultural, economic, environmental, political and health dimension as well. These threats need to be addressed comprehensively to get at the root causes of Tibetan insecurity.

For example, economic inequality and religious discrimination figure prominently in the Tibetan sense of insecurity. On the economic front, the claim is that CPG investments have not been made with the needs of local Tibetans in mind. To address this issue, Chinese leaders need to demonstrate how ordinary Tibetans are benefiting from central government investments and how rates of inequality between Tibetans and Han Chinese are improving instead of worsening. The religious and cultural dimensions of Tibetan insecurity are well documented (see here and here) but the import of this dimension to human insecurity in Tibet is sadly underappreciated by CPG officials. Meeting demands for Tibetan religious and cultural autonomy will enhance human security in Tibet, providing for greater regional stability.

These are just a few examples meant to illustrate that enhancing security in Tibet will entail changing attitudes towards how security is defined and practiced. It will entail listening and working with the people themselves in order to understand the sources of threats to their lives, instead of simply trying to impose traditional military solutions. Of course, increasing security for ordinary Tibetans cannot come at the expense of local Han Chinese, nor should police authorities neglect their responsibilities to bring to justice those who resort to violence to achieve their political ends. Expanding the scope of security does not mean abandoning these more traditional police functions. It will entail reaching out to other ministries and community stakeholders to re-envision how to work together to meet these expanded security goals.

Diverse Portfolio of Actors

Human Security views the state’s monopoly of power over security as an ineffective means to address the multitude of threats facing individuals. Police/military officials should “share the burden” and collaborate with other ministries, civil society organizations, businesses, media, UN agencies, and communities themselves to ensure that the full range of security needs are being met.

One of the advantages of operating among a diverse group of actors is that the diversity provides increased credibility and outreach potential of security policies. With regards to Tibet, international advocacy efforts would be more effective if they sought to include an assortment of stakeholders. For example, if an Interpol-led, Tibet-based community police training program, jointly funded by Canadian, European, African and South East Asian businesses existed, it would be a difficult program to dismiss as an example of “western interventionism.” Collaborating with religious leaders from around the world to formulate conditions acceptable to both sides on how to preserve Tibetan religious identity would seem to be another credible step that Chinese officials could take to reduce human insecurity in Tibet.

The reaction of the Chinese blogosphere to the Western media coverage of the March protests provides a further example of how mutual understanding is enhanced when a broader array of actors is involved. In this case, individual bloggers, human rights advocates, media organizations, student groups, and academics from China and the West have fruitfully interacted to better understand the preconceptions that Han Chinese, Tibetan and Westerners tend to bring to the discussions of this issue. The fact that the Chinese response was not orchestrated by the central government gave it greater credibility in Western eyes and helped foreign observers to better understand Chinese sentiments towards this issue. Despite some of the vitriolic language involved, I see this interaction as a positive example of the progress made when there is room for a broader array of actors to participate in the political dialogue.

Businesses are another group of stakeholders that have an important role to play in enhancing human security in Tibet and elsewhere in China. To begin with, local and multinational businesses can utilize the UN Global Compact guidelines in order to avoid complicity with human rights abuses. There is also an untapped potential for social entrepreneurship to grab hold in China. It is not difficult to imagine, for example, Tibetan provincial authorities hosting a US foundation, such as Skoll, to fund and train young social entrepreneurs on how to build partnerships between businesses, government agencies and local community groups in order to find creative business-oriented solutions for environmental or health issues in Tibetan areas.

In a country like China, with its long tradition of tight control over the reigns of power, especially in the area of security, decentralizing human security decision-making and delivery will be a difficult task to accomplish. While I will not review the need for political reform here, over the long run, nurturing and empowering local civil society organizations will be a key goal in order to address many of the weaknesses (corruption, unresponsiveness, unequal channels for representation) in China’s current governance frameworks. In the meantime, widening the array of actors involved in formulating and delivering services to Tibetan communities may also help promote a broader sense of ownership over these policies and lessen the animosity directed towards Chinese government officials.

Complements National Security Goals

Another feature of the Human Security approach that makes it applicable as a guide to decreasing individual vulnerability in Tibet is that it is meant to be complementary to national security aspirations. Security is not a zero sum, but a positive sum equation – meeting the human security needs of vulnerable communities will enhance security at the state level.

In the case of Tibet, the “independence movement” is a misnomer since most Tibetans (including the Dalai Lama) are not seeking independence from the Chinese state, but are seeking higher levels of autonomy. Even long time human rights advocates recognize that the right to self-determination does not mean a right to independence.

Personally, I am sympathetic to a “one country, two systems” approach to the problem of Tibet, despite the fact the CPG has already discounted this option for Tibet, largely because of underlying security fears. When similar security concerns over how Hong Kong’s autonomy could be used against China were raised, the issue was successfully resolved with the inclusion of stringent security language into Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law. It is difficult to imagine why similar creative compromises couldn’t be found in Tibet’s case.

To facilitate a solution which meets the needs of both Chinese and Tibetans, more dialogue should be promoted on how human security in Tibet is enhanced by Tibetan membership in the Chinese state. Too many Western observers discuss Tibetan self-determination as if it is a self-evident shared goal. I would like to see specific Tibetans gains from increased political autonomy clearly spelled out. Could these gains also be achieved without a radical shift in the political status quo? On the other hand, what does China gain from maintaining the current political status quo? What evidence does it have that a change in Tibet’s political status would be destabilizing to the country, when the evidence in Hong Kong’s case illustrates how political compromises can enhance national security and prestige?

The importance of security and stability at the individual level underpinning the stability of the greater collective is not new to Chinese culture. To paraphrase a famous Confucian saying:

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.

Achieving human security aspirations for Tibetans & Chinese is a two way street. Open and honest dialogue about deep-seated fears held by both sides will help facilitate sustainable compromises and prevent this conflict from further escalation. If dialogue and diplomacy stagnates between both sides, then neither side should consider it a failure to submit themselves to outside mediation.

Duties Beyond Traditional Boundaries

A final advantage of the Human Security approach is that it can be tailored to fit the circumstances of any community. As Deng Xioping said, “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” In the case of Tibet, as long as the human security needs of local Tibetans and Chinese are mutually catered to, it doesn’t matter whether the final solution is labeled communist, democratic, or self-determination with Chinese-Tibetan characteristics.

The emergence of Human Security as a model for global security can be traced to dissatisfaction with how our state-centered global order has failed to provide for the basic human needs of millions of persons left behind as a result of poverty, war, crime, disease, displacement, environmental degradation, and or discrimination. Human Security argues that we must move beyond traditional boundaries (national and ideological) to recognize that our globally integrated arena operates most effectively when we all take responsibility for defending the dignity of all human beings, regardless of race, religion, creed, and nationality.

Admittedly, this idealistic premise remains a fairly foreign idea for most of us. But I would argue that this sense of global obligation grows with each generation, especially as the reality of our mutual vulnerability within our globally integrated environment becomes an ever-present fact of our lives.

For these reasons, I believe that human security hold out great promise for China in seeking to find solutions in Tibet.

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16 Responses to “Rethinking Security in Tibet (Part 2 of 2)”


  1. […] Rethinking Security in Tibet (Part 2 of 2) On the economic front, the claim is that CPG investments have not been made with the needs of local Tibetans in mind. […]

  2. Winson Chu Says:

    Tibet: Human Rights v Human Security

    I think that the issue of Tibet is a very good example of the deficiencies of human rights model, and how the human security model can supplement it to create a more concrete guideline to international leaders.

    In the Tibetan issue, there have been many references to a right of “self-determination” and other “fundamental rights of” that the Tibetan people should prima facie deserve. However, I think that the “rights” talk, while might be good theoretically, offers us little guidance and help on deciding substantive policies for Tibet. While there have been some that advocate the right to self-determination is available to all people/groups inherently and fundamentally, this result would necessarily lead to an absurd result – all cultural/ethical groups with separate identities would be able to declare independence from their country. Thus, I believe that the majority believe that the right to self-determination might be a conditional right (or a negative right, in the libertarian sense), on the condition of having been oppressed or colonized. Therefore, a talk based on the “right to self-determination” only leads one to a historical question on whether the Tibetans have been colonized or oppressed by the Chinese. Yet, the answer to this question is arbitrary and unsubstantiated, because how is one to define what is a colony and what constitutes an integral part of one’s country? Aren’t Australia, North America and South America (former) colonies of European powers, and thus, the aboriginal people deserve a right to self-determination (and implicitly, that all Caucasians should migrate back to Europe)? Thus, I would like to submit that often times, when dealing with such issues, a talk about a self-determination based on a historical context is simply arbitrary and unhelpful.

    On the other hand, while the human rights model does not offer one a helpful guide in dealing the issue with Tibet, the human security model does. The human security model calls for fulfillment of individual needs. The Tibetan riots in Lhasa recently has often been said to be due to the unrest brought largely by unequal economic benefits of the Han Chinese and Tibetans. Thus, instead of talking about self-determination, the human security model leads to an agenda on fulfilling the fundamental needs and freedoms of the Tibetans. Currently, the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the neighboring Qinghai Province are populated with ethic Tibetans; however, the power lies in the Communist Party and the provincial governments dominated largely by the Han Chinese. While, greater representation is needed in the provincial and regional governments, what is necessary is that the Chinese government tries to ensure equality and economic stability. This is because, in the human security paradigm, there is no necessary distinction between Han Chinese and Tibetans. These two groups are composed of individuals that require similar needs – socio-economical stability. Thus, while many have portrayed the Tibetan unrest as of ethical conflicts, it is also a socio-economic conflict, in which power and wealth is concentrated on few rich Han Chinese. (However, one has to note that this is not only a problem particular to Tibetans in China, but also to Han Chinese in general.) Thus, the solution to this problem would be to enhance a more equally developed China, which has been the aim of President Hu Jiantao’s Harmonious Society agenda.

  3. xuduo,Audrey Says:

    There is always a potential threat of human rights problem in Tibet since there hasn’t been an end of cultural and political discrimination towards the people in Tibet from the Han people in China and the Chinese government always ignores to respect multi human rights for different groups within the nation.
    Since China is rapidly developing nowadays, the social, political and economic situation is not only a national problem but will also affect other countries from all kinds of aspects and the role that China plays at the global level is more and more important while Chinese government’s actions will strongly influence the global security and sustainability.
    That’s true that China is still faced with the problem of how to more effectively manage the balance between the needs and concerns of Tibetans with other Han people since it’s clear that most of the wealth and power are being held by the Han people while inequality appears. There is an important model of human security that can be adapted to the Tibet case that it focuses on people-centered security and recognizes that economic, communal, health, environmental, political, and personal threats to individual lives are interconnected but not independent from each other, the violence and conflict issues cannot be just treated as a simple case while there must be other related reasons beneath the surface.
    I agree with Dr. Cummings that religious discrimination plays a significant role in the conflict in Tibet. The human security model calls for fulfillment of individual needs. On my point of view, the ordinary citizens will not care about the abstract things such as democracy unless there’s something relates to it that harms their benefits in practical. The strong control over the religions in Tibet from the Chinese central government is getting serious during these years since the Chinese government treats religion as a instable factor to the security of the country and it will be a tool that easily to be made use of by the Western anti-China forces since religion can has strong power that controls the sprit world of large groups of people and leads them to act. However, this action from the government seriously hurts the emotion of the Tibetans since the religions are an important part of their traditional values that they care much about, and, these values are even goals and aims that they are living for from generation to generation.
    Economic inequality may also be a factor due to the conflicts. However, I think it may not be a very important reason. During these years from the open door policy, the economy in Tibet is gradually developing. In 1988, the local Tibet financial gainnings break the “zero” record. In 1992, the record was higher than 100,000,000 Yuan for the first time, and, got close to 200,000,000 Yuan in 1993. In 2004, the GDP in Tibet increased to 21,154,000,000 Yuan. In 2006, the Tibet railroad enhanced the cooperation and communication between Tibet and other areas in China and contributed greatly to the development in Tibet. During the developing period of such a large country as China, there must be some places that will be developed later and slower than other places in order to make some places to become rich first at least instead of all people staying in poverty together as a whole country. It’s true that Chinese government paid less attention to the development in Tibet during those years, but it cannot be avoided since it’s all for the good for the country as a whole in the long run. Along with it, the development is improving in Tibet rapidly according to the statistics. The living standard, education attainment, resources capacity and so on in Tibet has been effectively improved. Most of the Tibetan had receipt benefits in practical and never think about to be independent from the Chinese state.

    I agree with Dr Cummings that international shaming tactics is not a proper way to pressure China on its human rights record. Those who argue about this method that exaggerate the human rights record of China but undermine the good work just want to make use of this issue to further their own interests. For me, although it’s true that there are potential problems in Tibet, it should not be the direct cause that leads to the conflict since the situation is not that serious and Chinese government does has done some effective actions to solve it. It could only be an excuse of the Dalai community to do the criminal actions for their own interests. They share the same goal with the Western anti-China forces which is “Do something to get something” in such a year that China just want to hold a peaceful, save, fair and royal Olympic.
    (The US military supported Dalai community during 20 years from 1949 to 1969; Dalai got the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989; in 2001, Bush met Dalai on the “peacefully liberating Tibet day”; in 2007, Dalai got the golden prize from the US congress.
    PS: during so many years, Dalai community never stops its splittism. One of the members of the US congress had said, for the US leaders, Dalai is a “religion leader” who can appear anytime anywhere as they want.)

    Sovereign non-intervention of human security gives national governments the final say in human rights adjudication and asks for not just blaming the government when responsibility for problems should be shared among a broad array of stakeholders. However, it’s not suitable for the situation in China on my point of view. Chinese government controls everything in the nation, it may be a necessary tool to effective manager such a big country, however, it’s not the theme at present to argue whether the strict control from the Chinese government is good or not, the point is just that if the government just control the whole country to make its power further stable but not taking strong responsibility to make solutions and get down to actions when problems appear, it will not be good to gain the respect form the citizens and maintain a stable government and society. For the Tibet issue, the government can increase the economic development in Tibet and leave some more freedom to the local religion belief to decrease the potential security problems in Tibet. For another, since there are some other special causes of the DaLai community conflict, the government should try to understand the situation from the historical and cultural perspective and to make sure about what they really want while resolutely protecting the sovereign. Along with it, more freedom of the media in China is needed to gain more understanding of the people in China and also the whole world. Recovering the negative side of the country in an issue will not decline the good image of a government but will be helpful to set up the sprit of a government indirectly and make people both inside and outside the country to believe you more.

  4. J. Burns Says:

    Part 1 of 2

    As a Westerner, Dr. Cummings observations on the misunderstandings regarding the preconceptions of Chinese, Tibetans, and Westerners are of key interest to me. I feel that the role played by rights advocacy groups and foreign governments is critical to an acceptable resolution of this matter, though not through any means of intervention or even direct pressure. For starters the Chinese government is remarkably resilient in the face of pressure and criticism and given the local popularity and economic success of the nation, it is in a position to do so for a very long time. Moreover, most Western powers are not in a position, with regards to their relationship to China, to apply any real pressure with concerted political will. I am not advocating that such is necessary either.

    What I feel is more important for the international community to address is the message that it is sending, subtly or otherwise, to the Chinese government on the issue of Tibet. Presently, that message, is one of tolerance or even support for the notion of a “Free Tibet”. This is not a viable option. It will not come to pass. And as Dr. Cummings pointed out with her observation of Hillary Clinton, it is largely a tool to demonstrate some enlightened sensitivity to the plight of the less fortunate or oppressed and thereby garner support. Such empty claims are neither admirable nor productive in this case.
    One of the issues facing the Chinese govt. with regards to Tibet is the idea that it is a slippery slope. That is, if Tibet is allowed too much autonomy, or if a protest/rally is allowed to go too far, some opportunistic Western power may intervene, creating a Taiwan-like stalemate in a strategically critical region of the Chinese border. Realistically, this notion is unfounded; however, if the international community is unwilling to make unequivocal statements that it does not support a “Free Tibet” as a solution to the problem, what reassurances does the Government have that a similar scenario is not a possibility. Some would inevitably claim that such statements would be an abandonment of the cause of the Tibetans. Hardly. Rather, such a statement with reasonable reassurances, takes the issue off of the table and sets it for a more palatable discussion of specific solutions to the specific issues facing Tibet/China.

    More to come…

  5. Jeni Cheung Says:

    The problem of Tibet is not a new one, but not one as serious as the western media has portrayed. What has made me most annoyed about the Tibet issue, is the portrayal by the western media and those human rights activist damaging Olympics by attacking against China with its human rights record. I am totally against the shaming tactics as I think it is not a good way to make the government pressured to do what you want.

    In the issue, human security advocates and human rights activist are easily mixed up as ordinary people do not understand the difference of two and in their eyes, there are no difference between all people fighting for human rights, no matter what type of strategies each group are using.

    The most severe insecurity in Tibet is probably political and religion insecurity where Tibet people have been governed differently for a very long time. The relations between Tibet and the central government is increasingly tense as the Dalai community further places stress on the government. I think that if I were a human security advocate, I would not support the Dalai Community’s method as it is too extreme and there are too much behind the scene which we do not know. Instead, we can generate public opinion, positively, especially those from local chinese. Because they are the ones who understand the situation better, and they can surely generate the political will needed for the government to take action.

    Furthermore, as far as I know, the central government have been in several talks with the Dalai community for some years, and so it is not that the government is not listening, is that the matter is so complicated that perhaps it cannot be solved only by the top elites in the government. Therefore, perhaps human security activists can offer their solution and invite the government to cooperate with them to see if any new strategies can be thought of.

    One may argue that the central government will not allow western ideas to control their internal affairs as they have stated several times recently, that Tibet is an internal affairs and she does not wish outside parties interfering. However, when things get to a situation like this, in particular, threatening the Olympics, which is a dream for many chinese, perhaps the government will just allow some non-state actors to offer help. After all, NGOs pose a much smaller threat than America does.

    Furthermore, I think there is a unconscious prejudice against the Chinese and this is especially clear during this crisis. Look at the western newspapers, they seem to enjoy Olympics being damaged and Chinese government being pressured. They have unacceptable headlines, and the example offered by CNN is just amazing to Chinese as to how western people treat and think of Chinese. The response of Chinese is not without reason. Furthermore, the situation of Tibet has brought more insecurity to the whole of China as chinese citizen respond fiercely. This is further fueled by the refusal to apologize by the west. This insecurity can rise into riots in other states by overseas chinese if it is not probably handled. If riots really happen, we cannot foresee how much damage it will do to the hosting country. People in those country will suffer form physical insecurity and psychological insecurity as they cannot predict what other extreme actions will be taken against them. This is what we do not want to see. Therefore human security advocates can encourage states and medias to fix their relations with the Chinese. They can also communicate with the Chinese government to comfort its people, to stop the fueling of further insecurities. States should understand that China, a rising power, can affect their economy in many ways, for instance, if China impose strict protectionist policies then trade will be affected greatly. Therefore, states surely have the political will to become friendly with China again.

    Lastly, human security includes the integraty of all kinds of people and the unconscious prejudice against different races must be eliminated.

  6. Michael Fan Says:

    Human security offers a comprehensive view on how one can live with dignity and have a well being which the traditional human right and national security model are unable to offer. The Tibet riot is considered to contained in the human security agenda. It is then believe that human security approach can offer visions for the CPG to hand the situation. However, before drawing such a conclusion, one has to rethink about CPG’s domestic policy practice.
    There are seven major areas that the human security model suggests and which will ultimately promote well-being of every individual, namely economic, environment, community, personal, food, health and political. In the original text advocating the new paradigm (UNDP 1994), these seven security concerns are not prioritized. In another word, to achieve human security is to achieve a threhold of performance in each area. CPG has been trying hard to fight against environmental degradation, to provide social assistance to needy, to strive hard in narrowing the income gap between the rich and the poor. However, decentralization of power to ordinary citizens has never been seen. The democratic centralism way of organizing the government and the extensive united front work of the CCP have effectively preserved political to the selected CCP members. Besides, press and expression freedom is low that the CPG conrols the distribution of news information in media as well as internet form. And in the 17th general meeting of the CCP, it stated that political reform in China is slow and progressive. One can then predict that the current situation will persist for a certain long period of time. Therefore, the political rights of Chinese citizens have not been and will not be respected much. Thus, such political reality is effectively saying that human security cannot be fully achieved in any forseeable future as political security of the people will hardly be improved.
    It is doubtful whether human security can be acted as a guidline or framework for CPG to tackle the Tibet issue or some of the elements inside the HS notion, such as economic security, will be sieved and by promoting them the CPG can delay or to dilute the secessionism in Tibet.

  7. Tim Schocker Says:

    I am the first to admit that I am not as fully informed on the Tibet situation as I should be or would like to be. That said, I found LMC’s post and take on the issue to be very interesting reading. Not least for the fact that it found it raised, in one way or another, many of the questions which we have been grappling with throughout the course. It is these questions which I would like to again return to a couple of these here in the context of this particular issue.

    ‘Freedom from Fear’ v ‘Freedom from Want’
    Consider the following two statements:
    ‘Human security provides a people-centered model of security which recognizes that economic, communal, health, environmental, political, and personal threats to individual lives are interconnected and should be addressed comprehensively in order to enhance security for the larger community.’
    ‘In today’s world, basic security is no longer simply the absence of threats of crime and violence. Human security in Tibet as elsewhere has a cultural, economic, environmental, political and health dimension as well. These threats need to be addressed comprehensively to get at the root causes of Tibetan insecurity.’
    I agree entirely with both of these statements. However, I also think they drag us right back into the Freedom from Fear/Want debate. I also think that these statements stand clearly on the more ambitious ‘Freedom from Want’ side of the fence. Whilst many of us identified Freedom from Want as the more ideal of the two approaches, there was also a general concern that that it was simply too difficult and too ambitious to implement at this point in time – and I think we established that this concern was reasonably well-founded. That said, I thought then, and still do, that it was the only realistic option. The reason for this being that the Freedom from Fear approach, which seeks to protect individuals only from the threats of violence and conflict, simply isn’t realistic. I believe strongly that violence and conflict are inextricably linked to political, social, economic, environmental and other threats and that any attempt to address the threat of violence which ignores these other threats is doomed to failure. Of course taking these other factors into account and dealing with them as well involves more effort and more resources, but I believe it is the only realistic approach to take. I think the situation in Tibet illustrates this point. Certainly there is violence, but the threats to human security there are far more varied. Employing a Freedom from Fear approach in Tibet will not only fail to address the true scope of the security problem, but it is likely to also fail to successfully address the threat of violence.

    Relationship between national security and human security
    ‘Another feature of the Human Security approach that makes it applicable as a guide to decreasing individual vulnerability in Tibet is that it is meant to be complementary to national security aspirations. Security is not a zero sum, but a positive sum equation – meeting the human security needs of vulnerable communities will enhance security at the state level.’
    It is an important premise of Human Security that increasing security at an individual will have benefits for security at national and global levels. It makes perfect sense to me, however, I also wonder to what extent I/we have just assumed that this flow-up effect will occur in practice. Traditional/national security would make a similar argument that strengthening security at a national level will result in a ‘flow-down’ effect and greater security for individuals within that state. In some cases this occurs, but history has shown us that strong security at a national level is not sufficient and certainly no guarantee of security at an individual level. But then the same could be said that strong security at an individual level would be no guarantee of security at a state level. Perhaps then both national security and human security are more mutually dependent that advocates of either model would like to believe?

    Human Rights and Human Security
    In relation to the ‘Moving Beyond Human Rights’ section of the blog, I agree that it is one of the strengths of Human Security that it moves beyond legal means to improve the rights and security of individuals. However, I don’t think we should be too quick to dismiss the usefulness of human rights and the legal instruments that uphold them. There are in fact international laws (in the form of treaties and customary norms) that provide protection against disease and violence, access to education and employment opportunities, or support for cultural and religious expression and China, through consent, has obligations under some of these laws. The fact that China (and other states) fails to meet obligations under these international laws is not necessarily an indictment on the laws themselves or the human rights movement (though the problem of enforceability is an ongoing one in international law). It is simply a case that human rights and relevant laws are not being adhered to. Couldn’t the exact same thing happen with Human Security principles? If China and/or the international community agreed to follow a path towards human security in Tibet, and then failed to follow up on this agreement, then you have the same problem that exists with human rights.

  8. Sandeep Says:

    I would largely agree with what you’ve said, specially with regards to the anti-China bias that western media often portray.

    However, a few things that I’d like to add on/comment on. Firstly, I would quite disagree that there is religious discrimination. As I see it, the ability of the ethnic Tibetans to practice their ways largely undisturbed and in the way in which they would like to proceed with suggests that the CCP is largely tolerant of the religion. No falun gong fanaticisms here. At the same time, a would agree that the claim of investments being there to help the lifestyle of the ethnic tibetans needs to be substantiated, all that ever comes out is that the Han Chinese are being subsidized leading to economic inequalities.

    This is not to suggest that religious insecurity does not exist, the recent “closure” of temples and forcing of people to retrace their steps(highly unlucky according to their beliefs) suggests that China can clamp down when it wants to, which is most definitely a cause for insecurity.

    Advocates of Human Rights and Human Security may often be confused with one another as their wants are prima facie similar. The want of the international community here at this point in time should not be to point the finger on China(while noting that three fingers would be pointed at themselves) and denounce the human rights record in Tibet(and the support for Myanmar and Sudan) but rather to take the opportunity that the Olympics has presented and use it in a more liberal sense, to advocate communication. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s stern but diplomatic line today seems to be the line that I see being most constructive to the situation.

    The focus then in my opinion should not lie in whether Tibet should be an independent country or remain a part of China, but rather whether the people in Tibet feel secure and can enjoy a life which they should be deprived of. And to answer that question I would feel that the Human security model answers much better than the Human Rights model.

  9. Annie Wong Says:

    I would take a different point of view on the issue of Tibet. I have been thinking about how different is the Tibet issue to Westerners and the Chinese. The long history of China has developed a culture of strict obedience. And the government is to ensure stability and that citizens follow rules strictly under its governance. While to the Westerns, that uphold freedom and human rights all years, might not understand how Chinese government look at the Tibet issue.

    Related to human security, till now seems that this model is marinly developed by the Westerns, though Japan has taken large part in it, Japan is a totally different country to China. Human security model that upholds people empowerment, respect human rights might not fit into the political, social, economic and cultural environment of China.

    So while Westerners use the “Human security Lenses” to look at the Tibet issue, China uses its own “Chinese lenses” looking at the issue, no discussion can be done on the same platform.

    Meanwhile, neither the Westerners nor Chinese Central Government knows what Tibetians really need. Even for Dalai Lama claiming that Tibetians are in need of help and are insecured, how do outsiders judge that as human, the Tibetians are insecured. Media often might be used as a tool to achieve political objective, can human security model merely for the sake of human security, but passing through the risk of being used as a political tool?

  10. lmcinhk Says:

    Annie —

    You bring up some good points.

    Regarding the gap between Chinese and international views on this issue, is there a platform that both Chinese, Tibetans, and others can stand on to discuss this issue? If so, what are the principles that such a platform would be based on? If not, do you believe that there is no room for dialogue?

    I agree that the media (dominated by western sources) might not be an objective measure of Tibetian views. Yet, how would you suggest that these views be objectively measured or assessed? Do you feel it is important to better understand how the Tibetans view threats to their security? Why or why not?

    — LMC

  11. lmcinhk Says:

    Tim —

    Thanks for continuing the discussion…

    I’m glad you noticed the freedom from fear/ freedom from want undertones in my post. Writing it helped me realize that I had more sympathy for the freedom from want approach than I had realized.

    As for your comment about human vs national security, it is one of those chicken vs. egg questions…which one should come first. Human security doesn’t take a stand on which way security flows.. up or down, only that both individual and national security are necessary preconditions of the other.

    Finally, I agree that we should continue to build from our human rights framework, but we also need to recognize its limitations and be prepared to move beyond it where necessary.

    — LMC

  12. lmcinhk Says:

    Michael —

    While I agree with you rather negative assessment of CPG views of western political values, I remain optimistic that a sympathetic skillful Chinese politician (not an awkward academic like myself) might demonstrate how these human security objectives are in-line with China’s own political objectives. Call it human security with Chinese characteristics. At base, I don’t believe that human security values are incompatible with Chinese political cultural traditions.

    — LMC

    — LMC

  13. Pretty Chan Says:

    Many criticize that the one-party rule of CCP would be barrier to implementing Human Security, as some argue that the CPG focus more on economic development as China rises. However, I think this development is an advantage which is beneficial to implementing Human Security policies in China.

    Conflicts in Tibet originate from ethnic differences among individuals. It complicates by international community’s concern about China’s human rights status. My opinion is that, HS approach will be the solution for, not only Tibet, but also for Taiwan and threats in China, because of changing CCP rule. My thoughts are as follows:

    First, CCP roots from people’s power, and Chinese leaders emphasize on solving problems in accordance with people’s needs are consistent with the goal of HS. As China began to develop economically, citizens become more individualistic. I think what LMC raised in this case of Tibet provide insights for solving not only Tibet conflicts, but also other potential problems in the future, such as the widening wealth gap in China, Taiwan issue, etc. Individual interests rather than national interests would favor non military solutions to threats, by fitting in the needs and concerns of people, the CCP would continue to strengthen its legitimacy in China.

    Secondly, many Chinese values indeed echo HS primary goals. Confucian value of “putting people at the centre” has been demonstrated in Chinese art, architecture and philosophies. Though Confucian values emphasize on the coordination between human and nature, it is consistent with “individual as primary referent”, which is one major theme in HS.

    Thirdly, in a country with vast population like China, HS is a “win-win” solution to gradually complex problems. The outbreak of SARS in Guangdong province in 2003 has demonstrated that the scope of security should not be limited to traditional national security. We can see the gradual trend of focusing on Human Security by contingency plans and prevention measures in recent potential outbreak of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and EV 71 virus in China. Even so, I would argue that implementing HS in China is still in preliminary stage, and future observations are needed to draw more conclusive comments.

    For the above, I contend that HS is consistent with the major direction of CCP and Chinese values, which is also appropriate for solving the diverse problems in China.

  14. Pretty Chan Says:

    Recently I’m reading news on the Earthquake in Sichuan province, China, and brainstorm about Human Security (I think this is really how this course works on me). Compare the reaction of the CPG with how the government of Myanmar deal with the disaster caused by the cyclone, human security has been put on a higher priority in China than in Myanmar, obviously, in reaction to natural disasters.

    As President Bush’s speech on the natural disasters in China and Myanmar mentioned, global warming, to a certain extent, indirectly contributed to the increase of natural disasters. The threats to human, such as casualties in earthquakes and the possible breakout of infectious diseases after the disaster raise concerns over human security.

    As Premier Wen Jiabao of China said during his visit to Sichuan province after the earthquake, human security approach is adopted in CPG’s policy agenda. People’s health and safety in China is put on a high priority, instead of the poor coordination and concern over the rescue by the government in Myanmar. The Chinese government is learning gradually, after the wind storm months ago, to adopt human security as one of their tool of governance.

    Just a bit of quick reflection and insights after the recent natural disasters, human security approach provides a more comprehensive solution, as well as understanding to the world.

  15. jaime Says:

    As an outside observer of Tibet-China relations i have to admit that my knowledge on the area is limited and that my perceptions are coloured by mainstream media and popular movies. To distil some lucid opinion about resolving the internal conflict with these perceptions is difficult, and my own bias is something i wish to be sensitive to given the topical nature of this subject.

    As a student of international relations and law, i have always perceived the occupation of China to be unjustified. The conceptualisation of a ‘one china’ policy, in my mind, has some referrable qualities to ‘manifest destiny’ and some of the driving forces behind colonisations – a belief in entitlement and a desire to expand borders. A college of mine at the University of Melbourne produced an interesting paper on the economic investment by the PRC into Tibet (presuming they are separate economic entities) and concluded that the act of Chinese workers and professionals remitting funds back to the PRC actually resulted in a net economic loss to the Tibet economy. These opinions, of course, are my own, and i accept that what has occurred between China and Tibet is now part of a history that the two states must share.

    Moving forward to current times there is an issue of what i would now term as ‘internal’ conflict within China and its province, Tibet. The situation, i feel, is driven by multifaceted factors that are driving conflict. Under this approach, human security is an ideal paradigm to assess and generate solutions to the circumstances in Tibet.

    Before i comment and suggest the human security agenda for Tibet/China relations i want to note why the traditional security paradigm has failed with respect to this particular situation. The principle reason lies in the statist approach of the paradigm, which at a high level, means that as security practitioners we run into barriers to assess the full circumstances of the dispute between some elements in Tibet and the Chinese government. Policy settings by IGOs, NGOs and other states are hampered by the notions of state sovereignty and non-intervention enshrined in international law. This rules are more entrenched then the human rights guaranteed to all individuals in various international law instruments, and handicap both external and internal actors to monitor, debate and persuade policy-makers in the Chinese state apparatus.

    The human security paradigm enables us to make an assessment of the needs of all actors. Starting at the fundamental premise of human security, that is the moral obligations people owe to one another and the need to ensure that human beings are free from fear and want, i suggest that we must first look at the circumstances of the ‘victim’. If elements of Tibetian society are distressed to the point of entering into a broader political conflict with China, why is this the case? For the human security proponent, such an approach would enlighten the perceptions of policy-makers at all points of the policy-making network – including the Chinese state apparatus, the CCP, IGOs, external state actors and civil organisations. If the needs of Tibetans stem from fear of repression or from economic based fears, these fears should be examined.

    In terms of any resolution to the dispute, i would suggest that the closest point of authority, which is the Chinese state apparatus and the CCP, might take a serious look at these issues. One thing i have enjoyed about the human security concept is the close ties it explicitly or implicitly has with global governance and how it recommends power be exercised by all actors in global society. I would think that the sustainability of the PRC, and its ability to manage the current state of social, economic and cultural circumstances, rest on how it is governed and whether it can adapt to changing circumstances in a globalised world. Political, social and economic circumstances are key drivers in the Tibet-China dispute, and i think that other stakeholders in the dispute are also driven by these key motivators, meaning that a carefully carfted approach that is sensitive to these issues may resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner.

    To address a key point, that is whether human security is applicable to China, i would suggest that the CCP is a pragmatic political institution. A traditional security approach would be to use the overwhelming power of the state, particularly in nation were the state has such a strong presence, to force a resolution to the dispute. But for the CCP, such an approach is no longer viable. This is because the power of the CCP, like all political institutions, is no longer dependent on the acquiesce of the people within its jurisdiction but also on globalised forces. A human security approach might also suggest that the PRC has interests of its own, such as the on-going support of Western consumers, the need to manage relations with protectionist elements in the US, domestic stability within its own boarders and the ability to generate soft power as its own power in international relations increases.

    Human security is an acceptable, and indeed important, path for China to adopt. Without advocating Western style democracy or Western notions of human rights for China, i believe that such an approach is still vital because it emphasis sustainability and peaceful governance for all parties with an interest in China and Tibet relations.

  16. lmcinhk Says:

    Jeni —

    Concerning media bias against China, I agree with you that it certainly does exist. I knew it was bad in the States, but I have found the anti-China media bias to be as bad here in the UK. Yet, I also find the international media coverage of the United States to be appallingly one sided — with media outlets typically offering superficial analysis without any real intent to understand the wide variety of internal factors at play.

    That said, i don’t think this one-sided coverage has to do with any innate racism. It has more to do with the fact that people like reading about the failures of great powers, so these stories sell well. (Just like we like to read about movie star’s secret problems.) No one likes any one global actor to be too powerful (especially one whose future seems to dominate the headlines) so when we hear that China and the US have their own real problems, it makes us feel good. So in the end, one-sided stories appeal to our petty natures thus help media outlets remain profitable.

    — LMC


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