The March 2008 “unrest” in Tibet has managed to net two big political victims: Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama and Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China.
a. The Dalai Lama
Either the Dalai Lama is behind the rebellion, or he is not.
If he is, it’s a big failure for decades of his nonviolent struggle, some 49 years after leading one way or another the wrongly-timed, poorly opportunistic 1959 uprising that lead him into exile.
If he is not (and personally, I think that’s the case), it means he’s been sidelined (check his threat to resign against escalating violence). That is, the Tibetans are not all behind him: and so, as much as he is popular in the West, the World needs to identify more interlocutors to keep a meaningful contact with the people of Tibet.
b. President Hu Jintao
Even more than the Dalai Lama’s, the biggest failure of all is a personal one, and concerns Chinese President Hu Jintao’s.
First he was Party Secretary in Tibet for a while: however protected and privileged his lifestyle must have been at the time, and even if he came to distrust and despise the region and the people, as rumors have it, Hu must have learnt a thing of two about Tibet. Now, as Paramount Leader, President, General Secretary, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Hu has been in charge of getting the whole country ready for the Olympics.
True, Hu even tried to prevent troubles by sending additional security personnel. But still: when the troubles happened (and they happened when most expected: on an anniversary, a few months before the Olympics), Hu’s only answer was to kill, brutalize, arrest, deport, in an incredibly bad P.R. move compounded by an unhealthy, improbable fixation for fantastic machinations by the Dalai Lama, a robed guy in Dharamsala pretending nonviolence for decades but now single-handedly capable of eliciting problems for the whole of China.
Under Hu’s (in-)capable hands, China has been lead into looking foolish, unable to prepare, unable to prevent civil unrest, violent, trigger-happy against “its own” people, unable to defend the ethnic Chinese Han apparently victims of the Tibetans’ anger, unable to prevent the news from leaking to the outside world, blood-splattered in front of hundreds of millions of its customers around the world a few weeks before the Olympics and ready to be criticized and ostracized by all those looking for an excuse for protectionism.
All of this, a few days after announcing a clampdown on Uighur’s terrorists that appears more and more either fiction or embellished reality.
Is this what Hu Jintao had in mind when presenting his political philosophy of “Harmonious Society” and “Peaceful Development“? Hopefully not…but unfortunately, his does look like “Fairweather Leadership“.
Unless something big happens during the next few months, one shouldn’t be surprised to find Hu in well-earned retirement quite soon.