China’s Tibetan challenge: disputed pasts and uncertain futures

 Professor Robert J. Barnett

This lecture will be preceded by a drinks reception from 5:30-6:00 pm.

For catering purpose, please RSVP via email or on 02 6125 9060.

The growth of the People’s Republic of China as a regional and global power has coincided with a surge of violence and unrest in its western regions, with a wave of terrorist killings in the northern areas and over 100 political suicides in the south. These areas are strategically important to China not just in terms of size – together they represent nearly half of the country’s landmass – but for military, economic and environmental reasons too, and the protracted conflicts in these areas are part of the shifting balance in the wider region. The Tibetan case is particularly striking because, unlike many other ethnic and nationalist conflicts, leaders on both sides say they are willing to hold talks about a resolution. However, now 60 years since the conflict began, there is still no sign of progress, and the situation may be getting worse. Since the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) has been largely closed to independent observers for the last quarter century, much of what happens there remains little known to outsiders, and it is not even clear how much officials in Beijing really know about these places and the people in them. How should we interpret the fragments of information that reach us about unrest and protests there, or indeed about the efforts of officials to deal with them?

About the Speaker

Robert Barnett is the Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University in New York. His books include Tibetan Modernities: Notes from the Field (with Ronald Schwartz, 2008), Lhasa: Streets with Memories (2006) and A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Petition of the 10th Panchen Lama (1997). He has published articles on modern Tibetan history, film and TV drama, and women and politics in Tibet, as well as on religious policies, political leadership, oral history and exorcism rituals in contemporary Tibet. From 2000 to 2006 he ran the annual Summer Program for foreign students at Tibet University in Lhasa, as well as training projects in Tibet on ecotourism, teaching and oral culture. He is a frequent commentator on Tibet-related issues for the BBC, NPR, the New York Times and other media outlets.

This lecture is co-sponsored by ANU Australian Centre on China in the World and China Studies Centre, The University of Sydney.


Professor Robert J. Barnett

Dates & times

Thursday, 10 July 2014

5.30pm - 7.30pm


Auditorium, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU

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