A quiet, scholarly, but devastating study of Tibet from the earliest times to the present. While there is useful material on the ethnic origins of the Tibetans and their early history, Smith, an independent scholar of international relations, gives three-quarters of his space to the history of the country since 1903, when a British military expedition in search of trade privileges focused attention on the country for the first time. It ended Tibet's isolation, and made it clear that China's claim of authority was a myth. A failed attempt by China in 1911 to establish its authority contributed to its own financial collapse. In 1950, the Chinese Communists invaded the country, almost at the same time they entered the Korean War. The international reaction to the invasion and to massive human-rights violations in Tibet has been constrained by the recognition by most major governments of Chinese sovereignty and by their desire to preserve their relations with the Chinese government. Thus, it was not until the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that a US president (George Bush) agreed to meet him. And yet the evidence of genocide is abundant: Even the Panchen Lama, an ally of the Chinese government, estimated that 10 to 15 percent of the population had been imprisoned, and the other credible estimates are that as much as 20 percent of the population may have been executed, starved to death, or otherwise eliminated. For a while, conditions in Tibet horrified even the Chinese leadership, but the liberalization evident at least in economic affairs in China has not been reflected in Tibet. In summary, Smith calls Chinese rule ``illegitimate, oppressive, destructive, barbaric, and a form of state feudalism that has turned all Tibetans into serfs of the Chinese state.'' His conclusion is the more impressive for the care and comprehensiveness with which Smith has assembled the evidence. A monumental study that provides scholarship, insight, and controlled passion.
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