Howard French

The 77th birthday of the Dalai Lama has been celebrated low-key, but has triggered off also some critical analysis, like here in FirstPost. It quotes long-time China correspondent Howard French, arguing the Dalai Lama should have changed its strategy a decade ago.


“The Dalai Lama is a great and charismatic spiritual figure, but a poor and poorly advised political strategist,” wrote Howard French, a long time foreign correspondent for the New York Times. “The Dalai Lama should have closed down the Hollywood strategy a decade ago and focused on back-channel diplomacy with Beijing. He should have publicly renounced the claim to a so-called Greater Tibet, which demands territory that was never under the control of the Lhasa government. Sending his envoys to talk about talks with the Chinese while simultaneously encouraging the global pro-Tibet lobby has achieved nothing.”

The Hollywood trap keeps the Dalai Lama as the nostalgic reminder of a simpler time, a romantic counterweight to an aggressive China, a salve for our materialistic money-grubbing selves. The tragedy of Tibet is its plight is what keeps it alive in western consciousness. The Dalai Lama has made his people the posterchildren of what Pico Iyer calls “one of the fastest growing nations of the world – the land of the deracinated (since by some counts there are now one hundred million refugees in the world, part of a tribe that is twice as populous as Australia and Canada combined)”. And he has done this just by being himself – a twinkling man with an infectious laugh carrying the yellow card of a refugee.

More in FirstPost.

Howard French is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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