Stratfor Global Intelligence Mainstream media tends to understand China's strong grip on Tibet as a function of China's communist preference for authoritarian rule, driven by intangible factors like nationalism or Han chauvinism.
'Although these factors are indeed in play, they give an incomplete
understanding of why Tibet is important to China. History suggests that
China's need to control Tibet is geopolitical and not unique to any single Chinese government or to Han rule.
The Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Manchu-ruled Qing Dynasty (1645-1911)
and the Nationalist government (1927-1949) all fought to either dominate
or pacify Tibet.
'The Tang Dynasty was a cosmopolitan golden age for China's culture
and arts, as well as a high point of Chinese military and economic
might. At that time, China's center of gravity was not on its eastern
seaboard as it is today but in northwestern China in what is modern
Shaanxi Province. However, another power challenged China's control of
the western frontier: the Tang Dynasty's most powerful foe, the Tibetan
Empire. The two empires fought frequent wars between the early seventh
century and the mid-ninth century to dominate the Silk Road, a network
of trade routes running westward from the Tang capital Chang'an (modern
Xian) through Central Asia, Persia and Europe.'