July 18, 2015

"But while it is extremely doubtful that Tibet could secede from China and quickly become a military power capable of capturing territory from the Chinese, Tibet is still geographically well-positioned to disrupt China's overland trade routes."

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.'

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