People often mention Tibet and Xinjiang when talking about ethnic and religious conflict. But if you ask most people within China how view this issue, you might get the response that there is not much ethnic conflict in our country at all.
Of course, the population is 97% Han Chinese and the 55 minority nationalities make up only 3%. The minority's voice is weak. China is also such a secular nation that many people are unreligious. People would tell you that the conflicts we have in China play out more often between the countryside and the cities than between ethnic groups. Basically, most of the Han Chinese have probably never thought about Tibet or Xinjiang from the point of view of the locals in those areas.
I, for example, had never put myself into the shoes of Chinese minorities until I moved to America and became a member of the minority myself. As a Chinese-American, I realized how much the feeling of being respected by mainstream America meant to me. It has helped me better understand why Tibet is such an issue in China.
Tibetans have been both romanticized and demonized by the Han Chinese. Once upon a time, their region was considered one of stupidity and contamination. It seems to me that people fight because we fear the foreign and the unknown. Nowadays, Tibetans and Han Chinese travel back and forth across the border between them and understand each other much better; I sense less superiority when Chinese talk about the Tibetans.
Attitudes toward the Dalai Lama, however, remain hostile. Only when I moved to America did I learn about the Dalai Lama's teachings and wisdom, which have won my deep respect. Many of my peers in China think the opposite and deem the Dalai Lama a separatist. I would love to see the Chinese government become confident enough to let the Dalai Lama return to Tibet and talk to younger Chinese generations about his people and his religion. Why not? With the speed of internet growth, it is not at all difficult for young Chinese to learn about the rest of the world on their own – a world in which the Dalai Lama is admired.
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