I've always wondered about this. Why does Tibet get so much media attention, while Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia gets next to none? Here is a comparison of the three provinces of China:
  • All three provinces were taken over by China in the 1950's as "border defense" against the Soviets. The Sino-Russo rift that developed has caused China to desire more territory between its industrial centers and its borders.
  • All three are autonomous regions under Chinese administration.
  • All three have an ethnic minority as a significant part of the population. Tibet has the Tibetans, Xinjiang the Uighur natives, Mongolia the Mongol nomadic tribes.
  • All three minorities have had their majorities significantly reduced by the influx of Han immigration.
  • All three have received significant amounts of economic incentives from Beijing, and as a result developed economic infrastructure on a rapid scale.
All in all, these three provinces are strikingly similar, except one is in the North, one Southwest, the other Northwest. So why all the media attention for Tibet? The last time I saw something on Xinjiang was in the National Geographic, two years ago. Other than that, it's all Tibet, Tibet, Tibet. Makes me sick. Here's a brief explanation.

Firstly, the Dalai Lama. Since Xinjiang and Mongolia had no structure of authority existing before China arrived, the nomads in both regions didn't really care about the new settlers. On the other hand, the Tibetan theocracy cared a great deal about their loss of dictatorship powers, and promptly commenced to bitch about it overseas. Neither Xinjiang nor Inner Mongolia has a little globetrotting sympathy grabber.

Secondly, religion. Xinjiang is predominantly Islam, the Mongols don't (as far as I know) have a religion. I haven't been to Mongolia so I'm not sure. The American media has never had a very positive view of Muslim people, especially after the hostage crisis in Iran, and the whole OPEC thing. In fact, the American media has continually depicted Islamic people as a bunch of terrorists. Buddhism, on the other hand, is in vogue. With its share of limousine liberal endorsements, the Eastern spirituality fad, and all that, buddhism is sure to gain plenty of support, as well as positive portrayal in the media. Ignoring the fact that the Tibetan buddhist theocracy was greedy, selfish and oppressive, Tibet managed to hog a majority of the attention of the anti-Chinese activists.

In fact, there has been far more anti-Chinese dissent in Xinjiang than in Tibet. In the 1960's and 1970's there were guerilla groups against the Chinese government in Xinjiang, whereas active resistance in Tibet died out in the mid-1950's when the people realized that they were better off. The Uighurs were nomads, and they didn't like the disruption in lifestyle. However, the Chinese agreed to stay off their grazing lands in the 1980's and gave them lots of economic incentives, so they've mostly calmed down now.

You see? Tibet is a massive exaggeration. No matter what people say about Free Tibet, they've obviously not looked into China more closely, otherwise they would definitely have missed out this glaringly obvious comparison, just one province north of Tibet. Or maybe they don't care about Muslims. I wish those people aren't as fickle as that.

DMan, the Mongolian Kalmuk are Tibetan Buddhists, primarily of a variant of the Gelugkpa school.

Tibet has been a place of fascination for the West since before the Great Game was played between the British Empire and Tsarist Russia. An excellent consideration of the varied images of Tibet in English is "Prisoners of Shangri-la" by Donald Lopez Jr.

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