Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Tibetathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics


For a good nuanced read that puts the recent flare-up in perspective, see Pankaj Mishra’s At war with the utopia of modernity (Guardian CiF). An interesting essay can also be found in Michael Parenti’s Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth, and the mainstream Chinese perspective in Bevin Chu’s The Strait Scoop: Tibetan-Chinese Are Not American Indians. See also Soraya Ulrich’s The Tibet Card and Richard M Bennett’s Tibet, the ‘great game’ and the CIA (commented upon and excerpted below)*.

© Cartoon by Khalil Bendib

* Added 27 March:


Soraya Ulrich’s The Tibet Card, in which she writes about just why the US might find Tibet of strategic interest, with resources constituting one of many reasons: “Tibet has the world’s largest reserve of uranium, and in addition to gold and copper, large quantities of oil and gas were discovered in Qiangtang Basin in western China’s remote Tibet area.

I did think however that Australia had the world’s largest reserves of uranium, at around 24% of the world’s total reserves. The reference cited by Ulrich mentions oil and gas, but not uranium. From a quick search there are several articles such as this one but a dearth of primary source material that only suggest that Tibet has one of the largest uranium deposits in the world, without references.

FACT CHECK: The World Energy Council Survey of Energy Resources: 2007 (.pdf) reports that Australia has the largest known recoverable reserves, while Canada is the world’s largest producer. (The report also notes that China does not release official figures.)

This World Energy Council table (.pdf; see visually as a graph here) sourced from primary data divides Proven Reserves according to the energy- and cost-efficiency in retrieving them: at total recoverable reserves at up to US$130/kgU, Australia’s reserves are followed (in reserve-size order) by Kazakhstan, Canada, USA, South Africa, Namibia, Brazil, Niger and Russia. See also here.


Richard M Bennett’s Tibet, the ‘great game’ and the CIA, in which he asks: ” … is the CIA once again playing the “great game” in Tibet?”:

It certainly has the capability, with a significant intelligence and paramilitary presence in the region. Major bases exist in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and several Central Asian states. It cannot be doubted that it has an interest in undermining China, as well as the more obvious target of Iran. So the probable answer is yes, and indeed it would be rather surprising if the CIA was not taking more than just a passing interest in Tibet. That is after all what it is paid to do.

Since September 11, 2001, there has been a sea-change in US Intelligence attitudes, requirements and capabilities. Old operational plans have been dusted off and updated. Previous assets re-activated. Tibet and the perceived weakness of China’s position there will probably have been fully reassessed.

For Washington and the CIA, this may seem a heaven-sent opportunity to create a significant lever against Beijing, with little risk to American interests; simply a win-win situation.

The Chinese government would be on the receiving end of worldwide condemnation for its continuing repression and violation of human rights and it will be young Tibetans dying on the streets of Lhasa rather than yet more uniformed American kids.

2 comments on “Tibetathon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

  1. Dave On Fire
    24 March, 2008

    Thanks for these, a worthy round-up of essays.
    You seem skeptical about Chu’s piece, in which suggests that parallels between Tibetans and Native Americans are hypocritical “projections of guilt”, serving only to stir up yellow peril paranoia.
    I think he has a point; emphasising “racial” aspects to a conflict is a tried and tested way of mystifying the material causes into the background. But I also think that the Wild West analogy is valid in terms of understanding those material causes, how can one look at the frontier towns and railways and still think otherwise?

    Ann says: Thanks Dave, agreed.

  2. dougrogers
    25 March, 2008

    There’s probably truth in either of those linked posts. It’s hard to read through the righteousness though.


    Ann says: Hi Doug and thanks for the comment. Indeed, some of the more black and white accounts belie the more messy reality.

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This entry was posted on 24 March, 2008 by in Cartoonists, China, Dissent, Sport, Violence and tagged , , , , , .

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