Review: Blessings from Beijing: Inside China’s Soft-power War on Tibet by Greg Bruno

July 7, 2018 By Thubten Samphel, Hindustan Times

These days, some books on Tibet are hopeful. Others speak of doom and gloom for Tibetans against the background of China’s rise and its willingness to throw its economic muscle around the world. Blessings from Beijing, a combination of fine travel writing and great reporting, expresses both fear and hope.

In his travels to Tibetan communities in America, Europe, India, and Nepal, Greg Bruno poses the question that is racking the minds of the Tibetan people: What would happen to Tibetans when the Dalai Lama is no longer with them? For older Tibetans both in Tibet and outside, those in their 70s and 80s, to pose the question itself is unthinkable, leave alone posit either a hopeful or fearful guess. But for young Tibetans on both sides of the Himalayas and beyond, the question is debated discreetly but fiercely because the eventual answer will impact their lives and decide the fate of the Tibetan people and their culture.

The question and possible answers to it become more poignant when one understands that Tibetan refugees have been able to establish a cohesive and dynamic community outside Tibet. The community is bound together by what Bruno calls a global “tourism empire” of monasteries, institutions of higher learning, Dharma centres, libraries, Tibetan medical centres, cultural institutions and a thriving civil society that maintains the vitality and relevance of Tibet’s civilization. In so doing, the Dalai Lama and the exile Tibetan community have captured “the world’s collective imagination”. It has attracted and been supported by a worldwide Tibet movement that is fighting for a better treatment of Tibet. Bruno writes, “In late 2016 there were some 2.5 million mentions of ‘Tibet’ on Facebook and over 73 million web pages with the word ‘Tibetan’ catalogued by Google; and at 13.1 million followers, the Dalai Lama was more popular on Twitter than the Presidents of Turkey, France, and Israel combined. In the world of social media, this Buddhist monk, his people, and the land they call ‘home’ are marketing demigods.”[Source]

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