Prior to the nation-state paradigm becoming a norm for international relations, the ebb and flow of empires defined international relations and the extent of frontiers. The concept of a fixed national border and the state had not evolved yet. China, India and Tibet were no different. Following the collapse of imperial Tibet in the ninth century, the chaos of competing Mongol, Chinese, and British empires created overlapping notions of frontiers and allegiances of the people therein. How did this play out on the Asian scene with the end of western imperialism and colonialism in the mid-twentieth century? How did third world unity against imperialism and colonialism evolve in reality? What caused the famine in Tibet during this time period?
Sulmaan Wasif Khan, a professor at Tufts University, takes mid-twentieth century as the starting point to unravel the genesis of China’s modern foreign relations towards the world and South Asia in particular. He argues that the newly established People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) vision of third world unity and its then germinating policy towards South Asia was derailed by its weakness as a state in its borderlands. In consolidating its vast far west frontiers, China transitioned from empire-lite to empire-heavy. In contrast to Henry Kissinger’s description of China “less as a conventional nation-state than a natural phenomenon,” academicians like Khan and Carole McGranahan, a professor at the University of Colorado, describe China as an empire rather than Kissinger’s “a natural phenomenon.” In recognizing the high degree of autonomy in the peripheries of Chinese empire prior to the mid-twentieth century, Khan employs the term empire-lite for China’s peripheral governance. In the face of revolt in Tibet, Maoist China transitioned from the centuries old traditional model with a heavier control regime from Beijing towards an empire-heavy model.[Source]