To this day, the reasons why China invaded Tibet are still being debated and argued. There are differing opinions and some background information is necessary for forming an opinion.
The British and Chinese Agreement
During the 12th century, Russia and Britain were battling for control of Central Asia. In 1904 the British sent thousands of troops to Tibet. Hundreds, if not thousands of civilians were killed. Shortly afterwards the British took control of the land.
In 1906 Britain and China entered into an agreement. The Chinese agreed to pay Britain 2 million rupees. In exchange London recognized China’s right to annex the country, which they said has always belonged to them anyway. To this day, the reason why China invaded Tibet is its belief that it rightfully belongs to the mainland.
1912 to 49: Independence for Tibet
In 1912 the Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibet, made his return to the country after years in exile. During this period, China was in chaos as the Qing dynasty had collapsed. The few Chinese troops that were stationed in Tibet where easily defeated. The Dalai Lama proclaimed independence.
The Invasion in 1950
In 1949 under Mao Zedong, China launched an invasion of Tibet. On October 1950, the Chinese Army took over the country, starting at Chamdo. A year later the Dalai Lama through his representatives, signed a treaty with the Chinese.
In it they recognized the authority of China over their country. When looking at the reasons why China invaded Tibet, the importance of this agreement (the 17 Point Treaty) cannot be overlooked. While the Chinese say it verifies their claim, the Dalai Lama states that they were forced to sign it.
Since the 1990s, the Dalai Lama has been governing in exile. Along with his supporters they claim that under Chinese rule the local population has been subjected to economic, social and racial inequalities. According to their supporters, over half a million Tibetans have died since the Chinese occupation.
They also pointed out that the entire country is being absorbed into the mainland. The reason why China invaded Tibet was to turn it into a home for its own people. The time will come when Tibet and its culture will disappear as it gets assimilated into he Chinese culture.
The People’s Republic of China disputes this claim. The authorities in Beijing say that from 1912 to 1949, the economic situation in the country had deteriorated. What the Chinese Army did was to liberate the people from suffering and inept leadership.
With help from the mainland, the economic and individual status of the people had improved. The government also releases statistics saying GDP figures have risen tremendously since the occupation.
They also point out that workers there are paid high and infrastructure has improved. The Chinese authorities have also stated that they have embarked on a mission to preserve historical sites in the country.
There is no easy answer to the question of why China invaded Tibet. It is bound to provoke passionate and heated responses. To this day, the issue has yet to be settled.