So things are getting pretty hot in Tibet. The situation there merits a moment of analysis, I think.
First: China is the perfect embodiment of authoritarian capitalism. I say this first to dissuade any confused "anti-imperialists" who think that everything that challenges the United States is somehow progressive. Nothing of the sort. China has flipped communism on its head, and is paying the consequences. An impoverished and swelling working class is beginning to put its feet down. The situation is nothing if not reminiscent of the U.S. in the late 19th/early twentieth centuries. An active but entirely unorganized working class which is trying to establish forms to resist capitalist exploitation. China is the most important country in the next decade, and not because it's economy is "booming" but because its class struggle is.
Second: The Dalai Lama should be the first one against the wall. For all his equivocation and pacifist language, he is a rank opportunist and theocrat. Much as I am loathe to give them their due, the Maoists and their lackeys have pointed out what a scumbag he is and how horrible feudal Tibet was for the underclasses. Michael Parenti's oft-cited essay is of use here. A choice quote:
"Keep in mind that it took a Chinese occupation and almost forty years of exile for him to propose democracy for Tibet and to criticize the oppressive feudal autocracy of which he himself was the apotheosis. But his criticism of the old order comes far too late for ordinary Tibetans. Many of them want him back in their country, but it appears that relatively few want a return to the social order he represented."
The Dalai Lama is anti-choice and anti-gay. He's not even pro-independence. His leadership would be a giant step backwards for Tibet. He is enormously popular in the West because his pacifist style makes liberals feel at ease and also as if they're doing something while they're not. If Tibet does somehow break off or achieve a measure of autonomy, the former serfs will not likely welcome back the feudal theocracy that he represents.
Taking this two as premises, we can see that neither the CCP nor the Dalai Lama has the interests of working people in Tibet in mind. And what's more, they know it. We must examine these recent disturbances as moments of class struggle. The struggle in Tibet is not being led by the "Dalai clique" as Beijing would have us believe. In fact, the pacifist-king-in-exile has threatened to resign if violence continues. Hardly the words of someone supporting the conflict on the streets of Lhasa! But the Lama is not supporting the actions: they challenge his role as legitimate leader, because they are autonomous and decentralized.
The ethnic Han in Tibet can be seen as analogous to the Protestants in Northern Ireland. Ethnic Tibetans acting against the Chinese government occasionally (and incredibly regrettably) spills over to ordinary Hans because they are part of that occupation, even if they are not the ones doing the actual crimes.
Of course, the Western media is doing its best to downplay the revolutionary energy of this authentic anti-imperialist struggle. The rioters are portrayed as hooligans that are "over-reacting" and not following the proscribed path toward liberal democracy. We've got to be careful that we don't fall into cheer-leading for either the U.S.-backed Lama or the CCP. Neither are progressive and neither are revolutionary. The working class in Tibet is testing out the waters and we must watch and critically support their actions.