The British Empire & Tibet 1900 - 1922

By Wendy Palace | Go to book overview

8

Lhasa unveiled

Britain and Tibet in the post-war world, 1918-1922

[T]he Dalai Lama was discussing the future of Tibet. He desired to see Tibet entirely independent of China and consulting the British Government whenever necessity arises.

Charles Bell, c.1914

In 1922 a conference was held in Washington, D.C. Its aim was to end rivalries and reorder Asian policy to accommodate the shifts in power brought about by the First World War. The fact that the conference had been convened in Washington and not in Paris was significant, revealing the extent to which America had begun to establish herself as a diplomatic leader after 1918. Her growing influence in international affairs had encouraged Britain to reconsider her Asian policy in the new post-war climate.

In the period between the signing of the Rongbasta truce in 1918 and the start of the Washington Conference, Britain's Tibetan policy was dominated by attempts to resume Anglo-Chinese talks about the future of Tibet, thwarted by China's refusal to sign the tripartite agreement at Simla in 1914. The First World War and the preoccupation with Europe had meant that British Tibetan policy had been neglected, but once the negotiations resumed in 1918 they exposed the very different position in which Britain now found herself in the post-war world and powerful new forces now intervened to threaten a successful outcome. The growing influence of America and Japan in Chinese affairs, coupled with the Dalai Lama's awareness that he might now be able to exercise more control over events in the new climate of international diplomacy - and, above all that, the confusion generated by the continuing chaos inside China itself - all helped to prevent the achievement of a satisfactory solution to what the British still referred to as their 'Tibetan problem'.

-126-

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