T'ANG CHINA VERSUS TIBET: GRADUATED RECIPROCATION IN TENSION REDUCTION
776-785: Conspicuous State, T'ang Dynasty; Conspicuous Rival, Tibet
THE DECADE from 776 to 85 in China saw a new emperor continually threatened by rebellious uprising among his subjects. During most of the decade the emperor had to put down one rebel after another, and not until the decade ended did he finally get firm control of the government. That his primary concern was with his rebellious subjects is obvious, and may explain why he was willing to accommodate the Tibetans and make a peace with them at this time. The Chinese had just defeated the Tibetans twice when the new emperor mounted the throne in 779. But his own civil war soon made him anxious for peace with his neighbors. So having first used force, the Chinese now offered the Tibetans conciliation. For their part, the Tibetans, having suffered two recent defeats, were not adverse to peace and needed only to save face. The T'ang emperor, by conciliating the Tibetans with goodwill gestures, enabled them to do this and thus brought about the peace which both sides now found advantageous.
The events of the decade provide an illuminating case of Charles E. Osgood's graduated reciprocation in tension reduction ( "Suggestions for Winning the Real War with Communism," J. of Conflict Resolution 3: no. 4 [ 1959 ], 295-325). The process works in the following way. In inter-nation conflict, the greater the tension, the greater the likelihood of war (which presumably neither side really wants).