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Tibetan Professional Development

posted Sep 18, 2011, 6:42 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Tsewang Namgyal

In this modern globalized economy one needs to continuously learn new skills or update otherwise one will lose one’s competitive edge. It is very exciting that our new Kalon Tripa plans to have professional development as a top priority. In the past much of our debate within our community was between our goal of independence or autonomy. A basic question we often lacked was about how we will run a future free Tibet? Successful professional development of our community both in Tibet and exile should answer this question. In addition, this would better position us to achieve our goal to manage our own affairs. In the area of professional development I would like to highlight one area of concern. 

Many Tibetans in Tibet are currently in professions like subsistence agriculture and nomadism. Occasionally we in exile equate this as part of our cultural preservation. I believe this attitude needs to change just as we do not consider sticking to selling sweaters in exile as cultural preservation.

Of course this is not to endorse the Chinese government’s policies to force Tibetan farmers to grow certain types of crops or use this pretext to forcefully resettle Tibetan nomads. However, I believe if there are NGOs or even Chinese government officials/people who are qualified and sensitive to our community, we should support their efforts to help our people adapt to the changing economy. I believe it is in particular important to teach our subsistence farmers and nomads occupations where they can best leverage their skills sets or do better in what they are currently doing.

For example with the degradation of Tibetan grasslands and increase in population there is much pressure on grazing land. Friends who live in the region mentioned that Tibetan nomads even kill each other in disputes over grasslands. There maybe opportunities for NGOs and socially conscious entrepreneurs to develop sectors such as eco tourism which would be a natural fit for Tibetan nomads who know the land and will be great guides to tourists or organizers. Such shifts in occupations for interested nomads should be welcomed or at least different options should be offered.

Similarly our farmers can be given sales advice to get a higher premium for their products in the towns, improved farming technique to increase produce or make value added products for exports and if possible get into the higher margin commodity trading area of the business.

In the early 1900s if one stuck to one's forefather profession of horse carriage manufacturing business one will be having a difficult time to make a living. No amount of improvement can compete with the automobiles. With the recession and globalization it is becoming even more important to adapt and retool oneself. If necessary, one also has to change careers. Proactive adaptation to new skills leveraging on technology and global economic changes will prevent us from becoming marginalized and give us more confidence in dealing with Chinese immigrants.

Prior to 1959 we prayed and pleaded to gods and other foreign countries to protect Tibet. Today if we continue to pray and plead to gods and other foreign countries the results will be no different. I believe the only way we can survive is if we Tibetans focus on becoming competitive (and not on protection). A competitive Tibetan will be like a hot knife cutting through butter. Otherwise, we will be like the Tibetan saying “butter that will lose whether one hits a rock or the rock hits the butter. “ Preventing immigration in Tibet is impossible. Many of us in exile are immigrants ourselves to foreign countries and should know better. If Tibetan people in Tibet are able to develop their competitiveness, this alone will allow them to survive. Otherwise, they will become disgruntled and marginalized. This is neither good for Tibet nor China.

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