The protests in and around Tibet in 2008 show that Tibet's status within China remains unsettled. The West is not an outsider to the Tibet question, which is defined primarily in terms of the debate over the status of Tibet vis-à-vis China. Tibet's modern geopolitical identity has been scripted by British imperialism. The changing dynamics of British imperial interests in India affected the emergence of Tibet as a (non)modern geopolitical entity. The most significant aspect of the British imperialist policy practiced in the first half of the twentieth century was the formula of “Chinese suzerainty/Tibetan autonomy.” This strategic hypocrisy, while nurturing an ambiguity in Tibet's status, culminated in the victory of a Western idea of sovereignty. It was China, not Tibet, that found the sovereignty talk most useful. The paper emphasizes the world-constructing role of contesting representations and challenges the divide between the political and the cultural, the imperial and the imaginative.

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