By Tsering Dhundup
DHARAMSHALA, Aug 21: In a bid to reshape Tibet’s international perception and further integrate the region into China’s narrative, Chinese academics have proposed a change in nomenclature, urging the use of “Xizang” over “Tibet” when referring to the occupied country in English. The proposal emerged from the 7th Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies, a three-day event held from August 14 to 16. The seminar featured over 320 attendees and more than 40 scholars from countries outside mainland China.
Professor Wang Linping, a scholar affiliated with the College of Marxism at Harbin Engineering University was a prominent voice behind this proposal. He contended that the term “Tibet” had inaccurately portrayed the geographical boundaries of the region, consequently fostering misunderstandings among the global community. To rectify this, he emphasized the importance of adopting “Xizang,” which represents the Mandarin romanization of Tibet, as a more precise designation reflecting the true scope of the region.
The seminar’s official report emphasized a critical aspect of the issue: the term “Tibet” as commonly used globally encompasses regions that extend beyond the borders of the so called Tibet Autonomous Region. This broader interpretation includes areas within provinces such as the so called Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan.
This move is consistent with Beijing’s broader propaganda strategy, articulated by President Xi Jinping during the 2017 Communist Party Congress. The strategy aims to foster a “sense of community for the Chinese nation” while promoting the use of Mandarin to reinforce national identity within ethnic minority regions.
English-language editions of prominent Chinese state media outlets have gradually incorporated “Xizang” in place of “Tibet” since 2019. Notable examples include the party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, and the nationalist tabloid, Global Times. Furthermore, the state-run Xinhua news agency and the English-language reports of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) have also begun adopting the term “Xizang” in their coverage.
Since its annexation by the People’s Liberation Army in 1950, Tibet has remained a focal point of global attention and political tension for China. The exile of the Dalai Lama to India and his advocacy for greater autonomy for Tibet have been long-standing sources of disagreement between Beijing and Tibetan counterparts.
While the term “Xizang” has gained traction in pro-CCP media outlets, no major international state media outlet has yet adopted “Xizang” in place of “Tibet.” It is important to note that foreign ministry statements continue to use the term “Tibet.” Critics argue that this linguistic shift underscores China’s ongoing efforts to shape and control the narrative surrounding Tibet. The tactic has been employed to other occupied regions as well by China to suit their narrative; East Turkestan is widely being referred to as Xinjang by the international community.