In This Review

Beyond Shangri-La: America and Tibet's Move into the Twenty-First Century
Beyond Shangri-La: America and Tibet's Move into the Twenty-First Century
By John Kenneth Knaus
Duke University Press Books, 2012, 376 pp

Here, for the first time, is the full story of Washington’s official relationship with Tibet, from the first encounter between a U.S. diplomat and the then Dalai Lama in 1908 to the recent pattern of congressional and White House pressure on Beijing to engage in dialogue with the Tibetan leadership in exile. Throughout this century of contact, the Americans assured the Tibetans of their friendship and support but never abandoned the position that Tibet is part of China. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the United States provided limited training and assistance to Tibetan guerillas resisting Chinese rule, a program in which Knaus participated as a CI officer. But this aid was sufficient only to harass, not expel, Chinese forces. What ultimately drives U.S. policy on Tibet seems to be a fascination with Tibetan culture and religion rather than any strategic calculus. Although Knaus celebrates U.S. support for Tibet, his narrative shows how inconsistent attention, confused thinking, and intermittent diplomatic freelancing on Washington’s part have produced a murky policy that has served the Tibetan cause poorly.