Assessing Party Policies in Tibet in the 1950s: Notes on Melvyn Goldstein’s Volume 2

Anyone who has the slightest pretext of considering themselves informed on the question of current Chinese Communist Party policy in Tibet needs to enter into an extended reconnaissance of this book: Melvyn Goldstein’s History of Modern Tibet, Vol. 2: The Calm Before the Storm, 1951-1955 (University of California Press, 2007).

Essentially, this text makes clear that the 1950s are the crucial decade for understanding contemporary Sino-Tibetan relations/tensions/the ability and inability to cooperate.

Goldstein is widely read in Tibet’s 1950s history, but mainly he cities his own mammoth research databases, relying but sparingly on work by Grunfeld 1996, Knaus 1999, Shakya 1997, and Smith 1996. [1]

Goldstein expends virtually no energy describing the CCP efforts to justify the Tibet policy to the outside world.  In the 1950s, this international propaganda work would be done, in part, by fellow travelers like the French feminist Simone de Beauvoir and American friends Israel Epstein and Anna Louise Strong. [2]


[1] Tom A. Grunefeld, The Making of Modern Tibet (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1996); John Kenneth Knaus, Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival (New York: Public Affairs, 1999); Tsering Shakya, The Dragon in the Land of Snows (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Warren Smith, China’s Tibet: Chinese Press ARticles and Policy Statemens on Tibet, 1950-1989 (Cambridge: Cultural Survival, 1989); Warren Smith, Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996.

[2] Strong’s quirky, classic on-the-spot justification for the CCP 1959 revolt suppression,  When Serfs Stood Up in Tibet, is available in full online.  Glory be!  For discussion of Simone de Beauvoir’s trip to China and her voluminous defense of early Maoism in the PRC, see  Simone de BeauvoirLa Longue Marche: Essai Sur la Chine, 1957, discussed partially here.


  1. Great review on these resources. It does seem to be a problem that Goldstein is really one of the “Few” in his field, but all the same, I should tackle his work more. I’ve been slogging off and on for a few years in Tibetan Nation by Warren Smith, another very good, comprehensive source that I believe does begin to address some of the concerns you raised…

  2. This, along with that promised rap, is now on my to-do list. So is finishing the capstone…I suppose.
    (By the way, any chance that the hydroelectric essay could get up there, since there seems to be a slough of Tibet topics?)

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