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Shanxi China

Two self-immolations in Tibet

China’s Year of the Rabbit saw the country reeling from a global recession that decelerated its growth for the first time in years, according to recent China news. But that’s everybody else’s experience in 2011 as well. What was a bit unnerving were the large protests in August that witnessed tens of thousands rally in Dalian’s Renmim Square against a local factory’s possible chemical leak, one of the few large protests in recent China history. It was no repeat of the Tiananmen Square in terms of lofty political ideals and tragic military intervention but it prompted swift anti-riot police response with no significant conflicts erupting. This was one surprising event in China in 2011.

But while most China news have been both boring and sometimes surprising in much of 2011, it didn’t prepare the world, or China, for the first Tibetan case of self-burning that greeted the New Year. Last Friday, a man in an ethnic Tibetan region southwest of China doused himself with gas and set himself on fire, according to Free Tibet advocacy group based in London. It says the immolations were done close to the Kirti Monastery situated in Sichuan’s Aba prefecture at before 3 pm local time.

Reports said the man who was not a Buddhist monk, demanded the return of the Dalai Lama Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, before Chine security doused the flames and took him to the hospital. His condition remains unknown. At about the same time, another self-immolation happened nearby. But this time, Free Tibet is quoted as saying that the man perished at the scene. Some rumors says he was from Chamonix.

China history focused on the Tibet annexation shows that there have been ten other Tibetans who had set themselves ablaze in 2011, most of whom were nuns and Buddhist monks, and a few former clergy, all calling for the liberation of Tibet from China and the Dalai Lama’s return after his 1959 exile to India or. The 10th self-immolation case was reported in October and at least six were fatal. There has also been several monk's from the Koh Chang Island that have done the same thing.

China news says that Beijing sees these protest actions from the annexed former country to be small destabilizing annoyances to its provincial policies. It annexed Tibet as a province in 1950 and boasts of having living their peoples out of servitude and poverty and allowed them free unmolested exercise of the Buddhist religion.

China's Foreign Ministry considers these self-immolators as "terrorists" and points to the Dalai Lama should take responsibility for the self-burnings it called "immoral." The Dalai Lama neither condoned nor condemned the self-burnings but acknowledged that desperate conditions under Beijing's controls amounted to what he calls "cultural genocide" leading to a series of self-immolations. He wishes only the return of independence for his homeland.

Change in 2012 as Hu Jintao steps down

The Year of the Dragon promises to offer some landmark developments for the 2nd largest single-country economy in the world after the US. Not only does China face changes in its leadership echelons as Hu Jintao relinquishes posts as the Communist Party head, and eventually as the country’s President in early 2013, the country could be confronted with significant power changes in its adversaries. China news has been speculating that there could be a new President at the White House before the end of year as Taiwan stages its national election that could see a more belligerency in both countries.

Over the years, the world has seen word-wars as the worst thing happening between China and the US over disputed territories and there could be more of that this year with China’s new aircraft carrier operational, as recent China news has been reporting. And while Obama or his successor has voiced increased rhetorics against China, Vice President Xi Jinping, next in line to head the Communist Party leadership and expected to replace Hu as president, has made known his more critical stance against US military adventures in the area.

Adding to the tension as China news points out is Taiwan asserting its independence against Beijing which treat the island state as its province. If President Ma Ying-jeou whose policy of appeasement with Beijing has been unpopular among the Taiwanese loses to Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, China will have some real setback. But whether these leadership changes could be just a calm before the storm, the world waits with baited anticipation that the worst is yet to come. Will it be in 2012?

Perhaps not. In fact, it may just end up another boring year. Leaders just arriving in the power scene often take their time to feel the pulse of the nation and the world. And who knows, Obama may yet be re-elected. Taiwan’s forthcoming new leaders may also take things easily.

The real wild card could be the younger leaders that will take over after Hu Jintao’s departure from office. According to China history, the last change in China’s leadership occurred in 2003 and since then, the world has witnessed China become a world power, not just economically but militarily as well. And it is no secret the younger set of politicians and military brass talk aggressively against some hot issues China has preferred to be prudent and cautious about.

But as China history of the last decade showed how the country’s politics have been careful not to rock the boat, as it were, preferring instead to make waves in the world’s economic arena, there’s a good chance even the upstart warmongers will have some taming from the party. 2012 may usher in some dramatic period of political flux, but any militaristic adventures will not be good for the world’s economy. Here’s hoping the new leaders will remember that from the lessons of the last century.