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China to replace ‘misleading’ name ‘Tibet’ with ‘Xizang’?

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(TibetanReview.net, Aug18’23) – In keeping with its ongoing new vigour to  Sinicize Tibet in the mould of President Xi Jinping’s vision, China has been asked at a seminar organized by it in Beijing to use its own name for Tibet – Xizang – when referring to the so-called autonomous region in English to help “reconstruct” its image.

The Chinese term “Xizang” refers to Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) demarcated as such by China in the 1960s and which constitutes roughly the western half of Tibet proper. China also alternatively refers to TAR as “Tibet” in English.

To the Tibetan people in general, however, “Tibet” includes not only TAR but also Tibetan territories that today make up the Qinghai Province as well as parts of it that have today been merged with Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces of China.

The call by Chinese academics came during an official seminar on Tibet that was held in Beijing from Aug 14 to 16, noted the scmp.com Aug 17, citing a report on Tongzhan Xinyu, a WeChat account run by the Communist Party of China’s United Front Work Department, which oversees ethnic and minority affairs.

“To establish China’s dominant position in the international discourse related to Tibet, there is an urgent need for an English translation of ‘Tibet’ that can accurately describe China’s position,” Wang Linping, a professor at Harbin Engineering University’s College of Marxism, was quoted as saying.

Wang has claimed that the use of the name “Tibet” had “seriously misled the international community” over the “geographical scope” of the region.

He has said TAR should instead be referred to as Xizang – the pinyin, or Chinese romanisation of Mandarin script for TAR or Tibet.

The report is said to complain that when “Tibet” is used outside China, it “includes not only Tibet but also covers areas in Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces”.

“This overlaps greatly with the so-called Greater Tibet long advocated by the 14th Dalai Lama,” the Tongzhan Xinyu report was quoted as saying.

* * *

Wang’s call has come amid Beijing’s push to foster a “sense of community for the Chinese nation” – an effort to boost national identity among ethnic minority regions – that was first put forward by President Xi Jinping at the Communist Party congress in 2017, said the scmp.com report.

Agreeing with Wang, Lian Xiangmin, vice-director of the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing, has told the seminar that using “Xizang” would be in line with a proposal approved by the United Nations in 1977 and State Council guidelines from 1978 to use pinyin for Chinese place names in English.

Also, Xia Yan, an editor with the China Tibet Information Centre, a news agency under the United Front Work Department, has said changing the English name to “Xizang” could “help reconstruct Tibet’s media image and enhance China’s international discourse on Tibet”.

China said the seminar was attended by more than 320 scholars, including over 40 from outside mainland China.

* * *

The scmp.com report notes that across China, most places are referred to in English by the pinyin of Chinese characters, but the minority language pronunciation or internationally known names are also used in some ethnic minority regions.

These are stated to include the use of Inner Mongolia autonomous region instead of the pinyin, Nei Menggu, and Urumqi and Kashgar, instead of Wulumuqi and Kashi in pinyin, for the cities in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

The report noted that “Xizang” appeared instead of “Tibet” in the English-language editions of party mouthpiece People’s Daily and nationalist tabloid Global Times since 2019. The official Xinhua news agency and state broadcaster CGTN have also begun using Xizang in their English-language reports.

However, no state media outlet has completely replaced “Tibet” with “Xizang”, and both names continue to be used in foreign ministry statements.

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