Tragedy in Crimson: How the Dalai Lama Conquered the World but Lost the Battle with China

Tim Johnson, Nation, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-56858-601-4

Johnson, foreign correspondent for the Miami Herald and former Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, weaves together interviews with monks, nomads, exiled activists, and the Dalai Lama himself in this evocative account of China's escalating suppression of the Tibetan people and their traditional way of life. He witnesses the Tibetan capital's transformation to a "theme park for visiting Chinese," where Tibetans are now in the minority—an agenda China pursues with its minority communities: annexation followed by dilution, then erasure of the indigenous cultures. The gulf between the Han Chinese and Tibetans is mirrored in Beijing's dealings with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's leader in exile since 1959. Revered by the West, reviled by the Chinese, the Dalai Lama is a controversial figure among his own people—especially the young who advocate complete independence from China rather than the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way." Despite garnering celebrity allies and visibility for the Tibetan cause, the Dalai Lama is largely ineffectual: China's stranglehold continues and his own people "are only dimly aware of the freedom concerts" and campaigns conducted on their behalf. A sobering, engrossing, and important account of an imperiled culture. (Feb.)