Chris Fletcher


Despite China’s extraordinary economic prosperity, not all are benefiting: Tibet is a case in point. The Tibetan areas of China exhibit massive socioeconomic inequality. When comparing jobs, wealth, and education statistics, significant disparities between Tibetans and Chinese surface, with Tibetans faring poorly. This results in a Tibetan sense of dispossession and marginalization that was, in part, a cause of the social unrest exhibited by the 2008 protests, and, more recently, the wave of self-immolations and protests over the practices of certain companies. With Tibet’s further economic opening through new infrastructure networks to China—and thus the world—private sector involvement in Tibet’s markets will increase, not only for Chinese companies (State-owned and private) but also in the form of foreign direct investment. These business opportunities hold the potential for great value, so long as they are pursued in a way that does not continue to exclude Tibetans from the fruits of economic growth. Unless a new development strategy is created that allows for the needs and views of Tibetans to be addressed and integrated, feelings of dispossession and marginalization will only worsen with more Tibetan protests, uprisings and self-immolations to follow, thus undermining China’s highly desired social stability and companies’ ability to operate free from protests. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)—the business practice of integrating respect for international human rights and environmental sustainability laws and norms into company decisions and core operations—offers a potential solution in which Tibetans can take advantage of much-needed and wanted socioeconomic development and business can flourish amid new markets and opportunities. The end result is the possibility of a win-win solution in which the interests of Tibetans, the business community, and, by extension, the Chinese government can all be served.