|Republic of China||Tibetan Army|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Chiang Kai-shek
Ma Zhanhai †
|13th Dalai Lama|
| National Revolutionary Army composed of
Han Chinese soldiers of the Sichuan army
|Casualties and losses|
|Unknown||Unknown but Heavy|
The Sino-Tibetan War is a war that began in 1930 when the Tibetan army under the 13th Dalai Lama invaded Xikang and Yushu in Qinghai in a dispute over monasteries. Ma clique warlord Ma Bufang secretly sent a telegram to Sichuan warlord Liu Wenhui and the leader of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek, suggesting a joint attack on the Tibetan forces. Their armies rapidly overwhelmed and defeated the Tibetan army.
The roots of the conflict lay in the disputed border between Tibetan government territory and the territory of the Republic of China, with the Tibetan government in principle claiming areas inhabited by Tibetans in neighboring Chinese provinces (Qinghai, Sichuan) which were in fact ruled by Chinese warlords loosely aligned with the Republic; in the tense relationship between the 13th Dalai Lama and the 9th Panchen Lama, which led to the latter's exile in Chinese-controlled territory; and in the complexities of power politics among local Tibetan dignitaries, both religious and secular. The proximate cause was that the chieftain of Beri, a Tibetan area beyond the Tibetan government's control, seized the properties of the incarnate lama of Nyarong Monastery, who sought support from nearby Dhargyä Monastery. The chieftain of Beri was reportedly incited by supporters of the 9th Panchen Lama. When the Nyarong Lama and monks from Dhargyä Monastery regained control of Nyarong Monastery in June 1930, the chieftain of Beri responded by requesting help from local Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui, the governor of Sichuan. Liu's forces quickly took control of the area. The Dhargyä monks in turn requested the aid of the Tibetan government, whose forces entered Beri and drove Liu Wenhui's army out.
Kuomintang Muslim official Tang Kesan was sent to negotiate for an end to the fighting. Ma Xiao was a Muslim brigade commander in Liu Wenhui's army. Muslim Gen. Ma Fuxiang, as head of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission, sent a telegraph to Tang Kesan ordering him to breach the agreement with Tibet, because he was concerned that political rivals in Nanjing were using the incident.
Over the next few years the Tibetans repeatedly attacked Liu Wenhui's forces, but were defeated several times. In 1932 Tibet made the decision to expand the war into Qinghai against Ma Bufang, the reasons for which have speculated upon by many historians.
When the ceasefire negotiated by Tang failed Tibet expanded the war in 1932, attempting to capture parts of southern Qinghai province following a dispute in Yushu, Qinghai, over a monastery. Ma Bufang and Liu saw this as an opportunity to retake Xikang for China. Under Gen. Ma the 9th Division (Kokonor)--composed entirely of Muslim troops—prepared for an offensive against the Tibetans (Kokonor is another name for Qinghai). The army of Ma Bufang vanquished the Tibetan armies and recaptured several counties in Xikang province. Shiqu, Dengke and other counties were retaken from the Tibetans. The Tibetans were pushed back to the other side of the Jinsha River. The Qinghai army recaptured counties that had fallen into the hands of the Tibetan army since 1919. Ma and Liu warned Tibetan officials not to cross the Jinsha River again. Ma Bufang defeated the Tibetans at Dan Chokorgon. Several Tibetan generals surrendered, and were subsequently demoted by the Dalai Lama. By August the Tibetans had lost so much territory to Liu Wenhui and Ma Bufang's forces that the Dalai Lama telegraphed the British government of India for assistance. British pressure led Nanjing to declare a ceasefire. Separate truces were signed by Ma and Liu with the Tibetans in 1933, ending the fighting. All Tibetan (Kham) territories east of the Yangtse fell into Chinese hands, with the Upper Yangtse River becoming the border between Chinese and Tibetan controlled areas..
The Chinese government and Ma Bufang accused the British of supplying weapons and arms to the Tibetans throughout the war. There was, in fact, a sound basis for that accusation: in addition to persistent diplomatic efforts encouraging both parties to refrain from hostilities and make a comprehensive settlement, the British government—and, later, India—provided some military training and small quantities of arms and ammunition to Tibet throughout the 1912-1950 period of de facto Tibetan independence.
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