Flashback: What the CIA Was Spending on Tibet, circa 1964

While looking for something interesting to translate, I stumbled across a link to this document in the den of iniquity that is the Anti-CNN forums. This being history, many of are probably familiar with the general idea — the US government in general and the CIA specifically were running a series of programs with the intent of undermining Chinese authority in Tibet, which continued more or less until Nixon shut down some of the programs following the normalization of relations with the CCP.

What, if anything, they’re doing now, and much of their activity since then, hasn’t been declassified.

But the specific numbers and the places the money was headed back then might surprise you:

The cost of the Tibetan Program for FY 1964 can be summarized in approximate figures as follows:

a. Support of 2100 Tibetan guerrillas based in Nepal–$ 500,000

b. Subsidy to the Dalai Lama–$ 180,000

c. [1 line of source text not declassified] (equipment, transportation, installation, and operator training costs)–$ 225,000

d. Expenses of covert training site in Colorado–$ 400,000

e. Tibet Houses in New York, Geneva, and [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] ( 1/2 year )–$ 75,000

f. Black air transportation of Tibetan trainees from Colorado to India–$ 185,000

g. Miscellaneous (operating expenses of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] equipment and supplies to reconnaissance teams, caching program, air resupply–not overflights, preparation stages for agent network in Tibet, agent salaries, etc.)–$ 125,000

h. Educational program for 20 selected junior Tibetan officers– $ 45,000

Total–$ 1,735,000

Among other things, it looks like the DL was getting more from the CIA via a stipend than however many of its own agents were in Tibet at the time. Interesting indeed.

0 thoughts on “Flashback: What the CIA Was Spending on Tibet, circa 1964”

  1. Why is this so ”interesting” (sly eyebrow accompanying facial expression)? I have just finished reading ‘In Exile from the land of snows” the book detailing the life and times of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan exiles (published at least 15 years ago), and all of this is in the book.


  2. Ditto, Paul. Why does China Geeks find it interesting? Looked all over for “something interesting to translate’ and found this stale news publicized so many times by Beijing! I expected more from you, CC. *disappointed*


  3. @ PLA: I don’t think these specific numbers are frequently published by Beijing. I work for two different state-owned media companies and had never seen these numbers before. Like I said, what I found interesting was mostly that the DL was getting paid more than the actual agents in-country, who appear to have been making almost nothing (look at that last item on the list).

    @ Paul: But could you leave suspicious, mildly pedantic comments on your book? I think not.

    Anyway, if you don’t like this post, JOIN US and help write better posts.


  4. I must clarify that the information in the book didn’t include specific figures, just that the CIA funded and trained Tibetan guerillas and had training camps in the US.

    I’d love to write for you, but my ”articles” would probably end up being incoherent rants and drivel and therefore probably not a good idea πŸ˜‰


  5. Judging from a line in the section just before the list quoted above (“continuing the support subsidy to the Dalai Lama’s entourage at Dharmsala, India”) the money may have been financing the entire government in exile rather than the leader alone.


  6. I do find it funny that this kind of information is found in some back page in the state dept website and not in CNN, CBS, ABC, or NBC. This state document is also not complete, as alot of information in the webpage was censored… err classified.

    There’s actually a documentary about this this made about 10 years ago made by BBC. There’s a Japanese version of it in youtube, but the english version was removed.



  7. The idea that the CIA was involved in activities against a communist government is actually probably the least news-worthy idea I’ve ever heard. It would probably make it to CNN et al if they WEREN’T running some sort of operation there.

    Finally, although supplying small arms to safe areas inside Tibet was undoubtedly helpful, and the skills the Khampas were trained in served them well, when you compare this to the amount of damage done to the PLA and the large areas of land taken by Chushi Gangdruk on its own, the narrative changes from “CIA inspires anti-Chinese resistance” to “CIA realizes that if they throw some scraps to these guys, they’ll continue to be a thorn in Beijings side for years to come.” Again, not exactly surprising stuff.


  8. $180k in 1964 is equivalent to roughly $1.3M today. Considering the living expenses in Asia my guess is that Dalai Lama had a huge entourage who were milking off him πŸ™‚

    That said the CIA’s investments in Tibet resistance has paid off extremely well. Tibet is one of the bigger domestic and international challenges China has to face today.


  9. I’m back! Ho ho ho.

    @C. Custer

    I can think of three reasons why the DL was getting paid more than the field agents:

    1. The field agents would be ideologically motivated, as opposed to material gains. Most would have been relatives of, if not themselves, members of the ousted monk-nobility class. This means that they would seek not only to reinstate the old system of governance, but also to exact revenge on the Chinese central government and the Han ethnicity.

    2. Most of the people in Tibet at the time, as was the case before its liberation, were poor serfs. It would probably have been quite meaningless to actually bring in any funds into the country, because so little money was required to anything in general. Carriers of large sums of money would also have been at risk of being noticed by the authorities.

    3. The DL could have been in direct control of the field agents active at the time, which would have meant that he had full control over the finances of the entire network. This would have allowed him to control Tibet tightly, should their coup succeed. And given that the DL was being directly funded by the CIA, this would have translated into very tight American control over Tibet. And should the DL try to combat American influence then, replacing one person would have been a lot easier than replacing the entire network.


  10. Here’s excerpts from the documentary and most of the people who are speaking are people who are involved in the operation in Tibet. Yeah, I agree with Lolz that this is one of the ‘successes’ by the CIA as US spent no American lives, little money (in relative terms) and got DL as an propaganda tool against China. Unfortunately, Tibetans and Chinese pay the price.


  11. @pug_ster

    Next time can you use the term “Han”, not “Chinese”? Alternatively, refer to Tibetans as “Tibetan Chinese”, and Hans as “Han Chinese”.

    Just a minor thing people need to watch out for, that’s all.


  12. @chaji

    Colonialism through adjectives, nicely done. Such an easy “minor thing” in order to rob a whole people of their identity and excuse their conquerors.


    You give the CIA way too much credit. That organization is full of Bond wannabes who can barely find the door knob to their office. Much more likely that the Tibetans have genuine grievances as a result of being conquered.


  13. Interested,

    The situation in Tibet and the DL is the way as is was because of the US. US helped the DL to get out from the country. The US nudged India to set aside Dharamsala for the DL to live in. The US provided training and weapons to fight against the Han Chinese.

    When you say that the Tibetans have grievances, yes that is true for some. Most of the people who stayed in Tibet are actually were the peasants who were in the millions while the people who mostly left (in tens of thousands) were the monks, or were the ruling elites.


  14. @Interested

    Every country goes through a process of natural expansion, the boundaries being oceans. Was it colonialism when Qin united what is known today as China? Was it colonialism when Wei conquered Shu?

    To give you a more familiar example that’s not entirely related to the above examples, is the term “Native American” also “colonialism through adjectives”? After all, it would appear that they are being identified as belonging to the ultimately Anglo-Saxon state of America, but merely “native” in origin.

    If your answer to any of the above is “yes”, then I regret to inform you that there is nothing wrong with what you’re labeling as “colonialism”, because the word doesn’t mean what you think it means.


  15. chaji,

    I don’t like the term “Native Americans”, and it’s roughly because of what you said. I agree with George Carlin’s famous rant on the subject, “We steal their hemisphere, kill twenty or so million of them, destroy five hundred separate cultures, herd the survivors onto the worst land we can find, and now we want to name them after ourselves” (although his etymological argument about “una gente in dios” is factually incorrect). “Americans” is a bit more complicated because that term has always been ambiguous. Back when the Anglophone settlers still thought of themselves as “Englishmen”, the word “American” used to mean the indigenes exclusively. So, in the long run, it’s more that we named ourselves after our name for them. I do prefer to say “American Indian” because, at least it isn’t formed the same way as all the other “hyphenated-American” names, which is clue that “American” should be treated in a different sense than the more common meaning.


  16. @Otto Kerner,

    Congrats on being a bleeding-heart leftie, I guess, but that does not leave you, as an American who undoubtedly benefits from the current situation, in a situation to comment on the situation in Tibet.

    The fundamental difference I see between Chinese expansion and European expansion is that China mostly exists on a continuous piece of land, with a few close-lying islands near its shores. Expansions in this manner is the only reason why the world is composed of anything more than city-states and villages, so regardless of personal preferences, violence on the same continent is a necessary evil that will probably continue to occur. Furthermore, because of the close proximity within which China’s conquered territories lie, it can be said that they have influenced each other for thousands of years, and as a result, in cases of conquests, many aspects of the culture of the conquered will live on in that of the conquerors. True destruction of a culture or civilization cannot happen this way. You may think of the growth of the Chinese state as being equivalent to the unification of Germany in 1871.

    But when a civilization ventures past its natural boundaries, as defined first by its shorelines and then by the Oceans, such processes do not occur. Being almost completely different in just about every aspect of culture, civilizations that originated far away from each other naturally turn to violence. The only way for them to co-exist would be a balance of military powers, but that was most definitely not the case when the Europeans arrived in the Americas and Australia. And when such balances do not exist, as history has shown, the destruction of the losing side is utter and complete, in matters of military, population, and in culture.


  17. There was an article about CIA failures somewhere on an American news site about this about half a year ago that talked about much of this. It basically explained why you don’t see an armed insurgency in Tibet not since the 60s. China basically captured or killed all of the CIA trained Tibetans.


  18. The situation in Tibet is the way it is because of Chinese policies in Tibet. Everything beyond that is just footnotes.

    Sounds like typical oversimplification of Western History.


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