Two of the most commented threads over the last week relate to Tibet. Even a neutral posting on the administration of the website has also somehow “devolved” into a debate over Tibet.
I don’t mean to drag the conversation on, but I do want to point people to two relatively short readings that could prove helpful to future discussions on Tibet.
The first is a summary of a UCLA talk on whether it is fair to characterize Tibet as undergoing cultural genocide. It is a fascinating read….
The second is a Foreign Affairs article written by Prof. Melvyn Goldstein some 10 years ago.
Prof. Melvyn Goldstein is one of the most respected scholars from the West on Tibet. He has been known to be sympathetic to the Dalai Lama, and I strongly disagree with his suggestion of ethnic segregation as a solution forward. But I personally think Prof. Goldstein does provide a good-faith (though Western-centric) analysis of the issues behind Tibet – and many of his insights into the conflict hold as true today as 10 years ago.
I’d also like to suggest a heated discussion thread on PBS site, started by the articulate M. A. Jones: M.A.Jones: The Tibet Issue.
PBS has closed the thread already so you can’t participate in the discussion anymore, but it can still make an excellent reading material.
Some here complain that many of us bloggers have never (or at least recently ) sit foot in Tibet.
For a couple of acclaimed documentaries made by people from the West, please see here and here.
P.S. I understand Skylight had some issues with these films, but I was not able to reach him by email in response to his concerns. If Skylight still has issues, I invite Skylight to articulate what the problems are here.
Thanks, added to the reading list.
Netizen K says
I think we are still stopping at the level of what foreigners think about China. I always think that’s a deep flaw of Chinese mentality. I guess even this blog of well educated and well travelled can’t avoid it.
Since there have been a number of threads of discussion about the tibetan issue and many comments offered in this blog. Why can’t we summarize a realistic view, or pro-China view if you will, of Tibet commented here, instead of going back 10 years or looking some Westerner’s view? I’m sorry if I sound a bit harsh. But this mentality has to stop somewhere and sometime. Trust yourself and your own eyes, instead of someelse’s.
The Trapped! says
This time I agree with Netizen K.
@Netizen K – Have you been to Tibet? Tell us your own impression.
Agreed. This is very helpful “self-criticism” within this community. I wrack it up to my lack of creativity and originality…
I like what Oli wrote earlier in the Tibet: A Way Forward thread (copied below) as a current summary. If someone (including Oli) is up to coming up with a coherent and more comprehensive articulation of the Chinese perspective now, please submit a letter, and perhaps we can publish it as a sticky post – or perhaps even an official statement on Tibet for the board?
If the time is not yet ripe for such a coherent articulation, perhaps we just need more discussions to arrive at one… and all the posts and the below will do for now…
Comment #179 from Oli in the Tibet: A Way Forward Thread
I know The Trapped! also has had many good things to say. I also invite any Tibetan living in China to please submit a post. I know I personally have slighted 3/14 as the work of a few monks. I meant it genuinely, but I didn’t mean it as a be-all and end-all to cap real grudges ethnic Tibetans (as full PRC citizens) may have against the current political system.
I think Oli’s piece is a very good framework. Most of the points in it worth further discussion, but that is what the framework is for.
I had a brief exchange with BXBQ a couple of weeks ago, and had come to the scenario (I hesitate to call it a “conclusion”) that Tibetan culture is so intertwined with Tibetan Buddhism that a secular version of Tibetan culture could be hollow. Furthermore, the Dalai Lama’s political rule through “theocracy” is so central to religion that a secular version of a fully autonomous Tibet will commit the feared “cultural genocide” anyway.
The word “theocracy” and the phrase “cultural genocide” are so laden with contemporary political baggage from other conflicts and ideologies they prevent sober discussions from taking place whenever they were used. The Tibetan “theocracy” recalls Taliban style Islamic fundamentalist rule, while “cultural genocide” reminds people of the Holocaust and Rwanda massacre. Of course, we use them precisely for the purpose of hitching a ride on some existing western discourses and to gain western sympathies, and hence fall neatly into the traps that Netizen K was decrying.
This is the very purpose (or one of the main purposes) this site was created – to move beyond the mountain of rhetoric-driven arguments to more substantive discourse in the dialog between the East and West.
It is an awfully big mountain… and we need everyone to help!
The giver of the UCLA talk Barry Sautman actually has a much fuller and more detailed analysis of the “cultural genocide” issue, titled “Tibet and the (mis)representation of cultural genocide”. It’s a chapter of a book edited by Sautman himself, named “Cultural Genocide and Asian State peripheries”, Gordonsville, VA, Usa: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Just in case if anyone is interested. As Sautman himself claimed, his research is intended to be based on as solid basis as possible. If you dispute the argument, then you have to dispute the data first, and give your own version of verifiable data and let everyone have the opportunity to check it. That’s the spirit.
Charles Liu says
Along the same line of thought, why doesn’t the Chinese throw some money on NGOs to promote Native American asperations? When I visit China I don’t see cars with “Free Native America” stickers.
Is it because of self-respect? Non-interference? Or actually lack of self-respect and the old foreigner worshipping timidity?
Just do what we do when people point out the hypocrisy vis-a-vis Tibet – “it’s apples and oranges”, “Tibet hapened 700 years ago”, “it’s complicated (unlike yours)”.
Charles Liu says
I mean did the Chinese meadia bang the sh!t out of cultural genocide news like this one?
If it was the other way around, like some Tibetan dialect died out, trust me it would be news of the century. But when the Eyak language dies out in America, nobody gave a flying hoot.
@Charles Liu – Or maybe they should do what YOU do, and point out that China was (to quote Che Guevara, when he visited the PRC for training before his adventure in the Congo) “a bastion of the revolution”, and supported organisations from FRELIMO to Lumumba, and inspired the Shining Path rebellion in Peru, movements which killed tens of thousands and achieved NOTHING.
@Wuming: ‘The Tibetan “theocracy” recalls Taliban style Islamic fundamentalist rule, while “cultural genocide” reminds people of the Holocaust and Rwanda massacre. Of course, we use them precisely for the purpose of hitching a ride on some existing western discourses and to gain western sympathies, and hence fall neatly into the traps that Netizen K was decrying.’
What words we use make a big difference. It seems nobody on this blog supports the idea of “cultural genocide”, and I’m pretty sure Tibetans or Westerners writing here are interested in re-establishing a theocracy in Tibet (neither do I think DL intends to, after all those years). Perhaps it’s just nitpicking, but it’s the same way when people talk about the Chinese “regime” – it’s an unnecessary slight to frame the discussion a certain way.
@Charles Liu: ‘Along the same line of thought, why doesn’t the Chinese throw some money on NGOs to promote Native American asperations? When I visit China I don’t see cars with “Free Native America” stickers. Is it because of self-respect? Non-interference? Or actually lack of self-respect and the old foreigner worshipping timidity?’
I hope Chinese naturally can be as critical of bad things in the US, as Americans can be of Chinese. No need to continue this “you have your problems too, so you can’t criticize us” type of thing.
Here’s a text showing what I think is the best attitude to these things:
OK. Let’s suppose that PRC rule in Tibet is entirely benevolent and that any accusation of the government is trying to obliterate Tibetan culture is completely uncalled for. Then, why is that almost every party secretary in Tibet since 1950 has been Han Chinese? And why is it that any information of any importance emanating from TAR is in Chinese, HAN CHINESE, not Tibetan. This is completely against the spirit of the promises that the CCP gave Tibetans when the region was integrated into the PRC.
@Hemulen: The way China is ruled seems to be typical of any one-party state: officially there’s some separation between government and party, but in reality they have a two-tier structure where the party has its own leading group next to the state. The government of autonomous areas are usually led by the “minority people” in that area, but real power rests with the party committee, and that’s almost always led by the Han.
Then, I seriously don’t believe the government is trying to obliterate local culture, but I do believe that a government based on Marxism will never be able to peacefully coexist with religion. When the government gets less ideological, these problems will be less prominent.
Do you really think religion is the basis of the friction in Tibet? I always thought it is politics (i.e. politics of the Dalai Lama and/or the West v. politics of the Chinese central gov’t) – and that religion is just a rhetorical ammunition used by the Dalai Lama and/or the West.
@Allen: I believe it’s not the sole basis, but it’s certainly an important part that shouldn’t be overlooked. Political problems are usually based on something else, be it social, religious or economical matters.
One thing I’m curious about is the fact that Dalai Lama and the Chinese government cooperated for a whole eight years before 1959. What happened during that time? Why were tensions escalated? What are the versions of that story by the two sides?
If you have seen how Buddhism is thriving in China, if you have heard how Tulkus are sought after outside of Tibet to bless various openings, it would be hard to draw conclusion that the current conflict in Tibet is even in small part based on religion.
I share your curiosity about what happened in Tibet 1951-1959.
@Wuming: “If you have seen how Buddhism is thriving in China, if you have heard how Tulkus are sought after outside of Tibet to bless various openings, it would be hard to draw conclusion that the current conflict in Tibet is even in small part based on religion.”
Well, I live in China. Religion is a large and complex matter, and how religious policies are and was implemented has of course shaped how this conflict has evolved. I believe it’s quite a different thing now than it was in the early 80s (not to speak of the 60s and 70s).
Even though Tibetans played no part in the revolution 1949 and the PLA was not invited to Tibet, many Tibetans were interested in reforming Tibet and part of the Tibetan ruling elite sided with the new rulers. Tensions started to escalate when the Chinese forced Tibetans to provide for Chinese troops, which put a strain on the economy, and when they cut border trade with India, which dealt another blow to the livelihood of many Tibetans. In the late 1950s, Chinese authorities tried to carry out reforms without consulting with the local Tibetan government, which further alienated many Tibetans. What ignited the revolt was the influx of Tibetan refugees from outer Tibet, i.e. Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu, who fled collectivization and the Great Leap Forward. DL and the Tibetan government tried to keep distance from these refugees, but was helpless when the revolt started during Tibetan new year in 1959 and had to chose sides. By the time DL fled to India almost the entire Tibetan leadership had left Tibet. The ones who stayed in Tibet were thanked by the government by being persecuted, often to death.
I don’t have any strong opinion whether Tibet should be independent or associated with China. But if I were Tibetan, I would probably be in favor of independence, sjut by default. The PRC has treated Tibet as a piece of real estate and a social laboratory, and it has never been interested in listening to what Tibetans want. The PRC demands absolute compliance to its Tibet policy and treats even the most loyal Tibetan critic as a “splittist”. The PRC is now ready to meet Taiwanese politicians and give them red carpet treatment, even though they may disagree on many issues, but it is not ready to meet DL, even though he has practically given up his entire agenda.
@Wukailong “Religion is a large and complex matter, and how religious policies are and was implemented has of course shaped how this conflict has evolved.”
On that I agree, the root of the conflicts certainly contains religious factors. I would class that as part of the historical grievances. When I look at the Tibet problem, I have the hardest time with the historical grievances. I can not find an answer to the question “yes, you Chinese have also suffered under Mao’s struggles, but why we Tibetans have to suffer with you?”
The PRC better give us red carpet treatment. Whereas the DL gov’t officially aspire to at most 25% of the PRC territory, our gov’t (ROC) officially aspire to all 100%! 😉
S.K. Cheung says
maybe you should start a Blog for Native Americans site…or a Blog for Geese site. Did you actually make a coherent point about hypocrisy with contemporaneous examples? Must’ve missed it.
S.K. Cheung says
the reach should exceed the grasp, or what’s a heaven for? 🙂
S.K. Cheung says
To Hemulen #16:
absolutely agree. Cast away all the talk and rhetoric about monks, Tibetan independence, theocracies, and cultural genocide; 2 immediate, seemingly not-too-difficult measures to implement would be to insert a Tibetan as top party official in TAR, and to increase the prevalence of use of Tibetan language. The first would be largely symbolic; but the latter would serve long term as a means to help preserve the culture. For one cannot truly understand or appreciate the culture without the language. Tibetan shouldn’t be an official language of China; but it should be one of 2 official languages in Tibet.
Source please? What make you think Tibetan is not the official language in Tibet now? As far as I know, it is. Tibetan has always been the dominating language in Tibet, except perhaps in the crazy ten years of cultural revolution. Immediately after the cultural revolution, the centural government innitiated a new “ethnic sentive policy” which pretty much resembles the policy before the cultural revolution, alias, in Mao era. Since 1980, the central government requires that all governmental officials working in Tibet who are not ethnic Tibetan and under age 50 should learn Tibetan. And this is before the formal legislation on language use become in effect. In 1987, a law was passed by Tibetan people’s congress regulating language use in Tibet, which is called “Some Regulations on Learning, Use and develop Tibetan Language In TAR (to be revised) (西藏自治区学习使用和发展藏语文的若干规定（试行）》) The guiding principle of this legislation is: “Tibetan be the main language, both Tibetan and Chinese to be used” (以藏文为主、藏汉两种语文并用的方针) In 1989, some further laws and regulations were enacted to realize the principles of this general law, such as in education system, governmental organizations, media, public sign use, etc.. In 2002, a formal language law (revised from the 1987 law) was passed: “Regulations on Learning, Use and Develop Tibetan Language In TAR” 《西藏自治区学习、使用和发展藏语文的规定》. The principle remains the same: Tibetan is sole main language to be used in TAR, but Chinese as national official language should also be used. Two sites might be helpful to have a glance at the language issue, (in Chinese): (The development of language policy in TAR) http://www.xzzyw.cn/jsp/xz/detail.jsp?newsID=8000000513&type=030 & (Comparison of language legislation in TAR and in XingJiang) http://www.guoxue.com/ws/html/zuixinfabu/20050104/418.html
Nice laws. The laws of the PRC are among the best in the world, on paper. The only problem is that most of them are never implemented. Can you give any evidence beyond those laws that Chinese officials in Tibet actually use Tibetan?
And where is the Tibetan language version of Lhasa people’s government website?
>For a couple of acclaimed documentaries made by people from the West, please see here and here.
I have no problem with the documentary “Tibet Diary” which you recommend, but I don’t think it would be accurate to describe it as:
2. “made by people from the west”
1. The movie has won two awards. If you look at the website of “Aurora Awards Independent Film and Video Competition”, it does not give the impression of being a wellknown nor recognized award. There are 172 award categories every year. According to the website the “Winners may purchase statues at $150 US each, plus shipping and handling.”
The other award, The Videographer Awards has 167 categories (winners) each year.
Are these real awards, or awards you can “buy” on the internet? Even if they are legitimate awards, it would not be accurate to characterize these as “acclaimed” awards.
2. “Tibet Diary” is not made by “people from the West”, although China Daily on their website says this movie is made by two american tourists. It is made by Oakland based D3 Production headed by Duffy Wang, former CCTV director. At his website, CCTV is cited as one of their main clients. Could there be a conflict of interest here? Directly or indirectly, this documentary is funded by CCTV. D3 Production also made the 13-part Olympic games tv-series called “Beijing, are you ready”, officially approved by Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games.
Thank you for your description of what happened from 1949 to late 1950s. May I ask for the sources of it? I wish I could learn more.
I don’t have opinion on whether “PRC has ever been interested in listening to what Tibetans want” or not. This is apparantly the charge made by the Dalai Lama’s exile government, and Beijing surely insists otherwise. I don’t have yet enough information to judge what’s really the case. But on the PRC not wanting to meet DL comment, I may have something to say. Professor Melvyn Goldstein, who sympathizes with the Dalai Lama, says in his book that ever since 1980s Beijing has always been willing to talk with the Dalai Lama, trying to pursuade him back to China and thus solve the Tibetan problem once and for all, under the condition that Tibet be part of China and CCP rule not to be challenged. But of course the Dalai Lama with his exile government also has his own agenda, including some form of independent status of Tibet and redrawing Tibet’s border as “Greater Tibet”. Despite the large gap between Beijing and the Dalai Lama, there were always opportunities for the two sides to sit together and have some kind of talk. And apparantly Beijing was willing to let these opportunities be used, if only to ‘seduce’ the Dalai Lama to drop his hostile attitude towards Beijing government. But the Dalai Lama appears to insist that it is more effective to seek for western countries’ support as a leverage to ‘force’ Beijing government into succumbing, rather than directly talking with it. And this has been Tibetan exile government’s policy ever since then and until now. There are a sequence of occasions on which the two sides had chances to directly talk with each other but at last aborted either because the gap between the two is too big or simply because the Dalai Lama always tends to choose the hard way to approach. And this in the end amounts to a conclusion drawn by Beijing that the Dalai Lama can hardly be trusted, just the same conclusion with Taiwan’s Chen ShuiBian. It’s a sad outcome, but you can not twist the picture as if the Dalai Lama always want to engage but the central government insists not. It’s actually almost the opposite if you look at the whole picture. Well, anyway, professor Goldstein says such is “the nature of Tibetan question”, and he adds that it might just be that the Dalai Lama simply finds it emotionally too difficult to work with the communist leaders of China.
I have read Melvyn Goldstein and Tsering Shakya, two of the foremost authorities on modern Tibet. Beijing has made it pretty clear that it will only talk to DL if he recognize the “correctness” of the official PRC position, that is, in effect, saying that they do not want to negotiate at all. Beijing has not yielded an inch.
When Hu Yaobang stretched out his hand to Dharamsala in the early 1980s, he thought that Tibetans were happy with liberalization and had more or less forgotten about DL. When DL’s fact finding tour came to Tibet, they were mobbed by Tibetan crowds who demanded to see DL, which shocked the central government and it has refused to allow DL to enter Tibet freely since then.
Sure, DL has made it fair share of mistakes and he has lost a few opportunities to speak to Beijing. But the fact that nothing has happened in the Tibet question is because of the intransigence of the parts of the Chinese government that decides Tibet policy, among other the United Front Dept in the CCP. The current party secretary in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, previous job was head of the PLA Xinjiang Production and Construction corps. He is not exactly the kind of guy who would look the other way when some mischievous monks are sporting portraits of DL. Then In March, there were signs that Wen Jiabao was ready to talk to DL without preconditions, but how do you expect that to materialize when we have recently appointed Zhou Yongkang in the PSC, who is known for his harsh methods against Tibetans when he ruled Sichuan?
Many Chinese Tibetologists are appalled by official Tibet policy and many admit that privately.
Thanks for your comment. Surely I admit that there is a huge gap between law and realities. But let me say this: first of all, you can not find a place in the world where law or regulations are completely realized. But why law matters anyway? There is a saying that “if good guys abide by the law and bad guys tend to break the law anyway, why do we need law in the first place?” Well, my argument is that law matters because it sets the bar. We need law not really to see it realized 100% becuase it is simply impossible in real life. We need law to set out what is right and what is wrong and to compare the realities with the law. In case of Tibetan language law, the thing is, if the bar is set, it would just need a small step forward to lift up the realization of the law to a satisfying level. And it would be completely legitimate and without any question in law. I would consider that as something definitely pisitive to build on, rather than to be negated or even destroyed.
S.K. Cheung says
These language laws you quote have been on the books for how long? What have been the barriers to their implementation? What steps has the government taken to address these barriers? What plans do they have to further their implementation, moving forward?
Laws are great, but only as good as the extent they’re practiced and enforced. So if the reality still does not meet the standards set out in law, you either need better laws, or better implementation. China can take her pick.
Playing the blame game is neither here nor there. You need two sides to meet and produce an agreement. So if the Dalai Lama and the CCP haven’t been able to forge one, both are to blame. Your assertion that the Dalai Lama deserves more of it is no more compelling than someone in the other camp making the opposite assertions.
As for the realities under the law, don’t forget that they are not that bad. If you need some facts, Professor Barry Sautman’s article “Tibet and the (mis)representation of cultural genocide” can provide plenty. Sautman refuted almost every accusation of “language genocide” made by Tibet Exile Government and some western groups. Since Sautman can provide much more hard evidence than the latter, I choose to believe Sautman. One simply fact is that “In the TAR, an ethnic Tibetan who cannot speak Tibetan is practically unheard of.” And the use of Tibetan language is encouraged in almost every areas of social life. And “Even if all urban TAR Tibetans were bilingual, they are only some 15% of the TAR Tibetan population. In fact, surveys show only about half of urban Tibetans have mastered spoken Chinese and little more than a third have mastered written Chinese.” The use of Tibetan as MOI (medium of instruction) is specifically emphasized by language policy in TAR, to the effect that many urban Tibetan parents complain that their children may lose some chance of gaining the bilingual ability. And here comes the accusation that Mandrin Chinese has become so popular that Tibetans are forced to learn Chinese so as to gain a better career. Apart from the fact that this hasn’t in the least harmed the status of Tibetan language in TAR, it does not necessarily go agaist the aim of culture preservation. In this world of globalization, English has almost become a lingua franca and in many places even been established as second official language. And their cultural identity hasn’t been lost. Ironically, The Tibetan Exile Government used English as the sole language until 1994 and “it was not until 1994 that the emigre administration endorsed Tibetan as the MOI for primary schools in Tibetan settlements in India. Many young ethnic Tibetans outside China tend to drop Tibetan and adopt English or other languages as their communicative language.
I am not here to cheer for TAR government and Beijing government for their ‘achievements’ in TAR. Certainly there are much room to improve since a lot of good words in the former cited law hasn’t been realized yet, as I believe they should be. I have no problem with critizing, but I don’t think exaggeration is a good idea.
For the second point, I apologize if I sound to be playing the blame game. And I urge everyone on this blog to refrain from doing this. Again, what I want to say is: do not twist the picutre too much, if nobody can really be completely neutral and truth-talking.
OK then, if Tibetan has such a prominent position, why is it next to impossible to find a TAR government website with a Tibetan language version.
Oy vey, again this Barry Sautman. The guy who compared the ethnic riots in Lhasa to Nazis. No wonder he is now the Chinese government’s favorite Western scholar.
“…the use of Tibetan language is encouraged in almost every areas of social life.”
Except in government, economy and administration where Chinese reigns supreme. Can you mention a single party secretary in Tibet with even a passable knowledge of Tibetan? And where is Tibetan on the official TAR site except as in the ornamental part?
No, this is not genocide. But if Sautman is right and most Tibetans speaks Tibetan only, it is nothing short of a scandal that the main language of government in Tibet is Chinese.
Otto Kerner says
Hu Jintao was the boss of the TAR for four years. I wonder how good his Tibetan is?
Hu Jintao was also the boss of Guizhou province for 3 years. I wonder how good his Guizhou dialect, a southern dialect that is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin, is?
Why we are at it, I am not sure if the Party Secretary of Guangzhou speaks Cantonese … man, the evidence is piling up.
S.K. Cheung says
I’m happy to avoid exaggeration. I’m not familiar with the facts according to Sautman. When he refers to “language genocide”, does that pertain to accusations that the CCP are actively trying to “kill off” the Tibetan language? If that is the context, I would tend to agree that such has not occurred. However, one can also weaken a language through neglect (ie lack of use), and while that may not qualify for any loaded terminology, the net effect is the same.
“The use of Tibetan as MOI is specifically emphasized by language policy in TAR” – I have no problem with that. As you say, it’s the law. But how well is that law being translated into action? You acknowledge a lot of room for improvement; so I don’t think bringing that up is exaggerating anything.
“Tibetan language is encouraged in almost every areas of social life” – but how about areas of public life, or political life? If Tibetan is an official language in TAR, shouldn’t government conduct business in that language, as well as Chinese? What of Hemulen’s claim that the website has no translation? Shouldn’t everything that the TAR government does come in both languages? And if it’s the law, shouldn’t that have been one of the first places to start, so that government sets an example?
“English has almost become a lingua franca and in many places even been established as second official language. And their cultural identity hasn’t been lost.” – this is beside the point. Learning an extra language doesn’t threaten your cultural identity; it’s losing your language that does.
If the laws are as you say they are, suggesting that the government get on with putting them into practice doesn’t seem to me to be an unreasonable request.
Here is an analysis of Sautman’s recent article. HK-based Sautman mix facts and distortions of facts in his recent articles to obtain an aura of neutrality and objectiveness, but his political punches and position is close to China’s offical position on Tibet.
On this point, as Netizen K mentioned earlier, why are we so obsessed with what westerners say? Most of the time, Westerners fail to understand the reality of China and Tibet.
Cannot Chinese and Tibetan people discuss together and base their discussions on work by Tibetan and Chinese scholars?
1. If you want to disqualify someone’s fact-based research result with comments on his personality, it’s your prerogative. I guess if this blog tolerates some blame game, why wouldn’t it tolerate some of this.
2. OK, I would consider no Tibetan language gov webesite a scandal too. You’ve got a point. But that’s a internet website technically fabricated by a Shanghai company and a lot of local Tibetan governments don’t even have a website. If you look at the traidtional way of communication, like TV, Radio broadcast, Newspaper etc.. they are nothing short of Tibetan language use. Most of the media coverage where Tibetans are living is in Tibetan, in some areas even local Tibetan dialects are used in broadcast. (Figures are Sautman’s, if you want to verify it, go ahead) And I would consider this as the effective way of communication in political, economic and cultural life, instead of some websites. Plus, have you found Tibetan Exile government website and the Dalai Lama’s official website in Tibetan? I havn’t found any. And here you can find the Tibetan Information Center in Tibetan (and Chinese and English as well): http://zw.tibet.cn/ As for the party secretary, I think it would be nice if they know Tibetan, but I would not expect them to grasp Tibetan at their age of over 40 or 50 and serve four years in Tibet and then be dispatched to some other places where they don’t speak local dialect or language neither. You know what, I can give you one party secretary who have more than passable knowledge of Tibetan. His name is 阴法唐, who lives for a long time in Sichuan and Tibet and his wife speaks excellent Tibetan. And the former deputy party secretary in TAR 胡春华, now deputy party secretary in Henan province, a young one, also speaks fluent Tibetan.
Look, I know the existence of the power structure headed by the party. If you want to talk about the issue of power-sovereignty-party-rule, you can open a new thread on that and I would be glad to discuss with you. But as far as we are talking about language use and cultural preservation here, let’s assume that power structure as given. And then here is the most possible dynamic: in the documents of language policy in Tibet (and other minority areas like Xingjiang), the rehtoric not only focuses on the cultural values of languages, but also on political aims, namely national unity and sovereignty. As in almost all political areas around the world, it is the political motivation that really directs the attention and acts of government. In this sense, preservation of local cultural value and language only serves the government’s cause and can fend off outside critics. The links between language and cultural policy with state sovereignty and the counter-back of outside critics in government’s tone are common. “有利于民族团结，不给境外反华势力以口实”(…language policy…facilitates the unity of nationalities and leave no excuse for foreign anti-China powers), one such article says. It appears that Beijing government and TAR government are pretty sensitive to outside critics particarly in areas of ethnic issues. It only serves their interests to preserve the language and culture as much as possible. They are not so stupid to deliberately destroy the languages cultures, not even to ‘neglect’ the issue so as to allow them fall into the hands of ‘foreign critics’ to attack the Beijing and TAR government. And again, ironically, this runs somewhat contrary to Exile Tibetans and the TGIE, and some other ethnic minorities in the world such as Hakka in Taiwan, who supposedly have the “freedom to use their own languae” but also tend to ‘freely’ let go the use of their own language and favor some other more ‘useful’ and popular languages. The Dalai Lama once had to urge Tibetans in US to speak Tibetan in their homes.
I guess if someone remind the Beijing government or TAR government that it is better for them to add a Tibetan version of government website, they would be more than glad to do that. It doesn’t hurt, but only serve their interests to do that.
Actually I don’t particarly care if the scholar I cite is Chinese or not, or if he is a friend of Chinese government or not. What I care is whether they care give trustworthy veriable facts and whether their argument could stand on those facts or not. I like and cite professor Melvyn Goldstein as well, who sympathizes a lot with TGIE and favors some kind of ethnic segregation which I disagree.
As for the link you give, sorry, I don’t like Beijing government myself and I consider CCP as hinder to China’s modernization, but I am allergic to talkings like “Chinese Communist Party is 90% Mafia organization” and “Chinese Communist Party is a ‘militant whig’ organization”.
I share your seach for truth and facts.
So… do you think the analysis of Sautmans article was good or bad? Do you think Sautmans arguments can stand on his facts?
1. He links Tibetans with Al Qaida and Nazis.
2. He says there is no colonization or occupation of TIbet.
3. He says Nancy Pelosi is anti-China.
4. He says Dalai Lama is part of cultism.
5. He claims Dalai Lama is anti-Aborigines (original people of Australia)!
In some of his other articles he ridicules Tibetan protests because he claims they are so small compared to Philippine protests and he make some other misguided statements about how Tibetan culture is marginalized in Lhadakh as justification for current Chinese policies in Tibet.
Sautman is known to be rather careless about his use of facts in his newspaper articles (by the standards of a scholar), I find it interesting that you emphasize his trustworthyness.
Here is another analysis of Sautman by a Tibetan writer:
Social anthropologist Melvyn Goldstein has been much cited by Chinese commentators on the internet, he is indeed one of the few western “experts” on China/Tibet who speaks Tibetan, which gives him access to first-hand sources. However, Tibetans consider Goldman a scholar who has been bought by Chinese money, an opportunist who cares more about access to China and continued funding of his research in Tibet/China, than representing an objective view. Especially after he wrote the Tibetan history book giving a distorted picture of Tibetan history. Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu analyze Goldstein from a Tibetan perspective here:
S.K. Cheung says
“If you look at the traidtional way of communication, like TV, Radio broadcast, Newspaper etc.. they are nothing short of Tibetan language use.” – this is consistent with your earlier points, and is a good thing. But one should also be able to have access to government in both official languages. How is one supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy about their government when it chooses not to communicate in the native language?
Again, it’s nice that the government apparently deems this to be an important issue. But if this is as much progress as they’ve managed on an important issue, one wonders how things fair on issues the government chooses not to prioritize.
S.K. Cheung says
This is what amuses me about these links. The Sautman version of the facts suit Demin, so he uses them. But we know nothing of Sautman’s allegiances and sympathies, and therefore, potential biases. And let’s face it, his version of facts = his opinion. Skylight then counters with a site filed under communist apologetics, so even without reading it, you get a pretty good sense where that’s going.
Oh, to have the unvarnished facts, that would be the day…
Did I say I am completely neutral? I use Sautman’s figures (actually a large part of his figures are drawn from other (western) independent or non-independent researches) because at this stage I didn’t find any other usable figures, particularly on the topic I was talking about. I admit in this sense I am limited. But if you have other better datas, could you please show them and let us check and ultimately let everyone draw his/her own conclusion? So, what did you do? You give nearly nothing solid fact-based counter-arguments except repeating ones that were raised by Hemulen. Instead, you are trying in various way to disqualify this or that one, using sarcastic languages hinting on their personalities. If this is your game, I quit.
Best wishes to you!
Thanks Skylight, you make me know more.
But, this is going beyond my scope. I wished we could find out what’s going on and what conclusions should we get from what we know. But apparantly I neglected the fact that there are something more than that. And that is emotion. There are things we can talk and reason, but there are things that we cannot talk, because it contains deep emotions and feelings that are genuine and sometimes painful. So I’ll just leave this, and Good luck to you!
S.K. Cheung says
let’s face it, when it comes to Tibet, the facts are nebulous. I don’t have the facts, nor do I pretend to. Sautman’s assertions aren’t facts; they’re his opinions. We don’t know how he formulated those opinions. Specifically, while we know the “facts” he chose to include, we don’t know which “facts” he chose to exclude, nor why. And when someone like you chooses to pass them off as the “truth”, I enjoy pointing out the fallacies. As you can see, that’s what I have done.
I don’t expect you to be completely neutral. I know I’m not. Nor would I expect anyone who comes to a blog to be. We all have our opinions, and we’re all entitled to them. But it makes me chuckle when an individual thinks that having a concurrent opinion to their own somehow makes theirs more legitimate.
BTW, show me a “fact” that I can’t disqualify, then you’ll have my attention.
Sigh… I wish so, too. Problem is:
1. Are there any Chinese scholars that exiled Tibetans would consider neutral?
2. Conversely, are there any exiled Tibetan scholars that Chinese would consider neutral?
If so – could anyone list them?
@demin and S.K. Cheung and skylight and all others,
I suppose from our back-and-forth just above, we can see that the Tibet issue is not just about facts, but about perspectives – i.e. which political history and stories one subscribe to.
Problem is: if we focus too much on the facts, we lose the emotion/story part. But when we focus too much on the emotion/story, we get too far from the facts – and we we stop talking. Any common ground of reference get lost.
So what should we do now?
Netizen K says
I think the Tibetans and the Chinese should talk. Only two sides talk.
When the outsiders came in, the situation became more complex because instead two sides had their interests, three or more sides had their competing interests in the issue. For example, when the CIA was invited in by Dalai Lama’s brother (who passed away this week?) in the 1950s, the whole Tibetan issue became thorny. Then the Indians had their design as well. The issue didn’t get resolved. Then Nixon needed China’s help in the cold war. China said Ok, CIA get out Tibet. So that was the history.
http://www.case.edu/affil/tibet/staffPub/f_affairs.htm by Prof. Melvyn Goldstein
After 10 years, the percentage of Tibetan officials would increase substantially from its current 60 to 70 percent to as high as 85 to 90 percent.
Remember Han Chinese dominated economy, most Tibetans are ill-educated.
Please define “prominent”.
“This is what amuses me about these links. The Sautman version of the facts suit Demin, so he uses them. But we know nothing of Sautman’s allegiances and sympathies, and therefore, potential biases. And let’s face it, his version of facts = his opinion.”
This is what amuses me about these links. The Hemulen version of the facts suit SKC, so he uses them. But we know nothing of Hemulen’s allegiances and sympathies, and therefore, potential biases. And let’s face it, his version of facts = his opinion.
S.K. Cheung says
doesn’t that go without saying? In fact, if you had the courage to acknowledge this reality yourself, we’d all be better off.
“But it makes me chuckle when an individual thinks that having a concurrent opinion to their own somehow makes theirs more legitimate. BTW, show me a “fact” that I can’t disqualify, then you’ll have my attention.” (#51) – see what you can do with that one.
Where are the YouTube videos dropping F- and MF-bombs? I want to see them! 🙂
I have to admit, I didn’t know these expressions until now, so I checked them up with Urban Dictionary. F-bomb, among other usages, also refers to
“Leaving a fart in the elevator just before exiting. That way the next person that gets into the elevator get’s a surprise.”
(Sorry, this is completely offtopic, but I couldn’t hold myself)
S.K. Cheung says
didn’t know F-bomb had 2 meanings. But i’d imagine that MF-bomb only has 1 meaning….although I suppose if you let a really wicked one rip, you could refer to it as the mother of all F-bombs 🙂
Re: F-bomb“Leaving a fart in the elevator just before exiting. That way the next person that gets into the elevator get’s a surprise.”Wukailong: (Sorry, this is completely offtopic, but I couldn’t hold myself)
LOL…That’s nasty. But my friend who used to work in Zhuhai tells me someone left a steamy
pile of F-Mine before leaving the elevator ! How gross is that! Once in a subway train in Shenzhen,
I personally saw parents lettng their child ..oh, never mind.
Regarding Tibet and Theocracy….although it is philosophically impossible to be an atheist, because to be an atheist one must be omniscient in order to know absolutely that there is no god. Therefore one can’t be god and an atheist at the same time! In this sense, atheism is not the rejection of a deity. Instead, it is the belief in emergent deity. But what good is godhood without power? Well, such leap is not that far off for some of those in high political or financial positions. Post-Mao China did the right thing by rejecting the worship of personalities whether be in political or religious sphere. I really don’t understand how although the essence of most religious tenets being about love, selflessness and peace, could in practice bring out the worst in mankind. I don’t know if god exist, but I kinda suspect religions has nothing to do with dieties, let alone the benevolent ones.
The truth is, without independent information gathering it is impossible to know what is happening in Tibet and what the opinion of the Tibetan people is. So here are data points I trust, and why I trust them:
1) The riots – we know they happened, we know who they targeted, we know whose picture the rioters brandished.
Reason – both sides agree on this, they just put different spins on the facts.
2) The Nangpa La shootings.
Reason – From an independent source (Romanian TV station) and confirmed by multiple witnesses from differing countries who had not met previously and who were unconnected to either side of the Tibet problem.
3) The flow of people across the border.
Reason – They risk their lives by doing so.
4) Reports of economic development in Tibetan.
Reason – exaggerated to be sure, but only to the degree seen in other parts under PRC rule.
5) The heavy military presence in Tibetan areas.
Reason – confirmed by multiple sources, and would make sense for such a large border area.
6) The refusal to allow unrestricted reporting from Tibet.
Reason – confirmed by the PRC government.
7) What Tibetan exiles unaffiliated with the Tibetan independence movement I meet here in the UK say.
Reason – the same reason you believe anyone else you meet, with the caveat that I have only met two and they both left Tibet in the early nineties, and that neither were very well educated.
Everything else? The talk about ‘cultural genocide’, ‘peaceful liberation’ etc. consists of propaganda, to varying degrees. Commenters like The Trapped carry a lot of weight with me as well, but this the internet.
My point in the above comment is this – if you just take all the data points I consider unbiased you would get a fairly negative view of the Tibet situation, however, allowing unrestricted (at least to a reasonable degree) reporting from Tibet might give a much more positive view containing all the evidence of the ‘brotherhood’ between the Tibetan people and rest of China that some of the people who comment here believe in so firmly. Until then, however, I’m going to keep on trusting in these data points.
Negative/Positive view. Funny. Our great thinker Karl Marx devoted his whole life combing through the history of modern capitalism, looking for evidences, only to reach the ‘negative’ view that ‘capital comes dripping from head to foot’, that the whole world of capitalism should be turned up side down.
SKC, to your post #57 and post on other thread :
Let us talk about fact :
Do you know how lavish Potola palace is ? those statues were painted with gold.
Do you know how poor ordinary Tibetan people were ? I dont have to say more.
And you do know Monks dont work, right ?
So, who built Potola place, who paid for all the cost, who support those monks living ?
The only way Potola place could be built is it was built under an extremely brutal regime, like the great wall was built in Qing Dynasty.
Now, since 1959, Chinese government killed hundreds of thousands of Tibetans ? this is as ridiculous as it can be ?
To kill so many Tibetans, Chinese government had to kill hundreds of villages of tibetans. In modern society, killing 1000 people would be #1 new all over the world. Did you see any reports about killing thousands of Tibetans ?
I am sure if chinese government had killed so many Tibetans, Westerners reporters and tourists wouldve heard hundreds of storys of how Han chinese killed Tibetans, even US satellite may be able to record what happened, right ?
I dont want to have your attention, I read both sides of story, and reason out the “fact” that at least makes sense.
You think Tibetans would be better under the rule of monks, show me what those monks have done for ordinary Tibetans.
@Wahaha – I don’t see how any of that is a justification for current CCP policy in Tibet, or even helps to explain any of that. Similar conditions existed in many parts of China in the early part of the last century, you might as well argue that current CCP policy in other parts of the PRC is justified by China’s imperial past.
The current policy of any nation is justified by one’s history. CCP may be anti-religious as part of its campaign to rid of forces (such as superstition) that has for so long kept China looking backwards, holding China back. America’s laws may be supersensitive on race as part of campaign to get rid of the long shadows of slavery that arose out of its slavery heritage.
What’s wrong with either? To each be each own.
We should learn to appreciate each other’s history more before judging each other. We should also definitely refrain from judging others based on our own history – which may have little to nothing to do with the others’ experience.
Totally agree with your view of learning others history before judging each other. Too often we jump to conclusions based on our own experiences or history. Sometimes seemingly similarities on the surface hide large differences underneath.
Most tibetans have deep respect for our monks and lamas…after all Tibetans themselves and other buddhist (including many Chinese) fund these monasteries. Tibetans take pride in sending one of their son or daughters to the monasteries, they feel these institutions are relevant to keep tibetan culture, religion and language alive, and especially in the countryside these institutions provide services such as medical assistance, orphanage, dispute solving etc.
Many of these monasteries are called institutes and they teach architechture, traditional medicine, artwork, buddhist philosophy etc., not all the pupils enrolled are necessarily monks and many monks disrobe after taking education because they find out they want to live regular life.
These institutions are part of Tibetans society, most tibetan family, rich or poor have some connection to a monastery through a relative or close family member.
There was no books outside monasterier before, right ?
If not true, show me a name of book.
If true, how was that part of culture for ordinary tibetans ? what kind of culture was that ?
I am not trying to defend CCP.
The whole campaign is not against CCP, it is against Han Chinese.
Now, if we talk about politics, the whole campaign is to let those monks rule Tibet again/
In addition to the socio-relgious-cultural role, there is currently a forth very important role of the monasteries.
In the current Tibet-China conflict, the monasteries take a new role as a gathering place for nationalist sentiment and strengthening the identity of Tibetans. This is very similar function that the Catholic church played in Poland both during German and Russian occupation.This role was also played by the late Pope John Paul II who was Polish. It is not a coincidence that late Pope John Paul II and Dalai Lama got along very well because of their similar experiences. Dalai Lama met the late Pope eight times, more than any other single dignitary (according to wikipedia).
“During the communist era, the church provided a necessary alternative to an unpopular state authority, even for the least religious Poles.”
After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the popularity of the Catholic church declined drastically, since the large support it had recieved ealier from the people was partly as a counterforce and rallying point against the Soviet rule.
According to Tulku Thondrup, there are the following genres in Tibetan literature:
1. Religious literature
1. By origin
1. Translated from other languages
2. Written by Tibetans
2. By subject
2. History and biography
3. Poetic composition and yogic songs
4. Music, dance, art and architecture
2. Secular literature
3. Poetic composition, metrical literature and lexicons
1. Poetic literature
2. Metrical literature
8. Geography and Cosmology
11. Arts and Crafts
The majority of books were religious literature, but there is also a secular literature, for instance the “King Gesar” epic was and remains very popular among lay people. Another author, a former monk, who was very critical of Tibetan religious institutions was Gendun Choepel, who wrote several books, poems, travelouges etc.
Here is some extracts from his writings:
On British colonialism, Calcutta 1941
Sponsored by kings and ministers the colonialists sent out a great army of bandits, calling them traders. They introduced new forms of living, but their laws were only good for the educated and wealthy. As for the poor, their small livelihoods are sucked like blood from all their offices. It is in this way that the so-called wonders of the world were built, such as railroads and high buildings. I am an astute beggar, who spent his life listening. I know what I’m talking about.
Poem, Tibet 1946
In Tibet, everything that is old
Is a work of Buddha
And everything that is new
Is a work of the Devil
This is the sad tradition of our country
Newpaper article, Tibet Mirror, Kalimpong, 1938
In olden days, even in Europe, the world was thought to be flat. And when some intelligent people claimed the opposite, they were exposed to various difficulties, such as being burnt alive. Today, even in Buddhist countries everybody knows, that the world is round. However in Tibet, we still stubbornly state that the world is flat.
Foreword of a Kamasutra translation, Calcutta 1939
As for me – I have little shame I love women. Every man has a woman. Every woman has a man. Both in their mind desire sexual union. What chance is the for clean behaviour? If natural passions are openly banned, unnatural passions will grow in secrecy. No law of religion – no law of morality can suppress the natural passion of mankind.
Childhood in Eastern Tibet (1903-1927)
Gendun Choephel was born in 1903 in a small village in eastern Tibet, near the silk road, at the Chinese border, in a remote region populated by nomads. This region was inhabited by Muslims, Chinese and Tibetans that were constantly fighting each other. The villages often were attacked and looted by warlords. In this explosive and mixed cultural climate Gendun Choephel started to be interested in his Tibetan identity early on. He received a traditional education as a monk in the most important monastery of the region, where he developed a friendship with an American missionary that the other monks and his family resented. In 1927 he left the monastery and moved to Lhasa with a caravan of merchants.
Monastery education in Lhasa (1927-34)
In Lhasa Gendun Choephel studied in Drepung, the biggest monastery in the world. His rebellious attempts to bypass the monastery’s rules annoyed the other monks. Ultimately, monastic life suffocated him too much in Lhasa as well and he left the monastery. Afterwards he survived as a portrait painter and artist for rich aristocrats in Lhasa. In 1934 he met Rahul Sankrityayan, an Indian researcher of Buddhist teachings who also was a communist activist for the Indian struggle for independence from British colonialists.
Journey across Tibet (1934-1938)
Rahul Sankrityayan and Gendun Choephel traveled together across Tibet searching for old texts that were destroyed in India centuries earlier but had survived in remote monasteries in Tibet. For Sankrityayan, historical research was part of his political fight; for him researching history was the key to the present. Gendun Choephel was Sankrityayan’s translator as well as his mediator for Tibetan culture. At the same time the fascinating stories about India awoke his curiosity.
Journey across India (1938-1946)
In India, Gendun Choephel was confronted with a foreign world. For the first time he saw a railway and other technological achievements. India was then undergoing radical changes and, contrary to Tibet, the Indians took their destiny into their own hands. The fight for independece was at its peak. Gendun Choephel’s view of his own culture started to change; in India he experienced the most creative phase of his life. He travelled across the country as a Buddhist pilgrim, lived in the crowded city of Calcutta, saw the ocean, visited brothels and libraries, wrote his first newspaper articles and translated the Kamasutra in Tibetan, enriching it with his own experiences. He sent many of his writings, notes and sketches back to Tibet in order to convey his impressions of a foreign world.
Return to Tibet (1946-51)
In 1946 Gendun Choephel returned to Tibet passing through the Indian-Tibetan border town of Kalimpong which, next to British and Chinese agents, was a nest of radical Tibetans who fell out of grace with Lhasa’s government. In 1939 they founded the Tibetan Revolutionary Party. Choephel got acquainted with the party and designed their logo: a sickle crossed by a sword. The Tibetan Revolutionary Party’s goal was to overthrow the tyrannical regime in Lhasa. When Gendun Choephel arrived in Lhasa the Tibetan government was already informed about his political activities. He began to write the political history of Tibet but this attempt was abruptly stopped by his arrest. He was accused of insurrection and thrown in jail for three years. In 1949 he was freed. But his heart was broken and he drowned his desperation in alcohol. Soon afterwards the Chinese army overran the Tibetan troops in eastern Tibet and, in 1951, shortly after the occupation of Lhasa by the Chinese army, Gendun Choephel died. Supposedly he commented on the political events of his era in this way: “Now we’re fucked!.”
@Allen – People are not robots pre-programmed with historical code that they obey on command, nor should criticism be withheld simply because of historical differences – nor is a judgement reached over years ‘jumping to conclusions’. Persecution simply due to religious belief or membership of religious organisations is not justified by the idea that some forms of religion are ‘superstition’. Political and religious oppression are not a cultural ‘quirk’, but are part of the CCP’s mechanism of control. Intolerance amongst the general public for racist opinions and a bar on racial discrimination in law and in the workplace is not the same as arresting and imprisoning people simply for their religious beliefs and affiliations.
Otto Kerner says
“To each be each own.
We should learn to appreciate each other’s history more before judging each other. We should also definitely refrain from judging others based on our own history – which may have little to nothing to do with the others’ experience.”
Sounds like a good starting point for dialogue between Tibetans and Chinese.
@Allen: Personally, I don’t think CCP’s anti-religious stance has anything to do with rooting out superstition in China. It is Marxism, pure and simple.
First, I want to thank you for all the information in # 71.
Now, no offense, but I am not sure what you are trying to prove to me. I believe you read Oli’s comment in which Oli made the observation : “……the centuries of misrule by a theocratic nobility that was primarily interested in maintaining an “ignorant” society in order to preserve its Buddhist theological monoploy and thus by extension, its political/social power, despite the preponderance of printing, books and learning in both next door imperial China and India.” and I think your information confirmed Oli’s observation.
If a society or country is dominated by religions, the country and people will be of no hope, they will live in poverty for ever. This was proved by European history. some countries in mideast are dominated by religion, imagine how poor Saudi Arabia and Kuwaitt would be without oil. What happened between 1949 and 1978 in China also proved that.
When a country is dominated by religion (with no culture other than the dominating religion), when religion dominates people’s daily lives religion becomes an effective tool for ruling elites to control people’s minds, ruling class rules the poor people in the name of religion, brainwash people to accept the misery in their life. In such case, religion is not culture, it is a tool.
I am only beginning to explore (knowing I will probably never be able to completely comprehend) all the information given in #71.
But I am guessing some Tibetans would consider it important for us to acknowledge that there was a Tibetan voice separate from the Chinese voice (of China proper) long before the CCP existed… and to recognize that voice exist as we negotiate with the Dalai Lama …even as we firmly reject the possibility of an independent Tibet.
S.K. Cheung says
do you have a secret crush on monks or something? Can you roll out of bed in the morning without obsessing about them for a few minutes?
Worry not, for at your current trajectory, you will never have my attention. BTW, how are the 1950’s working out for you?
S.K. Cheung says
“CCP may be anti-religious as part of its campaign to rid of forces…holding China back” – even if one were to stipulate that such a position was once necessary (and that’s a huge stipulation), wouldn’t it be reasonable to re-evaluate as situations evolve? Shouldn’t policies be allowed to continue based on merit, rather than habit?
If China is already continually moving forward, as many here suggest, then how is religion holding her back?
S.K. Cheung says
To Wahaha #64:
“You think Tibetans would be better under the rule of monks, show me what those monks have done for ordinary Tibetans.” – I’m not sure how many time this has to be spelled out for you, but if ordinary Tibetans prefer to be ruled by monks, who empowered you to dictate to them that they can’t have their wish?
About superstition (religion being a subset) holding the country back: I had in mind especially the historical roots of CCP’s aversion to religion – rooted especially in the early to mid 20th century.
As for whether religion is holding society back today, I think it’s debatable. On the one hand, religion has definitely been suppressed as part of political suppression. So I can see how protecting freedom of religion is noble.
On the other, if you ever hear about creationist v. evolution debate in the U.S., or if you look to the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, or if you look at all the religious/ethnic driven conflicts in Africa, Eastern Europe, Kashmir, and Tibet (I suppose), etc. – I sometimes wonder if religion is really more a problem than a solution…
@Allen – “I sometimes wonder if religion is really more a problem than a solution…”
So I guess that makes banning worship of any but a small set of government approved religions OK? Whilst we’re at it, which is holding China back more – religion, or the millions of work hours wasted in interminable meetings in which people who do not believe a word they are saying lecture their colleagues on subjects like “study Lei Feng”, “applying ‘the three represents’ to medicine”, “eight rights and eight wrongs”? Which wastes more money – religion, or the millions spent on government propaganda which is not believed or even listened to by anyone? Which is more stupid – a talented university student spending his or her time at the church or busy studying for their ‘politics’ course – a course which consists of memorising random historical facts and brain-dead political theory and which they must pass? Which is more of an act of ‘brainwashing’ – religious education of the young or the military drill and chanting of cadences which all university students must undergo? Whose superstition and nonsense is holding China back?
I know what you are saying and agree most of them.
However I think “Lei Feng” need be studied.(his serving the people part. It was true or not is not important). I always laugh at ‘the three represents’.
Regarding the military drill and chanting from the students. They are just disipline training which is good for kids. One month of run/stand/walk/chant won’t change anyone’s mind. The Taiwannese company you worked for also dose the same thing for new staff I don’t think it has much to do with CCP.
regardless how bad or good these things are, they are not the counter argument of what Allen is wandering about religion.
BTW, I think Allen is a “Chiang bundist ” not a “communist bundist” .
@BMY – A friend of mine who is a party member and works at the 414 military hospital in Nanjing laughed at me when I asked her if she had to teach her colleagues about Lei Feng saying that it was ‘only for school children’ – then the week after she was asked to do just that! Those kind of stories are OK for primary school, but when you hear of doctors having to sit through such talk – given by people who do not even slightly believe in them – then things have gone a little bit too far.
My point was that the CCP objects to religion because it can create centres of power outside of their control, not out of an attempt to stamp down on ‘superstition’ – the CCP actually has its own brand of superstition that it forces on people.
As for military drill – it is done in university for the same reason it is done in the army – to get people used to obeying without question. This is why Foxconn does it, and this is why the CCP does it, and I object in both cases.
I know that the KMT used to call communists ‘共匪’ (communist bandits), but what did the communists call the KMT?
“but if ordinary Tibetans prefer to be ruled by monks, who empowered you to dictate to them that they can’t have their wish?”
LOL, that is how you look at the situation in Tibet and China ?
Chinese wanted to be ruled by CCP in 1950s and 1960s, why do you cry about “Great Leap” ?
Why did you cry me a river about the political system in China ?
I think the past practices of Tibetan Buddhism or Chinese Communist Party are only relevant to the extend that they inform on their current and future behaviors. From what Trapped, skylight and other Tibetans have said, they certainly wish that Buddhism will still be central to Tibetan culture and society. I believe the sentiment make the most sense since the Tibetan culture detached from Buddhism is nearly meaningless.
If that is true, then ultimately people need to examine the implications of that on various aspects of the Tibetan society, and more importantly on whether there will there be room on both sides to reach compromises.
One such area is education. From the Prof. Nima’s paper (links on the English reading list,) we can see that there are effort to implement bilingual education by Chinese government, though the results are decidedly mixed. Can monastery based education be used to compliment the public secular education? Can monasteries educate children who are not monks? Can Chinese government feel secure enough to source part of the education system to the hotbeds of the Tibetan independence sentiment? Seem to me the most sensible solution is to form monastery schools that concentrate on teaching Tibetan language, history, religion and traditional cultural practices in the form of extended Sunday Schools; while at the same time, mandate secular education for the same kids that concentrate on math, science, Chinese and foreign languages.
I agree with FOARP that Chinese government can tolerate any particular religion only to the extend that it does not form separate power center. When you strip away all the rhetorical facades, what’s left is this question. The Tibetan Buddhism played and is playing a large political role. Chinese government will comprise only if they can constrain it back into a the form of Buddhism that is practice in the rest of of China.
Since the topic of China and religion is being discussed, new readers may want to read another essay by Oli.
Even that could be a tall order. In an article in Asia times called Past presents problems for Tibet, it is argued that political reconciliation can come about only through a reconciliation on history. And the gulf between the view of history held by the CCP and that held by the Dalai Lama is currently very wide.
I personally think the fastest way to understand other people and their perception of history is to read autobiographies. Indeed, it is not neutral, but it doesn’t pretends to be neutral either, it just represents one persons views with all its faults. To me, these first-hand sources give me much more information than many historians who try to argue both sides of a story and end up it the land of neutrality and colorlessness.
I haven’t read many Chinese books and autobiographies, expect for Iris Chang and Jung Chang. Could you please recommend some other Chinese autobiographies or books (preferably in english)?
Here are some books (including several autobiographies) written by Tibetans:
1. Memories of Life in Lhasa under Chinese rule by Tubten Khetsun
2. A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Report of the 10th Panchen Lama
3. In the service of his country: The Biography of Dasang Damdul Tsarong, Commander General of Tibet
4. The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947 by Tsering Shakya
5. Warriors of Tibet by Jamyang Norbu
6. Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of The Dalai Lama
7. Tibet Notes by Woeser
8. Forbidden Memory: Tibet during the cultural revolution by Woeser
Several of these books are available free for download here:
Woesers books can be bought here:
As many others have mentioned earlier, I also think language education in Tibetan is very important. Here is an interesting white paper by the Tibetan Exile-Government which discuss language policy.
“Even that could be a tall order. In an article in Asia times called ‘Past presents problems for Tibet’, it is argued that political reconciliation can come about only through a reconciliation on history. And the gulf between the view of history held by the CCP and that held by the Dalai Lama is currently very wide.”
I would somehow draw the opposite conclusion, namely that the political reconciliation can come about only through IGNORING history. Instead start with pure political positions, for example:
China could start with one of those “as long as …. then everything is on the table” stance often taken with Taiwan. Insist on that the rule of PRC is not to be challenged.
Tibetans could start with the insistence on much higher degree of autonomy, i.e. a form of the “One country, two systems” that lie somewhere between the current state and Hong Kong.
Of course that would require courage from both sides which I don’t thing they possess. On the Chinese side, they have to give up on the perceived strength of holding all the cards. While Tibetans have to give up the last card it thought to be holding — the support of the western government and the public opinion.
S.K. Cheung says
I haven’t complained about 1950’s and 1960’s. Mao’s little experiment is the cross for people like you to bear. So I don’t cry about it; you might want to, however.
I’m certainly also not weeping about CHina’s political system. If that’s how they want to go, they can fly at’er. But I can complain all I want, and thankfully, where I live, ain’t nothing you can do about it.
However, if in your logic (and I’m using that term loosely), it’s okay for you to dictate to Tibetans, then you can’t get bent out of shape when people try to dictate to Chinese.
I’ve already toned down my ideas so people like you don’t have seizures. If it were up to me, it’s self-determination all the way…but I said all I had to say on that one months ago on one of Allen’s posts. But if ordinary Tibetans want to be ruled by monks, as I said, who are you to tell them no?
S.K. Cheung says
To Allen #80:
I have no use for religion whatsoever. But in keeping with my life philosophy, if someone chooses it, that’s their prerogative.
Similarly, if a return of religion might hold back Tibetan progress, (and again, many here have suggested they haven’t made much progress to begin with, in the absence of religion, so I’m not sure how much more held back they would be in its presence) but they choose it anyway, then they live with that decision. But it would be nice if it was a decision for them to make.
“But if ordinary Tibetans want to be ruled by monks, as I said, who are you to tell them no?”
My answer : Monroe doctrine.
Yeh … I remember that: it seems like just yesterday.
I still have a lot of problems with self-determination. As we left off, we understood that self-determination is a collective right – not an individual right. And as such, you can never have complete self determination because as in any groups, there will necessarily be a minority that have to bend to the will of the majority. In practice, that means that even if the DL were to form his nation, there will be groups within him that object to his rule (atheists, other factions within the Tibetan religious order, non-buddhists, different sub-ethnicities speaking various dialects of Tibetan, Han Chinese, Uighur Chinese, Mongolian Chinese, etc.) – do they all get their independent little nations?
My main problem with self determination as applied by many in the West is that if you are going to tear apart the Chinese nation, why ignore the will of the “Chinese People”? If you persist in defining a Tibetan people as a separate people, aren’t you guilty of making your mind up regarding the issue of self-determination before applying the so-called principles of self determination? Even worse, aren’t you guilty of presuming that the natural order of nation states must be split along ethnic-religious lines (a principle I strongly reject)?
I’ll be straight: I think the principle of self determination is a relic of the West’s attempt to cleanse itself from the legacy of colonialism. The concept – created to address previous ethno-religious grievances caused by colonialism – will in the 21st century actually cause more bloodshed in its single-minded focus on identity politics rather than good governance.
The concept really holds little relevance to China – except to the extent that China is still living in the shadows of Western history…
Those were my issues with self determination when I wrote my post (my first here) in May. In time, we’ll get a second chance at arguing over these again … but I just want to get the above off my chest because I think people are too enamored with a principle that is really more a geopolitical tool than a working principle.
Thanks for correcting my wrong spelling.
The communists used to call KMT “Chiang bandits(蒋匪）“ or just “KMT bandits (国民党匪徒)“
“I think the principle of self determination is a relic of the West’s attempt to cleanse itself from the legacy of colonialism.”
What about the principle of state sovereignty? Also created by the West, and these days perhaps as unrealistic as anything else. Why should countries have independence at all? What is indepence anyway?
What I want to say with this is that if you question one concept, go further. Question all the “Western” concepts China use.
But I view there to be a fundamental difference between self determination and state sovereignty. Whereas self determination is defined as a “right” (in a normative fashion) of a “people”, state sovereignty is more predefined high-brow “etiquette” between nations – an established protocol in the dealing between nations – to reduce potential tensions and disputes between existing power centers.
We all know absolute sovereignty does not exist (especially in today’s global world). Even in the past before today’s global order, stronger nations routinely meddle and interfere in the internal affairs of weaker nations. But the concept of sovereignty does define boundaries by which countries are supposed to obey – in the spirit of mutual respect.
As far as I am concerned: sovereignty is simply a facet of global governance. As time changes and as the world changes, we may have more or less national sovereignty. But with that said, I also strongly believe that sovereignty is a tremendously useful and helpful feature of the current global governance system – a feature that can greatly reduce the risks of mistakes, misunderstandings, and wars.
And War is the last thing that China wants…
“What I want to say with this is that if you question one concept, go further. Question all the “Western” concepts China use.”
I think that will be a very reasonable pose for us to assume. We take too many concepts for granted without really understand its meaning and implications. That certainly should includes those concepts that China is using to defend itself.
One of the problems with American political system is precisely that people, including its political elite taking its founding principles for granted. In a healthy political system, these principles should have been constantly re-examined and adjusted.
@wuming: “One of the problems with American political system is precisely that people, including its political elite taking its founding principles for granted. In a healthy political system, these principles should have been constantly re-examined and adjusted.”
That’s what worries me too. There is debate going on in the West about the political system, but it is too little and mostly done in academic circles. There’s no reason it should stop there, since the end of history is not in sight.
Another problem is of course whether big countries have more of an “inertia” to change? It’s easier to imagine a smaller country changing their system than a country like US or China. Perhaps this is just psychological, or because power groups in large countries make it more resilient to change and experiment?
@Allen: I agree completely with you, and I hope I didn’t sound too provocative (which wasn’t the intention). In a sense, I too think that self-determination is somewhat of an ad hoc solution when there are conflicts and tensions in an area. For countries the size of China, some sort of federalism might be the best solution; in fact, it’s already in place with Hongkong and Macau.
S.K. Cheung says
To Wahaha #92:
say what? An objection to colonialism allows you to dictate to Tibetans? Who’s colonizing who? Intervention aimed at economic stabilization allows you to tell Tibetans who they can and cannot follow? You have got to be kidding me!
Of course, it hasn’t yet ceased to amaze me that people would pull out American principles to (at least try to) justify Chinese government actions. For if the Chinese government wants to test drive a presidential doctrine, then they should take the presidential elections concept out for a spin too.
S.K. Cheung says
To Allen #93:
as we both said, we’ve kicked around “self-determination” pretty good. But I don’t remember it like yesterday, so i can’t recall exactly what was and wasn’t said back then. In so saying, some of your current points seem like fresh ones to me; but if my response is redundant, please forgive me.
“means that even if the DL were to form his nation, there will be groups within him that object to his rule” – this would be true, assuming that he wishes to and is allowed to “rule” such a nation. I’m not sure either would be a forgone conclusion.
“why ignore the will of the “Chinese People”” – because I suspect such will is not in itself homogeneous. You would be ignoring the will of some Chinese people, while granting that of others.
“do they all get their independent little nations?” – IMO, as you well know, yes. But (and here I’m sure I’m repeating myself) these peoples must bear the risks and costs of such a decision. As I’ve said many a time before, just because they can doesn’t mean they will.
“guilty of presuming that the natural order of nation states must be split along ethnic-religious lines” – not so at all, for such a charge assumes that such a de novo nation would have to be ethnically and/or religiously homogeneous. I certainly wouldn’t place that stipulation on it. However, if the occupants of said de novo nation seek such homogeneity, then that too is their call, recognizing the inherent risks etc etc.
“The concept really holds little relevance to China” , because, IMO, she is more interested in forcibly retaining her country with 56 ethnicities, when in fact, it seems to be one overwhelming majority and 55 at-times possibly reluctant minorities. You continually seem to equate self-determination with independence. To me, it allows the question, but doesn’t pre-determine the answer.
These two quotes illustrate (to me at least) the core of our differences. The other response you posed were interesting, but I think they are peripheral and can be easily resolved…
In its most basic form, self determination is the right of a people to determine the course of their political destiny: it is not an individual right, but a collective right.
The problem is – which collection of people can exercise that right? Self determination per se does not answer this question. Does people mean people of a particular race, people of a particular religion, or people of a particular nation?
Try as you might, you have to go outside the concept of self determination to define what the scope of “people” mean for self determination.
In your posts, you keep on presuming the right of ethnic minorities (e.g., in your view China’s 55 + Tibetans) to self determination. According to your worldview: sure various ethnicities may decide to join together to form a nation state, but each ethnicity always reserve a right to separate as it sees fit.
There is nothing wrong per se with this particular definition of self determination. But to me it is one particular brand of self determination based too much on identity politics such as ethnic identities and religious identities.
What I subscribe to, for a lack of better word, is national self determination. It is the right of the people of every nation to chart its own political destiny. According to this paradigm, each people of every nation is equal to each people of other nations, should respect each other, and should refrain from attacking or dominating each other.
But what’s so special about nations? Aren’t they just accidents of history? Maybe. But I am a realist and believe this definition will lead to a more stable and productive world than the ethnic-driven version.
I like to prescribe self determination at the national level because the major political powers of today are still held by national governments. The quality of life of people across the world is still most closely correlated with what country they are from. It is most simple and effective to ascribe responsibility of providing the people to each national government – rather than the UN, some NGO’s, or even the undisputed superpower such as the U.S.
So if I have to subscribe to a working strain of self determination, I choose self determination of nations, and I do not support self determination of religious groups or ethnicities.
Netizen K says
Well said, Allen.
@S.KC #100 “You continually seem to equate self-determination with independence. To me, it allows the question, but doesn’t pre-determine the answer.”
In theory , you are right. But if we look at the reality and history, self-determination almost every time equates with independence . To my observation of the history , it raises the question, after many have determined the answer(or a small group in a large community has a answer and controlled so called public opinions of their community).
I think you are talking more about ideology and Allen is more talking about towards a reality
Do you have personal agenda against CCP ?
No country would allow anti-government force in his background, as long as it has necessary power. That is the brutal rule for this world, and carried out by both authoritarian countries and democratic countries. So dont act like you are morally superior. Had Dalai Lama been a pro-China, China wouldve had no problem letting him be the #1 figure politically in Tibet, OK ?
Good observations about the many foolish things the CCP does. I can’t disagree with you there…
However, stupidity of the CCP aside, I still reserve the “concerns” I have for religion outlined in #80.
Otto Kerner says
I’d like to say that I think you’re making a very cogent case against “self-determination” as a useful concept. However, I think that it is potentially confusing for you to say that you favour a “national self-determination.” Wikipedia has a useful definiton of self-determination as “free choice of one’s own acts without external compulsion, and especially as the freedom of the people of a given territory to determine their own political status or independence from their current state.” I understand that by “national self-determination” you mean “free choice of one’s own acts”, but, since, the term especially means “the freedom of the people of a given territory to determine their own political status or independence from their current state” and since that’s not what you are supporting (unless I’ve misunderstood you), others will not necessarily understand what you mean.
(The term “nation” is also quite vague. I would prefer to be more specific and refer to a “state”. I assume that’s what you meant, since it seems to me that any other sense of “nation” would be likely to include Tibet).
My personal opinion is that the concept of “self-determination” is vague and in practice not very useful. However, from my perspective, it seems absurd to go to the other extreme and reject it completely.
Very good point. Self determination is a tool “invented” for empowering secession and independence movements (autonomy being a milder form). So I was actually trying to create a stir (silently) by arguing for a form of self determination called “national self determination” – which really is just another name for national sovereignty – knowing full well that I have sacrilegiously merged the previously antagonistic concepts of national sovereignty and self determination into one! Good catch!! 😉
But I stand by my logic.
You also mentioned that:
Yes – it is not a bad definition. But I think it is a dry definition because the real force driving self determination is ethno-religious nationalism ( as I will try to show at the end of this post).
But even if I must work under this framework, this definition really does not improve matters much for self determination because we must still reach outside the framework to understand what constitutes a “territory.”
Should the territory be drawn at the state/provincial level, or the county/city level, or something more arbitrary – say the street – or even household level?
Must territories follow existing administrative borders (which can be kind of arbitrary anyways) or some newly penned electoral map? Who draws these electoral maps (if you understand how bitter and partisan electoral map drawing can be in the U.S., I figure such maps will be even harder to draw in China)?
In the case of China, why must we look at “TAR” (or some other administrative region) as a territory? Why can’t we include the entire land of the PRC as a territory for self determination purposes?
The reason is that there is a notion that the Tibetan people is a distinct people separate from the Chinese people. So even as we talk about the “territory” basis of self determination – eventually we go back (at least in today’s Western dominated politics) to the ethno-religious definition of “people” – which returns us to the problem I described in #93 and #101.
Another thing you mentioned was the terminology between nation v. state.
I concede I was maybe a bit messy in my terminologies. I had used the term nation to mean state.
But if we are going to use the term minority nationalities to describe China’s minority ethnic groups, then yes, I should have been more careful and used the term state instead of nation to make it clear that in my discussion above, I did not intend to suppress or denigrate any sense of common affinities members of each minority nationality in China may feel for each other.
Netizen K says
To be honest, self-determination of nationa, state, etc is the domain of serious academic research. I don’t think we will come to any consensus here. Maybe a for or against position would be enough to show how many are and how many against. Then we will know the mode here, or in China, or the exile community. Each will continue to hold its position.
Otto Kerner says
No problem, Allen, you made your point quite well, regardless.
By the way, the term “minority nationalities” is particularly bad, even though it seems to have become standard at the hands of government translators. “Minority nationalities” actually implicitly makes the opposite propaganda point of what the government wants, since “nation” and “nationality” nowadays have strong connotations of political independence. Merriam-Webster even includes a definition, “people having a common origin, tradition, and language and capable of forming or actually constituting a nation-state”, which is certainly not what most Chinese people intend to say about Monbas and Bulangs, etc. I urge everybody to substitute “minority ethnic groups” or “ethnic minorities”, the latter of which sounds most natural to my ear, albeit a bit informal.
If ethno-religious distinctness is not a very good base for nationalism, what is then? Seems that you are either arguing for the conservative position of preferring the historical status quo, or you think union is preferred over secession.
I am not saying that such positions are indefensible. In fact, I believe that separation is almost always more traumatic and desired fruits of the separatism are almost always elusive.
Now you get me in trouble. At first, I was only trying to argue that self determination per se is not a working principle. Hidden in its practice are assumptions about what constitute a “people.”
Now we are moving on to the broader (but related) concept of nationalism….
Is nationalism a basic right or is it a scourge of humanity? Is it a principle that promotes peace or war?
I don’t know…
Fortunately, I don’t think I need to go that far in Tibet.
I don’t think the issue in Tibet should be about nationalism (if so, we will have to fight another civil war to settle it). Instead, the problem of Tibet should only be about governance.
If people in Tibet (as people everywhere else in China) has a problem with the government, the people ought to work with the gov’t to address those issues – whether they involve promotion of ethnic languages, cultures, or development of the economy. Resorting to separatism or nationalism (or other types of identity-based politics) now will only cause undue tension and delay the ultimate resolution of issues that are of importance to the common person.
S.K. Cheung says
To Allen #101:
“In your posts, you keep on presuming the right of ethnic minorities to self determination” – actually, that is completely untrue. I think you make those assumptions based on your POV. One could base self-determination on any number of things. And the definition of people need not be based on nationality either; there is no such restriction once you leave behind the ethno-centric view of the concept.
From my perspective, self-determination is the right to exercise your life choices based on your personal priorities. I presume everyone has a list of priorities. So in fact, the right to self determination is an individual right. To express it effectively, you need to merge with others who have similar priorities. So in your framework, it is a collective expression by individuals with common priorities. You assume that race/ethnicity is at the top of everyone’s list of priorities. Certainly not true of me, and many I know. And certainly not the only priority for which self-determination can be exercised.
So your objection to self-determination to me is just a convenient way to argue against Tibetan rights. First off, I happen to agree that Tibet is probably better off staying within China; but that should be a determination by the people there. Second, Tibet peoples exercising the right to self-determination may choose the status quo, but a choice of the status quo is as much an exercise of self-determination as choosing independence. And third, though I wouldn’t agree with them, if people choose to exercise their self-determination by placing ethnicity as their main priority, that should be up to them. It is extremely paternalistic for you to tell them they can’t because they don’t know what’s good for them. But there is no reason why people of any ethnicity couldn’t join the new “Tibet”, if, for example, perhaps their priority is to reject the current Chinese government’s mode of governance. In fact, there may even be Han people who would do just that.
In fact, your attempts to defend China’s forced ethnic diversity have made you more ethnocentric, not less.
So self-determination need not be based on race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality. I concede that the “territory” is a separate issue. We’ve already talked about your “house to house” contention before, and it is merely argumentative. But just as you have Kosovo, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia, there are logical and reasonable means of defining a “territory”, though of course it is still arbitrary. To argue that Tibetan self-determination should be decided by the collective PRC citizenry doesn’t fly, simply because they have different priorities (see above).
This is not true. But now we are getting deeper into philosophy over political legitimacy in general – and away from “self determination” per se.
If you have time to dig into the various thoughts on the legitimacy of governments in general, you will see what I mean… (you will run into questions such as can one unilaterally secede from a government? what is the real legitimacy of democratic governments when people are simply born into them?).
The Trapped! says
“If people in Tibet (as people everywhere else in China) has a problem with the government, the people ought to work with the gov’t to address those issues – whether they involve promotion of ethnic languages, cultures, or development of the economy. Resorting to separatism or nationalism (or other types of identity-based politics) now will only cause undue tension and delay the ultimate resolution of issues that are of importance to the common person.”
I think you should remind this point to the government as well. And I am sure you must have some clue and context to say this, but I still hope you don’t mean Tibetans hadn’t “resorted to” “work with the gov’t to address those issues” before they started “resorting to separatism or nationalism”, even between 1951 and 1959. If you look at the issue with pre-assumption that Tibetans are the ones who caused the problems, then you will automatically understand every factor in this way.
Have you ever given a thought about the possibility that Tibetans are tired of “resorting to” the government sympathy due to endless denials to their requests by the government, before you baldly tell Tibetans what they should do?
Lets look at language rights abuse only: is there a single government office in Tibetan areas that uses Tibetan language on daily work even though this right is given by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China? So, even if all the subjects are taught in Tibetans in schools, where do the graduate young Tibetans graduated from Tibetan-medium schools go after their graduation? Another unsatisfied generation for making trouble, and that is current education system we are having now. Currently Tibetan schools are built and Tibetan is partially taught in schools due to pressure from TGIE and western powers, but never given thought on where they send those graduates. This kind of careless work creates endless troubles.
Now look, where the trouble really is and who is the trouble maker.
One important we can not miss is, unlike events in late 1980s, this time large of what you call rioters are college and university students who claim to themselves to be atheists.
The Trapped! says
The rights of a nationality’s language is compromised to make it convenient for some Han officials who come to Tibetan areas with the name of serving and helping Tibetan people. (This is what superficially things look like, people suspect that there is also controlled by some secret hand, but I do not want to think that possibility.) Thanks dear social servants for erasing our language from the course of the world development for your convenience for keeping your plate warm!
I think the language issue has been widely reported to the center government via all different provincial governments. They know it. They have changed the policies in schools and I’m pretty sure they would do it in government offices.
I understand there are many Han officers in provincial level and city levels. But in many county/town levels where most of the government officers are Tibetans . How could they don’t speak Tibetan in the offices even the documentations from the top are in Han language.
Regarding the graduate’s career opportunities I think the language is just one issue if they would like to apply government positions in TAR or other Tibetan area. No government would guaranty to be able to absorb all graduates into government positions even if no any language issues. If the graduates want to go in land China for opportunities like what you have done then it’s good to have Mandarine and English language abilities like everyone else dose.
Further more , regardless the language issue, it’s always a big challenge for young un-experienced graduates find jobs anywhere in China or anywhere in the world. There are many well educated ,experienced people couldn’t find professional jobs these days. That need economic development.
The Trapped! says
“But in many county/town levels where most of the government officers are Tibetans . How could they don’t speak Tibetan in the offices even the documentations from the top are in Han language.”
Han officials are from provincial level down to commune and village level. Their post varies from provincial governor and party secretary to commune party secretary and village teacher. Never mention about county and commune level, even village level Han teachers do not speak local Tibetan language.
“No government would guaranty to be able to absorb all graduates into government positions even if no any language issues.”
I don’t think you haven’t got my message. I am not complaining about government not providing jobs to those graduates. I am not a shut-eyed person. I know the job opportunity situation both inside China and worldwide. So, on this you don’t have to lecture me.
What I wanted to point out and what your response are quite east and west different. What I wanted to point is, in inland China, if the government requires all the job seekers to have BA or MA degree in English or French language and ignore their Chinese degree, what will the people’s reaction be? And if people’s voice of dissatisfaction on this issue is ignored year by year, will the people still choose to resort to this government, if not storm the government institutions at all?
I know how hard it is for Hans to sympathize Tibetans since 3/14, actually since forever. But if you really want to look at Tibet and Tibetans, then you should start by asking yourself “What if I am in this situation? What would I think and what would I do?” It should be that difficult since Hans also had history of being abused, being disregarded, being misruled, and being laughed at and sneered at by calling them “Sick Men”, though not “Barbarian” at those times.
The Trapped! says
“It should be that difficult since Hans also had history of being abused, being disregarded, being misruled, and being laughed at and sneered at by calling them “Sick Men”, though not “Barbarian” at those times.”
It shouldn’t be that difficult since Hans also had history of being abused, being disregarded, being misruled, and being laughed at and sneered at by calling them “Sick Men”, though not “Barbarian” at those times.
@The Trapped #118
I find it weird that people still repeat this phrase ‘sick man’ as a historical insult directed at China. The original ‘sick man’ was the Ottoman Empire (the term was first used back in 1853), and the term has been applied to many different countries over the years, including France, Russia, and the post-WWII UK. It is not a term specially referring to China or specially invented for China, but Chinese people seem to have rather taken the term rather to heart.
The phenomenon you talked about is true, but that is not the problem of political system, that is the byproduct of economc invasion. You can check the situation of native in Australia and Canada, how they are paid and how they decent jobs, basically they have to be able to read, write and speak English to have a decent job.
Except in major cities like Lhasa, Han chinese cant control or force Tibetans to do anything, unless they protest against government. It will be on Tibetans to decide what they want to do, learn Chinese so they can find decent job later, or refuse to learn non-tibetan textbook.
There is no way a Han chinese will spend one year studying Tibetans cuz he will work in Tibet for 3 years, lot of Chinese work there cuz of higher pay and job opportunities, they dont plan to live there for the rest of their lives.
I think Chinese government should force those officials learn Tibetan language and try to communicate with Tibetan language, but I think this is as much as chinese government can do. It will be up to Tibetans to keep their culture while developing their economic situation.
BTW “I know how hard it is for Hans to sympathize Tibetans since 3/14.”
That is not true, Hans will not sympathize the Tibetan exile government, cuz china’s media claimed those rioters were followers of exile government, Han chinese anger is mostly against West and Tibetan exile government. You dont have to worry too much about how Han will think about Tibantans in Tibet.
Discussions like these can only go that far unless people are willing to educate themselves and read about history. If everybody hold to their preconcieved notions about other people there will not be any progress.
“Before I came to your hometown, I had thought it was a deserted place set in barren mountains; now that I’ve visited your hometown I know it’s filled with the fragrance of flowers. Before I met you, I had thought you were a primitive people; now we’ve come to know each other, so I know you are really a noble nation.”
– Tibetan folksong
Thanks for the beautiful lyric…
Comparison would be good way to learn the fact behind the words. Unfortunately, few people do that.
The working language of China is and will be Mandarin, everybody has to accept this fact and adopt, including 500 or so million Chinese citizens who live in the south and have to learn to speak Mandarin.
The language integration process has only accelerated because of wider availability of mass media, it’s futile to fight against the tide. It’s been 50 years since Central Government imposed direct control over TAR, it’s about time Tibetan Chinese, as citizens of China, to learn to speak the national tone, not just their their local ones.
I don’t think the language issue will resonate with average Han Chinese, regardless of what happened on 3.14. Most of them are experiencing the deliberate suppression of their own dialectical tones, but they understand the need and benefit for a nation to have a common language.
I personally agree that a nation must have a national language. I was once beaten in kindergarten for speaking the Taiwanese dialect (branch of Fujian dialect) (this was the late 1970’s). While my family was indignant, I am now glad that I can speak mandarin more fluently than Taiwanese.
Strange thing is in Taiwan now, some independent-minded people want to promote the local Taiwanese dialect at the expense of mandarin. That’s fine. But I think … what a dumb thing to do to your kid. What a stupid burden to impose on the next generation…
It’s good to know.
You know tons. Why don’t you write some articles here rather than just commenting? maybe the big story of “sick men” to correct some misconception?
S.K. Cheung says
To Allen #114:
I disagree with your definitions and parameters, and you disagree with mine. Such is the way it is.
Anyone who compares the imposition of Mandarin on non-Mandarin Chinese speakers with the situation in Tibet is (1) either ignorant of the fact that Tibetan and Chinese are two completely different and only distantly related languages (2) or just a cynic.
S.K. Cheung says
Agreed. I was just going to say that Mandarin and Cantonese, for instance, aren’t different languages. It’s only different in the pronunciation. Kinda like English and …Texan 🙂
Different dialect is far removed from different language.
Did you guys know that Tibet has many dialects and subdialects – with some dialects so different from each other as to be considered different languages? See, e.g., this website.
Yeh, I think the only way to resolve our differences (or at least to get at the root) is to discuss over a drink. Whenever you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you need to let me know!
Tibetan is a different language, so what? I don’t care if your mother tone is Japanese or German, but if you are a Chinese citizen and have been so for over 50 years, I don’t want to hear any excuse about how you shouldn’t learn the national language, and how the government offices and institutions should speak your tone.
Nobody’s forbidding your to speak your mother tone, but if you want to be part of the mainstream, speak the national language.
Exactly. Different Tibetan regions have different dialects, and what’s more, the exile Tibetans in Dharamsala have since developed a unique accent that’s obviously to Tibetans from China.
skylight#124 Nice lyrics, and I am sure it’s all true too.
Allen # 128, # 133 — Yeah, I HAD to pass the National language of the country I used to reside as well as English in order to graduate from High school — That was my priviledge and duty as a citizen of that country. Now HK brown-nosing government tried to screw around with the medium of instruction and look what a freaking mess it has created, and so unneccessary — In the end the students and their parents suffer.
“Nobody’s forbidding your to speak your mother tone, but if you want to be part of the mainstream, speak the national language.”
wukong: #135 — I AGREED. I speak 5 languages and if I had lived in Canada, I would be fluent in French too, like my nieces and nephews. It’s great to be multi-lingual. Free your mind, firends.
How profound. You are indeed a cynic.
Maybe I am a cynic, too, but I believe the Lhasan dialect – which the Dalai Lama wants to make the official language of Tibet – is spoken by less than 50% [correction 33%, after checking my notes] of all Tibetans living in China…
I am just realistic.
But let’s share ideas, not posit labels.
S.K. Cheung says
might take more than one drink…for both of us. But you’ve certainly chosen a nice city to live in, as least from a tourist perspective. Big Chinatown you’ve got, as a matter of fact.
Hehe, the question of language/dialect has cropped up again. It’s not an easy one, so don’t expect it to be solved here or anytime soon. But a couple of pointers:
* If Chinese used an alphabetic writing system, Cantonese and Mandarin would be two different languages. It’s not only that they are mutually unintelligible, they also have subtly different grammars. Look at a Hongkong entertainment newspaper that writes the latest slang, for example. One could argue that they have a shared heritage with the same sayings, connotations etc, but so do many European languages.
* Many languages would be considered the same if they weren’t written with different scripts or had slightly different standards. Serbian and Croatian is an example, as is Hindi/Urdu.
So in the end it comes to alphabets and/or jurisdictional borders. The cliché about a language being “a dialect with an army and a navy” comes to mind.
However, I agree that learning Mandarin for Tibetans isn’t the same thing as for speakers of other Chinese “dialects”. In the end, though, this issue can only be solved by better education. It’s not like Tibetans would be worse off learning Chinese, would they? As long as they keep their own identity, which I’m sure will happen, Mandarin is no threat to cultural preservation.
Sure – I’ll treat multiple drinks. We just have to make sure we don’t start agreeing with each other too much in our inebriated state – since it’d be kind of weird to have to come back here and argue against each other all over again… 😉
From the Spoken Chinese entry in the English version of the wikipedia,
S.K. Cheung says
agreed. Learning another language is never a bad thing, and learning Mandarin just seems like common sense. Mind you, learning English wouldn’t be such a bad idea either. But I think keeping their language is a prominent part of keeping their identity.
Ahh, HK entertainment papers…I used to read those rags.
S.K. Cheung says
LOL. Maybe some place close to Lombard. I love driving down that thing. Makes me feel like Dirty Harry, minus the Smith and Wesson 🙂
Hey, I go to the Bay Area occasionally. Let’s all meet up if there is a chance! 🙂
@Allen: The Wikipedia entry is a good compilation of the prevailing view, but linguists rarely agree… I stick to the 方言 definition because it works well in China, but I do think of these as different languages. In a similar way, people tend to think of the languages in Denmark, Norway and Sweden and separate, but especially with Norwegians it’s almost like the same language – it sounds like a dialect with some odd words to me. So in all practicality, these are dialects referred to as languages.
Languages are probably best kept to themselves, without too much government interference.
@SKC: “But I think keeping their language is a prominent part of keeping their identity.” I agree with that.
I can recommend this article to all of you, “When do people learn languages”:
@Wukailong about meeting up: definitely! My contact info is in the about page. It’d be my pleasure…
Since there has been no serious movement in China to create separate written versions for the various Chinese language/dialects it is realistic to expect Fujianese to learn Mandarin and not bother what they speak at home. Chinese people have been doing this for centuries and most people are comfortable with diglossia.
Tibetan is one of a few “minority” languages that had a long separate tradition prior to 1949, with a language of more than 1000 years of history. It is perfectly OK to teach Chinese and English in Tibetan schools. But it is unrealistic and insulting to Tibetans to make Chinese the official language of TIbet and making it a prerequisite for a good job.
It should be very simple: Chinese who wish to work in Tibet should learn Tibetan, or go home, just like Tibetans are expected to speak Chinese in China proper. If Beijing wishes to retain Tibet as part of the PRC, they should show real respect to the Tibetan language.
For clarification, the article you mention doesn’t say that Tibet has several languages as you claim.
It says that the language spoken in “Dzongkha (Bhutan), Sikkimese (India), Sherpa (Nepal), and Ladakh (India)” could be considered different languages.
As you know, all these areas are outside Tibetan borders, but they have close cultural ties to Tibetans, so there are political reasons why they are called languages rather than dialects. But inside historical Tibet, it is considered one language with different dialects, which all use the same script.
This is similar to Chinese language which have different dialects, but all use the same script. The purpose and usage of Lhasa dialect is similar to Putonghua.
Otto Kerner says
Regarding the language issue, my understanding is that the largest number of ethnic Tibetans live in Amdo (i.e., most of Qinghai plus bits of Sichuan and Gansu), so Amdoish is presumably the most widely-spoken native language. The major varieties of Tibetan spoken in the PRC are not mutually intelligible, and, as skylight and others point out, the distinction between a dialect and a language is basically a political term.
Nicolas Tournadre argues that there is a “standard Tibetan” which is used by Tibetans from different regions to communicate with each other. This is basically the Lhasa dialect, i.e. the only form of the language is which is at all familiar to outsiders. To the extent that this is true, it is an example of the special circumstance of the Tibetans. Not many ethnic groups in China have a standard language form based on the dialect of their cultural capital, covering such an expanse of land and people.
Am I right to understand that most ethnic Tibetans living in PRC are “bilingual” in the Tibetan language – i.e. being fluent in both their local Tibetan dialect as well as the Lhasan dialect?
My understanding had been that the Dalai Lama want to make the Lhasan dialect the “common” dialect, not that it has been traditionally the “common” dialect.
But please correct me, anyone, if I am mistaken.
I think it depends on person to person and place to place.
As you know, Tibet is a very vast area with small population, with some areas that are quite isolated in valleys etc. If a person has interacted with people from other areas, he/she will make an effort to talk somewhat “standardized”, i.e. Lhasa dialect. To master it fluently, I think they must have lived some period in U-tsang or interacted extensively with people who talk Lhasa dialect.
One of the advantages with improved infrastructure in Tibet is that there is much more interaction between the three regions of Tibet, U-tsang, Kham and Amdo. So, the feeling of being one Tibetan nation increase, people are more exposed to music, dialects from other regions etc. and it makes it easier to understand each other.
In exile, when Tibetans arrived in India in 1959, Tibetans came from all three regions of TIbet and spoke different dialects, but it through the school system, one “standardized” Tibetan was developed naturally, i.e. Lhasa dialect, although somewhat less formal and honorific. I think it was the need for people to communicate with each other easily made it neccessary to speak in a similar type of dialect, to find a common ground.
@BMY – This is not to say that the term was never used in reference to China, and if he Japanese really did use the term in the way that they are accused of there might be a point in such sensitivity, but I cannot read Japanese so I cannot tell. All I can say is, that the ‘sick man of Europe’ was for the first ten years of my life was the UK, and that for very good reasons. Life in Britain in the seventies (i.e., before the advent of the Thatcher government) was one of continual national decline. I do not particularly object to my own country being called a ‘sick man’, when people in it cannot work more than 3-4 days a week due to power shortages caused by miners strikes, caused in turn by unions which wanted to see the fall of the government and the institution of policies more in line with their particular brand of politics, as they did in the seventies. I do not object to my country being called a ‘sick man’ when its foreign policy is one of continuous humiliating retreat, as it was until 1982. I do not object to my country being called a ‘sick man’ when it has inflation in the range of 14% and unemployment in excess of 3 million (from a population of 50 million circa 1980), as it was until the late 80’s. I do not object to Britain being called a ‘sick man’, when my own father lost his job and I (and my brother and my two sisters and mother) had to live off the dole (i.e., government benefits) for two years, and my teachers went on strike (in sympathy with the miners). Britain in the 1970’s and early 80’s quite obviously was a ‘sick man’, but I take pride in the way we have restored Britain to her true place over the last twenty years – as a modern, forward looking, European country. Other countries have travelled far more rocky paths in regaining their pride, so I try my best to remain understanding.
As for why I don’t write articles here, well, I prefer to put the things I think worth writing about on my own blog. A response to a comment belongs in the comments, original thought (and not the totally reactionary stuff you see on most websites) deserves a forum of its own, but if you are just going to respond to what someone has said you might as well do it where they can see it.
The rise of the European and British Empires came about in the Age of Discovery which began with the maritime explorations of the 15th Century, just as the zenith and rather sudden decline of China’s maritime powers happened all within the lifetime of the great Admiral Zheng He!
This was because state-sponsored Ming naval efforts declined dramatically after Zheng’s voyages. Zheng He’s initial objective was to enroll far flung states into the Ming tributary system, but it was later decided that the voyages were not cost efficient.
But the fact that by banning oceangoing shipping according to the imperial decree of the Hai jin order, the Ming and later Qing dynasties forced countless numbers of people into smuggling, thus reducing tax revenue. Consequently, with the lack of an oceangoing navy, Chinese sea pirates ravaged China in the 16th century.
Furthermore, in 1421 the emperor Yongle moved the capital north from Nanjing to Beijing so that he could apply greater imperial supervision to defend the northern borders against the Mongolians. The costs for these land campaigns directly competed with the funds necessary to continue naval expeditions.
Later emperor Zhengtong embarked upon a massive and expensive expansion of the Great Wall of China which further curtailed naval expeditions.
In the end it all comes down to economics. Unlike the later European naval expeditions, the Chinese treasure ship voyages had no economic values. They were primarily conducted to increase the prestige of the emperor! In contrast, most European missions of exploration at the time were profit motivated, while the costs of the Chinese expeditions and of the return gifts provided to foreign royalty and ambassadors more than outstripped the benefits of any tribute collected.
As we all know the axiom, “Pride cometh before a fall.” The Manchus prevailed and that was the end of the Ming, last “Han” dynasty.
The term sick man of Asia or sick man of East Asia (Traditional Chinese: 東亞病夫 or 亞洲病夫) refers to the Qing Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it was defeated by Western and Japanese powers and was forced to make territorial concessions. This phrase corresponds to “sick man of Europe”, referring to the weakening Ottoman Empire during the same period.It was also used as a derogatory term for the Chinese by Japanese invaders during the Second World War and the years immediately preceding it, in which Japan occupied sections of China.
The phrase 東亞病夫 features in the Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury and the Jet Li film Fearless. The phrase
東亞病夫 is also used in HK foul mouth rap group, Lazy Mother F**ker or LMF’s song 1127, which is a tribute to Bruce Lee.
” I do not object to my country being called a ’sick man’ when its foreign policy is one of continuous humiliating retreat, as it was until 1982″. —– Following the success of the dubbed,”Empire Strikes back,” war campaign for the Falklands, don’t forget the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration which resulted in the returned and handovering of Hong Kong in 1997. The handover of Britain’s last major and by far most populous overseas territory did finally marked “the end of Empire”.
What’s my fascination with Zheng He, you may ask. I’d say Bird’s Nest.
It was along the Strait of Malacca, that Zheng He discovered that what the Malaysian natives were collecting had high nutricious values, and by him presenting this hitherto lowly product of bird’s saliva
(used as glue for twigs, debris and leaves in nest-making) to the emperor as gift as part of the longevity nutrition regime, that it’s value skyrocketted, and hence today I am also in this business 🙂
@TommyBahamas – I wouldn’t automatically believe the Wikipedia entry on this, the phrase has been around for a long time, it may have that meaning in Chinese, but in English the phrase “the sick man of X” is used to describe any country which is on the decline. Japanese people may also have used this phrase as an insult towards Chinese, but I wouldn’t take a Bruce Lee film as my source on that either.
The handover of Hong Kong may have been ‘the end of empire’ for Chinese people, but everyone in the UK had already accepted that it was over after the Sue Crisis back in 1956. Even in Hong Kong, the ’empire’ was effectively killed off by the Japanese invasion, and post-war control over Hong Kong was steadily localised. Had it not been for the Chinese claim on the territory Hong Kong would most likely have become an independent country around the same time as countries like Mauritius, Trinidad, Singapore, Sri Lanka or Jamaica.
The Falkland Islands campaign showed that although Britain was no longer a world-bestriding superpower, we still have interests which we are capable of defending, and the invasion and subjugation of British territory is something we will not accept. Unless and until the people of the Falklands say otherwise, they remain British.
Otto Kerner says
Because other commentators have shown a lot of interest in Oli’s response to my suggestions regarding Tibet, I decided to respond to it in detail. I needed to quote most of it anyway, so I decided to quote the whole thing in full, lest anyone suspect me of sneaky omissions. Indented text is Oli’s and unindented is my response.
Did I misunderstand something here? It sounds like you’re saying that you don’t feel sentimental about the deaths of some people, but, in the same breath, you want sympathy for some other dead people. It’s galling, not to at least put a few sentences between the goose and the gander.
I agree that no government would tolerate a riot with random killing. The PRC’s handling of the events of the riot itself was not blameworthy. This tells us nothing one way or the other about whether the underlying grievances are valid or not. Even looking just at the events of March and April, talking only about the riots is a red herring which avoids the topic of the nonviolent protests that went on before 3/14, after 3/14, and even on 3/14 in places other than Lhasa, and the government’s response those unarmed, peaceful people.
If you’re going to make such big statements, you should probably have come up with more details to back it up. I don’t see anything below which substantiates “practically, administratively, socially and politically neither feasible nor acceptable to the Chinese or the TAR government on so many different levels” and I don’t see much description of power dynamics, either.
My suggestions, which you’re responding to here, are not premised on the assumption of lawfully sanctioned legal discrimination, and at no point did I mention such a thing. Nevertheless, yes, discrimination having “its origin in the individual or from regional prejudice that have always existed and will likely always exist” does indeed become a problem when Tibet is ruled by individuals who just happen to be Hans and who come from the Han regions. The domination of Tibet by Han cadres is certainly caused by government policies. I’m sure that the central government has no intention to cause discrimination with this policy, but that is its predictable effect.
What a cheap, emotional rhetorical trick. It’s embarrassing that I have to respond to this at all. Tell me who said non-Tibetans in Tibet deserve death.
Well, I believe that this is generally correct. However, it is a very simple description of the extremely complex and lengthy history of China, which naturally contains a lot contradictions and exceptions to any generalisation. In this case, we might note that there used to be a people living in the empire called the Jie; according to Wikipedia, “They were Caucasoid in appearance, with full beards, deep-set eyes and high noses … In the period between 350 and 352, General Ran Min ordered the complete extermination of this tribe, and their distinctive features led to large numbers being killed.” In the Yuan dynasty, the ruling Mongols were to some extent sinified, but they nevertheless set up what was basically a racial caste system with Mongols on top and southern Han people on the bottom.
I don’t really know what this historical trend toward tolerance that you’ve brought up has to do with current Tibetan politics.
Imperial China not only “pretty much left Tibet alone”, but it did not include Tibet at all except during the Yuan and Qing periods. I guess you could describe that as an extreme form of leaving something alone.
Now, you have suddenly made a left turn deep into the colonialist discourse. Rather than the happy, congratulatory generalisations you make about your own country’s history, when you turn to discussing someone else’s history, your generalisations take on a nastier tone. Misrule, theocracy, and a self-interested government are hardly unheard of outside of Tibet (the Mughals in India and the Qing emperors in China are certainly no poster boys for the separation of church and state), and, despite what you may think, Tibet did have printing, books, and learning.
I can think of two occasions in which imperial Chinese armies “bailed out” the Tibetans. One was the expulsion of the Dzungars in 1720 and the other was in the war with Nepal in 1788-1793. If you count separately the two armies sent to Tibet to fight Nepal, that makes a total of three incidents. All of them were in the 18th century. What do you mean by bringing up the Younghusband expedition? The Chinese did nothing to bail anybody out that time.
So, no, I can’t agree that this history is sufficient to justify the conclusion you draw from it:
Every place in the world has been weak and underdeveloped at some point in its history. The doctrine that this condition justifies a takeover by a more powerful neighbour sounds very dangerous indeed. You know, Bhutan is weak and underdeveloped even now. So is Mongolia; so is Burma. I guess they had all better watch their backs.
This is basically just invective. I suppose there are a few hippie “Students for a Free Tibet”-types out there who really want Tibet to go back to the economy it had in 1904. Those people’s opinions are not worth paying attention to, and I doubt any of them frequent this blog. Everybody else wants to see a modern Tibet (it is already the 21st century there, of course, but I agree that life in the countryside is still pretty old-fashioned; I suppose the PRC has only had 57 years to work on it so far), but there are different ways that modernity can happen.
That sounds great, but I feel we’re drifting away from the topic of the post here. What is it about the above that conflicts with the suggestions I made?
Again, that sounds great. Culture that belongs to the people; how could that be anything other than laudable? But is this what you see when you look at Tibet now? What it looks like to me is “culture” controlled by the Party. When you talk about a “brave new world”, I think to myself, “Great … how do we get there from here?”
You’re so enthusiastic about “of the people, by the people, for the people” … so, how about elections? I’ve said more than once that the only reason it’s necessary to negotiate with the Dalai Lama and his rather retrograde set of hangers-on is the lack of an elected Tibetan representation. Holding genuine democratic elections, even for a consultative body, would remedy that. I thought that was getting a bit radical, though, so I suggested something a bit more moderate. But, if it’s to be about “power to the people”, then how about immediate elections? What say you?
S.K. Cheung says
@Otto – I’d like to make a counter rebuttal to many of the points you raised in your rebuttal…
But I’ll refrain, because I don’t think that will be effective at this point.
I will summarize what I think is the position of many Chinese by saying again that if the DL is interested in nationalism, there is really not much to talk about. Nationalism is an existential thing that actually is or is not. There is no right or wrong – just political existence.
There is really no way to reconcile conflicting nationalism. One can couch things in the high noble language of self determination or human rights – but ultimately, as I’ve said many things before, that is only a euphemism for global powers to take sides in local conflicts.
If the DL is interested in improving the conditions on the ground for regular Tibetans, and truly renounces politics, reconciliation can be hoped for. Otherwise, China will try to move forward. Tibet will be like the U.S. South – there will always be some who are sympathetic to Confederate nationalism, but as long as the country is strong, there will be no chance for such nationalism to become realized.
The Trapped! says
Concerning leaning Chinese language…
I think some guys above jumped beyond my intention (maybe because of Chinese suspicion culture, hehe…). First of all, when I talked about the rights of language, I never meant that learning Tibetan should mean abandoning learning Chinese. This is 21st century, and 2 language is minimum for a person nowadays. I only want to point that Tibetan is mother-language for Tibetans, so let it be the medium instruction in Tibetan areas and make Chinese and English as language subject. As a Tibetan morale guidance poem goes:
It’s your glory if you knows various languages.
But it’s your shame if you forget your own language.
It’s your glory if you can accept all different customs.
But it’s your shame if you copy everything you see around.
One of Tibetan female education psychologist in Lhasa pointed out that the psychological pressure for Tibetans kids causes great damage to the kids’ learning speed. In the school where she works, lots of students are coming from rural Tibetan areas. Back at home, they only speak Tibetan. But this school in Lhasa is consist of both Tibetans and Hans. So, from this school the instruction medium is Chinese. In same classes Hans are ready to go while Tibetans have to struggle with language obstacle. Thus exam mark become significantly different. This fact has created the idea that Tibetans are less intelligent than Hans. This pressure and assumption further makes Tibetan kids less optimistic on study and therefore unwilling to study hard. The proof is that in learning English or any other language than Chinese, Tibetans usually can go equally with Hans, if not faster.
Hope now you got what I mean! I am never against having a national language or learning it. But learning the national language should not mean killing the chance of learning one’s own mother-tongue language. Due to Chinese domination in tech era, Tibetan language could not import much knowledge from since new China. However, the richness of Tibetan language had never been below Chinese language before 20th century.
And about dialect different, well U-tsang, Kham and Amdo dialects are not as much different from each other as Mandarin and Cantonese are. Even Bhutanese Dzongkha is not that different if you look at Mandarin and Cantonese difference. The difference between U-tsang and Amdo is more like the difference between northern Chinese dialect and Sichuan dialect. If these regional dialects are called languages, then there will several dozens of different languages in Chinese language. Please be careful and when you use double-edged sword because it may cut yourself, hehe….!
So, this can never be an excuse for not letting Tibetan language to be instruction medium in schools.
The Trapped! says
@ And once more, separatism will not be caused by what language one is taught in, but rather what content in that language is. Chen Shui-bian’s mother-tongue language is Chinese, does that make him less separatist?
@Allen: I would be interested to read your counter-rebuttal, just as I’m happy Otto has finally answered to Oli. I have to say, I don’t think Oli’s answer was of the high quality some others here think, but it was substantial, and Otto’s rebuttal is substantial too (to the point that they should be placed together under “Highlighted comments”.
I don’t think what people write here is necessarily effective in changing people’s views, but it is a good way to sample arguments and counter-arguments, and there might be small changes in people’s thinking.
As for conflicting nationalism, in the end I think the only solution to excessive nationalism is to make it fade away. It doesn’t just happen by itself, but is usually whipped up by interest groups or the government, in any country. It’s hard to imagine any European country going to war for nationalistic reasons today (well, except Balkan countries), mainly because it’s not as aggressive as it used to be. This leaves US patriotism, a phenomenon I unfortunately have a limited understanding of (like the high degree of religiousness).
No, no … I wasn’t trying to make the argument that because there are a variety of dialects that Tibetans should not [edited 9/15 (forgot the not in the original post)] be taught in schools (which Tibetan dialect is another issue; all things being equal, I think it’d make sense to teach in the local dialect, not the Lhasan dialect).
All I was trying to do is 1. make an observation that there are rich and good variations within the Tibet community. 2. question what the need is there to “unify” Tibet under one Tibetan dialect unless the goal is to build a Tibetan nation…
The Trapped! says
“2. question what the need is there to “unify” Tibet under one Tibetan dialect unless the goal is to build a Tibetan nation…”
You wish Tibetans be even more divided, as if separation in to five pieces is not enough?
I thought “Split and Rule” is only the party’s policy copied from British colonial strategy, but never thought that this is a part of Chinese culture among ordinary people also. How can these people be so black-hearted?
That wasn’t the intent nor purpose. But what other purpose is there to “unify” Tibet than to build a Tibetan nation?
If the goal is to preserve Tibetan culture – and avoid “cultural genocide” – wouldn’t it make more sense to preserve all the various components of the culture rather than try to homogenize the culture?
The Trapped! says
Go to and Beijing and ask Mao.
The Trapped! says
Lets be serious, first of all, I don’t know what you are referring to when you say “unify” Tibetan, either to the attempts made by Tibetan scholars and educators inside Tibet for a Tibetan Putonghua, which does not mean clearing up other dialects like Chinese can not and would not do to Cantonese and Sichuanhua, or to some exile Tibetans’ suggestion. Either, way, I can not see Chinese culture has lost any more of it’s features after Putonghua being introduced. You think keeping Tibetans without Putonghua can avoid of a “United Tibet” danger, if there ever exist such danger? If Tibetans are kept together by such little string, then Tibet would have become history decades.
The Trapped! says
they should be placed together under “Highlighted comments”.
This takes blogging to a new level, with serious debates!
S.K. Cheung says
“There is no right or wrong – just political existence.” – you were doing so well here…
“only a euphemism for global powers to take sides in local conflicts.” – but back to the spin.
I certainly hope the Dalai Lama has the best interests of ordinary Tibetans in mind. But I wonder if toeing the Chinese line is absolutely the only way to promote said interests.
Somehow I missed all this fun bits here and I do wish these threads wouldn’t jump around so much from Otto’s earlier thread under Letter etc.
As for a rebuttal to Otto’s rebuttal of my rebuttal ad infintum, lets just said that over a week ago admin asked me if I wanted to tidy up my comment a bit and enter it as a new posting. I said yes and that I would also exapnd further on it and furthermore also add practical alternatives to Otto’s suggestions of a way forward, which I criticised as unrealistic and impractical, admittedly without stating reasons why, but which I had hope to expand on under the seperate entry.
Unfortunately I have up to now been unable to do so, partly because of work commitment and will also shortly be leaving for an enforced holiday for the next week or so. The other consideration is partly because I am also wary of giving extra ammunition to the independent Tibet movement in their negotiations with China, however full of hubris or arrogance I may come across as with what I have just said, but one can never be too sure.
As for a taster –
Otto, as for my comment:
“Pardon my lack of sentiment, but boohoo that’s what happens when there has been riots and killings of ordinary people, whether Han, Hui or Tibetan.”
I was refering to The Trapped!/Skylight’s complaints about the roadblocks and checkpoints rather than bemoaning the killing of a specific ethnic group over another per se.
Also note that I refered to the killing of Tibetans as well as Han and Hui, irrespective of whether they were killed by the rioters or shot by the security forces in the course of restoring order. While I appreciate that perhaps I should have been clearer, may I politely also suggest that you read my comments in light of its context of the other preceding comments and consider its necessary brevity as it was intended as comments rather than a full-bore entry?
As for the power dynamics I briefly mentioned, I think anybody who has ever worked in management consultancy or have experienced corporate restructuring or participated in implementing government reforms imposed by the IMF or the World Bank would have an inkling of what I am on about.
As for the Jie, I think we are all firstly all too aware of the pitfalls of relying on Wiki. Secondly, you failed to mention why this particular Jie tribe was executed, thus may I suggest that you dig further and perhaps you may even discover something new, Thirdly, the execution of one tribe is a bit different from the genocidal extermination of a whole people wouldn’t you agree and superficiality is surely a disservice to the intellectually inclined.
As for “pretty much left Tibet alone”, yup ever since Tibet adopted Buddhism en mass and peace was achieved through a royal marriage, it was no longer a threat to China and so long as China has peace on its periphery, historically it didn’t care how it was achieved. That’s realpolitik for you.
As for “culture controlled by the Party”, if you are specifically referring to the banning of venerating the Dalai Lama, then we all know why and yup, can’t make omlette without cracking a few eggs. Besides, last time I was in Tibet, polyandry was still quite popular and I don’t see the government forbidding it. Some people were still praying to Dorje Shugden and many very young (definitely less than 16 years old) novices were still running around doing their masters’ bidding. The Golden Star and the Dajyur festivals were still celebrated and people still made pilgrimages. So “culture controlled by the Party” seems a bit odd or did you mean Overseas Tibetan’s interpretation of what is Tibetan culture?
As for “bailing out the Tibetans”, ahem, maybe I’m wrong but didn’t China had to pony up to the Brits on behalf of the Tibetans after the British invasion of Tibet? Also may I suggest you include the number of times successive Chinese dynasties had to intervene in Tibet’s own “internal” affairs to settle matters. Which more often than not included sacrificing Chinese silver as well as the spiling of supposedly despised “Han” blood on behalf of Tibetan causes (I am actually NOT “Han” Chinese btw). Thus, may I suggest that you take a deeper reading of Tibetan history.
As for all the other itsy bitsy bits, I am running out of time and have a plane to catch, so maybe later.
Let us summarize what is going on in Tibet.
1) Tibetans want to worship Dalai Lama, but we know a society controled by religion is predictably devastating financially.
2) Only Chinese government and Han Chinese can help Tibet economically.
3) Tibetan people want to live better, but they have to learn Chinese for better life. That, becomes “culture genocide”.
4) Monks and monasteries have no political power. 60% to 70% of govenrment officials are Tibetans, and I believe all of them are pro-China. I guess until 100% of government officials are Tibetans, someone will keep complaining Tibet is controled by han chinese.
Now the solution from China’s side is, I believe, waiting for the next Dalai Lama IN TIBET. Cuz of strasbourg proposal, there is nothing to talk about between Dalai Lama and Chinese government.
The solution from Tibet exile government side : get the power back in the name of people. How they treat the Western Shudgen society proved that human right is not what they care, then what do they care ? answer : political power. and WEST KNOWS THAT.
The solution from West side : ln the name of freedom (when they talk about “peaceful protest”, why didnt they specify those protests were for the independence of Tibet ?) put a pro-west government in Tibet. No wonder the reaction from Chinese side to West on Tibet issue is “mind your own business.”
BTW, before pushing for election, please name eligible candidates or government that really care for Tibetans both politically and financially.
For those interested. Here is a copy of a letter Obama sent to the Dalai Lama in July, 2008, before the Olympics. Here is a story of the meeting between McCain and the Dalai Lama (also before the Olympics in July) in Aspen, Colorado.
S.K. Cheung says
your summaries, as you are wont to do, are extremely one-sided. So much so, that they’re hardly summaries, but simply more of your opinion. It would be nice if you merely said so, rather than trying to couch them in more neutral terms.
1. I think Tibetans probably would like to be able to worship the Dalai Lama. That’s most definitely not the same as wanting their society to be controlled by religion at the expense of all other mechanisms. At least you can’t possibly know that, since Tibetans haven’t had the question posed to them.
2. probably true, if you discount Tibetans’ ability and desire to help themselves. I’d have preferred you said the Chinese government is the best mechanism to help Tibetans economically. Adding the Han bit is just another injection of ethnicity.
3. I think the point most have made here is that learning Chinese is not a bad thing for Tibetans; but maintaining their own language is equally important.
4. I don’t know the details about Tibetans in government. I would be curious to know how many of your 60-70% are in “high-ranking” positions, and how many are scut-monkeys.
As usual, your western government phobias are simply tiresome.
As for elections (and i know you’re a newbie so the concept is a bit foreign for you), the point is the people get to choose who they think will best represent their interests. Your parameters are pointless, since your opinion wouldn’t matter in an election scenario. BTW, how many CCP members really care for Tibetans politically, financially, and culturally?
@Allen: The meetings between Dalai Lama and Western leaders are very common, and usually done in the same way as meetings with Taiwanese leaders take place, though the latter tend to be much more restricted in their travels because any country signing up for diplomatic relations with China have to deny Taiwanese leaders visas. By meeting DL you anger China and get more popular at home, usually. It’s a tradeoff.
@SKC: “BTW, how many CCP members really care for Tibetans politically, financially, and culturally?”
All of them, and their hearts are bleeding! 🙂 I read an article recently in 中国新闻周刊 about a Tibetan family that was quite free from obvious propaganda, but in the introduction it clearly stated that “we care about the plight of the Tibetan people”, though not describing who “we” were. The collective wisdom of the Chinese people, perhaps?
The Strasbourg proposal mentioned earlier in this thread was declared invalid a long time ago:
As for a new Dalai Lama in China, it will quite possibly happen, and not necessarily too far away in the future. Historically it’s not a new situation either in Tibet or Europe. The anti-popes come to mind:
So in two decades or so, we might have two competing Dalai Lamas, both refering to the other as the anti-DL. 🙂
S.K. Cheung says
that’s a good one.
1) Dalai Lama OR his followers want political power, you know that. I would love to see Tibetans get his bless in Lhasa. But it will be disaster for Tibetans if his followers gain control of Tibet.
3) This is very very tough choice for Tibetans, I know. but it is ridiculous to ask Han chinese writing tibetan novels or textbook (did Tibetans outside Chinese do something about that ?). I said before, this is an huge-scale economic invasion. Tibetan language doesnt have many political and scientific words, so if they refuse to study chinese, they have no chance economically. Tibet will still be primitive as before. That is reality.
4) 60% to 70% come from the aritcle posted in this thread written by Prof. Melvyn Goldstein.
“In the political sphere, the Tibet Autonomous Region would retain its current political system, but Beijing would move in stages to appoint reform-minded Tibetans to head all its party and government offices. After 10 years, the percentage of Tibetan officials would increase substantially from its current 60 to 70 percent to as high as 85 to 90 percent.”
OK – a little bit of self criticism here.
I personally cringe everytime I hear arguments like the ethnic Han Chinese is in a unique position to help ethnic Tibetan Chinese – hence the DL butt off type of argument (even though I subscribe to it).
The reason I don’t like it is because it is too BIG an argument – it argues for too much and also misses the point. Not only can the argument be taken by some to be ultra-chauvinistic, the argument can also be easily distorted to justify western imperialism / colonialism (i.e. “white man’s burden”), Hitler aggression, Stalinism, and even Japanese expansionism (e.g., the Japanese want to kick the European colonizers out and help lead “we” Asians to develop “ourselves”).
Please note, I am in no way characterizing China’s development of Tibet as some type of Chinese Colonialism as some in the exile Tibetan community; there are so many things that are different that make such comparisons ludicrous.
But I don’t think the reason for legitimacy of Chinese rule in Tibet should be ethnic Hans can help ethnic Tibetans. That would place the Chinese gov’t always on the defensive.
The argument should be we are all in this together. Unity is important because China is striving to build a prosperous and peaceful multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society. We take pride and want to develop all aspects of our many cultures – including minority cultures.
We are against the development of we vs. them identity politics that divide people – along religious, ethnic, or whatever other lines amongst our people. We reject the notion of promoting segregation or ethnic division anywhere in our country in the name of cultural or religious preservation.