In an earlier discussion, reader Naqshbandiyya responded to this comment by Otto Kerner. He was in fact commenting on the exchange between Otto Kerner and Raventhorn2000. I want to repeat his point that for the most part, U.S. and China are interested in creating a tolerant society at home. They prize harmony. We all should watch out for those pushing for ethnic nationalism, for that is what divides us. I simply liked how Naqshbandiyya articulated this view:
When I first read raventhorn2000′s comment, I thought that he was going to compare the Chinese to the Jews, in that both the Chinese and the Jewish diasporas experienced (and in some places, still experience) centuries of violent persecution and forced assimilation by their host countries. Alas, he turned it into a moralizing lesson about how Tibetans should “save their culture” themselves instead of relying on Tibetan exiles.
The “unnamed others” I refer to are those Tibetan exiles, who while relatively well-integrated in the West, self-segregate themselves in India into tightly controlled communities that are bound by poverty, religion, and an essentially anti-Chinese nationalism. (Dissenters are viciously persecuted within the Tibetan exile community, as the Dorje Shugden episode tells us, but you can find some criticisms of this unhealthy insularity from Jamyang Norbu.) According to these exiles, everything the Chinese do to promote Tibetan culture is attacked (like you attack it), because an “independent or autonomous Tibet” could supposedly do it better; i.e., because the Chinese are doing it. Build a train from Qinghai to Tibet? China’s planning to send hordes of Han settlers to Tibet! Don’t build a train from Qinghai to Tibet? China is keeping Tibetans poor. Are the Tibetans rioting now? Chinese socialism has failed! Are they not rioting? China has imposed a brutal reign of terror over Tibet! These are not strawmen; these are the rhetorical staples of an exile population that receives through the National Endowment for Democracy, Radio Free Asia, and other programs a blank check from the U.S. government to stoke the flames of anti-Chinese sentiment both within Tibet and outside of it.
And the rhetoric gets very tiring, because it fundamentally hasn’t changed in 50 years. Tibet is always in some “crisis”, some “tragedy”, or to quote the Dalai Lama, “some kind of genocide”. When is the Han population going to overwhelm the Tibetan population in Tibet, after all of these warnings from exiles of mass population transfers? When is the Chinese language going to eclipse the Tibetan language in Tibet, after all of these warnings from exiles of the perils of compulsory schooling? The answer to both questions is never, because both propositions are based in the fantasy of a fossilized Tibet with zero Chinese influence, and not in Tibet’s reality (which is still somewhat stunted, thanks to the political pressure that exiles create). Moving forward, China has changed a lot in 50 years; have the exiles changed? Despite much talk about “democratization”, another Lama (this time Karmapa) is making the rounds in Washington, scheduled to become “leader of the Tibetans” upon the Dalai Lama’s death.
The audience for the exiles’ alarmist warnings of cultural destruction, which you happily regurgitated in comment #14, are strictly Westerners, who miss no opportunity to let the Chinese people know how they feel about China—whether by assaulting a wheelchair-bound Chinese torchbearer on the 2008 Olympics torch relay, or by simply disrupting China blogs by bringing polemics about Tibet into every discussion. The exiles have no genuine interest in dialogue with China or Chinese, as meeting basic preconditions to show good faith (such as to stop distorting history to create the legal fiction of an “independent” “occupied” Tibet) would be impolitic. Maybe it’s just politics, but the behavior of the Tibetans-in-exile and their western supporters are completely inconsistent with the ideals of the multicultural nation-state to which Singapore, China, and the United States strive. Indeed, the Free Tibet movement is a regression towards the Bad Old Days of hysterical, exclusionary, and eventually genocidal ethnic nationalism.
If you are interested in reading more about ‘Tibet,’ I suggest heading over Raventhorn2000’s recent post, “2008 ‘Olympic Debate’ over Tibet on American Bar Association China Law Committee.”
Click on the ‘Tibet’ tag below for more thoughts from Allen and others on this blog.