Archive for the ‘Tibet’ tag
Joshua Kurlantzick puzzles at, but doesn’t definitively answer, the question of why certain world turmoils are more passionately followed than others.
Using the difference between Tibet and Xinjiang, he posits that an organized resistance headed by a charismatic English-speaking leader is key. That sounds right, but I can’t say that it feels like a satisfactory answer. Among other things, I’d add that the complexity of the problem no doubt affects it. A “good” side and a “bad” side makes Tibet easy, where Somolia, which is read from afar is side-less chaos is just baffling.
To that end, I might cite a criticism of French foreign minister, prominent activist, and founding member of Doctors without Borders, Bernard Kouchner touched on in this excellent review:
‘Influenced by his friend Bernard-Henri Lévy, Kouchner’s worldview is schematised in the extreme,’ Péan writes. ‘It is an easy world to figure out. All you need to do is separate heroes and villains, good and evil, civilisation and barbarism, and, finally, victims and perpetrators.’
Though I’m not sure this is a “breakthrough,” it’s certainly better than nothing.
BEIJING — China appeared to bend to international pressure on Friday as the government announced it would meet with envoys of the Dalai Lama, an unexpected shift that comes as violent Tibetan demonstrations in western China have threatened to cast a pall over the Beijing Olympics in August.
China’s announcement, made through the country’s official news agency, provided few details about the shape or substance of the talks but said the new discussions would commence “in the coming days.” The breakthrough comes as Chinese officials have pivoted this week and moved to tamp down the domestic nationalist anger unleashed by the Tibetan crisis and by the protests at the international Olympic torch relay.
National Geographic has dug up a 1955 story by Heinrich Harrer — author of Seven Years In Tibet, and played by Brad Pitt in the eponymous movie — about his time in Tibet. It’s a rather fascinating read, and a great way to see how much the world has changed since then.
Also of note: A similarly resurrected story. This one’s from 2002.
China and the Olympics
The New York Times ran three interesting Op-Eds yesterday about the Olymics. All of them, I should note, were blessed with blandly simple titles.
The first, Matthew Forney’s “China’s Loyal Youth,” details how, contrary to expectations, Chinese most well-educated youth are among it’s most patriotic. An example:
As is clear to anyone who lives here, most young ethnic Chinese strongly support their government’s suppression of the recent Tibetan uprising. One Chinese friend who has a degree from a European university described the conflict to me as “a clash between the commercial world and an old aboriginal society.” She even praised her government for treating Tibetans better than New World settlers treated Native Americans.
Elliot Sperlings’s “Don’t Know Much About Tibetan History” detail’s Chinese distorted historical claims to Tibet. The basics:
In China’s view, the Western misunderstandings are about the nature of China: Western critics don’t understand that China has a history of thousands of years as a unified multinational state; all of its nationalities are Chinese. The Mongols, who entered China as conquerers, are claimed as Chinese, and their subjugation of Tibet is claimed as a Chinese subjugation.
A permanent end to the Olympics might actually not be that difficult. All it would really take is a single act of courage and morality by the United States to pull out of the Games forever on the basis that the mission is not coming close to being served. An American departure would severely dilute the Games since it would no longer be a world competition of anything.
Breifings by the Economist Intelligence Unit are rarely compelling reading, but this one I actually read. And I found it thoroughly disheartening for sounding so… accurate.
In theory, the Chinese government stands ready to negotiate with the Dalai Lama on two conditions: that he renounces violence, and that he accepts Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. In the West’s view these conditions have already been met, as the Dalai Lama has repeatedly argued that his goal for Tibet is real autonomy, not independence. On March 25th, moreover, the Dalai Lama repeated his threat to resign as head of Tibet’s government-in-exile if anti-Chinese violence continues. Both the Dalai Lama and the leader of the parliament of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India have also recently said that they support China’s hosting of the Olympics and would oppose a boycott of the games. China, which has traditionally accused the Dalai Lama of insincerity, argues that these statements are belied by his alleged role in masterminding the violence in Tibet.
As a result, the prospects for meaningful negotiations are exceedingly dim. Even if it were possible to envision a scenario in which China, concerned about the damage to its pre-Olympic international credibility, agreed to negotiations in principle, it would be very difficult to imagine the government approaching such negotiations with a view to making significant compromises. Since China sees the problems in Tibet as primarily rooted in separatist elements based outside the country, it is unlikely to consider granting Tibetans more autonomy or easing religious restrictions.
While the Dalai Lama has gotten a lot of flack for urging moderation and nonviolence, another Buddhist monk embraces violence as necessary to defend the people against Sri Lanka’s rebels.
“Am I an extremist? Sometimes I am. Sometimes I am not,” Rathana said over green tea, when asked about reports from foreign human rights groups that accuse his party of hindering peace talks. “The point is that we need to end this war. And we are forced into a military solution.”
Though I doubt it would happen, such talk’s got to worry Beijing at least a litle.
“If there continue to be no signals of compromise, I see boycott measures as justified,” Mr Poettering told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper ahead of a debate this week about Tibet at the European parliament.
The idea of European politicians boycotting the opening ceremony of the Olympics was mentioned last week by French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, although he later backed away from the idea.
There’s a lot I don’t get about Patrick French’s Op-Ed about the Dalai Lama. Principally why, other than the title, it’s not really about the Dalai Lama. What he does have to say about the man does seems the exact opposite of The Economist’s advice (and everything I’ve ever been told about Tibet).
The Dalai Lama should have closed down the Hollywood strategy a decade ago and focused on back-channel diplomacy with Beijing. He should have publicly renounced the claim to a so-called Greater Tibet, which demands territory that was never under the control of the Lhasa government. Sending his envoys to talk about talks with the Chinese while simultaneously encouraging the global pro-Tibet lobby has achieved nothing.
The Economist says that China’s found and following the absolutely wrong solution to the Tibet problem:
So China persists in seeing the Dalai Lama as the embodiment of its “Tibet problem”. In fact, he offers the only plausible solution to it. China’s strategy for dealing with him is to wait for his death, and install a pliable successor. Last year it even passed an edict giving the government a role in approving new incarnations of such “living Buddhas”. But this strategy is doomed. No successor will command such veneration. And so none will be as persuasive an advocate of non-violence and of a “middle way” for Tibet, short of the full independence many Tibetans believe is their birthright.
… Serious talks with the Dalai Lama, and the possibility of his returning home for the first time since fleeing to exile in India after an uprising in 1959, might help assuage Tibetan anger. It would also help vindicate those who argued that the staging of the Olympic games in Beijing would make China less repressive. It would give China the chance, belatedly, to honour the promise of autonomy it gave Tibet in 1951, in an agreement foisted on the young Dalai Lama. It would boost its image around the world, and even in Taiwan, which might become less averse to the idea of Chinese sovereignty.
Also of note, their correspondent’s most recent reporting.
James Fallows, who happens to be living in China, has an interesting piece about how the Chinese press has handled the Tibetan violence. This bit was especially useful for me:
In judging popular reaction in China to this episode, bear in that mind few ordinary Chinese people have even been exposed to the idea that Tibet’s place within their country is controversial in any way. In the ordinary course of going to school and reading newspapers or watching TV, they would hear that Tibet, much like the largely Islamic Xinjiang region and other frontier parts of China, is an ancient, inseparable, happily integrated part of the motherland, whose tranquility is threatened from time to time by hooligans or even terrorists. History books, TV series, museum displays, and of course newspaper articles like this one convey the message.