Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tibet: Fifty Years of Chinese Liberation, and Counting

Fifty years ago this month, "Chinese liberators brought democratic reforms to Tibet. Beijing will celebrate the occasion with a holiday it is calling 'Serf Liberation Day,' which will be marked for the first time March 28." (GlobalSecurity.org) There may be dancing in the streets: if that's what China's leaders want.

It's not all a bucket of roses for Tibet, though. During a prayer festival in Sichuan province, Aba Prefecture, a monk set fire to himself. In context, since Aba Prefecture is mostly Tibetan, odds are that the monk was expressing an opinion about China's humanitarian liberation of his previously-oppressed homeland.

Tibet's monks, you see, were oppressing the serfs something fierce before a benevolent China came and liberated them.

That's the Chinese line, anyway: rather eloquently stated in an op-ed piece posted on the CNN website today. ("Opinion: Tibet, the true and the false" CNN (March 10, 2009))

That op-ed informs us that the Dalai Lama is dangerous. "...What looks like a spiritual leader to many in the West is viewed by China as less a spiritual leader than a political activist with dangerous political motivations...."

The author could be right. the Dalai Lama's repeated insistence that he does not want to separate Tibet from China, but would like "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet may be a smoke screen for dark ambitions.

The pro-China op-ed does make some valid points. Before the Chinese invasion, Tibet was not a western democracy with a thriving middle class and suburban sprawl. It's not likely that the Dalai Lama's vision of "meaningful autonomy" would look much like America of the 1950s, or any other period.

But that doesn't mean that China's efforts to 're-educate' Tibetan monks, and maintain a Tibetan status quo of Han shopkeepers and Tibetan workers, is right.

Tibet? Chinese Sovereignty Issues? War on Terror??

China's concerns over retaining territory they conquered doesn't have all that much to do with the War on Terror, yet.

Last year, I used China's treatment of Tibet as an example of what can happen when a country is conquered by another. This year, it's more of the same.

Besides, I think that the Dalai Lama has a point, and I'm less concerned about his oppression of the Tibetan proletariat, than how the Chinese are running their ongoing 'liberation.'

Tibet? Shouldn't that be Xizang?

As I wrote last year, China likes to call Tibet Xizang.

I call it "Tibet," because I'm writing in American English, and quite a few people in America still call the place "Tibet."

I could call it Pö or Bö, or maybe Bod. Those are efforts to take another "real" name of Tibet, and express it in the Latin alphabet that English uses. Since that's the (or a) Lhasa name for Tibet, maybe I should use that.

But, honestly: How many visitors to this blog are likely to know that Bö is that country between China and India?

I can't please everyone, so I use a name that most people who understand English will recognize: Tibet.

Related posts: News and views: Background:


Anonymous said...

If you are outside of Tibet, just leave Tibet alone, let Tibetan live by themselves, please love your land where you live and shut up. If Dalai was right, a pig could fly.

Brian H. Gill said...


If "Tibetan live by themselves" I might. However, since Tibet was invaded about fifty years ago, and Chinese troops are now stationed to keep the Han shopkeepers safe and Tibetans in line, and quite a number of Tibetans don't like the situation: I will not "shut up."

Kudos, though, at being comparatively civil about it. Particularly in comparison with what may have been another of the throng of Anonymouses out there, responding to "Today's Main Event: Protesters vs. the Olympic Torch in San Francisco" (April 9, 2008).

That Anonymous's comment, in full:

Anonymous said...

Don't pretend that you know a lot about history. Tibet is still a An English TRANSLATION name as same as Xizang. Now that you don't like China, you can call Xiazang any name you want.
Suggest you goto a library to read a little more about Tibet then comment on this "Independence", though suggesting going to library is often a mother's duty.
April 26, 2008 7:54 PM

Anonymous said...

China is not my focus in the war on terror only in my economic studies is it a bigger focus for me.

But I do have to say one thing, with a growing nation could China become a new superpower? could they develop weapons of mass destruction? I know I know I sound like a conspiratist but I'm not. I am only asking.
I believe they are going to gain more power both militarily and economically.

Anonymous said...

Please pay more attention to your own business. Never lavish your sympathy on Dalai. If you turn blind eyes to the truth and still whitewash a serf owner as your spiritual leader, I would say nothing any more. What do you think if you know those old noble owner picked serfs' eyes and striped their skin for punishment ? They asked serf to take their shit as medicine. How do you feel about it? These only happened several decades ago under Dalai's rule in Tibet. Where is your conscience. How could you depict it as a shangrila? Please look back to the documentary which your western media took before 1990's. If you think you are god and don't need to read, I go.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous #2, or maybe the same Anonymous,

I know that Tibet isn't Shangri-La (Lost Horizon is a pretty good movie, though - so is Star Wars). Live isn't the movies.

I do, though, seem to have hit a nerve.

Apparently, one is not supposed to discuss, or mention, the liberation of Tibet - except in glowing terms.

Anybody interested in the Chinese side of this issue could do a lot worse than reading that op-ed I linked to.

This isn't just about the Dalai Lama, by the way: the new overlords of Tibet may not be that big an improvement over the monks they displaced.

Brian H. Gill said...

Politics and the Future,

I think I followed that comment.

China's nuclear weapons program began, as far as can be determined, in the mid-1950s. At this time, they almost certainly have hundreds, but not thousands, of nuclear bombs in their stockpile. Chinese leaders have repeatedly pledged to not use nuclear weapons first in a confrontation. ("Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) - Nuclear Weapons" GlobalSecurity.org)

I'm inclined to believe Chinese leaders on this point. After the debacle we call the Cultural Revolution, Chinese leadership has shown few to no suicidal tendencies.

(North Korea with nukes is a whole different ball of wax.)

Not that I have unwavering confidence in the good will of the Chinese government.

For those looking for something to be concerned about, there's China's secret submarine base (no kidding): "Forget the Olympics For Now: China's Secret Submarine Base is Serious" (May 2, 2008)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.