You have to read Richard Spencer’s blog post on his trip to Tibet. We all know the script whenever the Tibet issue arises, how the good liberators paved the roads and ended theocracy and serfdom, which is not inaccurate (though I might not use the term “good liberators”). But the bottom line question remains, do these liberated people feel they have indeed been liberated and are they grateful for the present-day situation? Do they feel one with China, or is there a sort of apartheid that keeps them separate from the Han Chinese who have settled in? Read Spencer’s post and draw your own conclusions.
For many (most?) Tibetans the tie that binds them together is their religion. When their religious leaders constitute “the main source of opposition” and “hostility” to the PRC, is it possible for their followers to feel none of the same?
Of course, the management committees of the monasteries are now effectively controlled by the Communist Party through their appointees, who don’t have to be religious at all. It seems very unlikely to me that this religious revolution could be allowed to happen, in any case. There is obviously a conflict everywhere in China between the government’s professed desire to preserve and promote thousands of years of Chinese culture and yet also promote atheism, its official creed, since that is a denial of the mainspring of much Chinese culture.
But at least elsewhere religion poses little threat to the established order. In Tibet, the monasteries remain the main source of opposition. How can the authorities promote Tibetan culture without accepting that the religious part of it, at least, is profoundly hostile to Chinese control?
So maybe the family isn’t as happy as most Chinese are taught in school. However, I’ve all but given up arguing with friends and colleagues here about Tibet (and I am no great fan of the Dalai Lama or the “Free Tibet” movements). Like Taiwan and Japan, the mere mention of the topic elicits a robotic response that is uncannily identical from person to person. Just like the Taiwan baby returning to its mother,
It’s good to see that travel restrictions in China are being eased, as Spencer reports, and the fact that he can tell this story is a sign of progress. But the underlying message of the post is a grim one: China’s collective amnesia and willful ignorance of what Tibet went through and what it is today is staggering. It’s fine to hold onto your fantasies of what you’d like to think Tibet is, but be aware that this is a scripted mirage concocted by the same spinsters who bring you China Daily.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.