No comments for nearly 8 hours – sorry, something happened to corrupt the last thread. Let’s hope it’s only a temporary problem. Let’s try to resume here.
April 30, 2008
April 29, 2008
There have been several posts here recently about the problems China’s overly passionate, overly nationalistic youth are causing for their country, and how their tendency to over-react to what they perceive to be overly harsh criticisms of their country gives the world an even worse impression of China. (And yes, I know, thats a lot of “overs” for one sentence.) It is painful to read about this, because as all of us know, there is at least some validity to these students’ viewpoints – on some topics the outside world really is overly harsh and at times misinformed – but the way they go about expressing themselves only adds fuel to the fire and diminishes their argument.
Articles like this from today’s Times underscore the vicious circle:
When the time came for the smiling Tibetan monk at the front of the University of Southern California lecture hall to answer questions, the Chinese students who packed the audience for the talk last Tuesday had plenty to lob at their guest:
If Tibet was not part of China, why had the Chinese emperor been the one to give the Dalai Lama his title? How did the tenets of Buddhism jibe with the ‘slavery system’ in Tibet before China’s modernization efforts? What about the Dalai Lama’s connection to Hitler?
As the monk tried to rebut the students, they grew more hostile. They brandished photographs and statistics to support their claims. ‘Stop lying! Stop lying!’ one young man said. A plastic bottle of water hit the wall behind the monk, and campus police officers hustled the person who threw it out of the room.
Scenes like this, ranging from civil to aggressive, have played out at colleges across the country over the past month, as Chinese students in the United States have been forced to confront an image of their homeland that they neither recognize nor appreciate. Since the riots last month in Tibet, the disrupted Olympic torch relays and calls to boycott the opening ceremony of the Games in Beijing, Chinese students, traditionally silent on political issues, have begun to lash out at what they perceive as a pervasive anti-Chinese bias.
Clearly, this kind of reaction – throwing bottles in a USC classroom or throwing rocks in Korea – is not the best strategy for winning hearts and minds. But at least this article tells us where these students are coming from. Too rarely in the Western media do we see any meaningful insights into why the young people feel so frustrated and filled with pent-up anger. The article, however, also exposes their weakness, such as emotional but factually challenged “documentation” of Tibet’s progress. (And I’m not saying Tibet hasn’t progressed since its “liberation”; in many ways it has. But the materials the students are brandishing, described on page two of the article, do little to further this argument.) And a shaky grasp of history. And a childish manner of self-expression.
While I sympathize with the students frustration at what they see as the world’s refusal to listen to reason, I also know they are using exactly the wrong strategy to get their message out. With each new horror story I wonder, why can’t they take a step back and see how
the Antichrist the Dalai Lama has managed to arouse global sympathy? He didn’t do it by throwing rocks. He didn’t do it by scowling and chanting furious slogans.
I am traveling and will have to cut it short. But let me just finish by qualifying a point I’ve made in earlier posts, namely that nearly all of the young Chinese I know, no matter how intelligent and urbane, are adopting the anti-CNN mentality. Since I wrote that, I’ve talked with at least a few who have voiced genuine concern over their friends’ un-thought-through approach to speaking out. Most of them are a bit older than my angry friends, mainly in their 30s, and they are in despair over the immature and ineffective tactics employed by their younger countrymen. “Why do they always have to show the world their anger? Do they think that helps?” bemoaned a business friend of mine earlier today, and I felt his pain.
Maybe the 20-somethings will grow out of it. I think most of us can look back to our 20s and cringe at some of the things we did back then. But I fear the anger may be too ingrained, a strain of disease the Party cultivated to protect itself that has now run amok. No matter how grounded in fact some of their arguments may be, as long as they present themselves like over-testosteroned adolescents, China has yet another big problem on its hands. This image of a nation overrun by strident, violent youth who threaten to once again turn China inward is exactly what the country doesn’t need on the eve of it’s long-awaited and very expensive coming-out party. It could really damage the big show. And it isn’t doing much to further China’s image on college campuses outside of China.
If this post rambled or appeared more incoherent than usual, apologies in advance. I’m on the road and as sleep-starved as usual.
April 28, 2008
In every way, as I again head for the airport. I’m afraid my schedule will bring the recent party over here to an end, but here’s another open thread in case anyone has something to say.
April 26, 2008
In my view, Grace Wang’s essay is political suicide. In the language of past history (and somewhat ironically here), she has decided to stand diametrically opposite to the Party and the People. Objectively, one can say that she is a “Public Enemy.”
Ah, yes. China, a country where having an opinion that doesn’t go with the flow is a serious crime. She should have kept her head down and accepted the abuse for not following along with the rest of the herd. After all, internet thugs know best, don’t they?
First, I think that Grace Wang is wrong. The negative impact of that essay goes far beyond her imagination. She has been completely exploited by western media.
Let’s be honest here. The trouble started when Chinese students decided to launch an internet bullying campaign and this was continued by thugs who started harrassing her family. The “Western media” had nothing to do with it. Yet of course, true to form, non-Chinese are quickly blamed as being the source of all evil by “Chairman Rabbit”. Oh, surprise-surprise, there’s more on the I.M.C.M.C.L.B. (“International Media Conspiracy to Make China Look Bad”).
If Grace Wang really wanted to solve the problems and if she loves China, she would have asked the western media to report a fuller picture of China as opposed to just satisfying their pre-defined prejudices and imaginations.
Yes, no need for Grace Wang as a young Chinese woman to try to reason with her own people on the issue in hand. Chinese regularly say that its not for outsiders to comment on “Chinese issues”. Yet if Chinese people disagree with something China does, it’s implied that they have to sort out the rest of the world first? What utter hypocricy.
I tend to think that she is too young and she is very politically naÃ¯ve to hold those kinds of views.
Now we’re on to age discrimination! Yes, Grace Wang is too young to have her own political views, despite the fact she is probably old enough to vote in most democracies. Or is she too young because she disagrees with the prevailing Chinese attitude?
April 23, 2008
Radio silence for the next few days as I travel, except for a possible guest post or two. Discuss what you’d like.
I really, really, really want to believe that this is not the start of a new trend. Even with the updates and modifications, it’s quite scary. I see nothing like this – nothing even remotely close – here in Beijing. I hope it stays that way. If not, China’s whole coming-out party is in jeopardy.
April 22, 2008
Is this really the best way to express your grievances with France? Go see the photo. Another blogger quoted in the post wisely notes,
It’s not hard to imagine how Chinese people would react to having symbols of their World War 2 occupier added to China’s national flag or the moral integrity of China’s national heros slandered.
Not hard at all.
Don’t miss the same blogger’s excellent post on why some foreigners in China are starting to worry about their safety. For the record, I feel no such worries myself, at least not yet, though if the trend he describes keep escalating, that may change. I don’t see it happening any time soon.
I believe the CCP is going to go on overdrive in an attempt to calm the people down. They know this is not the face China needs to put forward as “friend to all the world.” They’d rather show off the fuwas, not shrieking banshees waving swastika-adorned French flags. What a dilemma they’ve put themselves in. They saw blind nationalism as a useful tool – when they could manipulate it. I don’t think they factored in how mass movements can take on lives of their own. How to get the genie back in the bottle?
April 21, 2008
Here’s an open thread to do so.
I just noticed Blogspot is open again, after being open for a couple weeks and then slamming shut again a few days ago. The Cybernanny is being unusually bipolar lately.
April 20, 2008
Recently we’ve read about the shameful treatment of a Chinese student in the US, Grace Wang. The Washington post gave her the opportunity to explain her side of the story.
Over Christmas break, all the American students went home, but that’s too expensive for students from China. Since the dorms and the dining halls were closed, I was housed off-campus with four Tibetan classmates for more than three weeks…
I’d long been interested in Tibet and had a romantic vision of the Land of Snows, but I’d never been there. Now I learned that the Tibetans have a different way of seeing the world. My classmates were Buddhist and had a strong faith, which inspired me to reflect on my own views about the meaning of life. I had been a materialist, as all Chinese are taught to be, but now I could see that there’s something more, that there’s a spiritual side to life.
We talked a lot in those three weeks, and of course we spoke in Chinese. The Tibetan language isn’t the language of instruction in the better secondary schools there and is in danger of disappearing. Tibetans must be educated in Mandarin Chinese to succeed in our extremely capitalistic culture. This made me sad, and made me want to learn their language as they had learned mine.
Chinese will complain that foreigners have never been to Tibet, but they haven’t lived with ordinary Tibetans either. Maybe they’ve come across a couple of very wealthy ones who work and live in big Chinese cities, but they’re the minority – it’s like hob-nobbing with someone who lives in Chelsea, as if they can tell you what it’s like for most Londoners. In any case they don’t understand Tibetans that well either.
The Chinese protesters thought that, being Chinese, I should be on their side.
It appears that in China some people believe your race dicatates what your opinion can be.
Some people on the Chinese side started to insult me for speaking English and told me to speak Chinese only. But the Americans didn’t understand Chinese. It’s strange to me that some Chinese seem to feel as though not speaking English is expressing a kind of national pride. But language is a tool, a way of thinking and communicating.
Alice Poon of Asia Sentinel pointed me to this most interesting post about Radio Free Asia and the neocons behind the RFA’s curtain. The post is a real shocker, and causes one to wonder if the entire Tibet issue hasn’t been manipulated to further the agenda of PNAC and the AEI. One brief sample; the writer has just documented article after article after article in which RFA casually refers to “unconfirmed reports” of Chinese killing Tibetan monks.
All of these “unconfirmed” reports originating from Radio Free Asia appear to contradict eyewitness reports from a BBC reporter on the ground during the riots and a German reporter that interviewed local Tibetans in Lhasa that I have linked to below.
Watch and listen to this from Exile Government spokesperson Dawa Tsering as he explains how they gather information for dissemination on RFA and more shockingly, his rationalization that beating Chinese and Hui people is “non-violent” and that the deaths of the 5 young girls, the 10 month old baby and others that were immolated as they hid from the rioters were “accidents” because they didn’t run away fast enough. This is the epitome of bad PR and irresponsible journalism as well as a heretical view of non-violent Buddhism.
The post is a shocker. You have no choice but to wonder how we can hope to separate news from propaganda. This is why, in two separate threads, I tried to ask readers for proof that the blue-clothed “goons” who ran alongside the torchbearers had indeed acted like “storm troopers” or “Nazis” or “thugs.” You definitely get an impression from various reports that they were thugs, but you get nothing more than an impression – no one can cite any example of behavior that parallels that of Nazi storm troopers. It was a perfect example of the media leaving an impression with nothing to back it up except vague fears over sunglass-wearing, expressionless bodyguards who were doing their job, i.e., keeping people back from the person they were protecting.
In the same Asia Sentinel post, Alice Poon also directs us to an oldie but goodie on the “myths and realities” of Tibet, written in 1998 but worth reading today.
Western concepts of Tibet embrace more myth than reality. The idea that Tibet is an oppressed nation composed of peaceful Buddhists who never did anyone any harm distorts history. In fact the belief that the Dalai Lama is the leader of world Buddhism rather than being just the leader of one sect among more than 1,700 “Living Buddhas” of this unique Tibetan form of the faith displays a parochial view of world religions.
The myth, of course, is an outgrowth of Tibet’s former inaccessibility, which has fostered illusions about this mysterious land in the midst of the Himalayan Mountains — illusions that have been skillfully promoted for political purposes by the Dalai Lama’s advocates. The myth will inevitably die, as all myths do, but until this happens, it would be wise to learn a few useful facts about this area of China.
First, Tibet has been a part of China ever since it was merged into that country in 1239, when the Mongols began creating the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). This was before Marco Polo reached China from Europe and more than two centuries before Columbus sailed to the New World. True, China’s hold on this area sometimes appeared somewhat loose, but neither the Chinese nor many Tibetans have ever denied that Tibet has been a part of China from the Yuan Dynasty to this very day.
This article, by the son of American missionaries who grew up in China, takes on a lot of myths about Tibet. After reading it, I can only wonder, if China has done so much good in Tibet, then why is it so dreadful in telling the story to the world? Is it simply because the “Dalai Lama clique” keeps undercutting them with better PR? Or is there truly a darker side to all the love and joy China has brought to Tibet? I’m still trying to figure it out for myself, and find it perhaps the murkiest, most misunderstood and confused topic in modern history.
Posted by Richard (not Raj)