Thread: Lei Feng, Democracy, the One-Child Policy

I saw a few stories on China today that are thread-worthy and wanted to share.

First of all, this is a story on how China is giving the one-child policy a facelift — not changing the policy itself, but softening its sloganeering. The story made my eyes pop out when I read this:

People’s Daily cites several examples of “harsh slogans,” including those “which sometimes even threaten criminal acts.” The newly instituted program, slugged the “face-washing project,” will offer more proactive slogans to help enforce the policy, which has been in place since 1979. China claims the policy, which applies to those living in urban areas, affects approximately 35.9 percent of the population and has resulted in an estimated 400 million fewer births since first being implemented.

Some examples of the more offensive slogans currently in use include:

“If you don’t receive the tubal ligation surgery by the deadline, your house will be demolished!”

“We would rather scrape your womb than allow you to have a second child!”

“Kill all your family members if you don’t follow the rule!”

And…

“Once you get captured, an immediate tubal ligation will be done; Should you escape, we’ll hunt you down; If you attempt a suicide, we’ll offer you either the rope or a bottle of poison.”

The new less offensive slogans replacing the more callous ones will reportedly seek to “avoid offending the public and stoking social tensions.”

I want to ask my friends in China, is this for real? Is this an example of extreme Western media bias and ignorance, or do these sickening slogans actually exist??

[Update: CDT offers a source. Reliable?]

Next, there’s an interesting blog post on whether or not China is ready for democracy. Yes, we all know this is a tired subject, but this post is quite thoughtful and knowledgeable. I have never said I believed China was ready for democracy, but I do believe it’s ready to become more democratic, to give it’s people better representation (as opposed to giving them Western-style democracy). The post is well worth a read. The government’s position for decades is that the people aren’t ready. Will there ever be a time when they are? Excerpt from the blog post:

As popular blogger Han Han argued at the start of the year, China isn’t ready for democracy, because the people aren’t capable of making their own good decisions (Charlie Custer, from ChinaGeeks.org, wrote an excellent post exploring this particular issue). This idea has been put forth time and again by Party sympathizers, that simply the character of the average laobaixing is too low to make these kinds of decisions (Similar arguments were made in the US around the turn of the century in relation to voting rights for minorities and women).

The part of this argument that I find the most sickening, is that many Chinese are poorly educated and are therefore ill-equipped for democracy. But who is responsible for the current state of China’s educational system? The very people who would lose the most in a democracy.

Given this, it is also worth noting that China’s current system seems incapable of promoting people worthy of public service. With rampant corruption leading to weekly scandals that effect the lives of the laobaixing, what evidence is there that democracy would make things worse? Are farmers really more likely to vote for candidates that can’t protect their land rights? Would urbanites put up with officials that approve the construction of heavily polluting factories that send their children to the hospital?

In fact, the results of low-level elections have already achieved encouraging results in the countryside. As John Kennedy noted in a 2001 study, village elections result in leaders that are more accountable to the villagers, and results in more equitable land distribution (cited in this 2009 paper by Kevin O’brien and Rongbin Han which is worth reading). The problem is that elected village leaders are still dominated by local Party secretaries in a way that minimizes the voice of the laobaixing.

I love the line, “With rampant corruption leading to weekly scandals that effect the lives of the laobaixing, what evidence is there that democracy would make things worse?”

And finally, you should all check out this delightful post on the recent resurrection of Lei Feng (I know, it seems he’s always being resurrected) to keep people patriotic and willing to take what they get even as they see trillionaires driving by in Ferraris and eating a restaurant meal that costs more than they earn in a year. No matter what, they should be happy to live as Lei Feng did, if he ever existed, content to be a screw in the wonderful Communist Party machine. Do any Chinese still buy this nonsense today?

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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.

The Discussion: 125 Comments

I actually would agree with Jing here that he is not invoking concentration camps. He does espouse the eugenics concept hook/line/sinker, and he tolerates and perhaps even encourages an independent ethnic Tibetan state not out a desire to accommodate the possible wishes of Tibetans, but only as a means of creating a “pure Han” nation in China. In fact, Jing would probably go for carving up 55 areas of China’s territory and giving them to all the various ethnic minorities, just so he can round up all the “Han” into one big happy “Chinese” family. Deranged? For sure. But at least somewhat internally consistent. And that’s something.

As for King, I sure hope he is serving in a military somewhere, stationed in a forward area where he can get his rocks off. Otherwise he would be a hypocrite who isn’t even a “real man” based on his own warped metric.

March 5, 2012 @ 1:40 am | Comment

I didn’t say death camps or gas chambers, I said concentration camps, which inevitably pop up when you engineer the mass movement of millions of citizens from one place to the other, as we saw with the Palestinians and have also seen in Africa. There is no comparison with death camps the sole purpose of which was mass extermination. Concentration camps would be virtually inevitable, at least for several years, if you resettled millions of Tibetans. Where are they going to go? Will there be free condos waiting for them?

Do you even know what a concentration camp is? It’s a place where you concentrate people. You can also call it a resettlement camp but it’s the same thing. It’s also what the US did to the Japanese in WWII.

March 5, 2012 @ 2:06 am | Comment

Deleted

March 5, 2012 @ 3:19 am | Comment

How does a blog about China attract an anti-Semite? One of life’s many mysteries.

March 5, 2012 @ 3:34 am | Comment

I like the Jewish people, most of them I know are hardworking and intelligent. However, I agree with Jing in that this term concentration camp has been hijacked and become loaded. It’s now an electric fence that no one can touch.

From wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentration_camp#Concentration_camps

The earliest of these camps may have been those set up in the United States for Cherokee and other Native Americans in the 1830s; however, the term originated in the reconcentrados (reconcentration camps) set up by the Spanish military in Cuba during the Ten Years’ War (1868–1878) and by the United States during the Philippine–American War (1899–1902).[6]

Oh, snap.

March 5, 2012 @ 5:26 am | Comment

Thanks for the comment, Jing. Please don’t comment here anymore, okay?

March 5, 2012 @ 5:29 am | Comment

Jing, Tsarong, Stephen–Richard spends a lot of time and effort writing each and every blog post. Could you guys at least put the same amount of that into your comments?

March 5, 2012 @ 9:58 am | Comment

On Chinese democracy, the real challenge will be finding a new center of belief for the Chinese people. Unfortunately, belief is a double-edged sword.

Stephen is partially right when he points out that the age of “causes to die for” is mostly over (outside of the Middle East), but if history has shown us anything it’s that our current Belle Époque could quickly unravel back into mass slaughter. When life is good for everyone, there is no popular pressure to die for anything.

March 5, 2012 @ 10:03 am | Comment

Shouldn’t we try to keep it that way?

March 5, 2012 @ 10:03 am | Comment

@Richard

I cannot agree with you. A lie is an untruth. Whether it is malicious or what the person saying it deliberately believes does not affect whether it is a truth or a lie.

And you are of course right that truth is hard to come by on the Tibetan plateau, but it is not that hard to draw some basic conclusions, which are the same ones drawn by human rights organisations and the State Department annually. Namely that political repression in Tibet is widespread and severe; that the main reason why it is hard to come by truth and information is that the Chinese government strictly controls access.

Just a few examples recently: the Chinese government imprisoned four Tibetan students for working on a student newspaper. A filmmaker was imprisoned for six years for “splittism”. A writer was sentenced to fifteen months hard labour for writing songs!

Anyone like this Chinese liar t_co who claims in the face of these well known and documented sufferings of the Tibetan people under Chinese occupation that allegations of brutality in Tibet are inaccurate is a liar. I am not going to give a free pass to such liars, you are free to categorise them as “not malicious” if you want but I find such an attitude frankly hard to understand and morally questionable.

March 5, 2012 @ 2:33 pm | Comment

Tsarong,

Re the definition of “lie/liar”. Richard is right & you are wrong. Any reliable dictionary will confirm this.

Therefore, when you say (#110): “A lie is an untruth. Whether it is malicious or what the person saying it deliberately believes does not affect whether it is a truth or a lie”, that statement is itself an untruth. (The correct antonym of “truth” is “untruth”, not “lie”.) But, because you appear to be genuinely mistaken, or at least deserve the benefit of the doubt, I wouldn’t call you a liar on this. And it would also be rude to do so.

(PS Do you have any comments on #26?)

March 6, 2012 @ 1:01 am | Comment

when you say (#110): “A lie is an untruth. Whether it is malicious or what the person saying it deliberately believes does not affect whether it is a truth or a lie”, that statement is itself an untruth.

It’s still a lie if the originator knew it was false, even if other people later pass it on without realising it’s false. It doesn’t stop being a lie just because some people believe it.

That goes double if the people believe it only because they want to believe it.

March 6, 2012 @ 6:04 am | Comment

@ Tsarong

Calling people who have different positions on Tibet from you liars is not a good way to actually provoke discourse–especially when the only evidence you bring to back up your claim are anecdotal tales of oppression. Without bringing actual measurable data regarding Tibet, how can you draw conclusions about the facts on the ground?

March 6, 2012 @ 8:43 am | Comment

@ Peter, Otto

The real debate on Tibet hinges not on what is happening, but rather what is the best path forward. One thing I wish the exile community focused more on would be actually presenting a compelling vision of what Tibet *could* look like under an alternate government.

What is the sort of state they wish to construct? What sort of development do they want to do? What about reparations to China for the infrastructure investment that has happened over the past 60 years? Would they happen? Who would run the infrastructure otherwise?

Other than that, what would the general foreign policy look like? How about immigration from China? What happens to Tibetans living in other parts of China? Since Tibet would still need to import food and energy from China, how would those be taken care of?

What about domestic policy? Land reforms? Are all the monasteries going to get back the land that was taken away from them? How are the new owners (many of whom are Tibetan) going to be compensated? Taxes? Are monasteries (many of whom are profit-generating entities) going to be taxed? Constitutional safeguards on separation of church and state?

Plans for economic development–will Tibet rely purely on tourism? What sort of plans for industry?

The real way to earn respect from the people is not by arguing morality, but by drilling down into the details of policy. This is a lesson that most governments in the world take decades to understand, but one that all successful governments, by process of elimination, eventually realize.

March 6, 2012 @ 9:16 am | Comment

To tie these two threads (Tibet and the China democracy/Lei Feng debate) No body politic endorses a state to have the state preach morality at it. Morality is the end, not the means. While in an agarian society, the means for a state to achieve those good graces were simple and easily understandable to most people, now we live in a globalized, highly complex socio-economic sphere where complicated policies that the average person cannot fully grasp are necessary to promote the general welfare. It is in this role then that the state finds its purpose. All people, Tibetans, Chinese, Americans, would be well advised to grasp this fact.

March 6, 2012 @ 9:21 am | Comment

To tie these two threads (Tibet and the China democracy/Lei Feng debate) No body politic endorses a state to have the state preach morality at it.

The CCP preaches morality, hence the Lei Feng revival. The degree to which they have been endorsed by any body politic is debatable though.

While in an agarian society, the means for a state to achieve those good graces were simple and easily understandable to most people, now we live in a globalized, highly complex socio-economic sphere where complicated policies that the average person cannot fully grasp are necessary to promote the general welfare. It is in this role then that the state finds its purpose.

In other words, government ought to be left to the experts?

March 7, 2012 @ 6:40 am | Comment

That does look like a pitch for “meritocracy”. I have no problem with basing decisions on merit. The only question is who gets to make that determination of merit.

March 7, 2012 @ 6:43 am | Comment

t_co,

It seems a bit silly to go into these kind of details when we have established that we don’t know what Tibetans want. However, since my inclinations are basically policy-wonkish, I will take you up on answering some of your questions based on my own speculations.

What is the sort of state they wish to construct?

I would suggest a republic with democratically elected leaders (I prefer sortition, but democratic elections along the lines of the German constitution would be acceptable).

I’m actually a bit of a monarchist, but I don’t think Tibetans would accept a monarch other than the Dalai Lama, and I’m against mixing politics and religion like that because it’s bad for religion.

The Tibetan exiles have consistently stated since the 1970s that their goal is to achieve a republic (sovereign or autonomous) rather than a return to theocracy. My guess is that support for restoring the theocracy would be stronger among Tibetans in Tibet than among exiles.

What sort of development do they want to do?

Unfortunately, I don’t think anybody knows exactly how to get development to happen the way they want. I think the key thing is to have a capitalistic basis of the economy with as little corruption as possible. In other words, do the opposite of what India has done.

What about reparations to China for the infrastructure investment that has happened over the past 60 years?

Did China pay reparations to Japan for all the infrastructure they built in Taiwan?

Would they happen? Who would run the infrastructure otherwise?

Running the infrastructure is a challenge, but hardly insurmountable. Key specialist technocrat positions could keep employing the same personnel if they are willing (unless it is a highly politically sensitive position), with an offer of citizenship if necessary (I strongly suggest offering citizenship to any civilian legal resident of Tibet under current law, and I assume people with special technical skills are all legal rsesidents, so a special offer of citizenship would only be necessary if you were trying to retain uniformed technical experts). If they’re not willing, oh well, nobody is really irreplaceable.

The Tibetan Political Review addressed some of these questions in the article Tibetan freedom and the day after.

Other than that, what would the general foreign policy look like?

That would depend a lot on the circumstances of the independence or autonomy, wouldn’t it? I think the government would like and the public would support having a close alliance with India and the United States, because the Tibetan military under any circumstances would have a hard time resisting a competent Chinese army; but if they had U.S. military bases in Tibet, that starts to look quite a bit different. This is precisely the reason that China doesn’t want to see an independent Tibet. I would be happy with a compromise along the lines of what the U.S. did when the Phillipines became indepedendent. The arrangement was basically, “okay you can become fully independent in all other respects, on the condition that you agree to become a military ally: let us have military bases on your territory and don’t ally with our enemies or allow them to have bases.” Chinese military bases in Tibet should be near the border and not near population centers where the public might feel menaced by the soldiers.

How about immigration from China?

I doubt there would be much demand for that from either side.

What happens to Tibetans living in other parts of China?

I would suggest that Sinophone residents of Tibet should be offered their choice of citizenship or the equivalent of a green card if they are legal residents, or just the green card if they are illegal migrants. China should reciprocate by making the same offer to Tibetans living in China; although, really, if they already have PRC citizenship, it would be highly irregular to deny them Chinese citizenship if they want it even if they are living somewhere illegally.

Since Tibet would still need to import food and energy from China, how would those be taken care of?

Not convinced this is so, but if it is, then I guess it would depend a lot on the circumstances of the independence or autonomy, too.

What about domestic policy? Land reforms?

This is an extremely important question, since we’re talking about a transition from a Marxist economy (of the late state capitalist variety) to something else. I think it’s something that people could write books and a whole literature about, but it doesn’t seem to have been studied as intensively as it could be. There would need to be a transition to private ownership. Small-scale farmland and anything else that gets leased to everyday people for an extended period could simply be considered property of the leaseholder. Private parties who were divested of specific assets (such as a house that still stands) since 1949 should have them restored, with one major caveat: that this does not necessarily apply to major means-of-production properties (I’m thinking in particular of aristocratic landholdings). Everything else that’s private in a normal developed economy should be privatised very carefully. This is where careful research on the Eastern European experience could help develop a set of best practices. A good start would be to observe how Russia handled privatisation and do the opposite.

Are all the monasteries going to get back the land that was taken away from them? How are the new owners (many of whom are Tibetan) going to be compensated?

Good questions. I think that the bottom line summary of land reform in Tibet is that Tibetans did not mind very much or at all when land was taken away from aristocrats, but they minded a lot when land was taken away from monasteries. So, I would be inclined to say that monasteries should get their land back and aristocrats should not. Of course, in cases where a small farmer also has a claim to own the land, there should be compensation. I’m not sure whether it would be easier and better to give the farmer the land and compensate the monastery or the other way around.

There would be a lot of details to work out. Some large monasteries might be special cases. Tashilhünpo and Sakya monasteries were the two biggest feudal lords under the old Tibetan government, meaning they were essentially local governments, so I’m hesitant to say that they should get fee simple title to all their old lands. The three big monasteries of Lhasa were tied in very closely to the central government, which also makes them special cases.

Another issue is how to handle the property of tülkus (reincarnate lamas), who often had extensive possessions managed by their households (labrang). I’m inclined to say they should be treated the same as aristocrats. Some of the tülkus were also local governments, notably in Chamdo, so they definitely don’t get all of their land back. However, I’m not sure that it’s always easy to separate monastic property from labrang property. For instance, I had Tashilhünpo in mind as a landowner, but now that I think about it, it seems that the references I’ve seen are to the Panchen Lama’s labrang (which Tibetans often called simply, “the Labrang”). Were they two separate legal entities, or was Tashilhünpo considered to be subsumed in the Labrang?

I’m actually not that worried about the well-being of the top tier of most famous monasteries. It wouldn’t be a big problem if Tashilhünpo ended up with no property. Those monasteries have the ability to attract donations not only from Tibetans of all stripes, but also from networks of supporters in the Western world, India, and in mainland China, HK, and Taiwan.

Taxes? Are monasteries (many of whom are profit-generating entities) going to be taxed? Constitutional safeguards on separation of church and state?

Well, ideally there’s no need for a law specifically to safeguard separation of church and state; they are inherently separate and that’s never called into question. However, I can foresee problems with this in Tibet since there was never a separation historically. It would be good to establish clear and comprehensive rules on settling disputes between religious organisations over property, etc. (the government should not be in the business of deciding who is a “real” religious leader if there’s a dispute over authenticity, but if there’s a dispute over a piece of property, the courts will eventually have to get involved.)

At the very least, the basic law should contain statements specifying that the republic has a secular government, there is no religious test for office, and no favoritism is to be shown to any religion or sect.

I’m a little uncertain about what to do with the Potala Palace. Historically, it was divided into two parts, the White Palace, which was the residence of the Dalai Lama and the nerve center of the government and the Red Palace, which was used for religious purposes. I suppose the Potala Palace should be seen as a purely religious building and no government business should be conducted there.

Plans for economic development—will Tibet rely purely on tourism? What sort of plans for industry?

I think this is very much related to the question of what sort of development will be done, which, unfortunately, is hard to say. Tourism will of course be a major industry – they will lose a lot of Chinese tourism but gain a lot of international tourism. Tibet also has mineral resources. So, there will be some money coming, but it’s hard to say how effective they will be at leveraging that into developing industry and commerce.

March 7, 2012 @ 8:12 am | Comment

Otto, thanks for the extremely detailed answer.

The first key distinction we need to think about here is whether any new Tibetan government is built for the Tibetans or for all the inhabitants of the Tibetan plateau. The second key distinction is to ask–where do the exiles think Tibet ends, and China begins? The exile movement historically lumps chunks of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces into a “Greater Tibet”. They need to remember that the more territory they incorporate, the harder it will be for them to govern it, and the more the first key distinction is highlighted.

The third distinction is one you touched on as well. Are we building these policies for independence or autonomy? Given that you are the wonk here I’d suggest you make this choice.

What is the sort of state they wish to construct?
I would suggest a republic with democratically elected leaders (I prefer sortition, but democratic elections along the lines of the German constitution would be acceptable).
I’m actually a bit of a monarchist, but I don’t think Tibetans would accept a monarch other than the Dalai Lama, and I’m against mixing politics and religion like that because it’s bad for religion.
The Tibetan exiles have consistently stated since the 1970s that their goal is to achieve a republic (sovereign or autonomous) rather than a return to theocracy. My guess is that support for restoring the theocracy would be stronger among Tibetans in Tibet than among exiles.

What if, by the time Tibetans get around to building this state, the DL is dead, and the majority population is no longer ethnically Tibetan?

Actually, I think support for a theocracy would run the other way around, but without hard data we’re both in the dark on that. My logic is that the inhabitants of the plateau are used to answering to a secular bureaucracy by now, and that preference for the DL to be anything more than a figurehead is most prominent in the exile movement that interacts with him on a daily basis.

What sort of development do they want to do?
Unfortunately, I don’t think anybody knows exactly how to get development to happen the way they want. I think the key thing is to have a capitalistic basis of the economy with as little corruption as possible. In other words, do the opposite of what India has done.

This is something any incoming government will need to thoroughly analyze. As the link you provided states, Tibet will basically be an economic basketcase absent Chinese money, food, and energy flows. There needs to be a comprehensive stabilization plan in place before the exiles can even think soberly about anything else. Otherwise, you will have a lot of jubilant, cheering, jobless Tibetans next to a lot of scared, resentful, jobless Han/Hui/Uighurs, and that combination of idle time/emotional disconnect could trigger a Balkan-style meltdown (in which case the Tibetans–being unarmed–would suffer the most.)

What about reparations to China for the infrastructure investment that has happened over the past 60 years?
Did China pay reparations to Japan for all the infrastructure they built in Taiwan?

Japan was militarily defeated by the United States. Unless China gets embroiled in a general war with the US that results in US Marines occupying Beijing, China would have the capability and intent to wring repayment out of a nascent Tibetan government.
Furthermore, without a promise of reparations, what would prevent the Chinese government from pulling a Belgian Congo approach and dismantling all their infrastructure before they leave? There is nothing that would make such a move illegal under international law.

Would they happen? Who would run the infrastructure otherwise?
Running the infrastructure is a challenge, but hardly insurmountable. Key specialist technocrat positions could keep employing the same personnel if they are willing (unless it is a highly politically sensitive position), with an offer of citizenship if necessary (I strongly suggest offering citizenship to any civilian legal resident of Tibet under current law, and I assume people with special technical skills are all legal rsesidents, so a special offer of citizenship would only be necessary if you were trying to retain uniformed technical experts). If they’re not willing, oh well, nobody is really irreplaceable.
The Tibetan Political Review addressed some of these questions in the article Tibetan freedom and the day after.

This raises a practical issue of how long it would take to get another set of specialists in place, and an ethical issue of who gets citizenship.

Other than that, what would the general foreign policy look like?
That would depend a lot on the circumstances of the independence or autonomy, wouldn’t it? I think the government would like and the public would support having a close alliance with India and the United States, because the Tibetan military under any circumstances would have a hard time resisting a competent Chinese army; but if they had U.S. military bases in Tibet, that starts to look quite a bit different. This is precisely the reason that China doesn’t want to see an independent Tibet. I would be happy with a compromise along the lines of what the U.S. did when the Phillipines became indepedendent. The arrangement was basically, “okay you can become fully independent in all other respects, on the condition that you agree to become a military ally: let us have military bases on your territory and don’t ally with our enemies or allow them to have bases.” Chinese military bases in Tibet should be near the border and not near population centers where the public might feel menaced by the soldiers.

If there was any risk that Tibet would inch closer to a pro-India or pro-US stance, China would never agree to any autonomy for Tibet at all. Obviously under a military solution Tibet would become pro-US/pro-India, but without that step occuring no Chinese leadership would agree otherwise. In this vein, Chinese of all political stripes do not see how the Tibetan exiles can accept a Phillipines-style solution when the owe their existence to the Indian government’s forbearance. The Tibetan exile movement would probably have to issue a clear statement beforehand explicitly endorsing continued Chinese suzerainty and military supremacy over Tibet, and make that statement repeatedly, before Chinese worries on this issue are assuaged. In addition, they would have to go beyond their usual statements on autonomy and explicitly declare, again, repeatedly, that they will never encourage pro-India or pro-US sentiment in their domestic policies if they get autonomy. I do not see how India could tolerate that sort of behavior from the exiles, however, so this is a major sticking point.

How about immigration from China?
I doubt there would be much demand for that from either side.

You’d be surprised. There is still considerable cross-immigration between the Baltic States and Russia; between Georgia and Russia; between the UK and the Commonwealth; between France and Algeria. And many of those splits happened less than amicably.

Policy desires, of course, are another thing altogether. Will ethnic Tibetans push for a xenophobic policy? Will the government accede to that pressure? Even if it feels good, would it be the *right* thing to do?

What happens to Tibetans living in other parts of China?
I would suggest that Sinophone residents of Tibet should be offered their choice of citizenship or the equivalent of a green card if they are legal residents, or just the green card if they are illegal migrants. China should reciprocate by making the same offer to Tibetans living in China; although, really, if they already have PRC citizenship, it would be highly irregular to deny them Chinese citizenship if they want it even if they are living somewhere illegally.

Two things here. First, the question specifically refers to the educated elite of Tibet in eastern Chinese provinces–they constitute the majority of Tibetans in China. Second, to deny citizenship on the basis of a Chinese internal passport system which you yourself would agree is rather absurd implies one of two things: one, hypocrisy, or two, a desire to limit the number of non-Tibetan citizens on the plateau. China would not agree to two, and could easily tar the Tibetan government into the same corner of bad ethnic policy as Israel.

Since Tibet would still need to import food and energy from China, how would those be taken care of?
Not convinced this is so, but if it is, then I guess it would depend a lot on the circumstances of the independence or autonomy, too.

This again falls into the same category of reparations and economic transfers. Under independence, all these get thrown into jeopardy and Tibetans would need to come up with a solution, very very fast.

What about domestic policy? Land reforms?
This is an extremely important question, since we’re talking about a transition from a Marxist economy (of the late state capitalist variety) to something else. I think it’s something that people could write books and a whole literature about, but it doesn’t seem to have been studied as intensively as it could be. There would need to be a transition to private ownership. Small-scale farmland and anything else that gets leased to everyday people for an extended period could simply be considered property of the leaseholder. Private parties who were divested of specific assets (such as a house that still stands) since 1949 should have them restored, with one major caveat: that this does not necessarily apply to major means-of-production properties (I’m thinking in particular of aristocratic landholdings). Everything else that’s private in a normal developed economy should be privatised very carefully. This is where careful research on the Eastern European experience could help develop a set of best practices. A good start would be to observe how Russia handled privatisation and do the opposite.

Tibet’s not really a statist economy; the economy (outside of infrastructure) is already highly capitalist. The bigger distinction here would be how Chinese-owned property is handled. Much of the plateau’s infrastructure, for example, is owned by the same five Chinese mega-SOEs. Who gets them? Given that SOEs are the single largest interest group in the Chinese government (even more than the PLA, in my experience), any hint that their assets might be at risk would immediately put negotiations into a deep freeze. Any post facto betrayal/nationalization would lead to strong, strong lobbying for a reconquista.

Are all the monasteries going to get back the land that was taken away from them? How are the new owners (many of whom are Tibetan) going to be compensated?
Good questions. I think that the bottom line summary of land reform in Tibet is that Tibetans did not mind very much or at all when land was taken away from aristocrats, but they minded a lot when land was taken away from monasteries. So, I would be inclined to say that monasteries should get their land back and aristocrats should not. Of course, in cases where a small farmer also has a claim to own the land, there should be compensation. I’m not sure whether it would be easier and better to give the farmer the land and compensate the monastery or the other way around.
There would be a lot of details to work out. Some large monasteries might be special cases. Tashilhünpo and Sakya monasteries were the two biggest feudal lords under the old Tibetan government, meaning they were essentially local governments, so I’m hesitant to say that they should get fee simple title to all their old lands. The three big monasteries of Lhasa were tied in very closely to the central government, which also makes them special cases.
Another issue is how to handle the property of tülkus (reincarnate lamas), who often had extensive possessions managed by their households (labrang). I’m inclined to say they should be treated the same as aristocrats. Some of the tülkus were also local governments, notably in Chamdo, so they definitely don’t get all of their land back. However, I’m not sure that it’s always easy to separate monastic property from labrang property. For instance, I had Tashilhünpo in mind as a landowner, but now that I think about it, it seems that the references I’ve seen are to the Panchen Lama’s labrang (which Tibetans often called simply, “the Labrang”). Were they two separate legal entities, or was Tashilhünpo considered to be subsumed in the Labrang?
I’m actually not that worried about the well-being of the top tier of most famous monasteries. It wouldn’t be a big problem if Tashilhünpo ended up with no property. Those monasteries have the ability to attract donations not only from Tibetans of all stripes, but also from networks of supporters in the Western world, India, and in mainland China, HK, and Taiwan.

Let’s just hope the monasteries don’t get greedy and start abusing their newfound political influence like certain madrassas have done in postwar Iraq.

Taxes? Are monasteries (many of whom are profit-generating entities) going to be taxed? Constitutional safeguards on separation of church and state?
Well, ideally there’s no need for a law specifically to safeguard separation of church and state; they are inherently separate and that’s never called into question. However, I can foresee problems with this in Tibet since there was never a separation historically. It would be good to establish clear and comprehensive rules on settling disputes between religious organisations over property, etc. (the government should not be in the business of deciding who is a “real” religious leader if there’s a dispute over authenticity, but if there’s a dispute over a piece of property, the courts will eventually have to get involved.)
At the very least, the basic law should contain statements specifying that the republic has a secular government, there is no religious test for office, and no favoritism is to be shown to any religion or sect.
I’m a little uncertain about what to do with the Potala Palace. Historically, it was divided into two parts, the White Palace, which was the residence of the Dalai Lama and the nerve center of the government and the Red Palace, which was used for religious purposes. I suppose the Potala Palace should be seen as a purely religious building and no government business should be conducted there.

This will be easy to write, but hard to implement. Tibet essentially has no secular legal tradition to draw from, while the exile movement’s current attempts at secularization have never faced any real-world test drive, given that their authority exists only in theory.

Plans for economic development—will Tibet rely purely on tourism? What sort of plans for industry?
I think this is very much related to the question of what sort of development will be done, which, unfortunately, is hard to say. Tourism will of course be a major industry – they will lose a lot of Chinese tourism but gain a lot of international tourism. Tibet also has mineral resources. So, there will be some money coming, but it’s hard to say how effective they will be at leveraging that into developing industry and commerce.

Again, the real challenge here will be how to get things in and out of the region. Becoming a new Hermit Kingdom is out of the question when their presumably less-than-friendly new neighbor as large as the United States. What’s more difficult to manage would be the dependency on China. Any policy they implement would have to be preplanned and have the tacit cooperation of the Chinese government. Planning is easy but cooperation would be nigh impossible.

The bottom line seems to be, that, based on the policies we just analyzed, if a new Tibetan government doesn’t come to power through military force, then it would be at the mercy of China even after independence. In that situation, all the current resentment may be redirected towards the incoming politicians, who will be viewed as weak at best and Quisling at worst.

March 7, 2012 @ 8:09 pm | Comment

@jer
I guess definitions are subjective. That is also the answer to your question about genocide. Trying to wipe out a religious community is not the same as trying to exterminate an entire population through mass murder, but both are kinds of genocide (trying to wipe out all or part of an ethnic or religious group). Nobody claims the Chinese in Tibet have tried to wipe out all Tibetans the way the Nazis tried to wipe out all the jews, but they have certainly committed mass murder. In 1959, in the “struggle sessions” repression after 1959, and in 2008.

March 8, 2012 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

t_co,

I’m not sure when I will have time to respond in detail, but I wanted to address the most basic point you brought up at the beginning. When I talk about a “free Tibet”, I’m talking about a self-governing Tibetan national entity (regardless of whether a sovereign state or a subsovereign autonomous republic) which is in some sense democratically governed. In order to be both democratic and Tibetan-national, it must have a population with a Tibetan majority, or at least a plurality. So, the idea of an independent or autonomous Tibet is a non-starter if the population in question is mostly non-Tibetan. A Tibetan national entity would be “for Tibetans” the same way that Germany is “for Germans” or Latvia is “for Latvians”. In modern political systems, this is compatible with having thriving minority groups among the citizenry.

Since I’m a wonk by disposition, I’ve put some work in the past into looking at where the boundaries of a “Greater” Tibet would lie (for the record, I’ve done similar thought experiments multiple times for partitioning my own home country — I didn’t do this because I hate China). I was working mostly at the prefecture level, but in some cases, I sliced it down by counties or even more finely than that. The goal was to draw borders that are fairly clean and straight rather than complex and winding. My map makes Tibet about 20% of the land area of the PRC, whereas “traditional Tibetan lands” are supposedly closer to 25%, so it would be included most but not all of the Tibetan areas outside of the TAR. I looked at the population based mostly on year 2000 census figures, and I estimated that there would be a Sinophone minority of 15-20%. I suspect it would actually be less than that, because some people would voluntarily repatriate themselves (note the demographic pattern in the post-Soviet states, where the Russian minority in the poorer countries declined as a proportion of population sharply over the course of the 1990s). Voluntarily repatriation may or may not be counterbalanced by increases in Han and Hui people on the plateau since 2000.

March 10, 2012 @ 7:23 am | Comment

@ Otto

Thanks for the response. If Han migration continues and they eventually constitute over 50% of the population of Tibet, how would you get to your desired “free Tibet”?

March 10, 2012 @ 12:55 pm | Comment

When it becomes impossible to draw workable boundaries on a map, then Free Tibet has become irretrievable. Just like Free Inner Mongolia is irretrievable, or Free Cornwall, or Free Anishinaabe Country.

This is why it’s important that things not get to that point.

March 10, 2012 @ 4:15 pm | Comment

Tsarong, would you contact me at temp031012@gmail.com?

March 10, 2012 @ 4:19 pm | Comment

Time to put this thread to rest.

March 15, 2012 @ 10:38 am | Comment

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