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?

______________

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

Acknowledging the low education of the masses and their inability to take their own decisions, after so my years since the revolution, doesn’t imply the failure of the CCP at its most basic task?

Where is the workers paradise and the society build only on scientific foundations where any ruling class or government would be substituted by self ruling people?

What would Marx an Engels say of what was achieved?

February 29, 2012 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

Click through the CDT post and you’ll find a People’s Daily story describing the same thing. Classic People’s Daily quoting People’s Daily as their source included inside:

http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/102774/7741211.html

February 29, 2012 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

Those slogans at least have a chance of being effective (hopefully the threats aren’t carried out though). The slogans I’ve seen in the poorer areas are usually something like “Have less children, plant more trees and you’ll be rich.” I always wondered what sap walks by that and says to himself, “Hmm, that makes perfect sense. Perhaps producing fewer heirs to provide the safety nets the government has failed to give me would actually be in my best interest.”

February 29, 2012 @ 3:49 pm | Comment

When the highly educated democracy of the United States elected George “the Dubya” Bush into office twice, and nearly elected Sarah Palin as the President of the United States (which would have happened if McCain had won and then kicked the bucket while in office), yeah, I kinda take the premise that a society had better be much more highly educated in order to have a functioning democracy seriously…. *chuckle*

After all, I wouldn’t want a Chinese democracy to vote for invading my small country…. at least the current Commie dictators seem to have some … “common sense” among them…

Re the one-child policy facelift…. I must say that as an outsider, I find the old slogans, if they do exist, to be… most amusing and straightforward. I wonder whether they would be more effective then the new, facelifted slogans too… from my experience of China (somewhat limited), it tends to be a place where the stick works more than the carrot….

February 29, 2012 @ 7:21 pm | Comment

The advantage is that US presidents, good or bad, can only run for two terms. In other countries…. it takes quite a long time to get rid of a president/chairman/leader, even if he/she is terrible.

Sarah Palin as pressident? That could be a blast!

http://www.inquisitr.com/193093/sarah-palin-fights-moon-nazis-in-iron-sky-video/

Go to minute 1:16 on the video.

February 29, 2012 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

@ ecodelta:

“The advantage is that US presidents, good or bad, can only run for two terms. In other countries…. it takes quite a long time to get rid of a president/chairman/leader, even if he/she is terrible.”

That is one way of looking at it. For me, I tend to think that if the populace can elect a stupid leader once, it can elect more stupid leaders again, so the problem thus, lies on the judgement and selection skills of the populace rather than the leaders.

Why do I say this? Because I come from a democracy in which my countrymen have continued to elect the same government for over 50 years despite the fact that this government has been eroding my country’s competitiveness, natural resources, educational quality, talent pool and finances and economy through its obvious, mind-numbingly dumb policies. The educated of my country vote for the “opposition”, but the lowly-educated majority continue to vote for the same government at every election cycle. *chuckle* Things never change, the quality of my country continues to deteriorate, and my government is able to act almost like a dictatorship anyway…. 😛

And food for thought for Americans… what would happen… if a Rick Santorum or a Mitt Romney gets elected President of the United States… whoo boy… I think such an election would be China’s dream come through…. US decline would accelerate much faster than even anticipated…. 😛

February 29, 2012 @ 10:20 pm | Comment

From the other thread:

A Chinese collapse would not be the best outcome for Tibet–most rail and road links to Tibet go through China, and Lhasa is not self-sufficient in terms of food or oil… and the population is split roughly 90-10 Tibetan-Han/Hui, which means either 1) Western countries would have to organize an emergency airlift that uses the PLA-operated airport at Lhasa; the Tibetan recipients may or may not decide to share the humanitarian aid with other ethnicities, making Western countries implicit in ethnic cleansing as I doubt the Western countries would lean hard on the Tibetans to share their food with Han/Hui; or 2) the Tibetans would have to somehow negotiate (quickly) a logistical settlement with the Chinese government that sees the Chinese backing down their troops AND acceding to use those troops and Chinese rail/road facilities to protect and move those food shipments.

Option 2 is extremely unlikely. Option 1 requires that either the Tibetans seize the airport or the Western countries get an international mandate (read: Security Council resolution) to force the PLA to back down. The security council has a Chinese veto, so that will never happen. Hence the Tibetans have to seize the airport… against what is estimated to be an entire elite airborne mechanized division. It would take the Tibetans at least 20-25,000 men to take that airport… and casualties would be exceptionally high, as the Tibetans would have to use human wave assaults against 7,500 combat troops, light tanks, APCs, artillery, dozens of helo gunships, and all the organic air assets of the Chengdu Military Region, including over 100 Q-7 Fantan ground-attack aircraft equipped with cluster bombs and fuel-air explosives. Raising, arming, training, feeding, commanding, and concentrating into one point an army that large would probably consume the capacity of any transitional Tibetan government… and then the army would probably be decimated afterwards, and the PLA hungry for revenge (read: 1999 Chechnya). So then they would have to maintain a siege. This would require the Tibetans would have to invest in air defence systems to shoot down Chinese resupply transports coming in. ADS = Western arms imports, which would mean the West would have to back an insurgency based on ethnicity, and when you do that, you inevitably end up with ethnic cleansing; also how long before Chengdu Military Region decides to send in some of the other 9 divisions it has to mount a rescue operation? So seizing the airport is out.

Then the third outcome (starvation + ethnic cleansing) is the most likely. The Chinese government might be paralyzed, might be dysfunctional, but with daily images being broadcast of Chinese people getting beaten to death/a humanitarian crisis in Tibet, the Chinese government will have to act, based on domestic pressure. Given that the Chinese population is even more nationalist than the government (as Japan understands well), then any action the population forces the Party to do is likely to be very painful for the Tibetans. If the state fractures, you may see (relatively) disciplined PLA troops being replaced with much more aggressive paramilitary actions (read: death squads). That would kind of suck for the Tibetans.

Hence, any sort of hope Tibetans have for a Chinese collapse coming out in their favor is misguided at best. A Chinese collapse would be terrible for Tibet. The best hope for Tibet is the current course: a gradual liberalization in the Chinese government and the integration of Taiwan under a confederation, which could then be extended to Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong. The best thing Tibetans could work towards is joining forces with moderates in the Party to effect slow political change, and to prove their bona fides by addressing issues that affect all Chinese (like environmental degradation and corruption), not just their ethnic subgroup.

Finally, allegations of brutality to Tibet are inaccurate. The brutality is directed only at very small segments of the Tibetan population–mostly clergy, and a few activists. For the vast majority of Tibetan people, they face softer forms of discrimination from the Han population, not unlike frictions between ethnic groups in the United States and other multiethnic countries, because the idea of secession is far from mainstream. The idea that somehow all 2.7 million Tibetans are being oppressed by China is founded on an erroneous assumption that somehow all 2.7 million Tibetans feel oppressed in the first place or wish to secede.

March 1, 2012 @ 2:43 am | Comment

For me, I tend to think that if the populace can elect a stupid leader once, it can elect more stupid leaders again, so the problem thus, lies on the judgement and selection skills of the populace rather than the leaders.

I think anyone would be hard-pressed to claim that in a democracy you are more likely to get highly intelligent leaders, but that is missing the point because democracies aren’t really about leadership. That was the mistake that the early Chinese intellectuals made, and they were disappointed.

Democracies are about civil society and institutions working well enough that people feel safe WITHOUT a strong/highly effective leader in charge. This is very hard to achieve and probably depends on a lot of cultural factors that we don’t really understand.

In the context of the previous thread, the idea that a more liberal China might emerge if the PRC collapses, is pie in the sky wishful thinking. A tougher regime would be more likely. Democracies don’t grow out of chaos.

March 1, 2012 @ 4:14 am | Comment

t_co,

Interesting comments. I realized that it was irresponsible for me to say that a collapse of the Chinese state would be the best outcome for Tibet — I meant that it would be the best chance of quick improvement. However, that would also be enormous risks associated with that turn of events, and it’s not for me to say whether the opportunities outweigh the risks when other people’s lives are at stake. I can tell you that, if my country were an “autonomous region” in the PRC, I would be itching for an opportunity to resist.

Exactly what the military situation would look like would depend on a lot of factors that I can’t predict and knowing it requires military expertise and knowledge that I don’t have. I think we can assume that Tibetans would not be able to defeat anything resembling a significant PLA force. Therefore, there’s no chance of winning an armed conflict unless the PLA is unwilling or unable to act. I don’t know what these “death squads” would look like: that could describe a very strong force that the Tibetans could never stand up to, or a rag-tag militia that would be easily defeated, or anything in between.

If I were advising the Tibetan leadership, my goal would be to get peacekeeping forces from any other country in Tibet as quickly as possible. This would be a very difficult diplomatic feat, however. Even if China was temporarily unable to take its seat on the Security Council, Russia would veto any resolution authorizing peacekeepers. What country would be willing to place their soldiers on Chinese territory without a UN mandate? Probably none. Could Russia be bribed into abstaining and allowing a resolution to pass? Maybe, but how much would the Western powers really be willing to offer them? Would Russia abstain in return for recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia? My guess is no.

As for the specific scenarios you’re describing, I think they are a bit overly simplistic. I don’t know what the data is that supports the idea that there would be a food crisis in Tibet in short order. If there were, I think there would be an overabundance of aid sources that would want to help: Western countries and India would love to give humanitarian aid to the Tibetans, and the international Chinese diaspora would be concerned about the Sinophone population. The question is the logistics of how to get food in, and there’s probably more than one way to do that. Tibetan exiles probably have lots of ideas about how to get stuff into Tibet overland. How long would it take to make a makeshift airstrip where emergency flights could land? Then there’s the old “care package with parachute” food bomber approach. I don’t know how effective those approaches would be, just as I don’t know how serious the food shortage would be in the first place.

On the military side, India has had the Special Frontier Force, a unit of the Indian military composed of Tibetan exiles and now under the command of Indian intelligence, watching and waiting for 50 years. I don’t think anybody knows what to expect from SFF if there were serious fighting in Tibet — there’s a lot that has never been made public. Obviously, the Indian government couldn’t do anything directly without major diplomatic fallout, but behind the scenes … who knows what tricks they would try to pull?

I agree that the Tibetans’ best bet in the current situation would be to work for gradual liberalization. I don’t see why they can’t pursue that strategy now and also plan to take advantage of a crisis if it occurs suddenly.

March 1, 2012 @ 8:15 am | Comment

Otto, you mentioned Xinjiang in the other thread – I think it needs to be said that the “Uighur” are not actually native to Xinjiang. In fact, they gained a demographic majority through genocide (murdering nearly 7 million people). Liberalization would entail repatriation as Germans were after World War 2, preferably a bloodless and gradual one.

As far as a collapse of the government in China, power would immediately default to the PLA. If you look at historical precedents, divided China has a tendency to create several relatively small but powerful and expansionist warlord states.

If Tibet were lucky they’d get a Sichuanese dictator, otherwise they can expect turmoil under Hui or other unsympathetic non-Hans who have an axe to grind.

March 1, 2012 @ 10:05 am | Comment

Likewise, if one of these warlords is sore about the collapse of government in China I could see them lobbing some nukes at “peacekeepers” in Tibet. This would result in utter ruin for the aggressor states, and relative impunity for China as a whole – especially if they threaten to flood and irradiate India’s rivers in retaliation for their support of a TGIE insurgency.

March 1, 2012 @ 10:08 am | Comment

I think it needs to be said that the “Uighur” are not actually native to Xinjiang.

They’ve been there for 1100 years, it seems fair to consider them native.

March 1, 2012 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

@ Peter

Thanks for the response. I agree that the PRC has made many mistakes in integrating Tibet into the Chinese fold, and demands for increased autonomy have their roots in legitimate Tibetan grievances. Itching for opportunities to resist, however, is probably less productive than working within the Chinese system. If I was Tibetan, I’d be doing my best to build a reputation as a national-level ideologue that can push issues which resonate with most Chinese (basically, stop being Al Sharpton and start being Barack Obama).

For example, imagine if Wang Yang, the reformist head of Guangzhou, widely believed to be the leading reformist candidate for a Politburo seat, was an ethnic Tibetan? Even without specific advocacy on behalf of Tibetans, explicitly, in his vision of the future of China, as he gains more political influence, the Party apparatus would automatically begin to make the situation in the region better. More importantly, the Party would stop looking at Tibetans as outsiders but as people who contribute to the development of China.

March 1, 2012 @ 1:57 pm | Comment

@ Peter

The humanitarian situation alone would break any new Tibetan government. There are 3 million people in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The standard emergency ration is the humanitarian daily ration, or HDR, which provides 2200 calories at 30 ounces, or approximately 1 kg. Assume that the food shortfall is 20% (half the urban population of Tibet). That gets you 6,000 tons per day of food you would need to provide. China also ships 5,000 tons of coal and oil per day to Tibet. Total inputs are then 11,000 tons per day.

Roads from India to Tibet can realistically only handle half that capacity, and may be clogged with refugees fleeing or people shipping weapons in. Airdrops of the scale necessary to make up 5,000 tons a day of food and fuel won’t happen unless air superiority is guaranteed over the PLA air force, which presumably would interdict any flights in on the plausible basis that they might be airdropping weapons. That won’t happen because the Tibetan exile movement does not have an air force, India’s air force is grossly inferior in quantity and quality to China’s, Tibet is in range of U.S. bombers but not in range of U.S. land and carrier-based fighters, and Russia will not interfere on Tibet’s side. That’s the reason you’d need Lhasa’s airport because then you would have a place to keep control of the skies in Tibet, but that won’t happen due to the aforementioned airborne mechanized division based there.

The SFF, a holdover from US Camp Hale operations, numbers 10,000 men. Lhasa is barely within combat range of their helicopters, the Dhruvs and Mil-17s, and their helicopter assets can only transport 1 regiment (max) at a time, and are not stealthy, and the Chengdu Military Region has over-the-horizon radar that should see a regiment-sized air assault force at least an hour before it lands. Hence they would have to hoof 30-40 miles to the airport itself, arriving piecemeal, all the while getting the bombed by 100 ground-attack aircraft plus tactical cruise missiles plus whatever other assets the PLA has. A ground infiltration would be spotted too; a march from the border to Lhasa would take a week across some of the harshest terrain known to man; the SFF would arrive tired, cut off from supply lines, and without any mechanized or air support. In that situation, morale would be no substitute for firepower, and they would be decimated.

The final point of your article–that Tibetans should plan to take advantage of any crisis situation–has an important implication: what would those preparatory actions be? Forming alternate centers of legitimate political power? Stockpiling weapons? Hoarding food? Reconnoitering roads, railways, power facilities, military patrols? Spreading pro-secession propaganda?

The problem with any of these actions is that they rob the credibility of any attempt to integrate with Chinese moderates. It would be all too easy (and somewhat plausible) for hardliners in the Party to then paint these as secessionist activities, and get a free pass from domestic audiences for yet another round of repression while making Chinese moderates quite embarrassed and reluctant to cooperate with any Tibetan attempt at rapprochement.

Ultimately Tibet needs to accept that since collapse is not in its best interest, armed rebellion will fail, and quiet planning for a crisis moment denies them domestic credibility, then they as a people need to sincerely strive for moderation and integration.

March 1, 2012 @ 2:53 pm | Comment

Suppose integration is the thing they wish to avoid. What then?

March 1, 2012 @ 4:13 pm | Comment

But who is responsible for the current state of China’s educational system? The very people who would lose the most in a democracy.

This is something I’ve been arguing for a while. The elite/middle classes argue that the masses are too poorly educated to deal with the power to elect politicians. But those same elite/middle class types refuse to pay more taxes to fund a decent education system. Pure hypocrisy.

P.S. There’s some “imposter system” telling me I have to log in. There is no option to login, so how am I supposed to do it?!

March 1, 2012 @ 4:18 pm | Comment

@Otto

We are in the position of say Hungary in the 1980s. Only the collapse of our Communist occupier holds out any hope of liberation. The Hungarians were the first of the Communist-occupied peoples to revolt (1956) and we were the second (1959). Soviet Russia collapsed in 1989 under the weight of the contradictions of its totalitarian rule, and its occupied satellite states like Hungary were freed. The brutal Chinese system was challenged at the same time (Tiananmen) but the generals managed to cling to power. I think anyone with a long view of history feels that the reckoning has probably only been postponed.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was not catastrophic for Russia, but an opportunity for the Russians. There is a broader middle class now with a taste for freedom. I think the same can be said about the collapse of the current Chinese state. As Tibetans we have to be humble and understand that the collapse of the Chinese state depends on the development of Chinese understanding of the costs of totalitarianism. All we can really do is what we are doing: refusing to become Chinese, and waiting. An interesting question is whether building bridges with dissidents in China who share our interest in the collapse of the PRC is a useful avenue for us (or a waste of time) and if so how this should be encouraged.

Claims about an insufficient food supply are the usual self-serving Chinese hogwash, not worth spending any time on. Tibet was self-sufficient in food before the Chinese invasion, we had learned about the importance of stockpiling food over centuries. The first famine in history was in 1960 as a direct result of Chinese rule and collectivisation. The only people who might have a difficult time finding the food they need following a Chinese collapse would be the Han migrants. This time they can go straight home down the Chinese-built roads (no need to send them via Calcutta and the sea as we had to with the Manchu soldiers in 1911).

Please also forget about the Tibetan SFF. The Indians are chaotic, unorganised and too corrupt to keep their own administration from the edge of collapse in a good year. Most of their army is tied down in Kashmir and the Northeast. They can’t even build and maintain roads of barely acceptable quality. No help of any kind can be expected from them. This is sad, we Tibetans have a long history of expecting salvation from “holy India”, but one has to be realistic.

March 1, 2012 @ 8:18 pm | Comment

Also, t_co, you sound like Gary Brecher talking about military hardware and such. But I think we can all agree to stipulate that Tibetans will never be able to fight the PLA and win, so it isn’t worth belaboring the point.

March 1, 2012 @ 8:56 pm | Comment

Regarding genocide, the ICJ considered the issue carefully in 1960 and used the word deliberately to point out in what respects the Chinese Communists had carried out a programme of genocide against the Tibetan nation and the Buddhist religion.

http://www.icj.org/default.asp?nodeID=349&sessID=&langage=1&myPage=Legal_Documentation&id=23464

http://www.tibetjustice.org/materials/govngo/govngo2.html

March 1, 2012 @ 9:07 pm | Comment

Atticus
They’ve been there for 1100 years, it seems fair to consider them native.

The Uighur of the Uighur Empire died out over a thousand years ago. The “Uighur” now were formerly called Turki, and they invaded in the 1800s.

Tsarong
Regarding genocide, the ICJ considered the issue carefully in 1960 and used the word deliberately to point out in what respects the Chinese Communists had carried out a programme of genocide against the Tibetan nation and the Buddhist religion.

So that’s where the TGIE’s CIA blood money was transferred. Bribing the ICJ of the 1960s.

March 1, 2012 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

I don’t really know what Cookie Monster #10 is talking about. Uighurs have been living in southern Xinjiang for a very long time. Northern Xinjiang used to be inhabited by Mongols but they got genocided by the Qianlong emperor back during the Qing. Liberalization and “repatriation” don’t go together, especially when you’re talking about people who have been where they are from birth.

March 1, 2012 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

@Cookie

Blood is on the hands of you Chinese mass murderers, not of the Tibetans who, attacked and invaded, naturally accepted help from whatever quarter it was offered, as any nation would do.

March 1, 2012 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

I tried to steer the conversation away from Tibet and see that I failed miserably.

March 2, 2012 @ 1:14 am | Comment

Richard,

I will totes respect your vision for what you want your blog to be like. Please clarify if you would like to drop this topic entirely or do a partial shift of focus. Personally, I just really like talking about Tibet, and this is a much better forum for it from my perspective than HH is, that’s for sure.

March 2, 2012 @ 2:02 am | Comment

It’s an open thread so people can talk about what they choose. I think we all know where everyone stands on Tibet, but if you want to keep going feel free.

March 2, 2012 @ 2:04 am | Comment

Tsarong,

The second of the documents you link to in #19, viz the ICJ report (1960), states:

“The committee did NOT find that there was sufficient proof of the destruction of Tibetans as a race, nation or ethnic group as such by methods that can be regarded as genocide in international law”. (My capitals.)

It DOES however state that “the committee found that acts of genocide had been committed in Tibet in an attempt to destroy the Tibetans as a religious group”, ie what some might term “cultural genocide”. Such behaviour is of course reprehensible, but it is not the same as physical genocide or “mass murder”.

(Moreover, you are doubtless aware that the ICJ at that time is believed to have been created & funded by the CIA with the purpose of disseminating anti-communist propaganda.)

March 2, 2012 @ 2:33 am | Comment

Richard,

I know where everybody stands, true, but I like to try to understand people’s opinions with more and more nuance, especially for the ones that I disagree with. Tsarong also has some interesting opinions and knows some things that I don’t.

March 2, 2012 @ 3:22 am | Comment

@ Richard

Thanks.

@ Tsarong

Liberation for Tibet via collapse, as I’ve stated again and again, is not the best outcome for Tibetans on the ground. (Maybe for the Tibetans in Dharamsala, but even then it is an open question how much political power the native Tibetans are willing to give up to a foreign government-in-exile–see what happened to the Iraqi exiles post-2003, for instance.) Hence arguing historical parallels for its occurence is a moot point.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was not catastrophic to Russia, but no one can argue that it was the best outcome for the average Russian if you look at things like life expectancy, infant mortality rates, disease, per capita GDP, average daily food intake, average daily energy expenditure, murders per 100,000 people, etc. A managed transition would probably have done much better on all these counts. Most Chinese intellectuals believe this point, and the Chinese people believe this point even more strongly. Waiting for the Chinese people to deliberately choose a USSR-style outcome will be a long wait.

A deliberate refusal to become Chinese becomes impossible in the face of sustained economic, social, and political pressures to do so, carried out over the course of decades. Do you honestly think that a Tibetan who gets a plum job out of a top Chinese college into a top Chinese bank or government organ is going to deny his Chinese-ness for very long? Now imagine that every year, all the smartest Tibetan kids go off to top Chinese colleges to be part of the Chinese elite. Imagine that every year, living in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, these Tibetans grow to realize that they have more interests in common with the other Chinese guys in their firm rather than the Tibetans in the village where they come from. Imagine that they start to think about moving their parents to the good life, so they can take care of them, and their Chinese employer is the one who helps them get the hukou done because their Chinese employer wants to keep them happy. Imagine that they marry a Chinese spouse, and have children. Now think–all this is happening in reality, every day, every week, slowly until over the course of decades the Tibetan minority in China becomes as indistinguishable and spread out as the Manchus or Hui. There is really no stopping this train of integration.

(An aside: I happened to date a Tibetan girl (finance major from Tsinghua) when I was in Beijing for the spring and summer of 2008. It was surprising to hear from her and her older brother how little being Tibetan mattered, and how much her concerns revolved around the same things other Chinese thought about–finding the right job, finding the right husband/wife, whether to go to Korea or Thailand for Chinese New Years. Even when I steered the conversation to Tibetan independence, they would only shrug and say that issues like that were for the older generation to worry about, and that their generation really didn’t care.)

Finally, the comment on the food supply is not hogwash since the Chinese government does not publish its own supply bottlenecks. The official population of the TAR has more than doubled since 1950 while food production on the plateau has not, and most of the official population increase is ethnic Tibetans, so resettlement will not solve that problem. Furthermore, leaving aside the issue of whether starvation-induced resettlement is right or wrong, such an action presupposes that the Tibetan government can act with impunity and not expect any interference. Such a condition is not feasible in the near term (or medium term) due to the existence, again, of the Chengdu Military Region’s 180,000 troops sitting next door. It would be insane to think that those troops would just watch as their fellow Chinese were starved out of their homes (or burned to death a la March 2008). Instead of your fantasy of Chinese being peacefully marched out of Tibet, the more likely outcome would be a few days of attempted ethnic cleansing by Tibetans and then the 13th Group Army executing a massive armored/airborne assault through the Tanggula Pass.

March 2, 2012 @ 3:55 am | Comment

@ Richard

Regarding halting steps toward liberalization–I think it will probably take years if not decades for real steps to be made. It will be hard to divorce the Chinese government away from its obsession on simple economic figures to become closer to the people absent the mechanism of elections, though, so such a move is necessary.

March 2, 2012 @ 4:03 am | Comment

Regarding halting steps toward liberalization–I think it will probably take years if not decades for real steps to be made.

Hold on a second, I want to write that down!

My point being, isn’t that obvious to everyone?

March 2, 2012 @ 4:08 am | Comment

@ Richard

Well the general spectrum of opinion seems to run from “China collapse” scenarios to “rosy liberalization” to “Brezhnev stagnation” to “the Chongqing model”, so I would say that is not obvious at all.

March 2, 2012 @ 4:21 am | Comment

A deliberate refusal to become Chinese becomes impossible in the face of sustained economic, social, and political pressures to do so, carried out over the course of decades. Do you honestly think that a Tibetan who gets a plum job out of a top Chinese college into a top Chinese bank or government organ is going to deny his Chinese-ness for very long?

That assumes that in the end, the average Tibetan has the same simple middle-class aspirations as the average Han Chinese, and that they are willing to give up their national identity for them. I don’t know any Tibetans so I can’t say whether this is true or not, but historically national identity is something that many people have been prepared to fight and die for. The Chinese education system also encourages this mindset.

What we do know is that we have large numbers of Han Chinese in the West who could presumably improve their chances of middle-classness by becoming completely “Westernized” and abandoning their Chinese roots, but they don’t want to do this. And it is easier than ever today for national minorities to network and communicate with each other, if they want to resist assimilation.

Apart from this, even though it is in the Han majority’s interests to allow large numbers of Tibetans to get rich and join the Chinese middle class establishment, there are a lot of factors which would make this difficult. Not the least of which is that they will have to compete with all the Han who also want to be middle class, and will resent and work against deliberate policy to tilt the playing field in favour of the Tibetans.

March 2, 2012 @ 5:17 am | Comment

Test

March 2, 2012 @ 6:52 am | Comment

@ Peter

The situation of Han Chinese in the West is not analogous to Tibetans within China, since most of the Han Chinese actively immigrated to the West and were not born there. The better analogy there would be Latinos within the United States, where people do keep their Latino roots but assimilate socially and politically into the new nation. Like Latinos within what was once the northern half of Mexico, Tibetans once had domestic political sovereignty; like Latinos, Tibetans became a minority in Lhasa and parts of Tibet; like Latinos, Tibetans are now slowly joining mainstream Chinese power structures; like White Americans, Han Chinese have similar concerns about affirmative action and regional separatism (which you mention.)

None of this is cause for concern. No harm in keeping a sense of Tibetan pride, after all. But when that pride is interpreted by an exile community as calls for direct political or military action, or permanently remaining apart from the rest of Chinese society, that’s when the argument crosses the line from idealistic to stupid.

What really strikes me as odd in some of the beliefs of more radical Tibetan elements is that they, in a sense, want to enforce a sort of apartheid on their own community; a cordon sanitaire between Tibetan and Chinese society; and in this worldview, every action that serves to alienate these two communities is celebrated, while every action that serves to bring them together is vilified. Indeed, China does not want to eliminate the Tibetan identity through assimilation; it will simply happen, slowly and by accident. What Tibetans should realize is that to China, maintaining a separate Tibetan identity is completely fine so long as it does not spill over into calls for political independence or degenerate into violence.

It is through this lens, then, that the actions of the brave young men and women who have chosen to abandon the precepts of their faith and douse themselves in gasoline appear most tragic. To the vast majority of Tibetans, these individuals are boxing against shadows, waging a war on behalf of aims most Tibetans don’t even believe in. For most ethnic Tibetans in China, primary concerns are food, housing, jobs, security, healthcare, education; just as they are to citizens in any country. The right to worship an 14th-century religious construct is not as critical, and given that His Holiness has been collecting frequent flyer miles off of tithed money for most the past half-century, his relevance (and the relevance of his exile group) to everyday Tibetans shrinks by the day. In the end, the true leaders of Tibet will come out of those elite students and young professionals currently firmly planted in Chinese universities, banks, professional services firms, and law firms, as they will be the ones who can best provide the primary concerns of their fellow citizens. And among that group, the overwhelming desire is one of continued integration with the Chinese state, and advancement within mainstream Chinese power structures.

March 2, 2012 @ 6:56 am | Comment

“What really strikes me as odd in some of the beliefs of more radical Tibetan elements is that they, in a sense, want to enforce a sort of apartheid on their own community”

All nationalists think like this, and almost everyone is a nationalist of one kind or another. Singling out Tibetan nationalists is unreasonable.

March 2, 2012 @ 7:47 am | Comment

I love how assumptious western liberals who once peddled free-market Capitalism to us like it was some goddamn miracle cure, now berates us for being too capitalist.

Not that they want us to return to socialism either, especially not when they’re making obscene amount of profit off of the backs of our indentured workers.

Who needs Lei Feng when you can have perfectly well-adjusted role models like Paris Hilton, who contribute so much to our society?

March 2, 2012 @ 8:44 am | Comment

We were never taught in school to emulate Paris Hilton. She is a subject of constant ridicule and lurid fascination by idiots. And who is berating China for being too capitalist? (Maybe someone is, I haven’t read every comment in the thread).

Not that they want us to return to socialism either, especially not when they’re making obscene amount of profit off of the backs of our indentured workers.

That’s a two-way street, my dear. The Chinese government has encouraged this relationship, to say the least, and their manipulation of their currency has largely been intended to keep labor there cheap. The millions of workers in China making up the manufacturing engine of the world is exactly what Deng Xiaoping envisioned. So don’t blame the West for that.

March 2, 2012 @ 8:53 am | Comment

“We were never taught in school to emulate Paris Hilton. She is a subject of constant ridicule and lurid fascination by idiots. ”

Nowadays, as it happens, Lei Feng also seems to be the subject of constant ridicule and lurid fascination by idiots. As demonstrated by this very post.

However, there are substantial differences between the two. Lei Feng actually did stuff. Objectively positive contributions to society, in fact.

And that, in my humble opinion deserves much better treatment than miss Hilton.

“And who is berating China for being too capitalist? (Maybe someone is, I haven’t read every comment in the thread).”

Wait, you mean to say you can’t read your own comments?

“…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.”

Is that not a condemnation of our capitalist society?

Or maybe you meant to say it in a positive way? As in, “Chinese trillionaires should eat more expensive meals and buy more Ferraris and watch in glee as Chinese workers toil under Dickensian conditions. Way to go, Capitalism!”

“That’s a two-way street, my dear. The Chinese government has encouraged this relationship…The millions of workers in China making up the manufacturing engine of the world is exactly what Deng Xiaoping envisioned. So don’t blame the West for that. ”

Yes, comrade. The “Communist” Party isn’t quite the workers’ party anymore, even they themselves acknowledge that.

But that’s like saying European slave traders weren’t guilty of enslaving blacks because the Kings of Kongo often allowed their own subjects to be sold into slavery. Doesn’t hold water.

So would I blame both Western capitalist as well as subservient Chinese ruling class, as do most Chinese people.

March 2, 2012 @ 9:25 am | Comment

Lei Feng is ridiculed by many young Chinese people and most China watchers. But he is certainly taken seriously by the propagandists. Personally, I believe he never existed, and is entirely a concoction of the party. But I never said Lei Feng deserves less beratement than Paris Hilton. Never.

Is that not a condemnation of our capitalist society?

Absolutely not. I have never, ever condemned capitalism on this bog, just the cruelty that can come with it if society doesn’t provide an adequate safety net. The US is capitalist, China is capitalist; unfortunately, it’s the only system, for all its terrible flaws, that actually works.

Your last three paragraphs are a complete nonsequitor. I have no idea what you’re talking about. How you can blame the West for China having “indentured servants” when this system was engineered by the party is beyond me, as is your bizarre comparison with the Belgian Congo.

You are slick, my friend. You extrapolate what you want to and then argue as if the person actually said what you say they said. Slick.

March 2, 2012 @ 9:47 am | Comment

“Lei Febg is ridiculed by most young Chinese people and most China watchers. ”

How many young Chinese people do you know? 3? Probably not large enough a sample size.

“Personally, I believe he never existed, and is entirely a concoction of the party. ”

Well, plenty of people don’t believe the US landed on the moon either.

Live and let live, I guess.

“Absolutely not. I have never, ever condemned capitalism on this bog, just the cruelty that can come with it if society doesn’t provide an adequate safety net. ”

Yes, I imagine you would never, ever condemn the Holocaust either, just the cruelty thatr can come with it.

That’s actually how many soft-core Neo-Nazis view the holocaust, actually.

“You are slick, my friend. You extrapolate what you want to and then argue as if the person actually said what you say they said. Slick.”

No. You said don’t blame the West, blame the Chinese government instead. I said I blame both. It’s that simple.

Seems like you’re employing the same tactic you implored against. All in the same paragraph, too.

March 2, 2012 @ 10:03 am | Comment

Definitely slick.

March 2, 2012 @ 10:29 am | Comment

How many young Chinese people do you know? 3? Probably not large enough a sample size.

I know quite a few and most of them don’t give a shit about Lei Feng, they just know that every couple of years, when the Party (or school principal) gets on a damned-young-people buzz, they have to mutter a few slogans.

“Absolutely not. I have never, ever condemned capitalism on this bog, just the cruelty that can come with it if society doesn’t provide an adequate safety net. ”

Yes, I imagine you would never, ever condemn the Holocaust either, just the cruelty thatr can come with it.

If you can’t see the logical inconsistencies in your comparison then there’s no hope for you.

March 2, 2012 @ 11:48 am | Comment

Thanks Atticus. He was really trying my patience, reminding me of another blog where commenters always talk in nonsequitors. I won’t interact with him anymore.

March 2, 2012 @ 11:53 am | Comment

For most ethnic Tibetans in China, primary concerns are food, housing, jobs, security, healthcare, education; just as they are to citizens in any country. The right to worship an 14th-century religious construct is not as critical

As I said, the assumption is that ultimately, Tibetan concerns are the same as Han Chinese concerns and are primarily economic and materialistic. That might be the case, but that hasn’t been demonstrated.

Of course there is likely to be an “elite” who will buy into the Chinese Dream, but how large they are and what the average Tibetan’s attitude toward them will be is key.

March 2, 2012 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

@Richard –

“He was really trying my patience, reminding me of another blog where commenters always talk in nonsequitors.”

Wait, I’m trying to think what blog you could possibly be talking about and drawing a complete blank . . .

March 2, 2012 @ 3:15 pm | Comment

A lot of Chinese people have anecdotes about how they knew some Tibetan person who was more interested in getting ahead in life than in the future of Tibet. For them, their experience proves 1. all Tibetans are not interested in the separate existence of Tibet, and 2. getting rich as a Chinese person is the future of all Tibetans.

For Tibetans, who know the reality of life under Chinese occupation, this actually says quite the opposite: 1. Tibetans under the occupation tell Chinese people what they want to hear, because not doing so is dangerous, and 2. Getting ahead in life is everybody’s concern, and does not exclude Tibetan patriotism. Also 3. Tibetans know they will never be Chinese.

The Chinese occupiers have a long history of forcing Tibetans to parrot Chinese lies, and then believing these lies are what Tibetans actually think. In 1979 before the delegation of His Holiness to Lhasa arrived, Chinese thought police tried to convince Tibetans that they should not spit at the delegation, no matter how much they hated the “old medieval regime”, because the delegation was a guest of the Chinese government. Of course Tibetans nodded and agreed. When the delegation arrived they greeted it in their thousands with tears in their eyes, prostrated and shouted slogans for Tibetan independence. Nobody spat.

Even for Tibetans who speak fluent Chinese, the discrimination under Chinese rule is very strong against Tibetans, and reminds us that we will always be foreigners in China. There was widespread publicity of the job postings “limited to Han” (Ch: xian Hanzu) – or simply “Han” (Ch: Hanzu). The outbreak of open violence by Han students against Tibetan students in Chengdu is exceptional, but Tibetans know it is only one open manifestation of how the Chinese people treat us daily (http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2011/12/han-students-attack-tibetans-at-chengdu-railroad-engineering-school/).

I personally find inspiring the story of Poland under the Austrian-German-Russian occupation. From 1795 for 123 years the occupiers put out the story that Poland no longer existed, that the future was to become German or Russian or Austrian. Of course the Polish people went about their daily lives, and studied and took government posts, but they never forgot their language, religion and culture, no matter how much the occupiers tried to convince them it did not exist. Now nobody can deny the existence of Poland – not because of any reason other than the people’s unconquerable belief in the eternal existence of their nation. This is our only hope as Tibetans, to cast aside the lies of our occupier and never swerve in our belief in ourselves and our holy leaders.

March 2, 2012 @ 5:46 pm | Comment

@ Tsarong

Ah, the No True Scotsman argument. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that. Since we’ve already shown how Tibetans are concerned with living better lives, now you shift the argument. Clever.

How can you prove that claims 1 and 3 are true? Those are sweeping, powerful arguments. If you accept point 1, then no Chinese is qualified to speak on what a Tibetan thinks; point 3 is a statement of faith without any supporting evidence or logic. Both these points are absurd, but I’ll give you the latitude to argue them. So do it.

(As another aside, Pema always thought of me as American, since I grew up in America. Doubt she was sugarcoating her answers because she happened to live in China, unless somehow she thought my place was bugged.)

One thing that I find funny about independence advocates on Tibet is that there could exist people within their ethnic group who sincerely want integration and rapprochement, and don’t really care about a “holy leader” who hasn’t done much for them. An anecdote from 1979 (over 30 years ago) does not prove mass dissatisfaction with Chinese sovereignty; the more recent 2008 riots might, but most of the Tibetan participants were marginalized groups of young men without jobs, definitely not the new bureaucratic elite of Tibet that is forming in Chongqing, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong.

You can assert all you want that Han in China exhibit discrimination against Tibetans, but without solid proof in the form of opinion polls, not isolated incidents like a Chengdu riot against a policy of government affirmative action–not Tibetans–then you can’t make that argument either.

The Polish analogy is flawed, because no one is trying to tell Tibetans to stop being Tibetan in China. Again, the force of assimilation is not coming from the Chinese government, but from the Tibetans themselves; in the process of trying to live a better life in China, Tibetans will inevitably dismantle any residual mental or emotional barriers they have to integration. The reason that is successful is that the benefits to integration are real, while the benefits of “believing in a national identity or holy leader” are pretty much nonexistent. Over time, the gentle push of memetic evolution will tie pragmatic ideals within the Tibetan population with success, while tying belief in the Dalai Lama with socioeconomic marginalization. In this sense, that is the real hope for Tibetans; to cast aside useless beliefs in a 14th century religious construct. What does believing in the Dalai Lama even get you?

March 2, 2012 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

@ Peter

Not sure how that hasn’t yet been demonstrated. Read Julia Hess’s piece on the Tibetan Diaspora:

To quote: “The more established Tibetans in diaspora reject recent immigrant Tibetans who watch Chinese movies, sing Chinese music, and can speak Mandarin, who are than alienated from the exile community. Newcomers express frustration that the government-in-exile wants to hear only “bad things” about Chinese rule in Tibet, and a lack of economic opportunity in Dharamsala.”

The clear implication here is that Tibetans today care about different things than Tibetan exiles pre-1989.

As for the idea of an elite, the question isn’t so simple as to whether Tibetans will support the new bureaucracy, but whether they will support them over the old semi-theocratic exile government. In this regard, the new bureaucracy has substantial advantages–incumbency, central Party largesse, visibility, and the best talent, since Tsinghua, Peking University, Jiaotong University, and Renmin University all act as excellent filters in that regard. It would not be hard to plant this idea in the heads of Tibetans; that the new bureaucracy is filled with Tibetans who worked hard, studied hard, and are trying to improve the lives of everyone in Tibet, while the exile movement is filled with Tibetans who essentially ran away from hardship rather than face it.

March 2, 2012 @ 7:30 pm | Comment

Chinese liars like @t_co are pretty good at convincing themselves, less so at convincing anyone who is not Chinese.

The “14th century religious construct” for which the Chinese usually have contempt (this is a typically Chinese attitude) is the same Buddhism which is the core of our identity and belief in ourselves, for Tibetans.

Whatever differences there are between Tibetans who have grown up in different circumstances and different parts of the world, there is no disagreement that we revere Buddhism and the role of the holy teachers who have done so much to spread the message of the Buddha for the good of all sentient beings.

The more the Chinese tell us we have to abandon this belief, because His Holiness is a “splittist”, the more they impose thought police on Tibetans, throw them in jail for saying the wrong thing or having the wrong photograph, torture and kill them for travelling to receive the Kalachakra initiation or take part in the Moenlam Chenmo – the more we cling to our beliefs in our heart.

I can honestly say that I have never met another Tibetan who believed otherwise. Of course I have met many Tibetans who have said otherwise to the Chinese occupiers.

March 2, 2012 @ 7:43 pm | Comment

@t_co #48,

That quotation proves a lot less than you seem to think it does. Clearly, there are some kinds of influence on Tibetans from living in the PRC. Consider that Irish people in Ireland have had enormous cultural influence from England … they speak English, for one thing, and very few speak Irish any more. That doesn’t mean that they see themselves as English or are less committed to having a separate group identity. Telling an Irishman that he’s English sounds like a good way to catch a beatdown.

Comparing older Tibetan exiles with newer ones seems weird anyway. These are all people who chose to go into exile, which most Tibetans never do.

March 2, 2012 @ 9:33 pm | Comment

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