Paranoia

This is already two days old but I wanted to record it on my site. For all the CCP’s efforts to portray itself as Tibet’s liberators and benefactors, many Tibetans are still treated as second-class citizens, and the party remains deathly afraid of those who would speak out about it. This is a shocking story, and if you read the whole thing it gets worse.

I don’t belong to a political party and have never felt that Communist Party meetings are any of my business. But my home is in Beijing. I am a writer, and Han Chinese. My wife, Woeser, is also a writer, and Tibetan. The other member of our household is my mother, who is 90.

A few weeks ago, China’s political police asked my wife to leave Beijing because “18th Major,” a once-in-a-decade coronation of new party leaders, was on the way. The Communist Party views Tibetans and Uighur Muslims from western China as noxious. They are constantly under suspicion as troublemakers, if not terrorists. My wife, as it happens, is petite, as lacking in guile as a window pane, and about as far from a terrorist as one could get.

She has, however, written some words in protest of the fate of her fellow Tibetans. And for this, the party has put her on a blacklist, barred her from publishing, deprived her of her job, and denied her a passport. When she obeyed the recent order and headed home to Tibet, police officers along the way stopped and searched her at nearly every juncture. While Chinese people — on airplanes, trains, buses and motorcycles — are streaming into and out of Tibet by the thousands, Tibetans themselves have become outsiders in their own land, blocked at every turn.

Shortly afterward, the author himself was visited by the PBS and was told he should leave Beijing with no explanation. Guards were posted at his door.

Just imagine being told you had to separate from your spouse due to the irrational fears of the government. Just imagine the government stationing “state security” guards in front of your home. All for no logical reason, just illogical fear of…of what? For all the reform and improvements, it remains the same insecure government at heart. Blocking websites, silencing Tibetans and Uyghurs and exiling those who threaten harmony remain business as usual, and all you can do is wonder what they’re so afraid of. Is it a surprise there remains so much unrest in Tibet?

______________

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: 28 Comments

And here comes the spurious comparison . . .

November 9, 2012 @ 2:51 pm | Comment

Jeez louise, red star. I know stupid irrelevant comparisons are your specialty, but what does an international child custody battle have to do with the CCP’s treatment of minorities? I guess apples and oranges is no longer good enough for you; you’ve graduated to apples and cars.

November 9, 2012 @ 3:20 pm | Comment

I thought that for once in his online life, HongXing would get less attention than this. It’s just a link, folks! Who cares?

November 9, 2012 @ 7:41 pm | Comment

The general consensus within the CCP seems to be that once the Dalai Lama dies and the Tibetan exile community no longer has a popular figure to rally around, the policies can be liberalized; until then, it’s better to be safe than sorry, since controlling Tibet makes a land invasion by India practically impossible (would require over 5:1 force ratios to get anything done.)

November 9, 2012 @ 8:26 pm | Comment

To get anything done = to push any military forces up the Himalayan foothills.

November 9, 2012 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

Is India contemplating a land invasion?

November 10, 2012 @ 2:45 am | Comment

Do we know for certain that they’re not? And plus, removing that option from the table provides the Chinese side additional leverage in international relations with the Indians.

November 10, 2012 @ 3:19 am | Comment

One of the main lessons I got from reading Kissinger’s “On China” (and in the continuation, much of Stratfor’s analyses) is that geopolitical strategies don’t have to be based on immediate threats. It doesn’t really make any sense to assume an Indian invasion, but it does make sense to have it as a long-term consideration. The latter is the reason countries support oppressive regimes in other places; instead of the usual suspects I’m going to give the example of Pakistan, which supported the Taliban because that made the place reliable Muslim and so not friendly to India. Ditto for China supporting Pakistan and North Korea – it doesn’t really give them anything in terms of good neighbors, but it’s a buffer security.

With Tibet, I think the story is a bit more complex than that but as far as security policy goes, I agree it’s a buffer towards India. Xinjiang similarly is a buffer towards Russia.

November 10, 2012 @ 3:46 am | Comment

To T-Co,
no, we don’t know for certain India won’t invade. So then suppression of Tibetans is because India could invade and/or might invade? Suppression activities on the basis of what “could” happen seems to be the MO for the CCP…all manner of stuff gets shut down because they “could” affect “stability”, which is probably my favourite CCP euphemism of all time. The CCP might as well say they’re suppressing Tibetans because the sky could fall, as we’re in no position to say for certain that it won’t.

November 10, 2012 @ 3:53 am | Comment

To WKL,
I acknowledge the buffer concept. But usually a buffer is something external that you put between yourself and something noxious. You don’t use your face to cushion your brain when you fall off your bike; you use a helmet. If it’s the buffer argument, it makes more sense if Tibet was not part of China. And if China considers one of her provinces to be a buffer, that really lays bare all the nonsense about how much China cares about Tibetans as Chinese people.

November 10, 2012 @ 3:57 am | Comment

@SKC: My point was that the other side doesn’t have to be “noxious” – the argument for buffer states don’t rise and fall with a direct threat of an invasion. The latter is a non-discussion as far as I see it.

As for Tibet and suppression, the historical background is more complex than just having it as a buffer state against India. Given that India as a unified nation didn’t even exist before the British invasion and had very little contact with Chinese empires, it’s for other reasons that this conflict exists in the first place. Like Tsering Shakya notes in the introduction to his book “The Dragon in the Land of Snows,” the story of China and Tibet through the ages is one of two large, overlapping circles, and both China and the Tibetan government-in-exile have to deny part of that history to make their claims since the concept of sovereignty and nation state wasn’t even on people’s mental map then.

@t_co: Ditto.

November 10, 2012 @ 5:09 am | Comment

@t_co / @general consensus,

People inside Tibet burning themselves is hardly an example of the Tibetan exile community rallying around a leader. In fact, the exile meeting last month produced a statement asking Tibetans in Tibet to stop sacrificing their lives. Anyway, have you ever heard the expression “The king is dead! Long live the king!”? Bad news for the CCP: there’s always going to be a Dalai Lama in Dharamsala until the Chinese government comes to terms with him.

November 10, 2012 @ 7:10 am | Comment

@Wukailong,

I think it’s fair to say that avoiding the possibility of a ground invasion from India is one of China’s strategic considerations. However, it has become relatively less important over the last 50 years. In the context of the threat of a worldwide war between the Communist and non-Communist powers and/or in the immediate aftermath of a shooting war with India, defending against a ground invasion was a crucial life-and-death concern that didn’t seem hypothetical. A Chinese government looking at Tibet with truly fresh eyes might weigh the pros and cons of their options in Tibet differently now.

I have made in the past a “Modest Proposal”, according to which Tibet would become independent on the condition that it sign a treaty with China guaranteeing permanent Chinese military bases in strategically important places in the Himalayas. This is essentially the same as the arrangement made between the U.S. and the Philippines.

November 10, 2012 @ 7:17 am | Comment

@Wukailong – India existed as a united empire under the Mughals, and before that large parts of India were ruled by the Sultanate of Delhi. The British ‘invasion’ (more a process of gradual encroachment in competition with the French and hand-in-hand with local allies) only started to advance when the Mughal Empire entered a period of disunity, as late as 1700 almost the entirety of what today is India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan were nominally ruled from Delhi.

To say that India did not exist because it was ruled over by a Muslim emperor is similar to saying that China did not exist because it was ruled by the Qing – true to an extent, but potentially misleading in many other ways. Of course, India and China are both modern creations to a certain extent, the result of late 19th and 20th century nation-building campaigns by western-influenced nationalists and intellectuals like Nehru and Sun.

November 10, 2012 @ 3:40 pm | Comment

The suppression tactics on Tibet will probably last until the full assimilation of the ethnic Tibetans.

The fact of the matter is that the Tibetans reside on valuable real estate which the Chinese state holds a clear & unattached title to.

The Himalayas is a natural border between 2 nuclear armed states where force projection by one party over it is difficult. The Chinese realize that and have built a road connecting Xinjiang to Western Tibet, and have also more recently built the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

Forfeiture of the central hub of their hub & spoke strategy would be a massive loss.

Although Mr. Kerner’s plan would be most humane in an ideal, utopian world, it’s not manageable in real life.

Hypothetically, if Tibet receives independence & initially agrees to the Himalayan garrison, what’s to stop them from revoking that agreement? China will then be in a position where they have to disregard the will of a sovereign state and maintain the garrisons using duress. The Tibetans, being sovereign, can then request Indian military intervention. Although India might be wont to commit to such military adventurism, such a request is a valid pretext for war.

Thus, China will never give up its force multiplier which is Tibet.
Whether the Chinese people have a say or not, it’s never going to happen.

Remember, the Chinese military & it’s government are not idiots. And the Chinese population is not that idiotic, which is why they implicitly support the suppression.

They know what happened when Wu SanGui opened the gates of the Great Wall for the Manchu banners. If you don’t get that reference then let me give another example: they know what happened to Rome when Emperor Valens allowed the Goths cross the Danube.

November 11, 2012 @ 1:32 am | Comment

People inside Tibet burning themselves is hardly an example of the Tibetan exile community rallying around a leader. In fact, the exile meeting last month produced a statement asking Tibetans in Tibet to stop sacrificing their lives. Anyway, have you ever heard the expression “The king is dead! Long live the king!”? Bad news for the CCP: there’s always going to be a Dalai Lama in Dharamsala until the Chinese government comes to terms with him.

It’s not the burnings man, it’s the unity of moderate and hardline Tibetans under one political banner. The Chinese would much rather the Tibetan movement split itself in two, with the moderate faction needing negotiated concessions from the Chinese side in order to maintain its legitimacy amongst the Tibetan people. Such a situation would create the “right conditions for negotiations”, such as what happened to the IRA and the Palestinian movement (Fatah vs Hamas); such a situation would create negotiations that would lead to a strong advantage for the Chinese side. Until that happens, as the Chinese hold the status quo, there is no room for negotiations.

November 11, 2012 @ 4:02 am | Comment

India existed as a united empire under the Mughals, and before that large parts of India were ruled by the Sultanate of Delhi. The British ‘invasion’ (more a process of gradual encroachment in competition with the French and hand-in-hand with local allies) only started to advance when the Mughal Empire entered a period of disunity, as late as 1700 almost the entirety of what today is India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan were nominally ruled from Delhi.
To say that India did not exist because it was ruled over by a Muslim emperor is similar to saying that China did not exist because it was ruled by the Qing – true to an extent, but potentially misleading in many other ways. Of course, India and China are both modern creations to a certain extent, the result of late 19th and 20th century nation-building campaigns by western-influenced nationalists and intellectuals like Nehru and Sun.

Seconded here–although I would go one step further in stating that Nehru was a much more successful nationalist than Sun ever was. Of course, Mao bears partial responsibility for this as well, as his dynastic and quasi-Imperial ways severely retarded the development of China’s political culture.

The end result is that China is not necessarily a nation-state so much as it is a civilization-state, much as if the Egyptian or Persian Empires survived to the present day. Deng and Sun deserve ample credit for “nationalizing” China, but the transformation is only half complete. China has the butterfly wings of a modern economy but still the squat body of a naive understanding of Westphalian foreign policy and stunted domestic political discourse. One of Xi’s main tasks will be to complete the transformation of China into a nation that can truly soar above the rest.

November 11, 2012 @ 4:09 am | Comment

I have made in the past a “Modest Proposal”, according to which Tibet would become independent on the condition that it sign a treaty with China guaranteeing permanent Chinese military bases in strategically important places in the Himalayas. This is essentially the same as the arrangement made between the U.S. and the Philippines.

This wouldn’t work, because China would never entrust its physical security to the good graces of another state, and that’s assuming that the Tibetan exile movement can persuade all Chinese to somehow stop thinking of Tibet as their integral territory.

November 11, 2012 @ 4:17 am | Comment

To T-Co,
“This wouldn’t work, because China would never entrust its physical security to the good graces of another state”
—but if it did, and say Tibet reneged on the type of agreement Otto suggests, China would simply overrun Tibet and re-establish what would currently be the status quo…only with the actual justification of Tibet not honouring such a mutual defense pact (or whatever it would be called).

As it is, and as I’ve said, China is using a part of itself (ie Tibetans) as the “buffer” for the rest of her, which is not a buffer in any standard sense of the concept. Tibetans become expendable, and their purpose in China is to serve as human shields. And if that’s the way CHina sees it, then that’s that, cuz Tibetans are in no position to alter it. But at least we should dispense with the notion and rhetoric that China has Tibetan best interests at heart, or that Tibetans are considered a part of the multi-ethnic Chinese community. Let’s just call a spade a spade.

+++++++++++++++++++++

To Calvin,
“if Tibet receives independence & initially agrees to the Himalayan garrison, what’s to stop them from revoking that agreement?”
—the threat of the PLA should serve as a good deterrent. If they could do it in 1959, they can surely do it again now or in the future.

“The Tibetans, being sovereign, can then request Indian military intervention. Although India might be wont to commit to such military adventurism, such a request is a valid pretext for war.”
—if India wanted a war with CHina, why would they need a pretext? They could invade tomorrow. T-co says it’s possible, in the sense that anything under the sun is possible. But i’d say it’s barely plausible, and certainly not probable.

And if the best military justification for occupying Tibet is an analogy to the Great Wall of China and Mongols…jeez, I thought it’s 2012.

November 11, 2012 @ 6:40 am | Comment

@t_co #17 Interesting take. Typically, Tibetan exiles have argued that the Chinese need to negotiate with them now because in the future the movement might splinter apart and become much more violent and hard to deal with. You’re suggesting that that’s the goal: wait for the Tibetans to splinter so they can do divide and conquer.

November 11, 2012 @ 9:04 am | Comment

“if India wanted a war with CHina, why would they need a pretext? They could invade tomorrow. T-co says it’s possible, in the sense that anything under the sun is possible. But i’d say it’s barely plausible, and certainly not probable.”

This may be so, but as I said before, the Himalayas is a natural boundary and is a force multiplier. India may not even think of invading at present, but once an obstacle is removed, new possibilities emerge. The status quo is an equilibrium point, as they say in game theory.

“And if the best military justification for occupying Tibet is an analogy to the Great Wall of China and Mongols…jeez, I thought it’s 2012.”

Infantry and tanks move faster on paved roads and level ground, same as hundreds of years ago. A chokepoint remains a chokepoint.

Like I said before, the Chinese state is not stupid. It is really difficult to convince a party to do something that’s not in their best interests if they possess a modicum of intelligence. Such is life.

November 11, 2012 @ 2:02 pm | Comment

I’m no expert in game theory. But even if Tibet is a country and not a province, there would still be the small matter of the Himalayas themselves. Precisely because those mountains serve as a huge boundary and barrier, having an extra plateau in the way seems like a relatively insignificant obstacle. Besides, in otto’s suggestion, there would still be an arrangement for pla bases.

You’re also assuming that Tibet being a country rather than a province would spur Indian oats for an invasion. You’re talking t-co level possibilities here. Sure, it’s possible, but really? A bank changing its security arrangement won’t make me more inclined to rob it. I don’t see how a change in the political arrangement for Tibet with no material change in pla defense posture would suddenly spur India to think about doing something stupid and getting their asses kicked.

I have no illusions about Ccp china doing the right thing. But the military/strategic angle seems to me to be a particularly ame excuse for the status quo.

November 11, 2012 @ 2:28 pm | Comment

Just for the record, I think this is the first time I’ve seen a discussion about Tibet where people have different opinions and it didn’t descend into name-calling or something nastier…

I’d like to comment more on this topic, but due to time constraints, I’ll just have to quote one of the greatest minds alive, “I’ll talk more later.”

November 12, 2012 @ 3:25 am | Comment

There was a fairly nice discussion (or pair of threads, as I recall) on Tibet a while back on this site. It was me, Otto, SKC, Tsarong, FOARP, and a few others.

November 12, 2012 @ 7:53 am | Comment

Similar to an independent Palestine, an independent Tibet is a pipe-dream, and has been now for more than a decade. The reasons why are also similar – the central government is committed to ensuring the position of settlers in the region and of ensuring ‘security’ of the main part of the state by controlling the region. Add to this the rhetoric of never conceding even a centimetre of territory (let’s forget Mongolia) and you can see how locked-in the present situation is.

A comparison to the ‘split’ in the Provisional IRA (something which followed, and did not precede the Good Friday Agreement) is a dangerous one. PIRA was slowly ground down over two decades of ridiculously expensive counter-insurgency, and always had demographics against them. Instead the comparison might just as easily be made to the split in Official IRA in the 1960′s which formed the much more extreme (and, shorn of the ridiculous Marxism of the OIRA, much more popular) PIRA and led to the Republican insurgency.

The solution in the end was to remove the de facto discrimination against the Catholic minority. The leaders of Sinn Fein/PIRA (Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness) have remained the same since the 1970′s, the change has come about because of a learning experience on their part, not because of a change in leadership. The same, of course, is true of the Ulster Loyalists whose discrimination against Catholics drove the entire conflict. With the exception of the revision of the Republic of Ireland’s constitution to remove any claim on Northern Ireland, the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement were almost exactly the same of those of the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement.

November 12, 2012 @ 3:00 pm | Comment

@Calvin – Yeah, we all remember how the CCP totally refused to give up Mongolia because it would give the Russians an easy invasion route into China . . . .

November 12, 2012 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

I find it interesting how the CCP’s defenders, normally so quick to denounce injustice when it occurs in the context of foreign nations acting in their interests, all embrace realpolitik when the integrity of the former Qing Empire is at stake.

November 14, 2012 @ 6:24 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.