Tibet – Shangri-La on steroids

Somehow I missed this priceless column in The Global Times (and I thank this blogger for pointing it out).

This extraordinary travelogue tripe article by the former UN ambassador to Bolivia. After gushing over the joys of China liberating the Tibetans from serfdom and the shiny new infrastructure all Tibetans should be grateful for, the author really ramps up the propaganda:

I had a chance to talk to some educators in Tibet. I asked them about the language used in primary education, weary of the alleged loss of the Tibetan language in the formal education system. I was told the kids learn three languages: Tibetan, Chinese and English! I had thought my own children were something of a special case, as they have been learning French, Spanish and Finnish since they started schooling, but I realize these Tibetan kids will be as internationally literate as my children are, with all the same opportunities that will provide them in life.

…Then there was a family of herdsmen; being summer, they were living in their tent (and beside the tent there was a small solar panel for generating electricity enough for hot water, TV, and the lights in the evening), however they told us they already had a fix house in the village, where they would stay during the winter. And best of all: the government is subsidizing 30% of the new housing, which has been built in collaborative efforts by the villagers, and display the characteristics of the traditional Tibetan culture, both in terms of the materials used and the colorful decorations in the main rooms inside.

These houses are very bright, spacious and beautifully decorated. I saw several generations living there together. What I hadn’t realized before is that the life expectancy of a Tibetan used to be a mere 35 years – couldn’t see so many generations there together in the past – whereas now the life expectancy has doubled to 67 years. This is not only an impressive testament of the improvement of the human rights in Tibet during the past 50 years, but it also provides the old folks the opportunity to tell their grandchildren what life was like in the past. They will pass on the best of the Tibetan culture to their grandchildren, and they will also be able to tell how much life has improved since 1959!

Where’s my motion sickness bag?

Check out the very humorous comments to the blog post that led me to this puffiest of puff pieces. I don’t think I’ve ever seen every talking point about Tibet squeezed so neatly (and breathlessly) into a single vessel. It’s fitting that the blogger brings it up in the context of the Ask Alessandro columns; this one is nearly as funny.

For the record: I am not a Free Tibet groupie and I acknowledge the good China has done for Tibet, and the bad. Where I can never stop ragging on The Party is its dopey propaganda efforts to create a perception of modern-day Tibet that is nearly as ridiculous as the Western perceptions based on the James Hilton novel and the sentimental movie that followed it (and which, admittedly, I loved as a teenager; there’s no doubt these works of fiction helped put some serious stars in Americans’ eyes).

I was pretty random in my quote selection from the GT article. Do be sure to read it all.


Why won’t they love and appreciate us?

A NY Times reporter describes his state-run tour of Tibet (and state-run is the only type of tour a foreign journalist is going to get in Tibet):

One warm morning on the campus of Tibet University, a couple of foreign journalists on a government-run tour of Tibet quietly broke away from the group to talk to students standing on a grassy lawn. Security guards dashed in and waved the students away.

….The next day, two tour buses and a police escort shuttled us around. At a village called Gaba, we talked to residents about new homes they had built with subsidies and loans under a government mandate called the “comfortable housing” program, begun in 2006. Gaba was a model village, and clearly not representative. In fact, the visit to Gaba was reminiscent of ones during the Cultural Revolution, when officials brought foreigners to similar model villages to demonstrate the country’s progress.

(The living room décor did not help: In each home, there was the same poster featuring the smiling countenances of Mao, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, the three paramount leaders of China.)

There were occasional reminders of reality. One morning, our minders wrung their hands when cameramen on my bus filmed more than 150 military trucks with ethnic Han soldiers rumbling along a highway to Lhasa.

There’s more. But it’s all business as usual.

What I want to know is who are the two reporters referenced at the very end. I can hazard a guess (but won’t).


China 2013 and “social science fiction” in China

Xujun Eberlein’s review of the controversial novel The Prosperous Time: China 2013 is must reading for anyone interested in the evolution of science fiction, politically charged or not, in China. And for anyone interested in post-Cultural Revolution literature in general. And for anyone interested at all in China. See her blog post about it as well, and follow the links.