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Nov 14

Understanding China geopolitically

Written by justkeeper on Saturday, November 14th, 2009 at 7:08 pm
Filed under:-mini-posts, Analysis |
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I just came across this old post on Sun-Bin:http://sun-bin.blogspot.com/2008/10/john-mauldins-geopolitics-of-china.html, which I am sure most of you must have read, most of the points in that article are valid and verifiable, but there are two I believe to be particularly helpful in understanding the mindset of Chinese people and considerations of Chinese leaders in their policymaking:

  1. The statement “However — and this is the single most important fact about China — it has about one-third the arable land per person as the rest of the world. This pressure has defined modern Chinese history — both in terms of living with it and trying to move beyond it.” — understanding this will help one understand why the PRC leaders often talked about survival as one key elements of ‘human right”, they are serious about this, historically many people die (in fact, famine was commonplace in Chinese history) whenever there was upheaval (and vice versa).
  2. The geopolitical impreative that China needs to Maintain control of the buffer regions.(Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet, etc).


I would like to expand a little more on the two points, another thing you absolutely need to take into consideration when you’re studying China is: the war and peace between the Han and its neighbor ethnics is the one and ever recurrent theme of Chinese history. If you check the  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_disasters_by_death_toll, the top 4 positions looked very interesting:

  1. World War II   80 million deaths
  2. An Shi Rebellion   30 million deaths (An Lushan, the rebel leader, is a Sogdian, one of the nomadic tribes).
  3. Mongol Invasions   30-60 million deaths(I think this should be in the 2nd position actually).
  4. Manchu Invasions   20-30 million deaths.

Besides the insurmountable WWII, positions 2-4 are all occupied by conflicts happening within China, in fact, wars claiming more than one quarter of Chinese lives happened approximately every 300 years after Qin’s first unification of China, that’s really horrdenous. And every conflict is closely related to the three factors stated above. And I am going to explain a number of phenomenons unique to China using the three factors.

  1. They could be used to explain why most of Chinese people placing the stability of their society above everything in their value system: the Chinese agriculture and social structure established upon it is a delicate system needs extremely careful maintenance, it’s historically proven that anything that destabilizing the society could potentially lead to unpredictable events that could wreak havocs on the agricultural production and distribution of  living necessities, which could result in dreadful consequences.
  2. They could also be used to explain why Chinese people and elites in the society never considered a large-scale revolt or revolution against the government as a option to counter many of its repressive policies and the widespreading corruption.  The pursuit of freedom of speech or political rights through violent means would destabilize the society to the extent that the cost becomes unaffordable.(The 109 years of wars and turmoils in China left nearly 100 million people dead unnaturally).
  3. These factors could also partly justify the government’s insistence on state-ownership of land:the government has drawn a redline for the minimum amount of farmland allowed in the whole country which could ensure a yearly output of grains not only able to satisfy the demand of the whole country, but also allow the government to store up to 40% of the total yearly output to be used as disaster relief during the years of natural disasters(drought, flood, etc). Completely free sales of land would motivate the farmers to repurpose their lands to be used in other businesses since the extra supply of grains on the market will make crop-planting unprofitable, thus undermining the government’s food reservation project. On the other hand, the perpetual extra supply of food on the market under current policies will lead to low prices of agricultural products, which is one great reason why China’s urban-rural gap is so big, and China’s Gini coefficient is so high.
  4. The many deadly wars between the Han and other ethnics in the history make the central government always highly suspicious of, and even hostile to a strong presence of any ethnic minority in the buffer zone area.
  5. The emperors’ interests with constructing the Great Wall is thus easily understandable, the loss of lives by overwork may be many, the investment may be huge, but the cost will seem acceptable if the Wall can really withstand the attack of the nomadic tribes.
  6. Once the nomads breached the Wall, the imperial government must be immediately informed of the situation, and relief troops must be sent as soon as possible, while a large army far away from the capital could become uncontrollable and may revolt against the government. With these considerations, Beijing is chosen as the capital in spite of its harsh natural conditions after the fall of the Song Dynasty, which comes as a direct result of 16 prefectures in the Youyun, including Beijing, being ceded to Liao, a country established by a nomadic tribe.

My conclusion is that the lack of arable land, the need to establish buffer zone against foreign forces and the relationship between Han and other ethnics are three important factors shaping the historical development of China geopolitically, your ideas an suggestions?


There are currently 10 comments highlighted: 53396, 53512, 53737, 54667, 54674, 54801, 54924, 54931, 55038, 55068.

139 Responses to “Understanding China geopolitically”

  1. wuming Says:

    Interesting and thought provoking piece.

    It is very clear that China cannot not adopt the life styles of US and Europe for the simple fact that there is not enough resource in the whole world to support that. So the relevant question that has been asked on this forum many times is: can China afford to adopt the governing ideologies of US and west?

    As the cliche goes, freedom is not free. The common understanding of the cliche is that with freedom comes responsibilities. But this understanding misses a more obvious meaning of the phrase, namely the western style freedom and democracy was built on top of wealth, and much of that wealth ill-begotten (colonialism, slavery, control of international trade currency …) We still do not have examples of the democracy succeeding where it is not already rich.

  2. TonyP4 Says:

    Most likely China can only support half the population by its natural resources and farm land. China has been doing great. To illustrate, China per capita has only 1/4 of the average water and BJ is 1/30. It is not impossible as Japan does not have much resources per capita.

    Though I do not agree with CCP in many areas, I have to praise them in last 25 years or so for doing a great job to fulfill the basic human rights: food, shelter and clothes. Hopefully with basic necessities satisfied, we will see more freedom, cleaner water/air and basic health care.

  3. justkeeper Says:

    @wuming&TonyP4 :One of my purposes to write this article is to remind people: despite the breathtaking speed of progress of China, despite being widely considered to be an emerging superpower and many of our people’s completely 21st century lifestyle, the China of the medieval times, the era of war and chaos, haven’t left us for long. It was only a little bit more than 30 years ago when most of China are literally medieval, and a massive popular movement nearly transformed into a civil war. The only time when the transition of supreme ruling power between people with no kinship through peaceful means within China mainland, in all of China’s 4000 years of history, took place just a little bit more than 5 years ago. China remains a very fragile country, we have a lot to do before everything happen in a stable framework, before the power transition becomes institutionalized, before everything is regulated by law and people are no longer easily demagogued. But people today have already started to forget about the past, asking people on the street why the capital need to be established in Beijing and I’m sure most people will give you a incorrect answer.

  4. Raj Says:

    wuming

    It is very clear that China cannot not adopt the life styles of US and Europe for the simple fact that there is not enough resource in the whole world to support that. So the relevant question that has been asked on this forum many times is: can China afford to adopt the governing ideologies of US and west?

    Can it afford to not do so? Do you think that the current political system will survive restrictions in resources, luxuries, etc that the future might bring? The CCP survives on booming growth, cheap(-ish) and plentiful luxury goods (TVs, cars, fridges, etc are luxuries whatever people might think), as well as other things you can find from the developed world lifestyle. Take that away, saying that everyone will have to accept less than people used to have and certainly not have more, and I’m not sure everything will be sunlight and sweetnesses. I think you will find more and more Chinese people starting to pick up the mantra of “no taxation without representation” – i.e. if they have to suffer, they’ll want to decide who is in office to minimize the pain.

    Also it’s not as if China alone will have to undergo sacrifices. If things get that bad we will all have to scale back our lifestyles. Are you suggesting that democracy will die in Europe? If not, why will China require autocracy/be unable to have democracy yet we will be able to carry on with democracy if we face the same/similar problems?

    We still do not have examples of the democracy succeeding where it is not already rich.

    America and Britain had democracy, bar restrictions on the size of the electorate, long before they became the rich, modern nations that they are today. Japan became democratic (though with more restrictions than in North America & Europe) as it grew in the 19th century. Similarly its amazing growth in the second half of the 20th century was preceded by democratic reforms after WWII.

    Amongst developing states, in places like Africa the most successful ones are the democracies. Botswana and South Africa are good examples. In SE Asia, countries have successfully embraced democracy even though they’re not developed or rich. It can easily be argued that they’ve benefited from democracy too.

    Why do some people on this forum keep repeating the fantasy that you have to be rich to be democratic?

  5. wuming Says:

    Raj,

    You can keep reading my post the way you choose to of course, but I did not necessarily link whether China can afford American life style with whether she can afford to adopt American political system. I merely observed a parallel. The restrictions, as you correctly pointed out, will be imposed on us regardless. At that time, whether western democracies can survive or not is an open question like it is for China and all other nations.

    As for US and Britain, you once again read something you like into my post. I never used “modern” in my description, I used “rich”, which is relative, with it’s basic criteria being the ability to sustain a substantial middle class in the modern time and a land owning class in the past. Or more simply a stake holding class have their expectations met. In that sense, both US and Britain certainly qualified before they become democratic. In the case of US, slavery helped greatly in the initial wealth creation stage, and becoming more democratic as it was getting richer, not the other way round.

    I am not familiar with Botswana, but South Africa was rich before it became democratic. And whether it is successful is debatable.

    Until a modern but poor country of reasonable size turns democratic and then prospers economically, I think most of us can judge what is fantasy and what is reality.

  6. wuming Says:

    justkeeper,

    I very much appreciate your point about the fragility of China. There is very little margin for error given the condition of China for probably several hundred years. The survival the Chinese nation is almost accidental, and that if you ignore many gaps when the physical China could have been counted as extinct, merely the culture had survived.

  7. Raj Says:

    wuming

    I used “rich”, which is relative, with it’s basic criteria being the ability to sustain a substantial middle class in the modern time and a land owning class in the past.

    That’s your view – I certainly don’t agree that automatically means a nation is rich (especially as “substantial” is subjective).

    In any case, even if it were correct your examples of Britain and the US were inappropriate because the wealth was greatly concentrated in the early 19th and 18th centuries – the middle classes were not that large. Also, as I said, they had restrictions on the size of the electorate but still had democracy in many ways. The US certainly was still democratic in that it had rule of law, regular multi-party elections, a free (compared to China, anyway) press, etc.

    I am not familiar with Botswana, but South Africa was rich before it became democratic.

    I’m not sure that South Africa is rich or that it was before the advent of democracy. There’s still a lot of poverty there you wouldn’t associate with a rich nation.

    Until a modern but poor country of reasonable size turns democratic and then prospers economically, I think most of us can judge what is fantasy and what is reality.

    If you were to say that Indonesia were rich then I’m not sure which countries could be called poor. Indonesia has turned “democratic” and is doing fine economically.

  8. S.K. Cheung Says:

    While a buffer zone might have strategic usefulness in the days of the Great Wall, how relevant is it in 2009 when there are air forces?

    If China needs a buffer zone, from what/whom does she need to be buffered in 2009?

    I always thought a buffer was something external that you kept between yourself and something “undesirable”, as alluded to above. That notwithstanding, how does a “buffer” (which I presume is code for Tibet and similar regions of western China) do its job when it is actually a part of the nation that supposedly requires such buffering? I can only imagine the warm and fuzzy feelings Tibetans and their neighbours feel when they are told that they are the buffers for Han Chinese.

  9. justkeeper Says:

    @S.K Cheung: Welcome to the world of real politics, I don’t think you believe the CCP leaders, and all its predecessors, occupying these far and remote areas with the only intention to liberate these people of other ethnics from the Dark Ages, didn’t you? It’s an unspeakable thing no one will acknowledge but geopolitical advantage is all that really matters to them. (Not even exploiting the resources on the Tibetan Plateau, it would be like an easier version of shipping resources from the moon). Regarding the necessities of the buffer zones, explain to me why U.S needed to militarily occupy Nicaragua for 20 years, and intervened in the country several times before and after that, most recently by supporting Contras through CIA’s arms deal in 1980’s. it’s all a sphere of influence issue, once you withdraw your influence from an area, unpredictable things could ensue.(“What could be our next target after Tibetan Independence? Hmmm, wasn’t most of Qinghai territory of Tibetan Empire 1000 years ago and still has a large Tibetan population there? Free Qinghai!”Or “Now we have a unified Korean Peninsula, time to get back the Changbai Mountains and Liaodong Peninsula from China!”)

    OK, OK, I’ll be straightforward here and tell you which countries need to be buffered, what about India, Russia, and Korea(unified)?

  10. Raj Says:

    Further to my post #7, India (as some people here like to crow) is poor. It’s also large. It’s democratic and growing.

    justkeeper

    I’ll be straightforward here and tell you which countries need to be buffered, what about India, Russia, and Korea(unified)?

    India shares only a small border with China. Russia (near China, at least) is fairly sparsely populated – there’s no threat of war there unless China decides to annex Siberia. Korea isn’t going to unify in our lifetimes, unless the Kim regime collapses – which China will make sure won’t happen. Even if they did unify, South Korea would spend decades focused on sorting out the basket-case North. Conflict with China would be even less on its mind than it is now.

  11. justkeeper Says:

    @Raj: Indians are, well, as far as I am concerned, somehow as nationalistic as Chinese, when a government decides to join a war, many times it’s under the pressure of its own people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that a new Sino-India war is possible today, but what if we suppose CCP had never occupied Tibet…..

    About Russia and Korea, I think you know Chinese governments are known to plan 100 years ahead and execute these plans? Russia, given its enormous size, would never be satisfied with being just a regional power, there’ll very likely be a day when a conflict between the two superpower wannabes in inevitable. And if Chinese history has taught us anything, it’s that our northern neighbours should never be ignored(reason why the capital is in Beijing), and we may not need to wait a long time for the collapse of the North Korean regime, given its highly repressive nature, although China will do everything to prevent this from happening, but history is full of drastic changes triggered by odd events.

  12. Raj Says:

    justkeeper (11)

    when a government decides to join a war, many times it’s under the pressure of its own people

    That’s the same regardless of the political system, though autocratic/dictatorial regimes can be worse because when their support drops and they fear a revolution they will try to whip up nationalism. In contrast there’s no fear of Gordon Brown invading France to try to get the Labour Party re-elected.

    what if we suppose CCP had never occupied Tibet

    Maybe there would not have been a Sino-Indian War and relations would be better between the two countries.

    I think you know Chinese governments are known to plan 100 years ahead and execute these plans?

    In 100 years any country in the world could be a threat to China. So does that mean we’re going to see China invade and occupy strategic points all over the globe in the next couple of decades “just in case”?

    You know, often acting out of paranoia actually causes conflict rather than avoid it.

    Russia, given its enormous size, would never be satisfied with being just a regional power, there’ll very likely be a day when a conflict between the two superpower wannabes in inevitable.

    How is Russia starting a war with China going to help it become/remain a global power? China doesn’t have much that it wants/needs. All the resources are in Siberia. There’s little for Russia to gain and a lot for it to lose. In contrast the potential benefits for China are much higher. If you want to suggest that China would annex/re-conquer that part of Russia to get the oil and gas, fine, but there’s no realistic prospect of Russia attacking.

    we may not need to wait a long time for the collapse of the North Korean regime

    So after say 100 years, why is a unified Korea going to want to attack China? Again, what does China have that Korea would need to sieze by military force that it couldn’t buy from China or another country?

  13. sun bin Says:

    thanks for the link…didn’t think such an old post will be brought up again.

    re discussion about buffer state/zone. please see cominganarchy’s posts a few years ago, eg the post of nepal.

    i think the point raised here that today physically distance is greatly shortened as a result of technology advances is valid, and that the world today is much less belligerent as pre-cold war also true. but the key messages of these posts (i believe also that of maudlin and stratfor’s) are from a phenomenological perspective, i.e. understanding what leads to what. and hende the psychology of the leader (and in part also the people in general — which are shaped by what they have learned — including propanganda, and which in turn pressured the government from doing otherwise).

    even though the geopilitical importance has diminished today, it does not mean they (these threats) are gone, so such concerns are still there (whether they are justifiable or not — and i do think there is certain justification), albeit may not be as prominent.


    re: india & Russia
    1) the fact that india shares not a lot of border with china IS PRECISELY the result of buffer states of Nepal and Bhutan. if you read Neville Maxwell’s account on the 1962 war you know why you should be more worried if you neighbors India (vs China). India does not have a very good track record — think pakistan/sikkim/goa/(and links to tamil tigers in sri lanka), which make burma the only neighbor which was not stained by conflict — and India was a democracy ever since it was established
    2) “there’s no threat of war there unless China decides to annex Siberia” — you must be kidding me 🙂
    Russia’s record was even worse. from the baltic states to outer manchuria to georgia….perhaps Gorby was the real peacemaker. but the fact that Gorby is not longer in power demonstrates why geopolitical thinking is more about “geography” than “whether the country is democratic or not/etc” — this does not mean geopolitical thinking is what one should think about, it just means that it exists as a matter of fact and people are influenced by such factors.

    again, this is from historical/track record perspective. china had its share of expansionism, but it was mostly over 200 years ago, by the Qing Empire.

    if one believes that “there’s no threat of war there unless China decides to annex Siberia”, one may want to convince India the same re Tibet(Siberia) and China(Russia). Not a good analogy, but shows how absurd such statement is.

  14. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Justkeeper #9:
    “I don’t think you believe the CCP leaders, and all its predecessors, occupying these far and remote areas with the only intention to liberate these people of other ethnics from the Dark Ages, didn’t you?” — I don’t. But there is no shortage of folks around here who would trip over themselves to expound on the virtue of “Chinese liberation” of Tibetans from serfdom and the brotherly love that “all Chinese” share with their Tibetan kin. In fact, there are comments on other threads within the last 24 hours that basically say that. I’m actually surprised you haven’t had your knuckles rapped for suggesting that the occupation of Tibet is for anything other than the eternal benefit of Tibetans.

    “It’s an unspeakable thing no one will acknowledge but geopolitical advantage is all that really matters to them.” — it’s extremely refreshing that you would acknowledge this, rather than the usual rehash of the playbook. Though I might disagree with such a motive as ample justification for usurping the rights of Tibetans, it at least seems like a pretty honest assessment. Sure beats “we’re doing this to Tibetans for the Tibetans’ own good”, or variations thereof.

  15. sun bin Says:

    @SKC

    well, i tend to think things are usually more complicated than any model could explain. while in my post i brought up geopolitic as one of the key issues, i would also like to emphasize that it is “one of the” consideration. to over-simplify it is misleading.
    along the same line of thought, Mao’s move into Tibet has multiple reason, geopolitic security is surely one of them. but mao was also preoccupied with bring his version of “universal value” to tibet, remember that “liberate the world” was the slogan until Mao’s death in mid-1970s. So, I would disagree with both of you above if what you meant was that it is “simply geopolitical”, ideology and “for their own good” is definitely one of the key factor as well (even if it may be, arguably, secondary to geopolitcal and nationalism)

  16. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Sun Bin,
    I haven’t read your post. I’m only responding to what Justkeeper has written here.

    My points so far are basically these:
    1. if you consider a part of your country to serve as a “buffer”, then you don’t really accept that part of the country as truly being part of your country, and are simply using it as a shield, human or otherwise.
    2. in that case, the people who live in that part of the country aren’t your “brothers”, they’re your buffer…a sort of disposable throwaway kind if the moment arose and push came to shove
    3. if that’s true, then it’s far less nauseating to admit that you’ve taken that territory to be part of your own for self-serving reasons, rather than to wax on about any altruistic motivations. And I admire Justkeeper for having the stones to say it.

    Since I haven’t read your post, my intent was not to “over-simplify” your position, since I’m not familiar with it.

  17. sun bin Says:

    @SKC

    thanks for your note.

    well, here is my view
    i don’t think i would call these areas buffers — in my view buffers usually refer to EXTERNAL areas. examples will be North Korea and Nepal (and some also mentioned Mongolia — “outer”)
    — so i agree with you if i understand you correctly

    as to ‘over-simplify’, i was saying this in a generic sense. that every event/phenonmenon we observe is what it is today because of a combination of many reasons/events. it is extremely rare that we could find one simple reason to explain something, or virtually anything. so with that in mind, i just want to note that what i brought up was one of the things one may want to think about and keep in mind — without letting it to prejudice any other fact/reasoning that you may have saw of thought of elsewhere.

    cheers!

  18. justkeeper Says:

    @SKC &sun bin: I would tend to believe the CCP occupation of Tibet, regardless of its intention, is practically mutual-beneficial. In fact, they probably understand that in order to stablize this region, they have to let local people see real improvements in their living standard, which they manage to do. And I believe Tibetans cannot achieve this without the help of an external force with strong regional interest in Tibet, if you’ve ever been there you’ll understand what I’m talking about, for a race to simply survive in this area, under the primitive conditions, was simply an miracle, let alone any modernization.(and I have to be honest with you on this issue, my junior high school had a “class of Tibetans” in which every student is a Tibetan, despite the best effort of our best teachers, their progress in their proficiencies in subjects like mathematics, physics, etc is still limited. I would say long time lack of oxygen is going to be detrimental to your cognitive system). The modernization is achieved without using Tibetans as slave labor and paid by taxpayers in the inland of China, probably the reason why we Han Chinese felt so betrayed when we heard of news of Lhasa riot.
    I’m not trying to be a materialist and disrespect Tibetans’ spiritual life. But to be fair to them, you have to let them have a taste of what life with enough food, clothes and modern facilities is like before you ask them to decide which way to go, isn’t it?

    Now if we return to the intention issue, I don’t know about Mao, but if it was a traditionally minded Chinese leader, I believe it would be very hard for him/her to have a warm, tender feeling with the Tibetans. The history was written there, with blood.

  19. sun bin Says:

    @justkeeper,

    i m not sure if i agree with all you said, though i believe there is certain truth in this. however, let me repeat something that has been said (which chinese and chinese leaders need to understand)

    1. not all tibetan appreciate economic progress brought to them. han chinese need to consider the good they believe they have brought to tibet is not necessarily perceived the same way as the receiver — anaolgy would be US preaching “universal value” to many chinese.
    2. even if the serf appreciated the progress brought to them in late 1950s early 1960s, they may not think the same today, and even less so for their offspring.
    3. an an analogy, the lower caste in india are content with their current caste status and suppression imposed upon them, because they believe in karma and put their hope in theier next incarnation — tibetan buddhism subscribe to the similar karma/reincarnation mechanism, hence the stability of the suppressive serf systme for some 15 centuries of time
    4. there are plenty of counter-examples to associate the underdevelopment of tibet to its culture/environment/etc. one of them is the size of the tibetan empire around 900 AD. where it had most of today’s western china + yunnan + burma etc. it had established a very sizeable empire with such a thin population base and adverse climatic/economic base. at the apogee of tibetan empire it has about 2/3 the size of today’s PRC!

    it is with these context in mind that i read your comments above.

  20. justkeeper Says:

    @sun bin#19:

    1. not all tibetan appreciate economic progress brought to them. han chinese need to consider the good they believe they have brought to tibet is not necessarily perceived the same way as the receiver — anaolgy would be US preaching “universal value” to many chinese.
    Completely agree here, but what I was saying is: why people in the China inland are feeling so betrayed toward the Tibetans. The policy might not be correct, but the inland Chinese do have a reason to complain.
    2. even if the serf appreciated the progress brought to them in late 1950s early 1960s, they may not think the same today, and even less so for their offspring.

    Here is an old National Geographic article http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/tibetans/simons-text/1 about the real attitudes of Tibetans toward Chinese occupation which I believe to be authored by someone who is trying his best to make an objective judgement based on information he has access to, well worth reading. About my take on this issue, I believe Tibetans should have someone who really know how to determine their own destinies before they talk about their self-determination, show me a sensible plan then I will believe, otherwise, they may need to know in the real world, you don’t get you self-determination by asking other people, since the current CCP policy maybe the only way we Han Chinese people(Attention, I’m not saying the CCP leaders, we can’t change their arrangement directly, but we can try to influence it) understand when it comes to be good to Tibetans, we are not Tibetans anyway.

    3. an an analogy, the lower caste in india are content with their current caste status and suppression imposed upon them, because they believe in karma and put their hope in theier next incarnation — tibetan buddhism subscribe to the similar karma/reincarnation mechanism, hence the stability of the suppressive serf systme for some 15 centuries of time

    As I have said, I believe the Tibetans should be given the right to experience what a really well-off human life is like before you ask them to make a choice, people can’t make a choice when they have no choice.

    4. there are plenty of counter-examples to associate the underdevelopment of tibet to its culture/environment/etc. one of them is the size of the tibetan empire around 900 AD. where it had most of today’s western china + yunnan + burma etc. it had established a very sizeable empire with such a thin population base and adverse climatic/economic base. at the apogee of tibetan empire it has about 2/3 the size of today’s PRC!

    Ah, there’re countless examples of sophisticated civilizations being destroyed by barbarians in the human history. (Song, Ming, Rome, Arab under Caliphate, etc). Being able to occupy a vast tract of land like the Mongols by waging a total war and sparing no one caught can’t convince me of you social development and achievement. And taking the upper-hand in military conflicts by training every male in your race into brutal and bloodthirsty warriors because the only other job for them is to herd the cattles, and the only way to accumulate any social wealth for your tribe is to plunder and loot, doesn’t make you a superior civilization. In fact, numerous nomadic tribes have created huge-sized empires in the Eurasian Steppe in the numerous centuries bygone. And it’s usually a rule that before the Industry Revolution a settlement civilization can’t withstand the attack of a nomadic one. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say the Tibetans must not have cultural/scientific achievements they could be proud of, but being able to establish a huge empire is not one of them.

  21. Josef Says:

    to wuming’s first comment:
    Germany after WWII was poor, people were starving to death. Please correct, but I read your lines like only a not-democratic government would have helped to improve.
    Furthermore there were never slaves in Germany, and for the colonies,- well Qing Dao but the stupid Prussian rulers started that late and only for a short term. I doubt they got too much wealth from that. They never controlled an international trade currency, so where is your ill-begotten wealth? Others: Austria once had a colony close to the north pole, called Franz-Josef’s Land, but that’s a joke. Switzerland was extremely poor before WWI and they did not get rich, profiting from the wars,- at least it is not that amount which makes Switzerland so rich today.

    to sun bins comment:
    “not all Tibetan appreciate economic progress brought to them”. I understand that. Is it really not possible that Tibetans ends the same way native Americans ended in the U.S.? Now, Mr. Obama says that “the US recognizes Tibet as part of China” (Xinhua) – well, if his “universal values” are not applicable for his own aborigines, why should he care for others? Yes, he also said that “the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama”, but the headlines was a sell-out of ideals.

    Now to justkeepers answer to “right to experience what a really well-off human life is”- it might be to late then and I believe containment actions (autonomy) should better be in place now. I really believe too, China is helping Tibet, but this help should not kill Tibet.

  22. wuming Says:

    Josef,

    Germany was fully industrialized without being democratic. After WWII, though the physical infrastructure was in disrepair, the human resource that could run the country was very much intact. And the Marshall Plan certainly helped a lot.

    I don’t understand why everyone is trying to define “rich” in such a narrow sense just to come up with examples of relatively poor country that became relatively rich under democracy. Of course America of the 19th century was a poor country by today’s standard, but what does that prove?

    I don’t think Justkeeper’s main point is well understood here. China does not have sufficient physical resource to sustain itself. It has been on the brink for many many centuries. I am nowhere close to be convinced that China can quickly and safely turn into a democracy, because I have not seen a comparable example. And please don’t tell me India sets a viable example for China. Hardly any Chinese believes that, and I don’t know how many Indians believe that. India is a wonderful country in many ways. But it squandered more than a half century going nowhere, except that the Indian democracy survived, which is a miracle indeed. But the value of democracy can not be mere survival of democracy.

  23. Josef Says:

    Wuming,
    I was too much focused on your “wealth ill-begotten”,- but there are other countries, like Sweden, Canada, Australia where democracy was or would not hamper that they became rich. It does not prove anything, you are correct, but on the other hand, the counter argument, that democracy would hamper or harm development can not be proven either. For China, it is just that a ruling class searches for arguments to keep their position.
    I personally regard the current Chinese government as very reasonable and would be afraid too, if any “Berlusconis”, by deluding the people, would rule the country. But on long term, a blood refresh, as it is forced in democracies, is mandatory.
    I would think it is not so much the loosing-a-buffer argument, but rather the example which the government is afraid of. But I wonder if there is not more space for compromises, like a Hong Kong model for Tibet or something in between.

  24. wuming Says:

    Josef,

    I am not holding a position on this subject that far from you. I have no intention to prove that democracy is bad for initial stage of development. Sweden, Canada and Australia are all countries with small population and in the later 2 cases with vast natural resources. In such cases, given a sufficiently competent government, the development will occur under a wide range of ideological systems. All things being equal, I would choose democracy any day. But the problem is things are not fair and equal.

    The industrialization process is a process of wealth accumulation and concentration. For China to industrialize now, it cannot do this through exploitation of colonies like in the case of Great Britain or through land acquisition and slave labor as in the case of US. It almost has to be done through exploitation of its own people. That is why the currency is pegged, consumption is not encouraged and social safety-net is porous. Wealth need to be concentrated to organize ever larger scale of industrial production. As I stated before, the margin for error is extremely small. Does anybody really think this is the environment where a democratic revolution is called for?

    Then what about gradual changes to a freer and more transparent society? I believe this is already occurring, but that is an argument for another day.

  25. jpan Says:

    #24

    “exploitation of its own people” is probably too strong a phrase, but certainly fit well with an argument from both the left and right wing.

    After all, West’s capitalism has entered into such an “advanced” stage that let people forget its humble origin and cruelty. It seemingly has lost its vigor too, but there comes China to rescue 🙂

    For one moment, folks with such opinion should realize there is no heaven on earth. That “good old warm” heart can’t feed millions in a winter, nor it could move them out of country-side into high rises of a city.

    One possible phrase to replace this “exploitation of its own people” was already prepared by Clinton — “It is economy, stupid!”

  26. Steve Says:

    @ justkeeper: This is a good topic and I appreciate your write up. The idea of provinces being “buffer zones” in China borders on the “politically incorrect” so maybe it’s best to say that they were originally incorporated into the Qing dynasty as primarily buffer zones but since that time have become an integral part of the Chinese nation. To act as if time doesn’t change circumstances isn’t realistic.

    Point 1: The problem here is overpopulation. China has taken the necessary steps to solve that problem but it will just take time to happen so in the meantime they need to feed, clothe and put to work that excess population. I think Monsanto is licking its chops.

    I have a question about your point #2: Wasn’t the Revolution itself a reaction to corruption and repressive policies of the KMT? Or were you referring to the more recent past?

    Point #3: I’d attribute this to basic Communist economic philosophy. Mao bought into Marxist theory and was willing to institute it on a grand scale. I think eventually the agricultural side of things will move towards private ownership of land, but that ownership will be regulated by the government precisely for the reasons you state.

    Points #4 and 5 sound good to me. For point #6, I’ve always wondered why the Ming put the capitol in Beijing rather than keep it in Nanjing. Beijing hasn’t been able to withstand attack very well in the past. Yours is the first explanation I’ve ever heard.

    I strongly believe that it serves not only China but also Tibet for the two of them to be united from a geopolitical point of view. By moving the border to the Himalayan ridge, both people buy themselves protection against invasion. If the two sides can solve their cultural friction, it makes sense to me for them to stay united in the long run.

    At the time of the Qing invasion of Xinjiang, I think it was viewed as a buffer zone to protect against attacks from the central Asian tribes. These days, the value is in natural resources and as in Tibet, it allows China to move its border up to a major mountain ridge. So these days, it makes sense in more than one way. For me, the Uyghur people seem to be a more difficult fit with the rest of China than places such as Tibet because of not only their religion but also their culture. But speaking strictly geopolitically, maintaining that area is vital to China’s defenses, especially if there are attacked from the northwest.

    Though Mongolia has lost most of its geopolitical importance over the centuries, the value might be more psychological than practical. From my time in northern China and from getting to know a few people from Inner Mongolia, they seemed to see themselves as completely Chinese but with a different cultural past and present in terms of their customs.

    Manchuria has been a part of China for so long that I don’t see it as a buffer zone at all. Maybe you can call the region near the North Korean a sort of buffer zone but if there is an actual buffer zone in that part of the world, it’d be inside Russia where some areas are really a part of Manchuria and not the other way ’round. ‘

    I won’t get into Taiwan. Allen would shoot me. 😉

    @ sun bin #13: I like your point about the states of Nepal and Bhutan serving as buffer zones that prevent two major powers from sharing too long of a borderm thereby preventing potential conflict.

  27. pug_ster Says:

    @Wuming 24,

    Excellent point, but I must point that Sweden also have alot of resources (oil) thus a very rich country in terms of resource. I also have to mention that in many Western European countries use cheap labor from Eastern European countries also. Canada also uses cheap Mexican labor also.

    China themselves needs natural resources badly and have to get them from countries which many other countries doesn’t consider desirable. Just recently due to the unexpected cold weather around China, there is a shortage of natural gas. China have a terrible safety record in coal mine accidents, mostly due to illegal mines. Despite many unsafe mines being shut down, many Chinese Politicians would simply ignore other illegal mines as long as nobody died simply because there is such dire need for coal.

    There is also the political aspect of the Industrialization of China, many real estate developers and investors will not put money in China if it becomes a democratic country. President Hu recently says that it is a priority to build out the rural areas because of the number of protests coming out from the countryside. Hopefully we will see the fruits of their plans in the next few years.

  28. Wukailong Says:

    @pug_ster: I think you might be confusing Sweden and Norway. Norway has large oil resources which has given them a much higher GDP per capita than Sweden. Sweden’s resources are mainly in metals of various kinds (iron, silver, copper) and timber.

    One cultural difference I see between the US and Sweden is that there is no idea that the “government is evil” in the latter. Ever since the 18th century, people have learned to see the state as a guarantor of people’s livelihood, and this continues with the welfare system in place today. I also read about an investigation of people’s opinions a couple of years ago – poverty in the US is usually seen as the fault of the individual (just read whatever TonyP4 writes 🙂 ), whereas in Sweden it’s considered to be the fault of the state.

  29. S.K. Cheung Says:

    “Canada also uses cheap Mexican labor also.” — we do?!? I assume you’re referring to migrant farm workers? But that’s seasonal, and hardly a significant proportion of the entire work force. Besides, I wonder if the temporary Mexican workers would come here unless they were being paid more than what they could’ve made back home. And I don’t know how any of that has to do with Wuming’s point about democracy flourishing in an environment such as Canada’s.

  30. Josef Says:

    Steve,
    I am shocked about your comment: as “buffer zones” is “politically incorrect” you just change the words to “integral part of the Chinese nation”. That’s what we call “the arrogance of the superpower U.S. towards smaller nations, applied now for China”.
    You write: “If the two sides can solve their cultural friction” – I would say that is in contradiction to Chinese integration. The Tibetan culture could be eliminated, similar to the native Americans (which I call eliminated). Compared with the Chinese, the Tibetan culture and life style is not so ambitious and successful to build up a better future etc., so their complete integration means deletion. I know that Tibetans have special and more rights and they would starve without Chinese support, but the protection of their culture might need a much greater frame than China offers now, which might be a golden cage.
    Just one final remark: If you ever visit Prague, you will here Czech people say, that they have been occupied for 400 years, between the 15th and the 19th century by Austria-Hungary.
    Yes, sometimes time doesn’t change circumstances.

  31. justkeeper Says:

    @Steve: I have a question about your point #2: Wasn’t the Revolution itself a reaction to corruption and repressive policies of the KMT? Or were you referring to the more recent past?

    There was never a time under KMT control that China was stabilized like it is today. The KMT had never actually taken full control of China, the Communist Party happened to be the power which eventually prevailed and ruled China, out of many powers in the 100 years of chaos after 1840. And it can not succeed without Chiang’s persecution of CCP, the war with Japan and the military genius of Mao and his generals. In fact, I would also say the invasion of Western powers into China helped both directly(a strong China is probably their most essential plead to the people) and indirectly(the invasions produce the chaos) to the rise of Communist government. From here I would also take you to the “buffer zone” argument. If you would check the route of CCP conquering China, you would find that it was essentially the same route the Manchurian Qing had used. It started from Jinzhou(锦州), extended to Xincheng(ancient name Ningyuan(宁远), and ended in Shanhai Pass(山海关). It’s the shortest path to reach Beijing, but usually heavily guarded, otherwise you would have to circumvent through the Mongolian steppe and face the mountain barrier along the Great Wall, risking the danger of travelling thousands of miles more while being tracked down halfway and attrited all the way and being finally crushed by a well-prepared and much better rested army. (以逸待劳)Today’s mechanical and armoured troops have even greater difficulty in climbing the mountains and because China had turned Outer Mongolia into a buffer zone by applying a successful divide and assimilate strategy(exactly the reason why most of Inner Mongolians are feeling so pro-China), this would be an area which is relatively easy to defend. The greatest threat to China is still in the Korean Peninsula, which is directly connected to the Liaodong Peninsula and the “shortest path”, once a war breakouted there, millions of refugees would flee to China and mix into the large number of ethinc Koreans in the Liaodong, thus destablizing the whole area. A much more heinous possibility would be an armed to the teeth troop driving and following the refugees across the border.

  32. Steve Says:

    @ Josef #30: I’m not quite sure what you mean. Are you saying that you don’t think the outlying provinces are a part of China? And I’m not sure what the US has to do with any of this. Could you please elaborate?

    American Indian culture has not been eliminated. I’m not sure how familiar you are with that culture; a lot of people not familiar with it have some misconceptions.

    Solving cultural friction doesn’t mean the elimination of said culture. It needs to be built around compromise and understanding.

    @ justkeeper #31: What you described was the internal route that has been used to overthrowing a dynasty. I was thinking more about a foreign invasion, where the primary route would be to land troops near Tianjin and just move across a flat plain towards Beijing. If I remember correctly, when the Qing attacked Beijing, it was possible because a Ming general let them through one of the gates in the Great Wall. I haven’t spent any time in Dongbei so I’m not very familiar with the topography.

    Is the Korean situation potentially that volatile? Do the Koreans living near the North Korean border feel more Korean or more Chinese? Has anyone on the blog spent time up that way?

  33. Josef Says:

    The “shock” actually refers to a fundamental cultural shock between America and Europe about cultures and minorities. America, as a melting pot, avoided national motivated wars, however, we in Europe regard our different cultures and languages as precious, even if it caused wars and sorrow.
    eliminate culture: I would call a culture alive, if in a certain region their language is spoken as the one and only official language and thus mandatory in schools. It is certainly not enough to have regions reserved, museums and exhibitions installed and evening classes or language courses funded. But I am eager to hear that I am wrong about the American Indian culture: where is some American Indian language the official and only government language (and therefore an advantage to learn this language)?
    Take Ireland: after several hundred years of occupation, where with Cromwell in the 16th century, language, religion and owning land was forbidden to the Irish, the Irish language again is a mandatory class in Irish schools. (of course they have English, but their culture is not so much destroyed either)
    Now for Tibet the examples of Czech or Ireland does not apply but the American Indian might: the numbers but also the cultural difference.
    What has the U.S. to do with it: U.S. think big, which is most of the time good. But in this cases, where a minority is involved it might be fatal. China should think big too, but try to avoid the mistakes of the Americans. Or, you can not extract the geopolitical aspect as stand-alone.
    “outlying provinces are part of china”: even after several hundred years of occupation some nations survive (Czech, Ireland and most of the ex-colonies of the British). Second was Tibet, as an independent country occupied or not? You might hurt feelings of Tibetan people if you call their home country an “outlying province of China”.- why not at least an autonomous region (wich might serve the “buffer” task too)?
    The reason why a majority of people regard this occupation as good, is the mainly helping and supporting policy of China for Tibet, but certainly not because some superpower plays its geopolitical strategy games nor some historic victories.
    Hm, probably I was too much touched by Dawangs “Father’s Prairie, Mother’s Rivers” too.

  34. pug_ster Says:

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-11/20/content_9007715.htm

    I saw this in Chinadaily and I thought these are some of the issues between US and China: And I quote:

    First, the global financial crisis has made the US take recourse to trade protectionism, given rise to more Sino-US trade disputes and worsened the trading environment.

    Second, human rights remains a thorny subject between the two countries, and they have not yet reconciled their differences over the Tibet issue. Human rights is a political issue that plays a vital role in the stabilization of Sino-US ties.

    Third, the US seems uncomfortable with the modernization of China’s armed forces. And since China will continue to modernize its military for defensive purposes, US concerns will rise further.

    Fourth, the two countries will continue to argue over cutting their greenhouse gas emissions, use of renewable energy and sharing the burden of fighting climate change.

    Fifth, Sino-US dispute over the leadership role in East Asia is expected to come to the fore. The US has shifted its focus to Southeast Asia with an eye on China, because it is worried that intensive cooperation among East Asian countries could mean the end of its influence in the region.

    Last but not least is the Taiwan question. Though cross-Straits ties have improved and the US, to some extent, has limitedly cooperated with China to curb radical secessionist elements on the island, the Taiwan question remains the most sticky point in Sino-US relations.

    I think that the US are at a crossroads whether to think China as a partner or continue its futile cold-war tactics against them. Meanwhile China can wait and talk to the EU as a counterbalance.

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-11/21/content_9016285.htm

  35. sunbin Says:

    for those interested, this geopolitical discussion from tianya is very interesting.

    http://www.tieku.org/206437/30.html

    http://www.tianya.cn/publicforum/content/worldlook/1/223829.shtml

  36. Allen Says:

    About the hypothesis whether poor countries can develop with democracies, I’d like to make a couple of quick observations.

    1. Has anyone read this book http://www.amazon.com/World-Fire-Exporting-Democracy-Instability/dp/0385503024 ? It’s written by a Chinese American Yale Law Professor. I don’t think it disproves or proves anything as far as the hypothesis above goes, but it does show a dimension where democracy can actually flame instabilities rather foment stability.

    2. Someone mentioned U.S. as an example of a democracy before it got rich. I like to challenge the notion that the U.S. was truly a democracy for much of its history. The U.S. had a Constitution and called itself a democracy, but I’m not sure I’d call it a true democracy since women didn’t vote, blacks were slaves, and Chinese weren’t even allowed to become citizens for much of its history before it got rich, etc.

  37. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper,

    I like this post. You placed China’s political institutions in some good historical context. (I also like interesting details you provided such as the reason why Beijing is where it is today!)

    My problem with this post is that it focuses too much on one side of a story – how history may serve to inform our understanding of present day China, but it does not show the other side, how history alone cannot guide everything that China does.

    For example, you mentioned the concept of buffer states. While your characterization of buffer states is no doubt insightful and interesting, I don’t think it should guide China’s actions going forward. If all China needs are buffer states, does that mean China’s interests in region is (or should be) limited to their functionary role as buffer states? Why not simply create buffer states instead of “swallowing” them as part of the PRC? Is the government’s investment in developing Xinjian, Tibet, and other peripheral regions merely to appease the people to the rule of the central government?

    I don’t think China’s should base its territorial legitimacy based on old notions of buffer states. I believe the central government should and truly does take a real interest in developing the country as a whole. Ethnic minorities have the status of full citizens; some of them even have special rights as ethnic minorities. They may travel to anywhere in the country to seek economic opportunities. Everyone in PRC, no matter their nationality, is treated as a full citizen of the PRC.

    You mentioned the Great Wall. Don’t get me wrong, the Chinese people should be proud of the Great Wall and should see the Great Wall as a symbol of Chinese civilization. But the Great Wall represent only a part of the heritage of China. What do ethnic Manchus or Mongolians feel about the wall? (They were the ones being kept out.) What do the people of Xinjian or Tibet feel about the Wall? (They probably don’t identify that much with the wall.)

    When I hear people identify China by the Great Wall, or the Chinese people as the sons and daughters of Emperor Qin (of the dragon), or repeatedly say China has a 5000 year old history, I think that may divide rather than unify China. Even the recent experience such as the resistance against the Japanese invasion means different things to different people in different parts of the country. China is a multicultural society made up of many peoples, many histories. Parts of the people do not identify with Emperor Qin (or the dragon as a cultural symbol). Parts of the people do not have a 5000 year old history. Parts of the people do not speak or write Chinese as their native language. These symbols should still be celebrated to identify China, but they should not be the only symbols used.

    Perhaps China should be define itself in part by its future, not just the past. The people of China share one destiny – one in which they are part of a prosperous, diverse, and dynamic society…

    I think seeing peripheral regions of China as buffer states is not helpful to the future of China. The buffer regions are an integral part of China. All areas of China are equal, history not withstanding. The identity of China should be molded by all the different traditions from these areas – not just heritage from certain areas. I think that’s a better way forward than harking too much on old geopolitical history.

  38. justkeeper Says:

    When I hear people identify China by the Great Wall, or the Chinese people as the sons and daughters of Emperor Qin (of the dragon), or repeatedly say China has a 5000 year old history, I think that may divide rather than unify China. Even the recent experience such as the resistance against the Japanese invasion means different things to different people in different parts of the country. China is a multicultural society made up of many peoples, many histories. Parts of the people do not identify with Emperor Qin (or the dragon as a cultural symbol). Parts of the people do not have a 5000 year old history. Parts of the people do not speak or write Chinese as their native language. These symbols should still be celebrated to identify China, but they should not be the only symbols used.

    @Allen: Good points. But I wasn’t trying to say we need to stick to the geopolitical thinking of our ancestors. I was rather arguing that, although the particular events of nomadic invasions are not even known to many today, its impact, socially or psychologically, can still be felt today, along with the chronic food shortage it leads to Chinese people’s forever longing for “stability’, rather than “freedom” or “equality”. And thes past grievenances also constantly remind CCP leaders of the soundness of their policies, believe me, the famine is doomed to happen again if we abandon the current policy of land ownership and transferring. This also applies for their ethnical policy-ethnic tensions should be avoided at all cost, otherwise it’ll be quickly escalated.

    Perhaps China should be define itself in part by its future, not just the past. The people of China share on destiny – one in which they are part of a prosperous, diverse, and dynamic society…

    Yes, I consider the culture of all ethnics, rather than just that of Han, to be part of modern Chinese culture, but let’s face it, today many Chinese still consider ethnic people living in some non-Sinicized areas to be some sort of aliens, and when you think about Chinese, what’ll appear in your mind is the image of a Han Chinese, rather than that of a Tibetan or a Uyghur. According to the U.S experience, if you want people from drastically different cultural background to coexist peacefully, they have to share some universal values, besides the pursuit of material well-being. Unfortunately, the universal value for Han Chinese, (maintenance of stability, filial piety to parents, building a strong and proud nation, etc) is not shared by all of the other ethnics, especially ethnic people who believed in religions preaching karmic afterlife(Tibetans, Uyghurs, etc). As of now, the most successful example of the integration of a historically hostile ethnic into Chinese society, the Inner Mongolians, is achieved through a divide-and-assimilate strategy. (I know what your people are saying in ROC, but I believe the Outer Mongolia is a “burden”) . So, I remain pessimistic about the prospect of a new, redefined Chinese identity under which culture of all ethnics can coexist peacefully rather than being assimilated by each other.

  39. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper #38,

    You wrote:

    today many Chinese still consider ethnic people living in some non-Sinicized areas to be some sort of aliens, and when you think about Chinese, what’ll appear in your mind is the image of a Han Chinese, rather than that of a Tibetan or a Uyghur. According to the U.S experience, if you want people from drastically different cultural background to coexist peacefully, they have to share some universal values, besides the pursuit of material well-being. Unfortunately, the universal value for Han Chinese, (maintenance of stability, filial piety to parents, building a strong and proud nation, etc) is not shared by all of the other ethnics, especially ethnic people who believed in religions preaching karmic afterlife(Tibetans, Uyghurs, etc). As of now, the most successful example of the integration of a historically hostile ethnic into Chinese society, the Inner Mongolians, is achieved through a divide-and-assimilate strategy. (I know what your people are saying in ROC, but I believe the Outer Mongolia is a “burden”) . So, I remain pessimistic about the prospect of a new, redefined Chinese identity under which culture of all ethnics can coexist peacefully rather than being assimilated by each other.

    Ok – that’s a rather pessimistic viewpoint. Here is my take.

    First, I am sure you are right that some Han Chinese people still consider ethnic people living in some non-Sinicized areas to be some sort of aliens. In fact I’d go further, many Chinese people consider people outside of there village / province to be some sort of aliens. You see a lot of what I call “localism” throughout China. Sometimes they may exhibit as some sort of racism, sometimes snobbiness, but in all case the root of it all is really just ignorance. The good thing is that as China develops and people moves about the country more, these kind of attitudes will disappear.

    A related point I want to make is that what regular Chinese people (say in Beijing or Shanghai) think about ethnic people in remote areas really doesn’t matter much. China is not a democracy. Polling people about their attitudes makes interesting social discussions, but is more often than not irrelevant. What is more relevant is what the CCP thinks. People may criticize CCP policy, but I tend to think the CCP is more inclusive than exclusive. Anyone who wants to participate in the political progress can by joining the CCP. (Of course, if your goal is to topple the gov’t, the CCP will probably not allow you in; just like no legitimate political parties will allow an enemy of the state to join in the U.S.)

    Second, you mention universal values. I don’t think there are really universal values per se (it’s propaganda in the West; it’s all there in the history). Values change. Values develop. Different values are emphasized over others at different times – and depending on the historical, political context of a society. If we must discuss universal values, I certainly can make the case that economic well being, social stability is among the most basic values for all human beings. For example, during the red scare and in post 911, many “freedoms” Americans cherished were curtailed. Imagine if communism were truly a threat and a 911 occurs in America every year – how much more “universal” “freedoms” Americans will be willing to satisfy for basic social stability / peace.

    Anyways – arguments about “universal” values aside, I am not sure what you mean in bringing up Tibetans and Uyghurs in that context. If certain Tibetans and Uyghurs want to set up theocratic states (and there are many who don’t want this), yes – I’d say that is inconsistent with CCP policy – even basic human rights. We can argue that CCP needs to be changed for this and that reasons, but arguing that certain theocracies should be a form of government in China is a no go.

    If you are trying to say that there is religious suppression of Tibetans and Uyghurs, I’d disagree. The essence of the struggle in Tibet and Xinjian is political not religious. Those who insist on seeing the political struggles in Tibet and Xinjian in terms of human rights might as well insist that the fight against Al Queda and Talibans is a fight to suppress human rights of certain people. If certain groups want to wage a political fight in the name of a religion, that’s their prerogative. But don’t blame the ones engaged in a political fight with them for waging a religious war.

    Anyways we’ll see about your pessimism about a redefined Chinese identity. I don’t think China needs to redefine that much. The elements are there already. This is not a thread about Chineseness – but about how historical geopolitics define certain aspects of Chineseness. To that end, I think you did a great job.

  40. justkeeper Says:

    @Allen: You probably misunderstand me.
    A related point I want to make is that what regular Chinese people (say in Beijing or Shanghai) think about ethnic people in remote areas really doesn’t matter much. China is not a democracy. Polling people about their attitudes makes interesting social discussions, but is more often than not irrelevant.

    Their opinions are relevant. Say I am an employer, I can make the decision that I would not employ people of ethnic origins than Han because I believe them to be unreliable.. I can also pressure my real estate management to not let some Uyghurs to move into my neighbourhood. I can avoid buying things in shops owned by people from a particular ethnic. And I can not only economically but politically discriminate against them, depsite being an authoritarian state, China is not a monarchy. The government leaders and functionaries at different levels still ultimately come from the people, and their personal attiudes toward the ethnic minority matter a lot, officials may follow regulations on paper superficially, but it’s very difficult for them to endorse someone from a more or less “alien” ethnic(e.g, Uyghurs and Tibetans would likely recieive more hostilities than Huis and Miaos).

    Second, you mention universal values. I don’t think there are really universal values per se (it’s propaganda in the West; it’s all there in the history). Values change. Values develop. Different values are emphasized over others at different times – and depending on the historical, political context of a society. If we must discuss universal values, I certainly can make the case that economic well being, social stability is among the most basic values for all human beings.
    What I meant by universal value is what is universal among all people within a country. For the U.S today, it’s private property protection, freedom of choice, speech, etc. For a great majority of Chinese, it’s maintenance of social stability, filial piety, and the importance of a strong, proud nation, etc. I agree with you that the values will change and develop, but the Chinese value system is so incredibly tenacious and resistant to change that it persists through numerous devastating, genocide-scale disasters and is still thriving today, so I believe this value system is here to stay and much more difficult to be changed than that of the U.S. And yes, your promotions as an official also has a lot to do with it.

    If you are trying to say that there is religious suppression of Tibetans and Uyghurs, I’d disagree. The essence of the struggle in Tibet and Xinjian is political not religious. Those who insist on seeing the political struggles in Tibet and Xinjian in terms of human rights might as well insist that the fight against Al Queda and Talibans is a fight to suppress human rights of certain people. If certain groups want to wage a political fight in the name of a religion, that’s their prerogative. But don’t blame the ones engaged in a political fight with them for waging a religious war.

    This is not what I meant, what I meant is it will be very difficult for Tibetans and Uyghurs to integrate into the Chinese society due to their unique cultural identities. e.g, Tibetans’ belief in Buddha, karma and afterlife is quite incompatible with the “China” above all, realistic Chinese value system. This cultural clash very often bemused people from China inland, (we’re modernizing them and bringing them so many benefits, why are they against us). So until we can try to find some common ground, the only option for China is to assimilate the Tibetans, like the Inner Mongolians. (Yes, I am a firm believer of Samuel Huntington, and he drawed a line between Sinic and Buddhistic culture isolating Tibet from China inland).

  41. Josef Says:

    It is not only political or religious, there is also a different ethnic culture.
    Do you have an example where a culture survived, when it is occupied by a much larger nation over long time?
    Especially if the culture is not so “successful” or “efficient”. I see for the long term development as examples only the tragic stories of Aborigines in the U.S. or Australia.

    Allen, you wrote
    “The identity of China should be molded” and “China develops and people moves about the country more”.
    Especially you emphasized “The buffer regions are an integral part of China.” – Is this the death shot for Tibetan culture?

    just keeper, what exactly do you mean by
    “China is to assimilate the Tibetans” and “most successful example .. is achieved through a divide-and-assimilate strategy.”
    I have no idea about Inner Mongolians, and the “integration of a historically hostile ethnic into Chinese society”, so I ask: would this “integration” preserve the Tibetan culture? Is Inner Mongolia comparable to Tibet?

    I really appreciated all of your comments but I think you are biased by the benefits of the “multicultural US”. I think no culture survived in the U.S. but all were melted into one new.

  42. Allen Says:

    @Josef #41,

    You wrote:

    Allen, you wrote
    “The identity of China should be molded” and “China develops and people moves about the country more”.
    Especially you emphasized “The buffer regions are an integral part of China.” – Is this the death shot for Tibetan culture?

    I have no idea about Inner Mongolians, and the “integration of a historically hostile ethnic into Chinese society”, so I ask: would this “integration” preserve the Tibetan culture? Is Inner Mongolia comparable to Tibet?

    I really appreciated all of your comments but I think you are biased by the benefits of the “multicultural US”. I think no culture survived in the U.S. but all were melted into one new.

    I think you’ve raised a very important question: how can China remain true to her multicultural heritage in the dash for political unity and economic development and modernization?

    Globally we certainly seem to be witnessing a great loss of “culture” and of “heritage” (http://www.sil.org/sociolx/ndg-lg-grimes.html; http://counterjihadeuropa.wordpress.com/2007/10/13/washington-times-immigration-loss-of-culture-worry-nations/ ).

    However I don’t think the saving of cultures and languages is the be all and end all. If so – and if you are right about the loss of culture in the U.S. – then the U.S. is a very big disaster.

    I personally don’t think the U.S. system is a disaster. The U.S. did a lot of bad things in the past (killing off the Native Americans, slavery, excluding Chinese immigration, etc.), but its model of openness to all cultures does not represent a bad thing.

    I personally think that all cultures must evolve. If cultures must assimilate and redevelop (this is actually what happens in history, anyways), so be it. The fascination with preservation of old culture (others’ cultures) is a modern phenomenon. It probably arises as a natural process of people trying to ground their universe in a constantly changing world. It also arises (for some) as a result of the leftover guilt of the colonization of the last few hundred years.

    Some may argue that for a culture to survive, we must curtain individual societies off. Worse, for Tibetan culture survive, Tibetans must live under a lamaist society (or Muslims under sharia law, whatever). If that’s the narrow definition of culture we are talking about – I suppose my world view entails a death shot for cultures like the Tibetan culture.

    But I believe cultures are so much more than freezing history – and the Tibetan culture is so much larger than the Dalai Lama just like Chinese culture (not just Han culture) is so much larger than the Imperial System.

    Anyways – to make a long comment short, I don’t believe saying Tibet is an integral part of China is a death shot for Tibetan culture. I also don’t believe assimilation is per se a death knell for any culture. Cultures should not be static. They form, change, meld, separate, etc. to the rhythm of time – just as they always have.

    With all that said, at the risk of sounding “snobbish,” I believe Tibetan culture does deserve to be “saved.” That means trying to preserve Tibetan language, art, music, etc. … even identity. However for me that does not include preserving the political-religious system created by the central government during the Qing dynasty – nor the dominance of Buddhism over all aspects of Tibetan life – nor Tibetan nationalism.

  43. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper #40,

    You need to quickly explain to me Samuel Huntington’s thoughts then.

    I am a devout Buddhists, and I don’t see any incompatibilities between Buddhist and Chinese culture.

  44. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen and justkeeper: Thanks for an interesting discussion. I enjoyed reading it!

    Personally, I really don’t get on well with the cultural explanation. It seems to simplify complex historical events into large, opaque and well-defined entities that fight against each other on the world stage just because they don’t like each others’ worldview. China, when seen this way, is simply Confucius and nothing else (I don’t have anything against the philosophy itself, but imagine explaining everything Western with Plato). The claim of some Americans that Bin Laden is against the West because he hates freedom also comes to mind.*

    I believe, maybe erroneously, that ethnic tension tends to have similar roots everywhere. People viewing themselves as the minority culture have to change their ways and live with a majority culture they find hard to accept, while the majority culture at the same time view themselves mostly in the term of benefactors and saviors. If the minority culture can contribute anything, it tends to be unusual food or clothing, rather than values. And this isn’t something I say particularly about Han or Zang, this is most closely modelled on the situation of muslims in Europe, but the same model holds everywhere.

    I don’t know if there is any good solution to this since it seems to have happened all over the world.

    * Actually, even Al-Qaeda and the Taliban has nationalist roots. The Taliban are Afghan nationalists who want to create a perfect muslim state at home, whereas Al-Qaeda wants the perfect muslim state but don’t really care where it is created.

  45. Allen Says:

    @WKL #44,

    Yes, I agree and understand that Al-Qaeda and Taliban are political movements and highly nationalistic. The only thing is that I also believe the Tibetan exile movement is similarly political and nationalistic. They all fly under the flag of culture and religion, but they are political and nationalistic.

    Here is a question for all: if you do believe preservation of culture is a basic human right, do you believe the expression of nationalism is a basic human right? If so – what justifies the opposition of some nationalistic, political movements like Palestinian, Al-Qaeda, Taliban and support of others such as Tibetan exiles, East Turkestan movement?

  46. Wukailong Says:

    Short answer to this: I don’t think nationalism should be opposed in itself. It ought to fall under the right of expression. I see no logical reason why, for example, Chinese or US nationalism or is good and Tibetan or Palestinian nationalism is bad. In fact, a lot of Europeans support Palestinian nationalism… but I digress.

    What I would like to see in any analysis of nationalism is a question of why it exists. The Talibans didn’t just appear out of the blue but resonated with people in an area ravaged by warlords and poverty for decades. In the beginning, they brought social order and a sense of justice. In the same vein, nationalisms often appear because of problems or unmet needs.

    I can understand why a person in power who is faced with a hostile nationalism first thinks about how to crush it… But a long-term solution must work with causes that put it on the map.

  47. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To WKL:
    well said. And it seems many are infatuated with the “first” response, and less concerned about the long term grievances.

  48. Allen Says:

    @WKL #46,

    I agree with you that in the case of Tibetan and Uyghur nationalism, it is in China’s own interest to figure out what drives these movements, and disarm these movements by addressing the underlying issues accordingly. That will lead to a more stable future than simply demagoguery.

    However, I do not believe that all conflicts between nationalism can be negotiated away. Just look back in history: how do you negotiate away nationalism of the southern states in the U.S. Civil War, German nationalism under Hitler, or Japanese nationalism in WWII? Don’t those movements deserve their freedom of expression and day in the sun?

    Sometimes conflicts are just conflicts. One side wins, the other loses. Trying to take sides in the conflicts under the rubric of “human rights” or “religious rights” or “freedom of expression” doesn’t help, in my humble opinion.

  49. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    German nationalism was representative of Germany at the time, as was Japanese nationalism in Japan. There was no one in those countries to negotiate with/against, because that was who they were. Tibetan nationalism, in whatever form, exists only in part of China. So at least there can be parties to a negotiated settlement.

    The US Civil War is a better example, as it pits one part of a country vs another. And I agree it doesn’t bode well for a negotiated settlement when 2 comparable bodies can’t work it out, much less a David/Goliath scenario in which Tibetans find themselves.

    And you know what, the fact that the spoils go to the victor is reality. So if China says to Tibet: “it’s my way or the highway, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it”, that would be a reality too. In that scenario, I would agree that any rights of the little guy would go by the wayside, and isn’t really up for discussion. That’s why I thought Justkeeper #9 was refreshing, as I had said in #14 (““It’s an unspeakable thing no one will acknowledge but geopolitical advantage is all that really matters to them.” — it’s extremely refreshing that you would acknowledge this, rather than the usual rehash of the playbook. Though I might disagree with such a motive as ample justification for usurping the rights of Tibetans, it at least seems like a pretty honest assessment. Sure beats “we’re doing this to Tibetans for the Tibetans’ own good”, or variations thereof.”)

    However, if the narrative is that “Tibet is in China for the Tibetans’ own good”, then all those “rights” are in play. China can’t be doing Tibetans a favour by denying them “human” or “religious” rights, or otherwise curbing their freedoms.

    Basically, China can’t have it both ways. She can’t be whispering fraternal sweet-nothings while acting like the conqueror.

  50. Josef Says:

    Hi Allen,
    Your link was really very instructive and I would like to quote from there two points. First, one example of endangered languages:
    ” The Manchu were once the rulers of China. Now there are 1,821,000 left in the ethnic group. But there are only an estimated 20 to 70 speakers left, all over 70 years old.”
    And the second about a recovery
    ” There are languages that have been able to recover wholly or partially from being endangered. The most famous example of all, of course, is Hebrew, which is now estimated to have 5,150,000 mother tongue speakers in the world. They make up 81% of the population of Israel. Nearly everyone in Israel speaks Hebrew as either their first or second language.”
    There might be also other means, than having an independent nation to preserve culture and language and certainly I do not propose here any re-installation of some medieval system.

  51. justkeeper Says:

    @S.K Cheung:

    Basically, China can’t have it both ways. She can’t be whispering fraternal sweet-nothings while acting like the conqueror.

    Well I believe the CCP is genuinely proud of what they’re doing to Tibetans, it may not reach the Western standard today, but it’s surely much better than any policy being pursued in the past towards ethnic minorities, whether by CCP or all of its predecessors, and did I say “much better”? I won’t blame it if it gets really upset when you point out that it acts like conqueror to Tibetans to it.

  52. Otto Kerner Says:

    In the words of the indie rock band Modest Mouse, “You should be ashamed to be so proud of what you’ve done …” Being genuinely proud of what you’ve done only matters if you have good values to begin with.

    I agree with S. K. Cheung’s point completely. If someone argues that China needs to occupy Tibet for China’s national interest, I have no argument against that. What I object to is lies and hypocrisy (and wishful thinking, which makes well-meaning people go along with lies and hypocrisy).

  53. justkeeper Says:

    @Otto Kerner: People with wishful thinking certainly need to get more informed and enlightened about the reality, but aren’t lies and hypocrisy the bread and butter of politicians? Also, I see many people in the West, many of them highly educated intellectuals, believing the Tibet before CCP occupation to be a paradise in which everyone lived peacefully and conducted themselves according to Buddhist’s teachings, which is probably the most extreme case of wishful thinking I have ever seen.

  54. Allen Says:

    @Josef #50,

    The Machu language started its decline when the Qing dynasty was in its heyday. Even the Qing court – though it prided in its Manchu ethnicity – lost fluency in the language long before the dynasty’s decline.

    I know some people don’t like wikipedia, but for quick dissemination of facts its useful (if anyone wants to have a deep discussion on the Machurian language, we can start a new thread on it – and I’ll go dig up more primary references). Here is an excerpt:

    Manchu began as a primary language of the Qing dynasty Imperial court, but as Manchu officials became increasingly sinicized, many started losing the language. Trying to preserve the Manchu identity, the imperial government instituted Manchu language classes and examinations for the bannermen, offering various rewards to those who excelled in the language. As Yongzheng Emperor (reigned 1722–1735) explained, “If some special encouragement … is not offered, the ancestral language will not be passed on and learned”.[2] Still, the use of the language among the bannermen was in decline throughout the 1700s. Historical records report that as early as 1776, Emperor Qianlong was shocked to see a high Manchu official, Guo’ermin, not understand what the emperor was telling him in Manchu, despite coming from the Manchu stronghold of Shengjing (now Shenyang).[3] By the 19th century even the imperial court had lost fluency in the language. The Jiaqing Emperor (reigned 1796 to 1820) complained about his officials being good neither at understanding nor writing Manchu.[2] By the end of the 19th century the language was so moribund that even at the office of the Shengjing (Shenyang) general, the only documents written in Manchu (rather than Chinese) would be the memorials wishing the emperor long life; at the same time period, the archives of the Hulan banner detachment in Heilongjiang show that only 1% of the bannermen could read Manchu, and no more than 0.2% could speak it.[2] Nonetheless, as late as 1906–1907 Qing education and military officials insisted that schools teach Manchu language, and that the officials testing soldiers’ marksmanship continue to conduct an oral examination in Manchu.[4]

    The use of the language for the official documents declined throughout the Qing history as well. Especially at the beginning of the dynasty, some documents on sensitive political and military issues were submitted in Manchu but not in Chinese[5]. Later on, most Imperial documents were drafted in both Chinese and Manchu[citation needed], and at least some records in Manchu continued to be produced until the last years of the dynasty,[2] which was overthrown in 1912. A large number of Manchu documents remain in the archives, important for the study of Qing-era China. Today, written Manchu can still be seen on architecture inside the Forbidden City, whose historical signs are written in both Chinese and Manchu.

    Another limited use of the language was for voice commands in the Qing army, attested as late as 1878.[2]

    Currently in China, there is an effort to try to revitalize the language – though so far, not yet with great success. Here again from the wikipedia:

    Currently, very few native Manchu speakers remain; in what used to be Manchuria virtually no one speaks the language with the entire area having been completely sinicized. As of 2007, the last native speakers of the language were thought to be 18 octogenarian residents of the village of Sanjiazi, located in Fuyu County, in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province.[9] A few speakers also remain in Dawujia village in Aihui District of Heihe Prefecture.

    In fact, the modern custodians of the language are actually the Xibe (or Sibe) who live near the Ili valley in Xinjiang and were moved there by the Qianlong Emperor in 1764. Modern Xibe is very close to Manchu, although there are a few slight differences in writing and pronunciation; however, the Xibe consider themselves to be separate from the Manchus[citation needed]. Xibe language is taught as a second language by the Ili Teachers’ College (Yili Normal College) in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of northern Xinjiang.[10] Occasional television broadcasts in Xibe language are made in Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County, and about 1,300 copies of the world’s only newspaper in Xibe language, Qapqal News, appear twice a week.

    These days, the Manchu language is taught in some Chinese universities, as a tool for reading Qing Dynasty archival documents.[11]

    Various regional governments around China have taken to teaching Manchu in more recent times; it was reported in June 2008 that the Harbin Science and Technology Vocational College in Acheng District, Harbin, listed Manchu as a major, becoming the first vocational school to teach the Manchu language as a major in China.[12] The Wall Street Journal reported in 2009 that the language is offered (as elective) in one public middle school, and in a few private school.[11]

    A few groups of Manchu language enthusiasts in Beijing and elsewhere in Eastern China who try to revive the language of their ancestors using available dictionaries and textbooks, and even occasional visist to Qapqal, where the related Xibe language is spoken natively.[11]

    The paradigm people have of cultures changing and disappearing is usually one of colonization and genocide. Yes – this is one scenario, but not the only one – not even the dominant one. The most common one relates simply to time. Things change. Time flows. That’s why most languages (in forms we can colloquially understand them today) have at most a few hundred years of history. I don’t see the fascination with preservation languages as they are today. They will all inevitably change. Preservation of culture and language should be the sphere of the people, of society – not the domain of governments, geopolitics.

  55. Allen Says:

    @WKL #46,

    You wrote:

    I don’t think nationalism should be opposed in itself. It ought to fall under the right of expression. I see no logical reason why, for example, Chinese or US nationalism or is good and Tibetan or Palestinian nationalism is bad. In fact, a lot of Europeans support Palestinian nationalism… but I digress.

    Do a lot of Europeans really support Palestinian nationalism? Do they support the meek form or the strong form?

    In the meek form, Palestinians simply want to have a state salvaged from lands not yet lost to Israel, and form a state that is functional but demilitarized, that is subservient to Israel but is at least run by Palestinians.

    In the strong form, Palestinians want to recover all the land illegally and forcefully taken from them at the end of WWII. They may or may not necessarily want to kick the Jews out, but they want their country and land back.

    My point is not to justify anything or take sides, but simply point out that sometimes when you talk about nationalism, there is simply no room for conceptual compromise or negotiation.

    I will post a picturelog of my recent trip to Tibet soon. One thing my guide told me about the riots last year is that the cause was that Tibetans want freedom. I asked what type of freedom: freedom of religion, of speech, more political participation, etc. No, he said chuckling. Tibetans want freedom from Chinese. They want Chinese out.

    If that’s the bottom line, and not civil rights, how do you negotiate?

  56. justkeeper Says:

    @Allen: And…………neogtiating with…whom?

  57. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper #56,

    Negotiate with the who? I guess the putative leader of the Tibetan nationalists … the DL or the TYG …

    But I didn’t even get there, it was a question that ends in a vacuum. There is nothing to negotiate if the bottom line is what I outlined.

  58. justkeeper Says:

    @Allen: Or just touching the other party’s bottomline if you don’t want to negotiate at all.

  59. justkeeper Says:

    @Allen : Surprise, Allen. There was someone bringing up Samuel Huntington to explain the ethnic cultural clashes within China in an article posted on this site, which somehow summarized my point, here’s the link: http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2009/04/19/is-chinese-meritocracy-a-viable-alternative-to-western-democracy/

  60. Josef Says:

    Hi Allen,

    Thanks for this information about the Manchu language – it means that it certainly can not serve as an example.
    I did not find a good example to extrapolate what could happen with the Tibetans culture.
    You write:
    Preservation of culture and language should be the sphere of the people, of society – not the domain of governments, geopolitics.
    To my opinion that is not working: if there is no protection from the government, cultures could and will be eliminated.

    I have lived all my life in several small countries, currently Taiwan, therefore this geopolitics arguments,
    which are arguments of big countries, are kind of alien to me:
    I usually share some sympathy for David when he is occupied by Goliath.

    Negotiation: You don’t necessarily need that for changes, it can be driven by China itself.
    Negotiate on “Chinese out” might lead to a result like an immigration control as it is in Hong Kong,
    or, as other countries have: controlled by the language skills. (just as a joke: if you ever want to become
    a Danish citizen you better reserve the next ten years for learning their language).

  61. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen: I never thought about negotiations specifically. If you have a problem caused by some sort of grievance, working towards removing the grievances is the long-term solution towards solving the problem, rather than having negotiations between two camps. This might sound impossible looking at our specific problems, but it’s probably what saved capitalism in Europe – by reforming the system and giving people basic security and welfare, the contradictions that would have led to revolution slowly faded away. Today you can’t find any serious hardcore communist movement in Europe that attracts a lot of people.

    As for the Palestinian question, I’m not sure exactly what controls Israel have, but the problem there is hardly that the nationalists are allowed to speak. It’s rather the low-scale military conflict that’s constantly going on, as well as the support from the whole Arabic world for their cause (so maybe we can talk about foreign intervention there?).

    @Josef: I agree, as a citizen of a small country, that geopolitical arguments are usually made by big countries. I also wonder what the “splitting” factors involved are, and why it’s techically so hard to keep some countries together.

    Finally, as for some Western analysts believing that Tibet was a paradise before “liberation”, my take on the two positions are like this:

    1. To the Free Tibet movement, Tibet was a paradise that became hell.
    2. To the Chinese government, Tibet was a hell that became paradise.

    Personally I hope nobody commenting here believes in (1) or (2). It’s precisely these ideas that make it so hard for people to have a more objective view of the situation.

  62. Allen Says:

    @Josef #60,

    Can you describe or point to some reference on what type of loss culture Tibet has suffered?

    By most metrics I know, and by my visiting Tibet last month, I frankly do not know of any type of major culture loss perpetrated by the gov’t today – unless you define culture loss by the number of monks in monasteries and the dominance Buddhism has on the life of average Tibetans.

    I was also at UCLA for this little talk (http://www.international.ucla.edu/article.asp?parentid=2732 ). You may find that interesting.

    Which part of Taiwan are you at?

  63. Wukailong Says:

    Sorry, forgot to mention that I don’t believe in absolute freedom of speech either, or at least that I want to challenge the concept. Speech has a purpose, and I believe there are cases where the purpose is so malicious that it may warrant restrictions. However, we need to be really careful about this line of thought.

    And certainly there are things children should be protected against:

    http://news.ifeng.com/world/200912/1203_16_1461181.shtml

  64. Otto Kerner Says:

    justkeeper,

    I agree: there are a lot of people who have opinions about Tibet without knowing much about it, and wishful thinking about Tibetan history abounds.

  65. Allen Says:

    @WKL #61,

    I meant “negotiations” conceptually – not as a process. How do you negotiate with a political force (German or Japanese nationalism) bent on expanding? How do you negotiate with a political force (Tibetan nationalism) bent on splitting China?

    Would it be fair if I ask: oh let’s try to understand why the Germans or the Japanese want to expand. Perhaps with enough effort and discussion, we can work something out. Perhaps they need more oil, more resources, more debt forgiveness. Perhaps we can work on a win-win, and German and Japanese aggression can simply be negotiated away.

  66. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen (#65): What does negotiation as a concept, as opposed to a process, really mean? When it’s come to the point that you need to negotiate as a process (which is apparently how I use the word), you might already have the situation you describe above (Japan and Germany). I’m not discussing what to do when the milk is out of the bottle, just trying to figure out how to turn around a situation that hasn’t already spun out of control.

    Is the problem really that we allow nationalists to express their views? Everything must be based on its own merits. In the case of Japan and Germany, they started wars that violated the rights and sovereignty of other countries, so a military action was acceptable. Are Tibetan nationalists trying to do the same? Also, the question of what to negotiate must at least start with a fair description of the viewpoints of the participants. In this case, “splitting China” is definitely not what a Tibetan nationalist has in mind – it’s framed from a Chinese nationalist point of view.

  67. Otto Kerner Says:

    It’s pretty much of a tautology to say that a given party X wants something unacceptable and cannot be dissuaded from that position by negotiaton, therefore there’s no point in negotiating with party X. If you begin by assuming that negotiations are futile, then naturally they will be futile.

    That said, a lot of negotiations actually are futile in practice. I see no hope of Tibet and China settling their differences by negotiation any time soon, unless something very surprising happens at the party congress in 2012.

  68. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To WKL #66:
    well said once again. I also suspect that a Tibetan nationalist has no interest in splitting China; I suspect their interest is in salvaging Tibet. But again, it’s to-may-to and to-mah-to: all depends on how you look at it.

    To Justkeeper #51:
    “Well I believe the CCP is genuinely proud of what they’re doing to Tibetans” —- as an aside, I wonder if you made a slip there by saying “doing to Tibetans”; I suspect what you meant was “doing for Tibetans”.

    Your sentiment is again completely reasonable from a conqueror perspective. “this is what I want to do to/for Tibet, and now i’m going to go and do it”. But from a fraternal standpoint, you would also have to ask how Tibetans feel about what the CCP has done to/for them.

  69. Allen Says:

    @WKL #66,

    You wrote:

    Is the problem really that we allow nationalists to express their views? Everything must be based on its own merits. In the case of Japan and Germany, they started wars that violated the rights and sovereignty of other countries, so a military action was acceptable. Are Tibetan nationalists trying to do the same? Also, the question of what to negotiate must at least start with a fair description of the viewpoints of the participants. In this case, “splitting China” is definitely not what a Tibetan nationalist has in mind – it’s framed from a Chinese nationalist point of view.

    Again … we are talking process. Japanese and German nationalism could be settled by war because they were aggressive. They made war. But the Tibetans are peaceful loving… (sorry for the slight sarcasm).

    Back on track: I don’t care if the Japanese and Germans were aggressive or peaceful … or if Hitler murdered Jews. That’s not what I’m getting at. I’m talking about fundamentals. There are times when conflicts are fundamentally zero sum. The Japanese fought for a vision of what they thought was right; so did the Germans, and the British, and the Americans. Those visions collided. It was not just bad diplomacy. There were no other way out but conflict that need to be settled by war.

    We see zero sum conflicts in many other cases in the world. Palestine vs Israel. America/NATO vs. Talibans / Al Qaeda. Russia vs. Chechnya. Sri Lanka vs. Tamil Tigers. But are these truly zero sum conflicts? Or are win-win solutions available if we are just smart and wise enough? I don’t know. But I willing to concede that some of these may be truly zero sum.

    Now I am not saying the Tibetan situation is necessarily a zero sum conflict (see #48). I’m only pointing out that it could be, based on one version of Tibetan nationalism I heard when I was in Tibet. People like to cast the Tibetan issue as a human rights issue. If it is, I believe domestic civil rights type reform will fix the problem. I believe there could be a win-win. But I suspect the problem is zero-sum nationalism. If I am right, I don’t think there is a real solution.

  70. justkeeper Says:

    @S.K Cheung #68:

    our sentiment is again completely reasonable from a conqueror perspective. “this is what I want to do to/for Tibet, and now i’m going to go and do it”. But from a fraternal standpoint, you would also have to ask how Tibetans feel about what the CCP has done to/for them.

    This is my understanding of CCP’s sentiment, not mine,. From a personal perspective, I will always try my best to understand Tibetan’s culture, making friends with them without assuming we share a same value system in the first place, and I doubt people like me could ever become leaders of China 🙂

  71. justkeeper Says:

    @Otto Kerner #67: My belief is that the ball is very much in Dalai Lama’s court, not China’s.

  72. Otto Kerner Says:

    You’re so right: the Dalai Lama has got to stop just waiting for Hu Jintao to die and hoping the problem will just go away after that.

  73. justkeeper Says:

    @Otto Kener #72: Or stop asking China to make one quarter of its territory, rather than just Tibet, autonomous.

  74. Charles Liu Says:

    justkeepter, there’s no way in hell we American will reliniquish 25% of our “current states”, “established sovereignty” eventhough 100% of our land were stolen from the Native Americans.

    Why don’t we Americans set a good example and free our own “Tibet” first? Because that kind of geopolitics, outrage, indigination, don’t apply to ourselves.

  75. Otto Kerner Says:

    justkeeper,

    The purpose of negotiation is to move one or both parties away from their initial bargaining positions, though. Would the Dalai Lama accept a counteroffer involving only the Tibet Autonomous Region? I doubt we’ll ever find out, since probably no counteroffer is ever going to be made.

    The way things stand is that the Dalai Lama has made an initial offer that, I think, no nation on the planet would ever accept, but he has repeatedly expressed his interest in further discussions to try to find a mutually acceptable solutions. The Chinese government interest has repeatedly stated its complete lack of interest in any discussions. I don’t see how you can conclude from this that the ball is in the Dalai Lama’s court. He has said he wants to talk and has been rebuffed.

  76. Josef Says:

    Back to the definition of “geopolitical”: John Mauldin’s last paragraph already mentioned that “due to modern technology shortened physical distances”. Therefore I would regard the “buffer” argument even a greater lie than the “Tibet is in China for the Tibetan’ own good”, (#49 and #52). On top it would mean that Tibetan are regarded as cannon fodder in a possible conflict with India? (that’s what i called “shocking” in #30)
    More honest seems to me the argument that “China has about one-third the arable land per person as the rest of the world.” which is kind of answer to Allen #62 (thanks for the link!): I would say, due to that, there is a potential risk and danger for the Tibetan culture. (btw: to answer your question: I am living in Kaohsiung, but currently in Singapore).
    And from this arguments the “geopolitical” should be translated into “occupying” where the logic can be understood but not necessarily agreed.
    Wukailong, you wrote: “technically so hard to keep some countries together.” Lets ask the counter question: which nation prefers to be ruled from outside? I would say the US is the special case and the rest of the world is the (if you want “sad”) rule.

    And finally back to Allen on his experience described in #55: I had a very similar one, when, as an Austrian, I first visited Prague and learned that what we thought as harmony within the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was regarded in Czech as occupation. Which is true and a fact. But do not over-interpret a single “want Chinese out” statement – similar I still do not believe that the Czech really hated Austrian.

    Again about Tibet (#71~#73etc): my not-so-educated comment is that “no-separate” commitment has two root causes: first Buddhism is the most peaceful religion -if on some reason Tibet would be monotheistic the nationalist would be in majority and aggressive. The second is that I really think that DL is asking for more freedom of religion (you might call that naive),- this statement is based on China’s over-sensitivity on this issue (the Taiping rebellion with 25 million people killed was not listed in the original text) but also on the alliance the DL has with the Roman catholic church. I can imagine that people disagree to that but like to hear their comments.

  77. justkeeper Says:

    @Otto Kerner: All right, next time when I take part in a negotiation, I am gonna tell my counterparty that my initial bargaining position is in order to monitor his/her repayment, I need to take his/her mother as my hostage, and I guess the negotaiation wll be able to move on smoothly we’ll eventually be able to make an agreement.

    People negotiating naturally start from drastically different initial bargaining positions and bottomlines. But I would interpret an overly outrageous initial request as a message:” We don’t really want to talk with you at all.” And representatives from CCP and TGIE have been in serious talks several times, and as far as I am concerned, their real difference is on this particular issue.

  78. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Justkeeper #70:
    “This is my understanding of CCP’s sentiment, not mine,. From a personal perspective, I will always try my best to understand Tibetan’s culture, making friends with them without assuming we share a same value system in the first place, and I doubt people like me could ever become leaders of China” — i certainly agree with your take on the CCP’s position. And I much prefer your personal position.

    It’s funny, but in this discussion with you, I realize that my questions about this have come full circle since I first visited this blog 19 months ago. One of my first comments here was to ask what China was doing in Tibet, why she bothered to stay there, and wasn’t it becoming more trouble than it was worth (I asked this about 2 months after Lhasa). I can’t recall specifics, but my impression was that most responses were along the lines of “Tibet has always been a part of China, and Tibetans are Chinese brethren”, “Tibetans are Chinese and all Chinese need to continue to work together to improve their mutual lot”, that “Tibet is an integral part of China and China has made substantial investment in Tibet on that basis”, and that “Tibetan lives have improved since becoming a part of China”. (I’m just using quotes to paraphrase points; I’m not suggesting any one person said those things verbatim).

    It seemed to me that the justifications then, and perhaps those coming from some people now, were on the side of brotherly kinship as the reason for TIbet to be in CHina. As I alluded to earlier, sometimes China has a funny way of treating their brothers.

    Then Allen, for instance, in recent posts, seemingly suggests that some things are simply not negotiable. I realize certain things in life are not negotiable, for various reasons. What is it that makes the things Allen alludes to assume such non-negotiable status? And this is where the circle completes itself, at least for me. Is it because the “family ties” are such that no one will tolerate their dissolution? Or is it because, as the victor enjoying her spoils, China will not relinquish her hard-won territory which now serves a strategic, economic, cultural, and/or security purpose? Now, I suspect the expedient answer will be “both”. But i do wonder what role the former will play if, at some point, China deems Tibet to have lost her strategic/economic/cultural/security purpose.

  79. Allen Says:

    @Josef #76,

    Buddhists have been relatively peaceful – maybe – compared to followers of other religions – maybe. But probably not.

    Check up on the history of Tibetan Buddhism. Check up on Buddhist support of Japanese brutalities in WWII. Checkup on recent history in Sri Lanka.

    Of course I wouldn’t want to bash Buddhism. Those who bash religions such as Islam is probably doing it for ulterior political purposes. But I also wouldn’t want to distort truth and make any pronouncement that Buddhism is the most peaceful religion in the world…

  80. justkeeper Says:

    @Josef: I can list countless reasons why Tibet is geopolitically important to China, here is a few: China’s Yangtze Rivers and Yellow Rivers all originate in the Tibetan Plateau, having your water supplies controlled by another country is like……not so good. And the “cannon fodder” argument, Hmmm…..what about letting Indian army move to the roof of world and charge into the China inland and once they are defeated, they can quickly retreat to the easily defensible, mountain-locked Tibet?

  81. Allen Says:

    @SKC #78,

    It’s sad after 19 months we have not moved one inch closer to understanding each other. In fact, I’d say we are probably miles further apart.

    But that’s life. Sorry if I have not responded to many of your comments as of late. I have only limited time for this blog and have agreed to disagree with you and move on.

    Hope all is well. Cheers!

  82. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    “It’s sad after 19 months we have not moved one inch closer to understanding each other. In fact, I’d say we are probably miles further apart.” — that sounds about right.

    To Justkeeper #77:
    that’s a fair point. However, let’s say the Dalai lama’s bottom line is the TAR. Surely, you’d expect him to ask for more than that at the start, because even if China makes concessions (and that’s a pie in the sky “if”), what are the chances that she would ever concede to exactly what the Dalai Lama asked for? It’s like just about everything else on this blog…what’s outrageous to some is more plausible to others.

  83. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen (#69): I think I’m getting your point. I agree that there are conflicts that are impossible to solve if everything stays the same way it is at the outset (I believe completely exclusive mutual interests depend on a failure to figure an alternative way). If it’s truly impossible for any of the parts to come up with a creative solution, then in the end “might is right”. I really don’t believe this is the case with the Tibetan question.

    Deng Xiaoping is lauded, and righteously so, for his ability to come up with creative solutions to these kinds of problems. Wasn’t socialism or capitalism a zero-sum conflict? Wouldn’t the UK dig in their heels and do their utmost to prevent Hongkong from passing over to a socialist state? In the same way, wasn’t Northern Ireland an impossible case?

  84. justkeeper Says:

    @SKC: It’s actually a chicken-or-the egg problem, and my take is:Chinese people’s nationalistic sentiment comes first, and CCP took advantage of this sentiment to justify the legitimacy of their ruling, rather than Chinese people being brainwashed by CCP to be nationalistic zombies, as many in the West would believe. The territorial integrity of China was already held by the majority of Chinese people to be sacrosanct for many years before CCP was created, concession of even one inch of Chinese territory, regardless of how such territory was obtained in the first place, would be immediately considered a treacherous behaviour. And this belief is fundamental in the Sinic value system, in the same sense as the U.S ideology is established upon fundamental faith of God. It has become such a common sense for Chinese people that many of us, including many low-level CCP officials, could not understand why it doesn’t make sense to Westerners.(In the same way Westerners are amused why we Chinese don’t seem to consider freedom of speech important) In addition, due to many Chinese people’s inherent distrust with their government(all of our governments ever), and probably anything out of their human bonds. even if CCP just proclaim that more autonomy, rather than independence will be bestowed to Tibetans, they’ll believe that some evil behind the door deals must be made to sell out China’s sovereignity, CCP’s popular support will drop rapidly and the society will be destabilized.

  85. Otto Kerner Says:

    @justkeeper #77,

    What are the “serious talks” that you are referring to? As far as I’m aware, there have been none; certainly not in the last 20 years. There have been talks, but the Chinese position has always been “we refuse to negotiate”, which means the talks can hardly be described as serious.

    @justkeeper #84,

    I believe this is an accurate description of the situation as we find it. And yet, there was no nationalistic outcry among the Chinese public when Mongolian independence was recognised in 1949. What was different?

  86. justkeeper Says:

    @Otto Kerner: There have been numerous reports about talks between CCP and TGIE representatives in last year, go search for it, the talk may not be substantial, but it’s hard to be serious when I ask to take someone’s mother as my hostage as a condition.

    Regarding Outer Mongolia, coincidentally I was thinking about this problem the hour before, and my conclusion is at that time, even the number of literate people was quite low, let alone people having geographical knowledge and understanding Outer Mongolia was ever under Chinese rule. And due to the limited information spreading channels, the CCP would be well capable of keeping it confidential, were it to happen today, everyone within this country would have immediately got informed overnight thanks to internet. And as far as I am concerned, it did produce a outcry among elites in Taiwan, under ROC. Besides, if ther is anything more important to Chinese people than their territorial integrity, it will have to be their own stoamches. NPatriotic sentiment will remain a luxury for upper class people as long as most of your citizens live in half-starvation day after day.

  87. Otto Kerner Says:

    Like I said, there have been talks, but they were not serious. I take it you agree with me, since you say, “the talk may not be substantial, but it’s hard to be serious when …” Both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government have begun with positions that are unacceptable to the other party, but the difference is that the Dalai Lama has been enthusiastic about his willingness to discuss further, while the Chinese government has been enthusiastic about their unwillingness to do so. Obviously, this has a lot to do with the current balance of power between them.

  88. justkeeper Says:

    but the difference is that the Dalai Lama has been enthusiastic about his willingness to discuss further, while the Chinese government has been enthusiastic about their unwillingness to do so. I would consider this pure speculation. Trying to look enthusiastic to discuss is not equivalent to really willing to talk.

  89. Wukailong Says:

    @justkeeper: My five cents on the national boundary issue is that it is not so much in the Sinic value system as the fact that China’s borders have repeatedly been violated the last hundred or so years, and there has certainly been foreign involvement in the Tibet question… I understand much of the sentiment, but I think a problem in the Chinese position is that even legitimate Tibetan claims to autonomy or cultural expressions will be labelled as “nationalism” or “separatism.”

    Well, I know that one could certainly attack my position based on whether these claims are “legitimate” or not… But suffice it to say, I hardly believe there is some sort of zero-sum game going on if both parties are able to objectively evaluate their options. Right now I don’t believe they are doing that.

  90. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Justkeeper #84:
    well said.

    To WKL #89:
    also well said.

    “I think a problem in the Chinese position is that even legitimate Tibetan claims to autonomy or cultural expressions will be labelled as “nationalism” or “separatism.”” — could not agree more. It seems the reflex is to label any such thing as “splitting China”, and it doesn’t take much to trigger this reflex.

    But with any negotiation, one has to be willing to move from your starting position if an agreement is what you seek. If starting positions = bottom lines, then we’re left with…..well….pretty much what we’ve got.

  91. justkeeper Says:

    @SKC: So it seems to me you actually understand more about Chinese positions then you did 19 months ago, why were you so pessimistic then?

  92. Allen Says:

    @WKL #83,

    Thank you for understanding. It may not seem like it, but I also agree with a large part of what you wrote in #61 and #66.

    My “problem” with discussing with “foreigners” about Tibet is that they often only frame issues in terms of human rights – and starting with the perspective that Tibet is an independent country.

    If you talk to any Tibetan honestly about what they want, you quickly understand we have a political issue. Political differences are not human rights issues per se. If they are, all the world’s problem can be settled through legal doctrines. Of course political issues should be solved. And win-win situations should be sought. But we should also not distort the situation. If we are not careful, we can end up having a zero-sum conflict – like the way my guide framed it.

    In trying to prove this point, I may have obsessively focused too much on the zero-sum situation. If so – that’s my bad, and I’d like to take that back.

  93. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Justkeeper:
    not sure if it’s pessimism vs optimism. But I’ve become more aware of the variations of the points of view of the “other” side. Though that’s not to say I understand it any more than I did 19 months ago, or that I agree with it. In fact, equipped with more knowledge than I had back then, I’m probably moving in the other direction, as Allen suggests.

  94. Otto Kerner Says:

    @justkeeper #88,

    Normally, it’s very bad strategy for one side to start making concessions before the negotiations begin, because at that point, you’re just negotiating against yourself. In this case, though, I agree that the Strasbourg proposal, etc. make a poor opening to serious negotiations, and I think it would be a smart risk at this point to make a new opening offer. I have in mind three proposals, which, if I were handling negotations, would be my opening offer, final offer, and a medium position which is what I would actually be hoping to achieve, and all of which mitigate the unified Tibet idea. Bear in mind, though, that Tibetan unity is a particularly sensitive issue for the Dalai Lama’s base (Tibetan exiles and dissidents) and he would pay a high price in “domestic” support if he conceded that point without getting anything in return.

  95. Otto Kerner Says:

    Allen,

    I think that, in the long run, just about all of the world’s public interpersonal problems can be solved through legal doctrines. However, in some cases that’s a really long way off and is basically hypothetical. Tibet is one of those. I agree that a lot of political issues often end up being zero sum contests in practice.

  96. Allen Says:

    @Otto Kerner,

    You wrote:

    I agree that a lot of political issues often end up being zero sum contests in practice.

    And we can hope Tibet will not be one of those.

  97. Otto Kerner Says:

    Regarding Mongolia and Tibet, I think that people in any state would be outraged at the government giving away national territory, and the Chinese more than most. But the boundaries of what is “national territory” are fluid in any country. Giving up Outer Mongolia doesn’t necessarily have the same psychological impact that giving up Hebei would, or even Heilongjiang, for that matter. Similarly, I suppose that reactions to losing Tibet would depend a lot on how the situation had been described to the public. If the government would educate children from grade school onward that Tibet is not part of China, etc., etc. then the public might express little interest in what becomes of it. Instead, the government educates citizens that Tibet has always been part of China, etc., etc., so naturally people will see Tibet as inextricably linked to their own fate.

  98. Allen Says:

    @Otto Kerner,

    Thing ain’t so simple. If the British are educated differently, people would be outraged at government giving away or occupying (depending on your perspective) Wales, Scotland, N. Ireland, or within England, Northumberland, Cumbria, Cronwall. Americans would be outraged at the giving away (or occupation as you would have it) of California, Alaska, Texas, etc.

    This is what I find so unacceptable about attitudes like yours. Some are so imbued with exile propaganda by discounting the Chinese interest and identity so much – which is why our discussions never go anywhere. WKL’s admission that China could have core interests that could be violated is a very important step to understanding the problem. You don’t start the “negotiation” by saying the problem is you – your identity, your sense of history, everything about you.

    Come to think of it, if that is an acceptable approach, then I propose that the idea of a “Tibetan unity” you mentioned in #94 is also a problem and should also be “fixed” with a proper re-education also. Perhaps we should start there first. It’d be much easier changing the identity of the exiles than 1.3 billion Chinese.

  99. justkeeper Says:

    @Allen&Otto Kerner: Calm down, Allen, drink a cup of something, do you prefer coffee or tea? I once heard that the West is a blue, merchant civilization in which the guiding principle is that everything can be settled by negotiation or somehow influenced by human will, while the Eastern civilization is more a yellow, continental kind, in which people somehow believe in things like destiny and unavoidable clash of core interests.(zero-sum like what you said) So that’s how I put it, this is essentially a cultural issue, and culture is actually a collective psychological phenomenon, which is formed by the collective experience of the past, the past experience could have a long-lasting impact and pass down from generation to generation, and shaping people’s attitudes and understandings of certain issues. I agree with Otto that such impacts could be mitigated by eduacation, the past experience is another kind of education anyway, but it’ll really take a long, long time. China’s core value system didn’t perish in the numerous devastating disasters and I believe it would be very resistant to changes.

  100. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper #99,

    What needs to be changed? That the border of China is Beijing proper?

  101. justkeeper Says:

    @Allen: Let’s take an example, suppose CCP announced that from now on, unlike all other provinces, the governor and party secretary of Tibet will be fully elected by Tibetans, but the sovereignity remain belowing to PRC and PLA will still be in Tibet and Chinese people could still conduct paperwork-free trip to Tibet, do you think most of Chinese people will find this solution acceptable?

  102. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper #101,

    I can’t speak for the Chinese people (at least in the sense of representing most Chinese people). For me, I don’t know what “paperwork-free” trip means. I am not per se against “immigration” control into traditionally ethnic areas, but I’d just like to note that there are strong legal, political, and normative ramifications. To me it is racially abhorrent to allow say minorities to freely move and reside and immigrate to other parts of country but not the other way around. My view is that we cannot freeze China’s economy, demographics, culture, etc. to the past (and which past anyways – 50 years, 100 years, 500 years ago? Three hundred or so years ago, there wasn’t even the institution of the DL as we know it today). Assimilation per se is not bad. Of course, that does not mean the risks and problems associated with overwhelming minority cultures should be ignored. But change itself is not bad.

    Now – I’m not sure if this is relevant at all, but if we are talking about the DL and exiles, and negotiations with them, we cannot ignore also recent history (i.e. DL’s promulgation of violent, zero-sum nationalism)…

  103. justkeeper Says:

    @Allen: I just create this example to illustrate my point: my take is people grew under the influence of Chinese culture are more likely to get upset over such territorial issues then people influenced by Western civilization, regardless of whether a compromise on such a issue really leads to substantial threat to China. So CCP would risk greater dangers than Western politicians were they to make such a compromise.

  104. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper #103,

    When I first got into learning about Tibet (2003) – doing in-depth research at law school, I went with the mentality that China is such a old, wonderful, amalgamation of cultures: it ought to preserve as much of its varied heritage as possible. China is not the melting pot like the U.S. China is a old multi-heritage society. America is new. America can aim to focus on assimilation. China is old – assimilation destroys.

    Then I started reading the books of the exiles…

    Anyways – for better and for worse, I have come to the position I have for now based on informed research. If there is a movement within China for preservation – for segregation of society – in the name of preserving heritage – upholding stability – fostering harmony. So be that. All things being equal, if that’s what the Chinese people choose for themselves (not what Westerners want, or one particular groups of splittists want), I would be very proud to be a citizen in a federation type country – where China is segregated into different societies, where there is a lot of artificially preserved varieties of “culture” as you travel from one end of the country to another – but only if that’s what the Chinese people as a group wants.

    P.S. I personally don’t believe dividing the country up will preserve culture in the long term. I also don’t believe Tibetan culture is being eroded today by CCP or CCP policy. I still ask those who believe so to point me to specific aspects of culture erosion. See #62.

  105. justkeeper Says:

    @Allen: I completely agree with your above point, although my reason for not entrusting Tibetan people to DL and his institution is different.

  106. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper #105,

    What are your reasons then – even if you have to oversimplify for now?

  107. Allen Says:

    @Steve #32,

    You wrote:

    Is the Korean situation potentially that volatile? Do the Koreans living near the North Korean border feel more Korean or more Chinese? Has anyone on the blog spent time up that way?

    I’m going to raise an issue that is not easy to discuss – but I think it’s worth it – at least for my sake.

    I think it’s good to travel to the trenches to find out what the people want. But I think a lot of political decisions should not simply be made by what the people want. People’s identity today, norms, etc. are made based on the past. But today is also tomorrow’s past. Political decisions should be made not just to propagate the past, to enforce the status quo, but to mold the future.

    Many of our norms today is based on past’s actions, legitimate or illegitimate they may be: the conquest of the new world, colonization, defeat of the Nazis, defeat of the Japanese empire. What people want is tinted by that past. There is nothing wrong with creating new history, of changing history. In the long term, anything with staying power will have to conform to the needs of the people anyways. This is why I am not worried about big bad ideologies that’s going to plummet the world into eternal darkness (this is the gist of Western propaganda, white man’s burden). There is nothing wrong with changing history – or not conforming to the status quo – even of moving against the will of the people at certain turns of history. What we need are leaders with vision, guts, power. We don’t necessarily need figureheads who feel they can “lead” only by pandering to the mass or feeling wind for where the herd is heading.

    P.S. Don’t anyone blindly compare me to Hitler now (there are always some). Hitler was democratically elected and moved with not against the will of his people. Besides, Hitler breathed, spoke, lived, and slept, too. That does not mean breathing, speaking, living, sleeping are always bad.

  108. justkeeper Says:

    I originall have sympathy for DL and his people, until people from both sides acknowledging that TGIE wants the negotiation to include the autonomy of Qinghai, Yunnan, Gansu, i.e one quarter of China. This is like DPP claiming that corss-strait talk could only start on the basis that Taiwan is a completely independent country, which is unacceptable to CCP. I start suspecting that DL and his people might actually want to sustain their institutions more than returning to Tibet. Since they know this would be a far too outrageous request for China, they might be deliberately making such a request in order to turn away CCP, and then blaming the responsibility of refusing to negotiate on them. To me their incentives seem pretty clear, it’s far more beneficial for them to stay outside than to return, because as long as the Free Tibet movement doesn’t die out, they’ll continue to play David vs Goalith and receive funding from all kinds of people around the world, and his people’ll be to live a quite well-off life.(They teach far more English than Tibetan to the kids, obviously for the purpose of lobbying) while returning to Tibet means to live in a enviromentally harsh place and leave yourself at the mercy of CCP. Of course this is pure speculation, but that’s my two cents.

  109. Otto Kerner Says:

    justkeeper, I think it’s smart to observe that people often have ulterior motives. You might also want to note that the people around the Dalai Lama don’t necessarily have all the same motivations as he himself. Basically, the Dalai Lama is always going to be the Dalai Lama, and nothing is going to change that. The Dalai Lama is doing fine living in India and certainly doesn’t need to return to Tibet for his own sake, but he would also be doing fine if he returned. On the one hand, his advisors and assistants might lose their influence if a deal is agreed to; they would go from “big fish in a small pond” to “small fish in a big pond”.

    I’m not sure how many Tibetan exiles would actually mind living in the Tibetan environment — it’s not like they planning to take up jobs as plateau farmers or yak herders, anyway. But, who does want to leave themselves at the mercy of the CCP?

  110. Allen Says:

    @justkeeper #108,

    Funny – I actually have no qualms about the DL asking for 1/4 of China – or 100% of China if he so wants. I see it as both negotiation tactic – as well as pillorying to interests in the exile community. Many of high ranking officials in the exile government are not from TAR proper. They can’t simply go to Lhasa. Their power base (i.e. monastery / religious base) is in surrounding areas. If they simply go back to TAR, they would have no position higher than a pilgrim visiting TAR…

    I also have no problem with DL and the exiles enjoying themselves in India or elsewhere. In fact, if they want the world to fund them to preserve what they see as Tibetan culture – great! It’s time the world help to preserve Chinese culture instead of pillorying it. If the exiles can find a permanent home somewhere else and live peacefully there, I’d have no problem as well. I might even go pay the DL a religious visit. The more culture and “gentle religion” we have in the world, the better! I only have a problem if they want to come back to China to inflame Tibetan nationalism and/or leverage foreign power to make demand on how China should be run.

  111. Josef Says:

    Allen at #92: on “human rights”: I doubt that foreigners really focus on “legal” human rights: I think is it rather the methodology of thinking (coming from the 17th century of enlightenment) that you first start to put a task into a universal frame, i.e. “occupation of an area” and then add the special cases. There is no exception for “political” reasoning, “geopolitical reasoning”, or as you quote WKL, “core interests”. They are the add-ons to work on, but in the first idea the “liberalization” remains an “occupation”.
    In the same category I would put the “preserve culture” issue which will not be hampered in short or medium term. However, I definitely disagree with you that dividing the country would not preserve the culture. But again, as this is lower priority to the benefits not dividing the country, it has to stay back.
    Allen, in #104 you wrote that China is not a melting pot and that Tibetan culture is not eroded by CCP, on the other hand you would prefer a federation type country. And in #102: That does not mean the risks and problems associated with overwhelming minority cultures should be ignored. I assume you mean with that, that Han was not always this overwhelming majority and adding on top the “one-third the arable land per person” argument makes the cultural aspect even more urgent. But I can not point specific aspects and I believe that you know much more on this.
    I also can not really comment on Tibet, but I (really) can comment on Taiwan: For Taiwanese unification is third priority: The first and second are peace and economy. I am not talking about the agenda of political parties. And I would think that this is similar to Tibetans and justifies the annexation.
    Now, one starts to work on the side themes and justkeepers pragmatic proposal #101 sounds not so unreasonable to me, at least as a start for negotiations.
    I also would think, giving DL again the opportunity to increase his religious influence and agenda would not be so dangerous to China, but would remove a lot of winds from the sails of the nationalists/separatists. You have nowadays already large internal networks (face book, whatever), where you can not control the drivers anyway.
    Actually I am optimistic, also for the Taiwanese issue, if one just follows priorities and work on the follow-up effects.

  112. Otto Kerner Says:

    Allen,

    There are some limits to what education can accomplish. Actually, I didn’t mean to imply that this purely an issue of what is taught in the classroom. All sorts of formal and informal discourses that take place in society go into how the public will react. In this case, though, I emphasised the influence of formal indoctrination because I don’t personally think that the issues of identity involved have a lot of historical merit — I think they’re based on tendentious historical interpretations which are promulgated for a political purposes — so people wouldn’t tend to become invested in them without intentional efforts to get them to do so.

    I don’t think it’s fair for you to conflate the “discounting the Chinese interest and identity”. It’s true that I give very little credit to the concerns of Chinese identity regarding Tibet, because I think they are fugazi. But, I always try to take into account Chinese interests in Tibet, which are substantial and real. And interests have an important effect on how the public responds to developments. For instance, imagine how Americans would react to the government “giving up” Alaska. Well, okay, giving it up to whom? To the Alaskans — in other words, is “quit Alaska” popular in Alaska? If so, I don’t think most Americans would care much one way or the other. They might even be offended if the government tried to hang onto Alaska. On the other hand, what if it’s not just “to the Alaskans”, but “to the Alaskans and their Russian or Chinese (or, god forbid, Iranian) allies”? Yes, that might seem different to a lot of people. One remembers that Americans were not amused when Cuba was lost to the Cubans and their Russian allies. So, naturally, people in China worry that losing Tibet is not just losing it to the Tibetans but to the Indians and Americans as well.

    I think you’re right to notice some reluctance to negotiate from the Tibetan exiles. From their perspective, they think simply have justice on their side, so it smarts to have to negotiate over it, just like, if someone stole your car, you wouldn’t like it if people expected you to have to negotiate with the thief. The Chinese government, of course, by refusing to even countenance a discussion about what the Tibetan exiles want to discuss is saying “the problem is you – your identity, your sense of history, everything about you” just as much so if not more.

  113. wuming Says:

    @Otto,

    Your Alaska analogy is interesting, but seems to overlook an actual American historical event that pointed to the opposite. After all, Southerners wanted to quit the union, while the federal government with overwhelming support of the northern people went into a devastating war in order to preserve the union. In that case, there was no substantial foreign involvement. So what made you conclude that if Alaskans wanted to become independent, the federal government and American people in the lower 48 wouldn’t go to war again to fight that?

  114. Rhan Says:

    Alaskans will never wanted to become independent because the America government is capable to bribe almost 100% of their citizen into believing the so called American creed through robbing the world especially towards the weak.

  115. Wukailong Says:

    @wuming: I read a book last year about the Confederate states and Lincoln’s reason for going to war, in which the point is made that Lincoln needed a victory to secure a then unique political system. I don’t have the book here right now so I can’t give a direct quote, but what he said was basically that there are many enemies of democracy out there (mostly the European nations) who would like to see the US fail.

    The name of the book is “The Confederate States of America: What Might Have Been” and is an interesting read in itself for anyone interested in US history and the counterfactual:

    http://www.amazon.com/Confederate-States-America-What-Might/dp/0393059677

    It attempts to be as close to recorded history as possible by first recounting what actually happened, then turning the knobs a little to see what could have been.

    Anyway, to put this in context, I think Alaskan secession wouldn’t be the same threat today to “the state of the Union” as it might have been 200 or 150 years ago. China’s position with regards to Tibet and Xinjiang is quite different.

  116. Allen Says:

    @WKL #115,

    You wrote:

    Anyway, to put this in context, I think Alaskan secession wouldn’t be the same threat today to “the state of the Union” as it might have been 200 or 150 years ago. China’s position with regards to Tibet and Xinjiang is quite different.

    Completely agree. This is why some Chinese (like me) find so much hypocrisy in Western positions. Of course Tibet and Xinjiang is not as stable as Alaska today, but that wasn’t always so – and won’t necessarily be in the future. None of this justify breaking China up. Don’t be so short-sighted people. America had their time to mend their country into a cohesive modern entity. So should China.

    @Josef #111 – sorry I just don’t follow the framework you outlined. I see lots of opinions, what am I supposed to get out of it when you simply say your way is the way (1st paragraph)? On the cultural loss issue, I still ask you or anyone else here to provide what you mean by it. If we are going to negotiate, we need to understand what the problem is – non? You mentioned facebook and control … but what’s your point? And I have no idea what Taiwan has to do with all this… Can you just give me one or two main point that I can try to wrap my mind around to see if we can continue this line of conversation?

    @Otto Kerner #112, I guess we can go around circle and circle more. I’ll make a quick comment on your thing about “justice” though. If we must simplify Tibet into right vs. wrong in a Bush-like good vs. evil manner, let’s just agree to disagree. I believe I am in the just. You believe you are. Let’s let time and history be our arbitrator.

  117. Otto Kerner Says:

    I don’t know why you’re personalising this into something about me. I told you how I think many Tibetan exiles look at it; you and I know the situation is actually a little more complicated than that. Also, bringing up George Bush and “good vs. evil” is gratuitous. The analogy I used was dealing with a car thief, which is not a matter of “good vs. evil” but just criminality vs. law-abiding citizens. You don’t necessarily think the guy who stole your car is evil, but you definitely want your car back.

  118. Allen Says:

    @Otto Kerner,

    You are the one who used the term “justice,” “criminality,” “illegal” and “thief” (previously “human rights”) to simplify the conflict. I’ll let my comment stand.

    P.S. By the way, people in the West (and we in Taiwan) used to lament the “loss of China.” How did we lose China to those red commies? How dare those communist bandits? LOL …. I guess old habits die hard.

  119. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To WKL re: “I think Alaskan secession wouldn’t be the same threat today to “the state of the Union” as it might have been 200 or 150 years ago” and Allen re: “America had their time to mend their country into a cohesive modern entity. So should China.”

    This blog is definitely becoming a vibrant example of “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Now we’re replaying the point that (to paraphrase), since the US of today evolved over 233 years, and the China today (in its current political iteration) is only 60 years young, all we need to do is give China time. So maybe in 173 years (circa 2182), China wouldn’t care so much if Tibet and Xinjiang wanted to go their separate ways. And you know, today’s China probably compares favourably to the US circa 1836. At the very least, she has more internet access and more internet censors than an 1830’s American could’ve ever dreamed of.

  120. Wukailong Says:

    I didn’t intend my explanation as a moral justification of what China is doing; I was only saying that China is insecure about her territory for several reasons, and that part of this insecurity is linked to the current political system (no serious opposition can be tolerated). I remember seeing this connection when reading the book on CSA mentioned above.

    Of course the US is, and was, very different. It was very much built upon the idea that any religious organization could operate freely, which is quite different from the China of today. The party has never been able to coexist well with organized religion, so I think it’s no surprise that the two most volatile provinces are the ones where the majority has strong religious beliefs.

  121. Allen Says:

    @WKL #120,

    You wrote in #83,

    @Allen (#69): I think I’m getting your point. I agree that there are conflicts that are impossible to solve if everything stays the same way it is at the outset (I believe completely exclusive mutual interests depend on a failure to figure an alternative way). If it’s truly impossible for any of the parts to come up with a creative solution, then in the end “might is right”. I really don’t believe this is the case with the Tibetan question.

    I wrote in #92,

    @WKL #83,

    Thank you for understanding. It may not seem like it, but I also agree with a large part of what you wrote in #61 and #66.

    My “problem” with discussing with “foreigners” about Tibet is that they often only frame issues in terms of human rights – and starting with the perspective that Tibet is an independent country.

    If you talk to any Tibetan honestly about what they want, you quickly understand we have a political issue. Political differences are not human rights issues per se. If they are, all the world’s problem can be settled through legal doctrines. Of course political issues should be solved. And win-win situations should be sought. But we should also not distort the situation. If we are not careful, we can end up having a zero-sum conflict – like the way my guide framed it.

    In trying to prove this point, I may have obsessively focused too much on the zero-sum situation. If so – that’s my bad, and I’d like to take that back.

    Nowhere did I mention moral justification. None is sought. I only need people to understand there are many political stalemates that are zero sum, and Tibetan nationalists definitely are not shy about fomenting the conflict as zero sum good vs. evil.

    I don’t get people who want to frame everything in terms of morality. The Western order is not moral at all (whatever moral really means). It is just an order. People need to stop carrying such baggage around. If the West cares so much about “morality,” much of the world would not be suffering as it still does at the hand of the West. There would not have been the opium war. There would not have been colonization. No subversion and meddling of other sovereign nations. Etc., etc., etc.

    Now – perhaps I should take my “thank you” back. Perhaps we are not communicating at all. If we are going to judge the Tibet conflict by bringing in Western standards of freedom of speech, then I am done here. We already have this discussion ad nausea in other places, and to have you backdoor it like this is plain disappointing.

    Might as well say: China is bad and be done with it.

  122. Josef Says:

    My opinion is that the main valuation can not be altered by “side effects”. Geopolitical or political arguments can not override the fact that it is an occupation on one hand, but on the other hand improved the situation of the Tibetans. And as such it is good. Probably I over-interpreted your critics that foreigners always starts with “human rights” and “independent country”. To my opinion one can not understand China geopolitical (alone). With “human rights” I do not mean the interpretation of some text, but the big, abstract picture: country A vs country B and the effect on the people. My reference on “methodology of thinking” is that there are no exceptions.

    We need to understand what the problem is, you said, that is correct. I certainly do not have this deep knowledge about China that you have, so I bounced back the question with lines of yours which indicates some “contradiction” (not exact contradiction but also not 100% consistency), like: if everything is o.k., why do you want a federation type country? I guess the difference is, that you see assimilation as an option and it might be that my (European) point of view is exotic and in minority. I like the Europe as of today, with clear and very defined common areas but keeping the Cultures separated. – My personal preference, I know yours is different.

    Yes I had too big jumps within my lines, I apologize. With my comparison with Taiwan I wanted to imply, that even if single Tibetans wants Chinese out, a majority might see them welcome as their presence guaranteed the two most important items: peace and better economy. There could be changes for more autonomy in Tibet or more closer relations to Taiwan, but if there are, they must not jeopardize this peace and economy achievements and thus must be very slow and careful. That is the important and abstract goal, which I would put into the category “human rights”, above any (geo)political arguments. But I never visited Tibet and therefore the statement (“welcome”) is hypothetical.

    The last one was probably the biggest jump. I again implied that the suppression of DL’s Buddhism, as well as the Roman Catholic Church is justified by CCP with the doctrine, not to allow any large community with independent leaders. I quoted before the Taiping rising as the example from history which might have lead to this doctrine (I read that somewhere). But the technical development already overwrote this doctrine: you have already large networks which you can not control anyway. To my opinion, an opening on this task is a comparable low hanging fruit, and a first step for negotiations, but will reduce the support for the separatist groups.

    I tried to group topics into priorities instead of weighting them against each other. I don’t want to claim that as “my way” but rather as one way to understand and analyze it.

  123. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To WKL:
    “I was only saying that China is insecure about her territory for several reasons, and that part of this insecurity is linked to the current political system (no serious opposition can be tolerated)”
    — a well-stated representation of an interesting idea. I wonder why a system that brooks no dissent might be prone to insecurity. And I wonder if there is a lesson to be learned from that. And I wonder if the people most in need of that lesson will care to, try to, or manage to glean the teaching points.

    To Allen:
    “People need to stop carrying such baggage around.” — and I think you are one such person. You seem allergic to the concept of morality in the realm of many matters China (i would’ve said all, but alas, CHarles has taught us a thing or too about absolutes).

    “If we are going to judge China by Western standards of freedom of speech, then I am done here.” — maybe you should try the China/CCP standards of freedom of speech instead, if that suits you better. Or is it just that freedom of speech has no role in your world?

  124. justkeeper Says:

    @SKC: There is a huge blank space between the two standards, and CCP has advanced many inches twoard the Western side. I would believe to push a government slowly and sometimes give the credit when the credit is due will be more helpful to the social stability and provide more motivations to the government, CCP expects that when it does do better jobs, people’s support for it will increase rather than decrease like what was happening in the Eastern European countries, and I believe a democracy that was built using 200 years(like the U.S) is much better than one built using 20 years(Eastern European countries).

  125. Allen Says:

    @SKC #123,

    You wrote:

    “People need to stop carrying such baggage around.” — and I think you are one such person. You seem allergic to the concept of morality in the realm of many matters China (i would’ve said all, but alas, CHarles has taught us a thing or too about absolutes).

    I suppose I have also learned a thing or two from you about absolutes.

    @Josef #122,

    Thanks for following up with clarified thinking. Here are my responses:

    You wrote:

    To my opinion one can not understand China geopolitical (alone). With “human rights” I do not mean the interpretation of some text, but the big, abstract picture: country A vs country B and the effect on the people. My reference on “methodology of thinking” is that there are no exceptions.

    Ok – I think I understand where you are going. I understand that geopolitical considerations do not trump everything, and that’s been my intention. Nationalism does not trump everything. But I’ve also written before why the modern basis of Chinese understanding of human rights is based on a strong state (taking into context the history of the last 100-200 years) that provides stability. I still don’t know what you mean by “human rights.” I guess you are saying it’s not just about some narrow conception of freedom of speech or democracy. Whatever it is, since I don’t know what you mean, I’ll simply leave it as: let’s agree to disagree here.

    You wrote:

    if everything is o.k., why do you want a federation type country? I guess the difference is, that you see assimilation as an option and it might be that my (European) point of view is exotic and in minority. I

    That’s not what I meant. I only meant that my initial take on China was a federation type because that’s what it used to be like in the past – before China industrialized. Before the modern era, the world was less tightly bound together. So my idea of a status quo / default model for China was federation – not just of peripheral regions, but of the province regions as well. I changed my ideas as I studied more about history, politics, and of course, the DL and the exile gov’t.

    Look – both models are inherently ok with me – assuming “everything is ok.” But neither is against “human rights” (in the big scheme you probably mean). So even if I pick one simply arbitrarily over another, unless you point out what the tragedy (culture loss? please point out?) really is, I don’t see a problem. It’s an internal issue for the Chinese to decide.

    As for Tibetan autonomy, of course I am not opposed to it in theory, but it depends what we mean by autonomy. The DL has said he only seeks autonomy within the framework of the PRC Constitution. Fine. I have no problem with that per se. But this by itself doesn’t mean the DL should have autonomy on his terms. China already has installed a local government in DL’s long absence. I prefer to grow that government structure. The DL has said recently all he cares about is Tibetan culture and religion. He is sure welcomed to return as a religious figure and work with that local government to strengthen culture and religion in a way that proves to be a positive influence on society.

    As for CCP distrust of DL and Catholic Church, things ain’t as simple as CCP is afraid of losing control. DL and Catholic Church have both played politics inside China to the detriment of China. We’ve discussed this issue before. I refer you to the following when you have time (these are just some examples of our previous discussions):

    http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2008/06/25/on-china-and-religion/

    http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2008/07/12/speaking-about-the-three-self-patriotic-chinese-christian/

    http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2009/01/24/opinion-dear-mr-dalai-lama-please-tear-down-this-wall/#comment-28887

  126. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Justkeeper:
    “CCP has advanced many inches twoard the Western side.” — economically, absolutely. In other arenas, perhaps less so. But the point shouldn’t even be moving toward the “western” side. If there is acknowledgment that her current position is untenable, undesirable, or indefensible, any move from that current position would represent an improvement. As many others have waxed on about, her ultimate endpoint needn’t be Western, or Northern, or Eastern. It’s the whole deal about democracy, or whatever you want to call it, with CHinese characteristics. The ongoing problem is that such characteristics are ill-defined, or undefined.

    “sometimes give the credit when the credit is due will be more helpful to the social stability” — I agree, to a point. It’s like raising a child. Encouragement is obviously a good form of motivation. But sometimes, “good job”‘s and “atta’boy”‘s that may be undeserved might start to diminish the effectiveness of that very form of encouragement.

  127. wuming Says:

    “But sometimes, “good job”’s and “atta’boy”’s that may be undeserved might start to diminish the effectiveness of that very form of encouragement.”

    The smugness sounds a bit jarring to me, who should be the parental figure here? US? have you considered who is the creditor in this case? Canada? a country of 33.5 million people living on a land larger than that of China, with arable land half the size of China, second largest oil reserve in the world … if it is not the freest, wealthiest and the most happy country in the world, it’s politicians should be dying of shame (or as the popular Chinese saying goes, each should smack his head into a piece of soft tofu to commit suicide). The point of the original post is about the context of geography, of history, of putting things into context in general, I fail to see any of that sense in the comment above.

  128. wukailong Says:

    @Allen (#121): “Now – perhaps I should take my “thank you” back. Perhaps we are not communicating at all. If we are going to judge the Tibet conflict by bringing in Western standards of freedom of speech, then I am done here. We already have this discussion ad nausea in other places, and to have you backdoor it like this is plain disappointing.”

    My answer was directed to SKC, because it came directly after his post and it seemed he was pegging me as justifying what China did, which was not my intention. Then there is a very different way these two areas handle religion, which I think is actually a “core interest” in this question (though by no means the only one).

    I still think I understand your point. I wasn’t saying that China was bad (or morally wrong) in this case, just that I was trying to understand the question of what drives her. But the problem is that when you do that, people will always come up and claim that you justify their behavior, so I thought I ought to say that that’s not what I’m doing.

    Now, so that everyone understands: refraining from saying something doesn’t mean you say the opposite. OK?

  129. Josef Says:

    Hi Allen,

    Initially I only tried to understand your line:

    >My “problem” with discussing with “foreigners” about Tibet is that they often only frame issues in terms of human rights – and starting with the perspective that Tibet is an independent country.<

    And particular your definition of human rights. It is certainly not the Chinese human rights you mentioned in your last response (quotation: human rights is based on a strong state) but I guess you meant
    (western) freedom of speech or (western) freedom of religion. If it is so, I do disagree to your statement (I admit I tried to bend it before): Foreigners, like me, talk in the frame of "freedom" (meaning "not occupied", however accepting that currently Tibet is not an independent country).

    This time your links again explained a lot but just made it more clear to me that, yes: we should agree to disagree.

    But I would like to remark, that if ever there is a popular vote on the roadmap for a reunification of Taiwan with China (that is not of topic), modern Taiwanese will not buy any "Chinese human right", "Chinese freedom of religion" or "Chinese freedom of speech". Certainly the West does not have a monopoly on this terms, therefore it is even more important to clarify them. The government controlled brainwashing of Taiwan's youth stopped much longer ago than in China,- one can not sell this "for the greater good" arguments here anymore and from my younger friends in China I have the same impression. They are and feel free. To clarify "greater good": as it is used in the other threads but also as you wrote:" .. in a way that proves to be a positive influence on society."
    But I do not see that as bad, but as the optimistic development I quoted before.

  130. Wukailong Says:

    Perhaps a clarification of my viewpoints will dispel some doubts:

    * The Chinese and Tibetan sides have a conflict that, while on the surface often framed as human rights, relate to core interests on both sides that are geopolitical (for example, autonomy/independence for Tibetans and unity/buffer states on the Chinese side). Allen brought up zero-sum conflicts and I agreed that there are currently such conflicts, but I don’t believe they are forever so. The best tactic is to try to understand why the conflict arose and, if it isn’t yet a zero-sum conflict, make sure it doesn’t become one.

    * I do not believe the Tibetan side’s core interest is really independence. It is rather a question of a religious-social structure that was broken up quickly, and a conflict with atheist communism. Much has changed on both sides since this conflict erupted.

    * I used an American example to show why it is natural for a state that feels threatened to take the steps it takes. However, since the core interests are different from these two examples (for example, you probably wouldn’t have separatists in the US who feel there is a lack of freedom of religion) I also agree that it’s not a perfect analogy.

    * There is no justification of either actor involved. What I think personally of them shouldn’t matter; what does matter is how to go forward. I might write about my ideas for that later.

  131. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wuming:
    thanks for the geography lesson. But you should really take a chill pill. You are correct that my last paragraph of #126 does not relate directly to the OP. My bad. However, if I may direct your attention to the first sentence of that paragraph, it might give you some idea of the context for, and the intention of, the statement you quoted. If you prefer the Coles’ Notes, it’s that “giving credit when credit is due” is fine, but there should be no expectation of a pat on the back when it’s undeserved. It’s ironic, and comical, that you accuse me of paternalism on a blog about China.

    To WKL:
    “My answer was directed to SKC, because it came directly after his post and it seemed he was pegging me as justifying what China did, which was not my intention.” — sorry about that. I was wondering if you would take it that way. In reality, I needed your statement to give background for my #119. Otherwise my riff on timelines in response to Allen’s “give China time” might have seemed to come out of left field. Admittedly not elegantly done on my part.

  132. Steve Says:

    @ Josef #129: Not sure why your post got caught up in the spam filter… twice… but if you post and don’t see it show up, one of us will eventually find and release it. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  133. Allen Says:

    @Josef #129,

    OK – let’s agree to be optimistic. Glad we had the conversation.

  134. Allen Says:

    @WKL #130,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I know you mean well and are showing a valiant effort at mutual understand. I vote a peace prize for you!

    As for me, I am more than convinced than ever before that China must solve the issues of Tibet domestically. China and the West simply have no common frame of reference here.

    Chow.

  135. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen: “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
    Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat…”

  136. Allen Says:

    @WKL #135,

    Which God? 😉

  137. Wukailong Says:

    @Allen: Given my origins, I’ll stick to Thor! 🙂

    Since this discussion seems to be dying out, I’ll make an OT comment here: I just realized that I don’t know whether I believe in a god or not – because I can’t figure out what it would mean. Or maybe I just lack imagination.

  138. Josef Says:

    @Allen 133
    Thats a good agreement, and, thanks for all the links. I learned something from you.

  139. Allen Says:

    @Josef #138,

    It’s good to see that you, WKL, and I can have a vigorous debate – and not agree – and with respect. As I said before, pleasure is mine to have had the opportunity to discuss.

    One thing that may be missing about a geopolitical discussion of China is its past century or two of humiliation… Here is a good article, written from a Western perspective, that I hope you and others will find helpful in our future discussions.

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21715

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