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Chinese Nationalism
April 19, 2008 5:05 AM   Subscribe

The "sacred flame" winds its way towards Beijing, creating new flashpoints like a car bumper scraping sparks from the pavement.

The chinese public's anger at CNN now has a wildly popular theme song. "You can't turn lies into the truth by repeating them a thousand times"

Chinese nationalism and an American backlash are both growing. Where is all this leading to? And even if we can't understand how China sees Tibet, or know whether the Shanghai Princesses will really give up their Chanel, can we at least assure the Chinese that we don't like Jack Cafferty either?
posted by Tlogmer (100 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oops, I'd meant to get this link in there somewhere, too.
posted by Tlogmer at 5:14 AM on April 19, 2008


As much as I would love to say its the government's, not people's, fault, I don't know anymore. Their blind sense of nationalism makes me worry that sheeple will believe whatever you tell them. Many of them don't even know the real story behind the conquering of Tibet, or don't care.

Now that I think about it, this reminds me of the way the US works.
posted by Chocomog at 5:15 AM on April 19, 2008


I like Jack Cafferty.
posted by horsemuth at 5:29 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know either, Chocomog, and there lies the problem.
Seperated by geography, distrust and apathy, I really don't understand a damned thing about Chou Six-pack.
Anyone know some good primers for an earnest know-nothing like me?
posted by Dizzy at 5:30 AM on April 19, 2008


I asked about China's obligation in Tibet. The answers suggested that my students had learned more from American history than I had intended to teach. One student replied, "First, I will use my friendship to help [the Tibetans]. But if they refuse my friendship, I will use war to develop them, like the Americans did with the Indians."
We love you heathens so much well kill thousands of you to do you good!

We love you poor so much we struggle all the day to have more of you!

We love the worker so much we keep donating them jobs we wouldn't do for the same wage, but under duress!
posted by elpapacito at 5:32 AM on April 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


I grew up in New York, watching Jack Cafferty on "Live at Five" every night (Mom watched it) and now see him on CNN - he's been part of my life for 30 years. He rocks.
posted by waitingtoderail at 5:39 AM on April 19, 2008


"Sacred flame" my ass! Didn't they see my Nazi post?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:59 AM on April 19, 2008


They saw it, flap.
Have a neighbor-kid start your car this weekend, just to be safe.
posted by Dizzy at 6:10 AM on April 19, 2008


Finally a theme song that captures my contempt for the mainstream media. Thank you PRC. On the other hand, shame on you for following our bad example w/r/t indiginous peoples and proping up nasty dictators. Just because all the cool countries are doing it is no reason you should follow our example. Why can't you be more like Canada?
posted by humanfont at 6:14 AM on April 19, 2008


Have a neighbor-kid start your car this weekend, just to be safe.

Good thinking, Diz. And I know just the kid, too... little jerk from around the way, always waking me up with his gaddam J-pop!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:24 AM on April 19, 2008


I think the protests might have carried more weight if the issue had ... ya know ... evoked some passion anytime from July of 2001 to the week before the torch run. Waiting so late to voice such earnest concern kinda slaps a "trendy" sticker on it.
posted by RavinDave at 7:00 AM on April 19, 2008


#Now that I think about it, this reminds me of the way the US works.
His effort spawned the increasingly popular slogan "don't be too CNN," which in China apparently now means "don't be too biased." Since then, two songs lampooning CNN, complete with video, have become popular on China's Internet. Both are called "Don't Be Too CNN."
LOL! I watched a good chunk of the 2004 debates from Hangzhou (~100 mi. SW of Shanghai) and the Chinese coverage was much better -- read:unbiased -- than CNN's coverage.
posted by vhsiv at 7:23 AM on April 19, 2008


Some good links - I was interested by the one on how China sees Tibet. I'm not surprised that the Chinese think of themselves as making a positive contribution, but all that stuff - the country is underpopulated - it needs skilled people like us to develop it - if we have to kill a few of them it's in the long-term interests of the country - sounds to me like an unholy mixture of what the Brits and Americans used to say about the Indians and Red Indians respectively.
posted by Phanx at 7:26 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Their blind sense of nationalism makes me worry that sheeple will believe whatever you tell them.

They re-elected George Bush as their president for God's sake!
posted by three blind mice at 7:32 AM on April 19, 2008


I think Jack Cafferty kicks ass; one of the only sane voices breaking through the cable news lie-fest
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:45 AM on April 19, 2008


I certainly hope China bashing is here to stay, we desperately need to fix the trade imbalance.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:14 AM on April 19, 2008


So you're saying that even in far away countries, people still think in terms of "US and THEM"? I'm shocked I tells ya! Shocked!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:19 AM on April 19, 2008


China bashing might be new for North Americans and Europeans but Asia has been living with "China Fatigue" for years.
posted by slatternus at 8:20 AM on April 19, 2008


They Diebold voting machines in Ohio re-elected George Bush as their president for God's sake!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:53 AM on April 19, 2008


I think one thing mainstream Western media might be missing is that to many Chinese (not just those living in China) the issue is not so much about Tibet but really about the Olympics. To them, this entire event appears to be one huge slap in the face not to the Chinese government, but to the Chinese people in general, and in some ways a huge loss of "face". In particular, I think many Chinese citizens see Beijing 2008 as inviting the world to their home, and have spent years preparing for it. As such, the various protests that badly marred the torch relay were hurtful and humiliating events on a personal level. I kind of feel the same even as an overseas Chinese.

I'm not saying that what happened in Tibet was justifiable, just that it is incorrect to attribute the anger amongst the Chinese population to the results of propoganda or a "blind sense of nationalism"... it is perhaps an Asian cultural thing about being a host, and the respect you expect from your guests.
posted by destrius at 9:03 AM on April 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


So, I work with people from a lot of different countries, and until the subject of Tibet came up, I didn't realize how touchy the "Free Tibet" slogan is to Chinese people. Tibet has had a pretty complex relationship with China historically. Sometimes it's been independent, sometimes it's been ruled by China but with a large degree of autonomy, and sometimes China has totally dominated Tibet (but one of those times was when the Mongols ruled China, which is not something the Chinese like to bring up when claiming that Tibet should stay under their control). So in Chinese minds, it's not like they're ruling a nation that has always been independent.

One reason why China wants control of Tibet is for national defense. China has always done better when it's had a strong central government and been free from foreign control (think the Mongols, and more recently, Europe + US in the 19th century). An article in stratfor sums this up.

Other reasons why this is an emotional topic for Chinese. There is affirmative action for Tibetans in university admissions, and the "one child per family" policy doesn't apply to Tibetans. Families can have up to 3 kids, and if they have more, the punishment is lighter than if a Han family had 2 kids.

One other claim I've heard, and I don't know if this is true or not but it seems plausible, is that before China invaded Tibet in the 1950s, 85-90% of the Tibetan population were living like serfs, and the Dalai Lama represented an upper class of aristocracy that ruled over them. So it's quite possible that most Tibetans are doing no worse now than they were 50 years ago. Regardless, the situation is a mess and I feel sorry for those caught in it.

Anyway, I've been told that the Atlantic article linked to above ("how China sees Tibet") is pretty accurate, so it's probably a good place to start if you want to understand the side of the oppressors.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:10 AM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


shame on you for following our bad example w/r/t indiginous peoples and proping up nasty dictators. Just because all the cool countries are doing it is no reason you should follow our example. Why can't you be more like Canada?

Yes, because we Canucks have a long and glorious history of treating our First Nations peoples well.
posted by heatherann at 9:16 AM on April 19, 2008


Jack Cafferty CNN insulted Chinese people by racism words.

If the YouTube poster thought "goons" and "thugs" were racist terms, he or she clearly doesn't understand their meaning. Rather than mince words, perhaps this points to an opportunity to export the National Hockey League to China?

I like Cafferty when I agree with him, which is more often than I'd like to admit. But he can be tone deaf quite a lot of the time. Think of him as Keith Olbermann's cranky uncle.
posted by psmealey at 9:16 AM on April 19, 2008


I agree with destrius. I've heard China described as an oversensitive teenager in terms of its national identity, and one common sentiment among ethnic Hans is that it seems unfair to pick on poor China when most other countries have similar issues involving native peoples. For what that's worth.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:22 AM on April 19, 2008


It's easier for tubby nerds to boycott something they have no intention of watching than (say) Chinese electronic components and iPods.
posted by RavinDave at 9:29 AM on April 19, 2008


Turns out nationalism is just as disgusting when non-white people do it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:37 AM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]








I'm a big fan of History. I hold judgement until I understand the complex underlying relationship formed by these two country's history. The "How China sees Tibet article was still colored by how Mr. Hessler sees Tibet and framed in a weasel way. The Observer article was surprisingly unreadable. By the second paragraph I was disgusted by the heavy anti-China slant. You need to find better (neutral) articles and NOT Wikipedia.

One thing people keep forgetting, the right of sovereignty is also a human rights issue and the unification of Chinese land and freedom from the shackles of western influence is their right. I wasn't at all surprised to hear of British influence in Tibet (invasion for forced trade). I have a hunch there lies the rub. Not ONE of the authors of these articles elaborated on that issue, or in what ways the west seeks to exert influence on China either through Tibet or direct Imperialism.

However the big picture question is: why is there any concern for Tibet at all in the west? a country of a few million people who don't look like whites, who don't share any thing cultural or religiously with whites. What does the West want to do with Tibet? Why do you care? or is this just some trumped up shit designed to engender hostility against a rising competitor for the worlds resources and the falling dollar?
posted by Student of Man at 10:55 AM on April 19, 2008


While the April 18 DDoS attack on CNN in response to the Cafferty comments appears to have been called off, hacker group "Revenge of the Flame" is looking pretty organized, and may still strike.
posted by gemmy at 10:58 AM on April 19, 2008


Student of Man: However the big picture question is: why is there any concern for Tibet at all in the west? a country of a few million people who don't look like whites, who don't share any thing cultural or religiously with whites. What does the West want to do with Tibet? Why do you care?

Well, we have a fair number of buddhists here, and it was their headquarters before all the religious leaders got kicked out or slaughtered.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:22 AM on April 19, 2008


Student of Man:

the right of sovereignty is also a human rights issue

why is there any concern for Tibet at all in the west?

I've said it before, but you can't wave an Ace in front of me and then try to bluff that it's a two.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:36 AM on April 19, 2008


I also find the idea of arguing to sovereignty to justify stripping another country of theirs to be highly amusing.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:42 AM on April 19, 2008


Student of Man: I agree that an understanding of history and cultural context is very important to assessing political situations. However, every bit of history is preceded by another bit of history which is connected to a contemporaneous bit from over here, etc. Spending too much time trying to "understand it all" is a recipe for inaction and doesn't end up helping anything.

It seems fairly clear that Tibet is a mostly distinct country, that China is occupying it and that China's occupation is unwelcome by a majority of the populace and that it is repressive. That's enough for me to think that Tibet ought to be independent. It may be the case that China thinks what they are doing is in Tibet's best interests but I tend to rail against American paternalism as well.

I don't think the issue is as complicated as you make it out to be. Nuanced, yes, but morally...not as ambiguous.
posted by afflatus at 12:35 PM on April 19, 2008


The answers suggested that my students had learned more from American history than I had intended to teach. One student replied, "First, I will use my friendship to help [the Tibetans]. But if they refuse my friendship, I will use war to develop them, like the Americans did with the Indians."

And it's not just past history; we're still exploiting the Indians, like with the new nuclear weapons complex we're building on the land of the Western Shoshone.
posted by homunculus at 12:43 PM on April 19, 2008


destrius: it is perhaps an Asian cultural thing about being a host, and the respect you expect from your guests.

Good point, but this is not just an Asian cultural thing - this is more of a cultural universality.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:08 PM on April 19, 2008


Oh, also: noting the trope of Xenia here doesn't argue against the Bejing Olympics as a propagandist campaign - good propaganda, like a good story, will call upon cultural mores and universal myths.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:15 PM on April 19, 2008


it's quite possible that most Tibetans are doing no worse now than they were 50 years ago

It's quite certain that most Han Chinese are doing no worse now than they were 50 years ago. Clearly, this is fair.
posted by oaf at 1:19 PM on April 19, 2008


Having lived overseas in a country and a culture that is routinely misinterpreted by the Western media, in my experience it's utterly useless to rely on CNN or other media sources to determine very much about a different country and culture.

The news and the links here in this FPP are full of Chinese nationalist frenzy, but, because it's so difficult to tell a nuanced story in print, let alone on television, what's being reported, and what's being linked to in the blog are probably so far from the truth it's not even funny.

So stop getting your panties in a knot.

However, having listened to the Chinese Consul-General here in Vancouver talk about the Dalai Lama and the protests in London and Paris, I know first-hand that the Chinese leadership are reactionary and anti-democratic, so any protests against the Olympic flame fill me with glee.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:24 PM on April 19, 2008




Anti-French rallies across China
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on April 19, 2008


Student of Man: One thing people keep forgetting, the right of sovereignty is also a human rights issue and the unification of Chinese land and freedom from the shackles of western influence is their right. I wasn't at all surprised to hear of British influence in Tibet (invasion for forced trade). [...] However the big picture question is: why is there any concern for Tibet at all in the west? a country of a few million people who don't look like whites, who don't share any thing cultural or religiously with whites. What does the West want to do with Tibet? Why do you care?

This question seems to assume that exploitation and imperialism can only be practiced inter-racially, and that self-sovereignty breaks down into matters of race and culture rather than of self-governance. Through this lens, British and Chinese interference with Tibet can be painted as two different animals, but in reality they are both examples of forceful, unwanted interference. There's no saving grace to laying under the heel of someone who shares your skin color or last name; this myth is as old as the first dictator.

Furthermore, if the "West" is unconcerned with the rights and sovereignty of "non-Westernern" populations, why is there any concern for Palestine in the West? Why was there any concern for South Africa in the West? Why is there any concern for Darfur in the West? Why the great international outcry against the invasion of Iraq? Why should there be a United States at all, if British rule over the colonies were an instance of acceptable intra-cultural domination?
posted by kid ichorous at 2:56 PM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


It really seems like neither side understands the other on anything beyond a superficial level. Most Americans just think China is a dictatorship that undercuts American jobs with cheap lead-filled exports. Most Chinese think all Americans are war-mongering meddling haters. Both are not protesting each other without any real clue where it's all leading.

Sounds like a powder keg to me unless we get some cultural exchange, and fast.
posted by Leon-arto at 3:14 PM on April 19, 2008


To be honest, I kind of stand back on the China-Tibet issue; given what Tibet looked like before China went "Oh hey, you're ours now", and given that the leader of the Free Tibet movement is the individual who would most benefit from it (by being lifted into the position of a nigh-absolute ruler), I'm not exactly eager to take the Tibetan side. The Chinese nationalists are disgusting, but if the Free Tibet movement really wants to go back to the way things were, that's no better.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:20 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Student of Man: However the big picture question is: why is there any concern for Tibet at all in the west? a country of a few million people who don't look like whites, who don't share any thing cultural or religiously with whites. What does the West want to do with Tibet? Why do you care?

Yes, these are pretty much the questions asked by my Chinese friends, whenever we argue Tibet. Usually followed by: What about all the other minorities in China? Why don't you ever see flags saying "Free Xinjiang"? Besides, what is "Free Tibet" even supposed to mean? Not even the Dalai Lama wants an independent Tibet and he has (yes, I know, for pragmatic reasons) essentially stated that Tibet should be a part of the Chinese empire. Why are ETA and, to a lesser extent, the IRA regarded as terrorist organizations, but bomb-throwing Tibetans are regarded as freedom fighters?

I don't really have any good answers to these questions, except perhaps that Tibetan monks are much more photogenic than you average moustached Uighur Muslim. In fact, Tibetan monks smashing Chinese shop windows must be a news editor's wet dream.
posted by sour cream at 3:20 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Rumormill has it China called for a boycott of Carrefour chain ; it may just be a coincidence, but carrefour china site is down. Wonders what's up with Auchan , Decathlon , Leroy Merlin et al in China as well.

Viva la France!
posted by elpapacito at 4:01 PM on April 19, 2008


I like Jack Cafferty even when I don't agree with him. It's nice to hear somebody go over-the-top in commentary that isn't obviously serving a political master, which is why Limbaugh can be entertaining those times when he hasn't been given his marching orders for a while. "Goon" is not a racist slur. Unless you're referring to British radio stars.

But the worst thing about the Chinese leadership today is that they're trying to make their country like America but more so, and in all the wrong ways. All they need now is to set up a second political party to give the illusion of free elections.
posted by wendell at 5:08 PM on April 19, 2008


I think, as destrius argues above, that the whole spectacle concerning the olympics in the western media is taken as a slap in the face by a lot of Chinese.

Most of the Chinese studying abroad that I've encountered seem to come with fixed, alomst unapproachable views on certain issues. Among them the issues of Tibet and Taiwan stand out. Nevertheless, I still sometimes try to illuminate other perspectives on these matters. My friend Ning makes a good example.

A week or so prior to the March riots in Lhasa, I brought Ning to a lecture held by Wang Lixiong, who was in town to accept the Freedom of Expression Prize on behalf of his wife, Woeser. The effect was imminent. If there indeed was no discrimination of the Tibetan people in China, why was Wang allowed to leave China to accept the prize, when his wife, the prize's recipient, was not? Could the fact that she was Tibetan, and he Han, have anything to do with it? Watching and hearing the Chinese intellectual describing the Tibetan's situation must have made quite an impact on my friend, as later that night I received messages saying things like 'I feel so bad. I am Chinese, but only one person, what can I do?'. When a few days later I took her to a viewing of What Remains of Us, the sentiments remained the same.

Then came the Lhasa riots, the Chinese netizens campaign against the western media, the olympic torch demonstrations and the explosion of China bashing in general. I think it started with a stranger screaming 'TIBET' at her in street one day as she walked home from school, but ever since, she's been all over the internet posting articles listing historical reasons why Tibet is a part of China, linking to blogs showing serfs with their eyes cut out, drums made of serf skin owned by the lamas, etc.

Unless the aim of the protesters as of late has been to kill whatever sympathy for the Tibetan cause there is in China, and if we take the argument that change in China has to come from within at face value, I don't see what good has come of it.
posted by klue at 5:10 PM on April 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


I like Jack Cafferty even when I don't agree with him.

Funny, I can't stand him even when I agree with him. It's such a patented schtick at this point: exaggerate, mug for the camera, raise your voice whenever you can because it helps get short-term attention...it's just *awful* stuff, only made worse when it comes from someone who's - I'm just guessing here - smart enough to know better.

It's nice to hear somebody go over-the-top in commentary that isn't obviously serving a political master

You're kidding, right? You've heard of the Nielsen ratings, haven't you? Is there a more domineering "political master" in the U.S. today than *that*?
posted by mediareport at 5:27 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Sacred flame" my ass! Didn't they see my Nazi post?

Some of the protesters missed it too.
posted by homunculus at 6:25 PM on April 19, 2008


Hahahaha! Ha ha ha... ha...... ha ha... ha ...

*sob*
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:40 PM on April 19, 2008


P.S. That was a reaction to homunculus' link directly above.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:41 PM on April 19, 2008


If it weren't for Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, Tibet wouldn't have been invaded and subjugated along with the Song Dynasty (at one time Tibet had conquered a large chunk of what is now the Chinese heartland; Tibet had never been under Chinese control).

A unified China under the Yuan Dynasty (created by Kublai Khan) gave China the opportunity to re-write history when power was eventually wrested from the Mongols.

Insisting that both Genghis and Kublai Khan were in fact Chinese allowed China to retain territory it had never had before the Mongol hordes swept across Asia. China's modern borders are very much a reflection of this.

In short, revisionist history is all the excuse China needs to do whatever it wants in Tibet.
posted by bwg at 7:37 PM on April 19, 2008


Chinese sentiment as expressed on the Internet is pretty amazing at the moment - remember the Chinese wheelchair athlete in France who had the torch taken off her? She was portrayed as a hero in China - but she made a statement about how a boycott of Carrefour might not be a good idea (clearly the Chinese govt is becoming a little concerned about protests and boycotts getting out of hand). So now the backlash against the athlete has started. A couple of choice quotes:

- What kinda fart is Jin Jing! She is helping Carrefour. I think that she is a Chinese traitor.
- What kinda person is Jin Jing? You give her a little color, and she thinks that she can run a dye mill.
- First, she lost her leg. Now she has lost her mind.

As for the Carrefour boycotts - they are being held in a number of cities (10,000 people out the front of the Carrefour in Wuhan!), although in Shenzhen and Guangzhou the authorities prevented them from happening. (this paragraph sourced from South China Morning Post, which can't be linked to because of a paywall.)
posted by awfurby at 7:56 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


- What kinda fart is Jin Jing! She is helping Carrefour. I think that she is a Chinese traitor.

Funny how Chinese nationalists defending the occupation of Tibet and attacking China's critics sound just as stupid as American nationalists defending the occupation of Iraq and attacking the Bush administration's critics.

Einstein was right: "Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."
posted by homunculus at 8:36 PM on April 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


klue: Unless the aim of the protesters as of late has been to kill whatever sympathy for the Tibetan cause there is in China, and if we take the argument that change in China has to come from within at face value, I don't see what good has come of it.

Exactly... I think the torch protests if anything have probably resulted in worsening the situation for the Tibetan people. The Chinese people aren't so much angry at the Tibetans for wanting independence as they are at the Olympics being targeted, but this anger can and will transfer easily to become hostility to everything Tibetan in nature. If the Olympics end up a disaster, there will be Chinese citizens who will first blame the West and then the Tibetans for this.

In any case, publicly embarrassing the Chinese government doesn't seem like a good way to make them change their policies. There's a lot of cultural baggage amongst the Chinese about how Western nations have been bullying the Chinese people (and Asian people in general). I think Chinese tend to have a kind of stubbornness where they will refuse to do something, even if they originally wanted to, because doing so would seem like they were being forced into it by someone else. A matter of "face", perhaps.

Whether or not Beijing 2008 is a propogandist campaign, the fact is that many people feel deeply for it not for nationalist but for ethnic reasons. Many have also put in countless hours of work for this event; a Taiwanese new program I watched recently showed how the hostesses for the games had to undergo various weeks of training, from learning English to practicing how to walk properly and smile. It might seem superficial, but the fact is that many of these girls may have come from the villages, and the Olympics is their first chance at being in a big city with an international audience. To them, the Western world is totally alien and impossibly far away; yet they eagerly prepare to welcome them. Obviously they will feel very unhappy at the way the Western world is currently treating the Olympics.

Furthermore, these are dangerous emotional scars to develop; at a time when the best thing for China and its people is more openness and cooperation with the West, you don't want a generation of youngsters to grow up remembering with bitterness how the West "snubbed" them.
posted by destrius at 9:43 PM on April 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Don't be surprised if 98.3% of China's population boycotts Carrefour, because 98.3% of China's population has never stepped inside (or possibly heard of) Carrefour.
posted by anotherbrick at 10:09 PM on April 19, 2008


I think the torch protests if anything have probably resulted in worsening the situation for the Tibetan people.

I keep worrying about what's going to happen after the Olympics, but after 50 years under occupation, the Tibetans know the dangers better than anyone. They're the ones being tortured and executed, and they're still openly defiant. That takes a lot of courage.
posted by homunculus at 11:19 PM on April 19, 2008


I'd like to be the first to propose that we boycott the London games in 2012, due to their oppressive imperialistic stranglehold on Ireland and Scotland. No more English Muffins! No more bangers & mash! No more spotted dick! I demand my outrage. Free Sean Connery!
posted by RavinDave at 12:32 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I believe that one fundamental misunderstanding among the well-thinking classes in established democracies is the belief that autocracies ignore public opinion and rule through opression only.

It is wrong, completely and utterly wrong. Autocratic rulers, if anything, are more acutely and even painfully aware of public opinion than the elected leaders of any well-functioning democracy. If the public opinion turns against you in a democracy, you may lose your office, but, at worst, you can look forward to a nice pension, some rest, and even a future opportunity to regain power, no matter how badly you fucked up first time around (or even the second time around, see Italy and Berlusconi this week). If the public opinion turns against you in an autocracy, then you are well and truly done for: decapitation, in the literal sense, may just be one of the least bad alternatives. So you better watch out.

That's why reasonably stable autocracies keep a very close watch on the public opinion: our democratic politicians may swear by Gallup, but the Stasi definitely had more, er, penetrating methods for jauging the mood of Joe Six-Pack. Successful autocrats are also just as adept at manipulating the public opinion, not so much by censorship (a crude and often self-defeating method of mind control), but by repetition, flattering and buying. Think of Fox News on all channels.

Disclaimer: I have never been to China, and I can hardly claim to understand the "Chinese soul". However, several news snippets from China paint a rather dark picture of the underlying economic and social situation: the breakneck pace of growth of the recent years has created, for instance, large inequalities of income. This is a huge sarcasm in a country that professes to be Communist, and particularly dangerous in times of soaring food and energy prices and economic uncertainty. The real estate crisis in some coastal Chinese cities dwarfes anything in the West, and the demographics caused by the one-child family, with a big male-female unbalance, are simply terrifying.

When the shit hits the fan, not just the leaders, but the people itself often searches for external and internal scapegoats. This is why the current campaign comes as no surprise whatsoever, and I see it as less related to Tibet, of even the Olympics, than to the precarious internal situation in China. When you've never had it so good before, there's a risk that you'll never had it so good afterwards. Beware the post-Olympic hangover.
posted by Skeptic at 3:52 AM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The New York Times now has a good video about this stuff.
posted by Tlogmer at 4:02 AM on April 20, 2008


"one child per family" policy doesn't apply to Tibetans. Families can have up to 3 kids, and if they have more, the punishment is lighter than if a Han family had 2 kids.

Might be what the Chinese believe, but isn't what the Tibetans are experiencing.

A recent programme on Channel 4 showed covert reporting from within Tibet. Life for the Tibetans looks appalling:
He finds the nomadic way of life being forcefully wiped out as native Tibetans are stripped of their land and livestock and are being resettled in concrete camps. Tibet reveals the regime of terror which dominates daily life and makes freedom of expression impossible. Tash meets victims of arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and "disappearances" and uncovers evidence of enforced sterilisations on ethnic Tibetan women.
More:
One woman agreed to speak to Tash, despite the cultural propriety that would rarely see a woman speak about such intimacies with a man, and the obvious dangers of criticising the government. "I was taken away against my will," she explains. She has two children – more than the "one child" policy allows – and could not afford to buy a certificate that stated she had been sterilised. "Apparently they cut the fallopian tubes and stitch them up," she says ruefully. "When they opened me up they pulled them out by the roots. It was agonisingly painful." They didn't use anaesthetic, or provide any drugs aside from aspirin. "I was sick and giddy," she says. "From the day after the operation I had to look after myself. If I needed a drip I had to pay for it myself."
The persecution that the Tibetans are suffering looks alot like that suffered by the ethnic Africans in Darfur and elsewhere in Africa where land is stolen from subsistance farmers for diamond or other mining purposes. They are shifted to camps, sterilised, given no means of supporting themselves and encouraged to abuse alcohol until death.

It is highly likely that all the monks you see on television shouting 'Tibet is not free' are now either dead or incarcerated for an undetermined term. The plight of the Tibetans cannot be easily rectified by appealing to the conscience of the Chinese population at large as there is no medium through which the Chinese in China are going to receive any information that is not government sanctioned. The Tibetans have to appeal to the wider international community for help and to raise the issue of their persecution.

The idea that the 'Free Tibet' movement wants to change the clock back to pre-1959 for Tibet is clearly nonesense. What they want is some form of self-governance, equal rights for Tibetans and an end to the persecution and cultural genocide currently being practiced by China. Not unlike any human rights based campaign.

"We're going to lose all Tibetan identity soon. In Lhasa, if you don't speak Chinese, it doesn't matter how good your Tibetan or English is, you don't get a job."
posted by asok at 4:49 AM on April 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


I think the torch protests if anything have probably resulted in worsening the situation for the Tibetan people.

So you think the majority of Tibetan people would have preferred the protests not happen? I kinda doubt that.
posted by mediareport at 7:39 AM on April 20, 2008


Funny, I can't stand him even when I agree with him. It's such a patented schtick at this point: exaggerate, mug for the camera, raise your voice whenever you can because it helps get short-term attention...it's just *awful* stuff, only made worse when it comes from someone who's - I'm just guessing here - smart enough to know better.

Bill O'Reilly?
posted by oaf at 8:58 AM on April 20, 2008


Exactly.
posted by mediareport at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2008


It is highly likely that all the monks you see on television shouting 'Tibet is not free' are now either dead or incarcerated for an undetermined term.

And more groups of monks keep doing it, knowing full well what can happen to them: China Said to Arrest 100 Protesting Monks
posted by homunculus at 9:34 AM on April 20, 2008




homunculus: Nepal authorizes use of deadly force to stop protests of Olympic torch on Everest

That is such a violation of the spirit of the Olympics that the torch relay should be routed entirely around their country.

Really, this whole affair shows why China should never have gotten the Olympics in the first place. It should have gone to somewhere that respects human rights, which pretty much consists of Western Europe, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan at this point.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:58 AM on April 20, 2008


You "forgot" one.
posted by oaf at 1:43 PM on April 20, 2008


oaf: You "forgot" one.

No doubt, I could hardly list them all. I'm sure there are a fair number of other suitable countries, of which China is not one (for example, South Korea would probably be ok.) What country are you referring to?

If you mean the US, they were left off on purpose.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:56 PM on April 20, 2008


Your mistake, then.
posted by oaf at 3:01 PM on April 20, 2008


Bush's lack of respect for human rights is what has made it impossible to rhetorically counter chinese nationalism.
posted by Tlogmer at 3:42 PM on April 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


oaf: Your mistake, then.

One word: Iraq.

In case you needed other words: Guantanamo, Afganistan, waterboarding, the war on drugs, the highest prison population around, diebold screwing with the elections, the slow erosion of civil rights, etc.

Iraq is the worst example, though.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:04 PM on April 20, 2008


Iraq was a sham from the beginning (the 2003 beginning—the 1990 invasion was justified). Everybody knows that.

the slow erosion of civil rights

If you're talking about for our own citizens, we've got a long way to drop before we get to where, say, the UK is.

The U.S. really doesn't have a worse history of treatment of peoples within its borders than Australia, Canada, or Germany. Things may be relatively bad, but we are also used to a fairly high standard, so what looks bad relative to the rest of U.S. history is a drop in the bucket compared to the whole world.
posted by oaf at 5:33 PM on April 20, 2008


Free Xinjiang? Anyone? Eastern Turkestan? Hello? Anyone heard of it? Sad. Go back to your Tibet centric protests.

I bet the Uighurs know how the Roma, Unitarians, and Jehova's Witnesses feel when people talk about the "Jewish Holocaust."
posted by Pollomacho at 5:59 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The U.S. really doesn't have a worse history of treatment of peoples within its borders than Australia, Canada, or Germany.

That whole genocide followed by, even up to the present day, treating the survivors and their descendants as second-class citizens notwithstanding, of course.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:08 PM on April 20, 2008


That whole genocide followed by, even up to the present day, treating the survivors and their descendants as second-class citizens notwithstanding, of course.

Pick a country that I mentioned that hasn't done exactly what you describe.
posted by oaf at 6:40 PM on April 20, 2008


South Korea? Switzerland?

"They're dirty, too!" isn't a defense against "You're dirty."
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:48 PM on April 20, 2008


China is communist in name only. It's a single-party, centrally managed, capitalist through and through government. And even though it is single party, there are distinct and differentiated factions within the party. All that's really missing is transparency (and elections, of course) on how certain factions rise and fall

I have a close friend and working colleague that is ethnic Han Chinese, Singaporean national, lived and worked in Canada for many years. We were having dinner in Chengdu last week at an outdoor restaurant and were far enough away from anyone else that I felt it a good chance to broach politics with him. It's hard to find an appropriate analogy, but his views were consistent with the generally held position of most Han Chinese: The riots needed to be stopped and Tibet had always been a part of China. I still don't have enough of a grasp of the history of the region to argue one way or the other. Reading the english-language papers obviously isn't going to give me a balanced, unbiased view either.

What we did agree on is that the simplest solution to the bashing by the western media is to open the region to foreign press.

Olympics. There is no underestimating the effect that the Olympics is having on Beijing. It has to be seen, and it's not only the dramatically improved infrastructure for the city. There is an enormous sense of pride and individual responsibility amongst everyone that I've met to make the event a success. It really shouldn't be a surprise that people are taking this personally.

Boycott Carrefour? How cool is this. Some smart person figured out a way to get press and really annoy all the expats in the country.
posted by michswiss at 8:09 PM on April 20, 2008




Free Xinjiang? Anyone? Eastern Turkestan? Hello? Anyone heard of it? Sad.

Nope, looks like you're the only person on MeFi who has ever heard of it. In fact, I suspect you made it up, just to look cool. Sneaky.
posted by homunculus at 10:55 PM on April 20, 2008




China seeks to 'educate' Tibetans ...which doesn't sound sinister at all.
posted by Artw at 9:34 AM on April 21, 2008


Ack, sorry for sounding so snarky, Pollo. You're point is absolutely right: the other minorities in China, like the Uighurs, don't get anywhere near the kind of publicity that the Tibetans do, even though they're in the same situation. It's not fair.
posted by homunculus at 9:38 AM on April 21, 2008




Here's Grace Wang's piece in WaPo: Caught in the Middle, Called a Traitor
posted by homunculus at 10:01 AM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]




Thnaks for the Grace Wang link - very interesting read.
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on April 21, 2008


Nepal authorizes use of deadly force to stop protests of Olympic torch on Everest

That is such a violation of the spirit of the Olympics that the torch relay should be routed entirely around their country.


Mitrovarr: I guess after Chinese soldiers were videotaped shooting unarmed Tibetans at a pass near Mt. Everest last year, Nepal has figured out that anything goes, and the IOC can't (or won't) do anything about it.
posted by homunculus at 1:32 PM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]












Makes me wonder if the Chinese are just utterly clueless as far as public relations goes, or if this is purely for an internal audience.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on April 24, 2008


In Korea: Anti-Chinese Sentiment Looms After Torch Relay
posted by homunculus at 1:25 PM on April 28, 2008


More on Woeser: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Blogger
posted by homunculus at 2:11 PM on May 2, 2008






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