Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is this a holiday??

Did you notice? China has declared today, March 28th, "Serf Liberation Day" in Tibet.

Yep, it's the 50th anniversary of the DL's flight from the country. China instead chooses to celebrate it as the date of the ending of feudalism - something Neuro-Linguistic Programming adherents would no doubt laud as an inspired "reframe", but which most folks tend to feel is a rather skewed, self-deluding take on history. Oh yes, and massively insensitive - given that large numbers of the Tibetan people still idolise the DL and bitterly resent his continued exclusion from the country (and the prohibition on even keeping pictures of the man in their houses); and given that, because of all the anniversaries this month associated with the uprising against the Chinese occupation in 1959, and the major outbreaks of unrest in 1989 and last year, the place is a bit of a tinderbox, a recurrence of such troubles now only being (barely) suppressed by massive police and troop deployments.

No, holding a day of fireworks and ethnic dancing on this date is not going to do much to promote peace and goodwill in Tibet, I fear. And it is yet another ludicrous PR disaster - in the long string of PR disasters relating to Tibet - for China, hugely detrimental to the way the country is perceived around the world. Will it even play well with the domestic Chinese audience? I have my doubts.

We snarky foreigners are more likely to dub the 'holiday' National Tactlessness Day. Or Re-Writing History Day. Or Buffoonish Public Relations Exercises Day. Or Let's Make Ourselves The Laughing Stocks Of A Hostile And Uncomprehending World (Again) Day.

A couple of points in passing, things that are always rather conspicuously glossed over in the standard Chinese presentation of this story. 'Serfdom' is not the same as 'slavery', although the Chinese are apt to use the terms interchangeably. (And I wouldn't know if 'serfdom' did still exist there, or how widespread it was in the '50s, but..... well, 'serfdom' isn't necessarily all that bad: it's not usually the Auschwitz-type horror that the Chinese propaganda likes to portray it as.) Second, er, since the PRC had already been in control of the country for nearly 9 years, why had it not abolished 'serfdom' earlier? Just curious....


Anonymous said...

Yes! Absolutely!

Real Fenqing said...

Well......yes,another stupid PR is a show may for you,but certainly for us.

On the other hand,I have to say,Though Froog is quite a "zhongguo tong",but still miles away from the whole picture.It is true that tibet's former social system was not that bad(exaggerated CCP propoganda),but in fact,evidence shows that that middle-aged caesaropapist(I don't know if this word is appropriate or not) system was definitely not a human-rights-respected good system.It is unreasonable that Tibetan traditional political/social system should be preserved as part of Tibentan unique culture.

In my opinion,the biggest flaw is CCP's "liberation" in 59 did not provide a real liberated society for Tibentan,instead of a society which unfortunately became horrible in 66(Cultrual Revolution),but it does not automatically prove that former Tibetan political/socail system was a just one.And no evidence shows that former Tibetan authority had a plan or even the will to build a new democratic human-rights-respected modern system without outsides' interference.I think that Tibetan adults and children have the right to live in a modern society,at least the right to choose,aren't they?If,I mean if,it was KMT,not CCP,operated the "liberation" or reformation and succesfully built a modern western democratic system in Tibet,the independent movement now would be as unnoticeable as the one of Hawaii.

Further more,I feel quite uncomfortable with the famous slogan "Free Tibet". Don't these people realize that without a free China,Tibet will never be free?(no matter the "free" means "independent" or "autonomic free society")

Nowadays,Tibet is definetely not the worst place in the world,even in China.If someone really cares about this mass,trust me,in a world that black is not so black and white is not so white,the Tibetan problem is much much more complicated than the propoganda of BOTH sides.

Froog said...

RFQ, I don't think anyone is saying that the pre-50 (pre-59) social and political arrangements in Tibet were OK, or should be restored, or that - in terms of economic or political development - things would have been better in Tibet today without the PRC intervention.

The issues that bother most people outside of China are that the PRC's intervention was a violent act, and that - even 50 or 60 years later - a large number of Tibetans, probably the majority, still resent Chinese rule. You can't neutralise the grievances of unwilling subjects by just ignoring or denying them.

Saying Tibet was a part of China all through the Qing Dynasty, and further back than that, doesn't justify anything. Saying the political regime in Tibet prior to the PRC takeover was backward and nasty doesn't justify anything.

I don't think Tibetan resentment of Chinese rule is only the result of the oppression suffered under Communist rule. Even a more politically liberal and economically prosperous regime would have encountered resistance, I think (maybe not so much, but some). It is a question of national identity: most Tibetans have never considered themselves "a part of China".

Yes, it's a very complicated issue, and much of the propaganda of the 'Tibet lobby' is exaggerated and inaccurate too. But I do have more sympathy for the 'Tibet' side than the 'China' side. And trying to make a national holiday of the day the Dalai Lama was driven from the country is crass beyond belief.

Kirby(RFQ) said...

Well,in 31,36 and 46,Tibetan representitives attended ROC's congress.At that time,China at least had nominal sovereignty of Tibet legally.The truth is Tibet became a special part of China with highly autonomous right at least dozens of YEARS before the CCP's "aggression" even based on modern.

Admittedly,some of the Tibetan(all of us don't know the exactly quantity before a free election) do not consider themselves "a part of Chinese".However,at the same time,some others have realized that "Free Tibet" movement is a part of the whole "Free China" movement,and should be in the frame of the reality that Tibet is a (special) part of China.

I agree that Tibetan have the right to make THE decision in the future--To stay in China or to become independent.But as a Chinese citizen,I hope that this kind of vote should only be held when Tibetan problem is discussed comprehensively and throughly in a free China,not now.

Kirby said...

modern law of nations I mean,end of the first paragraph.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Tibetan have the right to make the decision--To stay in China or to become independent.Otherwise, wars will be everywhere(not only in China).

But I support them to have more right to to govern themselves.

Froog said...

I didn't know about Tibetan representation at ROC congresses - but were these official delegations sanctioned by the Tibetan authorities, or propaganda puppets of the kind we've seen all over television here in the last few days?

'Nominal' and 'legal' aren't terribly compatible terms. And 'legal' doesn't count for much when it comes to issues of sovereignty - that gets decided on the ground. As far as I've been able to learn, Tibet declared its independence during the collapse of the Qing Empire in 1911 (much the same as Xinjiang and Mongolia did), and continued to function as an independent state for almost 40 years. The ROC frequently asserted China's "historic" right to sovereignty over Tibet, but never did anything to realise that claim.

Defining geographical parameters for "self-determination" is always a problem, but I'd think the Tibet case is more straightforward than most (at least with Tibet as it is now defined on the Chinese map; the difficulties come with the Tibetan-populated areas of Yunnan, Szechuan, Gansu, etc.).

It's a very pleasant change to find some (I assume) Chinese commenters who have some sympathy for the Tibetan viewpoint. Welcome, gentlemen.

Kirby said...

It is true that Tibet declared its independence after the republic revolution,but was that a legal,or a reasonable independence without the permission of the "former" central government(and its inheritor who legally inheritted everything including all unequal treaties)? I don't think so.Actually,during 1911's revolution,most of the provices of China declared its "independence" too before ROC was founded,and no one was admitted by international society.At least you need a free direct voting(PS:in Mongolia,a "direct voting" was held in 1945 and nearly 98% voters chose independence.Ironically,this "voting" was another Saddam Hussein's faked "voting" manipulated by Soviet Russia.UN observers did not admitted this voting at that time.ROC admitted this voting in 1946,but denied it in 1953) to justify its rationality.

Tibetan authority did send official delegations to attend ROC congress(I have seen some photos of them in a forum talking about the history of ROC's congress and I think you may find some official materials in Taiwan to prove that).For example,in 1946,their aim was to made a new Constitution of ROC while negotiating about the possibility of a legal admitted independence with ROC central government.But at last they gave it up and the Congress authorized The Constituion of ROC which legally declared that Tibet is a part of ROC(Taiwan still use this constituion now).The bottom line is at that time,Tibetan authority admitted that the declared "independence" of Tibet in 1912 was illegal and invalid,while further negotiation with central government was essential to achieve a real independence.

It is true that ROC did not possess an actual dominion of Tibet and self-governing has been applied before CCP's intervention.But official communications between Lhasa and Chiang Kai-shek's government was through MTAC(Office of the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission),not the "Foreign Office",until July 1949 just before the Communists' final victory in the civil war.The presence of MTAC in Lhasa was an evidence of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.I admit that and also agree Tibet should be a very special part if she stays in a free federal/confederate China.I believe it will be the best REALISTIC solution for the puzzle.I might tolerate an independent Tibet in the future(if they really really want that) as a rational observer,but I can't accept that emotionally as an patriotic Chinese citizen.Trust me,I belong to the minority,and most of my friends even will not consider the solution with a new federation.

Things disappoint me the most is some western observers unbalanced support(it might be quite reasonable in some aspects,and I am not saying it's you,Froog:)) to Tibet with apathy to our(not "fenqing" but rational citizens of China) moderate views.I do understand the importance of compromise,and I wish that they(including Tibetan independence advocators) understand that too.

Froog said...

I don't have a lot of time for patriotism, really.

But where I come from, patriotism is largely confined to supporting your country's sportsmen. There may also be an element of pride about your country's language, culture, and history - but we don't go overboard about it. It's not something that we get particularly emotional about, certainly not vehement about.

And it's not very much tied to concepts of territory or sovereignty. Most Brits don't give a damn whether Northern Ireland continues to be a part of the UK or not; we consider that to be entirely a matter for the people who live in that province to decide. And I think our response to having to surrender Hong Kong or suffering the invasion of the Falkland Islands was not for the most part coloured by sentiment about any abstract notions of sovereignty, or by a desire to preserve territory that had so long been part of our 'empire'; we were mainly concerned about the welfare of the inhabitants, and about helping them to realise their wishes.

China is one of the only countries to get so emotional about patriotism, and perhaps the only one to equate patriotism primarily with preserving (or extending) its dominion (Americans are pretty damned emotional, but preserving the territory doesn't seem to be such a dominant concern - though perhaps only because they feel very secure in their territory these days; things might be different, I suppose, if, for example, Alaska attempted to secede).

I find it strange and disturbing that the Chinese today are taught to equate patriotism with a concept of Chinese territory that is rooted in fairly distant history - in the history of a feudalist and colonialist empire which, ideologically, you would expect the modern PRC to wish to distance itself from, if not disown.

The Italians are very proud of the cultural heritage of the Roman Empire, but they no longer call their country "Rome", nor do they seek to use that distant history to make claims of sovereignty over Turkey, Egypt, France, etc., etc., etc. That's not too far from what the PRC does in basing its claims of sovereignty over "greater China" on the imperial period.

And when you start playing that game, there's a problem about where you stop. The Mongol Empire at its height stretched all the way to the Ukraine. Korea and Vietnam were, I believe, for long periods 'tributary kingdoms' (in rather similar way to Tibet).

Nations are fluid, evolving entities; systems of government change; borders are redrawn. If your patriotism becomes defined by a rigid concept of what the extent of your country's territory has been in the past and must always continue to be, I think you're storing up a heap of trouble for yourselves. Adaptability is essential to survival: the inflexible never prosper for long.

Patriotism should be about cheering for your national football team and your space programme, not about saying, "We own this, and we're never going to give it up."

Kirby said...

Maybe it is another cultrual difference about patriotism:).To chinese,the memory of history,especially history after 1840,is filled with failures and disasters.For example,Russia robbed nearly 10% of our land and people were expelled from their homes,Japs raped Nanking and killed millions of people.(I think UK was a rational aggressor and brought us a miracle of HongKong,science,and new ideas essential to an old empire,though with opiate:)).So patriotism to chinese is definetely linked with territory--especially you have two aggressive neighbors(Russia and Japan) which hurt China the most.

And I think patriotism in the west also means much more than just "cheering for sportsmen".How about working hard to defend your home,your freedom and your way of living in hot/cold wars with NAZI,Soviet Empire and Jihad terrorists?

I agree that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel".But I still support a healthier one which includes the respect to human rights,political freedom and democratic way of living,a one that cares every individual as well as a whole nation.

At last,Froog,you can persuade me,but you can't persuade most of my friends.Advocating a complete independence of Tibet would make things even worse.Extreme nationalist would be more and more and might bring disaster to the world.A compromise with moderate request like "a highly autonomous Tibet in a free confederate China" will be a better double-win option.

Froog said...

Yes, patriotism also means "rallying together to resist attack by foreign powers". Luckily for us in the UK, that hasn't happened in over 60 years (not outside of the colonies, anyway).

I wasn't around to experience it firsthand, but my impression is that it was mostly the Americans (and not even all Americans) who fused anti-Communism with patriotism during the Cold War. I don't think we saw the 'Cold War' as a 'war' in quite the same sense as the Americans (perhaps because we had been through a much more intense experience of the two recent World Wars - as wars that threatened our survival, threatened bombardment, invasion, and conquest).

I'm not sure that patriotism has much to do with resistance against terrorism either. It may be an important component of morale-boosting, of encouraging collective resilience against and defiance of terrorism, but.... again it is a primarily American (Bush-ite) delusion to represent the struggle against terrorism as if it were a war between nations. It isn't, and so it doesn't call upon our patriotic feelings in the same way. I guess we're just not very ideological about anything in the UK (look at our religion!).

I don't advocate independence for Tibet, necessarily. I think it's completely unfeasible in the immediately foreseeable future (although in the longer term I think it's likely to happen, and will be better for China than for Tibet). I just think that China's "historical" claims to sovereignty over Tibet are ridiculous, and should not be incorporated as a core creed of Chinese 'patriotism'. That just creates an unattractive and dangerous militancy in the Chinese people which gets in the way of any useful dialogue to move towards more peaceful and equitable arrangements in the administration of Tibet.

Kirby said...

Oh...the difference between US and UK...I didn't know that before! But I did know things are quite different in European continent.

And diversity is normal in a free society,isn't it? But in China,advocating sick "patriotism" is some kind of open policy to transfer people's attention from domestic problems.Extreme nationalist are more and more popular these days.