28 March 2008

I’ve been busy getting this site up and fixing it so the old blog redirects here (there will be some problems with links from Google for a little while, unfortunately, because I redid my permalinks after the spider was here). Besides that, I’ve been suffering from TFS, or Tibet Fatigue Syndrome, severe enough to find it difficult as many have to know what to say next. It’s hard to find the right words in this situation, especially since I believe that in order to move forward we all have to choose our words carefully, and even then we’re clearly not working with the same definitions. And I’m not talking about photos of Nepalese cops being attached to articles about Tibet. I mean the sort of schizophrenic dissonance we see with binaries like independence vs. separatist, demonstrator vs. rioter, or occupation vs. unity. But not just that. Basic words like “nation”, “country”, “people” (as in “a people”), and at heart the very names “China” and “Chinese”. The way they are commonly used by both Chinese and Non-Chinese are separated by a yawning chasm of history and identity. And not a 5000 year one, as some people on both sides are rather hasty to assume. More like a 150 year one, going back to the Opium War. China’s encounter with modernity, and with it the modern system of nation-states and national identity, was a wrenching one that to this day casts an enormous shadow over the meaning of the very words “China” and “Chinese” unlike many countries around the world, particularly Western ones. These are highly emotional issues for China, and in my opinion they are not simply the product of the government’s propaganda or ideology. Though those factors intensify the problem, they are more products of those issues rather than producers.

So I’m hoping to try and find a way to explain how these issues and Chinese perspectives inform the process of engaging in dialogue with Chinese netizens in coming posts, but while I’ve been hesitant to post, I’ve kept reading piles of material. So I’ve made a working list of some articles that I think are relevant and categorizing them to try and break it all down into bite sized pieces for myself. You can view the list, which will be updated again soon, on this site, or mirrored on Google Docs here. Now, to outline the categories. All the links below are to previous things I’ve written, so its also a way to get reacquainted with this blog. I’ve linked to each section of the document along the way. Feel free to suggest more reading materials.

Dalai Lama Appeal: I’ve included a link to the Chinese and English versions, as well as the first string of comments in Chinese (and a link to translations) found through Baidu and accessible from the Mainland.

Scholars: Barry Sautman, the first one, is at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and if you’re someone inclined to think he’s a PRC apologist because he’s critical of the Tibetan Movement, you ought to read his papers on Chinese ethnonationalism and Peking Man. Melvyn Goldstein (The Snow Lion and the Dragon) and John Powers are two of the foremost Tibet scholars I know of, Pankaj Mishra is a great China scholar, Michael Parenti is not someone I’m familiar with but his footnotes seem fairly well sourced (from Goldstein and Powers, for some of it), and 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Tibet probably include some things you know, but its shorter and more digestable than the rest.

Lhasa Details: which is currently too small includes reports from witnesses.

The Total Cluelessness of the Laobaixing: (the Chinese common people) mainly quotes alot of average Chinese people, who don’t get frothy at the mouth about Tibet but simply say theres no problem and go about their lives, as many people around the world do. Included is ESWN’s translation of a girl working in an opticians in Lhasa, who is rudely awakened to the simmering tensions that she had no idea were there.

No Sympathy for the Han: probably has some potential links in other categories, includes a link from Blood and Treasure in which someone compared Han Chinese to space aliens, which I think is something people too often implicitly do in these situations and would be ironically funny if it weren’t so disturbing.

Discrimination in China: includes some recent articles, some not about Tibet, that for me highlight just how big a discrimination problem China has and is completely unequipped to deal with. This issue is rooted in many ways in the 19th century. And not just discrimination against minorities, but in particular Tim Johnson’s post highlights something that has been reported as happening at the Diplomatic Compound in Beijing before, namely racial profiling by Hans, of Hans (or Asians). There is a nasty bit of Han identity involving discriminating against themselves, which leads me to…

Inferiority Complex: lately the Fenqing or nationalist youth explosion against foreign media has included statements like “one day” the Chinese will be strong, while an educated Chinese man says that Chinese are weak-minded, and so on. Again, this is not simply a Chinese Communist issue. It’s a Chinese one that predates the PRC, and its really showing with the Olympics in the background.

Voices of Reason: isn’t quite what it sounds like: some examples of Chinese people who are expressing alternative opinions, many of which are rational, others still emotional but striking a different tone and perspective from the fenqing.

Past Fenqing: is about nationalist outbursts like the planned CNN protests this weekend, such as the spy plane incident of 2001.

Western Interpretations: some of the more notable commentary coming out of the West. “Tibet: the West can use the Olympics as a weapon against Beijing” in particular strikes me as uninformed and downright Machiavellian in its title.

On Crappy Propaganda: requires no explanation.

Staged Violence: specific issue category. Phayul, one of the biggest Tibetan exile websites, republished an article from the unreliable Epoch Times saying the Dalai Lama’s translator identified a Chinese policeman masquerading as a Tibetan with a knife in the now infamous photo of Tibetans burning the Chinese flag. I don’t usually believe the ET or their benefactors, but wonder why Phayul, who can confirm very easily if the translator said this, republished it. There are other prominent Tibetan leaders saying that the violence was instigated by Chinese secret agents.

The CCP is the Real Tibetans Buddha: relates to a translated quote from Tibetan Party Secretary Zhang Qingli (he said the Dalai Lama has the face of a human and the heart of a beast or some other delightful thing) that appeared in IHT. The quote was not entirely accurate, and a Chinese blogger didn’t like that. Words, again, are vitally important here.

Other Questionable Tibetan Claims and The State of the Movement: looking at factions within the exile community, within Tibet itself, and also some of the other claims coming from the Tibetan movement like Staged Violence. For example, one official says that with its natural resources, Tibet, had it been independent since 1952, would be like Singapore.

Rumors: I’ve started to collect links to rumors about terrorists acts by Uyghurs and Tibetans that apparently never happened.

The Xinjiang Factor: how Tibet is affecting Xinjiang, and the new Chinese claim tying the Dalai Lama to East Turkestan terrorists, which, in my opinion, has taken my skepticism about Chinese Uyghur terrorism claims to new levels.

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