Twofish's Blog

March 30, 2008

Media relations

Filed under: china, journalism, taiwan — twofish @ 8:11 am

It’s interesting that no one ever complains that the press is biased for them.

What happens is that for the most part, the media is looking for a “good story.”  A good story has drama, it has good versus evil.  Also people who go into journalism are usually “we want to help the world” type of people.  There are certain groups that naturally fit into the “good” category and certain groups that naturally fit into the “evil” category.  Suppose you have a conflict between an 80-year old widow and a $100 billion multinational corporation?  Which party is going to get more sympathy.

The jarring thing comes when a group that you are sympathetic to becomes part of the “evil” category, and that’s when you end up with charges of “media bias.”  And it is true that the media is biased.  It’s biased toward simple, interesting stories, that have drama and human interest, that ultimately gets the target readers to read.  Newspapers are designed to cover “events” and not “processes.”  For it to get into a newspaper, something has to happen.  “Today was just like yesterday, and everything is fine” is not an interesting story.

One thing that is the case with articles is that for the most part, they tell the reader things that don’t make the reader feel too uncomfortable, and that do not challenge the reader’s fundamental beliefs in any serious way.  “Your religion is non-sense” is something that you are unlikely to read in any newspaper.  “Their religion is non-sense” is something that you find implied all of the time.

The thing that I’ve found is that it is a bad idea to try to find the mythical “unbiased source” and try instead to find lots and lots different viewpoints.  The other thing that I’ve found to be useful is trying to learn something about situations which I have no particular emotional attachment to.  I’m never going to be unemotional about Tibet or Taiwan, but I think I’ve learned more about the the dynamics of nationalism by studying Hungary and Syria.

Why Hungary and Syria?  It’s because I *don’t* have any connection with Hungary and Syria.  So when the media says something about Hungary, I can get some idea of what it looks and feels like to a Hungarian when I say something about Tibet.

The very uncomfortable feeling that you get when you look at things from someone else’s viewpoint is that maybe “they” have a good point, and that “they” are nasty, evil, stupid people.  This is uncomfortable because it brings up the possibility that maybe you are the nasty, evil, stupid person, and this is uncomfortable.  And to get readers, newspapers don’t want to make the reader feel uncomfortable.

But you learning things is an uncomfortable process.  Thinking is hard.  However, one thing that I’ve learned is that the side that “wins” in the end is usually the side that is willing to be made a little uncomfortable.

March 29, 2008

The problem with summits….

Filed under: china, politics, tibet — twofish @ 5:30 pm

When people think about dialogue between leaders they often think of people shaking hands in public in some media event.  The trouble with these sorts of summits is that they happen at the *end* of discussions not at the beginning of them.  You just can’t do any real sort of discussion while you have a camera pointed at you, and any real discussion and dialogue usually happens between aides of the leaders in a way that both sides can deny that they ever met each other.

Ma Ying-Jeou made it a point of saying that he would not be meeting Hu Jintao during his first four years in office, and that’s really not a bad thing since he also pointed out specifically that these handshakes are media events.

What matters is not if Hu Jintao gets to shake hands with the Dalai Lama, but rather whether or not there are messages being sent back and forth between the people or not.

The other problem with these meetings is that what is the point of dialogue if you have nothing much to say or if you are papering over the real difficulties and disagreements.

Weird things are going on….

Filed under: china, tibet — twofish @ 9:45 am

Weird things are going on…..

Yesterday Xinhua was saying all of these nasty things about the “Dalai Lama conspiracy”.  Today you have Xinhua and the People’s Daily talking about the life of the Dalai Lama in ways that aren’t too negative.  There is a video of him meeting Mao Zedong and how he met Zhou Enlai in India and about his childhood.  It’s not necessarily a positive depiction of the Dalai Lama, but the fact they have child pictures of him, and don’t show him as evil incarnate probably means something.


My theory is that there is a big bureaucratic battle between the Central Government and the Tibetan Regional Government about how to handle this.

Notes on the Dalai Lama’s Appeal to the Chinese People

Filed under: china, dalai lama, politics, tibet — twofish @ 8:56 am

Communications is difficult. As someone who lives on the border between many cultures, I realize how difficult it is too communicate. What sounds to someone like a gentle statement can sound to like a threat or worse.

I was thinking about that as I was reading the Dalai Lama’s statement. I’m sure he meant well, but he actually said all of the wrong things, and to someone within the Chinese government, this letter seems to confirm all of their paranoid suspicions about the Dalai Lama.

I’m reminded of the appeals that the PRC government made to Taiwan in the late-1990’s. They said all of the wrong things, and ended up making people in Taiwan mad. One thing that happened around 2003, is that when the Communist Party and the KMT started talking, people from Taiwan were actually able to help the CCP not say things that would offend people in Taiwan, and in most cases this meant saying nothing at all.

What is a little disconcerting about the Dalai Lama’s letter is that its obvious that he doesn’t have any communication with Han Chinese that would help him shape his message to avoid offending people.

The first problem is that the letter is in English. This is a problem since most Chinese do not read English. This an even bigger problem in that there are many different terms for Chinese in Chinese and it is vitally important that you use the right one. When he uses the term Chinese, does he mean “han zu”, “hua ren”, “zhonghua minzu”, or “zhong guo ren”? When he uses the term peoples, does he mean “min zu,” “zong zu”, or “ren min”?

Coming up with your official translation is important since if you rely on someone else to do the translation they are going to use any ambiguities to make you look good or bad. By using different Chinese words for “Chinese” and “people”, I can make the Dalai Lama look like a wonderful saint or an evil racist. If the Dalai Lama publishes the letter in English, and the Chinese government translates it, guess which words they will use…..

Also if you try to write in Chinese, you *have* to make these sorts of decisions which makes you think about what you are trying to say. The Dalai Lama is trying to say “I am not a separatist” but if you try writing the letter in Chinese, you have to think about how exactly “I am not a separatist” and I think someone who tries this exercise will quickly discover that he letter makes no sense at all in Chinese….

The first thing I would do is to change the title and make it “An Appeal to the citizens of the People’s Republic of China” The problem with appealing to the “Chinese people” is that it brings up the issue of whether Tibetans are Chinese or not, where as talking about PRC citizens avoids that issue.


In the light of the recent developments in Tibet, I would like to share with you my thoughts concerning relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples, and make a personal appeal to all of you.

Game over.

The view of most people in China is that there is one Chinese “tribe” (zhonghua minzu), and that Tibetans and Han Chinese are member ethnicities of that tribe. The second you talk about “Tibetan and Chinese peoples” most people in China will think “yes the government is right, the Dalai Lama is a splitist. It’s basically like saying “the Navaho and American people” or worse yet saying “I want a dialogue between Blacks and Americans”

Now obviously, I don’t expect Tibetan nationalists to accept this view of things, but if you are trying to make an “appeal” then its a bad idea to offend people in paragraph one. The reaction of most Chinese reading this would be “yep, the government is right all along about the Dalai Lama.”

The way I would phrase it would be to make an “Appeal to the Citizens of the People’s Republic of China” and start by quoting the PRC constitution that all nationalities within the PRC are equal and deserve cultural protection. While one can get into disputes about whether “Tibetans are Chinese” one can avoid the issue by saying that most Tibetans are citizens of the PRC and deserve the rights of PRC citizens.

Also, once you argue that “Tibetans” and “Chinese” are separate “peoples” then the “right of self-determination” takes over, and it is hard to argue that Tibet shouldn’t be independent.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of life in the recent tragic events in Tibet. I am aware that some Chinese have also died.

Wow. I’m four sentences into this statement, and he has already offended the people he is trouble to appeal to twice, and already confirmed himself as an “evil splitist.” The statement should have read:

I am deeply saddened by the loss of life in the recent tragic events in Tibet.


He goes on

Chinese brothers and sisters, I assure you I have no desire to seek Tibet’s separation. Nor do I have any wish to drive a wedge between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

These two statement are contradictory within the framework of the people reading it. If Tibetans and Chinese are separate peoples, then by the right of self-determination, you *are* seeking separation. This can be rewritten to read

I have no desire to seek Tibet’s independence from the People’s Republic of China, nor to I have any wish to undermine ethnic harmony between the different nationalities (min zu) within the People’s Republic of China.


This statement

I urge the Chinese leadership to exercise wisdom and to initiate a meaningful dialogue with the Tibetan people.

should be rewritten

I urge the Central Government of the People’s Republic of China to exercise wisdom and to engage in dialogue to guarantee the rights of the Tibetan people (min zu) as stated in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.


This statement

The state media’s portrayal of the recent events in Tibet, using deceit and distorted images, could sow the seeds of racial tension with unpredictable long-term consequences.

should be deleted. It just gets you into an argument that detracts from the main point.


He then goes into a discussion of history. Probably not a good idea. Again you just get into an useless argument with the people you are trying to convince.


This is a particularly bad statement:

In 1974, following serious discussions with my Kashag (cabinet), as well as the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the then Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies, we decided to find a Middle Way that would seek not to separate Tibet from China,

Very, very bad idea since it implies that the Tibet Government-in-Exile is a legitimate government.

In 1974, following discussions with my advisors and representatives of the Tibetan exile community, we decided that it would be futile to promote Tibetan secession.

The problem with this statement is, what happens in 2014 if you change your mind. Also, “middle way” between “what” and “what”?


This statement

My representatives met many times with officials of the PRC. Since renewing our contacts in 2002, we have had six rounds of talks. However, on the fundamental issue, there has been no concrete result at all.

It’s unclear here what is the fundamental issue.


This statement

I had hoped President Hu Jintao’s recent statement that the stability and safety of Tibet concerns the stability and safety of the country might herald the dawning of a new era for the resolution of the problem of Tibet. It is unfortunate that despite my sincere efforts not to separate Tibet from China, the leaders of the PRC continue to accuse me of being a “separatist”.

I know the Dalai Lama means well, but this letter confirms exactly why people within the PRC view him as a separatist. He sees the “Tibetan people” and the “Chinese people” as separate, and once you view the two as separate, the independence is the natural, logical result. If you translate the letter into Chinese, then you end up offending a lot of people that he is trying to appeal to, and confirming most of the invective that the Chinese government has been directing toward him.



Chinese brothers and sisters – wherever you may be – with deep concern I appeal to you to help dispel the misunderstandings between our two communities. Moreover, I appeal to you to help us find a peaceful, lasting solution to the problem of Tibet through dialogue in the spirit of understanding and accommodation.
The big misunderstanding here is the term Chinese. Most Chinese see the term Chinese (“zhonghua minzu”) as a broad term include many different nationalities of which Tibetans are one. This entire letter implicitly and explicitly challenges that view, and if you challenge the view that “Tibetans are Chinese” then you lose the support of people like me. My own view is that “Tibetans are Chinese” in the same way that “Navaho are American” but I have this personality quirk in that when I get offended, I can remain calm enough to explain why I’m offend. Most people will just start screaming at you.
Rather than challenging this view, my advice to the Dalai Lama is to make sure that any appeals that you give are neutral to this issue, and then invoke the idea that “since most Tibetans are citizens of the PRC they are entitled to the rights under Article 4 the Constitution of the PRC including the right to “to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs.”
The trouble with this letter is that it *confirms* the statements of the PRC government. Although the Dalai Lama says he opposes political secession, he does see Tibetans as “separate” from the Chinese national community. The trouble with this view is that people in China think (with good reason) this sort of separate identity is going to lead to political secession eventually. I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way, but the fact that he signed his name to this means that he clearly has not been talking to the people he really needs to convince.

March 27, 2008

Notes on investment banking

Filed under: china, finance, wall street — twofish @ 6:08 am
I think the reason that Korean and Chinese banks might be hesitant to borrow from the Fed is that once you take money from Uncle Sam, you are going to have inspectors from the Federal Reserve pouring over the books of the parent company. (Which is also why stand alone investment banks might be skittish about getting money from the Fed.)

Also, unlike the Korean and Chinese central banks, the Fed is unlikely to loan money to a foreign bank which is actually insolvent. The problem with the Chinese banks wasn’t a liquidity issue but a solvency issue, and I think the same was true for the Korean banks. If you need recapitalization then a loan from the Fed is not going to help you.

The really interesting thing is to see how much power the Fed is amassing at the expense of the SEC. The big battle is Bernanke versus Cox, and Bernanke is winning this. The other interesting thing to watch is whether this will be the end of the independent investment bank. Also, it does seem interesting that the financial system of the US is starting to look a lot like the Chinese financial system with four really huge banks that are basically controlled by the central bank, which exercises its power by the fact that it can print money, whereas private shareholders can’t.

March 22, 2008

Notes on Taiwan elections

Filed under: china, politics, taiwan, tibet — twofish @ 4:49 pm

It seems that all of the talk about Tibet affecting the Taiwanese elections turned out to be wrong.


China Tensions Could Sway Elections in Taiwan

Ma won 58% to 42%. It’s interesting one factor as to why the newspapers got it wrong. Newspapers usually deal with “spin” by interviewing multiple people that try to spin in different directions. So when the NYT interviewed someone from the DPP, it was about how they thought that Tibet would cause the elections spread to narrow. When the interviewed someone from the KMT, they probably got the same story about how they thought that Tibet would cause the election spread to narrow.

However what the real situation was was that Tibet didn’t change people’s opinions. If people’s opinions don’t change then you win by turnout, and if you are ahead, your big danger is that people will think that you will win and stay at home, and telling people that the election spread is narrows gets people to vote.

This is different from the typical US primary election. In this case you want to argue that you are winning, because if people doubt that you are winning then the money starts running out.

This statement shows a lack of background

Both parties’ polls showed an increasingly close race in the final days of campaigning, in contrast with the last polls by media organizations nearly two weeks ago, which showed Mr. Ma ahead by 20 percent.

This is likely true but misleading.  Media polls in Taiwan are always biased toward Blue candidates.  There are a number of reasons why this could be.  Language plays a part.  If the poll taker speaks in Mandarin or Taiwanese this greatly affects the degree to which the respondent is willing or able to answer questions about their politics.  The likelihood that you reach someone with a phone also affects the numbers.  Finally because the DPP started out as an illegal party in a one party state and the KMT started out as the ruling party in that state, people who support the DPP are just less likely to tell strangers that they are voting for DPP.

The formula that I use is to subject 10% from the lead of the KMT.  The formula which ESWN uses is to assume that 70% of people that are undecided will vote for DPP and 30% will vote for KMT.

My theory as to why the internal polls indicated a narrowing spread is that as you get closer to the election, people who vote DPP are more likely to admit that they vote DPP.  I’m sure that both the DPP and the KMT knew that this was happening, but they weren’t about to tell the New York Times this, and they both had reasons to talk how Tibet could be affecting the elections.

The other issue was Tibet has been a high priority for Western reporters last week, and it’s natural (and wrong) to assume that if you care a lot about something, someone else will care a lot about it. People mentioned Tibet, but it wasn’t a large factor in the elections, because most people in Taiwan care about Taiwan and they don’t care that much about events in Tibet. You can get them to care about Tibet if you link Taiwan and Tibet, but that takes more than a week.

What was interesting is how politically adept the KMT was. Over the last few weeks there were some character attacks against Ma Ying-Jeou, and the KMT dealt with that by saying that they were worried about a “last minute dirty trick”. This caused people to remember the events of 2004 when President Chen was shot a day before the election. One fun game was “guess the dirty trick” and people were guessing about the last minute revelation that would throw the election. Ma Ying-Jeou was gay. He had a mistress. He had a secret son. He was getting money from the CCP. Etc. Etc. It was actually a very fun game. This had the effect of neutralizing any of the attacks against Ma, specifically the idea that he was a permanent resident.

The DPP was handicapped by several things:

1) Martial law is over. The KMT was a nasty and somewhat brutal one-party state, and most of the core leaders of the DPP started out as rebels against the authoritarian KMT. The trouble for the DPP is that anyone who is less than 20 was born after martial law, and lived at the time in which the DPP ran the government. Thus while martial law is an emotional issue for people within the DPP, it means absolutely nothing to younger people.

2) Beijing is not run by marketing idiots. The DPP would have loved to run against Beijing, but over the last few years Beijing has learned to keep its mouth shut. The other significant fact about younger voters in Taiwan is that they were born or raised Tiananmen. Increasingly, the Mainland is “the place you make money” rather than “evil, nasty dictatorship threatening the homeland.”

The big person responsible for the mess was Chen Shui-Bian. He was running a very, very bad campaign. He stopped after the massive defeat in January, but that didn’t leave enough time for the DPP to develop a new message. In fact, I really have no idea what the DPP message is.

Frank Hsieh however was much more graceful in losing than Soong was.  One good thing about Taiwan is that as time passes, both sides are learning that losing an election is not the end of the world.  I know what people in the DPP are feeling because I felt exactly the same thing in 2000 and 2004, and I will no doubt be on the losing end of a campaign many, many more times in my life.

At some point the KMT will be hopeless corrupt and will need a stern reminder of who is in charge.  My role as a KMT support is to make sure that this happens in 20+ years rather than in 20 days or 20 months.

This is why a constitutional democracy is different from a revolutionary democracy.  In a revolutionary democracy, you overthrow the bad, evil guys and then hold power forever.  In a constitutional democracy, you win or lose an election, and you adapt for the next election.  The people on the other side of the aisle, aren’t bad or evil, they just think that they world should run in a different way than you do, and you have to deal with them.

Anyway enough about the election, now comes the hard part….. Governing….

March 21, 2008

Less then 24 hours to go before the Taiwan election….

Filed under: china, tibet — twofish @ 6:31 am

Nervous as heck with all of the news leaks that the gap between Ma and Hsieh is narrowing.

I have a theory about what is going on that is a little scary, but I’ll share it tomorrow after the results if I’m not too depressed.

March 20, 2008

Maybe not so serious concerned after all….. / Olympic torches

Filed under: china, politics, tibet — twofish @ 3:22 am

Western press reports have the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang saying that he is “seriously concerned” about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Britain.

The curious thing is that I can’t find any trace of that quote in any Chinese source. I don’t doubt that Qin Gang said it, but it is interesting that you don’t have that quote or others like it in the Chinese media. Nor do you have the standard screaming. It’s not a time issue. There is quote from the 3/19 press conference specifically about the Dalai Lama

What I think happened is that Qin Gang was reading from a script, and the script changed drastically.

Now here is the *really* interesting thing, and this *proves* that there is a lot going in under the surface.

At the same day we have talk of the Dalai Lama meeting Brown, we have a lot of news that the Olympic torch route will go through Nepal then Everest then Tibet as originally planned. At Chinese request, Nepal is planning to close the south side to Everest between May 1 and May 10 to climbers. This was announced right in the middle of the protests.

***So why are people talking about closing Everest on 5/1-5/10, if the original plan was to have the torch pass through Tibet in late June???***

Now the answer is that it may be possible to change the path of the torch so that it enters China through Tibet. The reason that becomes diplomatically significant is that the late-June original route was controversial because it showed that Tibet was an integral part of China sandwiched between two other provinces. If you put Tibet at one end of the leg, then it becomes possible to argue that Tibet is a separate country if that is your view of the world, or not, if that is also your view of the world. This was actually a big deal when people were talking about the route through Taiwan, and the route went through Hong Kong precisely so that you can argue that Taiwan is or is not part of China depending on your world view.

One problem with diplomatic messages is that you need to be able to deny that you are sending a message if you need to. Everest weather is better in May than June so the changes have nothing to do with politics, if that is your view of the world.

As far as  Taiwan goes, if Hsieh wins the election, then the torch isn’t going to pass through Taiwan.  If Ma wins the election on the basis of “one China, different interpretations” then there is no need to beat around the bush, by late June Ma will be in office, and passing the torch through Taiwan after going through Hong Kong in late June will be a way of demonstrating “one China.”

March 19, 2008

Told you something interesting was going on….

Filed under: china, finance, great britain, tibet, wall street — twofish @ 10:15 pm

Same conversation.  Different viewpoints:

  BEIJING, March 19 (Xinhua) — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his British counterpart Gordon Brown talked over the phone on Wednesday, with both sides pledging to boost bilateral ties.

    Wen said that the Sino-British relationship has entered a new phase of development and China is willing to work with Britain to maintain high-level contact between the two countries.

    With various mechanisms of bilateral communication, the two countries could improve mutual understanding, enhance mutual trust, expand cooperation and push forward the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two sides, the Chinese premier said.

    Brown said Britain has dedicated great efforts to the development of ties with China and is ready to strengthen cooperation with China in a wide range of areas.

    The British prime minister also said he believed the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be a success and he himself will come to Beijing for the event.

    During the phone conversation, Wen also briefed Brown about the recent riot in China’s Tibet and reiterated the stance of the Chinese government on the issue.

    For his part, Brown said that Britain also opposes violent criminal acts.

at the same time here is what Brown said in the House of Commons.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The whole world will have been shocked by the pictures on television last night of the security crackdown and the dead bodies on the streets of Lhasa and other parts of Tibet. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that, yes, our relationship with China is vital, and China is a major power, but we must be absolutely clear in telling the Chinese Government that this is completely unacceptable?

The Prime Minister: I spoke to Premier Wen of China this morning, and I made it absolutely clear that there had to be an end to violence in Tibet. I hope that Members on both sides of the House will agree with that. I also called for constraint, and I called for an end to the violence by dialogue between the different parties. The Premier told me that subject to two things that the Dalai Lama has already said—that he does not support the total independence of Tibet and that he renounces violence—he would be prepared to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama. I will meet the Dalai Lama when he is in London. I think it is important that we all facilitate discussions, but the most important thing at the moment is to bring about an end to the violence, to see reconciliation, and to see legitimate talks taking place between those people in China.

Mr. Cameron: Can I congratulate the Prime Minister on making absolutely the right decision with regard to the Dalai Lama? It is a difficult decision, but it would not have been made any better by delaying it, and I congratulate him on doing the right thing.

The Prime Minister: We make the right decisions at all times.

(Note here that Cameron didn’t mention the Dalai Lama in his question, and there isn’t a huge amount of political pressure for Brown to announce right there that he was meeting the Dalai Lama. I have a feeling that Brown came into Common’s secretly smiling since he knew that Tibet would come up, and that he had a card to play.) 

and then this from the LA Times,1,2742497.story

Chinese officials, however, have directed much of their rhetorical fire at the Tibetan leader.“We are now engaged in a fierce blood-and-fire battle with the Dalai clique, a life-and-death battle between us and the enemy,” Tibet’s Communist Party chief Zhang Qingli was quoted as saying by the state-run Tibetan Daily today.Zhang called the Dalai Lama “a wolf in monk’s robe, a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast.”

I think Mr. Zhang is out of the loop here, and probably should be looking for a new job sometime soon.

My reconstruction of events here is that I think that the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama were actually talking to each other before last week.  When the initial demonstrations came out there was probably some sort of informal agreement that Dalai Lama would keep the demonstrations under control and in return Beijing would not send in the police.  Something that is forgetting is that you have peaceful demonstrations with the police looking on for about three days before everything fell apart.

What no one counted on was that they would spread out of control into violent riots.  It’s the dictators dilemma.  If you keep up the pressure, people will hate you, but if you ease up on the pressure a little bit, then people will take advantage of that and start expressing anger and hatred they had been keeping inside for decades.  This is why I’m somewhat of the Communist sympathizer.  Even if you are a good person that wants to introduce democracy and liberal policies, you have to realize that you are defusing a bomb.  The moment people look around and realize that they *can* express what they have been bottling up for years and years, you end up with an explosion.

The reason that Beijing has been screaming at the Dalai Lama is that it looks to some people there that he had set a trap in order to intentionally make Beijing look bad and derail the Olympics. 

What I think has happened in the last 48 hours is that Beijing has concluded that it wasn’t a trap, and the Dalai Lama’s public offer to “resign” if the violence continued pushed Beijing to conclude that he was sincere.

This is all total speculation and could be all wrong.  Part of the reason I can blog on this is that I have absolutely no inside knowledge at all about any of this, just some general knowledge about how big bureaucratic organizations work, since I’ve been in them.  If I did have any real inside knowledge about what is really going on, I couldn’t talk about it.  The bureaucrat’s dilemma.  People who know, can’t talk.  People who talk, don’t know.

Part of me wonders if there is a blog somewhere by some low ranking official in the Chinese government, who has a lot of juicy information about what is going on in Tibet can’t say anything, but is venting his frustration by using is knowledge of how people work within bureaucracies to write some analysis about the events on Wall Street last week.  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂



What the Dalai Lama is really against Tibetan independence

Filed under: china, tibet — twofish @ 12:52 am

One reason I sympathize with Tibetans trying to figure out what it means to be Tibetan within a larger national and global community is that I have to do figure out how to do the same thing.

I’ve observed that Westerners admire Tibet because they see it as a “garden of eden.” A pure land unspoiled by modernity. The trouble is that if you don’t become modern, you become extinct, and part of the largely successful struggle that the Chinese nation has undergone is the struggle to be modern and avoid national extinction. To survive, you must have power. This means economic power and military power. You will get nowhere by throwing rocks at tanks, you must be able to build your own tanks. The question then becomes once you have power then how do you use it without either destroying yourself or becoming a monster. Very, very difficult.

There is a fundamental contradiction in Tibetan independence that I don’t think Westerners aren’t quite aware of. To become an independent nation-state, you must have an army, you must have schools that teach young people to salute the flag, you must have a power structure, you must be prepared to deal with demonstrators with a mix of carrots and sticks, you must write history books that justify the existence of the nation. You must in the end teach people to die and to kill for the motherland.

You must in short do hundreds of things that Westerners *don’t* want Tibetans to do.

It’s interesting to compare Tibet with Mongolia. Mongolia was able to achieve independence, but it had to completely destroy its Lamaist institutions to do so, and have a Marxist-Leninist revolution and basically become a Soviet satellite.  Mongolia had to create a one party state and undertake some ethnic cleansing to achieve national independence.  Tibet could have easily gone down that route.

In the 1920’s there was a major debate within Tibet about what to do, and the decision was made to keep the Lamas and not modernize, and this meant that when the PLA entered Tibet in 1951, they couldn’t shoot back. If Tibet had made different decisions in 1920, then then could have fought back in 1951, but having a huge army to fight would make Tibet today probably look something like Burma. The army that shoots the invaders would then shoot the Lamas.

This by the way is why the Dalai Lama is against Tibetan independence. An independent Tibet becomes “just another third-world country” with flags, schools, propaganda, soldiers, bureaucrats, history books, and riot police. The brutal reality of the world is that nation-states must be prepared to fight, to die, and if necessary to kill.

The Dalai Lama realizes that to have even the slightly chance of independence, Tibet must destroy its soul. I think he is probably more scared of his own supporters than he is of the Chinese army. The PLA can suppress the monasteries for centuries, but the Buddhist ideals will survive, since you can’t shoot an idea with bullets.  The PLA is not the real danger to the Dalai Lama’s ideals, the real danger is subversion from within. People use the works of Muhammad to justify suicide bombing, and it is not hard to go down that slope and have the ideas of the Dalai Lama perverted into justifying something similar, and mixing the message of non-violence with the idea of the state which is all about violence, makes this easier.

He realises this but I don’t think most of his supporters do.

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