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Friday, June 12, 2009

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Inspired by the Tibet experience

Most of the time, I am reading. I read more than I write.

Today, one particular post had me in deep thoughts, and I would like to share them with Taiwanese all over the world, especially those who live on the island once exclaimed by the Portuguese sailors as ‘Ihla Formosa’.

Will this island remain beautiful a few years from now? That will depend on you and me, and I think I have done all I can and to the best that I can possibly do.

I just read an interview of Pico Iyer by another author, Jon Wiener.

Pico Iyer was born in Oxford, raised in California, and a resident of Japan, sort of like a global resident just like me. He has a new book called, The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

The interviewer, Jon Wiener asked Pico Iyer why in his book, he described the Tibetan population as being “slipping ever closer to extinction”.

And these were the words of Pico Iyer:

I wish they were overstated words, but they’re not. The Tibet autonomous region is more and more a Chinese province. Lhasa is now 65 percent Han Chinese, so Tibetans are a minority in their own country. The Chinese are practicing what the Dalai Lama has called “demographic aggression”—trying to wipe out Tibetan culture through force of numbers. Two years ago they set up that high speed train, which allows 6,000 more Han Chinese to come to Tibet every day. I first saw Lhasa in 1985 just when it opened up to the world.

The high speed train, if I am not wrong, is the masterpiece of the Canadian Bombardier (this link had been discovered and used in my other post).

The railway represents an overtly political project by China to facilitate its control over Tibet. Tibetans are already a minority in their own country and the railway has further marginalized them. It has allowed China to deploy troops and missiles to the Tibetan plateau more effectively, and has also enhanced China's ability to extract and remove Tibet's vast mineral wealth. The Dalai Lama has referred to the railway as "some kind of cultural genocide".

Sadly enough, this is what many western businessmen have said about more engagement with China will make China more open and democratic.

And some country who had tried to “help” Tibet had its own agenda.

The CIA had “helped” them during the cold war era as Pico Iyer said…

Yes. The CIA really moved in during the 1960s, when they trained Tibetans in Colorado, of all places, and set them up in Nepal. The CIA wasn’t concerned about Tibet; they were only concerned about trying to foil their great communist enemy China. It was a fitful resistance but the CIA was more than ready to help—until Nixon and Kissinger went to Beijing. At that point, the Dalai Lama realized that violent resistance would only bring more suffering to his people, so he sent a taped message to the guerillas in Nepal and told them to lay down their arms. They did, but some of them were so heartbroken that they took their own lives.

And this reminds me of the dark days of the martial law era in Taiwan when the US administration supported the Chiang Kai-Shek’s rule over Taiwan in order to block the red communism from spread out but did not care much about the human rights records of the KMT regime.

When their interests changed as the cold war ended, again our concern was never their concern!

Did the US administration help the Taiwanese society democratize? The recent Taiwanese history taught us that the democratization of Taiwan came gradually with the help of its own people’s struggle against authoritarian rule coupled with the timing of the rise of their former president Lee Teng-hui, a Taiwanese native, within the KMT party.

And now the US federal deficit (and China being their major creditor) has kept me worrying about what’s next for Taiwan. Why doesn’t the US administration encourage domestic production and domestic consumption to counter the trade imbalance instead of having to exchange favors with the Chinese authority, and in the process concede to Beijing’s requests on the Taiwan issue?

Back to the Tibet interview…

The Chinese Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s was a turning point for Tibet. Pico Iyer said

They tried to destroy Tibetan culture—much as they tried to destroy their own culture, but even more brutally. According to Tibetan estimates, 1.2 million Tibetans died—that’s 20 percent of the population. All but 13 of the 6,000 monasteries were destroyed. Little kids were asked to shoot their parents. Most violently, the Chinese sought to tear apart every last shred of Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Monks were asked to use sacred texts as toilet paper. It was a brutal thing, which the Chinese government has since repudiated.

Dalai Lama’s fear…

He knows that as soon as he dies, the Chinese government will alight on an amenable little boy, probably the child of Communist cadre, and reenact a kind of monastic search and declare “This boy is the fifteenth Dalai Lama.” Of course he will be completely loyal to the communist party and probably be an enemy of Tibet.

Do you have any fear as a Taiwanese? Or do you care only if you have a bowl of rice on your table today?

And this is what I think…

Every little action in your daily life counts, it does not matter how insignificant it may look such as speaking to your children using your mother tongue, or buying your country’s products instead of the cheapest ones, or loving and caring for your environment.

After thoughts...

Tibetans are not extinguished, have you ever thought about an alliance of the Taiwanese, the Tibetans, and the Uyghurs?

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4 Comments:

At 7:45 PM, Blogger cfimages said...

To clarify a couple of things.

The majority of the 6000 monasteries destroyed were actually destroyed before the Cultural Revolution. By the time the CR started, there wasn't much of Tibet left to destroy.

http://www.tibet.com/whitepaper/white7.html About halfway down the page it talks about it.

On the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, His Holiness has repeatedly stated that if he reincarnates, it won't happen in Tibet while it's under Chinese control. The CCP can say whatever they want, but no one will believe them, particularly Tibetans and their supporters. To everyone else, it'll be a 5 second news spot and that's all the thought they'll give it. It wouldn't surprise me if the Karmapa Lama acts as spiritual leader of Tibetans until a 15th DL comes of age (of course, it'd require some amendments to tradition).

As much as the US likes to talk about human rights etc, history has shown that economics, power etc trumps all. They'll go for the money, which for the forseeable future, is coming from China. Asking why the US doesn't stand up for Taiwan over China is a very naive question.

 
At 10:31 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

Two more comments:

1) According to that all so knowing source of info, Wikipedia, Tibetans make up over 90 percent of the population of Tibet still. The Tibetan Government in Exile claims that the Chinese have not reported the figures correctly and that Tibetans are indeed a minority in Tibet (the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific reports this as well, but their figures are based on the Chinese government's census, so who knows if this is true). I do believe that a degree of cultural genocide is going on, but it is important to state that nobody really knows what the size of the Tibetan and Han populations are in Tibet.

2) It does seem that China is where the money is. However, I think we have to wonder where brand China will be in 10 years. Several articles I read this week, taken together, paint an interesting picture.

According to AP, exports dropped 26 percent in May. Note that they fell 22.6 percent in April. The decline in exports was greater in May than in April.

Yet China seems to be seeing somewhat of a recovery. Why? Bloomberg said in an article from today that China's lending in May doubled. Bank lending was US$97 billion. Meanwhile industrial output grew over 8 percent. This year, according to something I read in the SCMP today, total lending has been over US$600 billion.

Tom Holland in the SCMP said that for each dollar of stimulus, China gets $0.80 in return for its investment.

So we have poor export performance and an expansion really being powered by inefficient stimulus powered primarily by bank lending, much of which will turn into NPLs within a few years.

Finally, from Business Week, there is this very interesting article: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_24/b4135054963557.htm?campaign_id=rss_topStories

Yes, when transportation is factored in, it now costs US manufacturers MORE to make goods in China than it would to make them in Mexico. This aside from the logistical difficulties. Tom Holland has also forecasted further upward pressure on the yuan in the upcoming two years, saying that there are expectations of this in the market.

I wrote this book because I am getting sick and tired of the "China is where the money is" blather coming out of so many mouths. China and investors in China are playing a confidence game right now. Moreover, the world expects things to recover there first. Confidence can lead to a certain degree of self-fulfillment of expectations.

Ma himself is playing the game, and seems do be reaping benefits.

The point is that China has an increasingly powerful military, but while the Chinese economy will certainly become much larger, the decline in the rate of growth has begun. And when, in 20 years, the parents of the first one-child policy kids retire, the real fun will start, with each two workers spending for one old person.

Taiwan could make it on its own over that period with some shrewd politicians in power. Sadly, the Ma/KMT camp will barter the island away for some perks long before then.

It is time everybody (US politicians included) friggin wake up. China isn't the goose that lays the golden eggs, and much of their appeal rests in expectations of growth rather than really strong fundamentals.

 
At 12:31 AM, Blogger Άλισον said...

I didn’t naively ask the US to stand up for Taiwan. Everywhere in this post I was taking notes of the history of the US government’s priority, clearly it’s US national interests, and using that as a caution for the Taiwanese to speak up and fight for themselves.

I always distinguish the people from the government. For example the oppressed people of China do not equate to the government of China. Chinese people are not my enemies, but the Chinese government is. Many American people are our friends and they do support human rights, but the US government may not support Taiwan’s democracy if it is in conflict with the US national interests.

My goal merely is to remind people that ethics is something to be considered in our decision making process, some politicians will listen, others won’t.

It is a common knowledge that Tibet was destructed from the mid 1950 and on, and especially severely in 1959.

I guess Iyre and Wiener had the flow of their interviews that way to stress that the CR didn’t exclude Tibet either. You could probably leave your comments with them at their site if you felt they misled people.

Since it is good to expose the brutal nature of the PRC, I will share further the following text from the website of the Tibetan exiled government:

By the middle of the 1950s, the Chinese authorities realised that religion was the principal obstacle to their control of Tibet. Therefore, from the beginning of 1956, a so-called "Democratic Reform" was carried out, first in Kham and Amdo, and later (in 1959) in Central Tibet. Monasteries, temples, and cultural centres were systematically looted of all articles of value and then dismantled.

First, special teams of mineralogists visited religious buildings to locate and extract all the precious stones. Next came the metallurgists who marked all metal objects which were subsequently carted away in trucks requisitioned from army head- quarters. The walls were then dynamited and all the wooden beams and pillars taken away. Clay images were destroyed in the expectation of finding precious metals inside. Finally, whatever remained - bits of wood and stone - were removed. Literally, hundreds of tons of valuable religious statues, thangkas (scroll paintings), metal artifacts, and other treasures were shipped to China either to be sold in international antique markets or to be melted down.

Contrary to official Chinese assertions, much of Tibet's culture and religion was destroyed between 1955 and 1961, and not during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) alone. This was confirmed by Bhuchung, the then Vice-President of the so-called TAR People's Government, at a press conference on 17 July 1987, when he stated that what little remained to be destroyed was obliterated during the Cultural Revolution under the slogan "Smash the Four Olds".
Out of Tibet's total of 6,259 monasteries and nunneries only about eight remained by 1976. Among those destroyed were the seventh-century Samye, the first monastery in Tibet; Gaden, the earliest and holiest monastic university of the Gelugpas...

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger Sean Su said...

The answer to the OP's last question is "yes we have". The reality however is that there are those on both sides that cannot see any benefits.

There are the stubborn short sighted people on the Taiwan side whom fear that the Tibet issue will overshadow Taiwan, as if they aren't better at this. There are those on the Tibet side whom cannot fathom any benefit an alliance with Taiwan will garner and that there is the whole distrust of any "ethinic Chinese" issue, especially since we elected Ma.

It's always an uphill battle until someone can convince both sides that the idea is integral. Frankly I've been screaming here in NYC, and aside from a few select individuals, the overall feeling is that they are ignoring me.

 

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