The Dalai Lama typically tries to steer clear of caustic remarks towards the Chinese government. His official position is to advocate for meaningful autonomy within the state of China rather than pushing for a sovereign state. And he generally adheres to this and tries not inflame the Chinese, who are very quick to freak out when it comes to anything Tibet or Taiwan related
So the DL’s comments this week that China is practicing “cultural genocide” are noteworthy. These remarks come at a time when monks are immolating themselves, a trend never seen before the last few months. Is there any real doubt that China is trying to essentially destroy Tibetan culture, or at least neuter it so effectively that it becomes simply a curiosity for tourists (not unlike Hitler’s dream of the preserved Jewish ghetto as a monument to a lost race)? I’m not great fan of religion, but I’m a strong believer in people’s right to worship as they see fit, and preserve their cultural heritage as well, which is why what the Chinese are doing in Tibet (and Xinjiang) is despicable. In addition to flooding the province with ethnic Han Chinese via all sorts of incentives, they directly infringe on Tibetan’s religious rights in everything from having their own leader (the DL) to how they worship day to day. It’s not that different from China’s Christians, who can’t select their own leaders either, except Christian culture is not native to China (and that’s if you consider Tibet an actual part of China) and Christian culture isn’t in danger of being destroyed.
This bothers me enough on its own, but the Israel/Palestine situation comes to mind as an example of where the world uses one set of standards for one group and one set of standards for another. No doubt the continued building of settlements on what will almost certainly be a Palestinian state is wrong and has to stop. But everything that is happening in West Bank is as a result of wars of aggression being waged by the states surrounding Israel.
The Tibetans by comparison never did anything aggressive, they just got invaded by the Communists after they won their civil war. This Tibet issue has been around ever since, and it’s the source of fashionable political posturing for sure. But the DL isn’t on stage at the UN demanding a state, even though he has a better case for one than the Palestinians. It just goes to show that rising Chinese power makes people “realists” and Israel’s comparative size (and lingering antisemitism) makes “idealists” of those same people.
China has also been in the news this week being mentioned (along with Russia) as practicing state-sponsored corporate espionage. It’s heartening to hear them called out for this, but little surprise to anyone who follows China’s business culture. The entire Chinese economic miracle has been built on cheap labor and stolen IP. In fact it’s instituationalized–if you want to form a joint-venture in many sectors of China’s business-world you have to share the IP with your partner (who very frequently exits the JV in a few years, takes the IP, and starts their own business, under-cutting their former partner).
Look, what China has achieved over the last several decades is extraordinary and worthy of praise. Hundreds of millions of people have been pulled out of poverty, and it’s been a steady source of growth in the last few years, when arrogant Western policy-makers certainly didn’t see the systemic risks that literally almost destroyed our society.
But they’re building their entire industrial revolution on the backs of western ideas and continue to steal regularly. That’s why it’s so frustrating to hear about Chinese officials saying they can’t take concrete steps about carbon emissions because China is poor and needs to burn coal and the West is more responsible for polluting the world. It might be true that the West has done most of the polluting but China is reaping many of the benefits of our years of polluting by leap-frogging ahead. They also can’t keep their currency artificially low, dump products in the US to foster their own industries, and otherwise provide illegal tax and real estate breaks for their companies against WTO regulations and then cry foul when they’re not considered a true market economy.
My fear is that the US continues to decline and China continues to grow and its arrogance in asserting its interests, coupled with its child-like screeches of anger any time someone touches upon issues like human rights, Tibet, the death penalty or artistic freedom only make it harder to deal with.