The Chinese authorities did their civic duty by forcibly suppressing the pogroms in Tibet, for the “Tibetan protests and demonstrations” were essentially just pogroms against immigrants, mainly but not exclusively Han Chinese and Uygur Muslims. Some two dozen people (Chinese immigrants, Tibetan rioters and security forces) lost their lives; five immigrants were gruesomely burned alive in their shop. More people would have died but for decisiveness of the Chinese commanders.
The Tibetan case is not without merit. Tibetans want to preserve their unique culture: so do the people of France and Sweden, of Palestine and Iraq. So probably did the Yeti, the true aborigines of Tibet. We all are threatened by globalizing forces that obliterate the beautiful variety of the world. The Dalai Lama has called this process “cultural genocide”. Welcome to planet Earth, Your Holiness. Indeed, every McDonalds, every Starbucks is a part of the “cultural genocide” we are all living through. Still, we do not grill Americans alive. Immigrant-bashing is equally unacceptable in far-away Lhasa, in Toulouse or in Liverpool.
The native people of Tibet have equal rights with other peoples of China. If they want to have all of Tibet for themselves, sorry, it does not work this way. Whether we like it or not, we have to share our land with those who came before and who will come later. Likewise, Indians, Nepalese and Chinese share their cities and villages with Tibetan immigrants without complaining too much.
The case of Tibet is much overstated, for Tibet is hardly unique: it is a region of special character related to China like Bretagne to France; like Wales to Britain, like Catalonia to Spain, like Sicily to Italy, like Dixie to the US. In all these places, local patriots may dream of more autonomy or even independence, they may resent the influx of strangers. Bretons may hate Parisians, the Welsh snarl at the English who buy their homes, the Alabamans could dislike New York Jews who dictate to them the rules of the game – even before they object to immigrants from farther-away lands. But they rarely dream of rolling history back. This is a dream of the far nationalist Right, which is practically outlawed in Europe and the US.
Could it be that Presidents Bush and Sarkozy, the editors of the New York Times, Le Monde and Haaretz, human rights activists Bernard-Henri Levy and Daniel Cohn-Bendit (calling for a boycott of China Olympics) have become supporters of Le Pen, David Duke and Horst Mahler, and that after regaining national character of Tibet, European and America counterparts will follow by asserting their own uniqueness? However, I doubt these luminaries would approve of pogroms against Jews; why are the pogroms against Chinese so warmheartedly applauded?
If Tibet were not an issue, another reason would be found for this anti-Chinese campaign. Christopher Caldwell quipped in FT (March 29/30, 2008): “Boycotting Beijing Olympics is the solution that has long been in search of a problem”. “The problem” could be Darfur, Burma, human rights, mistreatment of prisoners and animals, or late abortions. Israeli newspapers daily produce new reasons why China should be boycotted, usually because of “human rights violations”. The precise reasons vary, but the bottom line remains the same: ostracize, isolate and punish China, for it is too independent.
The Chinese leadership is not weak-kneed; they have witnessed too many horrible examples of what happens if the central government shows weakness. The Soviet Union went down because Gorbachev did not deal with separatism in the Baltic republics, Ukraine and Armenia. The Chinese leaders are made of sterner stuff. Sometimes, hard decisions have to be made, and they call for people of strong will.
Such a hard but wise decision was that of Tiananmen riots’ suppression in 1989. Without it, China would have disintegrated in a flood of blood and tears; it would have been recolonised by the Western powers. Now, the suppression of Lhasa riots was relatively a small-time event, hopefully soon to be forgotten. The Tibetans were misled, now they may readjust their vision. So have many secessionists: Ibo of Nigeria fought a long war, but eventually settled for equality. So did the people of Dixie after the defeat.
The Chinese are within their rights to fight secessionists and preserve the integrity of their land, including the region of Tibet. A few days ago, the Pink Panther of a president, M. Sarkozy, said in the UK: “We shall never surrender Afghanistan”. If that French clown wants to keep faraway Afghanistan and is ready to send French soldiers to die for it, there is no reason for the Chinese to give up Tibet, a part of China for one thousand years. (French readers may be comforted: the main alternative to this clown, Segolene Royal, was even more outspoken in her calls to boycott China. Indeed if there is anything more miserable than the Gaullists of Sarkozy, it’s the Socialists of Royal.)
The Western ideologues wish to shape the world according to their preferences, and an independent China, (or Russia, Iran, India) is not their cup of tea. That is why they sow strife and dissent — promoting separatism and secession in the independent countries. This is an old game of undoing empires, and afterwards creating a new empire on their ruins. In this game, the leftist hypocrites and the rightist imperialists work together.
They do find local nationalists, often sincere people, who accept their support. These nationalists usually are duped; unless they are cynical crooks who are aware of the game they play. Nothing good comes out of these separatist secession causes: usually, the seceded lands became a part of the Judeo-American Empire. The recent case of Kosovo (probably an inspiration to the Tibetan rebels) is a clear example: the Albanians of Kosovo regained freedom from Serbia and became a colony of the EC serving as the biggest American military base and the oil terminal.
An independent Tibet would also become a US base against China, India and Russia. The bloody and cruel Tibet rebellion of 1959 was fully prepared and paid for by the CIA in order to undermine China. We know it now, because two bad guys – Kenneth Conboy of the Heritage Foundation and James Morrison, an Army veteran trainer for the CIA – boasted about it in a book called The CIA’s Secret War in Tibet (Kansas University Press, 2002). Gary Wilson has correctly compared it with the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
Marx and Lenin were reluctant to speak in general categories. Instead of calling for freedom, they asked “freedom from what? Freedom for whom? Independence from what?” They did not absolutise freedom, independence, self-determination, but instead considered whether it was good for them or for their adversaries. If a small nation turns into an imperialist tool, it should be fought against, they said. Indeed, it is impossible to say whether “independence is good in general” or not.
Often, independence is a piece of cheese in the mousetrap. Gandhi was asked what he thought of European civilization. “It would be nice!” he exclaimed. Likewise the idea of independence: If a country like Tibet – or Chechnya, – could be independent, instead of serving as an advance base for an American invasion, it would be nice. But such an option does not exist. In the words of G W Bush, you are either with them, or with us.
It is right time to give up the chase after “self-determination”, for this noble sentiment has been abused far too often. Instead we should demand equal rights for all. Alexander the Great was famously even-handed with the subjects of his vast empire, and his own Macedonian warriors complained that he preferred the defeated Persians to the victorious Greeks. “For me, there is no difference between a Greek and a Persian”, – he replied – “both are subjects of my state”. This is the right attitude.
The idea of independence and self-determination has failed everywhere; and now it is failing in Palestine, too. The vestiges of this concept are now being used to perpetuate apartheid and to keep in power some corrupt and powerless politicians. Native Palestinians do not need independence; they are not going to get it either, but every day this fiction is nurtured just postpones the day of true equality, of all and for all, in Palestine/Israel.
The Tibetans should understand this too. The way to preserve the uniqueness of Tibet – and of France, England, Palestine – lies through our victory over Empire and over its tendency to globalise and homogenize. In this battle, China is a protector and friend, not an enemy.
If the Americans are keen on independence and self-determination, let them give independence to California, Texas, Dixie, – and afterwards we can discuss Tibet again.