Ninth Question [Lofthouse]:
What is your opinion on Tibet as part of China and how would you describe the Tibet issue?
Westerns tend to idealize Tibet and know little about its history or society. I wonder how many readers are aware, for example, that Tibet was invaded by Britain in 1903, with the British killing 3,000 Tibetans and sending the Dalai Lama fleeing to Mongolia.
Tibet remains an acutely backward society, filled with superstition, quackery, sorcery…. Until recently, mutilation was considered a valid punishment.
Tibetan history is riddled with violence; Tibet was once an ambitious military state. Tibetans often fought against, and defeated, the Chinese. They toppled China’s emperor in Xian in the eight century, illustrating that the mighty Han were really limp wristed. The Tibetans withdrew after the Chinese acknowledged the Sino-Tibetan border, etc., but the Chinese never forgot how the long-haired barbarians caused them to lose face. Revenge is such a potent element in Chinese culture; an ever-present theme.
Savage-brimming “borderlands,” like Mongolia, Tibet, and Taiwan would have to be Sinicized. Taiwan got away. Mongolia became a Soviet suzerainty in exchange for aid. Tibet, which had swapped its martial tradition for Buddhism, was ripe for the picking. With the Korean War, larger powers were distracted. There were several reasons for China’s invasion and annexation of Tibet, but the paramount one was revenge.
Chinese rule in Tibet vacillates between cultural suffocation and cultural genocide. Oh, and murder. It isn’t known how many Tibetans have died under Chinese occupation. Thousands, tens of thousands…. Nobody is sure, and estimates from Dharamsala have been unreliable. Tibetans are forced to sign conduct agreements; life in Lhasa is closely monitored by the police; there are informants, spies; Tibetans who aren’t deemed patriotic citizens are jailed, tortured…. It’s a shitty situation.
Probably the saddest part, beyond the death and repression, is that Western governments have been reluctant to act. UN resolutions are useless, too. The West criticizes China’s involvement in Africa, accusing the Chinese Communist Party of doing business with any two-bit thug-state, but China represents the biggest thug-state on Earth, only its leaders often wear nicer suits and have American PhDs.
For further reading, see Patrick French’s Tibet, Tibet and Ma Jian’s Stick Out Your Tongue.
In October 1885, Robert Hart wrote a letter to his London agent saying China did not want Tibet exposed to Western trade and influence.
Then in a 1903 letter, Hart mentioned the 2,000 British troops that invaded Tibet. Since China claimed Tibet as its territory, the British were warned to leave or risk war.
As for claims of cultural suffocation and genocide in today’s Tibet, anyone that reads the article in the October 1912 issue of National Geographic Magazine by a Chinese medical doctor sent to Tibet in 1907 would discover that Tibetans are better off today.
If Tibet returned to the situation Dr. Shaoching H. Chuan described in National Geographic [including many photos], it would be an inhuman act. Under the CCP, the quality of life in Tibet has improved dramatically from that feudal culture where 99% of the people were slaves to a dogmatic religion and rich landowners.
Final Word [Parfitt]:
Stick Out Your Tongue, which should erase any idealized notions of Tibet, was blasted by the CCP for failing to depict “the great strides the Tibetan people have made in building a united, prosperous, and civilized Socialist Tibet.”
Yes, China has made improvements in Tibet. Even the Dalai Lama admits this.
Canada is less advanced than America. Canadian news stories sometimes conclude: ‘Unlike the US, Canada doesn’t have a law/committee/policy/plan to deal with ‘subject.’ But I don’t think America should invade, force the government to London, destroy the hockey rinks, ban national institutions, torture new and ungrateful “American citizens,” or put them in front of firing squads – to rescue them from their own ignorance.
If China hadn’t invaded, Tibet might have gotten assistance from the West. But China’s concern about Western influence in Tibet was one reason it invaded.
It was not for Tibetans that China annexed Tibet.
Continued on December 7, 2011 in Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas” – Part 11 or return to Part 9.
See Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty – Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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For anyone who is interested, this is a good article.
Barry Sautman is a western scholar who has been to tibet and uses many statistics from western sources to make his points.
so people need an excuse to support the Chinese government but not one to mindlessly bash them?
It’s too bad you’re from Europe. If you were from China, at least you’d have an excuse.
See you ’round Alessandro.
Troy, I never, even once, even by error, stated I was Chinese….evidently u urself are not completely aware on how ur bias, prejudice and subtle racism influence ur own understanding of the world…I kinda of explained why u assumed I was chinese (and, mind u, I on purpose didn’t clearly say where I was from, that I was from Europe, for this exact reason..I wanted to see how long would have taken for u to start assuming I was chinese for the sole reason that I don’t agree with what u say…It’s normal for people who “reasons” like you do, to assume that I and other people are chinese, just cause they don’t agree with ur fantasies..it happened before quite some times, and I’m sure it will happen again…
I thought you were Chinese because I thought you said you were Chinese. Perhaps I misread your post.
If that’s the case, sorry.
You’re like a breath of fresh air, a light in the darkness, and it’s so encouraging to see a Chinese person’s views can be so very different from the views of the CCP. That illustrates there is critical thinking in China after all. Alessandro, you represent China’s future, and its past.
You said, “it’s so encouraging to see a Chinese person’s views can be so very different from the views of the CCP”
I’m sure Alessandro will correct me if I get anything wrong. I understand he is an Italian born and raised in Europe where he earned a university degree in East Asian Studies. Today, he’s married to a Chinese citizen and lives in China.
Exactly Mr. Lofthouse, ur understanding is perfectly correct….and I was kinda expecting this kind of “statement” by mr. Parfitt, it fits particularly well the kind of man he is, judging from apparences…I said english is not my native language, I write about China, I can (not perfectly of course) speak chinese, I don’t agree with his vision of China (simply cause they are based on ignorance and superficial (mis)understanding, are biased, full of prejudice and somewhat racist..even if to mr. Parfitt eyes it’s must be cause I am chinese)..therefore in his mind I have to be chinese (let alone the usual idiotic view that, cause they don’t agree with “us”, therefore all chinese are just brainless mouthpieces of the CCP – and I still do not understand why is it that agreeing with the CCP on some issues should be damn wrong by default, while it’s classy, intelligent, wise and a clear sign of “free-thought and critical thinking” to utter and repeat the usual racist and twisted propaganda that passes in the west as “information”..), even regardless the fact that my name here is evidently NOT chinese, and I’ve never referred to China as my country. People like mr. Parfitt are pretty predictable in their behavior and thought-patter, so simple-minded and arrogant at the same time (and he sure thinks the kind of silly ironic comment he wrote on top is very “clever” and subtle)
As for the view that Tiber, Mongolia and, wowowow, also Taiwan as barbaric lands to be civilized….well, that’s another episode of the fantastic circus of ignorance, prejudice and baseless hyperboles of which is Troy Parfitt. (just to say….China has usually been invaded by “barbaric” people that ended up being “absorbed” by chinese civilization..As usual Partiff reinterpret history at the light of his own blind ideology)
I’ve read “Stick out your tongue” and I didn’t much like it. It struck me as a poor and dark depiction of Tibet and its people, one that would have for sure caused protests…It’s the kind of book that in many different countries of the west would have been labeled as racist and offensive, and cause wide protests for its recalling from bookshops.
Stick Out Your Tongue is a beautifully written book written by one of China’s most interesting writers, Ma Jian. It’s well worth the read, even though it’s very short, about a hundred pages. Red Dust is another good Ma Jian book; anyone interested in learning more about China would be benefit from reading it. Ma Jian’s books are bluntly honest and sometimes criticise China’s authorities, doubtless the reason for the lack of support on this thread.
I cannot comment on “Stick Out Your Tongue” or its author Ma Jian. None of the Chinese I personally know in the states or China has read his work.
Therefore, I did a bit of research on the author. Here is what I learned.
Ma. Jian was born August 18, 1953 and moved to Hong Kong in 1986. In 1997, he left Hong Kong for Germany and then moved to England in 1999, where he lives with his partner and translator, Flora Drew.
Ma’s travel memoir “Red Dust: A Path Through China” (2001) is about his wanderings through remote areas of China from 1983-86 as a longhaired jobless vagabond [before he went to Hong Kong]. However, he wrote and published this work fifteen years later.
Ma came to the attention of the English-speaking world with his story collection “Stick Out Your Tongue”, translated into English in 2006. The stories are set in Tibet. Their most remarked-upon feature is that traditional Tibetan culture is not idealized, but rather depicted as harsh and often inhuman; one reviewer noted that the “stories sketch multi-generational incest, routine sexual abuse and ritual rape”.
The book was banned in China as a “vulgar and obscene book that defames the image of our Tibetan compatriots.”
His novel “Beijing Coma” (2008) tells the story of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 from the point of view of the fictional Dai Wei, a participant in the events left in a coma by the violent end of the protests. The comatose narrator functions as a metaphor for the ability to remember and the inability to act.
Note: “Beijing Coma” was written by Ma Jain from his home in London twenty-two years after he left China. In fact, he wasn’t in China during the Tiananmen Square protest. Ma Jian has been gone from China for twenty-six years.
Readers should consider Ma Jian’s personal history before accepting or rejecting his work as a voice representing China and/or Tibet. It appears that Ma Jian’s work relies on his own personal observations, opinions and memories of China and Tibet much as Mr. Parfitt’s observations and opinions influence his writing.
I’m sure that there is some truth to be found in Ma Jian’s account but because memoirs are based on what authors remember and not the actual events that took place, not all of what he writes may be accurate.
A paper from the “Stanford Journal of Legal Studies” focused on the problems with eyewitness testimony.
“Several studies have been conducted on human memory and on subjects’ propensity to remember erroneously events and details that did not occur. Elizabeth Loftus performed experiments in the mid-seventies demonstrating the effect of a third party’s introducing false facts into memory.
“Memory is affected by retelling, and we rarely tell a story in a neutral fashion. By tailoring our stories to our listeners, our bias distorts the very formation of memory—even without the introduction of misinformation by a third party.
“Bias creeps into memory without our knowledge, without our awareness. While confidence and accuracy are generally correlated, when misleading information is given, witness confidence is often higher for the incorrect information than for the correct information. This leads many to question the competence of the average person to determine credibility issues.”
Question: What have we learned from this?
Answer: That we must compare what we have learned from another individual’s memory with facts and what other people remember of the same things/events and then form our own opinions based on what we want to believe just as Mr. Parfitt has done regarding China and its culture.
Another consideration: What is more reliable—facts gathered from thousands of people using methods similar to organizations such as the PEW Research Center and the BBC World Service, or the observations of people like Mr. Parfitt or Ma Jain that eventually rely on the biased memories of those individuals?
It is my understanding that Mr. Ma is now seen as an “overseas Chinese” and would be considered by most citizens of China as having been gone too long to be considered credible.
Are you saying you have not read Ma Kian’s books but that we should not take what he has to say to heart?
You forgot to mention that Red Dust won the 2002 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award.
I assumed you knew that because you say he traveled China as a longhaired jobless vagabond and that is exactly word for word what it says on Wikipedia just before it says he won the 2002 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award.
Lloyd, who is a good Chinese writer you can recommend? Do you have the name of any good Chinese books?
Betty asked. “Are you saying you have not read Ma Kian’s books but that we should not take what he has to say to heart?”
What I mean is, “Take what Ma Kian writes with a few grains of salt.”
Have you read anything from Elizabeth Loftus on how imperfect memory is? Once you discover how unreliable memory is, you may see that an author that left China more than two decades ago might have had his memoires of China influenced by Western attitudes and beliefs.
You may learn more of Elizabeth Loftus here: http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/
There are two authors I recommend that still live and write in China.
However, Chi Li’s work, which I wrote about [click on next link], has only been published in French and Mandarin. Nevertheless, there is at least one movie worth seeing.
Then there is Yu Qiuyu. Click on this link to find out more of him and his work. Yu Qiuyu’s is considered by many Chinese to be China’s conscience, and his essays appear in school textbooks there.
According to his bio, Yu Qiuyu’s work hasn’t been translated into English either. I have a question. Why is it that Western publishers do not seem interested in the kind of work that is popular with the Chinese people but mostly with what makes China look bad one way or the other? Is it because bad news sells better?
I would recommend someone that still lives in China to learn about today’s China over someone that left decades ago and has adopted the Western culture and ways.
No, it’s not that the reason why I (and maybe others) didn’t like the book (actually there’s little real critic on chinese authorities in that book)…u keep on saying that is pointless. I already said why I didn’t like his book, and it’s arguably true that it depicts tibetan people in a very bad and much too crude way…Maybe if u don’t notice that, as u don’t notice that such a book would have raised concerns and protests, and accuses of racism also in the west, then ur own bias. As usual u give free way to ur own fixations, putting aside a sound judgment, especially on what other people write on this blog…as Mr. Lofthouse said, u don’t really read or try to understand what other people say…
Exactly Mr. Lofthouse….I often thought about this thing…I think that one took time to analyze what kind of chinese modern literature and authors mainstream publishers and critics push in the west, we would find out that many of them are people living in the west, that say exactly what “we” wanted to say…
I would also recall, that often the “dissident abroad” kind of “job” is a very remunerative one, cause in UK, US, also France at time, it opens door to a long series of financial and other kinds of aid….as long as u speak ill of China…
“mainstream publishers and critics push in the west; we would find out that many of them are people living in the west that say exactly what “we” wanted to say…”
For example: A friend (born in China, came to the US after Mao’s era as China started to open, and became an author here) was commissioned by the NYT to go to China and write a piece about how China is doing after Mao. I do not recall the date but I believe this may have happened in the early or mid 1990s.
When this friend returned from China and turned the finished piece in to the NYT that was positive about the changes taking place in China, the NYT rejected it and said that wasn’t what they wanted (Note–my words: IT seems the NYT wanted something that showed China’s pimples and what was going wrong) and they paid this Chinese-and now American citizen author the kill fee and that piece never saw the light of day.
In fact, I’m working on a series of posts that will address why the mainstream Western media is this way. In the capitalist West it is all about making money and for the media the size of the audience dictates how much to charge for advertising space so to attract an audience, the media must define what that audience wants and feed them whatever that is, which is what Mr. Parfitt’s book does.
However, I’m sure Mr. Parfitt believes every word he writes and had no intention to feed the public beast that feeds on China’s perceived dark side while rejecting any “facts” that compare China’s dark side to the West’s demons.
Too bad those books aren’t available in English.
I will look into the link to the movie you suggested.
Newer movies made in China after the Mao era that were not intended for a Western audience may be the best way to learn more about today’s China. The other choice is to go live there for a few years.
Another reason that many mainstream Chinese authors do not get published in the West is they are writing for a Chinese audience and the structure of those books often does not follow the plot patterns that are used in most Western literature. One example of the (on average) writing style of Chinese authors that do not break out of their language may be seen in Wolf Totem, which I wrote about here: “Wolf Totem” – http://wp.me/pN4pY-cg
“Wolf Totem” was published in English probably because it does reveal some of China’s pimples and the novel has an environmental theme. However, if you read that book you may see what I mean by the way the plot meanders and the characterization doesn’t follow the plot paths Westerner’s are used to.
Back in the 1990s and early part of the 21st century, China launched a state funded publisher in the US to translate classic Chinese novels into English. I have one of those books somewhere in the garage now, with a plot that meandered all over the place, has hundreds of characters that come and go and has no clear conclusion. That publisher did not achieve its goals in the US and closed its doors. I think they hoped that Americans would read these books and learn about the differences between China’s collective culture and the West’s individualism.
This, from an article in the China Digital Times.
Yu Qiuyu: Tearfully Asking The Victims Not Be Used By Anti-Chinese Forces
From the China Elections and Governance:
A clash of opinions has recently broken out in the Chinese online community. A renowned Chinese author Yu Qiuyu has urged the parents of the students who died in the earthquake to stop their protest against the government, as he fears that these angry parents might be “used by anti-Chinese forces”.
While some agreed with Yu’s viewpoint, many Chinese people criticized Yu’s argument by claiming he was “being used by corrupt officials”, whose thoughts were “remnants of the Cultural Revolution”.
Approximately 9000 children were killed in schools toppled by the earthquake, which many believe were poorly built by contractors who paid off the building inspectors.
Maybe Mr. Yu’s books aren’t available in the West because he’s a hack and a Party stooge. Meanwhile, bona fide intellectuals such as Liu Xiaobo remain in prison for subversion.
Liu’s got a book coming out from Harvard University Press. Yu doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
But of course Harvard is engaged in an international conspiracy to tarnish China’s good name.
You know Lloyd, you claim to have read Spence’s To Change China. Perhaps you should read it again; I don’t think the take home message got taken home.
Parfitt says, “You know Lloyd, you claim to have read Spence’s To Change China. Perhaps you should read it again; I don’t think the take home message got taken home.”
You mean the message you took away from that book. Wake up! Everyone does not think like you or come to the same conclusions as you do as you cherry pick through what others write and take what fits your biases to support your beliefs.
Mr. Parfitt is extremely funny.
China’s claim of sovereignty over Tibet is much stronger than America’s claim over all its lands, yet he still talks about how China invaded tibet. By his logic, the US did a lot of invading during their civil war.