Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Snuffing the Flame

Once, while teaching at the small junior college on the outskirts of Beijing, probably between the lessons on "All Governments are Stupid, Not Just Yours" and "This Class is a Free Speech Zone; Tell Me Exactly What You Think and I Promise Not to Send You to Re-Education Camp," one of my students asked me what I thought about Tibet.

*alarm bells*

"This is a hot button issue," I thought. "My answer has to be diplomatic and sensitive." My students were 5 years old when the Tiananmen Square massacre happened. They were convinced the protesters had guns and fired on the police. For their entire schooling, they had been indoctrinated by their teachers and by the government. I paused, slowly forming the exact words I would say. I took a deep breath and began,

"Tibet should be a free and independent country."

*moderately controlled uproar*

"Quick throw them a bone," I thought.

"But you can have Taiwan," I said.

*confused silence*

I think I might have been the first person to ever not tow the party line with them, and I went on to explain my thinking. Before moving to Beijing, I'd read biographies of Chairman Mao and of Chang Kai-Shek. I'd read several books on the Cultural Revolution. I'd also read the Dalai Lama's take on the situation. I'd come to the conclusion that the whole "Tibet is a part of China" party line was a load of crap. Tibet was an independent theocracy until, under duress, signed an agreement with the PRC. Returning Tibet to its former independent status was a no-brainer.

Taiwan, on the otherhand, was a part of China until WWII, when the Japanese annexed it. After WWII, Chang Kai-Shek set up his government-in-exile there. Eventually, I think Taiwan and China will be peacefully reunited. Of course, it's not going to happen until mainland China becomes more democratic and less authoritarian. (Um. Yeah. Right).

And, what does this have to do with the upcoming Olympics in Beijing? Nothing, other than I think the current Olympic Torch Protests are going to backfire.

Not that I can watch Chinese news, but I will bet you 12 BILLION DOLLARS that the scene that is playing across all the TVs there is the one in which the protestors are harassing the woman in a wheelchair carrying the torch*. And the Chinese Government is saying, "See what the evil protestors are doing? They have no respect. They are bad people. All we want to do is show that China is good and wonderful. You should be proud of China." And the people, who have grown up without learning to think and to criticize and to question, will believe it.

The protests will cause China to lose face. And things will get worse for Tibet.

*I can't find the picture online, but I saw it in the WaPo this morning.


  1. OMG you are SO HOT when you get all thinky!

  2. I fear you are correct regarding China losing face and Tibet suffering the consequences from it.