Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Headline: "China warns Obama not to visit Dalai Lama"

This headline ("China warns Obama not to visit Dalai Lama") appeared in BBC's online edition today (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8492608.stm"). I got to it by clicking on a link that said "China warns Obama over Dalai Lama."

Both the headline and the teaser have real hip-hop possibilities. They already have rhythm; all they need is a good beatbox and some more lyrics. Seriously: Obama, Lama, Chuck-a-rama, panorama, drama, trauma, mama, chama, grama, ... the possibilities are endless. Unka unka word.

The catchy headline drew me into the article. In a nutshell, it goes like this: Sources in Washington DC are making noises about a planned meeting between the aforementioned "ama" statesmen sometime this month. No date has been set yet. And the Chinese are not happy.

An official of the Chinese Communist party, Zhu Weigun, whose official title is "executive deputy minister of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department," is quoted as saying: "If the US leader chooses to meet with the Dalai Lama at this time, it will certainly threaten trust and co-operation between China and the United States."

Moreover, threatens Zhu, if a meeting does take place, China will "take corresponding action to make relevant countries see their mistakes".

To make sure US government officials and politicians know what's at stake, he adds: "We oppose any attempt by foreign forces to interfere in China's internal affairs using the Dalai Lama as an excuse ... If they don't recognise that Tibet is part of China, it will seriously undermine the political foundation of Sino-US relations."

(I swiped those quotations from the BBC. I hope I'm covered by fair-use provisions.)

Now, for a dose of reality.

Tibet has alternated between being an autonomous nation and a part of China (usually forcibly acquired) for centuries. Tibet last gained independence in 1913, and China last took over Tibet in 1951-ish. In 1959 the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders fled the country and set up a Government In Exile.

The Dalai Lama and his G-I-E maintain that Tibet still is, and should be, an autonomous nation, and they continue to work toward that end, through peaceful means. They have no desire to plunge their nation into a bloody war that would probably end with the destruction of their beautiful country and the annihilation of their people.

Over the past 50 years, the Dalai Lama has won worldwide respect and admiration, and become a powerful advocate for world peace and a symbol of the unjustly oppressed.

That is the Tibetans' version of reality. The Chinese version goes like this:

China possesses Tibet, and the Chinese government imposes its will on Tibet (both the nation and the people) by force of arms. If you want to do anything in (or with) Tibet, you have to deal with someone in China first, and if you want to talk to someone in charge of anything in Tibet, that someone will be Chinese, not Tibetan.

There's yet another reality about China and Tibet.

It is that, to China's current government, Tibet is just another region to be subjugated and exploited. Tibet's Government In Exile is an uncomfortable reminder to the Chinese that not everybody agrees with China on their treatment of Tibet. The Chinese government wishes that the G-I-E would just go away, or at least be ignored by the rest of the world. Well, the G-I-E, in the form of the 14th Dalai Lama, is not going away or being ignored.

So there is the reality of the Chinese possession of Tibet, and there is the reality of the Tibetan Government In Exile. The collision of these two realities is as inconvenient, or as uncomfortable, as the collision of the two realities of Chinese government in Beijing and Taiwan.

Now, we have a minor functionary of the Chinese government, with an oversized official title, attempting to impose the Chinese version of reality on the American government, complete with thinly-veiled threats.

We haven't heard the American version of reality yet, but I hope it's something along the lines of "The President of the United States can meet with whomever he damn well pleases, and you can go peddle your 'trust and co-operation' somewhere else if it's so important to you." Zhu's protests sound like the petulant schoolyard cries of "If you talk to him, then you can't be my friend anymore."

There is still one more reality.

This reality is printed on the pages of 20th Century history, for anybody who is willing to read it and heed it. It is a reality that the British, European and Japanese empires were slow to learn, that the American "we're not an" empire occasionally forgets, that the former Soviet empire is just now beginning to learn (too late), and that the modern Chinese empire refuses to consider.

This reality is that freedom, liberty and national (or ethnic) pride cannot be denied. So-called conquerors can annex, occupy, oppress, supress, repress, enslave, subordinate, subjugate, assimilate, exterminate, and dictate. They can try to break a people's will and to erase a people's identity. In the end, though, either they will fail miserably, or they will succeed - in wiping the people completely off the face of the earth. There is no honor in either outcome.

One day China's current government will be replaced by something else, and it will be remembered only in history books. Let us hope that it is not remembered for having "accomplished" the eradication of Tibet as a nation and a people.


Judy Johnson said...

Very interesting Ray. Does the fact that the US borrows millions, billions, trillions of dollars from China factor into this anywhere?

Zyzmog said...

Yes, it does! A fact of life (or another reality) in politics, government, and business is that "power follows money," and thanks to this pattern of Chinese, um, investment, we have reached a point where China has enormous hidden power in the USA. I'm certain that Zhu's threatened action has to do both with the Chinese factories upon which American business has become so dependent, and the power of Chinese investments in the USA. Although US military might is still superior to China's, China clearly has the advantage in economic power.

China could indeed make things uncomfortable for the USA, should the "ama" meeting go forward. It will be interesting to see if the US government has the courage and the moral backbone to go ahead with the meeting anyway.

Zyzmog said...

Here's an excerpt from Obama's inaugural address:

"To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history ..."

I hope someone reminds Obama what he said, and I hope Obama repeats it to Zhu, or Zhu's boss's boss.