The last visit of Jiang Zeming in Europe (mid-October 1999) and the warm welcome of the western governments to him drew a dreadful amount of criticism from what I call brainless people. The main critics were addressed to the human rights in China and to a free Tibet. I was so upset at this meanless and unthought activism that I decided to write a short webpage, certainly provocating, to light the small but hopefully existing candle of intelligence in the brain of those 70's idealists exhorted by the concept of "unique thinking".
I should introduce myself first to clarify my position. I am a French guy working in a multinational telecommunications company and I have been living in Beijing for about 10 months now. I had the opportunity to travel within China and meet different Chinese ethnic people. People who know me, might think that my ideals of freedom and justice have changed but I'm thinking in term of realism and fighting against the principle of "unique thinking".
Well, let's speak first about the Tibet issue and I'm going to give a short lesson of history. Although Tibet claims a history starting in the 7th century AD, the most interesting part is related to year 841 and onwards. In 841, following the assasination of the King, Tibet slip up in several feuding districts. The power of the clergy considerably increased at such a level that monastries became very politicized. In 1641, a war ending set up a new government in which religion and politics became inextricably linked and headed by a god-king new type of person called "Dalai Lama" literally meaning "Ocean of Wisdom".
When the Chinese Qing dynasty fell in 1911, Tibet got its independence that was to last until 1950. During that period, one thing has to be cleared up: Tibet was NOT the liberal democracy that many westerners contend. Tibet was a highly repressive theocracy based on serfdom (95% of the population was composed of slaves). That is why China seized on this fact and on the previous belonging of Tibet to the Chinese kingdom, as a justification to invade (or to liberate as China labelled it) this strategically important plateau.
The People's Liberation Army (PLA) entered the region and occupied eastern Tibet. The Dalai Lama sent a delegation to Beijing, which reached an agreement with the Chinese that allowed the PLA to occupy the rest of Tibet, but left the existing political, social and religious organization intact.
The agreement was to last until 1959 when a rebellion organized and launched by the monks broke out. Just why it happened and how widespread it was depends on whether you believe the Chinese or Tibetans. In any case, the rebellion was suppressed by Chinese troops and the Dalai Lama and his retinue fled to India. Tibet became an autonomous region of China and over the next few years its political organization was drastically altered.
The crucial difference between the 1950 invasion of Tibet and previous foreign interference was that in 1950 the Chinese came armed with an ideology: communism. Whereas in the past the Tibetans had at least been able to maintain their cultural integrity. Communism with its "scientific" world view, provided the Chinese with a tool to dismantle the Tibetan social fabric under the rules of Liberation.
Tibetans who didn't see things the Chinese were victims of "incorect thinking". Resistance on the part of Tibetans was seen as perversity by the PLA. Even the massive 1959 uprising and the subsequent flight of the Dalai Lama and some 80,000 Tibetans failed to shake the Chinese conviction that they were helping Tibet.
Post-1959 Communist Tibet oversaw the introduction of land reform. The great monastic estates
were broken up and 300 years of serfdom ended. But then came the destructive policies
enforced during the Cultural Revolution. While the monastic estate were desmantle, any
reluctant monks, who were formerly used to be served, were either executed or sent to work
in fields and labour camps. Farmers were required to plant alien lowland crop,
such as wheat instead of the usual barley, in keeping with Chairman Mao's instruction to
"make grain the key link".
Strict limits were placed on the number of cattle that peasants could raise privately. Grain production slumped and the animal production declined. The Chinese basically made a mess of the Tibet's economy. But, it wasn't just Tibet; the Cultural Revolution was a disaster for the whole China. Reluctantly, the Chinese have admitted to making mistakes in Tibet.
The Maoist Communist Party chief in Tibet, General Ren Rong, was sacked in 1979. Most of the rural communes were disbanded and the land was returned to private farmers who were allowed to grow or graze whatever they wanted and to sell their produce in free markets. Taxes were reduced and state subsidies to the region increased.
Right now, many of the monastries have reopened, and the Chinese are wooing the Dalai Lama in the hope he will return to Tibet. Despite Chinese effort to paint a rosy picture of life on the roof of the world, the general western picture is of a country under occupation. The Dalai Lama continues to be worshipped by his people eventhough he has to be held responsible for the frequent uprising he is ordering and as a result the repression from the Chinese. I can perfectly understand that losing a power and the servitude on a population of 2 million people can make someone angry. But knowing that most of those people have little education (but still much more than under the feudal monastic government) and manipulating by incitating them to hold revolt is a pure mark of unrespect to his own people from the side of the Dalai Lama.
He should be grateful for the Chinese for having build roads, schools, hospital, an airport, factories and a burgeoning tourist industry. Also, Tibet being part of China certainly gives recognition and power to that region which otherwise would have been invaded by India. Who knows how many deaths would have resulted from the Indian invasion ?
I can understand the Tibetans, who can not forgive the destruction of their monasteries and attaks on their religion and culture. I can understand the Tibetans, who do not get much joy from the continuous heavy-handed presence of the Chinese police and military. But they should see that they are now living on a relatively free and peaceful land and they are not under the servitude of the monks anymore (eventhough they are still fooling them in order to try to recover their ancestral power), they all have something to eat and their living standards have increased. Without the help of the Chinese I am sure that the people would be as poor as its neighboring countries Bouthan and Nepal.
In this story neither the Dalai Lama or Chinese government is right, the truth is again to be found in between.