The Protests, the Olympics, and Race.

For all of the talk about racial tensions between Han Chinese and Tibetans, there has been surprisingly little talk about the obvious (to me) racial subtext to the anti-Chinese/pro-Tibetan protests in London, Paris, and San Francisco. But how can one miss the fact that the most vocal torch protesters (in much greater numbers than Tibetans) are white, while the most vocal torch supporters are Asian? Put differently, why are there so few Caucasians turning out to vocally support the torch run? Can the difference really be chalked up to politics and/or ignorance? After all, Chinese living in London, Paris, and San Francisco have access to the same news sources as Caucasians.

If one listens carefully to the commentary on these upcoming Olympics, there are two narratives. The Chinese narrative claims that the games are about sport and harmony; the Western narrative insists that they are about politics and human rights. To be sure, both narratives are legitimate, but I think it’s fairly obvious, especially after the last two weeks, that race (and the emergence of a non-white superpower) is becoming the central narrative of Beijing 2008.

In 2004, shortly after winning a gold medal at the Athens Oympics, Liu Xiang explained that his medal “proved that athletes with yellow skin can run as fast as those with black and white skins.” This jaw-dropper revealed much, not least of which is the fact that – by and large – the Chinese, at least, have been much more open than the West about the uncomfortable racial subtext surrounding international sport and Beijing 2008. Indeed, not a Shanghai day goes by when I don’t hear someone say, or read a blog that claims, that the West is attacking the torch because it wants to keep the Chinese people “down.” Sadly, I think there’s occasionally some truth to that (often) knee-jerk reaction, and it’s something that the West (and its protesters) would do well to reflect upon.

Consider, for example, the Chinese Army conductor depicted in this 2006 cartoon postcard distributed by the Free Tibet Campaign (the full card downloads as a .pdf).

Now, I don’t really have the stomach to go into the history of the buck-toothed Asian as a tool of ugly racial stereotyping in the West. There’s a fairly intelligent discussion thread on the topic, here. Whatever its origins, I am certain that the buck-toothed imagery wouldn’t have been included in this postcard if someone of Asian ethnicity had been involved in designing the campaign. Likewise, I suspect that the ugliness displayed in Paris, London (and – sort of – in San Francisco) would have been toned down significantly if there had been large numbers of Asian joining the Caucasian protesters. Indeed, there probably wouldn’t have been any protests at all.

Now, just to be clear: I am not downplaying or denigrating the legitimate concerns of the protesters. Instead, I am asking whether or not the ethnic background of those protesters plays a role in the way that their concerns are expressed (if and when the torch is run through Delhi later this month, we’ll have a chance to measure the vehemence of a majority non-white protest).

In either case, the concerns of Western protesters should give China similar pause to reflect on its racial politics. Leaving aside (only for now) questions of sovereignty, there’s no argument that Tibet is riven by concerns about racial and cultural discrimination. And, to a very real extent, China’s future on the Tibetan plateau will depend upon how well it deals with the racial subtext it has injected into this restive region. An excellent place to start considering this topic would be two letters published on Lian Yue’s blog, generously translated into English on the terrific Black and White Cat blog.

Finally, in hope of rounding out this uncomfortable (for me) post with a dose of optimism, I highly recommend Tommy Tomlinson’s fine story on former UN Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young for ESPN.com. Young, as many Americans remember, was also a senior aid to Martin Luther King, and was present at King’s assassination. In Tomlinson’s article, he comes out as a strong supporter of the torch relay:

In 1965, civil rights marchers were beaten by police as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. In 1996, Young crossed that same bridge, Olympic torch in hand, as part of the torch run to Atlanta. Selma schoolchildren, black and white, walked by his side.

“So, 1965 to 1996, how many years is that?” he says. “All that progress in that amount of time. That was a powerful symbol. That’s what the Olympics is about. That’s what the torch means.”

29 thoughts on “The Protests, the Olympics, and Race.

  1. In terms of “keeping China down” I think it would be interesting if you were to talk about the whole edifice of National Humiliation; how it is perpetuated through the education system of China and how it leads to self-propagating resentment against anyone who has anything to bad to say about China – whether they are Chinese or not. It seems that such a subtext is incredibly useful for dealing with anyone who would speaks out against any issue at all and for stabilizing the government’s power.

  2. I think its worth distinguishing between the Free Tibet campaign and organizations such as Amnesty International, and also wondering whether there is such a thing as a single “Western narrative”.
    Personally I’m saddened that the Free Tibeters have dominated most of the discussion and images generated by protests, because of the variety of groups that have been critical of China, they are certainly the least rational and most inclined to stereotype. It’s also a shame that organizations like AI haven’t done more to disassociate themselves from the radical politcs of Free Tibet.

  3. Sun Yinlei – You make an important and valid point. I’m not going to go into the topic at the moment, but I agree that it deserves a fuller examination in relation to the nationalist reaction to the Tibet protests.

    JL – I couldn’t agree more in regard to Amnesty. You’re probably right that there isn’t a single Western narrative. What would be more apt to write is that the Western and Chinese narratives are quite different.

    Finally, I’ve had to delete several personal and/or racist comments that were held in moderation. I don’t like deleting comments – and generally, I only delete them when somebody is selling something (scrap metal, in particular, several times per week). Anyway, if you care to comment, please be civil. My general rule is: if I can’t say it in person, I probably shouldn’t be saying it online.

  4. We’ve seen it before. No surprise there.
    Current China-bashing is only a more ferocious version of Japan-bashing during the 80 and early 90s.

  5. Sun YinLei’s point is a very good one that I have reflected on many times. Having lived in Asia for 26 years, I have encountered conversations that make me stop and think. In this case a Beijing taxi driver asking me why to we American’s always “qi fu” (pick on) us Chinese? A lot of Chinese nationalism propagated in education and media is based on victim hood, capitalizing on centuries of distrusting the “wai” barbarians (tibetans, mongols, manchus, and others) which ties into the whole “nei/wai” wall mentality even amongst Chinese. I often have countered that historically the Chinese have often treated the Chinese much worse than any foreigner has in terms of sheer barbarity (worse than Japanese in Nanjing), but that seems ok. God forbid if it is a foreigner who treats a Chinese badly!! So why the double standard? Why the insecurity? Is it that people often ascribe traits that they most dislike in themselves onto others? And why the glorification and relishing of “chi ku” (eating bitterness). Victim hood, being at the effect of outside forces seems to be buried deep in the Chinese soul, and that is really sad.

    On another note, you are absolutely correct on observing the western bias and racism going on, not so dissimilar to Chinese racism and bias towards their own minorities and people of darker color.

  6. Why are we sidetracked by unbrealistic or implausible fact patterns. Whether or not racism is involved is surely not an argument based on facts. The Tibet and Taiwan situations are not racially based positions of Chinese. It is not about the genetic makeup of the Tibetans, it is about the flow of resources to and from Tibet, the legal title to the land, and the history of Chinese dominion over the borders of China. I think a much better discussion could be made by juxtaposing American Indian Reservations to Tibet. Both are aboriginal people, both have some claim to the land, and both are surrounded and if not overpowered by modern civilizations, they are despite the irony of it, dependent on the provisions of those industrial powers. American Indians eat food provided by USA manufacturers, and they live on land protected by the US army.

    China recently built a new railroad connecting the Eastern cities of Beijing and Shanghai to Lhasa. This train line is used to transport goods and people between the areas. China paid for the railroad, and so far the Tibetan government has benefitted from it, and so have the Tibetan people. China does not want to take a military strike against Tibet. Detractors of these policies: American Indians losing their land, America invading Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, etc…, fail to realize or appreciate the benefits that large, powerful governments provide. The protesters line is as mired in ultra partisan, majoritarian, and bias as the worst Hitler, Stalin, or Saddam Hussein political line. There is no room for reason there. The Olympics is a game, not a political statement, no matter how you twist it up and tie it in knots. People from every nation compete in sports to bring glory and honor to their nation and their nation’s people without shedding blood. Protesting the Olympics is like standing Idly by while someone takes over someones elses home, and then reprimanding them when they decide that instead, they will just play games with them for a week or two. I think most of China’s resources are aimed squarely at preparing for the Olympics, and the discussion with Tibet are more like a mother pleading with and even putting her foot down, when her son won’t come home in time for dinner. China just wants to provide for Tibet. Tibet’s leadership wants to maintain a religious leadership based on something akin to American Amish peoples. They still have to pay taxes, don’t they. They still have to abide by American laws. They may not want to be influenced by what they consider Hedonism, but they don’t have a choice to separate themselves and claim the Amish land for their very own. My request is: explain to me why western hippies are so hypocritical. Why don’t they just move to Tibet, set up a government, defend the Tibetan people, build railroads for them, provide food and clothing, give them access to better jobs, education, and social life, and then go home and leave them alone, stop including yourselves in their life, and just forget they ever existed. Is that really what a global world is about, or put more bluntly, would you be happier foraging for your food and hunting animals in the wild than buying your prepackaged meat and vegetables at the store a block away from your modern home, while sipping lattes and using your computer?

    I for one prefer the good life. I prefer the amenities of modern living. I prefer trains to walking 3000 miles, and I prefer planes to taking aboat accross the ocean. All this talk about human rights violations and racism, superpowers and terrorism, death and betrayal, has me thinking that perhaps these protesters would be better off living in a fantasy novel than real life.

  7. “China just wants to provide for Tibet. Tibet’s leadership wants to maintain a religious leadership based on something akin to American Amish peoples”

    “Is that really what a global world is about, or put more bluntly, would you be happier foraging for your food and hunting animals in the wild than buying your prepackaged meat and vegetables at the store a block away from your modern home, while sipping lattes and using your computer?”

    @BrianJ

    The Amish are actually quite happy to live their life as they please, without electricity, power tools and cars. The Tibetans also have the human right to live their life as they see fit.

    The CCP always loves to portray that “paternal” characteristic. I sure you’d love to read this story about the CCP’s loving embrace of Chinese people (instead of Tibetans):
    globalvoicesonline.org/2008/04/10/china-a-true-nightmare-on-april-fools-day/

    “The Tibet and Taiwan situations are not racially based positions of Chinese. It is not about the genetic makeup of the Tibetans”

    Oh, you are wrong about that, at least from the point of view of some Han that claim biological ties to the Tibetans in order to further legitimize the claim to Tibet. Or how about the point of view of law in China as it applies to foreigners of Chinese descent: anyone with Chinese blood is subject to Chinese law.

    “and so far the Tibetan government has benefitted from it, and so have the Tibetan people”

    The “Tibetan” government is run by Han Chinese selected by Beijing. They also control the whole banking system and migrant workers are imported into Tibet for work. Tibetans are forced to leave and try to make a living elsewhere.

    “they still have to pay taxes, don’t they”
    Amish don’t have to pay taxes unless they earn cash for construction work outside of their communities. This is an agreement that dates back to before the American Revolution.
    You also cannot join the Amish, you can only be born one. Many non-Amish have tried to “join” to avoid taxes and are summarily rejected by the Amish leadership and the IRS knows this.

    “The Olympics is a game, not a political statement, no matter how you twist it up and tie it in knots.”

    The Olympics was created as a political ceasefire between Greek city-states, thus the Olympics is %100 political.

    It also appears you would prefer a consumption driven world, good for corporations, bad for sustainability and cultural individuality.

  8. I disagree with the post. I think that of all the elements contributing to the motivational mix of the white protestors in Eng/Frnc/USA, racism – even subconscious racism – is perhaps lowest on the list. During the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., there were countless demonstrations where white protestors became more ugly and physically confrontational than they have in the Olympic torch protests. And those protestors were protesting in support of black Americans. I have been to protests in Washington DC where the police had to form a strong barrier between two protesting sides so that things would not get out of hand. Also, the logistics and goal of the Olympic torch protests were, I think, unique. There was a moving target – the Torch – which required moving bodies to keep pace with it and to block its movement. Because the torch is a moving, physical target with a set path (as opposed to an abstract ideal with no universally recognizable physical symbol), the demonstrations were bound to take on ugly and physically confrontational characteristics.

    To some extent, I take the point about the buck-toothed Chinese cartoon. It probably would not have been drawn by a Chinese person, but only because the Chinese drawer would probably be familar with the history behind that image (I myself don’t know what that history is). The white drawer of the cartoon may simply have been grossly exagerating physical characteristics in the same way that Western media often do with large Caucasian white noses or 5 o’clock shadows. The white drawer may not have drawn the cartoon in that way if he/she knew this history.

    I am not taking sides on the Tibetan issue, because I don’t know enough about the history. I would only say that is seems to be a clash of cultures. The underlying reason for the conflict in Tibet comes down to one thing: Tibet is traditionally an extremely religious society, and China has generaly been a secular society. The Chinese government views independently organized religion as a threat to its power. Hence, the conflict.

  9. I think the point that the post makes is not that racism is the source of the anti-torch protests, but that race is the underlying factor for the intensity of the protests. I think that’s very plausible. Consider the fact that Russia will host the 2014 games. I’m not an expert on Russia but my impression is that its human rights record is not much better than China’s especially in Chechnya. Certainly, there will be protests against Russia in 2014. But can anyone really imagine protests against Russian torchbearers that are as angry as the ones in Paris? No way. Something to think about, eh?

  10. @Blonde American Guy. I undestand what the post is saying about the intensity of the protests being motivated by race, and I disagree for the reasons I gave. I can certainly imagine protests against Russian torchbearers that are as angry as the ones in Paris. Personally, Putin’s vile despotism would bring out the fury in me in torchbearer demonstration. That’s because I place a very high value on the freedoms that he is denying his people. I bet a lot, maybe most, of these protestors are followers, after a fashion, of the Dali Lama and Buddhism. In their minds, rightly or wrongly, they think the Chinese gov is infringing on not only Tibet’s rights, but their own. It has little or nothing to do with race.

  11. @blog author: I hope you don’t mind me an aside. The discussion here is excellent, but the font used by this blog is atrocious.

  12. Tian – Thanks for stopping by, and the comment. Actually, I’ve had several comments similar to yours recently and, as a result, I am in the process of planning a re-design of the site, including a much easier to read font. Hopefully, I can have it up before the end of the month.

  13. I think your post is misguided.

    I attended protests in Auckland (observing not participating). The ‘free Tibet’ protest (very small) seemed to be about 50% western Buddhists. I doubt they would be Buddhist if they were anti-Asian racists.

    I tried to discuss the issue online with pro-Chinese overseas student protesters in New Zealand. The discussion was conducted Chinese (though I am a westerner). I was immediately cursed as a ‘race traitor’ and ‘fake western ghost’ (by those who assumed I was Chinese) and ‘western ghost’, ‘western pig’ etc (by those who believed I was western). I never even argued the Tibet issue (I have no strong opinions on Tibetan sovereignty). I merely asked why wealthy educated young Chinese only ever protest foreign things and never their own government.

    Within a matter of hours I had been banned from the site. I remain banned from the site, and all attempts to get an explanation for why I was banned have been fruitless.

    A Singaporean journalist (NZ’s highest profile ethnic Chinese journalist) tried to get comments from the pro-China protesters following their Auckland protest. They refused to talk to him because he was ‘not a real Chinese’.

    The level of racism amongst the pro-China crowd appears to me to be well exceed that of the pro-Tibet (or if you like ‘anti-China’ crowd).

    Blaming the current situation on western racism against Chinese? Please! Sounds like the usual western guilt and hand wringing to me.

  14. Great post and a lot of great points. But I tend to agree with Kiwi, I’m not sure white racism against Chinese is as direct a factor here as might be implied in the post. I DO think white privilege is. Compare, for instance the style of protest one got in the days of AIDS activism in the 1980s (predominantly white in those days) to those of civil rights activists in the 1960s; the idiom of these protests was entirely different. Simply put, in the US and Europe whites generally can get away with much more dramatic, non-conformist, in-you-face protesting than can people of color, and I think we see a sort of tantrum-like activism here (and that racial privilege becomes more obvious because it is a protest against China…I think that might get a bit closer to the whiteness issue here than anti-asian racism). But yes, the stereotype of China as inhumanly cruel (Ming the Merciless) certainly rings in the rather ignorant exagerrated declarations one hears from protestors and the media.

    There is also a kind of willful ignorance here. Even the NYT consistently describes the Dalai Lama as Tibet’s “spriritual leader.” But he is not just that, he is a political leader in exile (remember he threated to resign from his post just last month? you can’t resign from being a living Buddha.) The Dalai Lama’s post has always been theocratic, not entirely unlike the Japanese emperor. It is precisely that he is not simply a cultural/religious figure that is the most valid issue of the Chinese here, and we oversimplify to pretend otherwise. My pointing this out does not mean I don’t sympathize with Tibetans: they are colonized and terribly oppressed in many ways(religious, economic, political) all worthy of protest and resulting in rioting like we saw this year (and have seen before). But the tenor of discussion is so low, that when you point out that there are actually real political complexities here beyond racism or simple nationalist greed it is assumed you must be anti-Tibet.

  15. i don’t believe educated young Chinese only ever protest foreign things and never their own government. If you see the local blogs in China, there are all sorts of ridicules of the government. But I guess when it comes to the Tibet issue, it is more to do with racial affiliation. If you felt you are being picked on by another race, you immediately become defensive. I always believe the recent riots may started as some political monks demonstrating for their agenda then it ended up just like another racial motivate riot like the one in LA as Tibetans sees it as Hans harassing one of their kind.

    Any way, this link here http://discussions.pbs.org/viewtopic.pbs?t=68073 details a very good debate on the Tibet issue, well worth the hours I spend reading it.

  16. @Kiwi seems like you can read chinese, anyway I just read this blog, it’s an eye witness account of the riot http://blog.ifeng.com/article/1365946.html .. some of drunken youths were asked why they were roiting, they replied that they heard (rumours)Hans are killing Tibtans. This confirms my understanding that it is a racial riot than any thing else.

  17. Sorry Josh Goldstein, but I must disagree that “the tenor of discussion is so low, that when you point out that there are actually real political complexities here beyond racism or simple nationalist greed it is assumed you must be anti-Tibet”, as a reading of the comments posted in this forum alone shows are neither low or simplistic. Should you want low, mean and brutely simple look to the mainland Chinese forums where the tenor is 杀无赦, or “kill without mercy” and contrary comments are answered by rabid ridicule. There is no intellection there, no exchange of opinion or information, just a storm of spit wads.

    I sadly note that the Chinese have seemed capable of tolerating any fault, will support any crime if it seemingly strengthens China, and so the hypocrisy of a Han Suyin or Anne Chennault, for example, are excused so long as they ultimately support whatever party controls the government of the time and by doing so show their “love of China”. There is no objectivity, little critical thought, only the maxim “love of China” which washes all sins.

  18. There is certainly a level of racism or simply bigotry from the west. Reading various comments from the Free-Tibet camp on the Pro-China protests such the SFGate forum, the typical response involves the suspicion that Chinese people regardless where they immigrant to, are simply unloyal and easily bought off by the Chinese government. Many comments suggest that Chinese Americans should never be trusted and should be interned just like the Japanese during WWII. Perhaps this is due to their education and upbringing, but people from the west tend to think that Chinese and Chinese immigrants overseas are unable to perform any type of critical thinking for themselves. This is evidence in the WenHoLee case, where an otherwise outstanding model citizen of Chinese/Taiwanese heritage (Lee was born in Taiwan actually) is persecuted by the media as a national traitor without much evidence at all.

    The poster above me by is a perfect example of this sort of bigotry. For one, there are plenty of Chinese who are both critical of Chinese government AND are upset at the Tibetan protests. Wallstreet Journal had an article on this titled Roots of Chinese Nationalism. Yet, whenever anyone especially a Chinese deviates from the anti-CCP stance which is expected from those in the West even on one single issue, the Westerners will simply write off the Chinese off as CCP tools. If that is not a sign of at least moral superiority exhibited by those in the West I don’t know what is.

  19. Unfortunately, it also seems that the Chinese side, comprised of nationalist youth, have no problem slandering the west and our “media bias”. Racism is not exclusive to the white man, reading some of the comments on youtube, anti-cnn.com etc show that the Chinese display a deep resentment towards the Western world, one that they constantly fuel with inflammatory, and racist remarks.

    At this moment in time, it is apparent that the Chinese care primarily for themselves, their homeland, and little for the countries they’ve immigrated to.

  20. 1. Half of the world’s population living in countries designated “Not Free” by Freedom House live in China.
    2. China imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world.
    3. The Chinese government maintains one of the world’s most sophisticated systems of blocking access to websites and monitoring its citizens’ e-mail communications.
    4. The one-child policy leads to forced abortions, a shortage of females, and an increase in trafficking of people.
    5. 65 crimes in China carry the death penalty.
    6. The Chinese government has supported extremely repressive regimes such as those governing Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
    7. Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and practitioners of other religions face frequent harassment.
    8. Thousands of North Korean refugees who escape into China are sent back to North Korea to face arrest, torture, and sometimes death.
    9. Public protests have been on the increase in recent years.
    The Chinese government is taking supplies such as water resources away from their own people. I can understand why there would be protests against them.
    It seems to be that China is not stable enough to hold the Olympics. Their air is polluted! I can understand why Westerners would protest. We’ve recieved numerous amounts of shipments filled with lead painted toys, which are unhealthy for our children .

    On the area of racism, that’s just a lame exscuse people use when they can’t reason properly.

  21. Yesyes seems incapable of distinguishing pointed criticism from bigotry, and the examples I gave were not acknowledged. I can only suggest Yesyes visit the mainland Chinese language forums and see how contrary comment – regardless of who’s making the comment – is treated, then look to the dictionary definition of “bigotry”.

    Yes, yes, the CCP rules by the tacit consent of the governed (I’ve got no problem with that fact) but the historical issue remains that for most Chinese “love of China” trumps all other considerations. The obverse, of course, is that those who do not love China are necessarily enemies of the country, the people, the state.

  22. Mary’s comment is actually a slightly modified version of Freedom House’s “Ten Thing You Should Know About China” which they have been circulating in support of a boycott. It is by no means an original post, and I think that the owner of this blog should delete it and offer Mary a chance to post some of her own thoughts.

    Anyway I dont want to go into answering all of the points. But I think the first one is the most interesting because it says that half of the world’s unfree people are in China. This is the assessment of Freedom House. But it is not the assessment of most Chinese people. There are many problems in China but nobody can disagree that China is more free now than it has been in its history. Mary thinks it is okay to use her liberal western background to judge Chinese people’s freedom. But what does she know (she can’t even post original content) about China people really?

    This is the kind of moral superiority and ignorant that makes Chinese people very suspicious of the West and its good intentioned people. At least know the facts, Mary. Many of the things you say about China can be said about western countries too. Fix those problems then come back and we will listen to your criticism.

  23. Thanks, Adam, for your interesting post. However, I must admit that I don’t find it wholly convincing. The pictures I have seen have shown Tibetans prominently, although naturally this could just be an issue of selection bias.

    More importantly, though, your argument seems to posit that Western racism is capable of differentiation between Chinese and Tibetan. I suppose that it could, perhaps more so in Europe (where it’s less racism and more…anti-ethnic feeling). But, I find that the human rights issues have more explanatory power, particularly in the wake of the crackdown last month.

    Consequently, while I enjoyed this anecdote:

    “This jaw-dropper revealed much, not least of which is the fact that – by and large – the Chinese, at least, have been much more open than the West about the uncomfortable racial subtext surrounding international sport and Beijing 2008.”

    I think it’s more of a reflection of the inability of many Asian cultures and countries to come to terms with their ethnic stereotypes and racism. As an Asian man myself, I found comments in the Chinese blogsphere about how the “West” invented racism to be laughable: China isn’t “Zhong Guo” for nothing, and racism has long predated any modern state.

    I certainly don’t think you’re suggesting this, but your point almost…faults the pro-Tibet side for the success of their political advocacy. In the wake of rampant unilateralism in foreign policy (and I don’t just mean the U.S.), isn’t a cross-cultural, cross-national agreement on principles exactly the sort of thing that should be celebrated? There is also of course the issue that the torch relay was passing through Western countries, instead of, say, Taiwan, where there is widespread sympathy for Tibetans, or, for example, India as happened yesterday. That makes for a more effective comparison I think.

    Now, there are a lot of things I find objectionable in many of the previous posts. But, it’ll take far too long to answer all of them. With apologies, I’ll just pick up on something the last poster said:

    “This is the assessment of Freedom House. But it is not the assessment of most Chinese people.”

    With all due respect, you can’t make that argument. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me most Chinese don’t share Freedom House’s assessment. But political polling is notoriously unreliable in China because of the government, and, as clearly demonstrated in March, a significant segment of minorities don’t think so highly of China’s democratic record. Many scholars have documented the inability of these minorities to make their political views known, and it doesn’t take tens of thousands of soldiers and APCs to put down small-scale civil unrest.

    More importantly, this points to a key difference between Chinese and, say, Americans. A key measure of democracy is not how the majority are treated, but the minority. Certainly, the U.S. has not had the best record on this, but what is notable is that in the 60s, positive change on race relations was driven by nonviolent protest and changes in legislation. And I will say that Chinese and Americans are quite similar: both are proud, nationalistic, occasionally arrogant, and have a limited understanding of the nationalisms of other peoples. But, in one, the institutions operate much better in ensuring equal treatment before the law. Even secessionists are protected in the U.S. While cultural proclivities may be similar, you do not see the widespread call for physical violence to be conducted against “race traitors.” Indeed, the debate in the U.S. is focused on the Chinese government, not the Chinese. Race, to my mind, at least, has not been tied up in this political issue as of yet.

  24. First off, this was a well written blog post.

    That said, if you want to derive some kind of significance from the number of Caucasian protestors (pro-Tibet/anti-China) versus the number of Asian protestors, you need to correct for the relative permissiveness of Western culture with regards to free speech and the right of free assembly, etc. Consider that protests and demonstrations were outright banned in some regions of India, out of “sensitivity” to the Chinese and a desire to maintain public order, despite the fact that many expatriate Tibetans live in India. Such restrictions would never fly in most Western nations.

    In short, perhaps Caucasians are over-represented on the pro-Tibet/anti-China protest scene simply because more Caucasians are able to protest than are members of other ethnic groups. Call it a kind of statistical bias, if you will.

  25. I actually think it’s not “refreshing to see people asking broader questions about the issues at hand.” Of course, I love analyzing specifics for broader themes, that’s what analysis is, and it is extremely important. However, I think the more we get into “pro-china / anit-china,” racial concerns/racism, etc. the less we talk about the specific issues, and, latent racism or no, it’s the issues that are most important in this whole situation. By issues I mean freedom of press, human rights, and, mainly, Tibetan sovereignty. I have, for a very long time, been pretty indifferent about Tibet as I tend to veer toward the opinion that all religion and religious groups are forms of intellectual tyranny. Also, I am aware that Tibet is not really able to support itself financially. That said, it is absolutely deplorable the way Tibet is being treated by Beijing. Yes, the central government has improved Tibet’s infrastructure and raised the standard of living. However, the vast majority of those improvements have been felt by Han chinese sent to Tibet to, well, weed out Tibetans. I agree with the above poster who mentioned the affront of the term “race traitor” and the preposterousness that that term has become in any way a reasonable one to use in discussing the Tibet issue. No matter how far we take journalistic objectivity, use of a term like that should always be followed by something remarking on how god-awful it is. But I digress. I agree that this is an excellent blog post and explores some nuances I hadn’t previously thought of, I just think that we should focus on the real issues, which is why for the first time ever, I back a global religious leader. The Dalai Lama, despite Beijing’s (locally successful) methods of demonization, has again risen above the rabble as a voice of reason, even a biased one. His tentative acceptance of an Olympic invite that will never come, his calm denial of planning terrorism (a claim that was so laughable in the West so as to not even merit discussion), and his continual plea not for full on independence, but merely a recognition, or a follow-through on the Chinese given title of “Autonomous Region.” This was a bit of a ramble, but anyway, that’s where I stand. Cheers

  26. China and Tibet should be mates at a work and socal level.
    But It shold also be free to allow a natural realtionship to grow. Japan and china can also be great mates ,just keep exchangeing culture and help as well as work ventures.

Comments are closed.