This thought came to me while I was thinking about some things I had read about Tibet and China recently.
It really feels that China is basically going through the same motions of European Imperialism a couple centuries ago, and they even make the same sort of White Man’s Burden-type arguments to justify their actions. Note here that I am not saying that Tibet is a colony. Though the implications of having something like a host-colony relationship while not actually being a host and colony is pretty damning in itself.
One of the arguments pro-Chinese people love to bring up is how much money their government has spent on Tibet in an effort to modernize it. Oh look, their economy is all better. That’s all great and wonderful from the outside, but how many of you have actually asked a Tibetan, is this what you want? I’d hazard to guess, probably none of you. No, this is a case of, we know what’s best for you, so you better damn well accept it. Pretty much the same thing all the colonial powers said to the countries they had taken over. Your religion is poo, ditch your false idol and worship the True God (or no god). Your ancient shrines and temples are blasphemous and a tie to the past, let’s destroy them (or make them tourist attractions). Your language is unworthy, learn OUR language! Oh stop complaining. Who cares about your self identity. You are [colonial power’s people] now! Oh, fine, you can keep your traditional dancing and singing so we can show the outside world a token bit of your culture, all nicely commercialized and boxed up for the tourists and cameras.
I’m actually reminded of the movie 300 now, as Xerxes unsuccessfully tries to get Leonidas to kneel before him. “All I want is some earth and water, as a token of your submission. Kneel to us, and all will be yours.” It’s the same thing. Denounce the Dalai Lama, accept you are Chinese (though a tiny, insignificant minority) and you will have a wonderful life.
Oh, I’m sure you can find some random anecdotes from happy Tibetans. The ones who had it bad and now have it good (isn’t that always the case? Though unfair, I’m reminded of Ephialtes). But what about the majority? Only they can truly answer this question. I’d actually be interested in an anonymous poll of all the Tibetans in Tibet (excluding all the non-Tibetans) asking their views on the Dalai Lama, modernization, the preservation/destruction of their culture, etc. Why anonymous? Because I doubt they’d be able to give their honest opinion if giving a negative opinion means they will be subject to “patriotic re-education.” Seriously, what other country in the world still does that now besides China and maybe some dictatorships and theocracies?
Another thing is how a lot of pro-China people like to say, oh we have 56 ethnic groups, and we’re all Chinese!!!! Um, yeah, that’s easy to say when you are part of the 92% Han majority. It’s stupid, dishonest, and embarrassing to pretend there aren’t problems unless the minorities agree there aren’t any problems. And by that, I mean they can say that without fear of reprisal. It’s not just the Tibetans either, take the Turkic Uighurs in Xinjiang for example. I like how the top political officer of Unit 150, who I assume is Han, said it was like the “American West”. I’m not sure that’s the comparison he really wanted to be making, as the result of the “American West” wasn’t pretty for the natives. As one Uighur put it when asked about the government, “I can’t tell you the truth. It would be illegal.”
The Chinese really need to stop copying all the mistakes made by Western countries.