By Lixiong, Wang
Translated by Lingxi Kong
March Incident in Tibet is the Watershed
1. Bureaucratic Institutions Became the Driving Force
This roadmap derives from the watershed. I had not taken the possibility of Tibetan independence into serious consideration before the incident in Tibet in 2008. It serves as the watershed that compels me to realize that Tibetan independence, for a long time being a fantasy, has turned into an emerging issue and reached the eyesight of the public. This change is brought by none other than the “anti-secession” institutions in China’s bureaucratic system.
The Party ideology sees China, during the mid 19th to mid 20th Century, as a victim of Western imperialism. The Chinese consequently have remembered the humiliations, but have rarely considered China itself as an imperial power. The vast territorial expansion from 17th to 18th Century, though beaten and humiliated by other world powers, rendered itself to modern China as a territorial heritage that includes Tibet.
Today, Tibet geographically accounts for one fourth of imperial China’s territory, and assumes a high level of importance in the politics of the empire. A considerable number of institutions in the power structure deals with Tibet, among which there are thirteen provincial/ministerial level institutions listed as following:
1. Tibet Autonomous Region
2. Qinghai Province
3. Gansu Province
4. Sichuan Province
5. Yunnan Province
6. CPC Tibet Work Co-ordination Group
7. The United Front Work Department
8. Ministry of Public Safety
9. Ministry of State Security
10. The Army
11. The Armed Police Force
12. The State Council Information Office
13. The State Council's Religious Affairs Bureau
Each of these institutions has a division that deals with Tibet, and fosters a large number of bureaucrats who have based their entire career on such issue. Besides, the following eleven institutions, not directly dealing with Tibet but assuming “anti-secession” responsibilities, have “anti-secession” divisions and personnel (listing only provincial or ministerial level or above):
1. The Central Commission of Politics and Law
2. CPC Xinjiang Work Co-ordination Group
3. Xinjiang Autonomous Region
4. Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps
5. The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
7. The State Ethnic Affairs Commission
8. The State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office
9. Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office
10. The Liaison Office in Hong Kong
11. The Liaison Office in Macao
Adding together, there are twenty four provincial/ministerial level institutions that assume “anti-secession” roles in China’s bureaucratic system, which is a huge group with considerable amount of power, personnel and resources. These institutions acting like a league led the decision-making process in the March incident. This is unlike what would happen in Mao and Deng’s reign, during which the highest level of authority made decisions, to be executed by the bureaucracy, regardless of what the task is: to “unite the front”, to “suppress insurgence” or to “enforce the martial laws”. Yet in the Tibet incident, the highest authority took no actions; all executed alone by the ever growing bureaucracy.
This pattern of decision-making should not be simply regarded as devolution of power from the above. In fact, in the same month when the incident happened, Premier Wen Jiabao, attending the Greater Mekong Subregion Summit Meeting in Laos, called that the Dalai Lama should use his influence to calm down the Tibet incident. This was unheard of and aroused international attention seeing it as the highest authorities’ new pattern of thinking. However, nothing followed, and no change on the handling was made by the “anti-secession” institutions. From there, we may see that the decision-making process on the issue of Tibet requires no role played by the highest authority. Even if the highest authorities made any decision, it would not come into effect if it was not in accordance with the purpose or intent of the bureaucracy. This pattern would probably have constituted an inexplicit rule for future decision-making process. The causes that contributed to this situation will be elaborated later.
Decision-making at the highest level produce brutality and absurdity on the one hand, on the other hand, possibility remains that it may produce decisions with prudence and vision for change and breakthroughs. The two extremes are not too far away, often residing in the transient thinking of the ruler’s mind. However, when highly bureaucratic institutions dominate decision-making process, it is far less likely to see dramatic breakthrough in a given situation. Bureaucracy is inherently rigid, inflexible and hard-lined. Most importantly, it is expanding and interest-driven in that all decisions produced have to be in accordance with its self-interests. When its self-interests are in conflict with public interests, bureaucracy invariably becomes destructive. It is not only deserting the public interests, but also deserting the highest authorities it should be faithfully serving. Bureaucratic “anti-secession” institutions are acting in such a way that when they generate “anti-secession” actions, the outcomes are invariably pushing China towards the abyss of split. In light of this perspective, let’s analyze the veins of the March incident in Tibet.
Street protests with violence similar to the “3.14” Incident repeatedly occur in Mainland China. The tactics used to handle these incidents have already been very obtusely unskillful. But if the same tactics—news blockade, passively cooling down, not stimulating further conflicts, cracking down the hardcore while providing comfort to others, and finding scapegoats in lower level bureaucracy to calm down the anger—were used to deal with the March incident, the chain reactions throughout the Tibetan area that we had seen would not have been forthcoming.
However, the bureaucrats dealing with Tibet do not wish to have such impassive perspectives. First of all, the international community pays good intention on Tibet, and any incidents not well-handled would raise heavy discussions and criticism. Second, turmoil in Tibet would embarrass President Hu Jintao who had been in charge of Tibet, and each level of bureaucracy fears to bear this kind of culpability. Third, since the authority has announced in various occasions that “Tibet nowadays enjoys the best time in history”, any incident, therefore, would make the government unable to explain itself.
The dynamics of Chinese politics determine that if a few individual or one department hold responsibility for any serious incident, it is acceptable to find scapegoats to calm down the event; therefore tensions among different bureaucratic institutions would not be escalated and forthcoming. However, no single administration can take responsibility for the turmoil in Tibet, since after decades of huge spending and efforts, large-scale protests had openly announced China’s policy failure in Tibet. Yet China’s Tibet policy was co-designed and executed by various institutions and agencies, and admitting its failure is tantamount to announcing failure of the collective efforts of all the aforementioned institutions and “anti-secession” agencies: No one can be excused, and career prospects of many bureaucrats would be affected. Therefore, “anti-secession” bureaucrats must organize themselves as an interest group, to act together and help the bureaucrats in Tibet to shake off responsibility of policy failure.
The most convenient way to get excused is to translate the burden of failure as a result of the “sedition and secession” efforts organized and carefully planned by the “Dalai clique”. Because no matter what excuse is readily available, if it came from within, the bureaucrats have to bear responsibility for the failure; only by throwing the burden off the country can the bureaucrats be totally excused. The administration in Tibet Autonomous Region announced to Xinhua News on the very day of incident that “sufficient evidence demonstrates that [the incident] was ‘organized, premeditated, and carefully planned’ by the Dalai clique”. This announcement immediately became the official statement by all institutions and “anti-secession” agencies dealing with Tibet. They are unable to present “sufficient evidence” up till now, and they do not care if they could. Their goal is to guide the public opinion at the very beginning, which was successfully achieved: The lying statement became a model of language, with unquestionable certainty that guided and forced the society (including the highest authorities) to follow suit.
The starting point determines the course. This official statement, throwing the burden off the bureaucrats, modeled the framework of ensuing actions, as well as the course of the event. For example, on March 14th, there was a four-hour period when the armed force, occupying the peripheries, took no action in the commotion area, allowing the degree of violence to escalate. Many people were confused by this strange phenomenon. Among the various interpretations, I tend to believe that this non-interference was made deliberately for “breeding” purposes. On the one hand, it took time to set up video equipments in the commotion area; on the other hand, violence without necessary control would naturally grow, thereby contributing to the validity of the forthcoming crackdown and allowing journalists to record more poignant scenes of the violence. If the armed force had taken over the situation at the beginning, the scale of event would have been much limited. It would be better off for the general situation but unfavorable to the bureaucrats: suppressing violence, though at a small scale, would invite waves of international criticism, which might not please their bosses in Beijing. It would not allow the bureaucrats to wash off the smears and may irritate Beijing to charge them for improper handling. Therefore, they would rather take no action, allowing violence to increase until such a degree that it could be properly labeled as “organized, premeditated, and carefully planned”, so that when they actually began to suppress the turmoil, the outside world as well as Beijing would have nothing to hold against them.
This is the characteristics of autocracy—every agency in the system tends to place maximization of its personal benefit at the core of decision-making. Bureaucrats take no heed to the actual cause and would rather actively allow things to shift towards the extreme, in order to guard their own interests, no matter how serious the outcome could possibly be.
2. Ethnic Conflict Turned into Racial Opposition
After the 3.14 Incident, the bureaucrats had to prove its necessity and validity of the crackdown to the highest authorities in Beijing, to the people at home and to the international community. On the one hand, they took immediate actions, using all forms of media to repeat the official statement, and on the other hand, they blocked the commotion area, cutting off all forms of communication, so that no counter evidence could be obtained and public opinion could be well under control. When similar events took place in the Mainland, there was little or no media coverage, not to mention showing video recordings on TV. It was remarkably unusual that after several hours TV news reporting was sent through the whole country and even to the whole world, repeatedly showing Tibetan violence against the Chinese. It did not mention or analyze the causes, only showing the attacks launched by the Tibetans and attributing it to the efforts organized by outside separatists, thereby directing nationalistic hatred at the Tibetans.
Ethnic opposition/confrontation is the root cause that may ultimately lead to separation, and should be avoided by all means. Unfortunately, the “anti-secession” bureaucratic institutions are creating the split. They knew how serious the outcome could be, but knowingly utilized ethic opposition for their political gain: As long as nationalistic feelings of the Han Chinese are stirred up, forming bitter hatred towards the enemy, not only could they hide behind the curtain to avoid inquiries and investigation, but they could also use the nationalistic sentiments surging through the country to incorporate the highest authorities into their political trajectory. Any suspicions of the handling or suggestions to double check or soften the tension would receive no resonance under surging waves of extreme nationalism. The only thing exists is the absolutely unquestionable statement. It magnifies, amplifies, and wraps up all voices and actions in accordance with the lie of the “anti-secession” bureaucrats.
Pouring oil to the flames, propaganda efforts made in this way would not calm down the event. The protests in the 1980s were only limited in Lhasa, but now extended over the whole Tibetan area. TV is an important factor, a rare commodity in the 1980s, now available everywhere. Though showing the violent scenes may receive endorsement from the Han Chinese for the crackdown, it did just the opposite to the Tibetans. Graphic scenes on TV, acting as an order for mobilization, triggered the explosion of accumulated discontent all over Tibetan areas. Tibetans not only shared empathy towards what was happening in Lhasa, some would be misled by the scenes, thinking they should be acting in the same way to express discontent. In some Tibetan areas, violent actions that Tibetans made to other ethnic groups took place after they saw the violence scenes in Lhasa showing on TV. The bureaucrats deemed the protests as an evidence for being “organized, premeditated and carefully planned”. In fact, there was no need for organization, premeditation and careful planning: Allowing Tibetans to see the vivid actions that people in Lhasa were taking was tantamount to asking themselves going to the streets. This order of mobilization, marvelously, was sent out by the bureaucrats themselves.
On the other hand, due to prejudiced choice of materials and propaganda efforts that stirred up extreme sentiments, the incident was pictured as an event in which Tibetans slaughtered Han Chinese without a reason. It cut out a racial chasm between Han Chinese and Tibetans. The longing and intimate feelings towards Tibetan culture that Han Chinese people displayed in recent years were changed into fear and hatred towards Tibetans in general, seeing Tibetans as an ungrateful people. The Internet was inundated by extreme nationalists’ feverish and abusive words. Everywhere Tibetans experienced discrimination and unfairness, no matter it was in the airport, hotel or checkpoint. Tibetan children were also bullied by Han Chinese classmates. Out from sheer aversion to the official propaganda, Tibetans resist all forms of official language, and returned hatred to Han Chinese. It could be said that after March Incident, racial opposition was formed between Han Chinese and Tibetans, divided by blood. The most typical example is: During the Olympic Games in Beijing, Tibetan children, once cheering the Chinese term, cheered whenever China lost a gold medal. This change among children indicates the long-term trend of the Tibet issue.
Before the incident in Tibet, there were conditions sufficient for independence—single ethnicity, religion and culture, clarity of national boundaries and history, high recognition from the international community—except one condition carrying the greatest importance: the lack of driving force among Tibetans domestically to seek for independence. Although the issue of Tibet has existed for decades, it is concentrated on political, historical or cultural spheres. The people involved were mostly from the government, the upper-class, the intelligentsia and the international community. Even 1959 Uprising and the escape of the Dalai Lama were regarded by Mao as merely a result of class struggle, not at all ethnic opposition. Protests in the 1980s did not make a huge impact on Sino-Tibetan relationship in general, since the protests were exclusively in Lhasa, not reaching into other Tibetan areas. Common people of both ethnicities were more or less harmonious or even intimate. If there was no driving force among Tibetans to actively seek for independence, no matter how many outside conditions could be met, they would make little difference. Precisely because of this, I had not realized the prospect of Tibetan Independence.
But the March incident in Tibet has created a great chasm between Han Chinese and Tibetans. When ethnic relationship becomes racial opposition, the nature of the issue has changed. The conflict between upper-class and the elites were easy to resolve, as policy modification, institutional change or reversal of individual cases could all serve the purpose well. But ethnic conflicts treating people differently by blood and race made everyone involved, and made impact on every single detail of daily interaction between the two peoples. Any individuals in any form of interactions could become the cause of conflicts, and all conflicts would serve as a force propelling further conflicts, thereby accumulating racial hatred between the two peoples, eye for eye, teeth for teeth, making the two peoples going further and further apart, without a returning path. In that scenario, the weaker side, the suppressed and discriminated, would naturally yearn for independence. Once Tibetans in the Tibetan areas generally envision independence as their ultimate goal, all the conditions for independence that Tibet enjoys immediately become effective. Precisely because of this important change, Tibetan Independence becomes an emerging issue in reality. Though its actualization would depend on historical timing and external environment, at least for Tibetans themselves, the conditions are now all met. This is the turning point in the course of the Tibet issue. If people for a free Tibet would want to give out reward, the most deserved party is the “anti-secession” bureaucratic group that successfully turned Sino-Tibetan relationship into racial opposition.
3. Self-fulfilling Expectations
Since at the very beginning the nature of incident had been defined as “organized, premeditated, and carefully planned by the Dalai clique”, and since the authorities regard national unity as the paramount principle, the method of handling was to crackdown, determined and unconditional. This is the principle that government and bureaucrats would not violate, and is also the guiding ideology of the armed force executing crackdown operations. After the incident, all levels of authorities in Tibetan areas as well as the armed force had been over-reactive, with large-scale arrests, violent suppressions, cruel interrogations, temple blockades, persecutions on monks, which provoked widespread discontent, and got more common people involved, making the whole Tibetan people to become resistant. This is another major cause making the incident escalated to such a degree.
Under inculcation of Party ideology and propaganda, all Han Chinese soldiers brought to Tibet to execute crackdown operations regarded Tibetans as separatist enemies, with hatred and violence unleashed to Tibetans, further provoking unnecessary conflicts. For example, when Han Chinese soldiers saw the Dalai Lama’s pictures, the head of the separatist clique, they would destroy them violently, or would even force Tibetans to destroy. This is not acceptable by Tibetans who see the Dalai Lama as the supreme leader. If old Tibetans were beaten in order to protect the Dalai Lama’s pictures, their offspring was course very angry, and relatives and villagers were also very angry. So more and more people were involved, and the conflicts occurred, escalated, and become serious incidents, possibly leading to gun shooting and casualties. Thereafter, it would be ascribed to efforts being “organized, premeditated, and carefully planned”, and suppression followed. Similar events happened all over Tibetan areas, though often without any political content. They were but “resistance provoked by the government.”
After June 4th Student Movement in 1989, the Party concluded that “Destabilizing factors must be resolved at the grassroots and nipped in the bud", which become the basic thinking pattern of the bureaucracy, and is the highest guiding principle of the bureaucrats. According to their power-worship mentality, they believe, with power and might, anything can be done wantonly. The policy they were carrying out in areas with ethnic groups is to “take the initiative to attack, to hit the raised heads, and to take pre-emptive actions”. Later, the policy becomes “to attack and chase even if [the enemies] haven’t raised their heads”. This atrocity was well displayed in the March Incident. Many activities that have nothing to do with politics, such as holidays, horse-racing, religious ceremonies, etc, which are but traditional customs having existed since ancient times. However, for the bureaucrats, especially for the soldiers brought from outside, they know nothing of the culture and traditions, and believe that “all non-Han people must be rebellious”. They believe whatever gatherings might possibly lead to serious accidents. Since they need “to take pre-emptive actions” and “to attack even the heads yet to raise up”, the most reliable way is to forbid all forms of gatherings, and stop all non-governmental activities. Even if not to forbid entirely, they need to deploy a large number of troops, to surround and threat them by setting up heavy weapons. The reactions would be easy to imagine: “How come you can hold the Olympic Games but we cannot even hold horse-racing?!” Impatient Tibetans, facing insolent and atrocious soldiers who see them as potential enemies, might cause conflicts beginning at verbal engagement. To the authorities, it precisely validated their prediction that gatherings lead to incidents, thus putting more efforts limiting these activities but not knowing that their self-fulfilling expectations are exactly the cause of incidents.
In fact, even from the rulers’ perspectives, to “resolve everything by nipping in the bud” is by no means a good way, because the “bud” cannot display the nature of affairs. Some “buds” are not “destabilizing factors”, and their growth will help stability. To “resolve” atrociously would throw the bud to the opposite side, which is tantamount to having created new enemies. Even if the nipping created a situation that looked stable, destabilizing factors are becoming and accumulating. They are not finished, merely waiting for the next chance to explode in a larger scale.
The monks in Tibet are rational and peaceful. When they were using peaceful ways to express discontent, if the authorities could have listened carefully and interacted positively with an open-mind, it would in the long run contribute to the stability of Tibetan area. But the authorities see the monks as parasites, reaping without sowing, as the basis of the Dalai’s roots in Tibet, as the nursing soil of Tibetan independence, as the troublemaker and instigator—all very negative, so whenever being challenged by the monks, the authorities, as if pre-programmed, would act with atrocity. The violence in 3.14 Incident is directly resulted from the fact that soldiers had beaten the peaceful monks continuously for days. It was exactly the same with the cause that led to the Lhasa Incident in 1987. How surprising that the authorities learned no lessons from the past. A little knowledge about Tibetan culture would tell that, contrary to the disgust and contempt feelings that bureaucrats had towards the monks, they enjoy very high social status and respect among Tibetans: They are one of the Three Treasures of Tibetan Buddhism, traditional intellectuals of Tibetan culture, and are guiders and protectors in the spiritual world of Tibetans, being greatly respected by Tibetans. Therefore, the least thing that Tibetans could tolerate is to see monks being abused and humiliated. It was guaranteed that the abuse and violence that armed soldiers gave to the monks would lead to a commotion. Only the imperial bureaucrats being blinded by power could not foresee the outcome.
The authorities never reflected on what happened, but acted to worsen the situation. The monks in all areas became the main targets; many great temples were insultingly searched by the armed force. Besides those who participated in the protests were arrested, many were confined and lost freedom; some temples were being closed indefinitely; monks without registered residence were deported; all temples were ordered to engage in “patriotic education”, forcing the monks to openly denounce the Dalai Lama. Many monks fled from the temples in order to avoid such denunciations – it was required to be made by each individual. Some temples even became empty. Before the incident in Tibet, many monks were apathetic towards political issues, devoting themselves to spiritual practice. They did not object to China’s rule, with discontent only about policy issues. The incident, however, made the monks at large to think about Tibet’s political future, and the number of monks agreeing with Tibetan independence rapidly increased.
China’s authorities forced the monks to go to the opposite side, which is tantamount to having created the most difficult opponent to deal with. Traditional folk songs described the monks in this way: “Put him up, he is a piece of straight incense; put him down, he is still a piece of straight incense. Seize the head, you get only hairs; touch the butt you get only rags”. This explains the fact that monks have no family to worry about, and thus they are resolute, single-minded and uncompromising, not being afraid to challenge the authorities. This is the reason that the monks were always in the front during the past incidents. Meanwhile, given the highly respectable status that monks enjoy in Tibetan society and the far-reaching influence that monks exert, their discontent and appeals for independence would not be limited to themselves alone; it would have a broad impact on all the Tibetan people.
Another method that the bureaucrats often use— hurriedly hunting for evidence to demonstrate that incidents were “organized, premeditated and carefully planned by the Dalai clique”, created a large number of arrests, tortured confessions and wrong cases. These efforts also affected a large number of Tibetans and their relatives, creating a wide-spread discontent and disillusionment. After many persecutions, the bureaucrats still couldn’t justify themselves with convincing evidence. The charges that the media brought against the Dalai Lama, to Tibetans, were all lying. Even in those Tibetan areas without protest, these propaganda efforts provoked disgust and aversion, creating hatred and bringing further conflicts. This made more Tibetans to think if separation is better off. “Anti-secession” propaganda efforts are providing materials breeding consciousness for separation. “Tibetan Independence” in Tibetan --“博让赞” was a word and concept not very well known among Tibetans, but after long-term “anti-secession” educations, everyone, old and young, knows this word. In this Incident, “博让赞” became the slogan being cried out by monks, city dwellers, herdsmen and primary school students alike.
This is the so-called “self-fulfilling expectation”—treating Tibetans as enemies, they would eventually so become; everywhere preventing Tibetans from “secession”, Tibetans would eventually want to secede. Analysts have different views on the nature of protests in all Tibetan areas. The main disagreement is whether it was a political movement seeking independence, or just protests expressing discontent towards policy or economic disadvantage. To me, the course of this incident may not contain specific appeals for independence; many contributing factors exist, including the discrepancy of living standards, influence from the international community, “the effect of sheep flock”, discontent regarding economic issues, migration issues, etc, and official propaganda efforts and suppression had all been adding fuel to the flame. However, the outcome of the incident is that Tibetans in general widely planted in mind the consciousness of seeking independence. Therefore, when similar incidents happen, it will become a spontaneous movement, and Tibetan Independence will become the universal appeal of many Tibetans, serving as the driving force and guiding principle during the course.
4. Sore Conflicts between Chinese Society and Western Society
Chinese and Western societies in general in the past had little conflicts. Chinese people shared good feelings towards the Westerners, and relatively trusted Western media. Even during the time with most inflated nationalistic sentiments, the anger was directed at Western governments. Westerners also had little negative feelings towards the Chinese, criticizing the Chinese government but thinking the people are victims living under totalitarian regime. However, in regard to the Tibet Incident, common Chinese people launched a jihad against Western media, and treated Western people invectively. This change of attitude derives from the bureaucrats’ successful campaign over the media. Yet the condition on which successful opinion control was depended is the necessary condition to instigate Chinese people, but is the cause that will definitely raise suspicion and criticism from the international community.
In order to achieve information blockade, the authorities on March 14, the very day of Incident, restricted freedom of movement of foreigners, and soon after, drove out all foreigners out of Tibet. For a long time, foreigners were not allowed to visit Tibetan areas, and checkpoints were set up on the road. Graphical materials were treated as the most sensitive, and the armed force largely violated human rights. Besides preventing foreigners from getting pictures, some Tibetans who used cell phone cameras to take pictures were arrested and treated with cruel persecution. Even Han Chinese, if they were caught having taken sensitive pictures, were interrogated, equipments confiscated or pictures deleted. Western media could hardly get any first-hand material due to strict enforcement on information censorship, and could only use indirect sources for reporting purposes. Indirect sources were easily mixed with errors, which invited heavy criticism and damaged Western media’s image in Chinese people’s eyes. It was the first time China’s propaganda machine came out the bout fighting Western media victoriously; the bureaucrats were extremely pleased.
But this couldn’t convince Western media. Chinese people’s one-sided abuse and intimidation, along with Chinese government’s pressure and violation, could only push Western media, referred to as the Fourth Power, to the opposite side of long-term enemies. Although Chinese people’s enmity would make Western media to report with greater care, research and balance, it will also increase the media’s aversion, not only towards Chinese totalitarian regime, but also towards Chinese people’s fanaticism and violence. One can believe if any opportunity arises in the future, similar joint campaign against China will duly occur. Western people’s attitudes are by and large guided by the media. Once the media is insulted, pushing it to the opposite side, it is bounded that people in the West will think about China with more and more negative images.
In fact, it was due to China’s news control efforts that the people in the West could not get first-hand information from the media, and, without any trust in Chinese media, they began to hold suspicions towards every single word or statement that China provided in regard to the incident in Tibet, because it is commonsensical to the Westerners that only the act of lying needs information control and censorship. Even if such efforts of control could be so successful that people could not know the details of lying, a feasible way to thoroughly resist these efforts is to treat everything as lying. Many Westerners wanted and actually tried to boycott the Olympic Torch Relay. The reason behind it was due to the fact that they lacked other means to express their discontent towards China’s handling of Tibet and took it as an opportunity to direct their anger at China’s efforts to hide the truth.
The bureaucratic institutions do not really care about Westerners opinions. They need to use Chinese people’s hostility displayed towards the Western society in order to show the government’s popularity and support, and thereafter when individual Westerners tried to boycott the Olympic Torch Relay, the bureaucrats showed those scenes repeatedly, further stimulating Chinese people’s hostility towards the Western society. Mass movement and mobilizing the masses are a craft that totalitarian regimes are very adept in. When big issues occur, Chinese people lack sufficient information and knowledge to think critically and independently, and are easy to manipulate. Although people do not consent to the government on many issues, the majority, having accepted as a fundamental principle that national unity is inviolable, used “seeking secession or not” as a simple assessment in regard to Tibet, a place far away from their daily life. When all the media, controlled by the government, circulating the single voice and reprimanding Western society’s hostility towards China and its feverish support towards “Tibetan Independence”, it was not difficult to stimulate Chinese people’s enmity. The handling of the Incident not only turned the ethnic relationship between Han Chinese and Tibetans into ethnic opposition, but also pushed Chinese and Western societies into the course to become two opposing camps.
Indeed, it was unprecedented how much support that Chinese people gave to the government. On the internet, or on foreign streets, Chinese patriots and Westerners had close combat. Chinese people are not allowed to watch CNN, but can frenetically oppose CNN; back home there is no freedom to protest on streets, but abroad patriots gathered together to repeat the scenes as if back to the Cultural Revolution (though some of these performances were encouraged and organized by Chinese government and consulates abroad). One the one hand, it will make Westerners depreciate China in terms of cultural values; on the other hand, it will invite Westerns see China, a country with enmity towards the West, as a threat to the free world. They would not treat Chinese people and the government separately, as they did before.
No rationality can exist between two opposing camps. Both sides will use simple criteria for identification, as if soccer hooliganism humiliating the opposing side, without valid reasons and without right or wrong. Once Western people and media deemed that Chinese people in general possess colonizers’ mentality, they will believe that Tibet must be freed from Chinese rule, regardless of knowing what changes China’s political system will experience. The promise made by China’s dissidents holding that Tibet would be free once China becomes democratic will not be trustworthy, because institutional change is not the same with the change of people’s mentality. This will greatly increase the difficulties when future China handles the issue of Tibet.
Today, the CCP is no longer a revolutionary party that strictly sticks to founding ideologies; rather, it becomes a pragmatic and opportunistic interest group. Theoretically, out from preserving self-interests, it should avoid direct confrontation with the West. However, the course of development is always depended on its inner logic. One of the characteristics of autocracy is that, even if each part acts rationally, the general outcome could be far away from rationality, and would not serve the general interest of the group. The trend wherein rationality of parts evolves into irrationality of the whole, like Nash equilibrium, exerts vital importance in determining the course of affairs. In the following analysis, it will be evident that, it was due to the rational calculation of the “anti-secession” bureaucratic institutions that formed China’s whole logical fallacy in dealing with the Tibet Incident.
(To be continued…)
Chapter Two: Dilemma of the Imperial Regime
Chapter Three: Road to Tibetan Independence
The writer is a Chinese intellectual who has written extensively on Tibet in Chinese language. Many of his works have been translated into English and Tibetan.
The views expressed in this piece are that of the author and the publication of the piece on this website does not necessarily reflect their endorsement by the website.