Friday, March 21, 2008

Tim's Cold War rolls on...

The old Cold Warrior hasn't changed his spots. Timothy Garten Ash holds forth on China and Tibet in yesterday's Guardian. He refers to the repression of Buddist monks in Tibet, the "familiar apparatus of a police state", the "repressive regime", and so on. Oh, and it seems there was "some" violence against Han Chinese. Ah, that weasely "some". On Radio 4 this morning the BBC's man in China referred to "brutal" violence against Han Chinese in what anywhere else would be called sectarian attacks. Elsewhere the same edition of the Guardian reports that: "independent witnesses reported vicious ethnic attacks on Han Chinese and Hui Muslims in the Tibetan capital last Friday..." And Tim? What he says is: "it seems there was some violence..." against Han Chinese... Only some and it only seems that way...


Blogger skipper said...

Surely you are not implying that the Chinese are not the side more to blame in this situation? Garton-Ash is by no means a 'Cold Warrior' either.

11:21 am  
Blogger Politaholic said...

I am arguing that the Tibetan situation is a little more complex than the received narrative of poor Tibetans and wicked Chinese. I do not believe that the present disturbances are “spontaneous”; the timing is a little too auspicious for that. There is organisation here. I do not think violence to Chinese civilians should simply be ignored: it too is part of the “moral equation”. Yesterday’s Guardian reported that “the bodies of a family of five – including an 8-month old boy – had been pulled from a garage which had been burned down”. Any government anywhere must do something when rampaging mobs are running through the streets burning and killing. Yes, many more Tibetans than Chinese have been killed; but I don’t think the appropriate response to the burnt corpse of an 8-month old boy is a burst of what Slugger O’Toole would call “whataboutery”. The western press is a little too benign about the deaths of those “not on their side” for my liking. What’s more, I do not subscribe to the deification of the Dalai Lama – he thinks he’s a god but I don’t. One Tibetan monk is quoted in Sunday’s Observer saying that he had journeyed to see the Dalai Lama because he wanted to see “the god before he left earth”. I dare say that sort of thing appeals to Hollywood mystics but not to me. Politaholic is not an advocate of theocracy, for Tibet or anywhere else. A letter in yesterday’s Guardian (from Peter McKenna of Liverpool) reminds us that: “Far from being the religious utopia of western imagination, the Dalai Lama’s Tibet was a feudal tyranny…” in which the monastries (those nice monks) owned the land "along with the serfs who wrked it". Finally, as another letter in yesterday’s Guardian (from Jeremy Ross in Surrey) points out: “China is a nation state composed of at least 70 separate groups dominated by the Han. If the Chinese leadership allows one group to win independence this could be the beginning of the dismantling of the Chinese state”. Perhaps that is the prize? A China riven by secessionist conflict and ethnic-rivalries? That would cost many, many, more lives (and, as Ross also points out, could lead to Islamic radicalism taking root in Muslim areas bordering Pakistan and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan); and the Chinese – wary of what happened to the former USSR – will, I am convinced, never allow that to happen.
As for the much less important question of Garten-Ash. Well, I have been reading the Guardian for a long time and my impression is indeed of a Cold Warrior. (Incidentally by "Cold Warrior" I don't mean "Conservative"). And tell me this, how common is it for an academic and journalist to be awarded a CMG? I have googled this and apparently it is “now awarded to men and women who have held, or will hold, high and confidential offices or who render extraordinary or important service (other than military) in a foreign country. It may also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs”.

9:32 am  

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