Man liveth not by links alone, but I did want to make note that, as of Labor Day, this blog will very likely be turning its attentions with greater regularity toward the issue of Tibet and its historical relations with the (maternal and adoptive, or coercive and abusive? but unquestionably Chinese) motherland.
Today, an excellent place to start is Columbia University professor Robert Barnett’s priceless and precise analysis of Xi Jinping’s choreographed appearance in Lhasa earlier this summer. The essay contains within it a nearly three-hour long and rather rare CCTV feed (live, of all things!) covering the CCP’s litany of speeches and plaques and stilted Tibetan communist phrases in Lhasa this past August, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of that city. Quibble with Barnett if you like — after all, he posits plastic stools as the key to understanding the CCP’s mistrust of Tibetans – but his analysis at least forced me to say “Oh yeah, where were all the monks, anyway?”
When parsing events in Lhasa, the riot cop/monk ratio is always one to watch.
As when fellow traveler Anna Louise Strong went to Tibet on a CCP-sponsored/spoon-fed trip about a month after the March 1959 revolt, the lack of monks at the commemoration ceremony would seem to make clear that the Party makes no apologies for interpreting monks as barriers to socialist production, sexual reproduction, and economic development.
At about the 30′ clip of Xi Jinping’s speech, when he talks about “democratic reform (民主改革)” in Tibet, it’s almost as if he wants to say “thought reform (思想改造)” instead. Of course, the phrase has fallen out of the CCP’s stated orthodox vocabulary, but it doesn’t mean the Party doesn’t believe that thought reform would do the Tibetans good.
After all, Xi finally mentions that great enemy, the Dalai Lama, at about 36′, and the danger he poses to “social stability,” an assertion which is heartily applauded by a few Tibetans sitting across from a bunch of young Han cops before it was summarized into Tibetan and Xi Jinping turns to discussing the great contributions to the revolution of Mao Zedong.
This whole speech is so predictably drenched and dried in the thick syrup of orthodoxy that I can’t look away. Unlike the fleet Chinese internet, where ephemeral artifacts stimulate our critical gaze and demand a rapid capturing, Xi Jinping’s speech is like the CCTV building: immense and stilted, yet completely stable and predictable in its output.
An antidote exists, and immediate gratification, via mental transport to, say, Ladakh and New Delhi in 1959: look no further than this tremendous historical film fragment from my new favorite YouTube channel. All that black and white film makes my heart pulpy and quickened, spattering blue into red.
Someday a real scholar is going to apply some rigorous analysis to the assertions made by the Dalai Lama in his first press conference in India in 1959. (If any diligent readers can locate a transcript or intelligible-to-an-Anglo/Sinophone footage of that event, please do inform me!) The Tibetan Government in Exile wasted very little time in prompting reports on the CCP “genocide” in Tibet which, as Patrick French writes in his highly recommended Tibet, Tibet, have gone virtually uncritically into the canon of Chinese atrocities accepted in the West as absolute fact.
Doesn’t it seem a little weird that the same people who are so interested in the factual basis for claims about “excess deaths” in China during the concurrent Great Leap Forward have virtually no interest in the factual basis of the Dalai Lama’s claims about CCP “genocide” in Tibet, claims which His Holiness repeats in his official autobiography?
But let us leave these disputes aside and move down from the plateau and into the placid and warm waters of the Taiwan Strait, wading in with that novice swimmer and grizzled politician, Zhou Enlai.
As an added Cold War contextual bonus, please enjoy this rather rare bilingual Zhou Enlai interview dating from 1965 in Beijing with a man who appears to be the eminent journalist Edgar Snow. Among other things, Zhou lays down the gauntlet (which he later quietly picked up in 1971) on the Taiwan issue, predicting that without American removal of all military interests from Taiwan, no Sino-US rapprochement could be considered: