Nationalism and Misunderstanding in Tibet

The International Herald Tribune looks at the role of nationalism in the recent response to unrest in Tibet:

For two weeks, as Chinese security forces have tried to extinguish continuing Tibetan protests, Chinese officials have tried to demonstrate the party’s resolve to people like Meng. They have blasted the foreign media as biased against China, castigated the Dalai Lama as a terrorist “jackal” and called for a “people’s war” to fight separatism in Tibet.

If the tough tactics have startled the outside world, the Communist Party for now seems more concerned with rallying domestic opinion by using and responding to the deep strains of nationalism in Chinese society. Playing to national pride, and national insecurities, the party has used censorship and propaganda to position itself as defender of the motherland – and block any examination of Tibetan grievances or its own performance in the crisis.

But the heavy emphasis on nationalism is not without risks. With less than five months before the opening of the Olympic Games, China’s sharp criticism of the foreign press comes precisely when it wants to present a welcoming impression to the outside world. Instead, Chinese citizens, including many overseas, are posting thousands of angry messages on Web sites and making crank calls to some foreign media offices in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports on the ways that the CCP has misunderstood the grievances of Tibetans and their relationship with the Dalai Lama by focusing solely on economic and material progress in the region:

This month, the Communist Party again showed that it was out of touch with popular sentiment in the pious Himalayan region when monk-led protests suddenly erupted in Lhasa and spilled over into Chinese provinces populated by Tibetans.

“The problem is that in the Party, they delude themselves by thinking that Tibetans don’t have legitimate grievances,” Tsering Shakya, a Tibet scholar at the University of British Columbia, said in a telephone interview.

China has sought to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans by investing heavily in infrastructure and sees Tibetans as “ungrateful natives”, Tsering Shakya said.

The first political casualty from the Tibet unrest has been announced, according to AFP:

Danzeng Langjie, director of Tibet’s Ethnic Minority and Religious Affairs Commission, has been “removed” from his post, according to a statement posted on the website of the Tibet Daily newspaper.

It gave no further details on Danzeng’s background or reasons for his removal.

Finally, here is an article from the Times Online:

China Syndrome – The Times, Beijing, Tibet and the Olympics

Beijing should have understood by now that hosting the Olympics would also focus attention on all aspects of the country. This means that its treatment of Tibetans and other minorities will be put under the spotlight. So too will its human rights record and its relationships with countries such as Sudan, Iran and Burma. As we have said previously, the success of these Olympics is at stake.


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