“Western leaders’ grandstanding ignores both history and the situation on the ground.” Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, writes in the Los Angeles Times:
News reports of protests targeting the Beijing Olympics torch relay — first in France, then the U.S. and now Australia — are surely happily consumed by Westerners who assume supporting a free Tibet is a just cause. What could be more moral than helping a weak people gain independence from an oppressive Chinese government?
The West paints the tale of Tibet in black and white: The politicians and activists in Europe and America are only trying to protect the human rights of the innocent Tibetans, who were invaded not so long ago by the communist Chinese. So when, for instance, European leaders — so far, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek — decide to skip the Olympics’ opening ceremonies, they appear to be simply responding to a deep moral urge. Solidarity with the oppressed has been a hallmark of the West, although no Western country actually challenges China’s sovereignty over Tibet.
Try stepping into the Chinese minds to understand how different the same events look. Chinese history records dominion over Tibet as far back as the 13th century. China’s control has ebbed and flowed — but this is equally true in many other parts of China. Central control by the capital has never been consistent, shifting with the strength of the central government. But this much is certain: China has been in control of most of its territories longer than some Western nations have existed.