John Gittings Reviews Books by Wang Lixiong and Wang Hui

In the Guardian, John Gittings reviews two new books about China,The Struggle for Tibet by Wang Lixiong and Tsering Shakya and The End of the Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity by Wang Hui. From his discussion of the first:

…Before reading The Struggle for Tibet I, too, was unaware of the Tibetan monks who, more recently, were ordered to write down that the Dalai Lama “is the biggest obstacle to Tibetan Buddhism”. By adding a barely visible dot to the script, they were able to convert “is” to “is not”. Nor did I know that many educated Tibetans can only communicate in Chinese with Tibetan exiles they meet when travelling abroad, because their grasp of their own language is so poor.

But our ignorance is hardly surprising. We talk a lot about the Tibet we see from the outside, but as Robert Barnett, one of a handful of western scholars who understand the country, tells us in his introduction, the voices of the Tibetan people are only heard in “snatches and fragments”.

…Both scholars warn that Tibet’s cultural and national identity has been dangerously eroded, and that China’s rushed economic development only benefits a minority. “What do we see today?” asks Wang. “Temples brim with burning incense and butter lamps, which well-dressed people can afford to light in the thousands at once. Yet they only want the Buddha’s blessings to help with job promotions and increasing their wealth.”

The Tibetan resistance, which spread in 2008, becoming more violent, is about “the right to have a voice”, Shakya says, and Tibet will not remain mute for ever.

Read an excerpt of Wang Hui’s book on China Beat.


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