More Tibet Reading

It has been a few weeks since we last posted an installment of recommended reading on the situation in Tibet and neighboring provinces. Here are a few of the interesting or informative things we've run across in that time:

1. Historian James Millward's piece at openDemocracy on how China could right its worldwide public image is insightful--we urge you to read it.

2. A recent (often heated) discussion on the Asian history listserv, H-asia, centered around China's historical role in Tibet--reflecting questions that have been important in the popular discussions of Tibet as well. For example, Tibet specialist Elliott Sperling wrote another recent piece on this topic.

3. Dissent editor Michael Walzer, in a commentary that uses Palestine as a backdrop for the Tibetan situation, argues against boycotts but urges continued discussion and criticism.

4. A Chinese student at Duke University has sparked controversy (and personal threats) for mediating between pro-Tibet and pro-China demonstrators on campus. Read more at the New York Times.

5. And, finally, in the "maybe this explains something, but we're not sure what" category, head over to The Huffington Post to see video of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley repeatedly referring to Tibet as "Nepal" in an interview with George Stephanopoulos.


Anonymous said...


The unusual suspect
by Hilary Keenan / April 8th 2008

Anonymous said...

Forget their clumsy rulers - China's remarkable people merit our goodwill

Ruthless bureaucrats run the country, but even Chinese who are critical don't advocate a boycott of the Beijing Olympics

Max Hastings


Tibet's last stand

The invasion of the robotic thugs

The attacks on the ‘horrible, ominous, retarded’ Chinese men guarding the Olympic flame are historical prejudice repeated as farce.

Brendan O’Neill


Vrag naroda said...

Eliot Sperling's article is filled with half-truths and some outright fabrications. His conclusion that Tibet is not a part of China rests completely on the notion that the Tatar nationalities (Mongol and Manchu) are not "Chinese". There are several important facts that destroy this argument.

1) Beijing was built by Kubulai Khan during the Yuan dynasty, and yet everyone concludes that Beijing is Chinese.

2) The modern spoken "standardized language" - Mandarin - is actually based on the dialect spoken by the Manchu Mandarins, as historically, the post popular spoken language in China is more similar to Cantonese than to Mandarin. And yet we consider modern spoken Mandarin to be a form of Chinese. For an analysis of the evolution of various Chinese languages, I will refer you to the wonderful book "The Languages of China" by S. Robert Ramsey.

3) The writer claims that the use of the term Han as being a part of the Chinese nationalities is a sleight of hand is false - as is his claim that "It stands in contrast to the Russian decision to use a political term, 'Soviet,' for the peoples of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics." For one, in Russian there is российский (of Russian citizenship) and русский (of Russian ethnicity, which in English both gets translated to "Russian"). This predates the founding of the USSR. Likewise with Chinese language - the term zhong-guo-ren refers to Chinese citizenship, and han-ren refers to the dominant ethnicity, which in English has only one word - Chinese.

Professor Sperling may know Tibetan history, but certainly knows nothing of Chinese history. To say that Yuan (which built Beijing, the modern capital) and Qing (which built the bulk of summer palace is not Chinese is like saying Kazan (the city which sits on the Volga) is somehow not Russian - his conclusion is absolutely ludicrous.

Professor Sperling's implication is that the Machus were not Chinese, did not consider themselves to be Chinese, and hence Tibet was never under Chinese rule. To this I reply, 1) I've met Manchus in Novosibirsk, and they've all considered themselves to be a Chinese nationality. 2) Manchuria was "lost" to China for a similar amount of time - i.e., the Manchuguo puppet state set up by the Imperial Japanese Army with Pu Yi as its head - and yet we consider Machuria to be Chinese. 3) Even in the 18th century, the Machu state even held up Yue Fei as a national hero worthy of emulation by the Qi Jun (flag armies - that is, the Machu armies, as opposed to Han Jun - or armies composed of the Han ethnic group - incidentally, it was the Han Jun that the Manchus sent to Tibet) despite the fact the Yue Fei fought against the Jing, another Tatar people like the Manchus. For reference, please refer to Pamela Kyle Crossley's book Orphan Warriors, which tells of the story of 3 generations in the Manchu armies.

This may be hard for an American professor to understand - because the English language lack the vocabulary that exists either in Russian or Chinese to describe the finer details of ethnicity and citizenship, but ask any person from a multi-ethnic empire (e.g., Russia) and it will be an easy concept to grasp.

This writer, Eliot Sperling has demonstrated a profound lack of knowledge when it comes to both Chinese language (and Russian as well), as well as Chinese and history. His arguments don't even pass cursory examination from someone with even a little bit of knowledge of Chinese history and language (i.e., me).

Apropos, watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kzNWi5h8Hs It simply backs my feeling that most "free-Tibeters" don't even know where Tibet is.