Friday, April 25, 2008

The ugly but understandable face of Chinese nationalism

That 10,000 Chinese citizens were organised by the Chinese embassy in Australia and other groups to go to Canberra on Thursday to overwhelm and attack a much smaller group of pro-Tibetan demonstrators says more about the Communist society origins of the Chinese counter-demonstrators than about the lack of any political morality by the demonstrators.

Tibet was ‘liberated’ by Mao in 1950-51, and a subsequent program of destruction of national culture initiated. There is no question that the overwhelming majority of Tibetans despise their Chinese oppressors and have allegiance to the Dalai Lama not Beijing – indeed they are paying with their lives because of their allegiance. The recent protests in Lhasa and elsewhere confirm the unhappiness of the native Tibetans to the destruction of their culture and to the migration of millions of Han Chinese who increasing dominate the lives of Tibetans.

The reaction of Chinese both in China and in foreign countries such as Australia has been one of outraged nationalism as well as claims that their ‘feelings have been hurt’ by the reaction of the west to the plight of Tibet. That is entirely predictable since for most of their lives this nationalism and the sense of duty to their totalitarian leaders has been sold to them as their daily fodder.

Indeed even if a more enlightened political leadership takes over these ingrained cultural attitudes will persist. The barbarism of the Chinese masses will outlast that of their so-called leadership. Indeed I heard tonight that the Chinese leadership will meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama - an action that will doubtless lead to discomfit and even demonstrations by the narrow mindede Chinese citizenry.

It is therefore irrelevant to these Chinese whether China has a moral right to continue its policies of cultural genocide in Tibet. These are the policies and any objection to these policies is offensive to their totalitarian state and hence a personal affront to Chinese who see their lives defined by this barbarous state machine.

China has murdered more of its own citizens than any nation in world history. It buys and sells women and children on a massive scale, treats non-human life with incredible callousness and the Chinese Government supports the most evil regimes on the planet (Zimbabwe, Sudan, North Korea....). China is not a civilised decent society in terms of Western values.

But attacking these despicable cultural practices only amounts to criticising Chinese people at an individual level if such people freely choose to endorse these practices and are unable on the basis of their conditioning to plead ‘diminished responsibility’. As Chinese society opens up it will start to look more realistically at itself and its appalling political institutions. Until that happens it is difficult to get too upset when brainwashed Chinese youth endorse the evil actions of the murderous Chinese regime.


conrad said...


the real problem with this, and the reason no governments say anything much is that:

1) in Chinese eyes, countries like Australia are really no better -- Australia is responsible for 500 thousand Iraqi deaths after all. So who's been worse in the last decade?

2) you may as well treat Tibetan and Black as synonyms if you subtract 20 years from Australia (cf. Nunavut in Canada).

3) That China deals with bad guys is no worse than anyone else. Haven't people heard of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait et al. ? Who sells them their weapons, and, for that matter, who is the biggest arms exporter on Earth (by far), and who is their lap-dog ally?

4) Ridiculous comparisons are being made (just look at supposedly sensible academics like JQ). China is not Nazi-Germany. If it was we wouldn't have to worry about Tibetans. The fact that China has bad human rights simply places them amongst numerous countries -- it doesn't make them the worst regime on Earth.

5) Year zero is about 1970 for China. GIven this, they aren't doing too badly.

6) The fact that a bunch of round-eyes are patronizing them should be ignored for a number of reasons:

6.1) They were destroying their country about 100 years ago (only a short part of history in CHinese eyes)

6.2) They are just bad in many cases (excluding Canada), and not just Australia. Northern Ireland and Hawaii being obvious examples.

hc said...

Conrad, I find this argument most unconvincing - it is one you have used before.

The notion is that one country has carried out despicable acts (kills innocent people, sells weapons to repugnant regimes) so other countries can feel morally justified in doing the same.

This is despite the fact that some of your facts are wrong - Australia is not responsible for c50,000 Iraqi deaths and intervened in Iraq to overthrow a totalitarian dictator who killed and tortured his own people in vast numbers. Neither the US or Australia have territorial ambitions in Iraq.

China is an ancient culture with an oppressed peasanht class who have always been treated as little better than slaves. These peasants were demonstrating in Canberra last week in defence of the oppressive Chinese regime.

My argument was that they can offer the excuse of 'diminished responsibility' - they really do see the sanctity of the state as defining their own existence and hence do 'take offence' when the policies of the Chinese state are criticised.

The simple fact is that the people of Tibet do not seek to be part of China - their allegiance lies with the Dalai Lama.

conrad said...

"The notion is that one country has carried out despicable acts (kills innocent people, sells weapons to repugnant regimes) so other countries can feel morally justified in doing the same"

My observation is that people should clean up their own backyards first. That includes Australia.

"Australia is not responsible for c50,000 Iraqi deaths"

So you'd be happy to see China do the same to, say, Burma then? Perhaps you should ask an Iraqi who they think is responsible (or, what percentage would like to see the COW leave).

"Neither the US or Australia have territorial ambitions in Iraq."

Are you joking? Maybe not in the physical sense, but look at Saudia Arabia -- are you saying the US is altruistically propping up the puppet authortiarian Royals there, or that they really love the Kuwaities? I'm sure the Chinese don't have a territorial ambitions in Sudan either, but that doesn't mean they don't have other ambitions.

"Take offence' when the policies of the Chinese state are criticised."

I think you'll find that most of the offense taking has nothing to do with the state -- the main complaint is that a whole bunch of hypocritical round-eyes are using the Tibetan bandwagon as a general China and Chinese bashing mechanism (just look at the CNN commentator), which has of course been a popular past time in Australia since Chinese arrived. The obvious example is that comparing China to Nazi-Germany is blatant racism, and since it been done by Australian politicians and the general media, there's surely a complaint to be made. In case China starts invading other countries in 2 years, sets up gas chambers etc. I'll take this statement back.

"The simple fact is that the people of Tibet do not seek to be part of China - their allegiance lies with the Dalai Lama."

Big deal. There's billions of oppressed people on Earth that don't seek allegence with their government. Why don't we cede parts of our countries (or should I say, occupied territories) to the Hawaains, Maoris, American Indians, Australian Aboriginals, and Catholics in Northern Ireland? Canada did, after all. Surely any claims by those groups is at least as strong as the Tibetan one (probably even stronger in some instances), but I don't see a bunch of white people protesting for them , since obviously those groups should feel thankful white people came along and turned their barbarian lands into the great places they are today (like the Torres Straight Islands..).

rabee said...

What alternative does China have in dealing with Tibet?

Tibet protests were violent and targeted non-Tibetan innocent civilians; burning shops...

hc said...


Hold talks with the Dalai Lama, respect Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture and stop attempting to force Chinese culture and Han Chinese people down the throats of the Tibetans.

How would you like to be part of a society whose affairs were run by a bunch of non-national callous peasants who kill your citizens, attempt to destroy your religion and culture and who attempt to breed you out of existence by importing millions of their own nationals?

rabee said...

I'm just objecting to the violence of Tibetan protests. Targeting China's civilian population violently. My feeling is that had China been a western country, then western attitudes would have treated the situation as simply a law and order enforcement matter.

What makes Tibet more special than any other separatist issue? As far as I can see the only special thing about Tibet is that it's in China.

BTW, why would China want to talk to the Dalai Lama?

Phillip Jones said...

"What makes Tibet more special than any other separatist issue? As far as I can see the only special thing about Tibet is that it's in China."

The traditional argument for Chinese control of Tibet. Tibetans quite rightly point out that Tibet has never been a part of China. Indeed Tibet was an independent empire up to the 18th Century when the Chinese empire established an oppressive dominance over Tibet. However, subsequently, the Chinese were expelled and Tibet again controlled it's own affairs. Only after Mao's bloody annexation did Tibet fall firmly under Chinese control leading to the criminal attack on Tibetan culture and mass settling of Han Chinese in Tibetan lands.

This concept that Tibet has always been Chinese is an example of the insidious Chinese practice of re-writing history for their own advantage. The belief seems to be that repetition of this lie will make the rest of the world view the insurrection in Tibet as an internal 'Chinese' problem.

Some posters have compared this issue to the desire for independence of other minorities i.e. Native Americans in USA, Catholic minority in Northern Ireland etc. This is not the point. China cannot justify its anvasion and subjugation of Tibet by pointing out other cases of oppressed minorities. These do not justify what they have done to Tibet.

conrad said...

"the insidious Chinese practice of re-writing history for their own advantage"

This isn't a Chinese practise -- its an everyone practice -- Who doesn't do that? When I went to high school I learnt Aboriginals lived mainly in deserts and Gutenberg invented the printing press. You might also try looking up treaty of Waitangi to see two sides of history.

"China cannot justify its anvasion and subjugation of Tibet"

That's correct. But its a non-argument on both sides (I've no idea why the CHinese insist on using this argument). There are innumerate country borders that did no exist until modern times (probably most) and nor do they align with ethnic groups. The main differentiating factor seems to be whether the maligned group is strong enough to claim independence, which happens sometimes, or whether the occupier country is willing to give them indepdendence (fairly rare).

"were run by a bunch of non-national callous peasants who kill your citizens"

Do you mean one of the most successful governments of the past decade that have taken hundred of millions of people out of poverty and also had a very successful foreign affairs policy (who else has been so successful in securing resources -- including those from Australia).

Anonymous said...

I actually agree with Rabee about the cause of the crackdown on Tibet. At the same time these students weren't just protesting about bad press coverage, they were chanting nationalistic crap about One China and essentially taking the stand that 'We stand by our government right or wrong, even if they ran over students like us not that long ago'. They were wrapping their stupid red flag around themselves. I find that deplorable and have to agree with Harry's reaction to that.


Anonymous said...








asddff said...

To Anonymous: How would you feel if I call the Australian national flag stupid? How would you feel if I declare that the Australian flag is a symbol of brutal British imperialism and barbarism because of the presence of the Union Jack?
I also feel slightly bemused at Harry Clarke's lack of understanding about China and her peoples.
Chinese nationalism is neither spawned, nor caused by the Chinese Communist government, nor is it directed at them. Chinese nationalism has been in existence long before the 1949 revolution and has been spawned by a proud national and more importantly, racial identity among the Chinese peoples. This does not make Chinese people racist, but rather, proud of whom they are much like Australians and Americans. Chinese nationalism is not only educated to children and youths in China, but rather, to all Chinese children and youths all over the planet.
The 1949 revolution initiated by the Communist party, has been widely regarded as the new birth of China. Prior to the revolution, Chinese people were labelled as "weak men of the east". Now, you call us barbaric. How can we be named as barbaric where the horrors of Western imperialism which occured merely 100 years ago is still freshly etched in the minds of every Chinese? To us Chinese people all over the globe, the Communist Party brought an end to the humiliation and oppression by the west and a corrupt Chinese regime. It has liberated China from poverty and her corrupt and weak past. Though oppression and inequality still exist within China today, I would be much happier if the person holding the whip is Chinese instead of a foreigner. I would be much happier if the Chinese people were labelled as barbarians rather than "weak men of the east". The Communist government has done China much more good than harm (albeit at an enormous price) and as a result, they gain and deserve the trust and support of the general Chinese population.
Lastly, I must admit that I believe Dalai Lama in the sense that the 2008 riots were caused by discontent within Tibet but who caused this discontent? The Central government? Ever since the “invasion” of Tibet in 1959, the Chinese government had always happily spent on building up Tibet’s infrastructure and facilities, using the money of Han taxpayers in the process. Yet, at the end of the day, it was the Han Chinese who was beaten up on the streets of Lhasa, it was the Central government who was blamed for the mistreatment of local Tibetans...

hc said...


The horrors of "Western Imperialism" do not justify the post-1949 killing spree in China.