Saturday, March 22, 2008

Zhang Qingli and stupidity and violence

In my last post I mentioned Tibet's Party Secretary, Zhang Qingli.  I quoted his silly talk about Tibetans being children and the Central Party Committee being their Buddha (via Shanghaiist). And I called him essentially a caricature of the colonialists of old--the British, the Dutch, the Belgians, the French and the Americans.

China Vitae shows that Zhang previously held posts in Gansu (where there are large numbers of Tibetans and Hui Muslims) and "is currently a member of the standing committee of the CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee, deputy secretary of the CPC Xinjiang Production and Construction Crops Committee and commander of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Crops." Xinjiang? I didn't know you could hold two such scattered posts like that, but is this man supposed to be a sort of go-to person for "national minorities"?

Willy Lam furthermore reports in Asia Sentinel that Mr. Zhang is part of a larger "Tibet Faction" of Hu Jintao cronies from the General Secretary's own days in Lhasa in the 1980s.

Now, it may be that the ongoing Tibetan uprising will push Hu Jintao to fire some members of his "Tibet Faction."  It may even be that the Central Committee will lose its faith in Hu's understanding of areas like Tibet and force a broader change in policy.  But the fact that bone-headed policies like those pursued in Tibet---forced relocations, grossly uneven economic development, interference in religious traditions, violence toward dissenters, hysterical scapegoating of the Dalai Lama---have been allowed to go on for so long speaks to a bigger problem.  

That problem is the belief that stupid decisions are OK because the state can always use violence to deal with any consequences of the decisions.  Building a massive dam and moving people from their homes and then discovering that the dam isn’t as great as it was cracked up to be is a bummer, but ultimately OK—the PAP can deal with any unrest.  Allowing multinational corporations to brutally exploit workers is not the best way of doing things (maybe things should be more "scientific" and "harmonious"), but it is, again, ultimately OK—the police and mafia can deal with any unrest.  And pursuing outdated policies toward “national minorities” may be in need of review, but it’s OK—the PLA can deal with any unrest. 

No End in Sight, a recent documentary on a different occupation, the American occupation of Iraq, shows that the need for violence multiplies with each stupid decision.  Until, in the end, no amount of violence is enough. 


eli said...


I know this isn't directly related, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts on this article from the Jerusalem Post ---

P.S. I'm a compulsive reader of your blog, keep it up!

Old Tales Retold said...

Damn, I couldn't open the link! Would you mind posting it again?

Thanks for the support!

eli said...

I'll give this a try!

Jpost Article

eli said...

The JPost vesion of this article seems to not want to load any longer... I found the article on though!

Try This Out!

Old Tales Retold said...

Got it!

I think the author makes some interesting points, particularly in regards to what it means to be exiled for a long period--how much does one's identity change? How much is land still important? Is it possible to be a free-floating "people"?

I'm not crazy about the analogy with contemporary Palestinian-Israeli relations, though:

"Despite Judaism's numerous ritual reminders of Zion's centrality, Jewish historical ties to the land were conveniently forgotten by most of the world, which came to view modern Jews as having no connection to the ancient Israelites who once populated the same land. As a result, returning Jews were regarded as colonialist interlopers and Arabs were seen as indigenous innocents suffering at the hands of Jewish pretenders."

I realize that Rifkin doesn't express support in the article for the occupation of the Palestinian people--he seems to be speaking more to the existence of the state of Israel and its recognition (or non-recognition) and Jews as a returning people.

However, if Israel, with its claims to Palestinian land rooted in ancient history and its often-brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is to be compared to one of the protagonists in the China-Tibet struggle, it would make the most sense to compare it to China.

More generally, I think the article inadvertently touches on another issue: the idea of victimization. It seems that in both Israel and China and, doubtless among Tibetans and Palestinians, though with more cause, there is a sense of being put upon by the world that sometimes blinds people to the bigger issues.

You can see that in some of the self-righteous internet chatter in China. And you saw see it, I should say, in America, too, right after 9/11. Why do they hate us? Why should we change our policies just because the world is pissed off? Etc., etc.

What do you think? What did you take from the article?

Thanks for sharing!

eli said...

I read the article, initially, because the title offended me. I don't know what about it offended me, but it did.

I too, whilst reading it, got the feeling that it was a lil' backwards. How if any comparisons are to be drawn they should be drawn 'tween the Palestinian and the Tibetan peoples.

So... yeah... it is an idea, I understand the concept of two people trying to help each other. But I don't think this should be the reason. We should help each other because we're people. Yeah.

Thank you much for responding.