Definitely one of the more in-depth and narrative feedbacks I have received regarding my post. A Chinese visitor – Jason Cheng - wrote me this long mail, touching various issues from China’s communism history to the defamation of China by Western and Indian media, and finally about Tibet.
I’ve always been a “Free Tibet” supporter. One of my good blog friends Aqua is an ardent pro-Tibet activist. I’ve actually never liked China (mind you, I’m talking about the Government, NOT the people). Hence I stood by Tibet because:
- China is oppressing the Tibetan people.
- China is brutally occupying a small and weak community.
- There is no freedom in Tibet or China.
- Chinese Government lies about everything.
- China invaded India and claimed Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of China.
- The last Wong Fei Hung movie was released way back in 1997! 10+ years have gone by and still no Wong Fei Hung! We want Wong Fei Hung!
On a serious note, I guess it’s hard not to sympathize with my Tibetan friends. What we read every day in the papers or around the blogosphere can more or less be categorized as mainly anti-China. Hence the reason why I feel this way, when in fact I’ve never even been to Tibet or China (although I’ve been jeered at as a “Chinese” many times here in India). I observe. And like most of you, I form my opinions from what I gather, because if only those who have first-hand experiences are allowed to have opinions, many of us would die opinion-less. (Can you imagine how peaceful the online World would be then?)
And like how blogger Sujai has aptly stated “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. These are my opinions. They don’t matter much because they do not bring any change. People live as ever.” I too have my own opinion about various issues, from Tibet to reservations to racism to religion to homosexuality. But those are just my opinions. Likewise, I can point Jason Cheng to many of the sites which report atrocities committed by the Chinese Government and argue with him. Or we can all spend some time listening to what he has to say.
Listening may not hurt, right?
After all, we are fed everywhere that China is the big bad dragon. Read the papers, magazines, articles, columns, blogs, everywhere. We all see China as the epitome of evil. Anybody who shows sympathy to China is either branded as undemocratic or a communist (which actually isn’t bad here in India as we have communist parties coming to power during elections, though not much in the most recent poll, and a lot less overzealous than the McCarthyism communist witch-hunt of America, circa 1940).
The mail I got the other day from Jason Cheng said a lot about things I never knew. I even spent a considerable amount of time researching (read: Googling) about the facts that he mentioned, and they all turned out to be quite reliable.
And so I asked him if I could reproduce his mail for my friends here in India to read, (with a few formatting changes and rewording/restructuring) and he was kind enough to say yes. Therefore, here it is, the mail that Jason Cheng wrote.
Dear Mr. Kima,
I am a Chinese who happened to come across your blog. I guess this is pretty unusual, since most Chinese have quite limited English skills to surf in English-medium internet world. It is very interesting to learn about India from a North-Eastern’s view. However, I am very much hurt by your comment about China in one of your articles, in which you called China “the big bad China”.
I am writing to you to show you the long covered facts and evidence that China is actually not a bad country as portrayed and well accepted in Western countries and India.
1. Historical behavior:
India had always claimed (proudly) that she had never invaded any other country in the past 1000 years. This is the same with China. India had been a rather weak and fragmented country then. It actually had little military strength to invade any countries before the British came. China had been a relatively strong country compared to many neighbors in the last 1000 years, yet it did not initiate any war to invade or occupy other countries. China occupied Xinjiang as a result of a war initiated by the west Mongols. I will talk about Tibet later in this letter.
2. China and communism:
There is a long covered fact (by all parts involved) about China and communism. Chinese communism was created with the help of Soviet Union, and to a large degree controlled by Soviet Union until 1959. After the Second World War, Soviet Union secretly supplied Chinese communist troops with captured Japanese weapons (enough for about 1 million elite Japanese troops—the Guangdong Army), including 2700 artilleries, and produced ammunitions and weapons for communists in Russia-occupied China’s north-east. Chinese nationalist government troops were poorly equipped with little artilleries, even less ammunitions. USA refused to give any heavy weapons after the Second World War to Chinese anti-communist government.
The US and the West had supported many countries to fight communist troops after the Second World War, such as Greece, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Angola. China was the only exception. USA considered it to be their advantage when China was overtaken by communists supported by the Soviet Union, and then began to isolate china. The US knew that communism would not work and that it would ruin the country. Americans were absolutely correct. All communist countries failed economically, including China.
After the death of Chairman Mao, the new Chinese leader realized that it was a grave mistake. He (Kima’s note: “He” referred to here is Chairman Hua Guofeng, who ousted the Gang of Four from power) launched reforms which brought a new life to China. The present Chinese ruling party is still called a “communist party”; However, communism is neither practiced nor believed in China anymore, although socialism and social welfare still have their place. The name-- “communist party” is retained, just to make sure the transformation would be stable and smooth under a hostile international environment. Chinese communist party openly recognized that China needed to build a more democratic country. What is in question is the kind of democracy, and how to achieve it. China obviously wanted to copy what South Korea and Taiwan did: develop first (so that people will be sufficiently educated), and then followed by democratic reforms.
Building a well functioning democracy (functioning to the society) is not easy. In many Westerners’ opinion, India is still not a well functioning democratic country even now. China preferred to do it carefully rather than quickly. Democratic election was introduced and practiced in rural village levels so that the least educated people could practice a functioning democracy, before it spread to higher levels.
3. Present China:
I am a pro-democratic person and attended the 1989 democratic movement. However, it has to be pointed out that most of the articles and news written (or broadcasted) by Western media and Indian media about present China is extremely biased or untrue.
Western and Indian media smeared China, and this smear campaign will continue or get worse even though Chinese people feel their country is improving rapidly from almost every point of view. After giving up communism ideology from 1979, China’s government had turned into a secular government focused on economical development and letting people enjoy life.
In present China, people have sufficient personal freedom, actually much more personal freedom (except for voting) than that in India. Religion beliefs are fully respected as long as religious people do not get involved into politics, as done by Falungong. The only two things that India media reported truthfully about China are that: Chinese cannot vote and they cannot challenge the government’s authority at present stage. But believe me, this will change. In China, we definitely can criticize government’s policy as long as we are not challenging the government’s authority. Actually, people are encouraged by government to give positive suggestions or opinions, and good suggestions are usually quickly implemented by the government.
4. Tibet issue:
4.1. Was Tibet an independent country before 1912?
Tibet was an independent country before 1246. From 1373 to 1578, Tibet rulers paid tribute to Chinese Ming dynasty government many times. In 1642, Dalai Lama invited a Mongol tribe’s troops to come into Tibet to fight other opposite Tibetan groups. Tibet was then controlled by this Mongol tribe. This Mongol tribe voluntarily submitted to the Chinese Qing dynasty in 1653 for Chinese support to defend against west Mongols. In 1705, Chinese emperor abolished the 6th Dalai Lama for his violation of Buddhist obligation, and ordered him to be arrested and sent to Beijing for punishment. He died on the way.
Since 18th century, Dalai Lama had kneed down towards Chinese emperor’s picture many times during ceremonies. China posted a garrison in Lhasa from 1751. Tibet respected Chinese government’s sovereignty, which is typically shown in the selection of the 10th Dalai Lama in 1822. Britain and Russia recognized Tibet as a part of China in 1906. China ruled Tibet directly from 1910 to 1911. Since Manchu are Chinese citizens and support China’s claim on Tibet, Chinese regarded China after Qing as a legal successor of Qing dynasty. (In fact, Western countries made sure China became the successor of Qing dynasty, so that China could continue to pay the huge ransom owed by Qing to the West countries after it was defeated in 1900.)
4.2. Was Tibet an independent country between 1912 and 1950?
After the collapse of China’s Qing dynasty in 1912, China witnessed a lot of civil wars and warlordism until 1949, but did not denounce its claim on Tibet. Tibet never declared independence towards China or other countries during this period. (The 13th Dalai Lama himself denied (to the British) that he had ever authorized the Russian subject--Agvan Dorjiev, to sign a treaty with Mongolians on behalf of Tibet. So, that 1913 treaty is not valid.) USA officially recognized Tibet as a part of China in 1943, way before communist China existed.
No country in the world recognizes Tibet as an independent country, or officially regard Tibet as not a part of china, or officially regard Tibet as occupied by China. (Kima: So where exactly does Tibet stand then, in terms of World’s view? Just another No man’s land?)
4.3. Why Tibetans rebelled in 1959?
Before 1956, most Tibetans were serfs, and most lands were owned by noblemen and monasteries. The part of Tibet (central) ruled by Dalai Lama enjoyed very high autonomy within China from 1950-1959. China launched land reforms in the Chinese directly ruled (east) Tibetan areas in 1956, taking land from noblemen and monasteries and distributing them to the serfs. Rebellion led by noblemen and monasteries broke out in east Tibet in 1956, with independence as the slogan to get support from serfs, and spread to Lhasa in 1959, encouraged and supported by the CIA.
4.4. Does China repress Tibetans and practice cultural genocide?
Although everybody in the western world believes China is repressing Tibetans, no valid example has been given on exactly and specifically how Tibetans are repressed (except for democracy or those involved in Tibet independence movement, such as showing Dalai Lama’s image in public for political purpose, which is not a Tibetan tradition). Can anybody give a specific example of Chinese repressive policy towards ethnic Tibetans and their culture, when it is not related with Tibet’s independence movement?
Foreign tourists are allowed to visit Tibet freely and talk to Tibetans privately, freely. Why are they not able to find ONE evidence showing China’s repressive policy towards the Tibetans? In my home city (Jinan city), there is a Tibetan middle school (Tibetan middle school students live and study in that school.) I know how well teachers and other people treat those students, although they still want independence. I fully respect their desire to seek independence. However, Tibetans desiring independence does not necessarily prove that they are ill-treated by Chinese. Specific evidence needs to be shown. What happened now is that some Tibetans took part in violent actions for independence, and the Chinese government had to respond, and then they use these crack downs as the reason to appeal for their cause in the international community. This does not make any sense. Only those evidences of repression while they were not involved in the independence movement can be used as the reason for asking for independence. However, they have shown none till now.
5. China and India’s 1962 war.
Since 1959, Nehru used his “advancing policy” to order Indian troops to advance across the McMahon line (a line China never recognized, and claimed and established by India before 1951 as India’s border) towards north and deep into Chinese controlled territories, attacked, captured and passed Chinese post stations, and deep into further north. China and India had been at war status since 1959. China had only very few troops fighting Indian troops from 1959 to 1962, since they were dealing with the rebellious Tibetans. Do people think that China has no rights to counterattack in 1962, if India can initiate the war with China and advanced deeply beyond the McMahon line and into Chinese controlled territory?
1. “The snow lion and the dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama”, Author: Melvyn. C. Goldstein, Director of Tibet Center, Case Western Univ. U.S.A.
2. “India’s China war” author: Neville Maxwell
I really encourage you to come and visit China, to see with your own eyes and to talk with people in person, and then you will discover that the real China and real Chinese is WAY different from what is being portrayed by Western countries and India.
And so that was the mail from Jason Cheng. I have many friends who support the Tibet movement, and this post does not mean I no longer support Tibet. I still do. Politics is complicated and sometimes we have to let our heart make a decision for us, regardless of whether it is reasonable or not. Practicality takes a back seat when it comes to emotions.
However, it never hurts to read about things you don’t believe in, or don’t want to believe in.
This post has been an eye-opener to me on some issues. At one end, some may label Jason Cheng as a hardcore Han patriot, similar to the fanatical Christian extremists, Hindu extremists, Muslim extremists, regional and ethnic zealots etc that we find here in India, who see only the good that they do and the bad that others do unto them, and not vice-versa, passionately jumping into the defense of anything that dares to attack their sentiments and beliefs.
But at the same time, we can also treat this as the personal opinion of somebody who is from “the other side” and his perspective on many of the China-bashing articles that you find on the net. It is his prerogative to defend his own culture, just like how it is our duty to defend our country, our integrity, our culture, our religion.
Like I mentioned before, I can argue with a hundred points that he made, and he can do the same back. There is no end to such online discussions relating to invasion/occupation, especially when the very origin of any of us is obscure. Thank you Jason Cheng for allowing me to share your viewpoints with my readers. 2600 words and counting, so I don’t expect much response. But no matter what kind of debate or argument or even racial abuses this post may generate, let us all remember Bertrand Russell’s famous quote: “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.”