The Resistance is Dead! Long Live the Resistance!

For five decades, the People’s Republic of China has been proclaiming the death of the Tibetan resistance. In the 1950-60s, they discursively denied the existence of the Tibetan resistance army by referring to them as “high class separatists” and “rebel bandits.” Since then, they have attempted to curb any resistance by immediately putting down protests through arrests, beatings, imprisonments, disappearances (remember the 11th Panchen Lama?), and deaths. The PRC has done everything they can to give the impression that resistance in Tibet—armed or peaceful, coordinated or everyday—is a rare and unwise exception to their benevolent rule, is conducted only by monks or members of the “Dalai clique,” and is not representative of the majority of the Tibetan people who love the Chinese motherland.

Yesterday, therefore, marked a major departure from this stance, perhaps for the first time ever. On Thursday, March 20, 2008, the PRC government acknowledged that Tibetan protest is widespread. That is, it is not just confined to Lhasa or to monks, but is spread throughout Tibetan areas of China and is being committed by Tibetans from all backgrounds—by monks, laypeople, and students, and by men and women, young and old.

Why does this matter?

As I see it, Chinese acknowledgement that there is widespread Tibetan dissent—or, at a minimum, widespread adherence to the Dalai Lama—signifies a major departure from their longstanding policy of publicly diminishing the importance, depth, and breadth of any anti-Chinese sentiment in Tibet. Knowing about it privately as they have for decades is one thing, but to acknowledge it publicly signals a turning point. However, turning to what I am not certain: to further castigating the Dalai Lama for (supposedly) inciting the protests? To cracking down harder on the protesters? Or perhaps to some sort of more reasoned responsiveness? A resuming of talks with the Dalai Lama? An independent or U.N. inquiry into the situation? I simply don’t know.

Let me share what I do know with you. My best sources of information have been through other scholars and my Tibetan friends, specifically, through anonymous reports from inside Tibet (that at least one of my colleagues outside Tibet has deemed reliable and circulates among fellow scholars). Who writes these reports, I don’t know. How they get them out, I don’t know. Who they are sent to, and who translates them from Chinese into English, I don’t know. What do the reports say? This:

  1. Protests began on March 6 in eastern Tibet, not on March 10, the Tibetan Uprising Day;

  2. Protesters have included monks and “ordinary” laypeople from the beginning;

  3. Protest cries and signs have included the following:
    a. Han Chinese Out of Tibet
    b. Tibet Independence
    c. Free Tibet
    d. Long Life to the Dalai Lama
    e. Hold Dialogue with the Dalai Lama
    f. Allow Tibet to Enjoy High Degree of Autonomy;

  4. Protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful (or at least peaceful until police or army engagement);

  5. Protests have taken place in the Tibet Autonomous Region, in Tibetan areas of Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan, as well as in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Chengdu, and Lanzhou;

  6. Protests have ranged in size from small groups to over 10,000 people;

  7. Mass arrests have taken place. Reports suggest in the thousands;

  8. Many people have been killed. No tally is given other than “many;”

  9. Ganden, Sera, and Drepung Monasteries in the Lhasa area have had water and food cut off to them since March 10-11;

  10. In many places, Tibetans have taken down the Chinese state flag and replaced it with the Tibetan flag or a Buddhist flag; and,

  11. There has been a massive influx of Chinese military forces into Tibetan areas throughout the country.

If you’ve been following the protests online, the above goes well beyond anything you’ve probably read. Given what I know about Tibet and how information circulates in and out of Tibet under Chinese rule, I have no good reason to question the reports’ veracity. If anything, I fear that what we don’t know is more (and worse) than what we do know.

As for the Dalai Lama, the former head of the Tibetan state and current India-based head of the exile Tibetan community and government, he has lashed out at Chinese suggestions that he is behind the protests and that he is truly seeking independence rather than meaningful autonomy for Tibet. He has also accused China of being guilty of “cultural genocide” in Tibet, and has gone so far as to say that he will resign his exile political post if Tibetans reject his nonviolent struggle in favor of violence.

Lets be clear here: although they are a much romanticized group, Tibetans are not genetically nonviolent. They are a people with a complex, not monolithic society, religion, and history. Like people just about everywhere, Tibetans have long been fluent in both nonviolent and violent practices and philosophies.

Thus, although Tibetans may try to adhere to the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach, and to practice nonviolence over violence (as the most moral choice), or desire autonomy over independence (as the most practical option), ordinary Tibetans are not the Dalai Lama. They are not trained since a young age in Buddhist philosophy, meditation, and statecraft. They are not reincarnations of Chenrezig, the embodiment of wisdom and compassion. Tibetans are regular people trying to make their way through (this) life.

And right now, today, at this moment, Tibetans inside Tibet are raising their voices, and some their arms, against Chinese rule. They’re angry and sad and frustrated and they’re taking action in ways that we haven’t seen since the 1950s. Death of the resistance?

The resistance is dead! Long live the resistance!

Carole McGranahan

I am an anthropologist and historian of Tibet, and a professor at the University of Colorado. I conduct research, write, lecture, and teach. At any given time, I am probably working on one of the following projects: Tibet, British empire, and the Pangdatsang family; the CIA as an ethnographic subject; contemporary US empire; the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet; the Chushi Gangdrug resistance army; refugee citizenship in the Tibetan diaspora (Canada, India, Nepal, USA); and, anthropology as theoretical storytelling.

27 thoughts on “The Resistance is Dead! Long Live the Resistance!

  1. So do you have any idea why the chinese government made this reversal now? Have things really changed, is this a good indication of a new democratizing china, or should we be reading it more cynically, as a shrewd political move to make the rest of the world stop shouting?

    And has the Dalai Lama responded to this recognition yet?

  2. Why now? I think that in some ways the Chinese were caught off guard, that they simply weren’t expecting protests to be this widespread, this passionate, this deep. Cynically is pretty much the only way to read the Chinese government, so in terms of a “democratizing” China, I would apply that only (perhaps) to a new willingness of the Tibetan people to speak out, rather than to any democratic tendencies of the government. In fact, since I posted this, the Chinese government has gotten stronger on their anti-Dalai Lama rhetoric.

    Analysis of the situation has been both spotty and shoddy: there’s a dearth of information coming out, the Chinese government has tried to label the protests as “ethnic” ones or even “economic” ones which some outside journalists have bought into (i.e., rather than seeing them as political protests), and just today the New York Times ran an asinine op-ed suggesting that the Dalai Lama’s receiving of the Congressional Medal of Honor was to blame. Yeah, and in 2007 he was also awarded honorary degrees from Smith College, Jagillonian University in Krakow, and the University of Madison (among others); to suggest that Tibetans inside Tibet are so naive as to think that these actions mean help is on the way is pretty lame. Lets give them a little more credit than that, and acknowledge, perhaps, that they might just be pissed off at their situation….and with good reason.

    The only real positive news that has come out since my post is a petition from Chinese intellectuals to their government urging dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Ever since Tiananmen (June 4, 1989), Chinese intellectuals both in China and in exile have been rethinking the place of Tibet within the PRC. I see this development as a much needed one, offering an internal Chinese alternative to government discourse/propaganda on Tibet. Today’s petition is important both for its content as well as for its authors: intellectuals from inside China. In this case, at a minimum, it might very well take some of the master’s tools to bring down the house.

  3. I really appreciate the discussion started here.

    One point that I personally think could get more emphasis especially in light of the “asinnie op-ed” is the restraint put on the US by our growing indebtedness to China.

    To state this succinctly: ‘Why can’t we get tough with China?,’ well, when was the last time you got tough on your banker. . . .”

    Hilary Clinton made this comment over month ago in reference to our growing budget deficit and the national debt now in excess of $9 trillion thanks to the Bush administration. In this statement Clinton pointed out that $1 trillion of is owed to China.

    I think she missed an opportunity by not reiterating this comment in light of the current events. But the bottom line is the Chinese not only have economic reasons to ignore us but also moral ones as well. In so many ways the US has lost the moral high ground due to Abu Graib and Guantanomo — so why should they listen to us?

  4. “the Chinese government has tried to label the protests as “ethnic” ones or even “economic” ones which some outside journalists have bought into (i.e., rather than seeing them as political protests)”

    And yet, much of what is going on is destruction of Han Chinese owned shops, government buildings, and violence against non-Tibetans living in Tibetan areas. YouTube is filled with videos of rioters destroying shops and beating non Tibetans (mostly Hui and Han).

  5. Surely, there must be a web of ethnic, economic and identity conflicts. Based on a very short informal trip in 2004 to Gansu and Sichuan provinces, it would seem that China’s done extraordinarily little to change equality of opportunity whilst redistributing resources to ethnic Han, which flies in the face of their rhetoric of liberation. The monastries, on the other hand, don’t want reform to actually happen-like for example, there was resistance from both sides to an entrepeneur’s attempts to provide free schooling for both sexes.

  6. What’s going on in Tibet right now, and over the course of the last 50-60 years, is much more complex than just a “political” struggle. This complexity, especially its internal dimensions, is exactly what the bulk of my ethnographic research is about. But, in terms of what’s going on right now, and the ways that the Chinese government is portraying the situation, they work hard to deflect attention away from politics. The Chinese government continually presents pro-Tibetan political sentiment as fringe, marginal, monkish, demonic, splittist, imperialist, capitalist lapdog, insert the socialist insult-of-the-moment here, and so on. Basically, everything except central to Tibetan unrest.

    Does Tibetan political sentiment have all sorts of other issues tied up in it? Of course. Ethnicity is involved: in Tibet, there are Tibetans and there are Chinese (and for many Tibetans, Han and Hui are both Chinese; Tibetan ethnic distinctions are not equivalent to those of Chinese nationality/minzu distinctions). For some Tibetans, the target of their anger was not just the Chinese state, but anything (and for some, anyone) Chinese. Suppression of these acts, however, has been even more violent (and, some Tibetans believe that some of the riot instigators were Chinese police dressed as Tibetans; a tactic used in the past by police in Tibet).

    Beyond Chinese attempts to diminish the political aspects of the protests, I’m also responding in general to global tendencies to blur and diminish complex political issues by explaining away “other” conflicts as “ethnic” or “tribal” or worse.

    As for Hilary Clinton, she’s got it right with the banker’s comment. But,what would she (or Obama or McCain) contribute to solving the Tibet issue if elected President? Its so hard to say. Bush I was the first US President to officially meet with the Dalai Lama, Clinton was a bit of a wuss on Tibet, and Bush II is all gung-ho about going to the Olympics at the moment, leaving to Condi Rice (and Nancy Pelosi) the job of speaking up. For the record, though, my hopes for peace in Tibet lie elsewhere than with the US government….

  7. Just released online: an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao from an international group of “Concerned Tibetan Studies Scholars.”

    To read the letter and add your name, visit the Tibet Open Letter website: http://www.tibetopenletter.org/

  8. As for “Chinese attempts to diminish the political aspects of the protests [and the] global tendencies to blur and diminish complex political issues by explaining away “other” conflicts as “ethnic” or “tribal” or worse.”

    I have been trying to reflect on why Tibet is so important to China. The simple equation of Tibet + the rest of China = wholeness seems so obviously bankrupt. Yet China keeps using terms like ‘splittist’ in reference to the DL as it asserts over and over its image of Tibet as part of the Motherland.

    In one editorial that I came across Ashok Kapur characterizes Tibet as having created an awkward dilemma for China. In his opinion piece [http://news.therecord.com/article/327719] Kapur makes the following statement:

    “China has a problem. Like the Russians in Eastern Europe who knew how to get in but lacked a graceful exit strategy, China does not know how to save face. And it must save face because it wants to showcase the Beijing Olympics as a sign of the nation’s peaceful rise, but this clashes with daily pictures of the forceful repression of Tibetans within Tibet and in other parts of China.

    On the other hand, if China negotiates with the Dalai Lama under international pressure it appears weak and loses face.

    China’s problem in Tibet is that it is both insecure and arrogant. It took Tibet in 1950 for a strategic reason. Up to 1947, when the British left India, Tibetans under the Dalai Lama had autonomy in commercial and political affairs.”

    My first thought upon reading this was “That’s it! China needs an exit strategy.” An exit strategy is surely a problem–and not just for face saving. It would seem that a consideration is also China’s perceived sense of the precedent letting Tibet go would have on other regions which it holds in its grip.

    Still might it not be that another factor is that the Tibetan plateau has resources that are far too important to China which preclude exercising any thought about exiting. In particular, in light of China’s water shortages might it be that the most precious resource in Tibet is not tourism or gold but its Snow?

  9. I hate to weigh in on this by playing devil’s advocate, but I really think that those of us involved in the study of contemporary Tibet have to try – despite whatever moral outrage we may feel at ongoing injustices – to bring a little more analysis and a little less passion to the debate.

    Insofar as this is meant to be a forum for reasoned anthropological debate, I hope that the following comment will be viewed in such a light, and not discarded as lightly as McGranahan has done with Patrick French’s “asinine”, but actually rather realistic and reasoned (if depressing or unpleasant) op-ed in the NYT.

    So here goes, with apologies.

    In both the original post and subsequent comments/replies by Carole McGranahan I detect the same passionate, but ultimately uninformative, discourse that spotlights the Chinese (and, by extension, the provincial and TAR governments in historically Tibetan areas of the PRC) as a monolithic entity engaged in a repetitive (by which read ahistorical), vicious and “cynical” cycle of suppression vs. a “Tibet” that is primordially represented by a morally virtuous Dalai Lama, rather than by the plurality of Tibetans living in Tibet.

    While McGranahan seems to be very excercised by the Chinese government’s crude attempts at suppressing the political dimensions of the Tibetan struggle, she recognises that there are “all other sorts of issues” involved in the latest demonstrations. However, at no point does she actually go into detail regarding the perspectives and contexts of Tibetans in Tibet. With regard to the politically incorrect suggestion that international pro-Tibetan strategies of support may actually be causing more harm than good, she stresses that we must “give [Tibetans in Tibet] a little more credit than that, and acknowledge, perhaps, that they might just be pissed off at their situation…and with good reason.”

    But again, she provides no further insight into current Tibetan sentiment, beyond the obvious, but insufficient, fact that Chinese rule has been oppressive and resented from the outset.

    That Tibetans are pissed off is not at issue, of course. HOW and WHY Tibetans in Tibet – not the Dalai Lama, nor the Tibetan diaspora (who represent a valid but only partial and often distant aspect of the multifarious Tibetan realities within the PRC)- are pissed off, however, is a question that is not being properly addressed by focussing primarily on the Dalai Lama/Chinese government dichotomy.

    The issue is not what degree of “ethnic” or tribal hatred is present in the current Tibetan struggle, but to recognise that there are a plurality of voices and reasons behind many of the groups and communities that have bravely expressed their fury in recent days.

    While it may seem that I am splitting hairs, it actually does matter that we distinguish between those monks who originally demonstrated in Lhasa from those in other parts of the Tibetan world, as well as from the multiple groups of disaffected, primarily urban, primarily young, Tibetans who spontaneously followed up with their own shows of outrage in many different towns, communities and municipalities. As anthropologists are well aware, differences in social groups and contexts do matter, even when there are underlying threads of shared grievance. Hence, the Tibetans and circumstances of Dechen County (Yunnan), for example, are not the same as those in Gansu, or Qinghai or Lhasa, even though they may all be connected by various shared feelings of disaffection, exasperation and frustration, as well as by a profound loyalty to the figure of the DL.

    Distinctions do matter, because they point to a witch’s brew of socio-economic (not primarily ethnic) circumstances that beg a far more sophisticated analysis than an outpouring of passionate, morally-charged solidarity for “the” Tibetan cause, as though such a singular thing can even be defined.

    I have no easy explanations for what is currently going on, nor am I insensitive to the very real, valid and deeply-felt expressions of disempowerment and frustration of Tibetans both inside and outside of Tibet.

    But I do believe that recent scholarship on Tibet offers enough information and insights on the multiple realities of Tibetan life-worlds as to allow us to construct a more reasoned, and therefore probably effective, approach to the plight of Tibet.

  10. Thanks, Carlos.

    Following up on your point about distinctions, and to help those of us who appreciate this kind of analysis but don’t know a lot about the specific conditions in Tibet and China, could you give a sense of which Tibetans are not entirely upset about Chinese being there, and which Chinese are not entirely excited about being in Tibet? I find this sort of reframing of the default questions helps clear the pc fog a bit.

  11. Long Live China !!! “God” d**n Dalai …
    Dalai (Lama?) was the violent terrorist in 1959 and is the “dark hand” behind the violence this month. Justice will be upon him soon for the blood shed. Tibet is the Tibet for all Chinese including aboriginal Tibetans and other muslins, Han Chinese people.

  12. Long Live China !!! “God” d**n Dalai …
    Dalai (Lama?) was the violent terrorist in 1959 and is the “dark hand” behind the violence this month. Justice will be upon him soon for the blood shed. Tibet is the Tibet for all Chinese including aboriginal Tibetans and other muslins, Han Chinese people.

  13. Wow, thanks for that Carlos. I was beginning to think this might have become a wasted opportunity here. While very few people would say there’s no funny business going down in Tibet by the CCP, many often mistake the issue for being overly simplistic. The historical, ethnic, and political realms of the Tibet/China issue are quite complicated, but from the outside all many people ever hear in the West is “Tibet good, China bad” and all most people in China ever hear is “China good, Dalai Lama bad” so it’s nice to see that some more deep questions are being asked somewhere.

  14. I’m linking French’s NYT article here since Carole failed to do so. It actually makes some good points once one gets passed the idea, as Carole makes it seem, that the medal ceremony was somehow DIRECTLY involved in the rioting.

    For the uninitiated, Patrick French is the former director of the Free Tibet campaign in London. He wrote a book a few years ago called Tibet, Tibet that was somewhat critical of the Tibetan strategy of internationalizing the issue, and also suggested that from a pragmatic standpoint, there will probably be no Free Tibet without a Free China. A statement which understandably galls the nationalist sentiment of many exile Tibetans.

  15. Carlos and itsalljustaride:

    I guess it’s standard anthropological practice to raise a bunch of “deep questions” that “complexify” things. But guys, it was a blog post. Maybe your energy might be better spent actually addressing some of these “deep questions” than devoting most of your responses to criticizing someone for not unpacking the complex history underlying the recent violence in Tibet… in a single blog post.

    What I’m saying is that McGranahan’s post was somewhat informative, if impassioned on the subject of victims of state violence. Your “critical responses” (Tibetan protesters are politically heterogeneous??!!–OMG, insight) were so much typical academic hand waving that did nothing to help make sense of the situation.

    The State of Anthropological Discourse on Unrest in Tibet: A Play in One Act
    Carlos Mondragon: “I really think that those of us involved in the study of contemporary Tibet have to try – despite whatever moral outrage we may feel at ongoing injustices – to bring a little more analysis and a little less passion to the debate.”
    itsalljustaride: “Wow, thanks for that Carlos. I was beginning to think this might have become a wasted opportunity here.”
    Tibetan protester: [attempts to respond but gurgles a little and then dies from massive head injury caused by police baton]

    (All that said, I honestly did enjoy reading your blog, Carlos.)

  16. pithelmet:

    I was otherwise engaged at the moment, but I’m working on compiling a list of articles I’ve collected over the past couple years that address the questions that were raised in the comments.

    “(Tibetan protesters are politically heterogeneous??!!—OMG, insight)”

    The problem is that that isn’t exactly a sarcastic comment in this topic. Many people DO assume that Tibetans protestors are a politically heterogenous bunch. Maybe not here precisely, but in most circles where the topic is discussed, yes, it is a common belief.

  17. Here’s a quick and dirty selection…

    The TGIE is aware that Patrick French has a point that outside pressure by Free Tibet nationalists has adverse effects on negotiations:

    http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=10581&t=1&c=1

    The ever-anthropological question of settlement policies:

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/china-anxious-to-prove-settled-life-is-better-for-tibetan-nomads/2005/10/04/1128191719598.html

    Economics:

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/30651.html
    http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=11797&article=A+Look+at+Quality+of+Life+in+Tibet&t=1&c=1

    Three Han Chinese talk about life in Tibet:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4954926.stm

    Essentially, yes, China’s economic investment in Tibet is leading to some new opportunities for some Tibetans, however, there are those who are being left behind. Tibet has always been one of the poorest regions in the area, and because of that are at a disadvantage to migrants from other areas of China, not all of them Han. Some come from areas near Tibet in different ethnic communities, but are still seen by Tibetans as “Chinese”.

    Exile Tibetan’s claim that China has a specific policy of moving ethnic Han and other Chinese to Tibet to dilute the population, which I personally doubt, as the economic forces are quite enough on their own to drive migrants to the area.

    The Tibetans who are capitalizing on the new situation of economic investment are the ones who are not particularly fervent about Tibetan nationalism. The monks and the economically disadvantaged are the ones who resent the Chinese presence for reasons which range from restrictions on religious practice (largely related to political priorities) to claims that Tibetans can’t compete with the Han Chinese migrants economically.

    The Chinese who aren’t especially happy about being in Tibet are those who only come for a year or so (the Han Chinese population in Tibet is largely transitory, they come for a few years, make their money, then go home). They don’t particularly love being in Tibet, but come for the opportunity to capitalize on the growing economy.

  18. As pithelmet reminded folks, what I wrote was a blog post, not an academic article. In 1,000 words or less, and for this particular non-specialist audience, I gave some analysis (1. what I thought was new and important about the PRC government’s response, and 2. some thoughts on trying to understand the often simplified relationship between the Dalai Lama, Tibetans, and nonviolence) as well as information to which I had access and which was not publicly available. Would I like to be able to give a more detailed analysis of the current protests? Absolutely. Can I? No, things are still unfolding and I’m not there. In this regard, Carlos Mondragon (nice to “meet” you here), I don’t so much find you a devil’s advocate as another scholar wanting more information and more analysis, both of which I also want. I agree with you on some points (plurality of voices, etc.), and disagree on others (especially the passion in anthropology thing; I definitely think that there is room for more passion in anthropology).

    But….might you be able to do some of this analysis for us? What sort of research do you do in Tibet? I’d be interested in reading your work, if you could share some of your articles with us here.

    From my side, here are some thoughts:

    Can we separate monks from the Tibetan populace? Yes and no. In some ways, monks (and nuns) willingly take on societal roles (not just spiritual ones), including speaking out, that ordinary Tibetans cannot. With no children or spouses, monks and nuns do not have the familial ties that would make their jailing and/or death a major hardship on a family. At the same time, however, family ties are also what part of what makes monks and nuns such a central component of the Tibetan social landscape. Monks and nuns are a part of everyone’s family; for those of you reading this who work in Tibet in some capacity or who are Tibetan, how many Tibetans can you think of who do not have a direct family member who is a monk or nun? I’m guessing not very many. For most Tibetans, monks and nuns are not as distant a group as it might sound to non-Tibetan ears. Regular Tibetans, monks, and nuns share social spaces: streets, markets, restaurants, as well as being present in the home: conducting rituals, visiting family, visiting friends and so on. I think that Charlene Makley’s work on this relations between monks/nuns and the lay population is worth looking at if you’re not already familiar with it.

    Who were the protesters? I disagree that if it wasn’t monks, it was only urban male youth. The reports that I’m reading coming out of Tibet are more varied than that: men and women, old and young, and not just urban (although what does urban mean outside of Lhasa, anyway?). Nomads, peasants, townspeople all. And, yes, of course, each of these groups is diverse within itself. Not every nomad is riding a motorcycle to herd yak and to get into town for supplies. Want to get a good sense of some of the range of social groups in Tibet today? Emily Yeh has some excellent articles discussing just this, including a great piece on how nomads negotiate state policy and religious authority.

    What about the monolithic Chinese state? Sure, there are ebbs and flows in Chinese policy in Tibet, as well as differences in the feel of government and actual policy in Tibetan areas throughout the TAR, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan. But there are also incredible continuities in Chinese policy and sentiment on Tibet over time, as well as the building of specific beliefs over the last fifty years such that they appear to be natural and longstanding. Who to read on this? Tsering Shakya (both his book and his New Left Review dialogue with Wang Lixiong), Shirin Akiner and Robert Barnett’s edited volume on Reform and Resistance, or, if you read Chinese, the Tibetan intellectual (currently under house arrest in Beijing) Woeser’s blog (http://woeser.middle-way.net/ ).

    I don’t have intellectual trouble acknowledging distinction, difference, divergence, etc. among a people, among government policy, among any social formation and yet at the same time also acknowledging that people have risen up against a government and many (hundreds it seems) have been killed for this. We’re not discussing a rise in the cost of electricity in Lhasa here, but uprisings, arrests, disappearances, and deaths.

    And, yes, for the record, I do find the main point of Patrick French’s op-ed asinine (and I’m reading it in the context of his general work on Tibet which is much the same). To blame the Tibetans or Hollywood or the US Congress for the uprisings in Tibet not only denies agency to Tibetans but also cops-out on assigning any responsibility to China. Personally, I’m an equal opportunity critic. I’ve got critiques of the British, the Chinese, the Americans, and yes, even the Tibetan Government in Exile. And these aren’t blogosphere critiques, but published ones. Some of my relevant articles are the following:

    “Empire Out-of-Bounds: Tibet in the Era of Decolonization,” in Ann Stoler, Carole McGranahan, and Peter C. Perdue, eds., Imperial Formations, Santa Fe: School of American Press, 2007, pp. 187-227.

    “Tibet’s Cold War: The CIA and the Chushi Gangdrug Resistance, 1956-1974,” Journal of Cold War Studies 8(3), Summer 2006, pp. 102-130.

    “Truth, Fear, and Lies: Exile Politics and Arrested Histories of the Tibetan Resistance,” Cultural Anthropology 20(4), November 2005, pp. 570-600.

    History, complexity, critique, deconstructing homogeneity and hegemony; its all there. Right now, though, as arrests and protests continue in Tibet, I don’t think any of us are capable of the sort of analysis that we all wish we had or that we could do. And so while I am currently finishing my book on the Tibetan resistance army, my head—and, yes, my heart—are also tied up in what’s going on in Tibet and I see no need to apologize for that at all.

  19. “To blame the Tibetans or Hollywood or the US Congress for the uprisings in Tibet not only denies agency to Tibetans but also cops-out on assigning any responsibility to China.”

    I never read anything of his as giving direct blame for the uprisings in Tibet on Hollywood or the US. The point is that the strategy of internationalization, demonstrations, and other tactics that are commonly employed against democratic nations will not work against China because it isn’t a democracy. It is a top-down system and as such it isn’t particularly amenable to pressure from the bottom, especially by international groups like SFT.

    Not only does it not work against the Chinese government, but it also polarizes the Chinese people DIRECTLY (i.e. without government prompting) against the Free Tibet supporters. When someone shouts “Free Tibet” they mean one of two things, either “freedom in Tibet” or “freedom from China”. Both are problematic for ordinary Chinese because, 1) demanding freedom IN Tibet ignores those in the rest of China who suffer equally (and in some cases more) under the CCP, and 2) demanding freedom FROM China simply does not jive with the nationalism that is swirling in China now, and never will. If they don’t even have the Chinese people on their side how ever would this issue be resolved?

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/30/asia/china.php

  20. Well, it appears that we read PF differently, and I for one, am willing to allow you to have your own opinion of his work.

    I agree with you that the sentiment of the Chinese people matters. This is why I drew attention above to the petition thirty Chinese intellectuals submitted to the PRC government re: Tibet
    (http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1245 ). As I see it, the voice of intellectuals here is an important starting point, especially in a country like China.

    One other source I like is China Digital Times (http://chinadigitaltimes.net/) which has recently run posts/articles on:

    –Chinese bloggers on Tibet
    (http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2008/03/chinese-bloggers-on-tibet/)

    –“Tibet: Her Pain, My Shame” by Chinese documentary filmmaker Tang Danhong

    (http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2008/03/tibet-her-pain-my-shame/)

    –“Nationalism and Misunderstanding in Tibet”
    (http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2008/03/nationalism-and-misunderstanding-in-tibet/)

    and much, much more.

    I disagree with you, however, on what will or won’t work with the Chinese government or people. My understanding of history is that it can’t be predicted, and what one thinks will happen often doesn’t and vice versa (including in China, and including things that the PRC government hadn’t anticipated…like these protests). Tibetans inside and outside Tibet will protest or not irregardless of what anyone posting here *thinks* they should do. I believe its their right to assess the situation and make their own decisions about what to do.

  21. I just received a link to this blog post this morning, and find Carole McGranahan’s post “Long Live the Resistance! The Resistance is Dead!” to be both reasoned and informative.

    I’m a scholar of India, not of Tibet, and want to speak from that position. What I hear in the comments is that we can’t risk upsetting the Chinese government or the Chinese people. Are you serious, people? Remember a little thing called the British empire? The British empire thought it would exist forever, that the Indians couldn’t rule themselves, and that British rule in India thus was necessary. Sound familiar? Suggesting that Tibetans tone down their resistance because it might upset the Chinese or not be “effective” is myopic to say the least and anachronistic given the history of colonialism elsewhere. India was part of the British empire for over 200 years and has now been independent for over fifty. What lies ahead for Tibet is certainly not only going to be determined by politicians in Beijing but also by ordinary people, including ordinary Tibetans.

    But enough about India.

    I also want to publicly thank Carole McGranahan for opening this discussion here. There are only too many internet pundits out there, and so a scholar of Tibet willing at the moment to speak publicly on the situation as it unfolds is valuable to all of us. I also commend her for not returning the attacking tone of some of the posters here; she has repeatedly kept her posts civil, informative, and even-keeled. I know I would not have done the same were I her, so kudos to her.

  22. Principled disagreement is not attack, nor is an underlying assumption that all right-thinking people will agree with a side one has taken even-keeled, no matter how elegantly and informatively it is expressed. That said, thanks both to you and to Carole for your parts in a discussion I treasure.

    As for the British empire analogy, if I may be so bold as to interpret what I take to be itsalljustaride’s point: yes, in the long term empires all come unglued due to their vulnerability to a variety of pressures. The effective difference between Britain and China is that the former is a democracy based on assertively universal liberal values with which the Raj was plainly inconsistent. They were consequently vulnerable to the moral authority of popular movements. China is not; therefore, the effective pressure will most likely have to be different. Try to imagine the Roman Empire falling because of street protests in Dalmatia.

  23. Thanks Carl, that is my point exactly. I have no authority to be telling Tibetans what to do, but to me the strategy, or lack thereof, does not seem to be particularly effective so far, and that was my take on why it hasn’t been effective.

    Also, to this:

    “civil, informative, and even-keeled”

    I wouldn’t exactly call throwing terms like “asinine” around, even-keeled. It’s not exactly Bill O’Reilly caliber bias of course, but it’s still an ad-hominem criticism and not a refutation of the points of the article she disputes. We all do it from time to time, so I’m not trying to play holier-than-thou.

    I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

  24. Hi Carole, I’m drafting a statement for the American Anthropological Association on all this. It would be great to get your input if you have a moment. I can be reached by clicking on my name in the “biography” page at this link: http://www.songandsilence.com. Thanks! Sorry for the interruption everyone, I just don’t know how else to reach her. cheers Meg

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