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China looks back

24 May

History Today has a retrospective on the official history of China: China’s Interesting Times.

…the series of anniversaries rolling out this year in China are a good example of how history is not merely a matter of the past. Some will not be recalled, at least officially, among them the Great Famine in which officials showed the hollowness of the concern for the people proclaimed by the regime. The Cultural Revolution is admitted to have been a mistake but Mao is still judged to have been 70 per cent good, 30 per cent bad. June 4th, 1989, is remembered in coded messages using the date or, officially, as a moment when the People’s Liberation Army saved China from the subversion of ‘black hand’ agents working for foreign interests. Tibet will remain sensitive for so long as its clergy and much of the native population refuse to accept Chinese rule. Taiwan will remain autonomous. The legacy of May 4th will remain with intellectuals and dissidents who dream of a democratic China in which the rule of law pertains and the Communist party no longer claims a monopoly of the Mandate of Heaven. On both sides of the debates about where China is heading, and where it should be heading, history has its part to play and anniversaries are part and parcel of that.

Last week The Sydney Morning Herald had a fascinating story about China and Tibet: Exposed: Beijing’s failure in Tibet.

A SCATHING new report, perhaps the first of its kind from inside China since Tibet was brutally locked down in March last year, describes how Beijing’s efforts to pour rivers of money into Tibet since 1989 to ensure "stability" have been spectacularly counter-productive.

The report, which is controversial for having been written by a group of Beijing scholars, says private-sector jobs went to ethnic Han Chinese from other provinces, and public money flowed into the pockets of a new elite which systematically portrayed community discontent as "separatism".

"They use every opportunity to play the separatism card," says Phun Tshogs Dbang Rjyal, a founder of the Communist Party in Tibet, who is quoted in the report.

"And they will try hard to apportion responsibility on ‘overseas hostile forces’ because this is the way to consolidate their interests and status and eventually bring them more power and resources."

The fieldwork was conducted by four Peking University journalism students who travelled to Lhasa and a Tibetan region of Gansu province in July.

It was written and recently published on the internet by the Open Constitution Initiative, a non-government organisation run by lawyers and intellectuals in Beijing….

Xu Zhiyong, a human rights lawyer who helped prepare the report, said he hoped it would be picked up by Chinese media, but he held little hope that it would influence government officials.

But ethnic Tibetans are nevertheless heartened that a balanced account of the causes of last year’s uprising can now exist in China.

"As a Tibetan I feel this report is very important," said Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan poet in Beijing. "This is a rare and treasured report under the current circumstances of one-sided official propaganda."…

Some rethinking in Beijing would certainly be good.

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Posted by on May 24, 2009 in Chinese and China, current affairs, History

 

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