Friday, April 11, 2008

Contrast how China deals with Vietnam and with Tibet

Here are a string of postings by historians on H-Asia list. Should be of interest in the context of the ongoing struggle for Free Tibet. Kalyanaraman

April 11, 2008

China, Tibet and . . Vietnam?? Another perspective
From: Shawn McHale

Dear list,

I have followed this debate over Tibet and China with some interest.
Putting aside the Kent article that sparked all the comments, I would
like to suggest the value of comparing the case of Vietnam with that of

Chinese today simply do not think of Vietnam as part of China. But it was
once an integral part of the Middle Kingdom, broke away from Middle
Kingdom rule in 939 (by most Vietnamese reckoning today), was attacked by
Mongol armies during the Yuan dynasty several times, was occupied from
1407-27 by the Ming, was attacked again in the late 18th century under
the Qing. While Vietnamese histories date "independence" from 939 CE, the
fact is that the various Vietnamese dynasties (Ly, Tran, Ho, Mac, Le,
Trinh, Nguyen) all engaged in tributary relations with the successive
dynasties in China, symbolically asserting to these dynasties the
submission of their dynasties. And yet, despite the deep cultural and
political connections between China and Vietnam, China today does not
claim exclusive sovereign rights over Vietnam.

As historians, we should be acutely aware that the modern concept of
sovereignty dominant in international discourse today, and to which China
formally subscribes, may have little to do with relations between China
and Tibet in the past, or China and Vietnam in the past. There has been
an epistemic shift in how states conceptualize these relations."Facts" in
the pre-modern or early modern context have different meanings when
situated in the modern discourse of sovereignty. The search then for
value-neutral facts that form the basis of this argument is doomed to

In the case of Vietnam, although the Chinese government today could
construct a robust argument, filled with all sorts of facts, to support a
claim to Vietnam, it does not do so. It does not do so because, one
assumes, it realizes that pre-modern and modern notions of sovereignty
are different. Putting aside all of Vietnam, it does not even make a
claim to what is now the province of Ha Tien, even though this province
was once a principality settled by Ming loyalists. (It does, though,
make claims to the Spratleys and Paracels, even though the evidentiary
basis for these claims is weak . . .). So why is Tibet treated
differently? China today seems to fundamentally contest the views that
Thomas Bartlett laid out succinctly in his April 10 post.

It strikes this outside observer that IF the Chinese government today
applied the same logic to Tibet over sovereignty as if applies to
Vietnam, and IF it accepted that pre-modern relations between states
were not the same as modern ones, then China would realize that its claim
to Tibet is contestable on historical grounds.

Shawn McHale
Associate Professor of History and International Affairs
George Washington University
Washington, DC 20052 USA
(on leave, 2007-08, at Vietnam National University --
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

April 11, 2008

On the discussion of the Tibet issue
From Bin Yang

Some personal comments on the discussion of the Tibet

I am surprised to find that many of the discussants
are not specialists on the Tibet issue. Me either.
Hence, I feel that we (especially me) are not much
different from street crowds who shouted either "Free
Tibet" or "One China." Nonetheless, I would like to
throw my bricks to get your jades (pao zhuan yin yu).

First of all, in terms of the Sino-Tibetan
relationship, as many have pointed out, this issue is
really up to how independence and sovereignty to be
understood. Some years ago, I found two authors were
particularly insightful when discussing this issue.
One is Wang Lixiong, a Chinese dissident who has written
a few books in Chinese, and the other is Prof. Melvyn
C. Goldstein (for example, The snow lion and the
dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama).

Essentially, one should bear in mind the gap between
nation-state and ancient state/empire, or to use the
terms by Wang Lixiong, western state and the oriental
system (based on my memory, maybe not precisely).
Thus, asking or being asked, "has/had/was/is Tibet
part of China?", one is unavoidably trapped. In
addition, I like a lot scholarly criticism of
Sino-centrism in Chinese historiography, but to treat
China or Chinese empire identical with "zhongguo"
makes the same logical mistake as Sino-centrism,
because such a view subconsciously is Han-centrism.

To make it simplified, it is so wrong to claim Tibet was
part of China 700 years ago; likewise, it is misleading and
over-simplified to say Tibet was not part of 18th c. Qing China.

Second, in terms of the recent violence in Tibet, it
is too complicated for me. Yes, there are many levels
of nationalism, especially in present-day China. And
state-nationalism does not always agree with popular
nationalism. The webpage of anti-cnn is quite
revealing. Chinese people even invented a slang, "Do
not be like CNN!" indeed, an counterpart of a
wide-circulated "Do not be like C(hina)C(entral)TV!"

While I am far from qualified to comment on the
violence in Tibet, I am sure the Chinese accusation
that Dalai Lama was the black-hand is groundless. But
the violence in Tibet, I think, is more related to
ethnic tensions than to human rights or religion
freedom, as both Han Chinese and Chinese Muslim
suffered, if there is no such a thing of conspiracy
that the year 2008 is a golden opportunity to draw
international attentions.

Many Han Chinese people do not like the state policy
in Tibet because they believe that it is too
pro-Tibetan, and such a complaint occurs in Xinjiang
as well. I do not like Chinese state policy
partially because the approach is mechanical, lacking
considerations of social sciences and humanities.
Similar cases could be seen in the Chinese suppression
of FLG. Money, materials, energy and other social
sources are wasted, while the problem is not solved,
and the state image in the international stage is so

Finally, indeed most Chinese participants here are not
within mainland China, and I feel it does not make
much sense to use the word the Chinese, or Chinese

Well, the above is my personal biases, and could be so

Bin Yang
History Department
National University of Singapore

April 11, 2008

Historical truth and professional authority, regarding recent discussions
on Tibet
From: Evie GU

Dear List members,

As many of you, I have been frequently consulted on "historical truth"
regarding Tibet and China since March 14th. Indeed, various versions of
"historical truth" have been introduced in debates on public forum such as
Youtube to legitimize claims by both sides.

Yet, it is not an easy task to communicate with a general audience about the
problems of claiming historical truth. The encounter between academic
discourse and general audience often leads to a head-on collision. As an art
historian, I can think of examples such as the 1991 exhibition of "The West
as America" held at the National Museum of American Art in Washington. While
the exhibition attempts to add the actual "racism, sexism, greed, brutality,
and genocide" to the familiar glorifying and celebratory narrative of the
frontier – an argument by no means innovative or revolutionary in the
academic community, it met with outraged audience, vehement media attack,
and threats of public funding withdrawal, which eventually cancelled its
display in other venues. Frustrating as it is, the highly controversial
exhibition shows the gap between public's expectation of history and its
actual practice by historians.

When we receive questions such as "did Tibet belong to China?" in the
context of recent events, our answers are expected to be interpreted as a
legitimization of either pro- or anti- independence of Tibet. At the same
time, our answers--the historical materials we choose to present or
emphasize--often betray our own position in this debate. Although it is
true that no one can separate the academic self from the political self, it
is important for us to be aware that we are consulted as an AUTHORITY who
would help to provide historical evidence for claims of sovereign power,
religious power, cultural power, and ideological power. Personally, I feel
resistant to this role and puzzled by overt willingness by certain "experts"
to take it.

The "historical truth" of Tibetan Empire (7th to 9th centuries), which has
been the focus of recent postings, can be easily interpreted according to
different agenda. To those advancing Tibetan independence, it seems that
Tibet belonged to China was a false claim. To those sympathizing with the
PRC government, it seems that an always dominant, suppressive China versus
an innocent, vulnerable Tibet was a historical construction as well. As
historians, it is our job to demonstrate the existence, as always, multiple
interpretations. As humans, we should confront ourselves about why we prefer
one interpretation to the other.

Is history doomed to be exploited by political claims? Probably yes. But as
individual historian, he/she can always dis-encourage rather than
consolidate the myth that there exists historical truth. If at times we are
attempted to lend our "crafts" and professional authority to activism, which
we agree upon consciously or unconsciously- human rights, religious freedom,
Chinese nationalism, or Eurocentrism, we shall realize that the exploitation
of history will eventually backfire on us historians.

Brown University

April 11, 2008

Tibet and China issue - classroom approaches?
From: Kaz Ross

Hello all,

My query is taking the Tibet - China discussion in a slightly different
direction. I would like to find out how the current events and the emotions
surrounding them are being brought into the classroom. I'd particularly
welcome useful teaching techniques/resources which enable a non-Chinese
lecturer like myself to effectively deal with the fervent nationalism
that seems to be dominating large sections of the overseas Chinese
student population.

I have reviewed the H-Asia postings over the M.I.T. Visualizing Cultures
website and have found some of the discussion there useful. Any further
hints, techniques, ideas would be welcome!


Kaz Ross
Asian Studies
University of Tasmania

April 11, 2008

An editorial comment and request regarding the conversation on Tibet,
China, the Olympics, etc. REPOSTED (received by some members in a
truncated form)
From: Frank Conlon :

Several members have written directly cautioning that this discussion has
indeed become political--but so far, in my view, the "politics" lies
within the differences of perspective or interpretation of various
postings. Any historical or social science interpretation may have
salience for one or another political position. In the current discussion
I am struck by how contemporary circumstances and ideologies filter our
perceptions of the past; indeed, how they seem to require us to view the
past in a "correct" way. Many years ago, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the
British archaeologist, published a book titled _5000 Years of Pakistan_
dealing with the territories of the northwestern portion of the
subcontinent. Indian scholars objected since Pakistan had existed only
since 1947. Pakistanis hailed the work as recognizing the cultural
continuities of a region. Legitimate arguments could be made for either
position, or for others. Pakistanis saw the title as giving ancient
gravitas to a new nation. I suspect North Americans would be puzzled by a
"5000 Years of Canada, eh?" Many Chinese in and out of China accept the
idea of a long civilizational history, while the ideology of the Chinese
Revolution emphasizes creation of something new. An outsider is struck by the
degree to which Chinese-Americans or Chinese-Canadians, who have no political
responsibility for the present regime in China, nor for its policies, appear
heavily invested in defending China's reputation against external criticisms.
But this outsider is not surprised. When I was first arrived in India in the
1960s, I was opposed to the Vietnam War. However after 18 months or so of
listening to Indian intellectuals criticize the United States, my emotions
turned to defending my country, making excuses for things I did not agree with,
and generally resenting the constant harping of my Indian acquaintances on the
war. It was an imperfect world back then, and, perhaps not surprisingly, it
still is.

FINALLY, may I kindly ask posters in this thread to try to edit their
contributions before sharing them with the list? This would be a great
courtesy to your fellow H-ASIA members (and to your volunteer editors!)


Frank F. Conlon
Professor Emeritus University of Washington
Co-editor, H-ASIA

April 11, 2008

Responses from Dr. Li Yi to several posts from Edwin Fernandez, Thomas
Bartlett, Paul Buell and Joanna Kirkpatrick on the Tibet and China thread
Ed. note: Some discussion groups have rules that restrict the number of
posts by any one individual. We do not have that on H-Asia. However,
since Dr. Yi Li has been submitting extensive responses to many other
posts, I am exercising my editorial prerogative and consolidating some
of the responses without, I hope, eliminating any of the significance.
ALSO, in editing these poss, it appears to me that we have arrived a point
of some semantic misunderstandings or quibbles. For example references by
Bartlett and Buell to the Mongol power and its relationship to the Yuan
dynasty seem--to me--to have been misread by Dr. Yi Li. The nature of this
extended conversation cannot become a series of dialogues. I encourage
new interventions, but am going to be cautious about too much "back and
forth" posting that does not really promote understanding.
From: Yi Li :

Thank Erwin S. Fernandez comment my comments, of course, I disagree.

As a social scientist, I am not going to justify either, but I am not going
to attack either side. Not only religions and languages, but also most
population of American Indians was wiped out without mercy. If American
Indians were strong enough, wiped out European colonist, so be it. If
European colonists were strong enough, wiped out American Indians, so be it.
I am a social scientist, they are human being. I can not blame either side
of them.

This is not only in the process of nation building in the U.S., but also in
the process of nation building in Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Russia,
and in China, especially in Qin and Han dynasties. Within these great social
processes, with or without so-called human rights violations, it is really
not a big issue. Do we see a chapter of "human rights violation" in the
textbooks of American history, Japanese history, British history, French
history, Russian history? Human rights violation existed substantially, but
historians ignored them. Why? It is because something else are more
important to write.

There are many things in the histories of big powers. Who cares about their
human rights? For example, who cares how many human rights Americans
violated in Iraq? People care much more on how much money American banks
lost in the house loan crisis. In historical books, do you see a chapter
"American human rights violations in Vietnam?"

This is the way human being writing histories. I have to accept it. You have
to accept it. I can not change it. You can not change it. Chinese government
maybe violated human rights in Tibet in last 700 years, Chinese government
maybe is violating human rights in Tibet currently, and Chinese government
maybe will violate human rights in Tibet for a while. However, historians
will ignore these trivial things. The reason is that, at the same time of
human rights violation, many other very big things happen, and the
historians have to focus on those very big things, and have to forget about
some very trivial things, such as so-called "human rights violations in
Tibet." Do you see American historians focus on "human rights violations in
American Indians?"

There are 1300 million people in China. Currently, Chinese government spends
a huge amount of money to give 2 million Tibetans a much better life. Sooner
or later, Chinese government will be directly elected. No elected government
dares to spend so much money for only tow million people in China. In my
prediction, at that time, without big subsidizing money from central
government, working for a new capitalist class in Tibet, a new Tibetan
working class will have a much worse human right condition.

In China today, the so-called human rights violation is not in Tibet, but in
200 million peasant workers, the half of Chinese working class. However,
even in this issue, I do not blame either side. Same things exactly happened
in the U.S., Japan, and Europe when they were in the same stage of
development. I have to accept it.

Please educate me if I am wrong.

Most sincerely,

Li Yi Ph.D.
From: Yi Li

I disagree with Professor Thomas Bartlett on Chinese history.

In Qin and Han Dynasties, Han Chinese did have a military advantage
over nomads, and they extend China to today's Xinjiang province.

Yuan dynasty exactly was a Chinese dynasty. The emperors of Yuan
dynasties themselves said many times that Yuan dynasty was a Chinese
dynasty followed Qin, Han, and Tang. I saw it in many historical
literatures. I saw it by my owe eyes in Qu Fu, Shangdong province,
the hometown of Confucian.

Professor Thomas Bartlett made a big mistake here. Yuan dynasty was
not the Mongolian empire. Yuan dynasty was only one fourth or one
fifth of the Mongolian empire. Yuan dynasty came from the broken of
Mongolian empire, which four or five times bigger than Yuan dynasty.
Yuan dynasty was a Chinese dynasty between the Chinese dynasties
before, and Chinese dynasties after. Tibet was a part of Chinese Yuan
dynasty, so Tibet was a part of China 700 years ago.

California and Hawaii are the part of the United State. It does not
matter for how long time. As long as they are a part of the United
States, Californian history and Hawaiian history are the part of
American history.

Please educate me if I am wrong.

Most sincerely,

Li Yi Ph.D.

From Fri Apr 11 00:53:47 2008
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2008 00:53:42 -0700
From: Yi Li
To: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture , Frank Conlon
Subject: Re: H-ASIA: China and Tibet - revisiting the history

[ The following text is in the "ISO-2022-JP" character set. ]
[ Your display is set for the "CP1252" character set. ]
[ Some characters may be displayed incorrectly. ]

I disagree with Professor Paul D. Buell from Western Washington

Professor Paul D. Buell made a big mistake on the nature of Yuan
dynasty. Like I said in my last response, Yuan dynasty was not the
Mongolian empire. Mongolian empire was several times bigger than Yuan
dynasty, and Yuan dynasty came from the broken of Mongolian empire.
Yuan dynasty is a Chinese dynasty, just like Chinese dynasties before
it, and Chinese dynasties after it. Yuan dynasty itself claimed it
was a Chinese dynasty, followed Qin, Han and Tang dynasty.

Yuan dynasty took Tibet as a part of Yuan dynasty, and Tibet took
itself as a part of Yuan dynasty. Therefore, Tibet was a part of
China 700 hundred years ago. This is not new in China. Guangdong
province was not a part China, but a couple of independent states in
Qin and Han dynasties. It takes time for China integrating Guangdong
province, so be Tibet.

Just like Californian history and Hawaiian history are a part of
American history, Tibetan history is a part of Chinese history.

Please educate me if I am wrong.

Most sincerely,

Li Yi Ph.D.

I disagree with Professor Paul D. Buell from Western Washington

Professor Paul D. Buell made a big mistake on the nature of Yuan
dynasty. Like I said in my last response, Yuan dynasty was not the
Mongolian empire. Mongolian empire was several times bigger than Yuan
dynasty, and Yuan dynasty came from the broken of Mongolian empire.
Yuan dynasty is a Chinese dynasty, just like Chinese dynasties before
it, and Chinese dynasties after it. Yuan dynasty itself claimed it
was a Chinese dynasty, followed Qin, Han and Tang dynasty.

Yuan dynasty took Tibet as a part of Yuan dynasty, and Tibet took
itself as a part of Yuan dynasty. Therefore, Tibet was a part of
China 700 hundred years ago. This is not new in China. Guangdong
province was not a part China, but a couple of independent states in
Qin and Han dynasties. It takes time for China integrating Guangdong
province, so be Tibet.

Just like Californian history and Hawaiian history are a part of
American history, Tibetan history is a part of Chinese history.

Please educate me if I am wrong.

Most sincerely,

Li Yi Ph.D.

China already appointed a new Panchen Lama, the U.S. and India did
not oppose it. At same time, current Dalai Lama appointed another
Panchen Lama; no one accepted it, including the U.S. and India.

Just like Joanna Kirkpatrick predicts, China will appoint next Dalai
Lama and, at the same time, 100,000 Tibetans in India will appoint another
Dalai Lama. Who cares?

As long as the U.S. and India do not oppose the Dalai Lama appoint by
Beijing, and do not support the Dalai Lama from India, the whole
thing will go away. What the U.S. and India will do? I do not know.
[Their issues elsewhere would inhibit any material support for an exiled
Tibetan organization.]

Therefore, in my prediction, China will successfully appoint and
educate fifteenth Dalai Lama. China already did it many times, why
you think China can not do it now? Obviously, China can do better.

On Tibetan resistance, it is simply a very trivial thing. Guangdong
province was not a part of China. Guangdong people resisted many
years. Qin and Han dynasties spent a human amount of money and
millions lives conquering and integrating Guangdong province. Now,
Guangdong province is number one province in China. In 2007, the GDP
of Guangdong province had surpassed the GDP of Taiwan province.
American Indians resisted many years, who cares? Historians focus on
the results, not the process.

Most sincerely,

Li Yi Ph.D.

April 11, 2008

Further observations on discussion of Tibet and China issues
From: Yi Li

Thank dear Jeannine for her vivid orientation. I disagree with her on both

The first is Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan language. Just like she said that,
the theocratic, feudal Tibetan society was wiped out in 1959. Currently, and
in next a couple of decades, Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan langrage are not
in danger. Mainly for political reasons, currently, Chinese government
spends a huge amount of money and energy to protect Tibetan Buddhism and
Tibetan language. However, in the long run, it is really hard to say. The
reason is the market economy. The market economy has wiped out a huge amount
of old Chinese culture and old Chinese languages in an astonishing speed in
last one hundred years, especially in last three decades. In thirty years or
fifty years, most part of the Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan language may or
may not be wiped out by the market economy. In fifty years, if it really
happens, in my view, so be it. In the processes of the modernization in the
U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain and France, many things were wiped out, such
as most part of the religions and languages of American Indians. As a social
scientist, it is hard for me to say it is a good thing or bad thing. If it
will not be wiped out, so be it. If it will be wiped out, so be it. Do you
want American government protect or recover American Indian cultures or
languages? It is your freedom, but I doubt American government will care
what you think.

The second is the status of Tibet, the so called Dalai Lama's non-violence,
and the future of Dalai Lama. Tibet is a part of China for 700 hundred
years. After the railroad reached Lasa, Tibet integrates with rest of China
more rapidly mainly because of the market economy. This is just the
beginning. It will be faster. In this world, I see no government will dare
to separate Tibet from China. The so-called Dalai Lama's non-violence is
cheating, please see:

Knaus, John Kenneth. 1999. *Orphans of the Cold War: American and the
Tibetan Struggle for Survival.* PublicAffairs. **

Conboy, Kenneth and James Morrison. 2002. *The CIA's Secret War in
Tibet. *University
of Kansas Press. * *

Thomas Laird. 2002 *Into Tibet: The CIA's First Atomic Spy and His Secret
Expedition to Lhasa.* New York: Grove Press。

Garver, John W. 1997. *The Sino-American Alliance: Nationalist China and
American Cold War Strategy in Asia. *M.E. Sharpe.**

Ali, S. Mahmud. 1999. *Cold War in the High Himalayas: The USA, China, and
South Asia in the 1950s. *St. Martin's Press. **

Goldstein, Melvyn C. 1997. *The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet and
the Dalai Lama*. University of California Press.

Not only Dalai Lama's non-violence is a kind of cheating, but also, just
like mentioned many times by Dr. Kissinger, the non-violence of Gandhi was a
kind of cheating also. Someone else prepared for an independent war to seek
Indian independence from Britain, which was a major leverage for Gandhi
threatened British government. Current fourteenth Dalai Lama will die sooner
or later. The Tibetan government in India will disappear soon after the
death of fourteenth Dalai Lama. There was a thirteenth, and there will be a
fifteenth. According to the constitution of Buddhism Dalai Lama, Beijing
will appoint and educate fifteenth Dalai Lama. I see the U.S. and India have
no way to change it. When fifteenth Dalai Lama, appointed and educated by
Beijing, takes care daily affairs of Tibetan Buddhism, this whole thing will
go away. It will take decades. It mainly depends on when the fourteenth
Dalai Lama dies.

Most sincerely,

Li Yi Ph.D.

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