Friday, December 17, 1999

Hollywood's Tibet

Hollywood's Tibet
Tinseltown's Sacred Cow
Bevin Chu
December 17, 1999

Marlon Brando and Richard Gere

The emotionally overwrought quality with which Hollywood's beautiful people have been demonizing China for "human rights abuses" and alleged "territorial ambitions" bewildered me for quite some time. From a Machievellian geo-political perspective I understood it reasonably well. But I have also struggled to understand the irrational antagonism toward China's economic recovery as a global, collective, transpersonal process.

Then while was watching the Discovery Channel's documentary series "How the West was Lost" it struck me. Could what's happening be a collective projection of American guilt over the treatment of American Indians onto the Chinese? Was that too farfetched? After all, the stunt Marlon Brando pulled at the Academy Awards ceremony a number of years ago was echoed by Richard Gere's similar recent performance. Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to guilt-trip America over the US government's genocidal mistreatment of Native Americans, and years later Gere launches into an impromptu (and embarrassingly self-righteous) sermon about Deng Xiaoping's alleged mistreatment of Tibetans. The two events struck me as having a remarkable resonance.

The Lost Horizon

The conventional wisdom of course, is that aggressively industrializing China is committing "cultural genocide" against "traditional Tibetan society." In this version of events, the Dalai Lama's Lhasa is an idyllic paradise of Love, Light and Harmony -- the Shangri-la of James Hilton's utopian novel "Lost Horizon," and is threatened by Jiang Zemin's quasi-capitalist Beijing, a soul-less, money-grubbing dictatorship unredeemed by Maoist "idealism."

Ironically Hollywood's version of Hilton's tale, made during the Red Decade by depression-era populist Frank Capra was a crypto-Communist propaganda film. But who ever accused movie celebrities of intellectual consistency?

Gone with the Wind

For Americans who know nothing of China's history to presume that they know what life was in pre-1959 Tibet after watching "Seven Years in Tibet" is a little like Chinese who know nothing of America's history presuming they know what life was in the antebellum South after watching "Gone with the Wind." I remember while living in Houston during the 70's my folks and I attended a premiere of a restored version of GWTW. When the scenes of idyllic antebellum life appeared on screen, you know the part I'm talking about -- the graceful mansions, the mint juleps, the gay cotillions -- some schmuck sitting directly behind us sighed to his date "Life must have been wonderful back then!" His date cuddled up to him and sighed in agreement. My brother snickered, loud enough for them to hear, "Yeah, if you were white." The couple had no problem blanking out the awareness that the southern aristocrats' "wonderful life" was squeezed by brute force out of the involuntary servitude of other human beings, for whom life was something less than "wonderful."

Seven Years in Tibet and Kundun

Similarly it has never ceased to flabbergast me how little difficulty the Beautiful People have blanking out the darkside of the Dalai Lama's pre-1959 Tibet. After the premieres of "Seven Years in Tibet" and "Kundun" Jean-Jacques Annaud and Martin Scorsese granted interviews in which they waxed nostalgic about how "spiritual" life was in pre-1959 Tibet. Just think! An entire culture dedicated to nothing but spiritual development! Imagine that! A Shangri-la "gone with the wind," tragically wiped out by grubby materialistic carpetbaggers from Beijing.


If Hollywood New Agers want to evaluate the role of Tibet's serf-owning clergy and aristocrats from a transpersonal, Jungian perspective and absolve them of blame -- fine. But then they are obligated to evaluate the role of the communists from the identical perspective and absolve them too. Instead they want to have it both ways. They want to apply linear ethical criteria to Beijing even as they conveniently edit out the moral outrages of the Dalai Lama's ancien regime.

None of them have any apparent problem blanking out the awareness that this "spiritual" life for a privileged minority of Tibetan elite was squeezed by brute force out of the involuntary servitude of masses of miserable Tibetan serfs for whom life was considerably less than "spiritual." The Beautiful People (now joined by the religious right, of all people) would have us believe that pre-1950s Tibet was one big touchy-feely New Age workshop -- a Findhorn or Esalen in the Himalayas. Maybe it was for the wealthy serf-owning Lamas and aristocrats, but why don't we ask the serfs how it was for them?

When I attend a personal growth workshop and am pampered physically while I work on my psychological and spiritual evolution, I pay for this worthwhile and uplifting experience with money earned by my own honest labor. Similarly, the workshop facilitator supports his material needs by offering his wisdom and talent as a teacher on the open market, for which I pay gladly, voluntarily. Neither he nor I maintain a permanent underclass of abused and mistreated persons whom we rip off at our whim to support our inner journey.

It strikes me as obscene for "Kundun" director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Melissa Mathiessen to hold such an exploitive system up to the world as ethically and spiritually exalted. How is that any different from Margaret Mitchell or D.W. Griffiths holding the Old South up as some sort of "paradise lost?" It is mind-boggling to watch them rationalize the darkside of it all away so breezily, even as they spew venom at the commies for wiping out the entire corrupt mess in sheer disgust. Today's Tibet is run by former serfs, the poor slobs exploited by the Dalai Lama and his faction under the old system, just as South Africa is today run by former political prisoner Nelson Mandela, and South Korea is run by former political prisoner Kim Dae-jung. To me that is justice. Why don't Hollywood filmmakers make a movie about that?

Good Cop, Bad Cop

During high profile interviews on Larry King Live the Dalai Lama smiles benevolently, flatly denies being an agent provocateur for Tibetan independence, and "magnanimously forgives" Beijing for all the bad things they did to "his people" (serf-owing aristocrats who exploited the Tibet region's 90 plus % majority of serfs.)

Meanwhile his "Office of Tibet" website and willing proxies (Robert Thurman, Richard Gere, Jean-Jacques Annaud and Jon Avnet) promote a relentlessly Manichean "Good versus Evil" (and decidedly un-Buddhist) demonization of Beijing, with his official blessing.

This Good Cop/Bad Cop division of labor permits the Dalai Lama to have his cake and eat it too. He preserves his public image of Ghandi-esque forbearance even as "Seven Years in Tibet" (which received script approval and a glowing review from him) and "Red Corner" (which Richard Gere deliberately moved up to coincide with Jiang Zemin's state visit) villify Beijing while sparing the Dalai Lama from the charge of vindictiveness.

Robert Thurman, Father of Uma

I find it hard to believe that Dalai shill Robert Thurman is a nationally recognized scholar in Buddhist studies. He seems utterly oblivious to the central premise of Buddhism, which is non-attachment to positionality.

His Hollywood metaphors pitting "good against evil" are embarassingly simplistic, and suggest that he has never broken out of a rigidly moralistic Zoroastrian/Manichean world view. His unapologetic yearning for a religious and ecological "Shangri-la" (that never was) suggest that he has never confronted the energy of infantile regression underlying utopianism. Add to that a heavy handed and utterly unconvincing attempt to draw inspirational parallels between the libertarian values of the American Revolution and repressive serf-owning pre-1950's Tibet, and I can't help wondering why he isn't laughed off the public stage. But then I'm surprised that his idol the Dalai Lama isn't laughed off the public stage as well.

Mere Autonomy?

The Dalai Lama currently insists he merely wants "autonomy," implying that he never attemped or even advocated independence. This is disingenuous, to say the least. He "merely wants autonomy" today only because having failed miserably to achieve complete independence in 1959, he knows autonomy is the most he can hope for.

Actually the only reason Tibet's serfdom lasted into the 20th century in the first place is that the Yuan, Ming, and Ching imperial courts did in fact grant Tibet the very autonomy the Dalai Lama is currently demanding. It is far more than they should have granted from a humanitarian perspective. Otherwise Lhasa's inhumane serfdom, which did not exist in any other region of China, would have been abolished centuries ago. Chalk it up to previous emperors' ho-hum attitude. Out of sight, out of mind.

Ironically, despite their brutality, the commies showed more concern. In retrospect they probably wish they hadn't, with all the flak they've taken. If only they had let sleeping dogs lie, Tibet's serf-owning aristocracy would have felt far less pressure to secede from China. Chalk that up to the communists' obssessive egalitarianism. The exploitive inequality of serfdom really stuck in their craw.

The Dalai Lama himself recently admitted that he only began advocating democracy for Tibet belatedly, in 1964, five years into exile. He could hardly deny it; the facts are on the record. By then Tibetan serfdom was already a way of life "gone with the wind," abolished by Beijing. By then he had nothing to lose, and plenty to gain propaganda-wise by playing the "democracy" card. It never ceases to amaze me how his acolytes glide right past this embarassingly inconvenient fact.

The Dalai Lama's Realpolitik

The Dalai Lama has been a realpolitik opportunist all along, albeit a failed one. The Dalai Lama imagined he could achieve independence in the wake of the chaos following Mao's accession to power, and decided to go for it. A debacle followed.

Later, he decided to go for the brass ring again following the cataclysmic global upheavals of 1989 and 1990. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the tragedy at Tiananmen he flatly refused to deal with Beijing, imagining that what happened to the Soviet Union would also happen to China. Alas, he misread global events a second time.

More recently he has been increasingly worried that his prolonged absence from the Tibetan region has diminished whatever residual prestige and influence he might still command. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. Politicians know they must remain in the public eye to remain viable. The Dalai Lama knows his constituents are in the Tibetan region of China, not Hollywood. In the wake of recent developments he has concluded (correctly) that his game is up, and is making conciliatory gestures toward Bejing. He's even jettisoned his erstwhile ally, Lee Teng-hui, the covertly pro-Taiwan independence president of the ROC.

The Last Dalai

Personally, I don't object to his realpolitik opportunism, at least not at this point in time. It would be better for all if a compromise could be negotiated, and this entire futile, ersatz "Struggle between Good and Evil" nonsense over and done with. The Dalai Lama himself negotiating a settlement with Jiang Zemin is perhaps the only development which might shut the sanctimonious Tibetan independence busibodies up once and for all. Won't that be a relief.

Hollywood's New Agers understand perfectly why China's "Last Emperor" Pu Yi (Bertolluci's "The Last Emperor") was doomed to irrelevance, but harbor a blind spot where Tibet's "God-King" Tenzin Gyatso is concerned (Scorsese's "Kundun," Annaud's "Seven Years in Tibet"). Pu Yi attempted to revive the decadent Manchu dynasty to no avail. The Dalai Lama, like the hapless Pu Yi, is "on the wrong side of history." He might turn out to be Tibet's "Last Dalai."

Thursday, December 09, 1999

International Trade and National Security

International Trade and National Security
Back to Basics
Bevin Chu
December 09, 1999

WTO? Just Say No!

The federal government of these United States of America should withdraw from and refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.


The WTO violates Americans' Right to engage in Free Trade

Because as Austrian economist Llewellyn Rockwell of the Ludwig von Mises Institute has underscored recently, supranational entities such as the WTO, World Bank, and IMF, at least as they are configured in today's world, are a menace to laissez-faire capitalism and global free trade, notwithstanding the good intentions of many of their supporters.

Instead, private American corporations, which are not evil bogeymen, but merely voluntary For Profit associations of individual American citizens, should be left alone to negotiate their own deals with foreign corporations and governments. If they can cut deals satisfactory to their own management and shareholders, and turn a profit in an unregulated international marketplace, then more power to them. If they can't, that's their tough luck. Either way the entire process, from start to finish, ought to remain a strictly private commercial affair.

The federal and state governments of these United States are legally authorized by the American public to enforce commercial contracts within America's territorial boundaries. That's part of the definition of national and state sovereignty.

They are not however entitled to enforce international commercial contacts. No national government is, including all current and future members of the WTO. Empowering our federal leviathan to stick its nose into international commercial contracts, and collude with foreign governments to micromanage "our" corporations' business dealings merely serves to centralize ever more dangerous, unchecked power in the hands of both our homegrown and foreign nomenklatura, socializes international commerce, and weakens the concept of national sovereignty, including American sovereignty.

But what about foreign governments' violations of the principles of free trade? Shouldn't "our" government pressure foreign governments to respect the principles of free trade?

Absolutely not.

If a foreign government is too obtuse to realize that untrammeled free trade is in its own citizens' long term best interest, too bad for them. Their citizens will learn the folly of their government's self-destructive policies, sooner if not later. Their nation's competitiveness in the global marketplace will suffer, the way the former Soviet Union's suffered when her Stalinist nomenklatura imagined they could repeal the iron laws of economics. Their citizens will demand economic reform from within, without any outside pressure whatsoever.

It is neither the duty nor prerogative of our fascistic Keynesian beltway bureaucrats to tutor foreigners on the principles of free market economics, assuming they know anything about free market economics in the first place.

Unfortunately this is not the end of the story. Now comes the unpleasant part.

Protectionists also violate Americans' Right to engage in Free Trade

Protectionist opponents of international free trade, laborite, luddite and nativist alike, have absolutely, positively, no right whatsoever to forcibly prevent American and foreign businessmen who wish to engage in mutally agreeable international trade from doing so.

Protectionists, like warfare statists, invariably resort to the Orwellian vocabulary of collectivism. They can be counted on to invoke the "w" word, "we" and the "o" word, "our." "We" must protect "our" industries, for the sake of "our" national interest, as if "our" national interest could ever be other than the individual interests of millions of sovereign and independent American citizens.

Protectionists operate under a mighty peculiar set of unexamined assumptions. They seem to imagine that just because an American businessman is a fellow American that somehow the businessman owes the protectionist some sort of special consideration, beyond refraining from violating the protectionist's life, liberty and property. Protectionists seem to imagine merely because they are American citizens that private American businesses, which are the private property of other private American citizens, are somehow "our" industries.

Excuse me, but the assumption that "we're all in this together" and therefore owe each some vague, undefined obligation beyond refraining from violating each others' individual rights, is the central premise of communism, fascism, democratic socialism and welfare statism. It is most certainly not the guiding premise which inspired our Founding Fathers to wage the American Revolution.

Unless the protectionist owns shares of stock in the company in question, the company is not "our" company, it is somebody elses' ' company. Merely being a citizen of the same country does not give one the right to dictate how someone else disposes of his economic assets.

But what if the protectionist is an employee of the company in question? Doesn't he have therefore a say in whether "his" company moves its plants or outsources its labor overseas? Doesn't he have a "right" to "his" job?

Sorry, he does not. Not unless he owns shares in the company and can persuade a majority of shareholders to keep him on. What the company owes him is wages or a salary. What he owes the company is his manual or mental labor.

The employee's relationship to the company he works for is morally and ethically no different from that between the protectionist's neigborhood barber and himself. His barber cuts the protectionist's hair. The protectionist pays the barber for services rendered. End of story. Just as the protectionist has no obligation to patronize the same barber in perpetuity, so the protectionist's employer has no obligation to employ the protectionist in perpetuity.

Being an American citizen does not mean that other Americans' bank accounts are the common property of "all Americans," welfare parasites to the contrary notwithstanding. By the same token, being an American citizen does not mean that other Americans' private property, in the form of business enterprises such as traditional manufacturing plants, can be suddenly reclassified as the common property of all Americans.

This is not to equate honest, hard-working blue collar workers in sunset industries with welfare parasites. Absolutely not. It is merely to remind protectionists of the fundamental distinction between capitalism and communism. Laissez faire capitalists know that not only is there no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as an iron ricebowl either. Both Maoist China and Japan, Inc. found that out, the hard way. The most one can do is delay the inevitable day of reckoning.

Radical economic reformer Zhu Rongi caught on to this fact about twenty years ago, and was subjected to Maoist thought reform for talking about it. Apparently many otherwise intelligent mainstream American intellectuals, including some ostensibly on the capitalist right, still haven't figured it out.

Warfare Statists violate Americans' Intellectual Property Rights

In case that was painful, there's more.

Conservative warfare statists like Republican Congressman Chris Cox of California routinely prattle on about restricting the export of "American technology" and "American industrial secrets."

Pardon me Chris, but unless the technology in question was developed as socialized science in government laboratories, by scientists and engineers on the federal payroll, the way Nazi scientists developed German weapons technology for the Third Reich, they are not "American technology" or "American industrial secrets," not in the sense you and your ilk mean it. They are not public property, and ought not to be disposed of at the whims of paranoid politicians and beltway bureaucrats.

Instead, any scientific breakthroughs or technological innovations made by Boeing, Hughes, Loral, Lucent and McDonnell Douglas are private property. They are the private intellectual property of private individuals who work for or own shares of Boeing, Hughes, IBM, Loral, Lucent and McDonnell Douglas. What Boeing, Hughes, IBM, Loral, Lucent and McDonnell Douglas choose to do with their private intellectual property is properly their private decision.

Boeing, Hughes, IBM, Loral, Lucent and McDonnell Douglas must be able to sell their high tech products to recoup their immense R&D costs. If they don't recoup their R&D costs, they lose money. If they lose money they declare Chapter Eleven. If American high tech companies declare Chapter Eleven, high tech companies in foreign nations will replace them in the global marketplace. If foreign high tech companies replace them, America will lose its technological lead.

Question: But what about "National Security?"

Answer: What about "National Security?"

The bedrock precondition of a free economy, hence a wealthy nation, hence a strong national defense, is the sanctity of private property. Private property makes possible private enterprise. Private enterprise make possible immense wealth. Immense wealth makes possible America's superpower status.

Advanced military weaponry is immensely costly. Only extravangantly wealthy nations like America can afford extravagantly expensive weapons such as supercarriers and state of the art air superiority fighters like the F-22.

No private property means no private enterprise, means no immense wealth, means no superpower status. The former Soviet Union learned this lesson the hard way. The former Soviet Union is now a former superpower. This is merely one of many reasons why the threshold for government abrogation of private propety rights must be set extremely high.

You want to be a superpatriot? You want a strong national defense? You want America to remain a superpower into the 21st century? Then keep your eye on the bottom line and remember, "It's the economy, stupid!"

Thursday, December 02, 1999

Tibetan-Chinese are not American Indians

Tibetan-Chinese are not American Indians
Bevin Chu
December 02, 1999

History according to Hollywood

Humanitarian Interventionists and Benevolent Global Hegemonists, most of whom lack even a rudimentary understanding of China's long and complex history, share a particularly nasty trait. Many of these Globocops imagine because they have downloaded a few pages of separatist propaganda from, and shed a tear or two while watching "Seven Years in Tibet," that qualifies them as China experts. They believe this qualifies them to pass judgement about whether China "deserves" to remain intact or be forcibly Balkanized by the World's Only Remaining Superpower. Their attitude rivals that of the most contemptible 19th century imperialists.

I have seen Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" once in the theater and several times on cable, and I never cease to be deeply moved by what screenwriting teachers term "a good story, well told." The same holds true of Neil Jordan's political biography "Michael Collins," about the famous, or infamous Irish revolutionary of the same name.

I do not however assume merely because I have enjoyed a well scripted and well produced two hours of entertainment that I have necessarily learned anything substantive about English, Scottish or Irish history. I retain enough presence of mind to recall Hollywood's record of playing fast and loose with historical facts, motivated by either commercial considerations or the filmmakers' political biases.

I certainly do not leave the theater convinced of either the rightness or wrongness of Scottish secession. Instead I remain scrupulously neutral. The issue of Scottish secession is one for the English and the Scots to settle between themselves. Why should I, who am neither an Englishman nor a Scots, behave like a damned busybody and stick my nose into something which is none of my business?

Now if only the Globocops would have the decency to do likewise after watching "Kundun" or "The Wind Horse."

China's West is not the American West

One especially disturbing aspect of the Tibet crusade in America is that Hollywood, academia, New Agers and the Washington establishment have drawn patently misleading parallels with American history. These comparisons of European immigrants to Han Chinese, and American Indians to Tibetan Chinese, have led to a grotesque collective misunderstanding.

This dangerously egocentric, even narcissistic way of experiencing the world may get America into deep foreign policy hot water. In fact, it has. When such historically irrelevant parallels are drawn what non-Chinese get is worse than ignorance. What non-Chinese get is the illusion of understanding.

Unfortunately most of what is readily available in English on the web regarding contemporary Tibet is predictable PC orthodoxy. The few rebuttals which are available in English are summarily dismissed by the intellectual orthodoxy as not credible simply because they are posted by Chinese or ethnic Chinese sources and do not support the "correct" conclusions.

Tibet is a region of China. It has been since the 13th century. Obviously one needs to refer to Chinese history and Chinese historians to learn about it. Most of that data is obviously going to be in Chinese. Yet it is only virulently anti-China Tibetan secessionist propaganda written in English which is automatically accorded the status of unassailable truth. The China bashers' attitude reeks of colonialist arrogance.

Far better to not know anything, and retain the humility that accompanies such ignorance, than to imagine that one knows all one needs to know to pass moral judgement and demand military intervention. As the old saw goes, "the problem isn't what people don't know, it's what they know that just ain't so."

Tibetan Chinese are not American Indians

For example, projection of "collective guilt" over the mistreatment of American Indians is with little doubt the psychological root of most pro-Dalai activism. Unfortunately the pro-Dalai faction has confused its own internal psychology with a foreign nation's history. Just because they feel "liberal guilt" about America's Indian minority does not mean that China's history actually conforms to their internal guilt and historical misunderstanding.

This is why so many western sympathizers of Tibetan independence are taken aback, stunned even, when they discover that most Tiananmen pro-democracy leaders do not support, and in fact vehemently oppose Tibetan and Taiwan independence. The sympathizers' projection has been so extensive that they are trapped in a "virtual reality" of their own making.

The relationship between majority Han-Chinese and minority Tibetan-Chinese does not historically parallel that of European-Americans and Native Americans. The territory of modern China includes Tibet not because "the Han-Chinese conquered Tibetan-Chinese" the way European-Americans conquered American Indians and Hawaiians. (E.g., "Dances with Wolves")

Instead both Tibetans and Hans were conquered by the Mongols under the leadership of Genghis Khan and grandson Kublai Khan in the 13th century. Tibet's Lamaist theocracy colluded with the great Mongol Khans, helping them conquer and later administer predominantly Han territory. When the Mongol or Yuan Dynasty collapsed a century later, it was supplanted by a Han dominated Ming Dynasty, which inherited jurisdiction over the Mongol empire, including the Tibetan region. This is how Tibet, and of course Mongolia, became part of China.

Those who insist on "victim-victimizer" dichotomies might be tempted on leap to yet another equally simplistic conclusion, that "both Tibetans and Hans were victims of Mongol aggression." This ignores the fact that both "victims" and "victimizers" subsequently intermarried extensively, not under duress, but of their own volition, rendering the issue of victimization moot and irrelevant.

The bottom line is that Tibet was not "invaded" or "annexed" by China in 1959. Because by then the Tibetan region had been part of China for seven centuries, five centuries longer than these United States of America have even been in existence. One does not "invade" or "annex" what is already one's own territory. Beijing dispatched troops to prevent secession by the serf-owing elite which objected to the abolition of slavery, not to implement annexation. Hardly the same thing.

One can argue the merits or demerits of secession, but that is another issue entirely. Rather than debate the issue honestly however, the Dalai Lama and his Hollywood camp followers prefer to lie about history. They are counting on popular ignorance of the details about exotic and distant Cathay and Shangri-la, calculating that the general public will believe whatever is fed them if it is presented in a convenient and satisfying Manichean "good versus evil" framework.

Reds, not Red Herrings

The false equation of Tibetan-Chinese with American Indian has predictably led to the false attribution of racist motivations to Beijing's abolition of serfdom and crushing of Tibetan secession. Beijing's Tibet policies are being falsely equated with everything from Nazi genocide of Jews to Nato's allegations of Serbian "ethnic cleansing."

If one is determined to force the Chinese experience into an American mold, one could perhaps equate the militarily powerful Mongols with one of the aggressive, nomadic tribes such as the Comanche, and Tibetans and Hans with less aggressive, agrarian tribes such as the Hopi or Navahoe. The point is that all of China's major ethnic subcultures are native Chinese, including so-called Hans.

Now that communism is dead, sympathizers of the Dalai Lama, many of whom were sympathizers of Mao Zedong, seem to have forgotten what communism was all about. Communism was a political ideology obsessed with economic equality. Communism adjudged who was good and who was bad on the basis of its fatally flawed economic theory. To communist true believers the relevant question was to which economic class do you belong. Are you a capitalist victimizer or a proletarian victim? Ethnicity to communism was always irrelevant.

The Chinese Communists were no exception. They committed their atrocities because they were fanatical radical egalitarians, "coercive egalitarians." The Lamaist theocracy was targeted because it engaged in the economic exploitation of Tibet's serfs.

When Red Guards vandalized monasteries in Tibet they were doing precisely the same thing to Zen Buddhist monasteries, Taoist monasteries, Christian churches, Jewish synagogues all over the rest of China. They were not doing anything so narrowly parochial as singling out the Tibetan subculture for "cultural genocide." Rather they were motivated by disgust for what they perceived as vestiges of unjust economic systems throughout China.

The Dalai Lama's allegation that Chinese Communist violence against Tibet's serf-owning elite was racially motivated ethnic cleansing is a red herring. Chinese Communists deserved condemnation because they were coercive egalitarians. Chinese Communists were never racist.

If this be Genocide, make the most of it

In fact if the Chinese Communists had really been racially motivated, they could have deliberately and cynically left Tibet's Ancien Regime in place. Traditional Tibet's theocracy imposed a policy of "er xuan yi" (from two choose one) and "san xuan er" (from three choose two) on the Tibetan people. They dragooned enormous numbers of hapless Tibetan boys into the priesthood, where they would remain celibate for life. This draconian policy resulted in an alarming decline in Tibet's population in recent centuries.

Adherence to a religious practice of strict celibacy led to the eventual extinction of the Shaker sect in America. Chinese Communist Party failure to intervene in China's Tibetan region would have, by default, abetted a similar process of Tibetan self-extinction. CCP intervention has instead led to a population increase. Beijing emerges an unlikely hero in this respect. Yet Beijing is ritually and reflexively accused by self-styled do-gooders of "genocide," both "cultural" and racial. Ironies abound.

Genghis Khan and William of Normandy

The fifty-six officially acknowledged ethnic groups in China, including but not limited to Tibetan-Chinese, Moslem-Chinese, Mongolian-Chinese, Manchurian-Chinese, and Han-Chinese, would be more instructively compared with certain ethnic groups in the west and not others. The relationship between Mongolian-Chinese and Han-Chinese, and Manchurian-Chinese and Han-Chinese in particular, parallels that between English of Norman descent and English of Saxon descent following the Norman Conquest.

What made me think of this was a corny old Hollywood movie which I had seen before, but which just ran again on cable here in Taipei -- "The Black Rose," 1950, starring Tyrone Power, Jack Hawkins and Michael Rennie.

The Black Rose

... The hero, Walter of Gurney (Tyrone Power) is the illegitimate son of a Saxon Lord denied his inheritance and birthright by the Norman King Edward (Michael Rennie.) Embittered, Gurney abandons England, which he feels is no longer his country and journeys to the middle-east, joining Kublai Khan's army which is about to invade China. He meets the title character "The Black Rose" who is not a flower, but a woman named Maryam, a teenager played by an 18 year old actress who didn't look a day over 13. Tyrone Power and sidekick Jack Hawkins rescue her from life as a concubine in Kublai Khan's harem. She falls in love with the hero and a typically chauvinistic 1950's type relationship follows in which he treats her like a mere "wench."

At the beginning of the film the Tyrone Power character vows undying enmity for intolerable Saxon victimization under Norman rule. By the end of the film however he is reconciled to a future in which Saxons and Normans live together in peace. What is intriguing to me is how the events in Britain and China occurred at very nearly the same time, the 12th century, making the Marco Polo-ish linkage chronologically consistent and unintentionally underscoring the parallelism, at least for me.

The aspect of the film that intrigued me was not the pyscho-sexual "Lolita" subplot, but the Norman-ruled Britain parallel to Mongol-ruled China. Let me stress that the historical parallel with China was not something the filmmakers intended, but merely a connection I made in my own mind.

Normans and Saxons, Mongols and Hans

Both settings are virtually cliches in swashbuckler action adventure movies. Just as "The Black Rose" and countless Robin Hood related tales center on the conflict between Norman conquerors and Saxon conquered, so countless Taiwan and Hongkong swordfight swashbucklers set in the Southern Sung dynasty and late Ming dynasty deal with Mongol and Manchu conquerors and Han conquered.

Just as these once powerful animosities are "ancient history" in modern Britain, so they are in modern China. Is there any Anglo-Saxon Englishman alive today who actually nurses animosity toward "Normans" for the Battle of Hastings? Is there any "Han" Chinese (good luck finding a "pure" Han Chinese by the way) alive today who actually nurses animosity toward "Mongols" or "Manchus" for the fall of the Sung and Ming dynasties?

Remember the British commander during the Gulf War? He was Sir General Peter de la Billiere. Remember the writer/director of the Emmy award winning British mini-series "Prime Suspect"? She was Lynda LaPlante. Do westerners agitating for Tibetan/Uyghur/Mongolian independence realize why these prominent British subjects have French names?

Remember the pajamas clad student leader of the Tiananmen protest movement who demanded and got a conference with Li Peng? He was Wu Er Kai Xi, a Uyghur. Do westerners agitating for Tibetan/Uyghur/Mongolian independence realize why he and millions of Chinese have Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongolian names?

Americans and Europeans who know nothing of Chinese history, yet shrilly demand that Tibet, Xinjiang, or Mongolia be carved out of China, do not realize how crazy and laughable their demands are. Imagine modern day Chinese wringing their hands and criticizing Britain for imposing the Anglo-Saxon tongue on Englishmen of Norman-descent, characterizing that as "cultural genocide?" Should Englishmen with Norman surnames secede from England? Crazy? Laughable? You bet. If only they knew how crazy and laughable.

The animosities between Normans and Saxons were quite powerful at the time, as they were between Mongol and Han and Manchu and Han. Yet Normans and Saxons did not form separate kingdoms, nor did Mongol, Manchu and Han. If putting behind historical grievances and intermarrying was possible and desirable for Normans and Saxons in Britain, why do western acolytes of the Dalai Lama deem the identical process of reconciliation and integration undesirable for Hans and Tibetans in China? Their sanctimony is both historically ignorant and morally inconsistent. If their folly weren't so widespread, and hence, destructive, it wouldn't even deserve the time and effort needed to rebut it.

America was not the World's only Melting Pot

Modern China looks ethnically homogeneous not because of "Aryan racial purity," but because of millennia of what Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis denounce as "mongrelization of the races." China ranks among the most "mongrelized" nations in the world. Even China's so-called "Han" majority is in fact comprised of numerous Asiatic tribes which began intermarrying as early as the Shang dynasty.

Jews who emigrated to Kaifeng one thousand years ago are so thoroughly assimilated they are indistinguishable from "native" Chinese. Jews in Europe and even America remain physically distinct due to incomplete assimilation.

Tibet is part of China. Get over it

Tenzing Gyatso, aka the Dalai Lama, rather than rejecting his identity as a Tibetan-Chinese and demanding Tibetan racial purity along the lines of his Nazi mentor, SS Captain Heinrich Harrer, should instruct his band of reactionary theocrats huddled in Dharamsala to forsake their quixotic dream of "restoring" a "Shangri-la" that never existed, return to Lhasa, and shoulder to shoulder with fellow Chinese, help illiterate serfs they once exploited become the Andy Groves and Bill Gates of the 21st century.

China Threat theorists, meanwhile, should get over their obsession with "dividing and conquering" China. Their insistence on seeing the Chinese people not as fellow human beings, but as an insidious "Yellow Peril" to be exterminated, merely reveals their own paranoia and racial bigotry.

Appendix: William the Conqueror

See: William the Conqueror


William (as invaders go) was a bit of a lad quite accomplished in warfare, conquest and other kingly activities. He came from France (Normandy) and was a Norman but rather confusingly the term Norman means "men from the North" and they were originally Scandinavian. The irony here is that when he stomped all over England he was at least in part in conflict with earlier Scandinavian invaders such as the Vikings. It's a funny old world!

Bill was not altogether a nice guy. After he had invaded England he got a bit miffed when the North refused to accept his dominion. Being a touch peeved he sent forth an army to subdue the rebels with instructions to "lay waste" the land from roughly York to Newcastle. Farms were to be burnt and everyone killed, man, woman and child. They did a pretty good job the legacy of which shaped the region for centuries to come (but hey this is just a personal observation).

byname WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR, or THE BASTARD, or WILLIAM OF NORMANDY, French GUILLAUME LE CONQUERANT, or LE BATARD, or GUILLAUME DE NORMANDIE (b. c. 1028, Falaise, Normandy--d. Sept. 9, 1087, Rouen), duke of Normandy (as William II) from 1035 and king of England from 1066, one of the greatest soldiers and rulers of the Middle Ages. He made himself the mightiest feudal lord in France and then changed the course of England's history by his conquest of that country.

Effects of the Conquest

The effects of the Conquest were numerous and ran deep. One of the most immediate and most serious was the almost complete transfer of power at the top of society from Saxon to Norman hands.

William consistently sought ways and excuses to remove Saxons from power, but the Saxons themselves were most obliging. Many went into exile. Many were killed in the invasion and later rebellions. Many more were simply dispossessed. By 1086, 80% of the fiefs were in Norman hands (some held by Flemings and Bretons).

William brought with him the centralizing tendencies and techniques he had followed in Normandy. William as king held one-fifth of all land in England; this was a far greater estate than held by any French king. A quarter was held by the Church. Half the fiefs belonged to Norman lords, but their holdings were scattered rather than concentrated, so they could never become rivals to royal power. William was quite careful about this--he did not want to create another Earl of Wessex to rival the king.

One element in William's control of England was a military innovation he brought with him from France: stone castles. England had few, if any, stone castles before the Conqueror. After him, the landscape was transformed: 84 built by 1100. These castles were always given to Norman lords and many were built in areas prone to rebellion. The castles were all but impregnable and served as Norman anchors in a Saxon sea.

A long-term change was the change of language. The Normans spoke French, and French now became the language of government and the nobility. It remained so until the 15thc. Henry II, Richard the Lion-Hearted, even Edward Longshanks, all spoke French. Language was a barrier and a divide between the Norman lords and their Saxon subjects.

The Robin Hood legend has strong echoes of the division. Remember, all the bad guys in the legend are Normans, while all the good guys are Saxons. Never mind that the ultimate hero is Richard Lion-Heart, whose father was born in Anjou; the legend is filled with anachronisms, like any good legend. But the antagonism between Norman and Saxon in the Robin Hood stories reflected a real one that lasted long after the death of the Conqueror.

History of Western Civilization
Dr. E. L. Skip Knox
Boise State University

Wednesday, December 01, 1999

Inside Taiwan's Political Scene

Inside Taiwan's Political Scene
The 1999 Taipei Mayoral Election, a Personal Retrospective
Bevin Chu
December 01, 1999

Well, the much publicized "Three in One" elections in Taiwan are finally over. I campaigned for New Party (NP) candidate, Wang Chien-hsuan for Mayor of Taipei. Wang was acknowledged to be by far the best qualified man in a hotly contested three way race, even by rival campaign strategists from the far larger Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Asia Money And Finance voted Wang the "best Finance Minister in Asia" in 1992. Yet it was clear from the start that given Taiwan's current political climate, Wang had only "a Chinaman's chance" of emerging victorious.

Instead, the second best man, the KMT's Ma Ying-jeou won. Ma's not a bad guy, even if he is an attorney -- a Harvard Law School Juris Doctor. (Just kidding.) Frankly, I was relieved that NP votes of conscience for Wang didn't lead to Ma's loss. Three fourths of the NP's membership, after painful soul-searching, crossed party lines to ensure Ma's victory, or perhaps more accurately, to ensure that the worst candidate by far, the DPP's Chen Shui-bian lost.

Wang and Ma are acknowledged to be among the few clean public officials on this corrupt island. Even the separatist DPP does not deny that both men are above reproach. In fact, the two men orignally lost their powerful appointed offices because they were too good at their jobs.

While Wang was Finance Minister he did too good a job of cleaning up Taiwan's corrupt banking practices. When he went after financial institutions with ties to Lee's KMT political machine, "Mr. Democracy" wasted no time handing him his walking papers. Similarly, while Ma was Justice Minister he did too good a job of "shao hei" or "sweeping out darkness," i.e., prosecuting triad members. When Ma netted several crime bosses who were Lee's cronies, Lee unceremoniously canned him. Wang, a devout Christian, retired to preach the gospel. Ma went back to teaching law. Until they were each recently drafted by their own parties to run for mayor.

Ma was born in Hongkong of mainland refugee parents. He opposes independence, but hasn't been ballsy enough to draw a line in the sand between himself and Lee, who is KMT Party Chairman and whose support he needed to field his candidacy, even after Lee screwed him over. That made NP members slightly wary of supporting him. For his part, Lee endorsed Ma's candidacy extremely reluctantly, after months of foot-dragging and searching for a "better" alternative. "Better" meaning someone in his own party who could beat Chen but who also favored separatism. Alas, he couldn't find anyone. No surprise. Everyone knows that in the ROC's current political landscape, no one else in the KMT has the charisma to beat Chen. The women voters on Taiwan love Ma. He looks like a leading man from a HK movie. Year after year he wins "Sexiest Man Alive" type awards in questionnaires conducted by local glossy womens' magazines.

The only other A List player in the KMT is highly popular former Governor James Soong, a "mainlander" who speaks three of the major dialects on the island, Mandarin, Ming Nan, and Hakka. A real "man of the people" and vote-getter. But Lee stabbed Soong in the back when Lee shredded the ROC Constitution and poof, the Taiwan Provincial Government along with Soong's democratically elected office as Governor of Taiwan vanished. Just like that. Ironically Lee would never have risen to power had Soong not stood by him loyally, and in retrospect, foolishly, during a critical power struggle following the death of Chiang Ching-kuo. Lee once declared that "the two people I love most are my granddaughter and James Soong." Where Lee's wife fit into this lovefest remains anybody's guess. But that was then, this is now. Lee and Soong are barely speaking to each other. So much for undying love among politicians. Lee could not and would not nominate Soong. He settled for Ma.

The elimination of Taiwan's provincial status was instigated by the DPP and carried out in cahoots with Lee's so-called Mainstream Faction of the KMT. This faction consists of Lee and his contemptible yes men, some of whom secretly disagree with his separatism, but all of whom cling to his power base for their own self-aggrandizement.

When Lee Teng-hui decided the Taiwan Provincial Government had to go because its mere existence constituted prima facie evidence Taiwan was part of China, the National Assembly stood in his way. What did "Mr. Democracy" do? With the collusion of the DPP Lee ordered closed circuit TV cameras installed inside the National Assembly hall to record who voted "the wrong way." He ordered illegal wiretaps of recalcitrant assemblymen, even his own party's. He sicced Taiwan's IRS onto holdouts with guerrilla tax audits. He arranged for triad hoodlums to phone undecided assemblymen to inquire "Do you know where your children are?" He persuaded parents and kin of Assembly members to threaten to disown or shun them.

Finally, as a capper, Lee nullified all village level elections. Thousands of popularly elected officials have since become Lee's personal appointees. On the other hand, the directly elected and immensely popular Governor James Soong, is out of a job. The ballots of millions of ROC citizens, "native" and "mainlander" alike were swept into the trashcan like so much waste paper.

Soong opposes separatism, and has been tenatively endorsed by the New Party as presidential candidate in 2000. The NP is the closest thing to the USA's Libertarian Party (LP) on this island. Not surprisingly, it's the smallest of the three major parties. On the plus side, it is much larger in proportion to the ROC's population than the LP is to the USA's.

Other New Party supporters like myself who preferred Wang voted for Ma, with reservations, to prevent a split vote among the anti-separatist camp. A split vote is exactly what happened four years ago, when Chen Shui-bian got into city hall with a plurality. This was akin to when Perot caused Bush to lose to Clinton. New Party supporters vowed, not this time. Anything but a second term for the Taiwan "independence" movement's rising star. They bit the bullet and voted for Ma.

Immediately after the ballots were counted Ma thanked, and Chen denounced the New Party for casting the crucial swing votes. The election result was comparable to a scenario in which libertarians hold their noses and vote for a moderate Republican to prevent an ultraliberal Democrat from winning. NP members sacrificed their own beloved candidate and party for their nation.

Fortunately Chen Shui-bian, incumbent and Taiwan "independence" rabble-rouser par excellence lost. His defeat is considered a serious setback for separatism, as the Taipei mayorship is considered the springboard for the presidency. Chen now faces serious challenges from more moderate rivals within his own party who propose some sort of accommodation with Beijing and will point to his reckless radicalism as politically unmarketable.

Chen turned out to be a corrupt petty tyrant who has alienated even city council members from his own party. Quite a feat. Those who know Taipei probably have been to the old Wan Hua district. It's a major tourist attraction. Chen went after the legal prostitution trade in the area. Big reformer going to clean up Taipei, right? Wrong. He coordinated the cleanup with major campaign contributor, the Typhone corporation, the Dole Pineapple of Taiwan. Property in a red light district can be had on the cheap. Who wants to live next to a whorehouse? Let me rephrase that. What nice conventional middle-class family would invest in real estate next to a whorehouse? Typhone bought up the surrounding land for ten cents on the dollar. Only then did Chen conduct his sweeps, throwing legal prostitutes into the street, literally. They protested, begged even, for a two year transition period to retrain themselves for other, legal employment. Did Chen relent? Are you kidding? Typhone wanted their windfall profits. Now. Not in two years. Chen and Typhone have "cleaned up" in Wan Hua, all right, though not in the way Taipei citizens had in mind.

Hey, but Chen is merely following in the footsteps of fellow separartist, Newsweek magazine's "Mr. Democracy" Lee Teng-hui, the real master of Asian cronyism and corruption. Lee is implicated in mind-boggling kickbacks from the procurement of warships for the ROC Navy. We are talking billions here. Ying Ching-feng, a naval officer about to blow the whistle on the whole stinking mess a la Watergate's "Deep Throat," was seen being hustled into a car by two men the night before he was to present an audio tape to the media. His body was later discovered floating in the Pacific off the Keelung coast by fishermen.

A special commission went through the motions of investigating for several years before being disbanded, and its members retired quietly overseas. The tactic of "sha ji jing ho" ("kill the rooster to intimidate the monkey") seldom fails. Ying's widow and 22 million people on Taiwan know the case will never even be investigated, let alone solved, as long as Lee is in power. So perhaps I can be forgiven for wanting to puke when I have to listen to the jingoist hawks at the New Republic and the Weekly Standard prattle on about how America has a solemn obligation to defend Taiwan's "maturing democracy."

About a month ago Chen announced that he was "taking a vacation" from his job as mayor "so he could devote full time to campaigning for reelection." He ignored protests from the City Council that they were smack in the middle of policy reviews, and just walked away. He then proceeded to misappropriate city funds and resources, including buses to display, free of charge, his re-election posters. Yet his supporters stand by him. This reminds me of Washington, DC, where petty tribalists re-elected Marion Barry merely because he was "one of us." Yes, he was framed by the fibbers, but is that any reason to inflict a crook on oneself? I for one refuse to believe the African-American community has no better candidates than Marion Barry for mayor of America's capitol. I could rattle off a dozen names from the top of my head.

The DPP accuses the NP of being a "mainlanders' party". They allege that the NP is elitist and looks down its nose at "native" Taiwanese. Let's look at the facts. Over two thirds of the NP's elected officials are Minnan Taiwanese. Less than one third were born on the other side of the Strait. I supported a highly qualified Minnan NP candidate named Lai Shi-bao. He won. I cheered. As is always the case with me, my support was based on ideology, not ethnicity.

The DPP on the other hand, fielded 50 officials last election, not one of them a "mainlander." The DPP was cofounded by a pro-democracy, anti Chiang Kai-shek mainlander who was forced out immediately after. Wang noted that if the DPP had forsaken its strident separatism and virulent hatred of "Chinese Pigs" it would have displaced the KMT as the ruling party on Taiwan years ago.

The victorious Ma must not permit a wrong take on the so-called "New Taiwanese" identity slogan which helped him to garner enough middle of the road Minnan votes to win, or else his win could be worse than a DPP win. It could lend a moderate, seductive human face to incremental alienation from the mainland. He must do the right thing. He must not imply that while harmony among Chinese residing in Taiwan is indispensible, that harmony across the Taiwan Straits is not equally indispensible. He must not imply that "New Taiwanese" are not also Chinese. He must, however cautiously, acknowledge that he is also a "New Chinese". If he has the will, he will find a way. He can work with the Reform Faction of the KMT and with the NP for gradual reunification, a la Germany and Korea. It's up to him.

My father, a retired high-ranking diplomat with 40 years experience in the Taiwan government, says Ma, having been democratically elected, with his own independent power base in Taipei, will now be able to thumb his nose at Lee. Lee must step down as KMT Party Chairman in 2000. After that he will have no more power than George Bush. Nil. I am skeptical, but guardedly optimistic. Time will tell.

I can't help but think of Mel Gibson's film, Braveheart. Wang, like Braveheart, tells it like it is. He runs a campaign so clean and so consistent I've never even seen any Democrat or Republican in America run as principled a campaign. Only LP candidates have lived up the kind of example Wang set for Taiwan. Naturally he gets martyred. Ma is like Robert the Bruce. He compromises, bides his time, even when his heart screams out to him: Stand up for Braveheart! In the movie Scotland is saved. Hopefully Ma/Robert the Bruce's realpolitik will not backfire in Taiwan, and will lead to a happy Hollywood ending.

I hope this gives the political scene on Taiwan a human face. The Washington Post, CNN, Time, Newsweek have all done a sorry job of laying out the complex three way power struggle between the KMT, DPP and NP. Only Singapore's Straits Times has gotten the Taiwan scene consistently right.