Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Riots in Tibet

By Heiko Khoo
Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Faced with riots and bloodshed in Tibet, the Chinese government responded by casting the blame on the Dalai Lama and the campaign by Tibetan exiles to raise the Tibet issue internationally, in advance of the Olympic Games. Undoubtedly the Dalai Lama, with his followers and friends, have an interest in using these events to exert political pressure on Beijing in the media spotlight, but that alone cannot explain what is happening in Tibet today.

Tibet Autonomous Region

Chinese reporters at the Xinhua news agency reported the scene in Lhasa:

"Dense smoke blanketed the cloud dotted blue sky, burning wreckages emitted an irritating smell and hundreds wailed over the bloodshed.

"Vandals carrying backpacks filled with stones and bottles of inflammable liquids smashed windows, set fire to vehicles, shops and restaurants along their path."

Friday March 14th in Lhasa is described as

"a day when the capital was left in chaos after an outburst of beating, smashing, looting and burning, which officials say, on ample evidence, was ‘masterminded by the Dalai clique'."

Although the attacks on people and property had no political content, they were sparked off by monks' protests on March 10th. According to the Peoples' Daily 300 monks from Zhaibung Monastery confronted security forces and provoked physical clashes. Onlookers then took up the torch and mobs

"set off on a destruction rampage and spared nothing and nobody on their way. Rioters set fire to buildings, torched dozens of police cars and private vehicles and looted banks, schools and shops. Innocent civilians were stabbed, stoned and scourged. At least 10 died, mostly from burns."

All reports of the violence speak of youths in their 20s being involved in the rampage. A Muslim steamed bun shop owner, who was stabbed, reported that several vandals broke into his shop in the tourist zone. "They came to beat us directly and we didn't dare put up any resistance, only begging," he said, "I know some of them. They were nice people before."

The explanation offered by the national and local Communist Party is hollow, although the spark for the riots and bloodshed was the monks' and the Dalai Lama's campaign; the cause of the riots was something totally different. Tibet has seen an influx of Chinese businesses; the wealth accumulated all over China by the newly rich has opened opportunities for investments large and small. Those who fail to benefit are the Tibetan unemployed and migrant workers from the villages.

In the state sector in Tibet, where employment opportunities are booming, Tibetan nationals are unlikely to get the jobs. They are easily out-skilled by the vast pool of potential recruits from every corner of China, thus fostering nationalist resentment.

The ‘average wage' in China represents the earnings of a specific group of employed people in China, known as 'staff and workers', including layers of public employees from upper-ranking cadres down to workers in public utilities or state-owned factories. It therefore excludes migrant workers or workers in small factories or workplaces.

The ‘average wage' in China's cities as a whole is 14,000 Yuan a year, (US$1800) but wages in Tibet are nearly double the average, higher than in Shanghai and second only to Beijing. State sector employment accounts for nearly 94 percent of employment in Tibet as opposed to 66 percent in China's cities on average.

The problem is that such relatively well-paid state employment is disproportionately allocated to people of ethnic Chinese backgrounds. Higher wages are justified on the basis that living in Tibet takes you far from family and friends and often causes serious health problems due to the effects of high altitude. Tibetans, whose skills are generally lower than the ethnic Chinese migrants, look on them as a deliberately privileged layer.

Alongside the influx of state employees, engaged in administration and infrastructure projects, has come an influx of ethnic Chinese traders and to a lesser extent Hui Muslims, whose businesses thrive on the high spending power of state employees and tourists. Their nationwide networks mean Tibetans can't compete with them. The boom in Tibet has encouraged all manner of migrant entrepreneurs to open shop, including beggars' rackets and sex workers. Tibetans often think they too are subsidized by Beijing. Thus it is easy to see wherein the roots of ethnic discontent lie.

All over China the wage levels of workers have not risen in line with the economic boom. Under pressure from the army of migrant workers and the rapaciousness of private sector employers, wages for many have been frozen. According to the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) 26% of China's workers have not received a pay rise for five years despite the economy growing at an average of 10.6%. Profits have been boosted not only by new machinery and work methods but also by holding down wages. The ratio of overall labour costs to GDP has fallen from 53.4 percent in 1990 to only 41.4 percent in 2005.

Officials in Lhasa and Beijing, claim that the ‘Dalai clique', "organized, premeditated and masterminded" the bloody riots and discontent of young Tibetans. This claim is pure foolishness! It is the growing income and opportunity disparities that foster explosions of discontent, here in an ethnic riot or a labour conflict, there in a peasant revolt. It is almost comical, that with absurd income disparities fuelling the anger of tens of millions, the slogan of "build a harmonious society" should have become the Party mantra.

A genuine Communist, i.e. Marxist, policy would sensitively and harmoniously develop the nation and its minority regions on the basis of a democratically planned economy. Instead of this the leadership of the Communist Party of China pursues a bureaucratic plan to open up Tibet to the market.

The riots are not simply a plot by the ‘Dalai Clique'. Although it is clear that the major Western imperialist powers have an interest in weakening China and will exploit the discontent of the minorities in this vast country. The real, and most direct cause of this conflict is to be found in the policies of pro-capitalist forces in control of the party. This will bear bitter fruit all over the nation. While looking at the burnt out scene in central Lhasa, a Tibetan trader by the name of Rawan told the People's Daily, "It was once a shopping haven, but now it is all deserted, like a hell."

On the road to capitalism disparities of income and investment inevitably stir up regionalism, ethnic and national conflicts, resulting in violence and turmoil. Should Tibet ever successfully break away from China, then, as in the past, it would fall prey to one or other of the imperialist powers, "Tibetan Independence" under capitalism is a pipedream.

A united struggle by the Chinese workers together with the Tibetans and other minority groups against the capitalist transformation of China can lay the basis for a voluntary union of the peoples based on a genuinely democratic plan of production under the control and supervision of the workers and peasants themselves.RENEGADE EYE


Haiti Information Project (HIP) said...

I found this interesting story linking China's role in the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti with the PAP's crackdown in Tibet. I didn't know China is part of the UN mission to Haiti. it also goes a long way towards giving one plausible explanation why Tibetans can't expect much help from the United Nations.

From Haiti to Tibet, China's role in suppressing democracy


Tom Cleland said...

Also I hear weapons in Darfur have been tied back to China.

Frank Partisan said...

KP: Thank you for visiting.

China has become a capitalist country officially, run by the old Stalinists. You might say they went on the long march to capitalism.

Tom: Darfur on one level is the interests of US imperialism against China. The other struggle is the oppressed people of Darfur. Neither the US or China care about them.

I support if they desire, the right to autonomy for Tibet. I certainly wouldn't agree with going back to fiefdom and theocracy.

Noni said...

here we fall out of from our vision..and egar to impose our “imposed modern view” to society which not ready for that kind of change atleast for now …….

if fiefdom and theocracy still formation of time period of tibet now, be it.
And let tibet ruled by tibetan people…..and socialism..democratic exercises will grow from itself……
why to hurry and making unsatisfy ownself by not seeing tibet as socialist states….

Beja Was Here said...

Greetings and thanks.

The same happens all over the world but from my own experience of headlines in Iran; the best way to aver the attention of the average Iranian who swayed between conservative and moderate-to-liberal views was to imply that the rioting/looting/action-of-that-day (which may have disrupted the average Iranian's bread-making day) was because of -insert any political group here that the IRI would like to scapegoat-

and voila, you have an angry but voting peasant who was gradually conditioned to view that said political affiliation in a neutral way now paired with the negatives of rioting and violence, and it's a great way to distract the attention.

Tibetans who rioted are HUMANS who rioted...I can imagine how hard it must be for them...poorest poor living among and seeing their culture and land transitioning into the hands of ethnic Chinese who have more resources than they do.

Frank Partisan said...

I'll comment late tonight.

Frank Partisan said...

Noni: Thank you for visiting.

National asperations don't come from abstarction. If the Tibetans were treated fairly in an autonomous climate, they wouldn't care about a state. The reality is that most Chinese believe things, as they only bath on their wedding night etc.

Beja: The article makes clear, that Chinese have the best jobs.

I think this rebellion is going farther than the Dalai Lama would lead. He is a very compromising person. I read some of his writing, and was surprised at his moderation.

One shouldn't romanticize the days when Tibet was independent. The masses were in slave status, happy because they didn't know anything better.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Ren-Are you serious about the Chinese only bathing on their wedding night? I don't believe that.

As for Tibet, people tend to have the government that suits them best. I don't know that much about the country, but I have an idea their resources are strictly limited.

What do they have to export, for example? How much fertile land is there? Even their tourist potential I would imagine is limited.

I would guess that their greatest and most useful export is, ironically, the Dalai Lama. Also, he is their most valuable resource and all-around asset.

Otherwise, as an independent nation, they have few resources, and as a dependent nation, of China or anyone else, their only use is in providing labor and territory.

It's hard to imagine them either as a successful socialist or as a successful capitalist state, under normal definitions of those terms.

There are some places in the world where time is simply meant to stand still.

Those places have their own peculiar value, in that they provide vital snapshots into the long-ago of human history. I'm not so sure I would be that quick to rock that boat.

What you might call fiefdom and theocracy they probably consider their national heritage and birthright, and by and large they are probably content with it.

Frank Partisan said...

I would support, but not necessarily agree with their right to self determination. Dalai Lama is not leading this struggle, so it's more militant than anything he'd lead. He is for autonomy.

Most Chinese believe things as they only bathe on their wedding night.

What you might call fiefdom and theocracy they probably consider their national heritage and birthright, and by and large they are probably content with it.

Most of the histories say they were happy slaves because, "they knew no other way." That was the way books in the 1940s were written. Even Dalai Lama has given up on going back.

It looks like Pelosi just discovered Tibet.

zabel said...

Tom: Darfur on one level is the interests of US imperialism against China. The other struggle is the oppressed people of Darfur. Neither the US or China care about them.

Renegade, that comment interests me. The first part, I mean, as "interests of US imperialism" is not the first thing that comes to one's mind when one ponders Darfur. Obviously nobody cares about Darfur other than a few NGOs futilely trying to put pressure on governments with real power.

(One, whose mailing list I'm on, is apparently being hacked into by the Chinese)

Frank Partisan said...

Hydralisk: China against France, Israel and the US in Darfur is one issue, while Sudan and the war with Darfur rebels, is another issue.

Between the imperialist powers I'm neutral. Otherwise I think Darfur should be supported.

Unknown said...

"As for Tibet, people tend to have the government that suits them best. I don't know that much about the country, but I have an idea their resources are strictly limited."

Yeah, that's a real progressive attitude you got!

Fuck the Dalai Lama. Hopefully the people of Tibet will wake up and realise what a phony he is and strike out for self-determination, self-rule and self-management. No more ruling classes.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Daniel Owen-

I am not a "progressive". I might advise you though, you won't make much of a positive impact with the Tibetan people with an attitude of "fuck the Dalai Lama". FYI I think they kinda like the guy. They also tend to love and respect their monks, each one of who harbors the wish that he might be the next Dalai Lama. One of them eventually will be.

Now, if you want to do away with that evil "class system", then you should know that the Chinese seem to have the right idea. What they are doing there is about the only way you could ever crack that nut.

But really, why would you want to? I understand the Chinese perspective. They want the territory. It's as much strategic to them as anything. Tibet borders India, with whom China has had problems over the years, including a war. Otherwise, they probably wouldn't bother with Tibet. What resources Tibet has is probably negligible from a Chinese perspective, but of course while they are there they are going to utilize them to what extent they are able.

In the meantime, they have the Tibetans to contend with, and those nasty "subversive" monks are standing in their way.

So, if you believe in freedom, and you believe in the right of Tibetans to self-determination, then you have limited options. A socialist, "progressive" state, independent of the Chinese, is quite simply not an option.

I can almost promise you that if Tibet returned to the system they had for thousands of years, you would find very few Tibetans who would, given the means and opportunity, be willing to immigrate to the nearest socialist haven, or for that matter to any capitalist one.

If they are happy with that system, why should you care? Why should anyone else care? I get that you think they are ignorant and don't know any better, but really, how are you going to go about teaching them better? Are you going to force feed them this teaching? What if they don't want your input? What if they listen politely and then tell you to get lost? Then what?

Unknown said...

China is not, and has never been, a socialist country.

Frank Partisan said...

China was a deformed worker's state, or a Bonapartist worker's state. It had a priviledgd leadership. It was not real socialism, but not a capitalist state.

I think Tibet has the right to self determination, it would be smartest to have autonomy within China.

SecondComingOfBast said...

China, or the PRC, strikes me as being originally more of an agrarian and feudalistic society than anything, minus the monarchical pretensions. Now they have become more capitalistic, but their capitalism is probably strictly limited to a privileged class, though an expanding one.

I wasn't talking about their brand of socialism, I was referring to their apparent attempts to subvert the class system and culture of Tibet.

The Tibetans obviously view them as unwelcome and unwanted intruders, and they need to leave.

Frank Partisan said...

Because of the industrialization going on, a real proletriat is being created. That would play a basis for less corruption than the previous revolution.

In China there are groups formed around the ideas of Chen Duxiu, who was an authentic revolutionary leader in China who fought Stalin.

SecondComingOfBast said...

I doubt they will get very far. China has always had a heavy-handed system of government, and will probably always remain mostly agrarian. One and a half billion people is a lot of mouths to feed, and requires strict controls on agrarian production. Accumulation of capitol by means of industrialization will be more pronounced over the years, but this will lead to a growing though limited middle class that will either anchor itself into the system as it is, or in some cases will emigrate away from the country.

You will see the Chinese leaders and elites embrace the Falon Gong before you will see them make accommodations to any kind of truly revolutionary political ideals.

Foxessa said...

For quite a long time already, China has been doing as excellent a job of plundering Africa of her natural resources as any other so-called fully developed nation. Nor does China even bother with the pretense of exchanging help and assistence for development of these African regions for their resources. China says it does not interfere with the internal affairs of these nations. What they do is pay off the Big Men Kleptocrats and that's that.

Love, C.

Frank Partisan said...

Pagan: I agree with Lenin, that the national question is ultimately one of bread. If the Chinese treated the Tibetans fairly, they wouldn't think about nation building.

Foxessa: Kleptocrats is a word that disguises the normal workings of capitalism.

Larry Gambone said...

It would be interesting to read your evaluation of the revolutionary potential of China. I know there are a number of socialist tendencies there - repressed by the state, of course.

Frank Partisan said...

Larry: I think Pagan will agree, that the support for Tibet is based on embarassing China, rather than caring about their statehood.

China is creating an actual industrial proletariat, so a revolutionary situation will be less corruption. Mao wasn't even a fighter for peasantry. His involvement with peasant or worker issues, only happened after pressure from the communist international. he was expelled several times, only to have Stalin save him.

SecondComingOfBast said...

I agree that western political leaders are engaged in an attempt to embarrass China, while most people outside political circles (what ones that even care about the issue) are reacting for the most part out of fear of China. There are those of us, however, that just want the Tibetans to be left alone to pursue their own destinies in whatever way they choose.

I admit a part of me hopes they adhere to their ancient cultures and traditions. I like the idea of preservations of those windows to the past. However, it should be up to them to go whatever way they choose. No one else should get a vote, as they say.

One of my biggest problems with socialism is a strong dislike of internationalism. There are other things as well, but this is the main sticking point in regards to Tibet and the Chinese incursions there. I would feel just as strongly opposed to American capitalists running roughshod over the country insisting on western style democracy.

Frank Partisan said...

Pagan: I will have to post about the immigration soon. That issue is your Achilles Heel.

SecondComingOfBast said...

I'm not against legal immigration in limited amounts, as long as it is strictly regulated. That's the only reason a lot of Republicans are against it, because they hate regulations, and because they want to take advantage of cheap labor. Democrats are just engaged in an obvious voting registration scheme.

I don't see it as an Achilles Heel, unless you're referring to my tendency to get worked up over the issue.

Look at it this way. Massive immigration is a brain drain on the countries of origin. It is less in their overall interests for people to leave than it is for the US elites who take advantage of the people coming here.

I would prefer people build their own countries up, and their economies and institutions. People leaving their countries in massive amounts makes that difficult, if not impossible.

Mexico is a sterling example of a country with vast reservoirs of natural resources, which could be developed greatly if all Mexicans had access to the opportunity to better their lives. Instead, masses of them flock here because there is no opportunity for them there.

The end result is a drain on US resources, and stagnant at best conditions in Mexico, the leaders of who have no desire or impetus to change their system.

It's a win-win for the corrupt Mexican government. They get rid of their more problematic citizens-not only much of the criminal element, but also the ones who would be most likely to insist on change-while simultaneously keeping an iron grip on their country's wealth and natural resources.

As long as things are permitted to go on like it has been they will never change. Hell, why should they? They are having their cake and eating it too.

Larry Gambone said...

Increased Mexican immigration is directly linked to NAFTA and the damage that, and other neoliberal policies have done to the peasants. But I like the idea of increased Mexican immigration to the US - it lessens the number of Stupid White Men and hopefully will allow the Mexican people to take back the land stolen from them in 1848.

Foxessa said...

Ren -- I disagree that "Kleptocracy" as it is used to designate the 'owners' of the African states is another word for capitalism.

There is no investment of any kind of the wealth that the kleptocrats grab. It goes to shore up their personal regimes and families, and that's it.

Unless what you mean here is that this is the final, decadent form -- or the first, infantile form -- which are basically one and the same -- of capitalism, i.e. what is essentially warlordism or the mafia?

Love, C.

Una said...

The only ideology that sends in the world is that of the rulers dinero.Los disguise this reality paper candy so that we can see it pretty, but it has always been so, there has always been a class leader and the rest run. The ruling classes could be emperors, zares, kings, nobility of any kind or theocrats or gerontócratas.
Now make us believe that it is the people who govern through their representatives, but none of them is free to govern, are in the hands of many vested interests, this is so rich in the world, the poor or the exploited is always the same story: the law of the strongest. They come here most powerful countries with its workforce poorly paid or taking their natural and mineral Resources, with wit and contracts trampa.Todos want take responsibility for our homes, we like anyone that the neighbor told how we live, why if they can not understand the great powers, which should not get into the homes of neighbors or the poor? Why not practicing fair trade? By greed, always wanting to be the first.
I am using a translator google and I do not know if it will make sense what I have written

Larry Gambone said...

No hay problemo, yo comprendo Ustd ingles Google! Salud!

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