The Hypocrisy and Danger of Anti-China Demonstrations
By Floyd Rudmin
Global Research, April 18, 2008
We hear that Tibetans suffer “demographic aggression” and “cultural genocide”. But we do not hear those terms applied to Spanish and French policies toward the Basque minority. We do not hear those terms applied to the US annexation of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1898. And Diego Garcia? In 1973, not so long ago, the UK forcibly deported the entire native Chagossian population from the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. People were allowed one suitcase of clothing. Nothing else. Family pets were gassed, then cremated. Complete ethnic cleansing. Complete cultural destruction. Why? In order to build a big US air base. It has been used to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq, and soon maybe to bomb Iran and Pakistan. Diego Garcia, with nobody there but Brits and Americans, is also a perfect place for rendition, torture and other illegal actions.
When the Olympics come to London in 2012, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu will certainly lead the demonstrators protesting the “demographic aggression” and “cultural genocide” in Diego Garcia. The UN Secretary General, the President of France, the Chancellor of Germany, the new US President and the entire US Congress will certainly boycott the opening ceremonies.
The height of hypocrisy is this moral posturing about 100 dead in race riots in Lhasa, while the USA, UK and more than 40 nations in the Coalition of the Willing wage a war of aggression against Iraq. This is not “demographic aggression” but raw shock-and-awe aggression. A war crime. A war on civilians, including the intentional destruction of the water and sewage systems, and the electrical grid. More than one million Iraqis are now dead; five million made into refugees. The Western invaders may not be doing “cultural genocide” but they are doing cultural destruction on an immense scale, in the very cradle of Western Civilization. Why is the news filled with demonstrators about Tibet but not about Iraq?
And as everyone knows but few dare say, “demographic aggression” and “cultural genocide” can be applied most accurately to Israel’s settlement policies and systematic destruction of Palestinian communities. On this, the Dalai Lama seems silent. Demonstrators don’t wave flags for bulldozed homes, destroyed orchards, or dead Palestinian children.
The Chinese Context
The Chinese government is responsible for the well-being and security of one-fourth of humanity. Race riots and rebellion cannot be tolerated, not even when done by Buddhist monks.
Chinese Civilization was already old when the Egyptians began building pyramids. But the last 200 years have not gone well, what with two Opium Wars forcing China to import drugs, and Europeans seizing coastal ports as a step to complete colonial control, then the Boxer Rebellion, the collapse of the Manchu Dynasty, civil war, a brutal invasion and occupation by Japan, more civil war, then Communist consolidation and transformation of society, then Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Such events caused tens of millions of people to die. Thus, China’s recent history has good reasons why social order is a higher priority than individual rights. Race riots and rebellion cannot be tolerated.
Considering this context, China’s treatment of its minorities has been exemplary compared to what the Western world has done to its minorities. After thousands of years of Chinese dominance, there still are more than 50 minorities in China. After a few hundred years of European dominance in North and South America, the original minority cultures have been exterminated, damaged, or diminished.
Chinese currency carries five languages: Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uigur, and Zhuang. In comparison, Canadian currency carries English and French, but no Cree or Inuktitut. If the USA were as considerate of ethnic minorities as is China, then the greenback would be written in English, Spanish, Cherokee and Hawaiian.
In China, ethnic minorities begin their primary schooling in their own language, in a school administered by one of their own community. Chinese language instruction is not introduced until age 10 or later. This is in sharp contrast to a history of coerced linguistic assimilation in most Western nations. The Australian government recently apologized to the Aboriginal minority for taking children from their families, forcing them to speak English, beating them if they spoke their mother tongue. China has no need to make such apology to Tibetans or to other minorities.
China’s one-child-policy seems oppressive to Westerners, but it has not applied to minorities, only to the Han Chinese. Tibetans can have as many children as they choose. If Han people have more than one child, they are punished.
There is a similar preference given to minorities when it comes to admission to universities. For example, Tibetan students enter China’s elite Peking University with lower exam scores than Han Chinese students.
China is not a perfect nation, but on matters of minority rights, it has been better than most Western nations. And China achieved this in the historical context of restoring itself and recovering from 200 years of continual crisis and foreign invasion.
National boundaries are not natural. They all arise from history, and all history is disputable. Arguments and evidence can always be found to challenge a boundary. China has long claimed Tibet as part of its territory, though that has been hard to enforce during the past 200 years. The Dalai Lama does not dispute China’s claim to Tibet. The recent race riots in Tibet and the anti-Olympics demonstrations will not cause China to shrink itself and abandon part of its territory. Rioters and demonstrators know that.
Foreign governments promoting Tibet separatism and demonstrators demanding Tibet independence should look closer to home. Canadians can campaign for Québec libre. Americans can support separatists in Puerto Rico, Vermont, Texas, California, Hawaii, Guam, and Alaska. Brits can work for a free Wales, and Scotland for the Scots. French can help free Tahitians, New Caledonians, Corsicans, and the Basques. Spaniards can also back the Basques, or the Catalonians. Italians can help Sicilian separatists or the Northern League. Danes can free the Faeroe Islands. Poles can back Cashubians. Japanese can help Okinawan separatists, and Filipinos can help the Moros. Thai can promote Patanni independence; Indonesians can promote Acehnese independence. New Zealanders can leave the islands to the Maori; Australians can vacate Papua. Sri Lankans can help Tamil separatists; Indians can help Sikh separatists.
Nearly every nation has a separatist movement of some kind. There is no need to go to Tibet, to the top of the world, to promote ethnic separatism. China is not promoting separatism in other nations and does not appreciate other nations promoting separatism in China. The people most oppressed, most needing a nation of their own, are the Palestinians. There is a worthy project to promote and to demonstrate about.
Danger of Demonstrations
These demonstrations do not serve Tibetans, but rather use Tibetans for ulterior motives. Many Tibetans, therefore, oppose these demonstrations. Many Chinese remember their history and see the riots in Lhasa and subsequent demonstrations as another attempt by foreign powers to dismember and weaken China. There is grave danger that Chinese might come to fear Tibetans as traitors, resulting in wide spread anti-Tibetan feelings in China.
Fear that an ethnic minority serves foreign forces caused Canada, during World War 1, to imprison its Ukranian minority in concentration camps. For similar reasons, the Ottomans deported their Armenian minority and killed more than a million in death marches. The German Nazis saw the Jewish minority as traitors who caused defeat in World War 1; hence deportations in the 1930s and death camps in the 1940s. During World War 2, both Canada and the USA feared that their Japanese immigrant minorities were traitorous and deported them to concentration camps. Indonesians fearing their Chinese minority, deported 100,000 in 1959 and killed thousands more in 1965. Israel similarly fears its Arab minority, resulting in deportations and oppression.
Hopefully, the Chinese government and the Chinese people will see Tibetans as victims of foreign powers rather than agents of foreign powers. However, if China reacts like other nations have in history and starts systematic severe repression of Tibetans, then today’s demonstrators should remember their role in causing that to happen.
The demonstrators now disparaging China serve only to distract themselves and others from seeing and correcting the current failings of their own governments. If the demonstrators will take a moment to listen, they will hear the silence of their own hypocrisy.
The consequences of these demonstrations are 1) China will stiffen its resolve to find foreign influences inciting Tibetans to riot, and 2) the governments of the USA, UK, France and other Western nations will have less domestic criticism for a few weeks. That is all. These demonstrations can come to no good end.
In a time when all politicians are crying about too little money to pay for programs, and with an administration racking up the biggest deficits in history (even bigger than the Reagan deficits!), the problem of how to pay for social programs seems insurmountable.
However, there are large amounts of money available. One source would be to cut the military budget by half—still leaving us with the largest military budget of any country in the world (instead of as large as all other countries combined, as at present), and transferring the funds to social programs. That would amount to several hundred billion dollars per year. We could provide for all real defense needs if we weren’t maintaining hundreds of overseas bases, if we weren’t engaging in military adventurism to the tune of billions per year, if we didn’t run military construction on a “cost plus” basis to give super-profits to the military industrial complex.
If we returned the tax rates to the levels in the 1960s, with higher tax rates for the wealthy and corporations, that would raise additional hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
Such steps would be enough to pay for free health care and education for all, and for stepping up many other social programs, and for avoiding the manufactured “Social Security crisis” they keep trying to frighten us with.
None of these steps is revolutionary, just radical reformism—for example, returning to the tax rates of the 1960s wouldn’t cripple the capitalist system, capitalists made plenty of money in the 1960s, it was a boom period, so such tax rates aren’t “confiscatory.” But returning to those rates would solve the current massive budget deficits of the federal, state, and municipal governments.
If we go farther and take revolutionary steps, nationalizing the major industries and finance capital (banks, etc.), the profits, instead of enriching the wealthy, could be used to provide greatly increased benefits for the working class, the large majority of the population, those who in fact create all that wealth.
In other words, we favor progressive tax structures, favor increasing taxes on the wealthy, favor removing the cap on Social Security taxes (bringing in billions more every year and keeping that system financially solvent way past the baby boom retirement years by making the rich pay the same percentages as the rest of us). We oppose both flat rate taxes and sales taxes (except those on luxury goods), as falling heaviest on working families and the poor.
How would free education and free medical care be paid for? Right now, each year billions of dollars go into the pockets of already wealthy capitalists. That’s one source of money to pay for these changes. Right now much of our tax dollars go to making repayments on the national debt, billions of dollars a year, and this is another source of money—if the banks and other financial institutions are nationalized, then the democratic political structure can rationally decide on realistic repayment options and interest rates, freeing up much of this money for public benefits. Another source is that, contrary to the common claim that private business can do everything cheaper, many things can be done more cheaply by government, by pooling resources, by maximizing economies of scale, by eliminating unnecessary paperwork. Before you guffaw, since government right now causes much unnecessary paperwork, let me point to a program that works well. In Washington State, the state provides worker’s compensation benefits—provides the insurance for workplace injuries. Private insurance companies, on top of their profits, run about 20% administrative costs. Since they are banned from operating in the state (except for large employers who can set up their own programs under certain conditions), and the state thus covers everyone, they keep the administrative costs to about 2%! In years when the state’s investments are paying well, the program has actually returned money to the state treasury, since there are no profits and since administrative/paperwork costs are so low. No doubt many government programs don’t work this way, but it is possible, especially when they are not set up to provide profits to the private sector. This is another source of billions.
For another example, if we as a society continued to spend the same amount of money on health care each year, but had a single-payer nationalized health care system, we could cover everyone for the same amount we spend now. That’s right, for the same amount, everyone could be covered if we eliminated the profits and excessive administrative costs of the insurance companies, the for-profit health care chains, the pharmaceutical companies, and similar needless expenses.