Chinese Nationalism

I seem to remember, some posts back, that I would stop talking about China, Tibet, and the whole Olympic Torch incident.

Well, I lied.

John Quiggin posts over at Crooked Timber about what effects, if any, the protests will have on China-Tibet relations. I think it is a pretty good post, and articulates, in a far better way than I have done, why I feel the entire incident is overblown.

Quigging concludes that:

In fact, however, the protests have focused* entirely on the national claims of Tibet (as represented by the government in exile of the Dalai Lama) and have produced an unsurprising nationalist reaction in China (effectively in support of the existing government). The result, almost certainly, is that the position of supporters of democracy will be worse than ever, with any criticism of the Chinese authorities being viewed as support for external attacks on China’s territorial integrity.

He’s right on the money about the nationalist reaction the whole thing has produced in China, and talking to my grandparents, who pay much more attention to Chinese media in America than I do, the nationalist sentiment seems to be in full effect.

Furthermore, Quiggin goes on to say that:

As far as Tibet is concerned, all this is likely to prove counterproductive. A democratic Chinese government would almost certainly come around to the viewpoint that territorial control over Tibet is an expensive indulgence, in terms of both economic cost and international standing, while a democratic and independent Tibet would have little choice but to pursue close economic and political ties with China. But as long as China remains in its current political stasis, no movement on this issue is likely.

Again, I have to agree with him: if the real desired goal is Tibetan independence, then the protests have done little, if anything at all, to move any closer toward the goal. Instead, the nationalist reaction provoked by the protests will only reinforce the credibility and the legitimacy of the Communist regime in China. I mean, even if the Dalai Lama is advocating non-separation and is willing to negotiate with the Communist government, certainly the protests have made the two sides more polarized and their positions more entrenched.

And to go beyond Tibet, I have to wonder: when the fuck is the Communist government ever going to stop fanning the nationalist flame? When the hell are they going to realize that China is now a superpower and no longer need such chest-puffing exercises to show its power? This is the same kind of obsessive inferiority-complex that makes China-Taiwan relations impossible to move forward.

The Chinese government should realize by now that even if Tibet and Taiwan wanted separation, they have no real choice but to remain extremely close to the central government because of China’s status as a hegemonic power in the region? Let’s say that Tibet is indeed free, hypothetically, there is very little possibility that it will not maintain close relations with the Chinese government.

But may the Chinese government does have some cause for concern, since the Han Chinese makes up only a small minority in China’s territory. It is my hope that in the future, China will evolve into some kind of federal system, in which constituent units are divided along ethnic lines with certain degrees of self-rule, but still maintain very close relationship to Beijing.

Then again, that may be, and probably is, just a pipe dream.


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