As I leave China, I have mixed feelings. I really liked the country and the people. But the whole experience is tainted by the Tibetan situation. Also, the Tibetan situation provides insight into the political process in China more generally.
Everywhere I went in China, people were friendly and open. They work incredibly hard. Having unleashed capitalism and focused on infrastructure development, the entire country feels something like a country comng out of an economic depression . In some geographic areas, there is a boom town mentality. The food and cultural heritage is diverse, interesting and appealing.
Tibet feels like an occupied country, one that is being dismantled and reconstructed as a Chinese appendage. The old country has been geographically divided up and parts assimilated into other provinces. In Lhasa, the capital, Chinese (Han) outnumber Tibetans 2:1. The Tibetans are very different from the Chinese in appearance, dress, language, food, religion and temperment. On one hand, I think, Well, it’s been 50 years, Tibetans, forget it. Accept the political reality and move on. On the other hand, I think, it’s just not right.
In Lhasa, on May Day, at the Summer Palace, the Tibetans were performing an opera under a canopy. They were dressed in folk clothes and singing folk songs. A very large Chinese policeman, well over six-foot marched around the dancers along the periphery of the audience. He wore a crash helmet, dark sunglasses, a baton stick and boots. I felt intimidated. A small detachment of officers stood in between the stage and rehearsal room.
For long periods of time, I could not access my eMail or website. It worked fine when I first entered China. An acquaintance said he received a “Free Tibet” eMail and his eMail was down for days. When attempting to access her eMail, Dawn received a message saying it was blocked. I am posting this outside China and would not send this post while in China.
When we went through a Police Checkpoint, our party was detained for a couple of hours. I am unsure of the reason, but a Chinese officer scolded our Tibetan driver for most of that time. He waved his forefinger in the driver’s face.
A member of a farming community in Tibet told me half the crops he grows go to the army.
An army of 300,000 resides In Shigatse, a city in Tibet,.
After the “Free Tibet” incident at Everest Base Camp, they moved the Base Camp vendors away from the area and added camps for two detachments of Chinese.
To do business in China, I understand you must partner with the government. Half the profits go to the government. But the government is the local official who is typically a Chinese Communist Party member.
I am just a tourist. I am not a Sinologist. I don’t know how it works. Perhaps I spoke with the wrong people and drew incorrect implicatons. I know I better appreciate U.S. style transparency in government. Despite the economic progress, I am suspicious of the goernment, sad for the Tibetans and concerned for the future of the world. Cellhpones, movies, and Internet are changing the way the Cihinese think, I believe that is unstoppable.