Thursday, March 12, 2009

Robert Barnett on Tibet

PBS's Lehrer Newshour has an interesting segment focusing on Columbia University adjunct professor and Tibet expert Robert Barnett. NewsHour had him discuss the uncomfortable position Beijing finds themselves in vis-à-vis Tibet and a number of major anniversaries coming up this year. 

It's a good and fairly objective overview not just at the Tibetan issue from the Tibetan side, but also the way in which everyday Chinese view the subject. Here's a snippet, one that had echos of some modern Japanese views of Imperial Japan's erstwhile Korean colony:
The hard thing to remember in all of this is that from the Chinese point of view -- whatever one feels about its rightness or its rationality -- they believe and they are entitled to believe -- there's evidence for this -- that they have been helping Tibetans. They believe they helped them in the 1950s by freeing them from Imperialists -- that's the British and the Americans -- although there were only six of those present in the country at that time.

And then in 1959, they changed the terms they used, but they believed they were then freeing them from some imagined terrible brutality of the serf society, although the evidence of that is rather lacking in terms of brutality. They still now are talking about having given this great gift to Tibetans, and in recent decades they argue that they brought these backward people to modernity, and they certainly have given them massive improvement in infrastructure and wealth in the cities to the middle classes -- no question of economic benefit there.
More and more Koreans have been recognizing the similarities between Tibet since the last half of the 20th century and Korea during the first half, which may be why not a small number supported pro-Tibet protests during the Chinese uprising Beijing Torch Relay in Seoul last April.

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