May 30, 2005

Bapa Phünsto Wangye , founder of the Tibetan Communist Party. The first chapter of his recently published memoirs can be read on line, a story that challenges overly simplistic readings of the Tibetan experience in "New China".
  • More interesting insight into recent Tibetan history from Tsering Shakya, author of the widely-praised Dragon in the Land of Snows
  • So he was fine with the CP's brutal suppression of Chinese, but he didn't like it when it was done to Tibetans?
  • Not sure where you're getting that from languagehat? Care to expand on why you think that was his position?
  • When the Communists won control of China, he merged the Tibetan Communist Party with China’s. He became a functionary in the party and helped negotiate an accord by which Tibet would be gradually absorbed into China. Anyone who was a party functionary in the 1950s was an accomplice in the brutal suppression of Chinese. Not to mention: what exactly did he think was going to happen when Tibet was "absorbed into China"? Everyone would hold hands and sing happy songs? I'm sorry, but I can only have a certain very distant sympathy for anyone who saw the workings of the CP up close and maintained a willed blindness to its inherent nastiness until it actually bit them or theirs in the ass. Good post, by the way, and I'm sure the book is interesting. I just don't feel especially sympathetic to the author. He made his bed of nails.
  • Selling water by the river.
  • Ah right LH - I think I was thrown by what I took to be a suggestion that he had comparatively different tolerances from ethnic reasons. I would possibly cut him a bit more slack than you here though - though the linked stuff is the first I've read about him, so who knows. I'd agree than anyone who'd been a funtionary in the Party any length of time by the 50s had little excuse for hand-wringing when it turned out to be an instrument of oppression - those signs were clear much earlier, at least as far back as Yan'an from what I've read (and the purges had started before that). I do think a certain naive optimism was possible for figures from the periphery like him who may have seen the CCP as a progressive option as opposed to the bitter years of civil war and warlordism. As I understand it, even at the worst estimates of excess mortality (direct and indirect) due to the activities and policies of the Communist government, which were appalling, it still represented a step forward from the utter chaos and slaughter of the preceding decades. Many was the 'good patriot' Han, Tibetan or whoever who threw their lot in with the CCP in a promise of a New China. And he seems to have cottoned on fast that it was a lie and had the guts to say so, where other good people didn't and so propelled the nightmare onwards. I guess Wangye's story interests me because in the right circumstances the absorption of Tibet into China could of course be a good thing - either in terms of idealistic socialist internationalism or even from a Buddhist point of view of non-attachment to forms. So a charitable interpretation would be that Wangye sought that - a fraternal ending of petty nationalisms to build a brighter new egalitarian tomorrow after the vicissitudes of endless war. Though as you say - and as Tsering Shakya's bit shows - that would take a special kind of naiveite to sincerely imagine as a possible outcome.
  • The dali lama is the Hungry ghoste of the guy that runs Libiya! The situation is Karmically tied. And the Tibetians are sort of like the native Americans yes no? The chinese in Tibet is simply a redundent cycle of the white man in America. The Buffalos, the white man would shoot them from the train, the chinese mock commmunists became the white man, and did as he did, and were as the were. Now the Tibetians are savage as the Chinese were to us. As outdated as chinese society medicine etcetera was to us the Tibetians are to the chinese. Witch craft, voodo whodo you? The tibetians are merly symbolic of the hypocrisy that is the US. aND.... wait a minute, what the beep was this post about?
  • Yay, Abiezer_Coppe, I was wondering what had happened to your good China posts. I need help! Can you please recommend me some relatively truthful accounts of the Chinese revolution and then the Cultural Revolution, or at least several accounts of little bias that I can average out? Thanx!
  • Fair enough, A_C. I tend to get cranky about communism because so many people seem to still be willing to overlook its sins, but you're clearly not one of them. Rats: Edgar Snow in the deservedly famous Red Star Over China gives an intimate picture of the Communist leaders as they were before taking power; he had unique access and got stories nobody else did. On the other hand, he was told what people wanted him to hear, and he was a shameless apologist (for the kinds of understandable reasons A_C talks about, but still), so you'll want to chase his hero-worship with the bitter honesty of Simon Leys's Chinese Shadows, one of the most effective bits of popular history I've ever read -- it single-handedly blew the remaining cobwebs of Snow-induced nostalgia out of my brain almost 30 years ago. I'm sure there are more thorough histories available, and A_C will doubtless be able to provide titles, but that's what comes to my mind. Well, also a wonderful book by (I think) an LA Times reporter around 1979 that described the main players -- Mao, the Gang of Four, the other party and army leaders -- with novelistic detail and talked about mass battles between different segments of the armed forces, stuff I hadn't read about anywhere else, and I'd love to give you the details but I can't turn it up -- I thought it might be by Robert Elegant but I've looked through the titles available by him and can't find it. The chapters had titles giving thumbnail sketches of the main players: The Diplomat, The Dictator, The Temporizer, that kind of thing. If anyone knows what the hell I'm talking about and can provide title and author, I'll be eternally grateful.
  • hugs to A_C and languagehat from a fanatical socialist with a libertarian streak. :)
  • Abeizer_Coppe's blog sinalog has three well written, though sad, as-told-by reports about migrants in China. You'll notice, however that he doesn't update it often (hint,hint.) Sorry for the derail, but the tales bring home the problems with corrupt employers and strict bureaucracy that apparently earmark China's foray into capitalism. Not so brutal as the Cultural Revolution, but with some echoes of the Industrial Revolution in the west.
  • Oh path, my shame is once more aired! I am a lazy so and so I know. I will attempt something on the blog again soo, maybe a history piece, as i am re-reading an excellent book by Yu Jianrong on the political changes over 100 years in the life of a Hunan village - 岳村政治. In the mean time here's a piece from a more togther blogger who visits the old CCP headquarters at Yan'an and reflects on Chinese history and teh problems of saying anything worthwhile about China. I visited thesame place too - Running Dog (the linked blogger) seems to have missed that Yan'an is one of the only places where you can see a publically displayed photo of Mao with his then wife Jiang Qing, who of course later became the principle scapegoat for the Cultural Revolution and thus has been airbrushed out of the mao myth to soem extent. Jung Chang - best known as the author of Wild Swans has just published a new biography of mao which will apparently show he was worse than Stalin of Hitler. I must say I won't rush to buy it. The best recent general biography of mao i have read is Philip Short's Mao - A Life. I don't doubt that most of the charges Ms. Jung levels at the Great Helmsman will be true - and I understand she and her husband/collaborator had access to newly released material from the Soviet archives - more that beyond a certain point a full list of the man's crimes is less interesting to me (I need no disabusing as to his true impact on the country) than an attempt to understand why he is still held in such high regard by many ordinary people here, which he undoubtedly is. I have spoken to many people over the years who lived through the darkest times and still have a grudging respect and often even a fondness for the man, at least in the political persona that he represented in their lives. Short's book is good for helping understand why that might be. For more general histories I would certainly start with Snow as languagehat mentions - including the same caveats. Tony Saich has a number of important works on the political history of 20th century China - nearly all of which I haven't read but should have. Of most relevance to our topic would be the volume New Perspectives on the Chinese Communist Revolution he co-edited not so long back. I'm more of a social history reader myself, and the best place to start there would i think be with anything you can find by Fei Xiaotong who died just a few weeks ago after a long life of dedication to scholarship and telling the true story of ordinary Chinese people. This is a translation of what is probably his most famous work. JJ's blog has more and you should check that out and it's parent site China Study Group. They look at China from a left perspective - I worked with JJ when he was in beijing for a while and he's an incredibly bright and insightful young man. You'll certainly learn more reading his blog than you will mine! :)
  • There, there! It's ok. I'll keep checking back. I'm sure you have more to do than update sinalog. In the meantime, you've given us more than enough to read. Thanks. (Bows continually while backing out of the thread in respect for the teacher.) I must have gotten that from a movie, but you know what I mean.
  • Bananas to all!
  • Blimey! The full text of Melvyn Goldstein's "The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama" (Berkeley 1997) can be read online at e Scholarship editions.
  • Thank ye for that last link espeically, Abiezer! Having only heard the Tibetan side of the Panchet Lama contretemps before now, I'm curious to discover what the Chinese position may be. Short term, finding a successor to the current Dalai Lama may be full of further unanticipated twists. Seesm the Chinese regard it as a political problem, whereas the Tibetans see it as a religious tradition. If there is, indeed, to be a successor. His Holiness has stated on at least one occasion there may not be one. In the long run, who knows? I can't help but speculate that the physical nature of the Tibetan landscape may result in some interesting physiological/psychological alterations in those Chinese who've emigrated there. One thing is sure: Chenrezi will not abandon the Tibetan people. Interesting times, of course.
  • Tsering Shakya reviews Goldstein's book. I used to work with Tsering! Top bloke.