Communist Apologetics

From drunkpiano’s blog comes this Chinese Communist apologetical nonsense that is, I think, pretty typical among defenders of the Chinese Communist crackdown against the Tibetan people. I blog this because some readers of my blog have difficulty in distinguishing between the intersts of the Chinese Communist Party and the interests of China. In the case of Tibet, it is in the interests of China to grant Tibet independence, so that Tibet can be a benefit for the Chinese people in the same way that Hong Kong benefits the Chinese people. However, the Chinese Communist Party is a 10% Marxist, 90% Mafia organization when it comes to political control.

Generally, when it comes to economics, the Chinese Communist Party is a “militant whig” organization, that beliefs in economic growth and national greatness. Good for them. But in Tibet, the Party is stuck in a 1970s backwardness that embarrasses all right-thinking people. The Communist Party’s policy Tibet injures China and Chinese people.

Hence, this fisking of Communist Apolgetics nonsense from Barry Sautman, a quisling who teaches in Hong Kong.

Recent protests in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas were organized to embarrass the Chinese government ahead of the Olympics. The Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the major Tibetan exile organization that advocates independence for Tibet and has endorsed using violent methods to achieve it, has said as much. Its head, Tsewang Rigzin, stated in a March 15 interview with the Chicago Tribune that since it is likely that Chinese authorities would suppress protests in Tibet, “With the spotlight on them with the Olympics, we want to test them. We want them to show their true colors. That’s why we’re pushing this.” At the June, 2007 Conference for an Independent Tibet organized in India by “Friends of Tibet,” speakers pointed out that the Olympics present a unique opportunity for protests in Tibet. In January, 2008, exiles in India launched a “Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement” to “act in the spirit” of the violent 1959 uprising against Chinese government authority and focus on the Olympics.

Trivially true.

Several groups of Tibetans were likely involved in the protests in Lhasa, including in the burning and looting of non-Tibetan businesses and attacks against Han and Hui (Muslim Chinese) migrants to Tibet. The large monasteries have long been centers of separatism, a stance cultivated by the TYC and other exile entities, many of which are financed by the US State Department or the US Congress’ National Endowment for Democracy. Monks are self-selected to be especially devoted to the Dalai Lama. However much he may characterize his own position as seeking only greater autonomy for Tibet, monks know he is unwilling to declare that Tibet is an inalienable part of China, an act China demands of him as a precondition to formal negotiations. Because the exile regime eschews a separation of politics and religion, many monks deem adherence to the Dalai Lama’s stance of non-recognition of the Chinese government’s legitimacy in Tibet to be a religious obligation.

Sautman confuses two issues, whether the Dali recognizes Tibet to be part of China (which he does) and whether the Dali recognizes that there is no legitimate basis for Tibet independence (which he does not). It’s a reasonable point for Sautman to make, but instead he blends the two arguments together to paint the Dali as extremist, when he is not.

Reports on the violence have underscored that Tibetan merchants competing with Han and Hui are especially antagonistic to the presence of non-Tibetans. Alongside monks, Tibetan merchants were the mainstay of protests in Lhasa in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This time around, many Han and Hui-owned shops were torched. Many of those involved in arson, looting, and ethnic-based beatings are also likely to have been unemployed young men. Towns have experienced much rural-to-urban migration of Tibetans with few skills needed for urban employment. Videos from Lhasa showed the vast majority of rioters were males in their teens or twenties.

Trivially true

The recent actions in Tibetan areas differ from the broad-based demonstrations of “people power” movements in several parts of the world in the last few decades. They hardly show the overwhelming Tibetan anti-Chinese consensus portrayed in the international media. The highest media estimate of Tibetans who participated in protests is 20,000 — by Steve Chao
, the Beijing Bureau Chief of Canadian Television News, i.e. one of every 300 Tibetans. Compare that to the 1986 protests against the Marcos dictatorship by about three million — one out of every 19 Filipinos.

A strange argument that Sautman seems to rejecct later on. Tibet is a largely rural country, so a comparison to population size should compare with city dwellers (who can be easily mobilized) as opposed to rural folk far from population centers.

Tibetans have legitimate grievances about not being sufficiently helped to compete for jobs and in business with migrants to Tibet. There is also job discrimination by Han migrants in favor of family members and people from their native places. The gaps in education and living standards between Tibetans and Han are substantial and too slow in narrowing. The grievances have long existed, but protests and rioting took place this year because the
Olympics make it opportune for separatists to advance their agenda. Indeed, there was a radical disconnect between Tibetan socio-economic grievances and the slogans raised in the protests, such as “Complete Independence for Tibet” and “May the exiles and Tibetans inside Tibet be reunited,” slogans that not coincidentally replicate those raised by pro-independence Tibetan exiles.

Trivially true.

While separatists will not succeed in detaching Tibet from China by rioting, they believe that China will eventually collapse, like the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and they seek to establish their claim to rule before that happens. Alternatively, they think that the United States may intervene, as it has elsewhere, to foster the breakaway of regions in countries to
which the US is antagonistic, e.g. Kosovo and southern Sudan. The Chinese government also fears such eventualities, however unlikely they are to come to pass. It accordingly acts to suppress separatism, an action that comports with its rights under international law.

Sautman ties together criticism of Tibetan separatist with a (spurious) justification of oppression of the non-separatist supporters of supporters of the Dali Lama .

Separatists know they can count on the automatic sympathy of Western politicians and media, who view China as a strategic economic and political competitor. Western elites have thus widely condemned China for suppressing riots that these elites would never allow to go unsuppressed in their own countries. They demand that China be restrained in its response; yet, during the Los Angeles uprising or riots of 1992 — which spread to a score of
other major cities — President George H.W. Bush stated when he sent in thousands of soldiers, that “There can be no excuse for the murder, arson, theft or vandalism that have terrorized the people of Los Angeles . . . Let me assure you that I will use whatever force is necessary to restore order.” Neither Western politicians nor mainstream media attacked him on this score, while neither Western leaders nor the Dalai Lama have criticized those Tibetans who recently engaged in ethnic-based attacks and arson.

This is potentially a good point: Chinese police are incompetent in restoring order, and so the anti-Tibetan operations may have generally the same objective of public peace as western anti-Riot techniques: thus, the skew of deaths in Tibet as largely caused by security forces and the deaths in Los Angeles as largely caused by rioters merely show that the Chinese security forces are sub-par. Still, the US did not ban media from riot-strewn areas, which allowed others to see that the mobilized army was not attacking, say, Democratic party offices.

Western elites give the Chinese government no recognition for significant improvements in the lives of Tibetans as a result of subsidies from the China’s central government and provinces, improvements that the Dalai Lama has himself admitted. Western politicians and media also consistently credit the Dalai Lama’s charge that “cultural genocide” is underway in Tibet,
even though the exiles and their supporters offer no credible evidence of the evisceration of Tibetan language use, religious practice or art. In fact, more than 90% of Tibetans speak Tibetan as their mother tongue. Tibet has about 150,000 monks and nuns, the highest concentration of full-time “clergy” in the Buddhist world. Western scholars of Tibetan literature and art forms have attested that it is flourishing.

Whether or not “cultural genocide” is a good thing, China (under both the KMT and CCP) has encouraged large-scale Han emigration to Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, and East Turkestan. The same has been attempted in Tibet, but the high altitude of the Tibetan plateau and the genetically-optimized Tibetan genotype for this altitude has made colonization more difficult.

Ethnic contradictions in Tibet arise from the demography, economy and politics of the Tibetan areas. Separatists and their supporters claim that Han Chinese have been “flooding” into Tibet, “swamping” Tibetans demographically. In fact, between the national censuses of 1990 and 2000 (which count everyone who has lived in an area for six months or more), the
percentage of Tibetans in the Tibetan areas as a whole increased somewhat and Han were about one-fifth of the population. A preliminary analysis of the 2005 mini-census shows that from 2000-2005 there was a small increase in the proportion of Han in the central-western parts of Tibet (the Tibet Autonomous Region or TAR) and little change in eastern Tibet. Pro-
independence forces want the Tibetan areas cleansed of Han (as happened in 1912 and 1949); the Dalai Lama has said he will accept a three-to-one Tibetan to non-Tibet population ratio, but he consistently misrepresents the present situation as one of a Han majority. Given his status as not merely the top Tibetan Buddhist religious leader, but as an emanation of Buddha, most Tibetans credit whatever he says on this or other topics.

More confusion from Sautman. “Tibetan areas as a whole” encourage largely colonized lowlying regions that are outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The population increase is a result of the One Child Policy which applies to Han Chinese in areas where Tibetans are a minority. Han Chinese are colonizing the TAR in increasing numbers, though they are a minority there.

The Tibetan countryside, where three-fourths of the population lives, has very few non-Tibetans. The vast majority of Han migrants to Tibetan towns are poor or near-poor. They are not personally subsidized by the state; although like urban Tibetans, they are indirectly subsidized by infrastructure development that favors the towns. Some 85% of Han who
migrate to Tibet to establish businesses fail; they generally leave within two to three years. Those who survive economically offer competition to local Tibetan business people, but a comprehensive study in Lhasa has shown that non-Tibetans have pioneered small and medium enterprise sectors that some Tibetans have later entered and made use of their local knowledge to prosper.


Tibetans are not simply an underclass; there is a substantial Tibetan middle class, based in government service, tourism, commerce, and small-scale manufacturing/ transportation. There are also many unemployed or under-employed Tibetans, but almost no unemployed or underemployed Han because those who cannot find work leave. Many Han migrants have racist attitudes toward Tibetans, mostly notions that Tibetans are lazy, dirty, and obsessed
with religion. Many Tibetans reciprocate with representations of Han as rich, money-obsessed and conspiring to exploit Tibetans. Long-resident urban Tibetans absorb aspects of Han culture in much the same way that ethnic minorities do with ethnic majority cultures the world over. Tibetans are not however being forcibly “Sincized.” Most Tibetans speak little or no Chinese. They begin to learn it in the higher primary grades and, in many Tibetan areas, must study in it if they go on to secondary education. Chinese, however, is one of the two most important languages in the world and considerable advantages accrue to those who learn it, just as they do to non-native English speakers.

Also true.

The Tibetan exiles argue that religious practice is sharply restricted in Tibetan areas. The Chinese government has the right under international law to regulate religious institutions to prevent them from being used as vehicles for separatism and the control of religion is in fact mostly a function of the state’s (overly-developed) concern about separatism and secondarily about how the hyper-development of religious institutions counteracts “development” among ethnic Tibetans. Certain state policies do infringe on freedom of religion; for example, the forbidding, in the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region), of state employees and university students to participate in religious rites. The lesser degree of control over religion in the eastern Tibetan areas beyond the TAR– at least before the events of March, 2008 — indicate however that the Chinese government calibrates its control according to the perceived degree of separatist sentiment in the monasteries.

True. The Communist Party oppresses the Tibetan people, and does so out of paranoia separatist.

The Dalai Lama’s regime was of course itself a theocracy that closely regulated the monasteries, including the politics, hierarchy and number of monks. The exile authorities today circumscribe by fiat those religious practices they oppose, such as the propitiation of a “deity” known as Dorje Shugden. The cult of the Dalai Lama, which is even stronger among monks than it is among Hollywood stars, nevertheless mandates acceptance of his claim that restrictions on religious management and practice in Tibet arise solely from the Chinese state’s supposed anti-religious animus. Similarly, the cult requires the conviction that the Dalai Lama is a pacifist, even though he has explicitly or implicitly endorsed all wars waged by the US.

Several errors here, including an unsubstantiated claim of “cult” and the comparison of the Dali’s religious office with the Party’s violent oppression of monasteries.

The Dalai Lama is a Tibetan ethnic nationalist whose worldview is — in US terms — both liberal and conservative. He and many of his foreign supporters have a pronounced affinity for conservative politicians, such as Bush, Thatcher, Lee Teng-hui and Ishihara Shintaro, but they can get along well with liberals like US Speaker Nancy Pelosi, because they are virulently anti-communist and anti-China.

The conflation of the Chinese Communist Party and China is made by almost no one except for the Party itself — and Sautman.

The Dalai Lama is far from being a supporter of oppressed peoples. For example, in 2002, when he visited Australia, the Dalai Lama, upon arriving in Melbourne, noted “he had flown over ‘a large empty area’ of Australia that could house millions of people from other densely populated continents.” The area is, of course, not wholly empty, as it contains Aborigines. To them, the Dalai Lama proffered the advice that “black people ‘should appreciate what white people have brought to this country, its development.’” (R. Callick, “Dalai Lama Treads Fine Line,” Australian Financial Review, May 22, 2002).

Here Barry Sautman appears to be arguing against himself, claiming that the Dali Lama opposes independence movements on the basis of benefits of development. And of course this is true: the Dali does not agitate for independence for China.

The development of the “market economy” has had much the same effect in Tibetan areas as in the rest of China, i.e. increased exploitation, exacerbated income and wealth differentials, and rampant corruption. The degree to which this involves an “ethnic division of labor” that
disadvantages Tibetans is however exaggerated by separatists in order to foster ethnic antagonism. For example, Tibet is not the poorest area of China, as is often claimed. It is better off than several other ethnic minority areas and even than some Han areas, in large measure due to heavy government subsidies. Rural Tibetans as well receive more state subsidies than other minorities. The exile leaders employ hyperbole not only in terms of the degree of empirical difference, but also concerning the more fundamental ethnic relationship in Tibet: in contrast to, say, Israel/Palestine, Tibetans have the same rights as Han, they enjoy certain preferential economic and social policies, and about half the top party leaders in the TAR have been ethnic Tibetans.

The comparison to “Israel/Palestine” is interesting as (a) Israel does not claim sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and both the Palestinian and Israeli governments have some basis for claiming electoral legitimacy.

I’m surprised there wasn’t a reference to “neocon,” for the Jew-baiting aspect of this paragraph.

Tibet has none of the indicia of a colony or occupied territory and thus has no relationship to self-determination, a concept that in recent decades has often been misused, especially by the US, to foster the breakup of states and consequent emiseration of their populations. A settlement between the Chinese government and Tibetan exile elites is a pre-condition for the
mitigation of Tibetan grievances because absent a settlement, ethnic politics will continue to subsume every issue in Tibet, as it does for example, in Taiwan and Kosovo, where ethnic binaries are constructed by “ethnic political entrepreneurs,” who seek to outbid each other for support.

An absurd and unsupported claim.

The protests in Tibet had no progressive aspect. Many who participated in the ethnic murders, beatings and arsons in Lhasa were poor rural migrants to the city, but the slogans there and elsewhere in Tibet almost all concerned independence or the Dalai Lama. There have been many movements the world over in which marginalized people have taken a reactionary and often racist road, for example, al-Qaeda or much of the base of the Nazis. The riots in Tibet also have done nothing to advance discussions of a political settlement between the Chinese government and exiles, yet a settlement is necessary for the substantial mitigation of Tibetan grievances. For Tibetan pro-independence forces, a setback to such efforts may have been their very purpose in fostering the riots. Tibetan pro-independence forces, like separatists everywhere, seek to counter any view of the world that is not ethnic-based and to thwart all efforts to resolve ethnic contradictions, in order to boost the mobilization needed to sustain their ethnic nationalist projects. They have claimed that China will soon collapse and the US will thereafter increase its patronage of a Tibetan state elite, to the benefit of ordinary Tibetans. One only has to look round the world at the many humanitarian catastrophes that have resulted from such thinking to project what consequences are likely to follow for ordinary Tibetans if the separatist fantasy were fulfilled.

This final paragraph is hilarious. Goodwin’s Law applies, bringing out the mandatory comparison to the Nazis. A communist regime built on peasant protests describe peasant protests as having “no progressive aspect.”

This nonsense has real consequences. Articles like this are part of a Communist agitation-propaganda campaign aimed at causing problems oversees. The Party’s handling of the Tibet crisis is beyond stupid, and is all the more flabergasting because the party has finally started dealing with Taiwan in a mature and grown-up manner.

Still, change comes from failure. China’s embarrassment in Tibet has the same potential for change that China’s idiotic arm-waving over earlier Taiwanese elections led to China’s mature Taiwan policy today.

Embarrass China. For the good of China.

13 thoughts on “Communist Apologetics”

  1. “There have been many movements the world over in which marginalized people have taken a reactionary and often racist road, for example, al-Qaeda


    I received a comment at Soob that compared the DL in a similar fashion to that of AQ. It blew me away. As does the above. There is no nationalistic root to AQ. Not even slightly. The comparison is baffling.

  2. Hi Dan,

    Great post! One quibble though:

    Despite his obsequious shilling for the CCP politburo,Barry Sautman is not, technically speaking, a “quisling”. Recall that Vidkun Quisling was the notoriously slavish puppet dictator of Nazi occupied Norway. To be a “quisling” Sautman would actually have to be a Tibetan while articulating the same views.

    A better analogy would be with the pro-Nazis and appeasers of the West like the Mitfords, Joseph Kennedy, the British ambassador to Berlin Neville Henderson, Neville Chamberlain, Lord Halifax, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Pierre Laval ( who was also a quisling). Men who urged unreciprocated concessions to Nazi Germany and did all they could to obstruct efforts to counter Nazi aggression or improve military preparedness.

    If China ever conquered the United States, we could infer from Sautman’s truckling attack on the Tibetans that Sautman would turn quisling but having no hard evidence, that would be an entirely speculative assumption.

  3. Please be objective.
    The Tibet issue is a very complicated historical and cultural problem, since 1300 ago, Tibet and Chinese had closed relationship from intermarriage to culture reform from Han and Tibet. It is a problem that started from inappropriate way of how Chinese government tried to bring something good but actually culturally-religiously insensitive way to treat Tibet people, and then the problem arose and finally big in later 19th century. The government has something to apologize, but this is not a simple game like most of your comments wrote, one country invade another, etc.,
    You can list all effective way to solve this problem but not in a insult way about China. Simply Embarrass China won’t solve the problem but pose you on the extreme position on this issue.

  4. December, near as I could tell it was the CCP getting embarrased, not China itself. What did I miss?

    Dan, you missed a benefit to Tibet’s independence that doesn’t apply to Hong Kong. As the source of much of South and East Asia’s water, control of Tibet gives a huge degree of power. This could be interpreted as a reason to hold onto Tibet, until one considers that power over Asia’s rivers doesn’t protect Tibet against South Asia’s armies if they feel their water supplies have been threatened enough. Independence would allow Tibet to fall into a Switzerland-like role; important enough to maintain neutrality, but too weak to pose a threat in its own right to its neighbors.

  5. Jay@Soob,

    Excellent point on how poorly the al Qaeda analogy applies. I’ve heard it a number of places, so I suspect the Communist Party is pushing it through its channels (Chinese Students & Scholars Associations, Confucius Institutes, etc.).


    Thanks for the props.

    I was verbally questioned over the use of the term “quisling” earlier, and I defended myself by explaining that Barry Sautman is a quisling to those who live in “One Country, Two Systems” areas of China (Hong Kong, Tibet, etc). I agree it’s not a perfect fit, but then Neville Chamberlain didn’t receive a paycheck from a Nazi organ and live in Nazi-controlled Europe, either.

    (History does repeat itself… it merely rhymes.)


    Your comment is very insightful. I will try to address it in a full post tomorrow.


    Countries learn from failures, not success. America was embarrased by the emergence of an insurgency in Iraq. From this, America has a new understanding of counter-insurgency (COIN) and a stronger military. As Hu Jintao conducted similar actions in 1989 [1] and subsequently became President, it’s clear that China has not historically recognized the sort of thing that is happening in Tibet as a failure. But China must see that it is failing if she will change.

    China will face domestic unrest in other areas in the future. It’s important China be able to handle those better. Her friends (George Bush, Kevin Rudd, etc) won’t always be able to protect her from the consequences of her actions.

    The People’s Liberation Army has people smart enough to write “Unrestricted Warfare” [2] They need people smart enough to write a book on not killing vegetarian monks, too.


  6. Googled and Wikipedia’s “Chinese Students & Scholars Associations”; interesting thing–did the Chinese government innovate this, or did these things somehow “emerge”?

  7. Jayson,

    The CSSAs appear to be front client organizations for the Chinese government and the Communist Party. While they put on any number of typical student activities, CSSAs can be trusted to support whatever line the CCP is currently taking. So, for instance, CSSA stages counter-protests and organizes information-resistance campaigns against Falun Gong supporters, Tibetans, etc, when appropriate.

  8. Jayson, Dan,

    About CSSA, I think I have the most understanding about this organization, the organization that is in almost every US university. Take an UNL CSSA as an example. As one of the Chinese citizen, Chinese student who study in US, we join the Chinese student group in campus to share the same culture, same celebration when there is festival coming, that is the most common thing to do for most of the international student group. I believe there are other international student association as well. We are not accepting any funding from CCP, government in China, we actually always short on budget so that makes us really incapable to hold big event in some festivals.
    Your explanation about CSSA is incorrect, because as a scholar association, we are not related to any political groups inside or outside US. It represent Chinese people, not communist party, the president is elected by CSSA students including me every year. We are not political oriented organization on every aspects, if you say we stand the situation is to support CCP, I would like to say, as one of the Chinese Citizen, We have basic conscious about our country, our country’s Sovereignty. Put Politics aside, our decision on some event is totally voted by students in Campus, which is not controlled by any party at all.

    There are some concepts about a country, CCP and citizen. The difference of those makes us a citizen who support China as a country, not the political party, etc.

  9. Fei,

    Excellent comment!

    CSSAs do not appear to publish their donor records. A google search for ‘chinese student and scholar association consulate funding’ brings up a number of results that are worth investigating. Many of the results are by political enemies of China and so may be suspect, but I think this comment in particular is illustrative:

    when i was a graduate student at the university of washington (seattle) from 1993-1996 i think i was a member of 5 ‘chinese’ student organizations: CSA (chinese student association), TSA (taiwanese student association), HKSA (hong kong student association), TSS (taiwan study society), and CSSA (chinese students and scholars association). there were other organisations with chinese student populations – i.e. singapore student association, malaysian student association, etc. – and a third taiwanese student association called the chinese betterment society…

    TSA’s on large university campuses get funding and support from the taipei consulates. CSSA’s are supported by the chinese embassy/consulates. other groups like the TSS at the university of washington are linked to the DDP. i think the chinese betterment society was supported by the guomingdang. these sources of support in some cases were instrumental in the founding of such student groups on campuses.

    It is not unusual that the CCP supports the CSSA; the comment indicates that the Republic of China supports TSA, the KMT supports CBS, and the DPP supports TSS. This does not mean that the KMT appoints officers of CBS chapters, or that even most funding for day-to-day activities of the CSSAs come from the CCPs. Still, the parties and governments act as “angel investors,” helping the organizations get off the ground and providing support for some major activities if the particular chapter has a good relationship with its consulate or handling agency.

  10. Update & Correction: In an earlier comment, I referred to the CSSAs as “front organizations.” It would be more accurate to classify them as “client organizations.”

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