Tag Archives: failure

China, Learning and Growing Stronger

The Economist has the best analysis of the Sichuan earthquake, focusing on how embarrassment leads globalizing governments to learn the right lessons.

So was the contrast with the China of 1976, when an even deadlier earthquake struck the city of Tangshan. The full awfulness of that event—at least 250,000 people died—was not revealed for months, and offers of foreign help were spurned.

China’s rulers are still proud and sometimes prickly, but for reasons good and bad they have changed. They got a nasty shock, for instance, in 2003 when an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, showed how a virulent new plague, if uncontained, might impose huge costs on a modernising economy. This taught them that burying bad news is not always sensible. A fierce freeze-up this January showed how the weather could also bring paralysis, less economically damaging perhaps but awkward all the same over a great national holiday. This showed them the merits of occasionally admitting imperfection, and even of offering a prime-ministerial apology. Since then they have learnt that beating up their Tibetan citizens may not be wise just as they are trying to impress the world with an Olympic extravaganza.

Tom’s take is pretty good, too.

The Human Wave

The plot to embarrass China is going well.

Torch relay a ‘public relations nightmare’ – CNN.com
“Despite nearly a year of planning and the deployment of 2,000 officers, the Metropolitan Police were unable to stop protesters breaking through the security cordon at vulnerable points,” the Times reported.

“It was a public relations nightmare for London, with images of Tibetans pinned to the tarmac by police, and demonstrators waving placards outside Downing Street.” Photo Watch a gallery of the torch relay in London »

The Daily Telegraph said the relay was nearly abandoned because of the “ugly and chaotic” scenes.

“Organizers, including Chinese officials, discussed “pulling out” of the day-long relay after just a few hours, as police fought running battles with wave after wave of anti-China protesters,” the newspaper reported.

The Daily Telegraph said police were surprised by the “relentless” attempts to disrupt the parade at “every corner” of the route.

The Mail said the relay turned into a “sinister and slapstick” event “which did Britain no favor in the eyes of the world.”

“Terrified athletes and celebrities carrying the torch were forced to run for cover,” it reported. Video Watch supporters, opponents of the Beijing Olympics show up at the London leg of the torch relay »

Downing Street was privately furious as the embarrassing fiasco — costing $2 million and likened to “Chinese police state tactics” in London — was beamed around the world on TV.”

The Mail described the Chinese guards helping escort the flame as a “mysterious private army.”

But some context of why this embarrasment is needed, and why processing it is hard for many Chinese.

In a thread, December wrote:

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.,

December’s right. The situation is very complicated, and many of the problems in Tibet have their in past mistakes — both well-intentioned and poorly-intentioned.

Properly, from 1644 to 1912 the provinces of China combined to form one of the political units in the Empire of the Great Qing. The Han of the Chinese provinces were the most numerous race, and thus feared and oppressed by all the others. Other political units of the Great Qing were Manchuria, Mongolia, Turkestan, and Tibet. While the Manchuria-based Qing would eventually Hanize over time, to the end intermarriage between Han and other races were forbidden, non-Han garrisons were in every large town, Han officials were required to be monitored by a feather-bedded inspector from another race, areas outside of the Chinese provinces were closed to Han settlement, and communications from the Qing court were written both in Chinese characters and Manchurian (a script related to Hebrew).

Thus, when the Qing were overthrown in 1912, China effectively went through a process of decolonization — similar to the transition of Southern Rhodesia to Zimbabwe in the 1970s and 1980s. The race laws were ended, which led to the rapid swamping of most minorities. Inner Manchuria was the first to be settled (outer Manchuria since absorbed by Russia), and then Inner Mongolia (the Russians creating an Outer Mongolian puppet state soon after the Revolution), and lastly Inner Turkestan (Outer Turkestan, once again, having been absorbed by Russia). Inner Tibet was likewise swamped, though Outer Tibet (nearly absorbed into the Indian Empire at one point), high on its plateau, was resistant to non-genetically-optimized settlers, and so remains largely Tibetan to this day.

China would see many disasters between the Revolution of 1912 and Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms seventy years later. Many Chinese people judge their nation’s evolution as largely a matter of the difference in life between then and now. In 1912, there was institutional racism, widespread poverty, and national weakness: now there is a racially equal society, growing wealth, and national strength. Using the same standards on Tibet, in 1912 it was a feudal state: now Tibet is economically connected to the world and is enjoying sustained economic growth.

China deserves praise for elevating the material living standards of Tibetans, as well as creating a more just society throughout. In many ways, China has a smart and sophisticated government that is focusing on keeping the country together during a time of economic transition and growth.

A major exception to the Chinese government’s sophistication is its backwards strategy on Tibet. The Communist Party is able to subtly handle city-countryside conflict, and international border disputes, in a way that deescalates conflict and promotes economic development and growth. That is, everywhere but Tibet. In Tibet, the Communist Party’s strategy is still to kill and terrify a population into submission.

There are indications that the embarrassment is working. Articles like 為西藏問題尋找最大公約數 (Find a Common Denominator on the Tibet Issue) analyze the Tibet problem not as separatists-vs-patriots, but as a case of cultural conflict poorly managed.

It is important that the Communist Party move beyond their old-fashioned method of social repression in Tibet, and find a way to create a more “harmonious society.” China is too important to fail. Those who support the good that China is doing, both inside China and outside it, should help the Communist Party recognize their failure in Tibet, so in the future they can succeed.

“Public relations disasters,” like the protests against the Olympic Torch in London, are a great start.