I was reminded of China’s new propaganda strategy on Tibet when I read the following sentence recently in the course of my internet browsing. “The best propaganda is that which the target audience does not recognize as overtly propagandistic in nature.” The latest example of this is today’s news about President Jimmy Carter’s forward to a book on Tibet by “three Sino-US experts.” Given President Carter’s experience with China and his knowledge of Tibet (he has met the Dalai Lama and discussed Tibet with him) I cannot imagine him supporting Chinese policies in Tibet. May be if we read the full forward we may be able to understand him better, but the point at hand is the way his involvement is being projected by the Chinese media tasked to spread their version on Tibet (I reproduce their posting below). The topic is soft, i.e. environment and the person is a wellknown international figure. This is subtle propaganda at work with the impression that President Carter is somehow on their side of the fence, if you will. This fits well with some of the quotes that Xinhua seems to be getting from “Tibet experts” on issues relating to Tibet.
Former U.S. president writes preamble for ‘Close to Tibet’
China Tibet Information Center
I saw the following interesting posting comparing Barack Obama to the Dalai Lama on the website of the Center for Strategic and International Studies ‘s CSIS Transatlantic Media Network the other day. It was under the discussion thread on “How Europe Views the United States.”
The article in the German newspaper that is being referred to was written way back in June last year. In gist it says that while the Americans will vote only on November 4, the German public has voted and they have chosen Barack Obama.
CSIS is a highly respected think tank in the United States and is based in Washington, D.C.
“Obama is “the new Dalai Lama”
“June 4th, 2008 in How Europe Views the United States, Special Topic – Election 2008 Read More…
This morning I was invited by Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan service to talk about the new Obama presidency, including its possible position on Tibet. Since the inauguration festivities were also starting today with a music concert in the afternoon, and as the weather was predicted to be cold, I prepared myself accordingly. I planned to walk down to the Mall from RFA’s studio after the program just to get a feel of the new atmosphere of hope that was accompanying the Obama presidency.
It was indeed a bitter cold day. Due to traffic restrictions I had to walk for nearly half an hour to reach the venue. The pool between the WW II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial (where the concert stage was constructed) was frozen solid. But there were thousands of people there. The program was to begin at 2:30 pm, but when I was there it was a little after 10:00 am and the place was already beginning to be filled. People were really in a festive mood. To while away the time before the concert there were a group of youngsters wearing uniform red, blue and white caps attempting to encourage the people to create body waves. Of course there were the ubiquitous “where are you..” coming from cell phone conversations. At one time the jumbotron showed Elmo instructing the gathering to say “One” after he says, “We are..” I tried to look around after Elmo’s utterance and almost everyone seemed to be shouting, “One.”
Anyway, what could an Obama Presidency mean for Tibet? Read More…
The Asia Soceity in New York City is having a day-long conference today (January 16) on “Meltdown: The Impact of Climate Change on the Tibetan Plateau.” This is but the latest indication about the significance of the environment in Tibet to the region and the world. The conference features “IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, distinguished glaciologists Lonnie Thompson and Yao Tandong, environmental experts from China, the UK, the US, Australia and the Tibetan Autonomous Region, as well as mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears.” It seems there are some Tibetan speakers, too.
Some of my colleagues have gone up to New York to attend this and I am looking forward to their impression. Taking this opportunity I am posting here a paper that I prepared (I was then working in Dharamsala at the Tibetan Department of Information & International Relations) in 1993 on Tibetan environment that was presented at a conference in France.
An analysis of environment and development issues in Tibet
By Bhuchung K. Tsering
(Paper presented at the International conference on the state of environment in Tibet: III Pole, Environment & People of Tibet, Paris. September 30 to October 1, 1993)
On January 12, 2009, the Tibet Autonomous Region officials began their annual session of the TAR People’s Political Consultative Conference in Lhasa. Different officials have started reporting on how they have worked to improve the lives of the Tibetan people. Interestingly, this time they are highlighting, among others, the fact that some of the speakers are speaking in Tibetan during sessions as an important achievement.
In any case, if they want to look at the more substantive issues of the improvement of the quality of life of those Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region, I think more comprehensive policy need to be initiated. I wrote the following in 2006 based on the findings of a UN report. I had a quick look at the 2008 UNDP China Development Report “Access for All” and the picture seems the same. For example, in the figures (2005) provided for percentage of comprehensive inoculation by provinces, Tibet has the lowest. If we look at prenatal inspection rates (2006), Tibet is the lowest in the figures given for provinces.
A Look at Quality of Life in Tibet
Bhuchung K. Tsering
A new UN report that includes information on the quality of life of the Tibetan people indicates that Tibetans are virtually at the bottom of the economic and social ladder. In addition to being worse of than others in China, there is a growing disparity between Tibetans in rural areas and in urban areas. Some other information in the report also makes me feel that there is a new social division; Read More…
It is clear that the Chinese authorities are increasing their use of Tibetan personalities and institutions to justify and defend their misguided policies on Tibet. The following is the text of remarks that I made on May 15, 1999 at the “Exposing Communist Chinese Government Influence in America” Conference in Orlando, Florida. Those were the days when there was somethign called Splendid China, a theme park connected to the Chinese Government that was used as a vehicle for Chinese publicity.The park, which opened in 1993 eventually had to close its doors in 2003.
China’s Use of Tibetan Institutions for Their Political Ends
Bhuchung K. Tsering May 15, 1999The Chinese authorities have in the last several decades attempted to use Tibetan personalities, institutions and history to justify, legetimise and exercise their control over Tibet. Historically, they have used Tibetan institutions like that of the Panchen Lama to create dissents within the Tibetan community and to legitimize their rule over the Tibetan people.There is a distinct pattern in which Beijing is implementing its policy of misusing distinct Tibetan institutions to serve its political ends. Read More…
The matter of Intellectual property rights is comparatively new to the Tibetan society. With the increasing exposure to the outside world there is greater awareness about the issue then it was in 1999 when I wrote the following article.
Copyrights and copy wrongs
Bhuchung K. Tsering
In June the Voice of Tibet (VOT) aired a complaint from a member of the now defunct music group Rangzen Shonu asking why it had not sought permission for broadcasting one of the group’s songs. VOT’s response was that it had secured permission from another member of the group. While this problem may have been resolved thus, it raises an important question about intellectual property rights in the Tibetan community.
Like the ancient Romans the Tibetans, too, have a broader cultural world that goes beyond the political Tibet of today. While we know of the communities in the south-western borders of Tibet (the following article, which I wrote in 2007) is about one such communities, called the Sherpas), there has been less attention on the communities to the south-east and east, who include the Jang (Naxi) people, the Muso and even what is being called the Xixia by Chinese and Minyak by Tibetans. I am told there are some Western scholars who study the Minyak people.
Anyway, enjoy the following for the moment.
Anyone Ever Heard of Karma Paul?
Bhuchung K. Tsering
Tibetan Review, October 2007
One evening last week, I was just surfing through the channels on TV and on my favourite PBS station there was a program in progress concerning a Yak rancher in, of all places, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Willis Larson, the rancher, has been herding yaks. The programme was episode 201 of America’s Heartland series.
Many years back I remember reading an article by Jamyang Norbu la titled “A Yak on Madison Avenue.” If I remember it correctly it was about one of the early tour of the United States by artistes of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, which he had accompanied.
One of the significant development in the Tibetan world in 2008 was the status of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue process. There was history being made in many ways in that field. This was the year when Tibetan and Chinese representatives met the most number of times since contact was re-established in 2002. Also, the situation under which the meetings were held was challenging, to put it kindly. Above all, the outcome of the latest round that was held in November 2008 has led to a stagnation, if you will, of the process.
At another level, we saw the Chinese authorities continuing to use the Tibetan scholars to fulfill their political objectives. I have mentioned it at a few fora and I want to say it here, whatever is the political difference between the Tibetans and the Chinese, I think it shortsighted for the Chinese leadership to be politicising the Tibetan academic world. This only contributes to the diminishing of their scholarly status. Even though many institutions and Tibetologists outside of China may have to conform to the Chinese Government’s desire to host visits by Tibetan scholars where they are forced to voice government positions, they can only pity the scholars themselves.
I wrote the following in 1998 in reaction to a development concerning the International Association of Tibetan Studies, the premier forum for Tibetologists.
Studying ‘Tibetans’ or ‘Tibetan’ studies?
Article by Bhuchung K. Tsering