The recent protests, and subsequent crackdown in Tibet couldn't have come at a worse time for the Labour government. We're about to be awarded the first free trade deal between China and a developed economy, which is probably the most significant achievement of Labour's third term in government. Instead it's being seen by many - particularly on the left - as an endorsement of the Chinese regime's oppression of the Tibetan people, and turning a blind eye to its dubious human rights record.
I have a problem with this, because there are a few key assumptions here which aren't justified.1. That the Tibetan people are vastly worse off under Chinese rule.
Before the Chinese got involved in Tibet, shit was downright medieval. Most of the land was owned by ridiculously rich landlords and monasteries. The land was worked by serfs who, while bound to their owners for life (like slaves), were responsible for their own upkeep (unlike slaves). Those who tried to escape or were otherwise disobedient were often tortured in a variety of interesting ways. Buddhist doctrine forbade executions, but leaving someone outside in the freezing night after lashing them to death's door was all fine and dandy.
When the Chinese first got involved, they made a treaty which allowed self-governance. They controlled the military and the conducting of foreign relations. They were allowed to execute a few social reforms, reducing interest rates and building roads and hospitals. Otherwise, things pretty much remained in the status quo.
That was until the CIA got involved, funding an organized resistance with assistance from several members of the Dalai Lama's family. They began attacking Chinese army convoys. Oddly enough, the common people of Tibet showed very little interest in joining the resistance as it progressed, and it eventually fell.
After the lamas had been removed from power, the Chinese abolished slavery, reduced and eliminated a whole lot of taxes, reduced unemployment hugely, built secular schools, and set up running water and electricity in Lhasa.
Land was redistributed to farmers and peasants, and with improvements in irrigation methods, agrarian production was increased massively.
So yeah, this one doesn't really wash. The Chinese have done some nasty stuff, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, but feudal Tibet was hardly a paradise (unless you were a lama).This
article on the topic is excellent and very well researched.2. That the recent 'protests' represent a legitimate expression of dissident views, and as such the Chinese authorities' reaction has been grossly disproportionate.
Nobody seems to have paid any attention at all to the actual nature of these protests.
We're talking massive ethnic violence. No, not against the Tibetans, but against Muslims and ethnic Chinese by Tibetans
. Tibetan-owned businesses being marked with scarves, others being burned to the ground. Stones thrown at Chinese. Hell, one guy was even doused with oil and set on fire. This is not a bunch of peace loving hippies marching through the street with placards.
The authorities did fuck all to sort it out to start with; probably because they knew the world was watching and didn't want to escalate the situation. After giving the rioters a bit of time to vent their anger, troops gradually moved in with rifles letting off the odd warning shot. Yes, there was occasional bloodshed, but there could well have been a hell of a lot more if they hadn't done something at that point.
There's a really good interview on this topic here
.3. That the free trade deal represents an endorsement of said reaction, as well as China's general oppression of the Tibetan people and other miscellaneous human rights violations; and that, conversely, refusing to sign the agreement would send a clear message that this behaviour was not acceptable, which would presumably benefit those oppressed by the regime in some abstract way or another.
You see, I totally don't get this. And this is something not many political writers and the like seem to have commented on. A free trade deal is something that increases
freedom. It gives the people of two nations greater freedom to exchange things with each other without government intervention. Our markets are already very open to China, we get alot more out of this deal than they do.
Governments, as representatives of their nation's people, are the agents that we have to deal with to facilitate these agreements, like it or not. I don't disagree with anyone that the Chinese communists are, on balance, a pack of pricks, but I don't see how we can punish them for that by refusing to sign an agreement which is to the mutual benefit of both ourselves and the Chinese people.
Where does this attitude come from? Is it economic nationalism? Is it the classic fallacy of conflating the rulers with the ruled? Or is it just racism wearing a peace sign?
(Those who read Russell Brown's weblog will notice that I've been stealing his references. His article here
is a pretty good read as always.)
Kaikoura was excellent fun. I went on my first real wine tasting adventure up in Blenheim, and ended up spending far too much money. I bought three bottles in the end - a St Clair Sauvignon Blanc (which I've already scoffed, and was yummy), a Villa Maria Pinot Noir (supposed to be the best in New Zealand presently, according to someone - I'll save it for my eventual graduation), and a Villa Maria Noble Riesling (lemon-limey; I intend to use it to convince Ro that wine is not disgusting).
Also got ludicrously drunk and talked about politics, which is always good.
Lastly, a musical recommendation for fans of post-punky/new wavey/gothy stuff. You know who you are.White Rose Movement
, from London. They show their influences fairly flagrantly, but they're excellent nevertheless. This is Girls in the Back
, my favourite track off their album, and probably the poppiest. It's well worth checking out the videos for Alsation
and Love is a number
also though, I was kinda torn about which one to post.Damn, they're pretty.