Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Week in Tibet

Remember Isaac Stone Fish? He’s the bizarrely-named Newsweek writer whom I featured on the very first This Week in Tibet. Allow me to refresh your memory on what he was saying about Chinese rule in Tibet a few weeks ago:
“Whether they like it or not, China has been very good for Tibetans… China's reign there has meant an economic boom.”
Those ungrateful Tibetans are just so damn prosperous under the Chinese flag. Hold on though, Isaac Stone Fish from the Recent Past is being interrupted by Present Day Isaac Stone Fish:
The [earthquake] has allowed Chinese throughout the country to learn a little more about the situation in Tibetan regions—insight that Han Chinese on the whole lack, partially because press reports on Tibet still read like Mao-era propaganda.
If you didn’t know any better, you really wouldn’t have any idea that the jackass who wrote those words is the very same jackass who recently wrote a press report on Tibet that reads like Mao-era propaganda, would you? “Minorities receive ample handouts from generous Chairman and central government” was literally his thesis just two months ago. He continues:
This week's earthquake—and footage of the devastation—is allowing the average Chinese to see both the poverty and humanity of a region they're used to seeing only in political terms. "It's very hard to see real Tibetans" through the media, says Yang. "On TV, they're dancing all the time, shaking hands with leaders, celebrating, or shown as troublemakers. This is an opportunity to realize that Tibetans live and suffer like we do."
Poverty? Suffering? I thought Tibet was experiencing an unprecedented economic boom… where did I get that impression… oh right, from Isaac Stone Fish when he was going on about how wonderful things are for Tibetans.

You want to know where that economic boom went? Here’s what happened. China drove a dump truck full of money into the region which was earmarked for building housing. This wasn’t out of any philanthropic urge to see every Tibetan given a modern apartment, but rather out of a fear that nomadic Tibetans are too far outside government control. So the nomads were resettled into housing developments built by companies who took advantage of government connections to build shitty houses and schools. While the cost of housing was subsidized by the government, there aren’t many jobs for middle-aged Tibetans in the middle of nowhere whose main skills involve herding livestock. Many of them were already worried about how they were going to continue paying for the houses that they were forced into after the subsidies run out, and then an earthquake leveled entire blocks and killed thousands who might otherwise have been fine because you don’t generally get crushed to death by tons of falling bricks when you live in a tent. That is the nature of the economic boom for which unappreciative Tibetans and their ignorant foreign supporters should apparently give thanks.

Oh, and one more quick example of the awesome journalistic prowess of Isaac Fish Stone:
“Inhabitants of Yushu are 97 percent ethnic Tibetans, thought to be more sympathetic to the Dalai Lama and his claims for Tibetan autonomy.”
“Thought to be more sympathetic”? More sympathetic to the Dalai Lama than who, Han Chinese? The prevailing opinion among Han Chinese is that the Dalai Lama is a terrorist mastermind thanks to a decade’s long propaganda campaign that includes government statements, Chinese journalism, school curriculum, and the occasional foreign news item like this piece of garbage. Are we pretending that Tibetans aren’t supportive of Tibetan autonomy? There are over 120,000 Tibetan exiles in India giving testament to just that, and two years ago we saw protests in over 150 Tibetan towns, but I guess the Chinese government says all Tibetans are very happy to be part of China so the truth must be in the middle or something, right?

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