Public Relations: Comparing China and the Dalai Lama

Hu Jintao inspecting Chinese soldiers during China military parade.

The hubbub around the Dalai Lama’s visit to the White House has died down, as it always does, but a clear fact remains: most Americans think Tibet should be independent, and many Chinese don’t. And while it’s an oversimplification of an extremely complex issue to say that the vast divide between Western and Chinese perspectives on Tibet is due to China’s poor PR practices, their PR ineptitude on the Tibet issue has certainly played a part.

The fact is, the Dalai Lama has been running laps around the PRC’s public relations efforts for years. Perhaps having spent more time around Westerners than most of the people in China’s foreign relations department, he understands that having an English Twitter account is more effective than a domestic, Chinese-language press release when it comes to influencing Western minds. He visits the US frequently, speaking widely each time, and appearing on popular television programs to give candid interviews. In his most recent visit, he appeared on Larry King Live. He certainly gets more press time than Hu Jintao or other Chinese heads of state do when they visit the US.

Contrary to the popular narrative among Chinese nationalists, this isn’t only because of the Western media’s apparent bias against the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama generally speaks in public, while Hu Jintao tends to meet with people in private. The Dalai Lama gives interviews with newspapers, television shows, and magazines; in contrast, while Hu Jintao does speak publicly, he has certainly never agreed to speak candidly on Larry King or other similarly popular news programs.

Bush and the Dalai Lama

As I see it, there are two main problems with China’s PR efforts on the “Tibet issue”, and on controversial issues on which they differ with that vast and strange country known domestically as “The West”. The first problem is that the Chinese government repeatedly fails to engage with the Western public in the kinds of forums Westerners actually populate; the second is that the Chinese government’s discourse is often too vague or too black-and-white to come off as believable to a Western audience when they are exposed to it.

The first problem is decidedly more urgent. Many Chinese feel they are doing enough: the Ministry of Foreign Relations writes press releases, the government spreads Confucius Institutes through foreign countries to promote Chinese language and culture, and CCTV already runs an English-language channel dedicated to spreading Chinese culture internationally. But Westerners, by and large, do not care about press releases, they haven’t heard of Confucius Institutes, and they certainly don’t watch CCTV, which is generally only available outside China by special subscription. If they really want to get their story out, the Chinese government must shift its efforts to forums that Westerners actually populate. Giving frequent interviews to major newspapers and cable news stations would be a start, setting up English blogs and Twitter accounts would be an even better step to show that the Chinese government is committed to engaging with real people to get their perspective out there.

The second issue, of course, is that for the Chinese to engage in these forums effectively, they’re going to need to loosen up a bit if they want to come off as believable and capture a Western audience that, in the beginning, will be mostly hostile. This means candid interviews and directly addressing issues that may be somewhat embarrassing. They will have to admit that there is unrest in Tibet, and that some of it comes from Tibetans displeasure with CCP policies. They will have to directly address and counter accusations of genocide, both literal and cultural, with empirical evidence rather than dogmatic rhetoric. Discussing these topics will be uncomfortable, but a positive outcome is certainly possible. Whether the potential benefits (increased international support, etc.) outweigh the risks and costs of such a PR endeavor is another question entirely.

Zhang Ziyi: China's Soft Power?

Another approach, one that is perhaps subtler and more likely to succeed, would be to use China’s soft power ambassadors to spread domestic political perspectives. The problem with that, of course, is that no one really agrees on who these soft power ambassadors really are. The government has been pushing Confucius, but he can’t exactly appear on a talk show, and China’s most famous cultural exports (Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi) probably aren’t ready for political prime time. Who, then, can compete with the spiritual aura and charisma of one of the world’s most respected (though least understood) religious leaders? There is no clear representative, no face that Westerners can associate with China and empathize with. At the end of the day, that may be China’s biggest problem. Hu Jintao can’t possibly compete with the Dalai Lama from inside the walls of Zhongnanhai, and he hasn’t been particularly willing to step out.

Of course, whether China even needs to care about what foreigners think of Tibet is debatable. The government may be content to ignore foreign protestations so long as its sovereignty isn’t threatened and internal affairs aren’t compromised by external forces. But as the world gets smaller, running a country free of external interference is going to get harder and harder. China might do well to expend some effort ensuring that its government has some supporters outside its borders.

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43 Comments

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  1. I completely agree.

    China will never win Western audience with this PR strategy. On the other hand, I think one of the reasons is because they focus much more on Chinese audience: as loong as they are convinced, everything is ok in Zhongnanhai.

    And yeah, the Dalai Lama is great on TV shows and with media. I heard him talking in the European Parlament, speaking his “funny” English, and he does know who he´s trying to convince.

  2. Jones

    Very nice article. I could have used this the other day.

    I like Hu’s suit.

    I find it hard to believe that the Chinese government wouldn’t, by now, realize how it needs to engage the international populace. That is, if it actually cares to. I would think it does, though, because it’s image is already tainted, and that can affect business and growth opportunities. Won’t completely ruin them, but it can have some consequences. Especially if a president decides to listen to the people…but that hasn’t happened for decades.

  3. hm

    Can someone explain to me what the real truth about Tibet’s need for independence is?

    • yangrouchuan

      Tibet represents mineral wealth, water resources and military positioning for China against India and SE Asia.

      Tibet’s independence was taken from it, so it “needs” it back while China “needs” Tibet’s positioning.

  4. It seems quite impossible for any country to produce a spokesman that would be able to compete, since the authority of the Dalai Lama is not merely based on his commitment to act as the free spokesperson of the Tibetans. On the level of a religious practitioner, his commitment is the promotion of religious harmony and understanding among the world’s major religious traditions. On the level of a human being, he remains committed to talk about the importance of human values and secular ethics. Transparency is the name of the game; there are no hidden agenda’s.
    His role as an ambassador for Tibet is only secondary; it will seize to exist once a mutual beneficial solution for Chinese and Tibetans is reached. Therefore his so-called soft power is not merely a consequence of smart public relations. If there is any single issue that has really contributed to his international credibility, I would say it is a history of having lived more than half a century in exile. That’s hard to beat, even for Jackie Chan.

    • pug_ster

      Yet ABC, CBS, or NBC never have disclosed the well known fact that the Dalai Lama is a CIA lackie. Is that transparency in US media?

      • Pug, since you asked this on my site as well, let me repeat the answer I gave you there:

        The fact that the CIA aided the Dalai Lama has been documented in the US media. It’s not news anymore. And so what? That is not a matter of transparency but of relevancy. Do you think every story about him should begin, “The Dalai Lama, who half a century ago was aided by the CIA when he fled Tibet….”? Where is the relevance of the CIA to stories about how the Dalai Lama wants greater autonomy for Tibet?

        Following this line of thinking, are NBC and CBS lacking transparency when they don’t reference the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward in every story about China?

        Is there some important secret story about the Dalai Lama and the CIA that the US media are conspiring to hide?

        • pug_ster

          The fact that the CIA aided the Dalai Lama has been documented in the US media.

          Really, where?

          • Google it. It Isn’t that hard. Problem is, it is old news – nearly half a century. Why would today’s media highlight this, unless they were writing a historical piece about his flight from Tibet? You are, with all due respect, obsessed.

        • Terry

          I have a wonderful book on the secret war in the early 60’s and the Dalai Lama himself wasn’t all that supportive of the CIA’s involvement although his brother was, as were the Champa people of Eastern Tibet. I am not sure that he was directly aided in his escape by the CIA either, but underwent the escape on his own initiative to prevent a bloodbath in Lhasa. But that was over 50 years ago as you mentioned.

  5. Sam

    - I agree, to a degree. Indeed a lot can be done better and a lot more can be done. I myself had criticized the performance of the former foreign ministry spokesperson in a BBC public debate.

    – However turning the tides may be mission impossible. Seeing an competitor, the western public opinion has always been hostile and childish. I guess that’s just human nature. It’s not like Japan hasn’t done and spent enough on this front but what they’ve got in return? House reps smashing Japan made products and Toyoda interrogated in public? Who’s Japan’s soft power? Yoko Ono?

    – From the Chinese viewpoint, western public opinion counts but not as much as the Chinese public opinion. Any Chinese official needs to be cautious as not being perceived as another 消气外交 promoter.

    – The public opinion is as reliable as wind. I doubt the Dalai Lama’s influence will be as long-lasting as the Chinese government.

    • I would say Japan’s perfect example of soft power is Sakamoto Ryuichi having some sushi, but that’s just a matter of personal preference. Not sure what you are talking about concerning Toyota, but worldwide japanese products are still considered of excellent – if not superior quality. Yamaha presents itself as a company that creates “Kando” (a Japanese word for the simultaneous feeling of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that people experience when they encounter something of exceptional value). I wonder if there is any chinese equivalent of Kando?
      What Chinese competitor was it, that made us so hostile and childish? I must have unconciously erased him, because I honestly cannot remember who you are refering to.
      Furthermore I agree, to a degree: public opinions are indeed as reliable as the wind. In some cases however, the wind blows mainly in one direction. Or at least it has been for decades. One can only wonder why.

      • Sam

        I was referring to the past round of hostility (in 1980s) towards Japan when Japan was perceived as a competitor. I agree China still has a long way to go in order to achieve the success Japan has, however China has already enjoyed many of the “benefits” any US competitor used to enjoy, simply because China as a whole, has now been perceived as a competitor. So much of a pragmatic US foreign policy, refer to the term: “strategic competitor” etc. (To be fair, Japanese products were perceived as bad quality too, in 1960s?)

        As for Toyoda, indeed Toyota is still one of the better quality auto makers on the market, a lot better than Ford/GM I’d say, which makes it even more wired that it’s not Ford/GM top executes grilled at the Capitol day in and day out for their quality control. Despite the fact that Toyota now assembles a big portion of its cars in the US plants, it’s still perceived as a Japanese company, and the former big 3 (all US companies) are all in such bad shapes … I may be naive, but I can help linking this Toyota PR disaster with the perceived image of Toyota being the biggest winner of the cash for clunker program. And that, I think, is the root cause of the PR failure. It’s simply not possible to win the PR campaign.

        That’s how things work under a US dominated world. Wisely Mr. Deng Xiaoping said it already: 韬光养晦,永不出头.

        • Great article, Custer! Long overdue.

          Sam, I think you are way offbase. Toyota has been clobbering US automakers for decades. Their PR disaster was home-made, a mix of atrocious crisis communications and a serious problem with their gas pedals. The latter has probably been over-hyped, but it’s like that anytime you have a defective product. Audi and the Corvair went through even worse crises of confidence over safety issues.

          the western public opinion has always been hostile and childish

          Only because no spokesperson or the Chinese side of the story emerged to tell the story from China’s perspective. Addressing a man who appeared peaceful, even saintly, with vitriol and bluster and prickly denunciations was the worst way to address the Dalai Lama. And I am not saying he is saintly, but that is the aura he created for himself very successfully thanks to one of the most brilliant PR campaigns of all time. China’s ham-fisted reaction is what robbed them of their credibility while investing the DL with even greater credibility.

          • Sam

            richard,

            I vaguely remember a journalistic technique that by reversing opposing viewpoints A and B in the sentence “Even though A, B…” you get through any argument. We seem to agree on both A and B but only differ on the sequence where they should be put.

            If you are willing to go down the route to investigate why the gas pedal problem is so over hyped in both the US media and the governing bodies, you might see my point. However your willingness to cut slacks on how and why the public opinions are formed as such in the west somehow tells me that’s again fallen on deaf ears.

            I don’t know how true it is but some researchers seem to believe that contrary to the western culture, the eastern Asian culture is dominantly a listener responsible culture in which “the listeners are responsible for constructing the meaning of the message”. When all is said and no point taken, it only means the breakdown of the communication. The same can be said about the Chinese Tibetan PR, albeit a failed one. In a failed communication like this I don’t think any single party is fully responsible for the failure.

  6. Sam

    One of a more persuasive guys I can recall was the former Jordanian ambassador to the US who appeared on C-SPAN answering phone calls. Much better than any Chinese ambassador or spokesperson. But did he have even the slightest influence on the US public opinion when Jordan was painted by the manufactured consensus as a Saddam supporter? Not a chance.

  7. jsyang

    “蛮横、专制”可怜的中共(中国)与狡猾的“和平使者”达赖喇嘛

    http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_60f25ed70100hogh.html

  8. terrell

    “China might do well to expend some effort ensuring that its government has some supporters outside its borders.”

    China has quite a few supporters outside their borders. Just look around Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

    While they’re definitely still in the process of perfecting “public relations with Chinese characteristics”, the PR problem clearly goes both ways; how many leaders from “The West” engage the Chinese in their forums? VOA doesn’t count.

  9. “…while Hu Jintao does speak publicly, he has certainly never agreed to speak candidly…”

    China’s leaders lack the backbone for unscripted responses to questions from an unshackled press. Pity.

    “Confucius Institutes through foreign countries to promote Chinese language and culture…”

    In my experience CI’s are more about promoting a CCP narrative, which includes their somewhat revisionist take on history.

    “China might do well to expend some effort ensuring that its government has some supporters outside its borders.”

    I think the volume of investment in soft power initiatives oversees would surprise if known. And, as noted already, China has many, many ‘supporters’ in Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Asia. Unfortunately, the leaders of those countries are inclined to be crackpots with dictatorial tendencies, or too indebted to Beijing to dare say ‘no’.

    What China needs to do is stop defining its friends as those who lavish praise, never criticize, and comply with every childish demand.

  10. pug_ster

    I fail to see to see what’s the point to try to convince Westerners why China is good and the Dalai Lama is bad. As long as the Western Media has some kind of beef with China, it is a propaganda war that China just won’t win, so why bother. People without an open mind won’t listen anyways.

  11. I’m quite mystified as to how the Dalai Lama continually gets such good media coverage and good PR. His pronouncements are a mix of the bleeding obvious and the anodyne. “Be nice to each other” … “do not be angry” etc. I suppose a sense of humour and self deprecation go a long way.
    You’re right in that China is very poor at putting its message across to international audiences (not just westerners – everyone from the Thais to Archbishop Desmond Tutu seem to ‘get’ the Dalai Lama’s message). But for how much longer? I predict that China will ‘buy’ public opinion by indirectly buying into ailing western media companies. Just look at the way the SCMP has become all but a Beijing mouthpiece since it was taken over by the pro-Beijing Kwoks. Just as China is now buying oil fields and mining companies, I expect China Inc to start buying up newspapers and media companies. More fair and balanced coverage of Tibet real soon.

  12. AndyR

    My question would be: why do we want a CCP with broader appeal? I guess my big criticism of your analysis is that it seems written with the opinion that the CCP SHOULD be representing China and the Chinese people, when the only reason that it continues to act on their behalf is because of kicking out the GMD 60 years ago, finally opening up the nation’s doors a bit to let the Chinese people interact economically with the rest of the world (doors they shouldn’t have had the right to keep closed in the first place), and defeating a bunch of protesters in 1989.

    China’s image problem has nothing to do with the strategies the CCP is using. It’s the CCP itself: the Party is the problem. If the Chinese people had a leadership that actually “represented” their interests rather than the interest of the Party and its stakeholders, I think you would see more mutual understanding.

    The way you describe it it’s like Karl Rove advising the Devil on how to win the hearts and minds of the laowai. No matter how you dress it up I think that it will fail because your approach results in the same wolf in sheep’s clothing we’ve seen a million times before. The Chinese people don’t fall for the Party’s BS, so I don’t see how Hu Jintao going on Charlie Rose or Zhang Ziyi spouting the virtues of “the China model” is going to fool the rest of the world. (your second suggestion of the CCP actually admitting a mistake and providing hard evidence to back up their position is just too far-fetched to even consider as an potential reality)

    This simple fact needs to be understood. “China” does not have an image problem, the “Chinese people” do not have an image problem, the “CCP” HAS an image problem (that it deserves). The sad fact is that the CCP’s image problem is unfairly conflated with the “national image” both by foreigners and the Chinese people themselves.

    So I do not understand how would giving the CCP a shiny new PR campaign geared toward Western tastes actually improve anything for the Chinese people, Tibet, or the world? Wouldn’t it just result in a better branded crap policy?

    • AndyR

      And I’m sure people will harp on me for underestimating those three “great” accomplishments of the CCP, to which I have to say:

      1. Winning the Civil War does not equal an election. What it does equal is probably the single biggest land grab in the history of the world, a land grab that is currently making many people in the government and the developer friends a handsome profit.
      2. The Chinese people and especially the migrant workers should be given way more credit for China’s amazing growth over the last 30 years. Opening up the economy is not where the real sweat was poured on this project.
      3. I think the government’s screw up a Tiananmen is self-evident. People praise their actions as if they saved the country, when they really just saved their own butts. The Chinese people are more than intelligent enough to come out of Tiananmen without the CCP in charge and without the country falling into shambles. People who think otherwise truly underestimate China and are the farthest thing from patriots.

      • Joe

        “People praise their actions as if they saved the country, when they really just saved their own butts. ”

        Who actually think their actions saved the country. No Chinese or Western person I have ever talked to believes this.

  13. Joe

    Where is the option: Why do I care if China has good or bad PR? I am not Chinese.

  14. jsyang

    Custer, can you get this article translated? It’s a deep analysis of current day situation in Tibet

    藏区3.14事件社会、经济成因调查报告

    http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_60f25ed70100hhg3.html

    http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_60f25ed70100hhg1.html

  15. playfair

    Dalai Lama has been on CIA’s payroll for quite some years all the way before Nixon visited China. I don’t think this fact has been reported by the media in the West.

    DL’s reputation can easily go much worse given the fact that it is the hard line Tibetans in Tibet that most vehemently against the return of Dalai Lama.

    No one West reporter would dare to report such a fact, becuase to explain such fact, one has to explain to the reader the words like Slavery, Theocracy, Lamaism, something that one on in the West wants to hear.

    Much of DL’s popularity in the West really stems from the anti-China sentiment in the West, the fear and the agony of the rising China, lead by a communist party.

    DL is basically a lovely proxy played by the West for the anti-China game.

    What a pity that the West has lost all of its credibity with the Chinese people with its high horse Democracy and Human right propoganda and now can only resort to use a former CIA agent and a former head of a Theocracy and Slavery to demonize China.

    • Terry

      playfair, i challenge you to document that the Dalai Lama has ever been on the CIA’s payroll even in the 50’s and 60’s. I agree that that there are many in Tibet who don’t want to see the Dalai Lama return and that the Theocracy and Slavery of the past is not a good thing, but the Dalai Lama’s popularity in the west has more to do with the Buddhist Spiritual Message than from anti-China sentiment.

    • Teacher in C

      Well done, you earned your 5 mao today. That last paragraph was particularly striking. Did that come out of “Attacking the West for Dummies”?

      Seriously though, I have been to Tibet, and I personally found it disgusting how much money was invested in the stuff in the Potala Palace (golden buddhas encrusted with rubies, diamonds, and emeralds, for example) – just goes to show that organized religions are the same everywhere – loads of money to build edifices, screw using it to actually help feed and clothe people that need it.

    • Dave

      “I don’t think this fact has been reported by the media in the West”

      If this wasn’t ‘reported’ in the west or at least made public information then how do you, or anyone else, even know about it? Was this reported in the CCP media back in the 1970’s? Was it just fabricated?

  16. playfair

    Terry,

    See richard’s comments on DL being CIA agent.

    Has it ever occured to you that there milliions of Buddhists throught out Asia that can deliver the same messages DL can deliver. But why is it that the West has to pick a former head of Theocrat and and Slavery and CIA agent as the representative of Buddhists?

    The former theocrat and slaver holder and CIA agent is now in the business of preching universal love. what a joke.

    Actually, I need to correct myself, because technically, DL is still a theocrat and slave holder because Dalai Lama by definition is a theocrat and becuse DL has never remounced his past.

    As for the CIA agent, one has to wonder when did DL actually tended his resignation with CIA.

  17. playfair

    I think I need to correct myself agian with regard to DL tending resignation to CIA.

    As far as I can tell, DL was filed by the CIA when his service was no longer needed when Nixon decided to visit China.

    • Terry

      playfair…. so you take one person’s comment on a blog that the Dalai Lama was aided as a verification?? when it is obvious you can’t spell or read English all that well? and the comment was aided not hired… so he couldn’t be “filed” (sic)…. and the timeline we are dealing with is long before Nixon’s visit to China… so do some history research as well!!! If you want to know more.. do read The CIA’s Secret War in Tibet by Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison: http://www.amazon.com/CIAs-Secret-War-Tibet/dp/0700611592/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268802573&sr=8-1

      It is an excellent and thoroughly researched book and I have a copy here in Beijing.

      BTW, there are millions of Catholics out there in the world and yet the world does deal with the Pope… and also the Dalai Lama himself was born into a serf family and has never been a slave holder. The man himself never had much choice about being discovered as the next Dalai Lama as a child. But then, I am sure you never bothered to educate yourself about that…before spouting off your 5 mao comments. History is so inconvenient at times isn’t it?

  18. Zuo Ai

    I have a suggestion or the poll. Could you add:

    “Chinese, in general, don’t give a shit about political issues and therefore the CCP can do whatever the hell it pleases as long as it continues to support hedonistic consumer culture in modern China”

  19. Richard2010

    China’s PR effort in the whole world is just shit. They do care about it, since I read a couple of years ago that they were searching for foreign companies to advise them, and a couple of them won a contract. But either that never got very far or the changes have been too subtle for me to notice.

    I remember attending one of Wen Jiabao’s lectures (the one where a shoe was thrown at him), and he talks as boring as any other politician, but my impression was that he was only talking to the Chinese in the room. My guess is he probably wanted to talk straight to the “foreigners” as well, but somehow imagined that the things that would impress them are the same as the things which would impress the Chinese in the audience.

    This is the deep down underlying problem, the Chinese media, government and the average fenqing all have no idea how to get the respect of westerners (or africans or indians or other east asians), let alone persuade them to believe something. It seems that their view of the ideal way to influence another country is to have big numbers on your side and to have huge big international Chinese brands. Sure, it would be a big deal to one day have a Chinese Microsoft but I still think foreigners would be even affected if, for example, the future leadership seemed more human and accessible (interviews with future leaders?). Or if they took more prominent and interesting roles in international affairs where they didn’t necessarily have a geostrategic interest? This really gives them character, and so long as its not a scary, its something which any foreigner will feel more comfortable with.

    When it comes to an issue like the Dalai Lama, I suppose the real question is what would a complete outsider think when he came across the situation exposed to both western and Chinese coverage…?

    Anybody’s guess, since both sides seem to completely disregard the other side of the story, or mention it in a derogatory way. But the Chinese media seems so obviously one-sided with no attempt to hide it… its not hard to believe that the third party would be somewhat repelled by Chinese media version of events. Not due to the argument but by the poor attempt to disguise things and general bad quality.

    Their English language news is of the very worst quality even putting the bias to one side. Hasn’t got any better in the 5 years I’ve been in China. So it is Hilarious when Xinhua or others declare that they will be a major world news resource in 10-20 years. The fact that they make these kind of statements is in itself part of the reason why they seem so ridiculous and untrustworthy to a Western audience.

  20. The bottom line is – Most Westerners do not have the capacity or inclination to research or find out the truth for themselves. They simply believe what they hear most. As the saying goes – ‘Repeat a lie a thousand times, and it becomes truth’.

  21. King Tubby

    Three general points rather than deconstructing particular posts.
    Soft Power. A prerequisite for successful global outreach, the ability to shape and organise public opinion on couches in many countries, hinges on television, CNN and Al Jazeera being the most successful examples to date. For China, some variant of CCTV projected into homes, hotels and board rooms, and able to convincingly transmit Beijing’s views and aspirations to diverse cultures in Europe, Africa, Oceania and Asia. This is a stated ambition, but fortunately it will never come to pass, and I am thankful for the following reason.
    It would probably be based on the CNN model (there are other models, but mass market TV is about PR, not indepth analysis) with embedded prettyboys like Sherwood Anderson providing facile live reports, crosses to panels of tame experts followed by a bloody golf report, all done in five minutes flat.
    CNN reports on Gulf wars one and two, not to forget Hezbollah in Lebanon, amped up the military resolution message to the exclusion of all else. Works on the psychology of the viewer …agitation, uncertainty… CNN has this down pat, and I hope another reader can elaborate on this dimension, but that is not my aim here.

    In this period of serious differences between the PRC and the US, two global media outlets with strongly opposing points of view is a pretty good recipe for an eventual military conflict. (Welcome any criticism of this paragraph, since Im not so of my logic here.)

    Tibet. CIA meddling in the 1950s and the fact that Tibet was a theocratic feudal sewer are old news. That Tibetans are presently far from happy with with their Han overlords is also a fact beyond question. References to the 1950s and Tibetan theology (which turns me off totally) go nowhere. In the interest of thread harmony (and I’m not being facetious), I recommend a third path…dip into Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, which focusses on the role of culture and literacy in shaping national identity. I wont quote since someone had the good sense to pinch my copy, but tons of refernces on the net.

    On a ligher note, that is not a Mao suit. Hu purchased it at the Kim Jong-iL House of Fashion using his visa card. However, he passed on the optional extras, the ‘do, the shades and lift shoes. (Very sure of this one.)
    Cheers

  22. Kam Leung

    Homeland Security: Protection since 1492. The west has no more right to criticize China-Tibet than US-native Americans. Do not forget that DL XIV is sponsored by the US Government: he wear’s Bush I’s gold watch, “invited to speak” in Oregon just when BJ Olympic 2008 opens. You think he really “lives” in India only to travel the world based on donations? When the ruling despot dies, he will be replaced by a 5-year old boy, reincarnation of the Dahli Lamas. Whose your Daddy then? When I visited Tibet, the (Government sponsored) tour guide openly admit, “the guards on the bridge are needed because last year the separatists managed to set off a bomb outside Gov’t offices.” There you have it, one man’s revolutionary is another’s terrorist. May be we should sponsor Tibetean Terrorists too. Oh, excuse me, we already are. One only need to see the Llahsa temples, monks in the streets and prostate pilgrims to conclude religious freedom or not.

    • King Tubby

      Many thanks for your fire from the hip reply. I am not American which you might have guessed if you had read my remarks on CNN. Secondly, I pointed out that Tibetan theology leaves me cold ie it is pretty well gibberish. Finally, I pointed to another way of understanding the Tibetan situation post 2008, and provided an easily accessible reference which, while it may take time reading, is nonetheless a worthwhile exercise. Reading a post carefully often has its dividends. From feudalism and slavery to literacy, then national identity. That was the point. Finally, and just to confound you, I regard the Dalai Llama as a pop star with his saccharine sound bites.

Continuing the Discussion