Saturday, April 05, 2008

Last column touches on Tibet.. watch out below…

If you haven’t seen it yet, my last column is here .

I think I was pretty gentle about Tibet and backed into the subject, but the response from Chinese readers has been interesting, and very heated. I’ll put some letters up here, but to really get a feel you have to go to my
Chinese language column and take a look at the forum. Most of it is in Chinese and you won’t understand it, but you’ll get the gist from the English posts and all the exclamation pints in the Chinese. I asked Woodie to read it and give me some interpretations. He wrote back, “These people are ignorant and make me very angry!:

My Chinese teacher warned me to stay away from sensitive topics. And some people write me letters saying things like, “We like you. Please don’t write about Tibet.” It’s all been interesting.

Someone posted a link to this video in my English language forum and I think everyone should watch it because it expresses how most Chinese feel about the issue.

This letter from a Chinese living in the U.S. is one of the most reasonable things I’ve seen written about the topic:

I was born and grew up in Chengdu, Sichuan, a neighbor province of Tibet. My mom worked for public health department before she retired. Many of her coworkers were sent to Tibetan populated area in Sichuan by government at 1960’s and worked there for decades as doctors or help on local disease control. I took several trips to those areas more than 10 years ago when I was in China. The Tibetan people I met were the nicest people in the world. Ethnic divide between Tibetan and us is something that had never across my mind until recently.



Soon after the riot erupted, one of my friend lives in China put “A man shall not be too CNN.” on his MSN personnel message. I asked what it means and was told that the word “CNN” in Chinese internet community now means something like “Dishonesty”. Majority Chinese people take Olympic Game this summer as a huge deal to the national pride. It will be an upset to the whole country if anything bad happen to the game. Western people don’t get that Chinese don’t differentiate government and country as western do. Criticizing the government is often regarded the same as criticizing the country. (Sometimes I am amazed to see many Chinese still have the concept after living in the sates for years. Democracy more than often has to bow to the power of culture.) They feel like some western media like CNN is helping ignite the hates to China in order to fail Olympic game. If that really happens, the hate to Tibetan people will be inevitable, even though they really did nothing wrong. It is going to be lose-lose situation to both Tibetan and Chinese people.



I do hope Beijing can be pressed to open the door to Dalai Lama. He deserves going back to his beloved homeland after so many years. He is the ultimate cure to all the problems, with his grand compassion and intelligence.


Then I got a lot of letters like this:

I am a Chinese living in Hong Kong. I just read your article on WSJ, and I am so confused why you are worry about police?! I guess maybe this is your first time to watch a game in China. You should experience more before you address your points next time. Don't be so childish.

Tibet is China's one province and the truth is that the Tibet thing happened a few days ago is a terrible thing to all Chinese. We don't need the foreigners, who don't know anything about China and China's history, to judge anything to our own internal issue. Try to think about that what would you think if Chinese media said "it is because of American hegemony" that caused 9.11 to happen.

And I am telling you that: Go back to your states if you feel uncomfortable in China, OK? Good people won't feel uncomfortable when seeing police in China!!!


I wrote the following response and then emailed it to the previous letter writer to see if he thought it was in any way offensive. I feel like I need to be very careful with what I write and assume it will end up on Chinese blogs.

You opinion is not unusual in China. I have received a lot of similar emails and feedback on my Chinese language column.

The theme of my column is about the experiences of being an American living in China. People right now want to know how the situation in Tibet is affecting regular people and it is my job to share my thoughts and experiences.

I understand that in general Chinese people have different views of the situation than many in the West and I said so in my column, which did not really take a position about Tibet.

Despite your differences in opinion, I appreciate your reading and taking the time to write me.

Alan Paul


His response:

Ah, I want to say that I am sorry that you got so many angry responses from the Chinese readers, though I guess it is just part of the job as a writer.



I don’t think your email response will calm down the readers, but I also don’t see how you can say anything more than that. The conflict is resulted from the very fundamental culture difference. While western people are very vocal in criticism of their government, Chinese are very sensitive to the criticism and unflattering coverage about China, because Chinese don’t distinct the government and the country. You have been writing culture difference that you experience, here comes the big one, though not a positive oneJ


And a guy I know here, pretty deeply into the culture, a longtime expat with a Chinese wife writes:

This is an interesting topic, because China was half the size it is today until the 17th century when the Qing Dynasty decided to become imperialists and take more territory. Consequently, we have a situation a little like in the US (North America and Hawaii) and in Australia with pissed off ‘original people’ who still don’t appreciate what they consider to be foreign occupation.

I personally don’t have a great deal of respect for Buddhist lama worship cults, so I think the Chinese have a good point about civilizing what was a highly backward cult-centered civilization. There probably isn’t a solution for this except that the Tibetans are going to have to get used to it, and the Chinese will need to grow more compassionate and ecologically responsible. The US government is not going to give back US territory to the American Indians, and China isn’t going to return Tibet to the lamas.