Category Archives: China

Coverage of the Protests in Tibet

A few more articles coming out detailing the ongoing protests in Tibet. Things seem to have turned somewhat violent in Lhasa, after monks began a non-violent protest on Tibetan Uprising Day to express their opposition to religious restrictions in Tibet. Two interesting bits from the New York Times article on the topic:

1) Claims that the violence escalated after Chinese security forces attacked protesting monks- triggering a response from other Tibetans. The violence against the monks of Burma triggered similar results.
2) The New York Times seems to be playing up the ethnic tensions aspect of the violence. Most of their quoted sources come from Chinese living in Tibet, and mention violence against Chinese in Lhasa and destruction of Chinese shops and homes. There’s much less attention given to this angle in the BBV report.

The Pope and the Lama

Nothing better represents the difference between the pontificate of John Paul II and Benedict XVI than the recent announcement (or non-announcement) that the Pope would not be having a formal meeting with the Dalai Lama during his visit to Italy.

Meeting with the Dalai Lama would be an immediate reminder of John Paul II’s legacy of inter-religious dialog. While the late former pontiff on several occasions spoke out against the growing Western fascination with Buddhism, he seemed simultaneously to believe that in the modern world, the religious- whatever their specific affiliation- had more to gain through alliance and dialog with one another than to lose. In particular, John Paul II saw that the values of religious faith- of compassion, service, and selflessness- presented the only coherent challenge to the materialism that drove the communist and capitalist movements of the 20th Century. John Paul II saw the Catholic church expanding beyond its traditional boundaries, both culturally and geographically.

That expansion necessitated accommodation and compromise- never simple tasks for an organization that believes it preserves the single source of religious truth in the world. Benedict XVI represents a swing back towards conservatism and tradition, and this is reflected by the choice that he has made regarding balancing two attractive but mutually exclusive goals. On the one hand, speaking publicly with the Dalai Lama sends a message about religious unity in the face of materialist challenges, something that Benedict seems to feel as strongly as his predecessor. On the other hand, official contact with the exiled Tibetan leader risks damaging relations with China, where the Church is struggling to come to accommodation with a government wary of the assertion of its traditional authority.

The deciding factor, in this case, is the appointment two months ago of a new bishop of Beijing, this time with cooperative approval from both the PRC and the Catholic Church. Beijing has offered the RCC the opportunity to gain ground regarding one of its core powers and responsibilities: the appointment of ministers to guide Catholics in the various diocese around the world. Given the choice between making gains in the execution of a traditional Catholic role and furthering the cause of a new one, it’s not surprising that Pope Benedict chose to appease China rather than send a more over message regarding Catholic modernization and religious dialog.

So while the Vatican has announced that and informal meeting with the Dalai Lama might be possible, I doubt that we can expect any more public courting of the Dalai Lama by Rome. Pope Benedict is staking out his ground and his legacy, and it seems likely to be quite different from that left by his predecessor.

Siiting on the Sidelines in Asia

Small piece in the Economist today about the likely foreign policy path of Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda. To me, one of the most striking bits of the article was this:

Japan, they say, should lead the creation of regional mechanisms that would ease territorial disputes, enhance military transparency and boost confidence among neighbours—think an Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Asia. Distracted elsewhere, the Bush administration has shown little interest in such ideas.

One of the major charges against the Bush administration has been its neglect of a variety of foreign policy goals. The administration has been playing catch-up in the last year or so, making some headway on the issue of nuclear armament in North Korea, and decidedly less progress in addressing the same issue in Iran- which is positioning itself now to be a major player in whatever situation emerges in the post-Saddam, perhaps post-Iraq, Middle East.

These two areas have often been cited as the most pressing foreign policy issues that were derailed by the ill-conceived Iraq war, but the Economist points out that there are other areas of foreign policy focus that have been allowed to slide. Israel is one where a dearth of effort in the early years of the Bush presidency allowed a situation to progress and deteriorate to the point that American preferences may no longer be relevant. But the issue that may have more serious consequences in the long run is the rise of Asia as an economic and political superpower, likely- particularly if PM Fukuda has his way- to be dominated by China and Japan.

While the Asian financial crisis of the late 90’s and early 00’s drained some international enthusiasm from the predictions of Asian economic dominance, there remains the promise of the huge and growing markets of China, India, and the rest of the region. The prospect of a country like China being able to market to its own citizens the wide array and vast volume of goods that it currently produces for European and American consumption has the potential to completely change the face of world economics. Effective institutions for establishing trade and property laws and settling resource and territory disputes would be the first step in turning Asia from a producer state for Western consumer needs into a self-contained system, in which a huge consumer population (and, by extension, a giant work force) is connected with manufacturing capabilities that are currently serving the needs of European and American markets.

There is still a lot that needs to happen before such events can transpire. Issues of governance and economic structure – corruption, market intervention, etc. – need to be addressed. But growth in the region- and potentially explosive growth- seems more likely than not, and a savvy American administration might be able to position itself to best take advantage of that growth.

The Bush administration, it seems, has little interest in such long-term plans. The emerging political and economic order of one of the largest growth regions of the world are being neglected, in order to address issues of Middle Eastern peace and security that were neglected until September 11th 2001, then took a giant step backwards in 2003-2007, and are just now showing signs of returning to a position slightly worse than where they were left at the close of the Clinton administration, seven years ago.

The question is: will Bush’s successor have a chance to dispense with the backlog of foreign policy issues in time to address Asian growth in a meaningful way, or will they be stuck doing the homework that W. skipped until the end of their term as well?

Shorts Roundup

Learning from a Bad Example?

A month after last year’s military coup in Bangkok toppled the Thaksin Shinawatra regime, the event repeated itself in miniature at the Cricket Association of Thailand. Following the election of foreign-born Vaughn McClear to the Chairmanship, incumbent Ravi Seghal remonstrated with the Sports Authority of Thailand to annul the election. The result? The appointment by the SAT of a new committee to oversee cricket in Thailand- with the previously elected committee members being ousted and replaced with unelected appointments loyal to Seghal. Since then, promised elections have still not been held, and ICC money for the development of cricket in Thailand has gone missing.

When the military junta ousted Shinawatra, The Economost opined that the lack of clear international condemnation might embolden the ruling junta, or other non-democratic forces in the region. Could that extend to the world of cricket?

Deciphering Benny Lava

Anyone who spends too much time on the internet is likely to have stumbled across the “Benny Lava” video, a Tamil music video with interpretive English transliterations of the lyrics. The result is a bizarre and often hilarious. Now crossing over from the world of web weirdness into actual scholarship, we have this linguistic analysis of the transliteration by Ed from Descriptively Adequate. His technical analysis of the real Tamil lyrics compared with the English ‘transliteration’ is often as humerous, and certainly more insightful, than the original video.

Pot v. Kettle, redux

Just two months after passing a law that would require government permission for the reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhist tulkus, the PRC is accusing the Dalai Lama of disrespecting Buddhist religious traditions by claiming that he may name a successor before death, or skip reincarnation all together. I think the irony of the situation pretty well speaks for itself.