A Conversation for Ngawang Sangdrol

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Post 21

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

I agree that there has to be a significant benefit, at least in the long term, to rationalize invading someone else's home. On the other hand, the invasion of Tibet, East Turkestan, and Southern Mongolia must have been a terrible drain on the resources of a country that, until recently, has scarcely been able to feed its citizens. The cost of rebuilding these regions as a part of the motherland must still represent a huge drain on the Chinese economy. I still think that the basic concept of a vast new empire was a key incentive to acquiring these regions. That's just speculation. But if material wealth were the primary consideration, surely uniting the Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongols, etc. in a federal system would have been more profitable than spending fifty years trying to eradicate their cultures.


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Post 22

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

Change easier than conservatism in China?
That country won't become a federal government until hell freezes over. That's not to say that it isn't possible that that actually happens in China, since the way that country is changing anything could happen. But these massive changes are taking ages to show their destination, and so too it will be before we have a United States of China.

smiley - bigeyes the thought of it... smiley - smiley


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Post 23

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

Hi again. Sorry for the delay.smiley - smiley

For good or ill, China is a fascinating place to watch. Who knows what the future will bring? With the very landscape being changed by projects like the Three Gorges Dam and talk of blasting tunnels through the Himalayas with nukes, anything could happen. The idea of a USC might have been easier for P'u Yi and his Manchu friends to digest than Mao's little red book and scary kids arresting their parents.smiley - winkeye


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Post 24

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

Glad you're back. smiley - smiley

Is that the plan now? Nuking the himalayas? No doubt that would give them pretext for cleaning up all of Tibet once and for all.

In any case, whatever China has been in the past, from empire to republic, it certainly never was something with power decentralised if I'm not mistaken. I'm trying to come with an explanation... and if there is one it may be that the pervasive feeling that China is the centre of it's own world leaves little other option than for China itself being directed from the centre as well.

But the centre, what's that then? it's not really restricted to beijing, because beijing wasn't always the capital, was it? it moved a couple of times in history if I'm not wrong. So, not a geographical centre, but a referential one. China thinks in centres, so to speak. Maybe I'm just blathering. But it would preclude any self-determination for Tibet, as well as a decentralisation in general.

All in all, you have a point. From empire to communist republic is
in some ways a leap as great as from communist republic to federation.
But can federations come about by military force, like mao used?
dot, dot, dot


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Post 25

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

I read a report recently that said the PRC was considering using nukes to blast tunnels through the mountains... for hydro-electric generators, I think (could be wrong).

I was thinking that, in the world as yet to unfold, China might find the role of the PLA itself a liability, in terms of its impeding the economic growth of the country and preserving a climate of fear and distrist altogether unconducive to making a lot of money by making friends with foreigners. In such a scenario, a vibrant, multi-ethnic China would be a positive thing that the leadership might appreciate fostering, even to the extent of sharing China with the people it is presently trying to convince are Chinese through brutality and oppression. The China invented by Kublai Khan was one in which the various component peoples flourished more or less on their own terms, each contributing to the greater glory of the whole. In a sense, isn't that what the whole global village thing ought to be about? Maybe we could all become Chinese.smiley - winkeye

JTG


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Post 26

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

I've read it, need to think about it. Stay tuned... smiley - smiley


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Post 27

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

I wait with bated breath.smiley - smiley


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Post 28

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

Is my imagination so limited? Or are you veering off on the impossible tangent here?

Of course we are slowly all becoming chinese, but that's because they're slowly becoming us. intermarriages, blood lines all nicely mixing, that sort of thing. In that far-fetched gonna take aeons kind of sense, you're right.

Still, I find your story about Kublai Kahn hard to believe. The way I thought it went was that Kublai started conquering China, but ended up becoming chinese. Isn't this why they have that famous historic ethnocentrism believing china is the centre of everything, because china absorbs what tries to take it? I thought it was.

ANyway, vibrant colourful societies aren't built by leaders, on the contrary I think. the leaders that come to power in their midst are given that place because they appreciated such a society in the first place. Children of their time. It's the leaders that don't appreciate colourfulness and vibrance that simply take power from time to time and the society has little to say about it.

With regards to China, then, you can say that eventually the vibrant society under oppression by the mandarins is like a steam cooker, at the moment, and what's adding to that is the input from outside, internet, hong kong, etc. That's interesting, because what may happen is the massive chinese people becoming fed up with the mandarins.
But the powerholders making that turn on their own initiative? I see little chance of that happening.


Whee! smiley - smiley


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Post 29

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

We are swinging rather madly off topic. Whee...smiley - smiley

There's a story about Kublai Khan that I like: Apparently he built this most amazing and totally artificial city with miles-long, walled corridors and gate after gate, each more awesome than the last, and each chock full of government functionaries. Everything about it spoke of an ordered universe perfectly governed by the world's most efficient bureaucracy (which is where you are right to say that, by this time, he was more Chinese than Mongol). But at the very heart of the most impressive seat of government on earth, the great Khan - and he truly was great - had a little patch of Mongol steppe and a gur in which to entertain his close friends. Sadly, he died of alcoholism and, I believe, nostalgia for the freedom and open space he'd lost forever.

You may be right, in most cases, about vibrant, colourful societies not being built by their leaders; but the Mongol Empire certainly was.

I agree that the present leadership is too much a product of the past to voluntarily bring about much in the way of a free, open China. But I think that there will be dramatic changes when the new generation, who learned their politics in the international marketplace, take the reins. But what they reap (to mix a metaphor) will be a crop sown, however unwittingly, by the current despots.

In the meantime, let's not forget Ngawang Sangdrol and her many friends who are stuck in Chinese prisons.


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Post 30

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

But we aren't!

In my view, you can hold high a noble flag of HumanRights and universal self-determination till yer blue in the face, until you understand that this is not something the current China has anything to do with, you're not going to get anywhere. Therefore, discussin China and how it might change in future, can give you an inkling of how you can approach it these days.

I think the current China is much easier reached economically than ethically, and many agree with me. What is easily forgotten is that this was once a strange idea because of the cold war, and china had no interest in western business. this is changing, what will the future bring? Now if only our businesses would play their gambits a little more in the line of 'hands off tibet or no trade', we'd be a lot further.


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Post 31

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

That's the crux of the problem. There has to be a genuine commitment to the ideals of human rights in domestic policies. Anything less is just hypocracy, which we've been accused of over treatment of first nations people in Canada. Also, there has to be a grass roots involvement in the process of making the Universal Declaration of Human Rights truly universal. I think there is a sad lack of interest in Canada, both at the educational level and where human rights meets Canadian culture... in the marketplace.


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Post 32

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

And there we're back at an earlier square, with me arguing that it might not be a lack of interest, but a short-term preference to make money and the promise of selling enormous things in China. People do want to spread the notion of human rights, but if it impedes our daily bread, it goes on the backburner.

There has to be grass roots discontent in China, that's the only way if you ask me. External forces have too much to lose tom really go to lengths, and besides it's not their people being opressed.
Another argument regarding this: There's no use shoving human rights down the throat of a gov't whose people don't give a damn about it.
The relativism/universalism discussion comes into play. What if the chinese culture has no use for these UDHR values?


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Post 33

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

I honestly don't think you can claim to be interested in human rights and put HR concerns on the back burner. I think there must be something fundamentally wrong with people who appear to do that; either they are ignorant of the implications of bolstering oppressive regimes or they are morally deficient. Part of the problem, as I see it, is that many of the business people who commit their companies to morally questionable arrangements are too insulated from the reality of suffering and privation. Even if they accept the notion of oppression and abuse as an abstract concept (and I question whether some are even capable of that), there is no real empathy with the people whose suffering they are, in part, responsible for. Some, on the other hand, just don't care.

Ordinary people have shown that they support companies with a humane and responsible outlook. The problem with engaging people's support for an international standard of human rights is a matter of education. People tend to care less about countries they don't know much about. In the past, governments have taken advantage of this in order to promote or discourage our interest in what is going on in various parts of the world according to their own strategic considerations. We tend to hear a lot about people our governments want us to like, and far less about the people our governments would rather we forgot about. Add to this the hazy sense of geography that the average person possesses, and you have a public with a very limited capacity for empathy... which isn't really their fault; they just need to be given a better look at the world. I think the Internet is filling this education gap to some extent.

There is a grass roots resistance to oppression in Tibet and the other occupied territories... that's where our story began. How the Chinese people view the Western concept of Human Rights is something I know less about. But I suspect that where human rights concerns aren't in conflict with nationalism, the ordinary people would welcome the opportunity to assemble, express themselves, reproduce, and worship without the fear of being persecuted for it, there just the same as anywhere else.

The relative affinity of any given culture for human rights concerns was addressed at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. The Vienna Declaration states that what is described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be considered the fundamental rights of all human beings everywhere, notwithstanding nationality, history, culture, or religion.

... But Bratislava is still the place to go for strudel.smiley - smiley

JTG


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Post 34

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

John, you're putting this too much in a black/white dichotomy in my idea. There is no such thing as one-dimensional good or evil, and there's nothing wrong with getting queasy when there's suffering on TV while still buying regular coffee. People are not so straight-minded, and yes I do believe there is such a thing as believing the world would be a better place if we could just respect one another yet at the same time working for Shell, Philips or what not. It would be muxh easier if you had people that embraced human rights and stood on the barricades, and then people who embraced money, and tore down trees and supported bad government all the time. But right now in Holland, a forefighter for European unity, we have Foot&Mouth too, and by gawd we're going to vaccinate, against Europolicy. Even on a relatively bland point like that, the feeling of people is ambivalent.

Even if someone if very much aware of the suffering in Tibet, there is a lot to be won from Chinese trade. Like you said, ordinary people have shown that they support companies with a humane and responsible outlook. But those same ordinary people also buy regular coffee again when the poor-farmer case drifts over... smiley - sadface but true.


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Post 35

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

Life is very complex, and we need all shades of grey to render it in three dimensions. But I think some things can be stated simply. Some things are just wrong. As human beings we recognize them instinctively. We don't all need to take to the barricades to create a better world; but I think we should do what we can to understand the world we live in; and, if there are choices to be made that will affect the quality of life of someone we may never meet, I think we should take the responsibility for having an influence on world events, however slight. Human rights isn't something separate from our everyday lives. It's not something that should be left to radicals to crusade for or politicians to debate about. It's a question of values.
But a person could drive themselves crazy trying to assess the international implications of every minute daily decision. The basic requirement for being a good person (even a good business person), as I see it, is to do god when you can, and not to cause hardship and misery when you can avoid it. The ethics of international trade can be as simple as the ethics of interpersonal relationships.


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Post 36

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

"Human rights isn't something seperate from our everyday lives"

For a whole lot of people it is, in two ways:
-for people like you and me it is, because we aren't painfully confronted with a lack of it every day. That goes for the countries in the west, with democratic legacies and a long-standing respect for humna rights.
-for people in countries where human rights aren't an institution, it's also the case. In everyday life they have to cope (or do not realise that what they are doing can be seen as coping- know not, want not) with that lack of human rights tradition, and only once in a while someone there gets up and argues for a more humane society- and gets knocked down.

Human rights are not something to be taken for granted or considered natural, their achievement inevitable. People everywhere have to fight long and hard for them, and people have done so here as well, as you well know. Without people who realised that the oppression that was part of their everyday lives did not have to be like that, that it could be replaced by something else like respect for humanity, there would never have been such a thing anywhere.


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Post 37

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

What I meant by 'Human Rights isn't something separate from our everyday lives' is that it isn't an abstract intellectual exercise; we should think of Human Rights as being an everyday objective, a routine part of life. We unconsciously base our actions on certain moral precepts - we protect and feed our children; we don't abuse or mistreat the weak. The right not to be tortured, etc... ought to be as natural and self evident as that. It ought to seem wrong when we learn that people somewhere are being denied basic rights; and we ought to want to do something about it. At the route of most armed conflicts around the world are Human Rights issues. Wherever we happen to live we should recognize that we have a stake in resolving Human Rights questions internationally, if not for the moral implications, then for the sake of our own prosperity. It's a case of enlightened self interest. Obviously, not everyone enjoys the same standard of Human Rights. That's what's at issue.

The rights that we in the West have fought long and hard for ought not to be taken for granted. They were hard won. But now that we have them (to varying degrees), we are in a position to influence societies that don't have a tradition of respect for the individual. This is something of real value that we have to offer, something vital to a peaceful prosperous co-existence. A key component of Canadian foreign policy has been exporting the expertise to developing countries to lay a solid foundation of Human Rights in such civil activities as the judiciary and election reform. Human security and respect for the individual are key elements to a productive, prosperous society and necessary characteristics of a reliable trading partner... enlightened self interest again.


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Post 38

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

"Human security and respect for the individual are key elements to a productive, prosperous society and necessary characteristics of a reliable trading partner..."

Are they really? Name one society that has developed respect for the individual and human security BEFORE it became prosperous and productive in the sense that we call ourselves that. The nations you and I live in begot their prosperity and prodictiveness over the bodies of many not-respected people. If you follow interdependence resasoning, they still do today. How is China ever going to become competitive to the west if it first has to develop repsect for the working class? No, first capital, then human capital.

Believing human rights and suchlike are necessary to be productive and prosper is ideology, and not based on historic evidence. It would be nice if it were true but it isn't necessarily that. Following this reasoning into China... there is no incentive there to develop respect for the individual. not until the individual has money to spend on the industry, the economy, and so on.


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Post 39

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

Looking at economic development from the perspective of a developing nation that is self-reliant and does not trade with the Western democracies that is certainly true.

But we're not talking about insular, isolated social development. The world is different now than it was at the start of the Industrial Revolution. The historical models of exploitation and colonialism are a part of the world order that is being replaced by the new global market place. Of course, the new challenge is that we don't replace the historic standard of nationalistic and racial exploitation with a new breed of exploitation based on corporate colonialism.

Which is the heart of the Human Rights debate: It is essential to establish a code of conduct for companies expanding into new market areas, like China. You're right to say that countries like China can generate wealth by exploiting the masses in the same way that past generations have been exploited in the West. They have been successful in building a huge export market in part through the use of Laogai labour and factories run by the PLA. That's what the international community has to address.

In the long run, the Chinese (and other oppresive regimes) must accede to the basic levels of human rights in order to do business with companies that are constrained by international law in their home countries. This is already happening, albeit at a lamentably slow pace.

This is where people like you and I come into the picture: As citizens of countries at the forefront of human rights legislation, we have to make sure that HR remains an important part of domestic and foreign policy of our governments, and denounce companies that try to circumvent international HR rules for a quick buck.


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Post 40

Prez HS (All seems relatively quiet here)

You know John, what I find troubling in this is not the slow pace in which Chinese companies are being compelled to accede to human rights in order to deal with internationally restrained companies, but the very international restraints, or better: lack thereof.

It is currently extremely difficult to restrain private entities, because we still not adapted to their changed nature over the years.
Government is, in capitalism, a mediator between private business and public interest. It polices the companies, and keeps the people at work by listening to them, and to business. But what happens to this system when you've got international corporations with an investment budget exceeding that of Denmark? The very nature of capitalism is changing, and we don't have words for it.

Kofi Annan recently signs the Global Compact with some major corporations, and that's all he could do. The document is a symbolic gesture with no binding authority whatsoever, but there is no more than that. The UN or the US can bomb Iraq when it invades Kuwait, but what about Nike invading Asia? The international public entities have no grip over private business because in the capitalist terminology there are no words to describe private corporations as entities having political clout, when they most certainly do, as China testifies. With regards to that country and Tibet, private businesses have more political clout then nations do. According to liberalist theory in our capitalist world, this is absurd! Unthinkable! Impossible! But it has happened.

Now the reason that in a capitalist world, the government should be a check on private business defending public interest, is because if that doesn't happen, people suffer under capitalist drive to make profit and to apply human capital to the optimum. In other words: business doesn't care about people, so governments do it for them.
But with the current movement, this check is losing its grip on private business, and where do we go then? Hope that business starts developng moral code by itself? According to theory, they won't.

Then what? I have some ideas, but I've been on the mic long enough.
And Bratislava is indeed the place to go to for the best strudel smiley - smiley


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