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Government of the people, by the people, and for the people?

I've been reading some articles about the disconnect between Westerners and Chinese people over the Tibet issue. One piece of it I think is worth pointing out is that, when Americans complain about the Chinese gov't, we* see a clear separation between the people of China and the government of China. We argue that we have nothing against the Chinese people, just against the Chinese gov't. I think this argument fundamentally stems from a denial of the legitimacy of the Chinese gov't, since we only consider democracies as legitimate representatives of the people.

Thing is, people in China don't think of it that way. They might complain about their own gov't themselves, but when foreigners bash it, they rally around it. (Kinda like quibbling with family but defending them against outsiders.) Even if the Chinese gov't isn't elected, Chinese people still do think of it as representing them, and they still do consider attacks on it as attacks against them. Furthermore, when Americans imply subtly or directly that Chinese people are being brainwashed by propaganda, Chinese people understandably find that condescending. Americans and other Westerners often don't expect this, I think.

Hm, come to think of it, another interesting thought: A lot of people on the left are big advocates of the Free Tibet movement, and they are also against a lot of American military foreign policy. Yet, I bet a lot of people in China actually lump Free Tibet and Bush policies together as "Americans thinking they're the world police".

Without better mutual understanding of each other's positions, it'll be really hard for there to be an international dialog about the relationship between the Olympics and Chinese actions in Tibet. Currently, both parties are just talking right past each other.

* I find it a bit odd that I'm referring to Americans as "we" and Chinese people as "them" even though I was born in China. I guess I identify more as being American, though I do identify as Chinese to a large degree as well.

P.S.: One article I read pointed to anti-cnn.com, a site some Chinese people made to point out misleading images in Western media about the recent riots in Tibet. Most examples are of pictures of Nepalese or Indian police dragging protesters away while the caption implies the picture was from Tibet. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, yes, the pictures are misleading and should have been more accurately labeled, but on the other hand, the only reason these news agencies used these photos is because Tibet itself is so locked down and censored by the Chinese gov't that few photographers were around to take pictures there. :P

Comments (2)

What about being against human rights abuses in both countries?

Huh? Of course. I'm against human rights abuses in both countries. My point though is that when Westerners complain about human rights abuses by the Chinese gov't, many Chinese people take that personally.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 24, 2008.

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