We have all heard a version of the old adage, "Watch out for what you wish; you might get it." It is both true and cautionary. Pity that the Chinese government hasn't heeded this wise maxim. One would have thought that Confucius would have said something similar in his Analects a couple of millennia ago. Having failed to glean a lesson about life from one of their own, Beijing could have learned that lesson from the Greek tragedies such as Agamemnon. Aeschylus' story recounts how King Agamemnon, filled with hubris, is convinced to walk on the purple carpet by Clytemnestra. She convinces Agamemnon that he deserves that special recognition as a reward for his accomplishments during the Trojan War. Had the Chinese not been so xenophobic, they been familiar with this Greek tragedy and would have been sufficiently chastened by it.
Case in point-the 2008 Summer Olympics. Nearly seven years ago, I wrote an essay about China being awarded the summer games in '08. In that article, I cautioned the authorities that they might live to regret this long-sought and coveted honor. I thought then that the influx of all the foreign tourists would make the locals desirous of all the material goods and freedoms that the Chinese people didn't possess-thus destabilizing the homeostasis of the Chinese society.
Having been to Tibet twice and taken a group of American college students to China for a class on Tibetan and Chinese history, I know a little about the area. I know, as does everyone except the Chinese government, that the Tibetans aren't racially related at all to the Chinese and that they don't wish to be related governmentally. That is way the Chinese military invaded Tibet nearly a half century ago this month.
I also know firsthand that many Chinese have a very strange and deeply rooted mix of nationalistic inferiority complex and at the same time an equal and opposite superiority complex that verges on frenzy. This bipolar extreme is readily explainable because of their past even though both these adolescent responses need to bridled.
The Chinese have had a very long history full of many remarkable firsts. They have much of which to be proud, and the rest of the world is greatly in their debt for what they have given civilization over many millennia.
As for their inferiority complex, the West as well as other nations in the region have taken advantage of the China while it was weak and used that vast land mass at best as an unwilling trading partner or at worst as a colony. Of course, the Chinese in their heyday did the same to other countries. Nevertheless, the fact remains, the Chinese have faced humiliation at the hands of outsiders. These insults are fresh in their collective psyches.
These two extremes of their national consciousnesses: a proud past and a humiliating past, cause the Chinese to have this national bipolar mood disorder. They act like so many Rodney Dangerfields constantly complaining, "We don't get no respect.
This brings us to the run-up to the summer games. All has been progressing fairly well with the exception of Steven Spielberg quitting as the leading artistic advisor to the games. He quit over Beijing not doing more to pressure the Sudanese to resolve genocide in Darfur. Then there was a foiled 9/11-like attempt to crash a Chinese plane into Beijing last week to disrupt the preparation for the Olympics. If that wasn't enough, there was the concert by the Icelandic singer, Bjork. She ended her concert with the unauthorized song Declaration of Independence in Shanghai with the cry, "Tibet, Tibet, Tibet, Tibet...." To add insult to injury, she then encouraged the audience to join her with shouting the response, "Tibet, Tibet, Tibet, Tibet...." The Ministry of Culture issued a terse statement indicating that Ms. Bjork's behavior "broke Chinese law and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people."
Then came the 49th anniversary of the Chinese invasion of Tibet by the Chinese Red Army that forced the Dalai Lama into exile and resulted in massive death and destruction throughout Tibet. Now, the Chinese have gotten what they wished for-the Olympics and now don't want-the attention of the world and a Tibetan version of Tiananmen Square. "Watch out for what you wish, you might get it."
What the Chinese really fear isn't just Tibet but that Tibet's quest for freedom will ripple through the rest of China just like what happened in the former Soviet Union. First, it was Poland and then the rest of the former Soviet satellites spun out of control of Moscow. Time will tell what will happen in China. However, the more forcefully the Chinese crackdown upon the Tibetans, the more of a backlash there will be both within and outside of China. If Beijing thinks that the Tibetan Buddhists are causing trouble, wait until the Falun Gong religious sect gets wind of what is happening in Tibet! The glorious coming out party of China in four months is looking very iffy.
All isn't lost for the Beijing. There is an answer, and one supplied from within:
Conscientious practice of self-criticism is still another hallmark distinguishing out Party from all other political parties. As we say, dust will accumulate if a room is not cleaned regularly, our faces will get dirty if they are not washed regularly...To check up regularly on our work and in the process develop a democratic style of work, to fear neither criticism nor self-criticism, and to apply such good popular Chinese maxims as "Blame not the speaker but be warned by his words" and "Correct mistakes if you have committed them and guard against them if you have not".
This wasn't said by Confucius but rather by none other than Chairman Mao. What boggles my mind is how nimble the Chinese government has been in converting to capitalist economy but can't seem to do the same with the other concepts of the West-like freedom and democracy.
If you plan to travel to China, you might wish to read this cautionary advice.
Visit the Confucius Said page to read more about this topic.