Two Poles That Short-Circuit: Tibetan Communist Idealists and Chinese Communist Party Cooperation, Cultural and Historical Misunderstandings, Chinese Use of the Tibetans

THE POTOMAC CONFERENCE, October 5-6, 1992

SINO-TIBETAN RELATIONS: PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE

Monday, October 5, Morning Session II:

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES, RECENT RELATIONS

Recent Sino-Tibetan Dialogue / Democratization

Evolution of the Chinese Democracy Movement and
the Tibetan Issue

Elliot Sperling, Moderator


ELLIOT SPERLING

I am pleased to introduce now Phintsog Dekyi, who currently resides in
Munich. * She was educated in Beijing in the areas of law and political
science, and she’s the author of several articles. Please welcome
Phintsog Dekyi.

PHINTSOG DEKYI

[The Potomac Conference translated text; delivered in Chinese; paper
submitted in Chinese]

The main theme of the current situation between Tibet and China is a
result of the simplified understanding of the Tibetans of Communist rule
by China. The first question came up concerning the policy of
nationality shortly after the Communists had seized power. In this and in
the issue of self-determination, there were great misunderstandings,
disappointments, and changes.

TWO POLES THAT SHORT CIRCUIT

TIBETAN MARXIST IDEALISTS AND CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY:

Cooperation, Cultural and Historical Misunderstandings,
Chinese Use of the Tibetans

I. Beginnings

Eastern Tibet, the birthplace of the Tibetan Bolshevik Idealists, is a
region that embodies the sharpest conflicts of interest and culture
between Tibet and China. When the Japanese invaded China in the 1930s,
Chiang Kai-shek [Jiang Jieshi] gave an address at the Central Political
School of Nanjing: "China has undergone subjugation twice in history.
One time was during the Yuan Dynasty; the other happened in the Qing
Dynasty." The Qing Dynasty of the Manchu nation had very close relations
with the Mongols regarding politics, culture, and nationhood in history.
After conquering China, in keeping with Mongol tradition, the Qing
Dynasty practiced Tibetan Buddhism first at the level of the court, which
then influenced and infiltrated, little by little, down to the grassroots
level. However, such an acceptance of Tibetan Buddhism was simply an
imitation of Mongol habit. In time, succeeding emperors, out of need,
gradually came to accept Chinese culture and the influence of Tibetan
culture in the Qing Dynasty waned. With this evolution of cultural
focus, the Qing Dynasty gradually changed its internal and external
political strategies. The neighboring relationship that had been based
on equality between Tibet and China evolved to a hierarchical
relationship with the Qing Dynasty holding a loose form of suzerainty
over Tibet. With the complete changeover of the Manchu culture, this
unequal relationship further devolved to a relationship likened to "big
yeast engulfing small yeast." The peaceful relationship between Tibet
and China grew increasingly tenuous. Because of its geographical
position, the eastern border district of Tibet bore the brunt of the
change in the relationship between Tibet and China. It became the
forefront of military threats and intrigue, economic plunder, and
cultural invasion. Strong regional resistance and a concomitant brutal
suppression continually swayed the politics of the region that had
cultural ties to now sharply opposing interests.

Batang, the birthplace of Tibetan Bolsheviks, was one of the main
centers of cross-cultural ties and it featured both cultural coexistence
and cultural strife. Batang, located to the east of Jinsha River, is at
the confluence of three major roads leading to Sichuan, Yunnan, and
central Tibet. Its natural conditions, such as a relatively milder
climate and an abundance of natural resources and agricultural production
attracted the powers of military expansion and immigrants. Also, Batang
was the only area of Tibet that had Western churches and Western
philanthropic institutions. Clearly, this was a special area of fertile
cross-cultural communication. For a long time a large number of
Buddhists, a smaller number of Muslims, and also even a few believers in
western religions coexisted very well in this location. As a point of
note, the Sixth Dalai Lama, who was murdered by the Qing government, had
been born in Batang. Every minister to Tibet dispatched by emperors of
the Qing Dynasty had to pass Batang on the way to Lhasa. Therefore,
Batang had long been the locus of sensitivity regarding politics and
culture.

Toward the end of the Qing Dynasty, a minister to Tibet was killed by
persons still unknown in Batang. The result was swift military
retaliation. The King of Batang and all his subjects were killed, and
all the countryside, temples, and people’s houses were looted and burned.
This was another in a history of racial massacres in Eastern Tibet since
the “big Jinchuan and the small Jinchuan incident” in the period of
Qing’s Emperor Qianlong. Zhao Erfeng, a Qing governor-general,
implemented a mandatory policy of cultural assimilation and created the
conditions rife for severe economic plunder in Batang after his racial
massacre. This policy further worsened the confrontations between the
Tibetans and the Chinese in Eastern Tibet. After the Qing Dynasty
collapsed, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama began to systematically and
comprehensively reinstate Tibet’s sovereignty over its territory and
people. The people of Kham (a larger region which included the area of
Batang) were in continual military conflict with the Chinese [Kuomintang]
army. During the period of the Japanese invasion of China, the upper
circles of Batang coalesced with the monasteries’ forces to disarm the
Chinese garrisoned troops of their weapons, and successfully drove them
out of Batang. The very short success and freedom led to a new massacre
conducted by Liu Wenhui, a Chinese warlord. During all this time
meanwhile, Western missionaries had disseminated Western culture and
introduced new ways of thinking about the coexistence of different
cultures. These ideas were obviously contrary to the deliberate policies
of genocide and cultural assimilation employed by the Chinese.
Undoubtedly, these new thoughts constantly strengthened the consciousness
of resistance.

2. Similarities and Differences between Communism and Other Cultural Traditions

Communism was first introduced into China as part of a worldwide
ideological trend. With the changing Chinese cultural movement,
Communism became a promising new model pursued by idealistic young
intellectuals in China. According to them, this model represented a true
break from traditional Chinese culture and included a fresh understanding
of Western democracy. Along, then, with the Chinese cultural invasion
into Eastern Tibet, the concepts of Communism first came to these border
districts.

Clearly, ideas of Western atheism and materialism were an extreme
challenge to the Tibetan system of political and religious integration,
as well as to the ecclesiastical powers in Tibet. The model offered but
a dimly understood way out for the young people in Batang who were
striving for their national existence in a more modern way. In the early
1940s, a few young intellectuals of Batang organized the Eastern Tibet
Alliance of Democratic Youth. They not only wanted to drive the
Kuomintang out of Tibet, but also expected to reform Tibet’s feudal
society. In 1950, the Eastern Tibet Alliance of Democratic Youth joined
the Chinese Communist Party which also sought to reform Tibet’s backward
society. These young Tibetans sincerely and optimistically treated
whichever Chinese who promulgated a program of supporting national
self-determination, as being brand-new Chinese. Because of the advantage
of knowing at least both of the two cultures and both languages, these
young Tibetans became short-term pragmatic partners of the Chinese
Communist Party. However, some Westerners and some Tibetans living in
the West cursed these young visionaries as traitors of Tibet. Yet, the
ideals of Communism did have basic principles such as equality of all
people and the non-existence of private property. To all outward
appearances, these principles were identical to the spirit of Buddhism
and the avowed life style and mode of Tibetan monks. Tibetan people have
a unique cultural and national spirit: that is, they treat the pursuit
of the ideal as their life’s goal. Therefore, their idealist pursuit of
Communism and Marxism inevitably made them see harmony between their
Eastern culture and the Western culture in the mode of thinking and the
psychological perspective.

At the same time, however, some factors of the Communist theory were
clearly contrary to the Tibetan traditional culture, and worse, these
factors inherently limited the extent of harmony between the two
cultures. The Marxist theory of violence, on the one hand, was not
unfamiliar to the people of Kham who have a very aggressive tradition;
yet, on the other hand, criticism of violence could be found everywhere
in the Tibetan culture. Therefore, the official theory of Marxism had a
misleading, contradictory characteristic from the beginnings of its
dissemination in Tibet. The people of Kham were usually swayed by
emotion, by personal feelings, and they were highly fond of freedom.
These characteristics and their traditional culture were inherently and
ironically contrary to the autocracy and manipulative pragmatism of
Communism. In just such a cultural and historic brew of
misunderstanding, the ideals as pursued by the Bolsheviks of Kham took
root and eventually fell to their inevitable and unhappy demise.

The Chinese cultural tradition of pursuing the material world for Han
practical interests as well as the extended history of China have long
eliminated in the Chinese people all true hope for the ideal and the
pursuit of spirit. On the contrary, theories of violence, autocracy, and
an amoral culture of material pragmatism have long been rooted deep in
Chinese traditional culture. In China, the attraction of a foreign
ideological trend, either Communism or democracy, is understood in its
practical value and its grounding in Han interests rather than in the
lofty realms of thought. Thus, ironically, traditional culture was one
of the significant factors that paved the way for the success of the
Communist autocracy in China and the concomitant failure of the pursuit
of democracy in China for more than a century. Basically, the modern
revolutionary history of China has been a history of changing dynasties
within the Chinese nation. The success of the Red power in China was
basically a success based on the fact that the feudal peasants simply
stood in the place of the feudal nobles. This was definitely not the
triumph of a different culture and a new ideology any more than it was
the victory of the reformers over the conservatives.

In other words, the Legalist School which advocated rule by force
defeated the benign Confucian School. Yet, the Chinese Communists had
been using new words to decorate this success. The success of Red power
in China diverges from history:

1) It systematically and radically adopted ideas from a Western culture.

2) It systematically redistributed the power and wealth of society into
different hands.

3) It adopted, seemingly in its entirety, Lenin’s theory of the
proletarian dictatorship, and rationalized the thought of centralization
of state power and autocracy which had long been popular in China since
the Qin Dynasty. Also, it organized all the citizens into a collective
society without an understanding of the importance of, and therefore with
no sense of loss of, an individual’s freedom.

4) Based on the cultural tradition of centralization of state power,
autocracy and foreign aggrandizement as well as the special thinking of
the Chinese peasants, China has understood the international Communist
society since the Paris Commune in a vulgar way, and adopted this vulgar
understanding to the extreme.

Based on this cultural background and revolutionary practice as it
played itself out in China, the Red Chinese took it for granted that they
were the Liberators/Saviors. Therefore, they adopted the mode of "big
yeast engulfing small yeast“to”liberate" other nations contiguous with
them.

3. The Break

The nature of the break between the Tibetan Marxist Idealists and the
Chinese Communist Party on areas of specific cooperation, their swift
mutual alienation, and the subsequent cruel oppression towards the
Tibetan Marxists demonstrate that the issue of Tibet and China is
absolutely not the problem of the pursuit of different doctrines.

Due to the different cultural backgrounds, even from the beginning, the
cooperation between the young people of Batang and the Red Chinese
experienced a lot of divergences and conflicts, and these differences
could only intensify. This was not simply a question of reachng the same
goal with different means. Chinese chauvinism and Tibetan national pride
were two powerfully opposing forces. These became a powerful lever that
then doomed the cooperation, rending the common ground between them
asunder. In brief, in the cultural and historic misconceptions, the
Marxist Tibetan idealists served as an important bridge for politics,
culture, and personnel between China and Tibet. However, after a very
short honeymoon, they felt their grasp had fallen short of their reach -
the Tibetan people could not make a great leap by lifting themselves up
by their own hairs. In 1951, the Seventeen-Point Agreement was reached
under military threat and by various nefarious methods of treachery.
However, treating this as the first step in their plan of engulfing all
of Tibet, the Chinese government was anxious to take another and this
time larger step quickly. The continual breaking of promises by the Red
Chinese in Eastern Tibet served only to strengthen the profundity and
intensity of the national conflicts in Eastern and Northern Tibet.

In 1955, the Communist Marshal Zhu De commanded the Mongolian cavalry
[of the PLA] and also used massive bombing attacks to put a swift end to
the conflicts. In Amdo, many old people, women, and children died. In
Kham, the people of Batang fled to the hills in order to escape their
first-ever taste of bombs. It was doubtlessly not entirely unexpected
that the Red Chinese played the same ugly role of the old Chinese.
However, the key Khampa Bolshevik obstinately persisted in thinking that
such a tragedy resulted from misunderstandings and the mistakes of the
local Communist government. He naively wrote detailed reports, and
directly appealed to the highest Communist leaders, trying to control the
spread of invidious murder and to halt the rapidly deteriorating
situation. The Chinese Communist Party temporarily stopped using blatant
military tactics, but the situation of “big yeast engulfing small yeast”
could not be turned back. In 1956, China’s Vice Premier, Chen Yi, went
to Tibet. The leading Khampa agreed with Chen’s proposal that Tibet join
China as a “republic of the union” [a Soviet-style republic] and gave his
signature to the proposal [without authority or orders from Lhasa]. In
the Qingdao Meeting in 1957, he was openly opposed to the proposal that
the Communist Party further split Tibet and incorporate the Tibetan
districts of Kham and Amdo into the Chinese districts of Qinghai, Gansu,
Sichuan, and Yunnan. He put forward a proposal that the government
should unity all of the Tibetan domain, and put some areas of Kham and
Amdo that had previously been swallowed by China back into the new Tibet
Autonomous Region. Because of this point of view, the key Khampa
Bolshevik was severely criticized by the Chinese leaders at the Qingdao
Meeting for having made serious idealist mistakes.

The Tibetan Khampa traitor was now seen to have significant and serious
idealistic and political divergences with the Red Chinese. Zhou Enlai
criticized him that for having serious ideological problems. However,
this still stubborn Khampa leader insisted that his proposal did not
deviate Lenin’s principles regarding national self-determination. He and
the Chinese Marxists diverged sharply in essence on this and on certain
Marxist-Leninist theoretical principles. The Chinese Communist Party
solved these differences handily. After the Qingdao Meeting, the leader
was sent off to Beijing to the Advanced Party School to be reformed into
the Chinese type of Marxist-Leninist. He disappeared from the Tibetan
political arena. In addition, his colleagues and followers were forcibly
disbanded, and his ideology of nationalism was criticized severely.

As an organization, the Eastern Tibet Alliance of Democratic Youth,
which had been officially disbanded at the beginning of the cooperation
with the Chinese Communist Party, finally collapsed. Some of the
diehards were brutally punished. Five Khampas of Batang disappeared one
by one. From 1962 to the Cultural Revolution, more than 20 relatives
were thrown into jail. Some of these were then forced to commit suicide.
In the Chinese army stationed in Tibet, an intelligence agent was
arrested. He was the first Khampa to go missing. As an important
follower of the key figure, he had openly reproached the new Chinese as
not being new. As a middle-ranking officer, after this open display of
dissidence, he obviously could not be used by the Chinese. After
seventeen years of having been missing, he was freed. The second person
who disappeared was an interpreter in Beijing who was a brother of the
leader who had disarmed the Kuomintang army and who was also a close
friend of the key figure. He has never been seen again. The third
person who disappeared was a Socialist idealist who believed in
Catholicism. He spent sixteen years being shunted between several major
prisons in Beijing.

Afterwards, the Communist Party openly arrested the leading Khampa at
the Advanced Party School where he was undergoing thought reform. He was
imprisoned in Qinchen Prison for eighteen years. Twenty years later,
Gyalop Thondup’s [the Dalai Lama’s brother] Beijing trip changed his
fate, and the Communist Party now lets him appear in public occasionally.
His brother had also disappeared three years after he himself had been
taken away. In 1975, Hua Guofeng released him from Qinchen Prison. The
Catholic Khampa, who had been educated in one of the Western-style
schools, had declared that Chinese Socialism did not conform to his
Socialist model at the beginning of the Khampa cooperation with the
Communist Party. He voluntarily withdrew from the Party, and has kept
his divergent beliefs till today. Of course, unfortunately, he wields no
political power; so far, however, he has produced several books.

The Eastern Tibet Alliance of Democratic Youth had had more than three
hundred members at its zenith. No one escaped the harsh punishment of
the Chinese Communist Party. The intertwined personal and national
history and the stark reality of their treatment at the hands of their
new comrades, as well as the complete failure of their idealistic pursuit
have made them reconsider their national history and the fate of their
nation for the future. Some Western works still refer to these Tibetans
Khampas as traitors, failing to comprehend the depths of the nationalism
that lay behind their ideals.

The discussion above shows the true historic pursuit of the Tibetan
Marxists and is an authentic description of their history. The failure
of their ideals and their deplorable experience at the harsh hand of the
Chinese Communists demonstrates the following points:

- The problem between Tibet and China has never been a problem of
pursuit of different doctrines.

- The Tibetan issue is absolutely not the problem of the Western
intervention. On the contrary, in terms of the Tibetan issue and the
fate of Tibetans, the West, acting out of strict pragmatism, did not
possess the political or moral will to live by its professed spirit of
responsibility toward all human beings.

- The Tibetan issue is pure and simply an issue of national
self-determination. The rights that the Tibetan people are pursuing are
not more than the national rights argued by Lenin.

- Furthermore, the Tibetan issue is not the problem that the Chinese
claim: that the Tibetans are so uncivilized that they want to restore
the old hell on earth [the old system]. Some ignorant hack writers
fabricate that Tibet before the Communist Party’s invasion was a dark and
evil society. There is no doubt that this is definitely not true.
However, undoubtedly, the feudal society and system do not accord with
the model envisioned by the Tibetan people who have been striving for
national independence. Regarding old Tibet, the Tibetans and the Chinese
have _completely_ different opinions and descriptions. Also, it is
important to note that different evaluations of it also exist in the
world. Nevertheless, whether the Tibetan society was backward or not and
whether it conformed to the Tibetan people’s desires and interests or not
are matters of interest only to the Tibetan people.

A Taiwanese even mentioned the Indians [Native Americans] and Tibetans
in his book, _The Ugly Chinese_, which is used to legitimize the Chinese
nation’s sense of manifest destiny. However, his basic point was that
because the peoples were backward, it was rational and progressive for
the whites and Chinese to swallow their respective territories. Yet,
this rationalization, this form of social and political Darwinism was
obviously disproved and is entirely unjustified: witness Hitler. Yet,
this particular Chinese writer was very eager to see that the Chinese
nation would become the “big yeast” which would eat the “small yeast” in
the world of realpolitik. Clearly, respect for others’ desire and
rights is very difficult to comprehend in such a pragmatic culture where
Han interest, and Han interest alone, is always paramount.

Let us examine the name of “the People’s Republic of China.” If we
abandon the obvious embellishment of “people” and “republic,” it is the
same as the name of the Taiwan regime: both of them are countries of
Chinese chauvinism with Chinese interests at the head of the nation.
Following the Chinese chauvinist tradition, they are now and have been
seeking the voracious private interests of the Han nation just as they
have in the past. Only this time, they show up in different outer garb.
The pursuit of their own narrow interest, their ignorance of generally
acknowledged truths of the outside world, their rationalized pragmatic
manipulation and their abandonment of basic principles show an obdurate,
particularly Chinese type of psychology.

Meanwhile, the Tibetan issue, like other national problems in China
(where the Communist Party used hegemony in absorbing or wiping out other
entire nations), is also a problem of human rights when viewing the
Chinese nation as a whole. Since 1950, the Tibetan people first began to
have the most extensive contact with the Chinese people in their
respective histories. In the ensuing several decades of bloody
coexistence, the Tibetan people have become very tired of the Communist
Party’s governance. Neither strong hegemony and its accompanying
horrendous oppression nor the democratic promise of the federation model
in the future is to any avail.

The Tibetans do not want to coexist with the Chinese in a federation!
The linkage of two electric poles can only result in a short-circuit!
This is categorically not a problem that any form of “federation” can
work out. Tibet will have its own federation. This is the most
fundamental characteristic between the two nations in light of the facts
from the 1950s to the present.

P.S.

* From Columbia University :

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/area/tibet-potomac/historical/pdekyi.html

* Editors’ Note: Phintsog Dekyi is the daughter of Baba Phintsog Wangyal,
a prominent Tibetan intellectual who organized and pursued Communism in
Eastern Tibet in the 1940s. He later played an important role during the
Chinese takeover of Tibet as a principal member of the Chinese Communist
Party. However, in the late 1950s, his Tibetan nationalist views
conflicted with the CCP and he disappeared for 20 years. He now lives in
Beijing.

Phintsog Dekyi is married and lives with her family in Germany.

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