Tibet and the Chinese Empire

Anne Applebaum provides a truly interesting perspective on the violence in Tibet, and China’s oppressive response to the uprisings.

That covert cell phones have become the most important means of transmitting news from certain parts of East Asia is no accident. Lhasa, Rangoon, Xinjiang, and North Korea: All of these places are, directly or indirectly, dominated by the same media-shy, publicity-sensitive Chinese regime. Though we don’t usually think of it this way, China is, in fact, a vast, anachronistic, territorial empire, within which one dominant ethnic group, the Han Chinese, rules over a host of reluctant “captive nations.” To keep the peace, the Chinese use methods not so different from those once used by Austro-Hungary or czarist Russia: political manipulation, secret police repression, and military force.

There are lots of interesting things to pick up on in the article. One thing is the technology perspective; cell phone videos combined with the Internet makes it impossible for oppressive governments to hide what they are doing. Via shaky amateur videos we got to see what was actually going on in Burma, as we now see what is happening in Tibet. The information monopoly of governments are a thing of the past — at least for now. Another thing is the comparison with the falls of other empires. The Soviet Union’s collapse began in its outer regions, as did that of the British and French Empires, among others. Are we starting to see such tensions grow in the Chinese sphere, and are they strong enough for things to fall apart?

I would not be surprised to see increased instability in this part of the world over the next decade. For good or bad, it’s difficult to say.


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