Sunday, February 20, 2011

Final report from China & Tibet

Allow me a few more observations about Tibet and China.

We flew from Lhasua back to Chengdu to pick up our charter flight to India. 
As discussed earlier, Chengdu is a modern commercial city of 11,000,000.
The most interesting aspect of the  city was that the highway signs
were written in both Chinese and English.  Also, all announcements in the
airport and on the airplane were in both languages,  Is it possible that
the Chinese are on to something here?  Can you image the furor if the NCDOT
started putting up signs in both languages?  "They are spending my tax
money to put up signs in the that 'furrin' language."  Apparently selling to
the billion plus in China is not that important.

That is probably all I am going to say positive about the Chinese.  Yes, they
were smart enough to unleash capitalism on their country and it is an
unqualified success,  Chairman Mao would probably turn over in his mausoleum
if he saw the way of business in China today.

But make no mistake about it, this is still a repressive society with controls
on religion, political activity, and the expression of thought in general.
And it shows itself very clearly in Tibet.  Tibet was an independent country
for thousands of years.  In 1951, China invaded and annexed it as a part of
China.  There have been numerous uprisings by the native people but each had
been brutally repressed by the Chinese.  The most recent uprisings were
in March, 2008.  You may remember that there were numerous protests in the
United States as the Olympic torch worked its way toward Bejing.  I did not
really understand the full implications of the protests at the time,  but I do
now.  Tibet is an occupied country and its label as the Tibetan Autonomous Zone
is a classic communist lie.  The most important thing the local authorities are
likely to decide is what time the schools are going to start.

When we went to visit any of the venues around town, we always had a Tibetan
guide who spoke English.  I have already talked about one who evaded my question
about why the number of monks at a certain monastery had decreased from 5000 to
500.  In truth and fact, the monks are the source of many peaceful protests.
The Chinese have forced a large percentage of the monks in the country to go on
to other callings.

One such guide  was a little more forthcoming.  This is how the conversation went:
Tourist: What is that building over there?
Guide: It is a prison.
Tourist: Do you have a lot of crime in Tibet?
Guide: No, we do not have crime.
Tourist: Then, why do you need prisons?
Guide: For reeducation.

There is also evidence that the China is attempting to use Tibet for its economic
advantage.  Many ethnic Chinese workers are now employed in Tibet.  We saw evidence
of that at our hotel. Most of the workers were Chinese. Tibetans held
the most menial jobs.

Allow me to stay on my soap box a little longer.  Those of you who know me well know
how passionate I am about societies giving their people a chance to speak their minds.
I believe in this so strongly that I avoid countries like Venezuela and that
despot Chavez even though one of my favorite vacation spots is in that country. 
I will not buy Citgo gas because the gas is produced by the Chavez government. 
You can imagine my discomfort when I find myself in China indirectly
 supporting a repressive governmeent.  I suppose the argument can be made that a
government is more likely to change its ways if it is engaged with other countries
and governments.  Hopefully, that will happen with China and Tibet.  I remember that
the head of China visited the White House for a state dinner recently.  The President
supposedly talked to him about Tibet.  Enough of that.

Someone asked me about the commercial flights on Air China.  They were really not that
different than domestic flights in the US.  The only peculiar thing that I heard about
was the breakfast on the flight from Chengdu to Lhasa.  Since I had eaten just before
the flight, I declined.  But someone else in our flight took the food.  It included a
boiled egg in which the embryo had been allowed to develop before the egg was boiled. That
is one Chinese custom we will not adopt in the Gaskins household.
Just about the entire group tired of Chinese food after three days.  You can stand
noodles and sauteed vegetables for just so long.  A cheese burger and fries start to look
appetizing to me by the third day.

I am writing this post during the flight from Chengdu to Agra, India.  We were delayed
getting out of the airport because Chinesse customs insisted on rummaging through our
luggage.  I hope they had a delightful time inspecting my dirty laundry.  Then, there
was runway congestion.  The result was that we were over an hour late getting into the
air.  Our flight is five and one half hours.  Agra is two and one half time zones later
 than Chengdu.  I am not sure how one comes up with half a time zone but I am told that
is the deal. That is really the toughest part of this trip as you land and adopt the local time. 
But your body is still on the time of your place of origin. And we arose at 4:15 this
morning as our luggage had to be in the lobby at 5:30.  I should not complain as I
am glad to be here.

Deb and I have concluded that every American should be required to spend at least a week
living in a third World country.  It would create an appreciation for the tremendous
advantages that we have in our country.  We complain about matters that are of no real
consequence.  If we were faced to earning our next meal, the petty complaining would soon
end.  But I promised to get off my soap box, didn't I?

The big draw in India will be the Taj Mahal. I will write more tomorrow with photos.          

1 comment:

  1. It's really difficult to get it to sink in just what the ploitical repression of real people means. I have not traveled to such places. I would like to walk amidst it to bring it a little more alive. This and the real comprehension of our economic advantages seem valuable lessons.