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What's wrong with foreign policy

by Colman Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 09:36:30 AM EST

This goes to the heart of it: Merkel meets the Dalai Lama, China gets all upset and people start complaining that she's upset the big bad Chinese and it might be bad for business:

Yet, in a sign that the standoff between Germany and China is set to worsen, Wen Jiabao, Chinese premier, indicated that the German government needed to “correct” its “mistake” of hosting the Dalai Lama.

“Germany is a friend and partner for strategic co-operation. Friends and partners sometimes do wrong things and make wrong remarks,” Mr Wen said at the end of a European Union-China summit in Beijing.

“But as long as they are aware of their mistakes and correct them, we will always treat them as friends and partners,” Mr Wen said.

In comments aimed at defusing tensions, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister, told parliament he would “work to put aside the difficulties that have arisen recently” with China.(FT.com)

You don't pander to that sort of bullying: you explain your different view and politely tell them that they're wrong.

Now, wouldn't it be nice if Merkel and her Atlanticist friends would be as brave with the US?

I keep ranting about how insane the “macho realist” approach to foreign policy is. The basic principles of realism seems to be that narrow national self-interest is the be-all and end-all of foreign policy, that might makes right, that nations have no friends and that ethics and principles have no place in the discussion except as facile justifications for doing whatever you want to do.

The consequences of this sort of policy are obvious across the world: the “free and democratic” West™ prop up repressive anti-Communist dictators across the world in the name of freedom, arrange often bloody coups to overthrow left-wing governments in the name of democracy, support, train and become torturers in the name of human rights and require unfair concessions for our corporations in the name of free-trade. Then we wonder why the world laughs hollowly when we start preaching about Western values.

I believe that it is impossible for a foreign policy predicated on dishonesty and bullying to be effective in the long run: as far as I can tell most of the professional diplomatic corps agrees.

Sometimes there's a cost to having principles. In this case I rather think the Chinese need our markets more than we need theirs ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 09:43:28 AM EST
China needs everyone a lot more than everyone needs China -- especially continental Europe now that the American economy is faltering.  And, while I'll certainly not pretend that my own government is innocent and good and all that crap, I quite think someone needs to tell China where to put its feelings on "His Holiness".

I hear all this talk of China being mad about this, that and the other.  I'm starting to think the Communist Party is run by four-year-olds with a high propensity to throw temper tantrums.

What are they going to do?  Stop selling us poisoned My Little Pony dolls and poorly made t-shirts?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 01:29:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nationalising our foreign investments would be an interesting move. But further dragging feet on Western demands regarding copyright, or playing with the currency peg, may seem potent enough already.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 01:49:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nationalizing foreign investment would be a severe move, but it would also be a great way to stop foreign investment.  So a severe, but not smart, move.

It's already dragging its feet on copyright and the peg, and what we're likely going to see if it continues are increased calls for tariffs placed on Chinese goods.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 01:55:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What are they going to do?  Stop selling us poisoned My Little Pony dolls and poorly made t-shirts?

Of course not. You will not stop buying them. Talks of trade wars and embargoes on investment are for 4-years-old, and we've been hearing so much of that from advanced countries.

Do not forget that China is a growing power and a growing market. They have let their displeasure be known, and many businesses have listened. In a capitalism, that's what matters.

by Sargon on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 02:22:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - What's wrong with foreign policy

"Germany is a friend and partner for strategic co-operation. Friends and partners sometimes do wrong things and make wrong remarks," Mr Wen said at the end of a European Union-China summit in Beijing.

"But as long as they are aware of their mistakes and correct them, we will always treat them as friends and partners," Mr Wen said.

That's a very ominous comment. That wording is reserved for errant party officials, not respected equals.

"Nice trading bloc you have there. Be a terrible shame if anything bad happened to it."

European Tribune - Comments - What's wrong with foreign policy

The basic principles of realism seems to be that narrow national self-interest is the be-all and end-all of foreign policy, that might makes right, that nations have no friends and that ethics and principles have no place in the discussion except as facile justifications for doing whatever you want to do.

The EU is one recent example of why this isn't true. It could potentially be more influential than the UN in setting a cooperative example - if the free-market bobbleheads in the Commission are shaken out and replaced by sensible people.

But it's hard to promote cooperation when today's economic models assume competition as a core value that can't be questioned.

People usually trot out Ricardo at this point, but Ricardo is just a convenient excuse for enforcing preferential trade agreements ('free trade') when relationships are assymetrically favourable, and miraculously rediscovering the joys of protectionism when they're not.

Really, we either need a world government, or small-scale regional federalisation which eliminates nation states.

Having both could be good too.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:05:20 AM EST
Ricardo is just a convenient excuse

Please. You obviously haven't pondered all those helpful little stories about Bob and Alice and their lettuces and tomatoes.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 12:01:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To say that all states use all their power to further their interests all the time against everyone else can certainly become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This works for almost all social theories (the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has bought a lot of Huntington's "Clash of Cultures").

But I think Andrew Moravcsik is right when he says that neorealism is pretty much dead by now. The neocons tried and failed - and this failure has to be obvious to anyone who's watching.

When realism stops being seen as a reasonable foreign relations theory (in science), it will also lose its importance in political discourse over time. And in the end, this will be an important step towards a more peaceful world.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:06:21 AM EST
The fact that Germany can do it to Chinese but not Americans suggests that it's a bully in the first case but not the second one. That's it.
by Sargon on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:13:08 AM EST
Or that it's easier to stand up to the bully that doesn't (to pick a random fact) have tens of thousands of troops on your soil!
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:21:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You cannot be serious - USA fighting Germany?

More plausible - Germany is a member of the bullying squad led by the USA, which (the squad) is currently stronger than the Chinese one-bully show. And the stronger gang feels the need for putting some pressure.

by Sargon on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:51:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can't be serious: the USSR breaking up? Don't be silly </1990>

I have a a lot of sympathy for your main point though, but it's sort of complicated.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 11:24:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now who is bullying whom? And with what? Does talking to the Dalai Lama constitute bullying, or does talking back to Chinese bullying constitute bullying?

It is correct to note that Merkel is either blindsighted or cowardly in not talking back to the US bully, and that her one-sidedness benefits the US bully, but the above jumps the logic.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 01:31:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Talking to Dalai Lama is just one episode in a long list of what Chinese consider as insults. Germany under Merkel thought it could express indignance and deal with China as with an inferior partner, showing it some contempt. You may or may not think it was warranted because of Chinese human right record and whatever, but it's the fact.

On the other hand, Germany didn't allow itself anything of the kind vs USA, other than an odd whisper against death penalty, if I'm not mistaken.

It is well known that one should judge person's character by looking at how (s)he deals with people of lower status, rather than with equals or superiors. Germany under Merkel has clearly demonstrated whom it considers superior and whom inferior, and the contrast in behavior toward the two is obvious. In some (polite) societies, such behavior can lead to exclusion of such people.

On terminology - things like suspicious coincidence of critical human rights reports, embarassing meetings with certain people, etc, and of major negotiations, which are intended to put the object of the criticism into a defensive posture at least somewhere, is a bullying in my book. As any type of manipulation, this can backfire, which has apparently happened with China.

by Sargon on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 02:29:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany under Merkel thought it could express indignance and deal with China as with an inferior partner, showing it some contempt.

Such as? My memory may be short, but I don't remember Merkel doing much vis-a-vis China, not to mention being high-handed.

On the last paragraph, I would also like more specifics before I fully understand what you mean.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 04:58:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This conversation seems very muddled.  China has an appalling human rights record, internally with respect to the Falong Gong - whose adherents it imprisons and the uses to harvest internal organs to sell to rich people in the west.   It has an appalling record with respect to its occupation of Tibet and supports the military Junta in Burma which is repressing democracy there.  Its stand-off with Taiwan threatens a major war in the region.

The western response has been almost wholly sycophantic, putting expanding trade above all other moral, ethical, human rights, or political considerations.  What small gestures there have been - e.g. by Angela Merkel should be applauded rather than derided.  That is just about all the Tibetan people can hope for right now.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 05:33:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I partly agree and partly disagree.

Falun Gong is only a small part of the Chinese government's bad internal  human rights record, and it is unfortunate (to say the least, but more at the end) that Western MSM mostly focuses on that. The organ selling business (illegal since 2006, legal before) was built on all convicts, not just Falun Gong. Work conditions in many Chinese factories approach slave labour, which benefits Western consumers, Western investors and the Chinese economic and political elite, thus gets little mention from Western elites (including Merkel) or critics of the West who view China as a whole. The same goes for hundreds of mass forced evictions to clear land for development, peasant protests and revolts and 'illegal' strikes put down by force.

I have read that Chinese threats against Taiwan have an internal dynamic: on the part of ther political leadership, it is in large part sabre-rattling to please the hard-core in the military leadership, while knowing that a successful attack to take back the island is not realistic. Meanwhile, in my opinion it's not only China that brings the threat of major war: martial US declarations especially since Bush is in office are provocative.

From what I know (but I'd hope FarEasterner would butt in with closer-to-the-ground insight), Tibetans' situation is precarious in a more complex way. On one hand, the Chinese assimilation policy (which is the same policy that was applied in Sichuan, in the Yangtse Basin, South from there, in Manchuria, on the Eastern steppes, on Taiwan over the past 2400 years) doesn't just consist of a settlement drive and legal arguments based on past dependency, but development, too -- Tibet under the Dalai Lamas was a poor feudal state, and even the National Geographic wrote that the average Tibetan doesn't want that back. However, on the other hand, the sad thing is that even if China would turn from dictatorship/oligarchy into a democracy, a Han nationalist majority would mean no change to the policy -- or even a worsening of it. (Someone I know recently trekked from Beijing to Bombay, and reported that at touris sites in Tibet, the least respectful and most boorish tourists weren't from Texans but from East China.)

Now the question is, what does anything Merkel did or could say change? I fear very little even if said with moral authority: dictatorships don't think much of nice opinions, and if they would be replaced with a nationalist democratic majority as per above, that would mind it even less or would go paranoid.

But the problem, which was the theme of Colman's diary (and on which I think Sargon over-shot), is that Merkel (and regrettably much of the Western MSM) has no moral authority whatever she says on the situation -- as long as she keeps mum on other human rights abuses. Be it those benefitting German firms operating in China, or those committed by the big ally across the pond (including against German citizens or residents). Such hypocrisy is well noticed outside the West. Me being around the nebulous borders of the mythical 'West' in Hungary, I already have a strong sense of it, Sargon (an economist from Russia in the Czech Republic) probably much more, and the average Chinese even more. Which makes the Chinese regime all the more easier to argue about Western hypocrisy (while it is just as hypocritical).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 03:33:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany under Merkel has clearly demonstrated whom it considers superior and whom inferior, and the contrast in behavior toward the two is obvious.

How did Germany under Merkel demonstrate that it considers China to be its inferior?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 06:34:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Following Sargon's line of argument, Germany disrespected China by hosting the Dalai Lama, an implicit criticism of China's policies in Tibet and a direct contravention of Chinese wishes for all foreign governments.  Germany was willing to slight China like this because it is treating China as an inferior, to be chided for misdeeds, and not an equal.  This conduct can be contrasted to its behavior towards the US, which is rarely if ever criticized for anything.

I'm not sure what I think of the argument's merits, but that seems to be the gist of it.

by Zwackus on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 01:39:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm uncertain it's only that (hence my query for clarification), he may think of earlier incidents too. Thinking about it, I would have one candidate: once there was something with China rebuking Merkel after an appeal to do more on curbing CO2 emissions. (But if it was that, that's hardly a good example in policy towards China vs. the US.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 03:37:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
he may think of earlier incidents too.

Well duh.

Talking to Dalai Lama is just one episode in a long list of what Chinese consider as insults.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 03:44:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but I was wondering what earlier incidents of Germany treating China as an inferior he was referring to.

China's trying to control what the world can say and do with respect to the Dalai Lama reminds me of Islamic fanatics trying to control what the world can say about Mohammed.  It's one thing to limit freedoms within your own borders, but it's quite another to try to restrict other people's freedoms beyond your borders.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 04:26:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, this is getting interesting. I'm being analysed - apparently, I'm going to save so much on therapists - if I ever use them.

Now, trying to be serious. Some quick responses.

What did Merkel do before? I mentioned above what Chinese rulers consider as intentionally putting them into embarrassing position: Berlin under pressure to mend ties with Beijing

Ms Merkel has taken a more guarded approach to Beijing than her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, who saw China as an economic opportunity. She visited the country twice in her first two years in office but on each occasion made a point of meeting with civil society representatives. She was also critical of Beijing's record on protecting intellectual property.
Note that poking panda into eye is not something every Western leader feels obliged to do every time: Rights minister to miss China trip
President Nicolas Sarkozy has told his minister for human rights that she cannot accompany him on a trip to China next week during which French companies are expecting to sign contracts worth up to €10bn (£7.2bn).
Mr Sarkozy's spokesman said the president himself would raise human rights issues with the Chinese leadership.

But leaving behind Ms Yade, 31, a rising star of the centre-right who has a reputation for feistiness, suggests a concern in the Elysée to avoid offending the Chinese.

And he had to do it because of Merkel. I wonder if their private talks were polite.

Then there is an annoying habit of the West trying to impose its vision of how the world should look like. Charles Grant from the Center for European Reform, as cited by the FT:

"Europeans will hope that China takes its place in the multilateral sort of world that they would prefer. But China may not want a rules-based international system with strong multilateral institutions."
Notice innocent replacement of "multilateral sort of world that [Europe] would prefer" with "China may not want a rules-based international system". A very easy polemical trick, making Europe by default a white-hat side.

Do we have similar attitude coming from Ms. Merkel mouth? You bet:

Ms Merkel's ... said [that] the EU already provides over half of Africa's aid, and will give more. The bloc also promotes good governance standards that were in Africa's long-term interest, but missing in the approaches of other bidders for Africa's attention and resources. China "must play by the same set of rules as other nations" she told Mr Zenawi.

And what about those rules? Well,

For Denis Tull, an expert on African politics at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, "China, by offering Africa aid without preconditions, has presented an attractive alternative to conditional Western aid, and gained valuable diplomatic support to defend its international interests."

The African votes in international bodies, such as the United Nations, could be decisive in designing a new multipolar balance of power. "China sees opportunity where Western leaders see only terror, corruption, refugees, and decay of state institutions," Tull wrote in a paper on Chinese-African relations published in September.

You see, international politics is actually boring. Everyone defends their interests, but some cover it in more layers of hypocrisy than others. As long as China was relatively weak and the WTO talks were going on, China-bashing was the best game in town. As obvious pathways to getting favors ended with the China WTO entry, and Chinese market became too important, the criticism subsided. What happened now? Reforming the post-WWII international institutions, of course! Germany wants a seat on the Security Council, and probably it has decided that USA can provide more support than China. And China is playing the same game, designing the rules. They just could be different from the rules the West is seeing.

And why were Chinese offended by Dalai Lama visit so much? It's obvious even if one reads the FT:

China has long been sensitive about threats to its territorial integrity, but there is little excuse for its prickliness. ... Mr Harper, Ms Merkel and others have defended their right to meet whom they please; the shame is that Asian nations such as Japan, as well as some Europeans, kowtow to Beijing for commercial advantage. Democracies should speak up for freedom.

The Tibet dispute is not about sovereignty. It is not unusual for democratic prime ministers and presidents to meet opposition leaders from other countries. Europe recognises Tibet as part of China, as does the Dalai Lama. Although condemned as a "splittist" by Beijing, he now calls for autonomy, not independence. He simply stands up for the Buddhist inhabitants of his homeland in the face of human rights abuses by the Chinese state.

Why is "now" so important? Because

... a separate German-Chinese conference organised in Frankfurt two weeks ago by Horasis, a consultancy, saw nearly half of the 100 expected Chinese participants, virtually all representatives of state companies, cancel at the last minute.

"I am not saying this is good or bad but I can understand the Chinese reaction. The Dalai Lama is a taboo," Frank-Jürgen Richter, Horasis' chairman, told the FT. "Unfortunately it looks like we will have to deal with this for a while. The Chinese have a long memory."

A civilisation that believes to have existed for 5 thousand years should have a long memory. China, split apart more than once, and humiliated not long ago by (among others) European powers that were stronger at that point in time, will not take easy conversations of said powers with "opposition leader" who "now" wants autonomy rather than independence. If Ms Merkel insists on talking about rope in the house of a hangman, something went wrong with her education - probably in a kindergarten where these basic rules are taught.

by Sargon on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 07:56:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, what complicates this issue deeply is China's perception of any engagement with the Dalai Lama -- even if it takes place in other countries -- as being intrusive to its territorial integrity/sovereignty/private affairs/etc.  And thus, metaphorically, any meeting with the Dalai Lama -- even if it is happening in Berlin -- as far as the Chinese government is concerned, is happening in Beijing or Lhasa: they see such meetings as giving aid and comfort their enemy and that the ultimate consequence of such meetings would be the break-up of their country.  Thus, China may perceive such meetings as provocative, contentious towards it -- as "bullying".

But just because China perceives it that way does not make it so, i.e. does not make it bullying in intent and thus in fact.  Just as there are many, many people in China who with the sincerest conviction believe that Tibet is an integral part of China and that the Dalai Lama is a wily outlaw separationist, there are many, many people outside of China who see Tibet as a victim of Chinese imperialism and oppression, and the Dalai Lama as a peaceful and non-separationist spokesperson for the plight of his people (among other things).  If Merkel is not among latter herself, she is representing their position by meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Sarkozy was right not to bring the "feisty" Ms. Yade to Tibet, as it would have been disrespectful and a pointlessly provocative gesture, and in fact he was in China.  However, while China may perceive Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama as taking place in China by implication, in fact the meeting took place outside of China.  And just as Sarkozy (presumably) withheld discussing Tibet on this particular trip (at least in a public manner) in effect preserving China's "face" as host on this issue, China should withhold making threatening rhetorical statements that insult Western values of the freedom of speech and action.

(This particular imbroglio reminds me of the first [and only] time I went out to dinner once with my Saudi housemate in Tokyo.  We had just sat down and started ordering drinks: he ordered an orange juice, I ordered a beer.  He immediately said, "Oh, no, uh, no alcohol please."  Of course, I immediately remembered that he was not only Saudi, but very, very devoutly religious -- the kind that has many books on interpreting the Koran, how to explain Islam to non-Muslims, history of Islam, etc. on his shelves.  My first reaction was to feel stupid, embarrased, and sorry for offending his deep felt religious principles.  But then immediately I felt outraged that this guy had the nerve to try to tell me what I could or couldn't drink in public.  I calmly explained to him, "Oh, of course, I understand I cannot drink alcohol in your apartment [I was subletting from him], but here we are in a restaurant in Japan, where alcohol is not prohibited.  Feel free not to drink alcohol if you like, but I prefer to have a beer myself."  He was visibly embarrassed by the demands that his faith put upon his interactions with me, as he could see I was rather shocked and put out by his imposition.  But his interpretation of Islam dictated that he persist, this time with a pragmatic diplomatic gambit: "Oh, but I meant to invite you to this dinner, and as I am not permitted to pay for alcohol..."  Feeling bad for the uncomfortable -- and clearly unanticipated -- position my roommate was finding himself in, I relented, saying, "Ah, I see, sorry, I did not realize."  And ordered a coke.)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 02:25:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On your example - you see, "he was visibly embarrassed" means he didn't really internalise the requests of the religion. And in the end, you compromised even though you think you were right. Despite the fact that you apparently didn't have multi-billion contracts depending on your relations.
by Sargon on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 10:14:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem the Chinese government has is the Dali Lama has managed to convincingly sell himself in the everyones favourite grandfather mold. he's been politically astute and hasn't managed to upset any western governments.

now he's fairly old and I'd have thought it would be in the best interests of the Chinese government to keep their heads down till he reincarnates. after all the next Dali Lama might be a fool.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:22:51 AM EST
He's a marketing genius that managed to keep solid spiritual principles. Absolutely amazing accomplishment if you ask me.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 01:07:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Am I the only one who feels that nothing makes sense?

Foreign Policy seems like a code word to mean stuff we do related with other countries. Stuff that we do not comprehend exactly what it meand and that almost never know exactly why we are doing what we are doing. Sometimes it resembles the bullying/teenager school relation structure , other times a Monty Python (or Gila) sketch.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:34:08 AM EST
You don't pander to that sort of bullying: you explain your different view and politely tell them that they're wrong.

You are right.  The Japanese government was wrong allegedly to have given the Dalai Lama the cold shoulder during his visit to Japan recently, even if it was with the laudable intent of mending relations with China that were so messed up during the Koizumi years.

This was the wrong issue to compromise/cede ground on.  It showed the Chinese that the Fukuda government was willing to sell out on principles, or that the principles were empty to start out with, thus emboldening the Chinese government to make more impudent demands of this sort in the future.

Merkel did the right thing.  The Japanese should be 恥ずかしい (hazukashii: "ashamed; disgraced; embarrassed") by the caving in of their government on this point, in stark contrast to the firm conviction she showed in her defiance of such crude browbeating.

On this front, the saying bears remembering, "Give someone an inch and they'll take a mile."

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 10:38:41 AM EST
ethics and principles have no place in the discussion

Well, the West™ is, after all, greatly exhorted by its leader to denounce the lack of liberal democracy/rule of law in Russia... even if things seem to be just a bit different concerning the extended dollar zone China.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 12:14:12 PM EST
It gets worse.  The Vatican has now denied that the Pope has any plans to meet the Dalai Lama even though a meeting had been announced previously.  The last time they met, the Vatican expunged all mention of the meeting from the daily record of the Pope's activities.  If the Pope can't take a moral stand why hold other countries to a higher standard?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 29th, 2007 at 12:14:58 PM EST
It amuses and amazes me that you expect the Pope of all people to take an ethically viable stand on anything.

By sheer accident he took an almost-defensible stance on capital punishment and Vietraq (which didn't prevent him from supporting W, though). And he isn't completely retarded on the subject of creationism, although he's not completely non-retarded about it either. On every single other subject I can think of off the top of my head, he is a morally bankrupt lunatic.

Expecting civilised behaviour from the Papacy is as stunningly naïve as expecting President Cheney to not authorise torture.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 01:18:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually I am glad that Merkel met the Dalai lama though Western policy towards Tibet was too timid and consistently pro-Chinese as they have no strategic interests on Tibetan plato.

Yesterday I have seen on BBC one Frenchman, chairman of association of EU business leaders - his sarcastic remarks against the Dalai lama were insulting for Buddhist leader, fortunately for him Buddhism is not Islam where one may be imprisoned for calling toy Muhammed.

by FarEasterner on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 02:52:51 AM EST
I should correct myself a bit:  In China's eyes, Sarkozy's saving China's face on a state-level business trip does not make up for threatening China's sovereignty/territorial integrity.

However, any such perceived threat to China does not warrant Merkel's compromising of her own, and her own society's, moral sovereignty/integrity.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 02:59:47 PM EST
It's really a bit sad, everyone here is drinking the Dalai Lama cool-aid, nobody is getting the big picture:

  • the "Dalai Lama" is a religious nut. If you examine "Tibetan Buddhism" you will find that they are basically the fundamentalists, with end-time beliefs and lots of superstition about spirits etc. As well as the supposed "reincarnation" being a totally anti-Buddhist idea.

  • In fact the 'reincarnation' business is only about that one sect inventing a justification for a God-King. The Dalai Lama also shines through avowed anti-intellectualism.

  • His Yellow-Hat sect also advocates ethnic cleansing of Tibet and a return to a God-Kingdom with slavery and all the other medieval ideas. Not to mention this sect was even instated as rulers by the Chinese some centuries ago, too.

  • "His Holiness" does not speak for the young people and modern segment of the Tibetan population, he is an ultra-conservative in his very un-modern part of the world.

Conclusion: Think again, all these "Western" govts. boosting the Dalai Lama, is it another case of Talibanization? I would certainly think so. Especially the false CIA horror propaganda about "organ trade" and the Falun Gong (like japanese Aum sect, really) contribute to this picture.
by antonymous on Fri Nov 30th, 2007 at 10:17:05 PM EST
#1 is long on invective but short on substance. how would this be different from mother tibetan buddhists, or theravada or mahayana buddhists in other countries, for that matter? bonus points if you can distinguish between tantrism, which began in india, with the indigenous tibetan elements.

#2 is in error, as tulkus or reincarnated lamas predate the dalai lama's gelugpa sect's founding by centuries, and "god-king" owes more to louis XIV than buddhism.

#3 is both incorrect (the mongols propped up the first gelugpa dalai lama, not the chinese) and full of the same over the top invective as #1. i'd lovbe to see your dalai lama quote calling for ethnic cleansing, slavery and a return to a "god-kingdom."

#4 is silly, because he does not claim to speak on behalf of yoing people. there is a tibetan youth congress and tibetan parliament in exile that claims to do that.

falun gong exists without incident in other countries (they sit around doing their meditations in taiwanese parks, and while the tape recorder music is tinny, that's about the extent of the harm they do), just as it did in china before jiang zemin decided they were a problem. the moment the chinese government tires of persecuting, they'll sink back into the background and be more or less just another qigong sect with better marketing sense.

one need not buy into the crocodile tears of western governments criticizing chinese human rights abuses to acknowledge that those abuses do in fact exist, any more than one need denounce the chinese government's enemies of the state in order to have some affection for everyday chinese people.

there are more spaces to inhabit but the black and white of the binary you're pushing.

by wu ming on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 02:14:14 AM EST
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Ok, here's a quick reply:

#1 As I've said, the Lamaists show very similar end-time/millenial beliefs as the fundamentalists in other religions. Lamaism is also a strictly authoritarian cult. Adherents have to follow their leaders' commands unquestioningly.

#2 The "reincarnation" is completely taken from Brahmanism, where this idea has been around forever. Buddhism is specifically a reform movement within Brahmanism and disposed of these ideas in the name of freedom, around 600 BC. Thats an indication how outdated such ideas to fool the gullible really are. The term god-king in this instance refers to a phase of history that predated Buddhist ideas.

#3 The Dalai-Lama is calling for "independence", and there are many precendents in Tibetan history where these "holy men" went to war with each others sects. Tibet before Chinese was a medieval society. There was a monk-police of ruffians clad in robes and armed with batons, criminals were punished by amputations and so on, most of the population lived as indentured farmers or slaves.

"His Holiness" has never stated any democratic intentions, why should his ultra-conservative group be better than any other example of "insurgents" in the world?

#4 It is a fringe religious/political movement that resonates with the kind of people who are fundamentalists and strong rightwingers in our own cultural sphere. They do not have any intellectual arguments besides playing the "noble savage" card to unsecure westerners.

I don't want to go into the Falun-Gong further. I know the difference between them and many other <philosophical> groups is that they also have a rigid command structure centered around a psychotic leader with personality cult. The Chinese authorities have every reason to be careful with these groups because of historical precedents where such sects have caused a lot of havoc.

by antonymous on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 02:58:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
as i suspect we'll talk past one another:

#1 millenial beliefs and the existence of religious authority is common to every strain of buddhism that exists, and every major religious tradition that i know of. this isn't unique to tibetan buddhism (i note the repeated use of "lamaism" to try and sever buddhism in tibet/mongolia/nepal with buddhism in other countries)

#2 are you talking about bön? it seems a bit oblique to your point, and at any rate, the god-king phrase is of european, not tibetan origin. reincarnation as atman mmight have been challenged in the early stages of buddhism, but it fell prey to backsliding long before tibet. the whole bodhisattva business in mahayana had such sorts of things creeping back into buddhist doctrine (esp. popular buddhism) centuries before padmasambhava ambled into tibet. again, not unique to tibet.

#3 i have heard the dalai lama state in person that he doesn't think tibet should have him as a temporal authority, and that it ought to be governed by a democracy. wanting tibet free of chinese domination is not the same thing as wanting a reestablishment of the old warrior-monk society. you're trading in absurd binaries here; other countries have had less than democratic premodern political regimes, china among them. at any rate, plenty of tibetans are tortured today in chinese prisons; i have seen the scars with my own eyes.

#4 seems to me to be a nonsequitur. again, just because some of the more reactionary american politicians love to support the enemy of their enemy does not necessarily mean that the tibetans (or taiwanese, for that matter) are politically on the same page as they are. i tend to agree with you that many public defenders of taiwan in the west aren't exactly clear thinkers, but then neither are many defenders of the chinese government, for that matter.

as for falun gong, you really ought to go to a library and check out barend j. ter haar's brilliant book on the white lotus teachings. historically, government paranoia about and repression of benign religious groups have ended up doing far more harm and triggering far more religious rebellions than just leaving them alone. there are zillions of qigong groups in china; jiang just decided to go after one of them.

by wu ming on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 03:34:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
#1 Lamaism is indeed very different from other strains of Buddhism. Authoritarianism and millenarianism are not common features of Buddhist groups, where did you get this idea from? These are universal features of bad religion.

Tibetan Lamaism is merely a syncretic religion made from the imposition of Brahmanism over Bön. The Dalai Lama speaks only for his yellow-hat sect. He does not have any kind of authority outside of that. Thats only one of four major Lamaist sects in Tibet, and they killed and repressed the others for centuries.

#2 God-Kings in the Dalai Lama fashion are not at all European, the Pope doesn't claim immortality. I can think of the ancient Pharaos of Egypt, they had similar ridiculous claims as "his holiness". It's all from the bronze age.

#3 Whatever he claims - I will personally never support such groups, whether they are "Islamist", "Evangelical" or "Lamaist" because I know they are the worst kind of power vultures, mixing politics, religion and ethnic strife. I also find the Dalai Lama intellectually flat and uninspiring when he speaks to westerners admiring the exoticism.

#4 As to Falun Gong, they're going after them because of the strict authoritarian character of the group and the psycho leader. As you said, there are countless philosophical and exercise groups that don't take themselves important enough to publicly burn themselves at the behest of their leaders.

Such psycho groups always target the weakest and most defenseless people, I do not have the slightest sympathy for that.

If really level-headed Westerners did see all these backward things as 'freedom', it would indeed be a pretty worrying sign about their own understanding of democracy. There's no reason to give in to any kind of religionists or völkisch movement, not in Europe and not in Asia.

by antonymous on Sat Dec 1st, 2007 at 04:12:03 AM EST
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