Saturday, March 22, 2008

China's own 'Coalition of the Willing'

Yes, China, too, is learning how to act on the world stage--namely, how to pull together a nice sounding coalition to support policies that most of the world abhors. Take this morning's headline from Xinhua state news service: International Community Supports China's Handling of Lhasa Riots.

Who is this international community? Mauritius, Madagascar, Burundi, Sudan, Cyprus, Montenegro, Albania, Dominica*, and Antigua and Barbuda. Yes, it is a veritable "Who's Who" of the world's third-tier human rights violating regimes. With this impressive community of international support, China has not yet quite replicated the United States' 'Coalition of the Willing' for invading Iraq, but they have come pretty close.

It's hard to know what these countries really think, as this message comes filtered through the official Chinese mouthpiece. So when they report that a Burundian External Relations Ministry official said, "the riots were a political scheme orchestrated by the Dalai clique with the aim of sabotaging the Beijing Olympics," which just happens to coincide precisely with the government's own language on the matter, one has to be a bit skeptical.

Some have asked me about the media coverage of the recent events in Tibet. No, there has not been a media blackout. Foreign journalists have been expelled from Tibet and some ethnic-Tibetan regions in neighboring provinces, but the Chinese media is beating a steady drum on the issue. The issue is actually a popular one for the government. To the extent that China's apathetic, consumerist population actually pays attention to or cares about such issues, those I've spoken with come down on the side of the government. Racial and ethnic divisions are not issues that China--as a society--deals well with, and there are tremendous animosities festering below the surface (and which sometimes boil over, as in this instance).

Rather than quashing the news from Tibet, the Chinese media has amplified it and cast it as unprovoked Tibetan-on-Chinese ethnic violence. What better way to rally the ethnic-majority Han population around the government's hard-line crack-down on Tibet--much in the same way people in the US are rallied to hate Muslims, immigrants, homosexuals, etc., etc., in order to rally people around permanent war, tax cuts for the rich, and civil liberties violations.

Gee, I guess China really is learning a lot about being a world superpower from its Big Brother United States. Including this equally sophomoric attempt to claim international legitimacy for its reprehensible behavior.

*Remarkably, Dominica is the only country listed for which neither Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, nor the US State Department has prepared an analysis of their human rights record.

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