Stanley's blog

Racing thoughts on China

Two weeks in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou have left me breathless, with various thoughts racing around my mind seeking clarification. China is an extraordinarily complex country to try to begin to understand. “Everything you hear about China is true – as is the opposite.” A wise observation. Expect a number of posts on China in the coming days. This post only briefly mentions some of the thoughts:

China and Europe do not trust each other. Trust only comes through working together. Mutual understanding facilitates working together. Such understanding is seriously lacking and must be developed. Misperceptions abound – listening to Tibet and the Dalai Lama being discussed in Europe and China makes you wonder whether we are talking about the same subject.

The differences in the very construction of the Chinese and European languages make communication very difficult and sometimes a hostage to fortune. Language influences the way we think, not just the way we express ourselves. Interpretation is not just finding the equivalent words, because Chinese does not have words in our sense.

Too many Europeans still imagine the PRC to be a repressive, Communist dictatorship. The government (in particular provincial and local administrations) can indeed be authoritarian. The country is controlled by a single party still calling itself “Communist”. The media is strictly controlled but there are limits to the management of electronic media and, in particular, blogging (there are reputed to be 20 000 000 bloggers); and, above all, text messaging. The government is encouraging NGOs (“with Chinese characteristics”): thus at an environmental conference last week in Beijing, NGOs were being pressed to be more active in reporting breaches of regulation

The PRC has no modern communications policy. It’s Ministry of Information behaves as if the country were still in the Communist era. There is no Chinese lobby in Europe to match the Tibetan and Taiwanese lobbies.

The current tensions between China and Europe over Tibet are unlikely to last much beyond the Olympic Games, when another major news story will replace it. When were the media last interested in Tibet? However, there are two potentially worrying, lasting effects. First, young Chinese, who look to Europe for values, freedom and a way of life to which in many respects they aspire, feel bitterly let down over the biased and inaccurate way in which Tibet has been reported, the disruption of the torch processions and the attempts to spoil the Games and our hypocrisy. Second, the burning and looting of Han Chinese shops on 14-15 March, with inevitably Han Chinese deaths, will exacerbate the already tense relationship between the two ethnic groups.

Territorial integrity is critically important to China. The behaviour of Beijing must be understood against the huge and ongoing challenge of keeping together this vast country of nearly 10m sq kms, over 1.3 b people, 23 provinces, five autonomous regions and four municipalities, and 56 ethnic groups.

Whatever the People’s Liberation Army has done on Tibet, the region was not a Shangri-la when ruled by the present Dalai Lama. It was a feudal serfdom ruled over by a small minority of nobles and lamas. Unfortunately, because foreign journalists have always been almost entirely excluded from visiting Tibet, we have no reliable source of information. While we appear to make little attempt to take a balance view, the Chinese have brought this misinformation upon themselves.

EU Member States have shown no leadership over Tibet and have not seriously tried to speak with one voice. President Barroso and the Commission have been clear and consistent and this must have been an important factor in the success of the 10 Commissioner visit to Beijing last week.

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  1. Welcome back, Crossick. I think the best peace of news came from China when you returned. Yesterday it went all over the world that it was a Chinese factory that supported the Free Tibet flags for overseas protesters. It really reminded me to the last years of Central European Communism, which had nothing to do with the original idea (that was also not supported by the people of these countries).

    Central European countries had a public opinion despite that there was no total freedom of speech and there were no clear elections. Central European economies were already in the 80s highly integrated into the capitalist world market whatever their Communist Parties thought about it, and they responded to market demands. The last Communist rulers of Central Europe were hyper-sensitive on world public opinion, and that was way back before the Internet.

    I agree with all your post. I think that Central Europe had only a short distance from Western Europe and still we would not live in relative prosperity and freedom without the political engagement that started with the ‘Helsinki-process’ and an ever stronger integration into the European market. Even though the official policy was to promote Russian as a second language in my country, many parents took the pity like my parents to search for somebody who can teach their children to German or English so that they can communicate with those people that they thought were relevant for their future.

    International relations can only work if members of the nations involved do talk, exchange thoughts, goods, and listen to each others demands and supplies. I believe that Europe has a lot to do in its nearer region and China will not take us seriously if we are not able to cope with such problems. Given the size and distance of China I think it is a clever policy to listen and only communicate well articulated and shared European opinions, like Mr. Barroso did with climate change.

  2. Just thought I’d post this Xinhua interview.

    ^BC-Europe-China-Tibet-INTERVIEW^ Interview: Scholar says majority of Europeans have respect for China’s progress
    ¶ By Wu Liming
    ¶ BERLIN, May 4 (Xinhua) — The vast majority of Europeans are never hostile toward China as shown by the European media, a renowned scholar on Sino-European relations from Brussels told Xinhua recently.
    ¶ “There continues to be great respect for China’s progress,” said Stanley Crossick, the founding chairman of the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think-tank, while talking about the supposed biased European media coverage on the Tibet issue and the Beijing Olympics.
    ¶ In an email to Xinhua, Stanley said such media did not represent the voice of the majority of Europeans, who would not want to spoil the Olympics.
    ¶ “What you hear are the voices of a minority of anti-China activists who have successfully magnified their voices by an effective lobbying and public relations campaign,” he added.
    ¶ Since the March 14 riots in Lhasa, Xinhua has exchanged emails and phone calls with Stanley, who once visited Tibet.
    ¶ “The reports you are rightly complaining about are written by ‘popular,’ rather than serious, journalists,” he said.
    ¶ “With newscasts and the internet active seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, the pressure is permanently on the journalists to report news, which sometimes leads them to make up news,” he added.
    ¶ Stanley went to Tibet by train in October 2006 and he was impressed by the rapid social-economic development in the region.
    ¶ “The economic development has clearly been considerable. The train was obviously very impressive,” he said.
    ¶ In addition, what impressed Stanley most were “watching the monks in the monastery and Tibetans in the streets and fields prostrating themselves again and again” in their religious worship.
    ¶ Stanley said he did not observe any “culture genocide” the Dalai Lama accused the Chinese government of carrying out in Tibet, saying that modernization and globalization is a trend that has also made a huge impact on Tibet’s social and cultural life.
    ¶ Starting from April 13, Stanley paid a two-week visit to China and exchanged views with his colleagues and students in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.
    ¶ “Six weeks ago, Tibet was not a discussion topic in Europe. Now, Tibet is a black cloud overshadowing the China-EU relationship. Tibet has been raised at every meeting I have had in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou,” Stanley said.
    ¶ In another email to Xinhua before he left China, Stanley said he was “deeply saddened” by the cloud.
    ¶ “After spending two weeks in China, I realize how deeply Chinese, of all ages and walks of life, feel about Tibet and European attitudes,” he said.
    ¶ “I am deeply saddened by the feeling that you have been let down by Europe, with a resulting loss of trust in us,” he told Xinhua.
    ¶ As a matter of fact, European states all recognize the one-China policy.
    ¶ “No-one responsible is questioning the one-China policy or that Tibet is an integral part of China,” Stanley said.
    ¶ “It’s important to distinguish the statements of EU and Member State leaders from those of parliamentarians, NGOs and the media,” he added.
    ¶ After he came back to Brussels, Stanley told Xinhua that he was worried about the damage to the Sino-European ties resulting from the distorted the media coverage on Tibet and the Beijing Olympics.
    ¶ “We must work together to eliminate our mis-perceptions about each other, increase mutual understanding and rebuild mutual trust,” he added.
    ¶ “You have the goodwill of probably over 99 percent of Europeans wanting there to be a spectacularly successful Games.” Enditem

  3. as an european I do not feel rppresented by mr stnley.if tibet is part of china.. why crush it?why destroy it? why kill it?
    let’s make the hipotesys that the cinese goverment takes steps to preserve the cultural diversity in it’s teritories.what has it got to lose? they may benefit from setting tibet a autonomous region..
    will not lose on money.. would it..?
    i respect china’s positivity but i despite it’s faziosity.. how can you deny the beating and killing of unarmed people?
    if now more than ever the world is moving toward a global society, it does not imply we have to get rid of cultural diversites..
    I appeal to the chinese people.. think.. do not be afraid of something different
    set yourself free

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