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Tags china , cia , civil rights , tibet

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Old 10th July 2008, 08:30 PM   #1
zosima
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China, Tibet, & Amnesty International

So I recently got banned from BoingBoing for getting involved in a thread on China and Tibet that I thought was pretty offensive.

While I'm angry as hell and think their moderation was unjust, I'm just itching to talk about it some more. So I thought I'd bring the topic over to JREF, as I know ya'll know how to have a good discussion without moderating to protect your personal beliefs.

Here's the BB thread:
http://www.boingboing.net/2008/07/07...uman-righ.html

To get things started, the basic position* I was trying to take is that we should hesitate to blame China too indiscriminately or without context. I think people in the Western world(particularly the US) get too worked up about China when they generally know very little about it.

After a little more research, I'm willing to go even a little further and say that I think: #1 that China should maintain its control of Tibet as long as it maintains its development programs #2 That China's behavior of harsh treatment** of political dissidents is ethically consistent from a historical context. Specifically, if the government of China today is taken to be governed largely by Confucianism and Legalism, then it is a system that takes law, merit, and social good to be more important than individual rights. There may be nothing wrong with this, it might even be virtuous.

*I should note, that my position was mainly one of devil's advocacy, as many of my coworkers are Chinese nationals and have made me question some of the things I'd been taught about China in the US.

**I don't want to claim I defend every action, everywhere in china,by anyone. I'm absolutely certain there are some individual examples that have stepped over the line. So I include this disclaimer. I'd rather talk about a state policy that doesn't value human rights than any specific example.

Last edited by zosima; 10th July 2008 at 08:30 PM. Reason: formatting
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Old 10th July 2008, 08:52 PM   #2
Foolmewunz
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Originally Posted by zosima View Post
So I recently got banned from BoingBoing for getting involved in a thread on China and Tibet that I thought was pretty offensive.

While I'm angry as hell and think their moderation was unjust, I'm just itching to talk about it some more. So I thought I'd bring the topic over to JREF, as I know ya'll know how to have a good discussion without moderating to protect your personal beliefs.

Here's the BB thread:
http://www.boingboing.net/2008/07/07...uman-righ.html

To get things started, the basic position* I was trying to take is that we should hesitate to blame China too indiscriminately or without context. I think people in the Western world(particularly the US) get too worked up about China when they generally know very little about it.

After a little more research, I'm willing to go even a little further and say that I think: #1 that China should maintain its control of Tibet as long as it maintains its development programs #2 That China's behavior of harsh treatment** of political dissidents is ethically consistent from a historical context. Specifically, if the government of China today is taken to be governed largely by Confucianism and Legalism, then it is a system that takes law, merit, and social good to be more important than individual rights. There may be nothing wrong with this, it might even be virtuous.

*I should note, that my position was mainly one of devil's advocacy, as many of my coworkers are Chinese nationals and have made me question some of the things I'd been taught about China in the US.

**I don't want to claim I defend every action, everywhere in china,by anyone. I'm absolutely certain there are some individual examples that have stepped over the line. So I include this disclaimer. I'd rather talk about a state policy that doesn't value human rights than any specific example.

How do you want to set the rules? WWF? Three minute rounds, two throws out of three? Tag Teams, or individuals?


(Translation: You're not going to get much of an argument out of some of us if your main contention is that the west has quite erroneous preconceived notions of what China is all about and how Chinese think. I'll just toodle along, now... there are a couple of folks here who border on sinophobia, so they may join in. But they're already warned... the smackdown fu is very strong amongst us (several) sinophiles.)
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Ha! Foolmewunz has just been added to the list of people who aren't complete idiots. Hokulele

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Old 10th July 2008, 09:06 PM   #3
thesyntaxera
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Originally Posted by zosima View Post
I think people in the Western world(particularly the US) get too worked up about China when they generally know very little about it.
I would generally agree. China, from what I have read, seems to be just a little bit more totalitarian version of the United States, at least in some respects. In other ways it appears they are making more progress than we...I remember reading a while back that they had moved approximately 300,000,000 or so people into what we term the "middle class"...Even if this is contingent on their trade with other countries supplying the demand, it is still rather impressive.

Quote:
After a little more research, I'm willing to go even a little further and say that I think: #1 that China should maintain its control of Tibet as long as it maintains its development programs
Why?

Quote:
#2 That China's behavior of harsh treatment** of political dissidents is ethically consistent from a historical context. Specifically, if the government of China today is taken to be governed largely by Confucianism and Legalism, then it is a system that takes law, merit, and social good to be more important than individual rights. There may be nothing wrong with this, it might even be virtuous.
Harsh treatment is a virtue? I would argue perhaps that the "social good" is a contruct derived from thousands of years of being ruled either by royalty, or a single party. The whole idea that the good of the state is greater than the good of the individual is great for justifying totalitarian governace of masses of people...but kind of morally reprehensible. The good of the individual, it can be argued, is good for the state as the state is comprised of individuals.

Quote:
*I should note, that my position was mainly one of devil's advocacy, as many of my coworkers are Chinese nationals and have made me question some of the things I'd been taught about China in the US.
What were some things they cited?

Quote:
So I include this disclaimer. I'd rather talk about a state policy that doesn't value human rights than any specific example.
Could you be more specific please?

Last edited by thesyntaxera; 10th July 2008 at 09:08 PM.
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Old 10th July 2008, 10:14 PM   #4
zosima
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Originally Posted by thesyntaxera View Post
Why?
Well, #1 because they've done a huge amount of work improving the infrastructure and educating. Literacy rates have gone from 5% to 50%
#2 I don't see any viable alternative. Tibet is not far enough along that China could "build a democracy" there.
#3 The whole reason that Tibet lost most of its autonomy in the first place was because of a CIA sponsored rebellion in 1959. I'd hate to see Tibet turned into another failed state that the US "occupies" or some sort of security hedge against China.

Quote:
Harsh treatment is a virtue?
No, but I think the strict adherence to law could be. A Legalist views the Law as of the upmost importance. If people choose to violate published law and threaten the social order, Legalism advocates harsh punishment. I guess I see the virtue in the honesty and consistency.

Quote:
I would argue perhaps that the "social good" is a contruct derived from thousands of years of being ruled either by royalty, or a single party. The whole idea that the good of the state is greater than the good of the individual is great for justifying totalitarian governace of masses of people...but kind of morally reprehensible.
Morally reprehensible from a Western set of morals. It is certainly not as large-scale competitive as the US system, but I think there is representation in China, just not the same as the Democracy.

In a Democracy, everyone is granted political representation by birthright. People who want to lead have to compete for others to lend them that political power.

In a more Confucian system, meritocracy rules.(at least ideally) People are not born with political power. They earn it by working hard to make their way up to the top of a social hierarchy or bureaucracy. Such a system values Duty and Honor. I also think a system that doesn't let people who might not be so well versed in the issues has traits to admire. Really I think this system has melded quite well with the idea of the Communist Party ruling.

Quote:
The good of the individual, it can be argued, is good for the state as the state is comprised of individuals.
I think you're right. I also think China makes a pretty good execution of the idea of supporting the greatest good for the largest number. So they're concerned with overall good(calculated as the sum of individual goods), but perhaps not the specific sort of political or property rights that people in the Western World are concerned with.

I'm not sure I want to get in an argument about Utility Theory,though. From a lot of perspectives, I think that utility theory is flawed. I guess, practically, one thing I like about the Chinese approach is that while the government is quite practical there is an individual focus on the importance of duty, law, family, etc...values that are not easily compromised.

Quote:
What were some things they cited?
Well 'Cited' probably isn't accurate, this is more an impression that I got from various bits and pieces of conversations, but here are a couple interesting things.

One thing is the affirmative action policies china has. Ethnic minorities can have more children than Han-Chinese, and they are guaranteed a certain number of top-level political posts. This seems very progressive. Moreover, it was surprising to someone who didn't know a lot about China.(I still don't)

Another thing was how political expression takes the form of humor in China. Chinese aren't granted the freedom to overtly criticize the state, but they express political frustrations via humor rather than directly. This sort of criticism is even sponsored and encouraged. Some of the jokes are extremely scathing, eviscerating, even inappropriately bawdy, yet still allowed. One would probably find these jokes in extremely poor taste in the US. So while one form of expression is prohibited, another is encouraged. While the encouraged form is not illegal in Western nations, it would probably be prevented via social norms. I found that pretty interesting as well. Strangely enough, my friend that wants to go into politics when he returns to China is the one that is most familiar with these jokes.

So I guess, I got the impression that rather than being a scary dysfunctional Orwellian place, it is more just different. Pretty much all of my Chinese coworkers are proud of China, are not fearful for their freedoms, and want to return. That's not really how I imagined it from all the horror stories I hear in the media.

Quote:
Could you be more specific please?
What I mean, is that if some individual got overzealous and decided to go do something horrific in opposition to both our values and their own, I don't see that as salient to the discussion. In a country as big as China I'm sure that there are all sorts of cases. What I'm more interested in is talking about a culture & government that has a very different conception of rights, civic duty, and political responsibility.

Another way of putting this, is that we could easily find something some example so visceral that it obscures reason, but I don't think that would promote intelligent discussion on the topic.

Last edited by zosima; 10th July 2008 at 10:18 PM. Reason: phrasing
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