At a business brunch with a dozen Chinese investors, the topic of Tibet came up. It started when one of them said that the Tibetans are lazy, stupid, spend all their time on prayer, refuse to work, and only take the hard-earned money of the Chinese. China has to send billions of dollars of aid to Tibet every year and do the Tibetans even appreciate it? Oh no. They don’t. Because they’re stupid and lazy and refuse to work, only want to pray.
Not sure how I would reply to that without exploding, I said as evenly as I could manage, “Then why not give Tibet its independence?”
The entire table erupted in groans and head shaking (the negative kind). “You don’t know anything. You grew up in America your whole life and have been brainwashed by the American media and the Dalai Lama. You have no idea what the Tibetans are really like. The Tibetans are lazy. Can’t get them to do any work.”
One of them added, “And I tried. I built a factory there to try and help them out, you know, because I do care about the poor, but they were just too stupid and lazy. We tried to teach them how to cut the wood planks, but they couldn’t do it right. They also wanted so much time to pray. Pray, pray, pray, is all they do everyday. Don’t want to earn their money. Expect you to just give it to them.”
Their blather went on and on. “Think about what Tibet was like before the Chinese went in and helped them out. Poor, poverty everywhere, nuns and monks ruled like kings, no one wanted to build factories or schools or pave roads. Just prayed all day. Prayer doesn’t put food on the table.”
I pointed out that Buddhists generally do not believe in profit as the driving impulse and so the way the Tibetans might run their economy is going to be very different from China’s capitalistic-communist approach.
One said again, as if I hadn’t heard him the first twenty times, “If we leave Tibet, they’d die. They’re so stupid and lazy.”
No matter how I tried to explain that Tibet can have an independent sustainable economy, just not likely one at the same vigor of China’s due to different fundamental interests, the men at the table dismissed what I had to say as “ignorant American chatter.” Freeing Tibet was also out of the question, in spite of “what a horrifying burden Tibet was on the Chinese people” because Tibet “belongs to China, that’s our land.” The notion that Tibet should be independent is “an American” idea, laced with Western ulterior motives of breaking up China “like they did to Soviet Union” because the West is intimidated by a united China.
The nicest one in the group sighed. “Tibet is still ours. Like an inept little brother that is a big burden on the whole family, but you have no choice– you’ve got to take care of him anyway because that’s your little brother, no matter what a pain in the ass he is. Free Tibet? You Americans don’t even understand the concept. If your little brother wanted to jump off a bridge and go die, would you just let him?”
Can’t argue with nonsense, can you? And yet silly me kept trying. Finally, because this was after all a business brunch and supposedly we were all among polite society, I tried diplomacy. “Clearly there is a difference in political opinion here,” I said. But they wouldn’t let it go.
“No. It isn’t about a difference in opinion. There is right and there is wrong, and you are wrong. You don’t know anything about China and Tibet. You have these Western opinions about stuff you know absolutely nothing about. It’s ridiculous.”
I recalled the dozens of heated debates I have had over the years with folks from China who made the same callous remark to me about my opinion: “I’m right and you’re wrong because you have no idea what you’re talking about.” In sum, many Chinese believe themselves to be the saviors of Tibet, building infrastructure, bringing aid, education, etc. They believe the Chinese government has bent over backwards to “save Tibet.” Yet few deny that the Chinese government, in these efforts of “saving,” pressured the Tibetans to abandon their traditional ways of life to assimilate into the “Chinese” way. Thousands of Buddhist temples were destroyed by the Chinese army and the monks and nuns who tried to protect those temples were killed, with Tibetans alleging that these religious figures were tortured as political dissidents.
“No, that never happened,” the Chinese will say. “You have no proof. It’s a bunch of hearsay.” The Chinese have bulldozed into Tibet to mine out precious minerals such as copper, reaping full profit off these extractions without any compensation to Tibetans in return. Again, to that, the reply is there is no proof, and it’s a bunch of personal anecdotes from Tibetans who hate the Chinese.
However, that begs the question, why do the Tibetans resent the Chinese? Why does Hong Kong resent the Mainland? Why does Taiwan? Why do the local people of every place that the Chinese have attempted to impose their form of imperialism on resent the Chinese?
And by the way, some of the foregoing isn’t anecdotal hearsay. It’s from the author’s personal knowledge.
“Buddhism is a lazy religion,” one Chinese businessman at the table remarked. “No one can spend all day praying and meditating.” I explained that they don’t. The monks and nuns spend a great deal of time doing hard labor in the fields to sustain their livelihood; they spend a great deal of time cleaning, sweeping, and tending to animals. These are all considered part of their practice and attainment of a higher spiritual consciousness. The guy shrugged and said, “At most they spend an hour or two doing that. They spend the rest of their time praying. And then when they go hungry, they go begging to the Chinese for food and money, but then don’t appreciate any of our help at all. You just don’t know that because you’re American. If you lived in China and had to pay taxes in China, you would know how stupid and lazy the Tibetans are.”
I could barely contain myself, my hands beneath the table shook so hard. It was exactly that dismissive, hostile attitude of many Chinese that makes it difficult to have any kind of important conversation. Everyone in the world is brainwashed by Dalai Lama’s propaganda except China. In China there is nooooo propaganda against the Tibetans going on causing such massive hostility among Chinese citizens toward the Tibetans.
To conclude the conversation, one said, “Aiyah, what are you going to do. You can’t just kill off all the Tibetans.”
The group laughed.
I interrupted sharply, “You’re right, because that would be called genocide.”
“Lighten up,” he said. “No one wants to kill them off. But I can tell you what is the solution. Breed them out of existence. We just need more Chinese people to go in there and breed out the Tibetan culture, replace it with Han culture, and then everything will be fine.” . . . Hmm. Couldn’t really tell whether that last remark of his was a joke or not.