In the last few days there have been flurry of activity in the international forum starting with the APEC summit at Beijing. It was quite evident that this time Xi Jinping, the President of People’s Republic of China, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and the Chairman of the Central Military looked more robust, accentuated by his dark overcoat in the wintry evening at Zhongnanhai, as opposed to the summer summit in 2013, at Sunnyvale, California, in casual shirts sleeves during which Xi stated that the Pacific Sea is big enough for both the United States and China.
Since then Xi Jinping has harnessed the reins of power by making some bold moves in tackling corruption which he believed would disintegrate the party if not checked. Thus he vowed that he would start from the tiger to the fly. Sure enough Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing leader and Liu Zhijun, the Railway minister were both incarcerated for graft infraction charges. China’s court found both guilty and sentenced the former life imprisonment, and the latter death sentence which was later reprieved. Besides doing away with sumptuous banquets, he also made it mandatory that young adults must visit their aging parents once a week; sounds like a conscientious leader in tune with sentiments of older people.
Certainly the world sees that China now has a leader who seems much more assertive and not pusillanimous in any way. Besides border incursions at several contiguous regions to China, China has more than flexed its muscles in the South and East China seas making many states in the area feel jittery, mainly Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc., and in addition, cultivating new relations in far flung Pacific island nations. On November 23, 2013 China imposed “Air Defense Identification Zone” (ADIZ) requiring all foreign aircrafts to report their presence over the area mapped. The border incursions are nothing new; it has been going on for decades. The recent opening up of BRICS or CRIBS bank to challenge WTO and IMF should also strengthen the Yuan by making it a global currency. These tactical moves seem to have been borrowed from the famous Chinese military general of the 6th century B.C. by the name of Sun Tzu, a strategist and philosopher. His writings titled “The art of war” points out to ‘WWWWW’ or win war without waging war. And, in the Hollywood film ‘Enter the Dragon’ Bruce Lee calls it the art of fighting without fighting.
Incidentally, China’s three most famous martial art experts and actors had and have some affinity with Tibetan Buddhism and its rich cultural heritage. While attending University of Washington in Seattle in the 1960s, Bruce Lee was said to have had a class in Buddhism under Nornang Geshe-La who recently passed away in India after completing his pilgrimage in the holly Buddha land. Although well acquainted with the Tibet issue Jackie Chan seemingly prefers to remain apolitical which is understandable. And Jet Li a devout Buddhist had visited Dharamshala and met with the Dalai Lama, Karmapa and other Tibetan religious figures. As advised by Li during his visit the Dalai Lama had sagely supported the 2008 Olympics at Beijing.
Today the United States’ Monroe Doctrine is not relevant as John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of the state has stated early this year. In addition to gaining traction in Africa, China is already discussing with Mexico’s leaders in building a super speed railway network there, and decision is already made to ahead with the project. Making a canal across Nicaragua is also in the offing which can damage the relevance of the antiquated Panama Canal, thus withering away the leverage of the west in the region.
Many youths in China lament that their ancestors had not done enough to expand China’s territorial ambition although we Tibetans see it differently. The Chinese have historically shunned the vast sea for whatever reason except for a brief period. It is necessary to point out here that China’s Zheng He has sailed several times to the eastern shores of Africa and other nations over one hundred years before Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. Subsequently, the Ming Emperor forbade all seafaring adventures outside the coastal areas of China. Is it possible the emperor had entertained the notion that venturing far in the choppy waters of the sea had contributed to the demise of the Yuan Dynasty, as a result of its failed ambition to conquer Japan? It is believed that the Mongols with the aim of conquering Japan, with about ten thousand ships loaded with their elite generals, warriors and soldiers were met with tsunami that more or less wiped out the entire fleet, thus marking the beginning of the end of the Yuan Dynasty and the Mongol empire. A lesson learned at the time that the land powers should not venture out in the vast uncharted seas. Today the scenario is different as evidenced by the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands dispute between China and Japan.
As predicted decades back that the west would slowly shift its focus to the Asia Pacific since China is becoming more assertive in the area; consequently, the States’ pivot in the Pacific. Regardless of all the changes in geopolitics across the globe, China is bent on furthering its influence not only in the Pacific but also across the west of Xinjiang under the auspicious of Silk Road Economic Belt. This is clearly evidenced by its plans to connect China to Europe with the building of ‘Silk Road’ railways through some former Soviet states. Their plan to build a mega city at Horgos in western Xinjiang, bordering Kazakhstan will have an impact that is beneficial to more employment opportunities in Xinjiang as well as other regions along the belt. The work has already begun. When the building of the city is completed it should be twice the size of the New York City. Construction and building is in China’s blood as demonstrated by past building endeavors. They are already in the process of building a mega dam across the Tsangpo River (Brahmaputra) that is twice the size of the Three- Gorges Dam. Experts spell environmental catastrophe.
Amidst all these juggernauts where do we stand? Ever since Xi acknowledged religion in people’s life, even CCTV hosts had panel discussions on religion and the need for it in people’s life. Professor Zhang Wei Wei of Fudan University urged China to respect all religions. It is also interesting to note that another scholar stated that there are at least two hundred million Buddhists in China although the actual figure is believed to be about double the number; that’s more than the entire population of the U.S. And, an interesting comment came from CCTV’s Tian Wei, one of two hosts on its program Dialogue that China’s elites and the younger generation are opting for Tibetan Buddhism while the poorer peasants showed some ecumenical propensity.
Early this month while interviewing one of China’s think tanks on Dialogue, Yang Rui deftly interjected that recently he had a Dutch friend for dinner who stated that economic development in Tibet cannot be measured, since it’s a very spiritual region with many devout Buddhists to whom pursuit of religion is second to none.
To this the think tank replied that there was a lot of truth to the statement. And the best line came from Professor Tu Weiming of Beijing University that China must foment dialogue in order to bring cultural harmony without cultural homogenization. He stated China must show empathy, sympathy and compassion to other cultural groups in the nation. There are many think tanks, scholars and professors from prominent China’s universities dexterously urging their government to reform. If the government heed their call and show a degree of compassion, and loosen the screw on Tibet it can be serendipitously conducive to the soul of the spiritually starved nation and its people.
So, China is changing rapidly except in the case of Tibetans who are still being severely punished for articulating their beliefs in the wisdom of the Dalai Lama and their religious rights. Change in China’s attitude and reforms are inevitable as pointed out by one former ambassador. Chairman Mao got a rating of 70% from Deng Xiaoping who had said 30 % bad and 70 % good, and let’s leave it at that.
However, Deng Xiaoping, the architect of today’s China got a rating of 80%. Had it not been for the excesses of the 1989 incident, Mr. Deng could have got a 90% rating. Now if Xi Jinping wishes to surpass the previous two and earn a 90% rating or more, it is vital he resolves the Tibet issue once and for all. This can be achieved through meaningful dialogue, and heed to a new MMW (Modified Middle Way) Initiative. Resolving Tibet issue would be a stunning feat for Xi Jinping in the international arena, further ameliorating his growing image and China as a whole. Now the ball is on Xi’s court.
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