History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China

History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China

History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China

History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China

Synopsis

Despite Chinese efforts to stop foreign countries from granting him visas, the Dalai Lama has become one of the most recognizable and best loved people on the planet, drawing enormous crowds wherever he goes. By contrast, China's charismatically-challenged leaders attract crowds of protestorswaving Tibetan flags and shouting "Free Tibet!" whenever they visit foreign countries. By now most Westerners probably think they understand the political situation in Tibet. But, John Powers argues, most Western scholars of Tibet evince a bias in favor of one side or the other in this continuingstruggle. Some of the most emotionally charged rhetoric, says Powers, is found in studies of Tibetan history. narratives.

Excerpt

There are two countries, real and fictional, occupying the same
space, or almost the same space. My story, my fictional country ex
ist, like myself, at a slight angle to reality. I have found this off
centering to be necessary; but its value is, of course, open to debate.

—Salman Rushdie, Shame, p. 29

Several years ago I was browsing the shelves in a Sydney bookstore and saw a small book with a picture of the Potala (formerly the residence of the Dalai Lamas) on the cover entitled 100 Questions about Tibet. After perusing a few pages, it became clear that this was a Chinese government propaganda piece, and it seemed out of place with the bookstore's very mainstream wares. I asked the owner why he had decided to carry such a biased book and whether he had any that presented other sides of the Tibet issue. After looking at the book he replied that he had not ordered it. He then went to his computer and checked past book orders, and concluded that neither he nor any of his employees had ordered it, and that the store did not even do business with the book's distributor. He then laughed and said, [I've had lots of problems with people stealing books off my shelves, but this is the first time I've had someone sneak books onto them.] I later found that other bookstores in the area had unordered copies of this and other Chinese government-produced books on their shelves, apparently surreptitiously placed there by Chinese officials hoping that these cheaply priced volumes would be purchased . . .

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