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American experience fails to help them understand Tibet |
A lot of Chinese people do not understand why some Westerners hold demonstrations on the streets to support the Dalai Lama and protest China's policies on Tibet. These westerners have never been to Tibet and even cannot find Tibet on a map, yet they are so quick to judge China's policies on Tibet with regard to aspects such as human rights, morality and culture. Their perspective can best be described as an international cultural hegemonic attitude.
Steven Wong, director of the U.S.-Japan-China Relations Research Center, recently pointed out that Americans have little knowledge of China's history and the feudal serfdom of Tibet before Tibet was liberated. As long as religion, culture or language protection is mentioned, many Americans will compare the U.S. Indian reservations with China's Tibet. Wong migrated with his family from Hong Kong to the U.S. in 1971 and he deeply understands U.S. society. So, his point of view can probably explain some American prejudice on the Tibet issue. Although they may not know where Tibet is, they subjectively believe that what China is doing to Tibet is similar to what the U.S. did to the native Indians in the past, and they cannot just sit by and do nothing.
Why do the Indian reservations concern these Americans so much? Because what the U.S. did to the Indians in history was so unfair and cruel that even Americans cannot forgive themselves anymore. The misery of the Native Americans started when the English colonists stepped onto the American continent, and spread all over after the American War of Independence. During the Westward Movement caused by the industrial revolution, millions of Indians were cruelly slaughtered, and the Indian race and their religion and language almost all became extinct. Though the number is not large, some U.S. filmmakers have focused their attention on this dark period of human rights. For example, the movie "Dances with Wolves," which won many Academy Awards in 1990, and the TV series "Into the West" created by Steven Spielberg, both reflect this period of history. Especially in "Into the West," many historical facts which made people extremely sad and angry were represented, such as the genocidal policy, the Grattan Massacre, the "Chief Sitting Bull" Incident and the Americans breaking the treaties between them and the Indians, such as the "Treaty of Fort Laramie." Currently, the population of the American Indians, who were the native people of the American continent, is only about 2 million, and they have only 225,000 square kilometers of land. Now, they are living in the scattered "reservations" with poor social conditions.
In 2008, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to the nation's native people for "a sad chapter in our history." So, we assumed that the U.S. would also deeply rethink and repent their own misdeeds and vowed to prevent them from taking place again. In the face of the cruel misdeeds, anyone who abides by basic moral principles cannot feel at ease, let alone Americans who regard themselves as the chosen people of God. We respect the Christian culture in the U.S. and thus understand the prejudices some Americans have against China on the Tibet issue. But, after confessing to God, can Americans restore their self-confidence and believe that they are superior to others and that others deserve their suffering? Can God's love become a premise of cultural hegemony?
Today's China is a confident and open nation which allows tourists from all parts of the world to tour Tibet. Any tourist can witness the difference between Tibet and the Indian reservations in the U.S. So, the prejudice from some Americans resulting from their sense of superiority is a misunderstanding of China's intention.
If the U.S. has really learned from the past, it should not regard itself as the guide in human history and hold that others should repeat its own mistakes. Instead, it should show more respect for different cultures and unfamiliar countries.
Really kind people will be able to understand that without mutual understanding and respect, even a pursuit for civilization can turn into a violence-serving cultural hegemony.
China Tibet Information Center contributes to this article