Thursday, October 23, 2008

“Whither China? What Nationalism” by Dr. Gang Yue

“Whither China? What Nationalism” by Dr. Gang Yue

Wei He

Durham, NC- The Duke China Forum held a talk “Whither China? What Nationalism” from 2:00 -5:00 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4th at Resource/Conference Room, Bryan Center at Duke University. The speaker is Gang Yue, associate professor and chair, Department of Asian Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Yue went through the three-stage evolution of the Nationalism in China since May Fourth Movement: self-salvation, resistance and peaceful rise. The essential of the nationalism in China has always been externally defined, not by internal etiology. Peaceful rise is entrenched in the further fundamental integration of economics, politics and culture between China and western countries, especially US. National interest and strategic plans are taking over the ideology conflicts residual from the resistance stage.

Dr. Yue presented his current research which was concerned with Chinese cultural production of Tibetan themes and recent social changes in the multi-ethnic regions of Western China. He delineated the nation state of China characterized with multi-languages as multi-civilized instead of multi-cultural. The Imperial Tribute System including Korea, Tibet and Xingjiang and Qinghai, etc…was mostly expanded during the Yuan and Qing Dynasty when Mongolians and Mandarins took the sovereign of this system, while Han people tend to be relatively inward looking in the history.

Dr. Yue suggested that the political failure of the Tibet government since the Open and Reform Policy caused the 3/15 riot in Tibet this year. According to him, the great change at social stratification status in Tibet put the Tibetans in a rather disadvantaged position in terms of economic and social standing. Cultural conflict brought and deepened by the modernization process accompanied with market reform put challenges that the government never faced before. National standards on certified professionals replaced the requirement of fluent Tibetan languages for a government position. Other professionals such as lawyer, accountant, financial analyst and interpreter are most likely to be Hans other than Tibetans. Businessmen who obtained great economic achievements are most likely to be the Muslims and Hans as well. Difference of life styles among Tibetan and the way typically in modern society reinforced the conflict between the Tibetan and other peoples through the drastic change of social stratification along with ethnicities. Tibetan farmers had been used to farm one season instead of 3 seasons as people in other regions such as Sichuan do. Business was not popular in the history of Tibet. According to Dr. Yue, the government failed to protect the Tibetans from the adverse impact of the market process, though some programs such as certain job training have been tried. Dr. Yue also mentioned the 5% of highly educated Tibetan who would rather embrace the modernization instead of keep Tibet as a cultural museum.

Dr. Yue cautioned that the political failure might lead to deeper conflict, and if unadjusted, it could make more difficult for the government of Tibet to the extent only military force is able to maintain the existing sovereignty. Dr. Yue suggested that the modernization process in Tibet is irreversible considering the modernization process throughout the world. He also cautioned that if Tibet were to be independent, it would make the fourth long national border in the world, a huge challenge to its national security.