Archive for ‘China Perspectives’

Summer reading 2016


Whether sitting on the beach or spending your summer days in balconville, the summer months are a perfect time to do some reading and to feed your Tibet obsession at the same time. Below, you will find a list of Tibet-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, compiled from CTC staff suggestions and including books by Canadian authors.  In addition to recent publications, this year’s list repeats popular selections from previous years, books for children, and a selection in the French language.  Happy reading!


Tibet on Fire: Self-Immolations Against Chinese Rule
By Tsering Woeser, translation by Kevin Carrico, Verso, 2016

Since the 2008 uprising, nearly 150 Tibetan monks have set fire to themselves in protest at the Chinese occupation of their country. Most have died from their injuries. Author Tsering Woeser is a prominent voice of the Tibetan movement, and one of the few Tibetan authors to write in Chinese. Her stirring acts of resistance have led to her house arrest, where she remains under close surveillance to this day. Tibet On Fire is her account of the oppression Tibetans face and the ideals driving those who resist, both the self-immolators and other Tibetans like herself. With a cover image designed by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

Ethnic Conflict Protest in Tibet & Xinjiang
Edited by Ben Hillman and Gray Tuttle, Columbia University Press, 2016

Despite more than a decade of rapid economic development, rising living standards, and large-scale improvements in infrastructure and services, China's western borderlands are awash in a wave of ethnic unrest not seen since the 1950s. Through on-the-ground interviews and firsthand observations, the international experts in this volume create the most extensive chronicle of events to date. The authors examine the factors driving the unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang and the political strategies used to suppress them. This volume considers the role of propaganda and education as generators and sources of conflict, linking interethnic strife to economic growth and environmental degradation to increased instability.

Guardians of Nature: Tibetan Pastoralists and the Natural World
By Tsering Bum, Asia Highlands Perspectives, 2016

Guardians of Nature is a clearly written and insightful view of the political economic, environmental, and social-cultural transformations reshaping lives and livelihoods on the Tibetan Plateau. Written as a first-hand narrative account of his work over several years with Yulshul villagers, Tsering Bum’s perceptive book discusses key issues of contemporary Tibetan pastoralism: mining; the importance of the caterpillar fungus economy; resettlement; co-ops; education policy; human-wildlife conflict; and sacred mountains. It also explores new phenomena, such as Tibetan pastoralists hiring Han Chinese as herding laborers while living off of caterpillar fungus income. Bum’s analysis is strongly recommended for anyone interested in Tibetan pastoral areas of Tibet.

China and Tibet: The Perils of Insecurity
Tsering Topgyal, Hurst Publishers, 2016

Over sixty years of violence and dialogue have brought China and the Tibetans no closer to a resolution of their conflict. Beijing has denied the existence of a 'Tibet Issue' and rejected several Tibetan proposals for autonomy, fearful that they might undermine its state-building project in Tibet. Conversely, Tibetan insecurity about threats to identity generated by Chinese policies, Han migration and cultural influences in Tibet, explains both the Dalai Lama's unpopular decision to abandon his aspiration for Tibetan independence and his demands for autonomy and unification of all Tibetans under one administration. Identity insecurity also drives the multi-faceted Tibetan resistance both inside Tibet and in the diaspora. Thus the outcome is, paradoxically, greater insecurity on both sides.

 Effects of Resettlement on Tibetan Nomads (Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province)
By Kenneth Bauer, Commission of Nomadic Peoples, 2015

As nomads increasingly move to urban areas, regional and local economies are shifting, as are social relations and the traditional systems that have managed rangeland resources for millennia. Yet few studies have investigated the empirics of life within these resettled communities. Drawing from survey and interview data, I suggest that while resettlement offers nomad families opportunities in terms of access to public services such as education and health care, it also entails significant new expenses for households even as their earnings potential contracts; these trends are exacerbated in the case of poorer households and income inequalities are likely to worsen when families move to urban areas.

Tibetan Environmentalists in China: The King of Dzi
By Liu Jianqiang - Translated by Ian Rowen, Cyrus K. Hui, and Emily T. Yeh, Rowen & Littlefield, 2015

Tibetan Environmentalists In China weaves together the life stories of five extraordinary contemporary Tibetans involved in environmental protection. In the politically fraught and ever-worsening situation for Tibetans within China today, it is often said that the only possible path for a better solution will be through a change in the way that the majority Chinese society thinks about and understands Tibetans, their aspirations, histories, and desires. This book provides the first such account by drawing readers in with beautiful narrative prose and fascinating stories, and then using their attention to demystify Tibetans, cultivating in the reader a sense of empathy as well as facts upon which to rebuild an intercultural understanding. It is the first work that seriously aims to let the Chinese public understand Tibetans and in doing so it opens up a whole new way of understanding Tibet.

A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives
By Thupten Jinpa PhD, Hudson Street Press, 2015

Montrealer, Thupten Jinpa looks at how the Buddhist practice of mindfulness caught on in the west when we began to understand the everyday, personal benefits it brought us. Now, in this extraordinary book, the highly acclaimed thought leader and longtime English translator of His Holiness the Dalai Lama shows us that compassion can bring us even more. Based on the landmark course in compassion training Jinpa helped create at Stanford Medical School, A Fearless Heart uses science and insights from both classical Buddhist and western psychology to train our compassion muscle to relieve stress, fight depression, improve our health, achieve our goals, and change our world.

A Home in Tibet
By Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Penquin, 2014

When her mother dies in a car accident along a great highway in India, far from her country and her family, Tsering decides to take a handful of her ashes to Tibet. She arrives at the foothills of her mother’s ancestral home in a nomadic village in East Tibet to realize that she had been preparing for this homecoming all her life. Everything is familiar to her, especially the flowers of the Tibetan summer. She understands then the gift her mother had bequeathed her: the love of a land.

Meltdown in Tibet: China's Reckless Destruction of Ecosystems from the Highlands of Tibet to the Deltas of Asia
By Michael Buckley, Palgrave MacMillan, 2014

In Meltdown in Tibet Canadian writer, Michael Buckley, turns the spotlight on the darkest side of China's emergence as a global super power. Tibetans have experienced waves of genocide since the 1950s. Now they are facing ecocide. The Himalayan snowcaps are in meltdown mode, due to climate change—accelerated by a rain of black soot from massive burning of coal and other fuels in both China and India. The mighty rivers of Tibet are being dammed by Chinese engineering consortiums to feed the mainland’s thirst for power, and the land is being relentlessly mined in search of minerals to feed China’s industrial complex. On the drawing board are plans for a massive engineering project to divert water from Eastern Tibet to water-starved Northern China. Ruthless Chinese repression leaves Tibetans powerless to stop the reckless destruction of their sacred land, but they are not the only victims of this campaign: the nations downstream from Tibet rely heavily on rivers sourced in Tibet for water supply, and for rich silt used in agriculture. This destruction of the region's environment has been happening with little scrutiny until now.

Tibetan Home Cooking
Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon,, 2013

Tibetan Home Cooking includes a 130+ page eBook full of well-loved, authentic recipes that are cooked in the great majority of Tibetan homes. The book offers 27 wonderful recipes that have been passed down in Tibetan families for hundreds of years and it includes photos and an instructive video with each recipe. The book contains tips on how to find exotic ingredients or what to substitute for certain things are difficult to find outside of Tibet.  All sections of the book can be printed, and you can use it on your iPad/iPhone, or other mobile device.


The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes
By Jamyang Norbu, Bloomsbury USA, 2003

In 1891, the British public was horrified to learn that Sherlock Holmes had perished in a deadly struggle with the archcriminal Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Then, to its amazement, he reappeared two years later, informing a stunned Watson, 'I traveled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhasa.'  Now for the first time, we learn of Holmes's brush with the Great Game and the world of Kim. We follow him north across the hot and duty plains of India to Simla, summer capital of the British Raj, and over the high passes to the vast emptiness of the Tibetan plateau. In the medieval splendor that is Lhasa, intrigue and black treachery stalk the shadows, and Sherlock Holmes confronts his greatest challenge.

Red Poppies: A Novel of Tibet
By Alai, Mariner Books, 2003

A lively and cinematic twentieth-century epic, Red Poppies focuses on the extravagant and brutal reign of a clan of Tibetan warlords during the rise of Chinese Communism. The story is wryly narrated by the chieftain's son, a self-professed "idiot" who reveals the bloody feuds, seductions, secrets, and scheming behind his family's struggles for power. When the chieftain agrees to grow opium poppies with seeds supplied by the Chinese Nationalists in exchange for modern weapons, he draws Tibet into the opium trade -- and unwittingly plants the seeds for a downfall. Red Poppies is at once a political parable and a moving elegy to the lost kingdom of Tibet in all its cruelty, beauty, and romance.

By C.W. Huntington Jr, Wisdom Publication, 2015

It is 1975 and India is in turmoil. American Stanley Harrington arrives to study Sanskrit philosophy and escape his failing marriage. When he finds himself witness to a violent accident, he begins to question his grip on reality. Maya introduces us to an entertaining cast of hippies, expats, and Indians of all walks of life. From a hermit hiding in the Himalayan jungle since the days of the British Raj, to an accountant at the Bank of India with a passion for Sanskrit poetry, to the last in a line of brahman scholars, Stanley’s path ultimately leads him to a Tibetan yogi, who enlists the American’s help in translating a mysterious ancient text. Maya, literally “illusion,” is an extended meditation on the unraveling of identity. Filled with rich observations and arresting reflections, it mines the porous border between memory and imagination.

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver
By Chan Koonchung; translation by Nicky Harman, Doubleday, 2014

Champa, a young Tibetan, is a simple chap. He has a stable job in Lhasa as chauffeur to a successful Chinese art dealer, Plum. Champa doesn't have a gripe against the Chinese. He's not the sort of guy to get caught up in politics either: he just wants to get on in life. For Champa, a sure sign that he's made it would be to move to the Chinese capital and live there like a young Beijinger. But then he begins a romantic affair with Plum and life gets complicated. Shifting balances of power, deliberate manipulations, the force of sexual desire, and the ache of longing are par for the course. And relationships are even more complex when there are vast differences in wealth, culture and power between the man and the woman, between Tibet and China.


 Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero
By Dominique Townsend and Tenzin Norbu, Wisdom Publications, 2015

Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero is the retelling of Shantideva’s teachings before a surprised audience, who had thought he was useless and could only eat, sleep, and poop. Leading his listeners into a superhero training of different kind, he reveals the secret to perfect bravery and unbounded compassion and shows how anyone can develop them. You don’t need super-strength or magical powers, he says. You just need practice. Over a dozen illustrations painted in traditional Tibetan style draw in readers to this work that will be treasured not only by Buddhist families but by anyone who aspires to become more kind and wise.

Escape from Tibet (Young Adult - revised edition)
Nick Gray with Laura Scandiffio, Annick Press, 2014

A true story first told in an acclaimed documentary, Escape from Tibet, this is a riveting tale of courage, adventure, and triumph.  It tells the story of two young brothers who escape an oppressive existence by fleeing to India alone and on foot over the Himalayas. On the forbidden journey they face challenges, including unimaginable cruelty of border police, and the unforgiving severity of Mother Nature.  In this updated edition, the Dalai Lama provides a forward and the authors tell how the brothers fared in exile and what they are doing now.

The Dharma of Star Wars
Matthew Bortolin, Wisdom Publications, 2005

The Dharma of Star Wars uses George Lucas' beloved modern saga and the universal discoveries of the Buddha to illuminate each other in playful and unexpectedly rewarding ways. Bortolin even reveals satisfying depths to the second trilogy of movies-the ones that met with what can understatedly be called a less-than-warm critical reception. The Dharma of Star Wars gives you an inpsiring and totally new take on this timeless saga, from A New Hope all the way up to 2005's Revenge of the Sith. Fun for all ages, The Dharma of Star Wars is also a perfect way for Buddhist parents to bridge the generation gap.

The Legacy of Tiananmen

This week, on June 4, the world will mark the 25th anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square in which more than 2000 civilians were killed by their own government simply because they called for democratic reform.  The 1989 events took place before the era of cell phones and email, but stories about the military crackdown and the weeks of peaceful demonstrations that preceded it spread quickly thanks to international media who were on the ground in Beijing.

I was among those watching the stories from Canada. It was an unbelievably exhilarating moment for all of us who were part of the movement for human rights in both China and Tibet.  It was a time when we really could believe – incredibly and against all odds - that the power of the people would overwhelm China’s rigid authoritarian state.  Sadly, after early indications that the government would negotiate with representatives of the protesters, the brutal crackdown came in the dark of night on June 4 followed by weeks of arrests.

It was something that Tibetans had experienced before.  In fact, 1989 was also a watershed year for the Tibetan struggle. On January 28, 1989 the 10th Panchen Lama died in Shigatse under mysterious circumstances just a week after he had criticized Chinese authorities and called for greater self-government in Tibet. On March 5, a small group of Tibetans walked through the streets of Lhasa carrying a Tibetan flag in memory of those who had been killed by police during a protest the previous year.  Police opened fire killing most of the demonstrators but other Tibetans quickly took their places.  Soon the crowd had swelled to an estimated 800 according to foreign tourists who witnessed the events.  By March 7, hundreds of People’s Liberation Army troops had entered Lhasa, imposed a curfew and announced the expulsion of all foreigners from the city.  According to the Associated Press, “387 Lhasa citizens have been killed . . . the majority by bullets . . . 721 were injured, 2,100 have been arrested or detained…”[i]

On March 8, martial law was imposed across Tibet.  The Canada Tibet Committee quickly organized a “walk for freedom” which saw twenty Tibetans and their Canadian supporters walk in frigid March temperatures for four days from Montreal to Ottawa to press the Government of Canada to take action.  The response from the Secretary of State for External Affairs was a statement issued on March 10, 1989 calling on Chinese authorities to “respect basic human rights and freedoms”.  The same day, the Dalai Lama sent an appeal to Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping asking him to personally intervene to lift martial law in Tibet and to seek a peaceful solution through negotiation.

Deng did nothing and martial law was still in effect in Tibet when the Tiananmen events took place.  It was no surprise then that Tibetans in Canada rallied in support of their Chinese brothers and sisters.  “We know exactly what the Chinese are going through” said Thubten Samdup, then president of the Canada Tibet Committee and now Representative of the Dalai Lama in Northern and Eastern Europe.  “We’ve seen it happen at home”.[ii]

Tibetans believed and hoped that a successful outcome in Tiananmen Square would be the harbinger of increased freedoms in Tibet.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  

In October 1989, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Prize for his adherence to the strategy of non-violence and his efforts to promote peace around the world.  At the time it was generally understood that the Nobel Committee wanted to send a message to China in the wake of events that had taken place in both Lhasa and Beijing that year.  In his acceptance speech, His Holiness paid homage to the Tiananmen Square protesters.  “The Chinese students have given me great hope for the future of China and Tibet” he said.[iii]

Today, as we commemorate these events twenty-five years later, we also confront the reality that despite his hopes, the Dalai Lama’s dream of a freer and kinder China has not come to pass.  The Tiananmen legacy has not been one of political opening or increased enjoyment of human rights in China.  Today Nobel Laureate Liu Xiabao remains behind bars because of his outspoken advocacy of democratic reform.  The Government of China maintains a de-facto martial law in Tibet with a series of new controls imposed on freedom of expression, religious activities, language rights, land rights and even on international tourism.  Incredibly, the Government of China continues to detain Tiananmen activists in the lead up to this week’s 25th anniversary, and it has ramped up its anti-Dalai Lama campaign as seen last month when the Prime Minister of Norway, home of the Nobel Prize, refused to meet the Dalai Lama in deference to Chinese pressure.

Western governments that have waged numerous wars in the name of democracy, have sold out those same values to economic interests and continue to give China a pass notwithstanding pro-forma statements of concern issued at strategic moments for the purposes of domestic consumption. No doubt there will be several more such statements this week.

As we remember Tiananmen Square, we honour the memory of those brave young people who challenged authority and stood up to power in Beijing 25 years ago.  There is no doubt in my mind, that the events in Tiananmen Square could have marked the beginning of a triumphant road to democracy in China.  The fact that they did not, and the role that the international community played in that failure is something that only history will judge.  Meanwhile, the well-known Tibetan activist and writer, Lhasang Tsering, perhaps said it best, “We are selling a commodity for which there is no market.  Truth is a commodity with no market”.  How sad. 

 Carole Samdup is the Executive Director of the Canada Tibet Committee


[ii] Protesters express sorrow over Beijing massacre, Montreal Gazette, July 23, 1989

[iii] Official statement of the Dalai Lama in response to being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace (CTC Newsletter, Fall 1989, on file)

U.S. media pay high price for Chinese censorship

By Frank Ching
Opinion first published in Japan Times
November 12, 2013

HONG KONG – The United States and China are negotiating a bilateral investment treaty. Economic issues come up regularly in the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
Yet, while car tires and chicken meat get the attention of American trade officials, certain Chinese actions with dire consequences for a particular sector in the U.S. somehow don’t seem to get discussed as economic issues.

On June 29 last year, Bloomberg News reported that relatives of Xi Jinping, now China’s president, controlled assets valued at more than $500 million. The Bloomberg article made it clear that no assets were traced to Xi himself, his wife or their daughter and said there was “no indication Xi intervened to advance his relatives’ business transactions, or of any wrongdoing by Xi or his extended family.”

That same day, Bloomberg’s websites in China were blocked, denying access to Web content and also to advertising revenue.

A few months later, on Oct. 25, The New York Times published an article about then Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, whose relatives “controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.”

English and Chinese-language websites of the paper were immediately blocked. The Bloomberg and New York Times websites remain blocked today.

This, of course, is an example of China’s lack of press freedom. But it is also a direct economic blow to the ability of these media companies to derive income from their business.

Chinese financial institutions have reportedly been told by officials not to buy Bloomberg’s terminals.

As for The New York Times, its Chinese-language website, launched in June 2012 to target “educated, affluent global citizens” in China, was strangled in the cradle.

Moreover, neither news organization has received residency visas from China for new journalists.

The New York Times reported last week that Bloomberg News was curbing “articles that might anger China” and that “Bloomberg’s operations in China have suffered” since its article about the Xi family and “sales of its financial terminals to state enterprises have slowed.”

The article acknowledged that other news organizations, including The New York Times, “have come under similar pressure.”

Such pressure certainly reflects the lack of press freedom in China. The general attitude seems to be that the Chinese actions, while deplorable, must be accepted as a fact of life.

These actions also show how the U.S. media sector operating in China is subject to pressures that Chinese media organizations operating in the U.S. simply don’t have to contend with. Washington has not insisted on reciprocity where news media are concerned even though American law says the U.S. will issue journalist visas on the basis of reciprocity.

China operates under the principle that foreigners in China should observe Chinese rules and regulations, and Chinese living and working overseas should observe foreign laws.

Thus, Chinese are free to do things overseas that foreigners are not allowed to do in China but that, according to Chinese reasoning, is only fair because each side establishes its own rules. Just as Beijing doesn’t insist on press freedom in the U.S., so Washington should not interfere in Chinese internal affairs by asking for press freedom in China.

This line of reasoning results, for example, in a lack of reciprocity where investment is concerned.

In 2005, China attempted to take over the American oil company Unocal but failed. Earlier this year, CNOOC Ltd. successfully acquired Nexen, a Canadian oil and gas company. But under Chinese law foreign companies aren’t allowed to take over Chinese oil companies.

This lack of reciprocity is likely to be tackled during negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty. However, Washington shouldn’t overlook the unfair competition in the media sector.

China is withholding visas not only from Bloomberg and The New York Times. Only days ago, it informed Reuters that Paul Mooney, an American journalist who has been waiting for eight months, would not be granted a resident journalist visa. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not give a reason, but Mooney is known for his persistent coverage of human rights abuses in China.

While Bloomberg and New York Times reporters wait for months for a China visa, the U.S. routinely grants visas to employees of Chinese party and state-controlled media organizations such as Xinhua, the People’s Daily and China Central Television (CCTV).

It is about time Beijing — and Washington — recognized that such actions as denials of visas and blocking of websites amount to trade violations. The inability to report effectively in China — the biggest political and economic story in the world — makes the U.S. media uncompetitive and is much more than lack of press freedom in China. It affects the survival of a key sector of the American economy.