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China: A most unlikely freedom haven

Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to the Asian countries - China, The Philippines, Thailand, etc.

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China: A most unlikely freedom haven

Postby DiscoPro_Joe » Thu Mar 13, 2008 6:41 am

Here's two articles I'm posting, which originally helped spark my humongous interest in China.



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http://www.strike-the-root.com/4/macgre ... egor4.html

A Most Unlikely Freedom Haven

by David MacGregor

How would you feel about living in a place where you weren't compelled to wear seat belts or cycle helmets; where you could just set up "shop" on the pavement to sell your wares, without a license; where you could walk around in relative peace and safety; where jaywalking is encouraged, and the traffic seems to work in the absence of traffic cops and enforced speed limits; where you can eat a substantial meal for a couple of dollars; where you are not hassled when entering the country; where entrepreneurship abounds; where the gap between rich and poor doesn't breed envy, but aspiration; where smoking isn't a sin; where every modern convenience exists; where policemen are hard to find; where opportunity is everywhere; and where income tax is virtually non-existent?

I'm talking about China--where I have just made my third trip this year.

Now, I'm not saying it's necessarily a freedom haven for those already here--although it certainly seems freer in many respects than what we are used to "at home"--but I am saying that for a freedom seeker, someone who doesn't mind living in different places, it offers some unique and tempting benefits.

My first visit to China was in May this year. I can recall, on the plane from Singapore, wondering what level of bureaucratic intimidation awaited me at Beijing's Capital Airport. Well, I was in for a shock. Instead of a typical "shakedown" as in the good ole' US of A, I was politely received with no inspections, no body searches, no snide comments asking "what are you doing here?", and no fingerprints or ID photo taking required!

For some reason, my expectation when arriving at the world's largest bastion of "Communism" was to be given the third degree. But it never happened.

My next shock was in the modernity of the city. Broad, clean roads with loads of traffic. Driving habits a little on the crazy side. Everywhere clean and tidy, with lots of greenery. A trip to a department store quickly caused me to re-evaluate my prejudgment of visiting a "developing" country--as its wares easily equaled the best the retail world has to offer--in both range and presentation.

Perhaps the hardest thing to fathom is how such a vast number of people can apparently live alongside each other in relative peace and harmony. Everywhere, people walking, talking, eating--and even dancing.

There's no doubt the Chinese love to eat--usually in quite large groups. And walking down a typical side street, one is confronted by the reality that almost every third or fourth shop is in fact an eating establishment of some sort. Some are big and brassy--and very red. Others only have two or three tables--and are obviously a one-man shop. But in each case, people were eating, drinking, talking, laughing or gambling. There was a lot of shouting and laughing going on--related to some sort of beer drinking game.

Of course, Beijing offers a plethora of wonderful, historical tourist attractions--like the Great Wall and Temple of Heaven. And I did all these and more. But what most impressed me was the tangible sense of optimism, entrepreneurship and a bustling "get up and go"--which clearly reinforces the idea of China being an economic powerhouse about to take on the whole world.

Unlike the other big nations we're all familiar with, there is no recent history of aggression or of attacking other countries--rather a determined sense of the importance of trade and business as a means of achieving peaceful and prosperous ends.

The Chinese capacity for business and entrepreneurship is legendary and daunting--and bodes ill for the many countries now sinking under a mire of democratically imposed, ill thought-out, socialist, dead-weight legislation.

And how is this? After all, China is the land of Mao--the land of socialism. China is a one-party state--an international pariah by some "democratic" standards. How can such a country rise above and beyond its own socialist slogans--to actually become a capitalist giant in the making? And if there is any truth to the saying that the presence of advertising is the "calling card" of capitalism, then China knows how to advertise!

The Chinese have a refreshing attitude to money--not sullied by religious talk of rich men finding it difficult to pass through the eye of a needle. Not bothered about guilt as a way of life. Certainly not bothered about the gap between the rich and poor--preferring to see it as it really is, a fluid situation where people are continually moving between states, and given every incentive to rise higher. Not for China the minimum wage, or the mumbling of socialist naysayers.

My next two forays into China were to the city of Chongqing--where I am as I write this. This bustling city is in southwest China--a major industrial centre adjacent to the Sichuan province and lying on the merging waters of the Yangtze and Jialing rivers.

Chongqing is famous for its hot and spicy food--in particular, the Chongqing Hot Pot. The main downside is the heavy pollution, which often greys out the entire city--and can irritate the throat. I was assured that plans are in place to reduce this atmospheric blight--but I imagine it will take time. However, it seems to have absolutely no effect on the locals, who appear intensely proud of their city and twin rivers.

Whatever is in the air may explain the almost anarchic driving habits of the locals. There appears to be no real road rules, apart from driving on the right--most of the time. A drive in any taxi quickly disabuses you of the notion of a heavily-policed society. I could see no police anywhere--nor any apparent sense of a speed limit. People and cars mingle freely on the roads--negotiating each other with considerable skill--coupled with liberal use of the car horn. But watch out for those covered moped taxis that dart to and fro at night--without any lights!

You can eat here in a flash restaurant (six people), for about 450 RMB--which is around U$54. But if you're happy with something simpler--like spicy noodles with chicken in a small cafe, then you can easily eat for 3-5 RMB--or around 30 - 50 cents USD. A typical night out for two, in a proper restaurant, usually comes in at under 100 RMB.

The modern stores are full of everything a decadent, spoiled westerner could ever want--and clothing is a particular bargain. But to put this in perspective, you can pay up to 25 RMB for a cup of coffee in a fashionable cafe--while the guy outside is cleaning the streets for 400 RMB per month.

But it's at nighttime that the real flavour of Chinese life becomes apparent. They don't just go home, lock the doors, switch on the TV and retire for the night. No, the night is alive with tens of thousands of people milling around the streets. Many just walking. Some sitting, talking--or playing games. Others are doing exercises, or even ballroom dancing. And everywhere people are eating. So much eating--and so little obesity. There must be some important dietary secret hidden here!

Yes, of course you can still pig out on McDonald's, KFC or Pizza Hut if you want--as they are all here. And maybe a younger generation of Chinese might be "invaded and enslaved" by western eating habits. But for most part, the apparently enthusiastic and continuous eating seems to have no impact on the nation's collective girth.

Yesterday was interesting. In the space of one street and half an hour, I witnessed the following:

A man with performing monkeys, putting on a spontaneous street show; a body-pumping demonstration of exercise to music--being led by a couple of attractive young women, with members of the public joining in; a man writing a very long scroll in Chinese on the pavement--and attracting donations for some reason; people selling various pets--turtles, kittens, puppies, birds; advertising leaflets being handed out with abandon; shoe shine vendors plying their services; the young and hip mixed with their poor country cousins; spontaneous gambling by the roadside; mobile phones everywhere; modern Chinese music blasting out of shops; and not a policeman or obvious authority figure in sight.

I was able to have an interesting "political" conversation over dinner--with the help of one of the guests who could speak English. I moved the discussion on to politics and communism. I asked what they thought of it all. There was a surprising sense of "Oh, that? We don't believe it." One gentleman I was talking to was a newspaper columnist--and gave me a rundown on why the free market was China's future. He was a no-holds-barred capitalist. Then there was the "odd" comment, when touching on international affairs, that Mao Zedong was like Bin Laden. I thought about that for a while--but couldn't decide if this was a favourable or unfavourable comparison. I have heard that same comment more than once since being here.

I can't speak for the millions of people who HAVE to live in China, or for those who may feel constrained by their political beliefs. But I can say China proves something--that economics trumps politics--and will be proven to do so, here in this so- called communist nation.

I also know that for a foreigner, who wants a place to live and "disappear," China would be ideal. Plenty of opportunities, great food, cheap living, no shortage of all mod cons--provided you don't mind being looked at by the locals! Although Beijing is becoming more cosmopolitan (though not as much as Shanghai), Chongqing is decidedly short on foreigners--creating a natural curiosity amongst the locals, which often involves prolonged "staring." Like a couple of days ago, while eating in a roadside cafe, where I had to eat under the watchful gaze of the smiling proprietor/chef!

A freedom seeker will find much to enjoy in China--not least the sense of being "left alone"--laissez faire in real time. And there is perhaps only one barrier--the length of your allowed stay--which (for most countries) appears to be one month. However, doing business allows for multiple re-entries, and as a last resort--you could always marry one of the locals!

My general impression of China is that it is literally mind-boggling. What is going on here is unprecedented in human history--an industrial transformation at the speed of light. Not for the Chinese the complaints against foreign investment. No, they chew it up as fast as it arrives. The more the better. No "PC" nonsense here--as even the official party line is only given lip service to. The Chinese have much more important things to do--like making money!

China is undoubtedly on the road to global economic dominance--and just today I read, in the UK's Independent, how the last remaining British volume car maker--MG Rover--has been bailed out with one billion GBP in Chinese cash. Yes, they're buying a 70% stake in that once-famous company. It's a sign of things to come.

And is there any truth to the urban legend that China, along with Japan, could abandon the USD as their reserve currency, and peg their respective currencies to gold--in a bold pan-Asian move to monetary independence? I think China has some surprises in store.

Freedom seekers everywhere need to take off any rose-tinted glasses that may blind them to a deteriorating domestic situation or to the advantages of new environments--and see the emerging world anew. For I believe we are witnessing a huge historical power-shift that is already well underway. And being on the right side of an opening crevice is obviously the sensible thing to do.


November 30, 2004


(David MacGregor runs an information service and publishes a newsletter for freedom seekers and aspiring sovereign individuals at www.sovereignlife.com )



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http://www.strike-the-root.com/52/macgr ... egor5.html

Living in a Topsy Turvy World

by David MacGregor

I've just returned from nine days in the magical old town of Lijiang, China.

It was a respite made in heaven. After a couple of months in Chongqing, a major industrial city of 33 million, the sight and smell of clean, clear air was, well, "like a breath of fresh air"!

Lijiang is a traveller's mecca. A wonderful old town riddled with crystal clear waterways - a sort of Asian Venice. It's full of art and craft shops selling wares to the constant flow of visitors.

Although there were quite a few foreigners there (mostly of European origin, especially French) the vast majority were Chinese.

I can imagine, in the future, that this place will become a a major tourist destination for Westerners, so I am glad I've seen it before it becomes inundated with "foreigners."

The other thing I enjoyed was the opportunity to take a break from Chinese food. Unlike most of us Westerners, who like to try different ethnic foods, the Chinese are happy to constantly eat their own. So it was both a relief and a culinary joy to partake of some chilli con carne, lasagne, Thai green curry - and in particular, to eat at a great little cafe called "Don Papa" - run by an expat French chef, who has lived in Lijiang for 10 years.

I was interested to learn of his experience and his reasons for abandoning France for this little corner of China. He said that for him, Lijiang was a paradise and that he wished he'd moved there 10 years earlier. He loved the clean air, fresh produce and laid back atmosphere. I could tell he was a man at peace with himself.

Yes, Lijiang was certainly laid back. In fact, even in an empty cafe I had to wait up to 25 minutes for a simple meal. But all is forgiven, for the opportunity to unwind. Besides, being able to sample the great local beers, drawn from a basket submerged in an icy mountain stream, was a treat worth waiting for.

In many ways, Lijiang has a "Bohemian" feel, sort of arty and alternative. The streets are brimming with artists and craftsmen of every description - all working right there in their various shops. The cafes are places of rest and recuperation, with free internet access, libraries of foreign books and magazines, and classical, jazz and modern music drifting out of the windows.

The local, native people are Naxi (pronounced Nashi), who wear bright coloured clothes, and obviously live to ripe old ages - judging by the many crusty, weathered faces I saw. They have ready smiles, a friendly demeanour - and an apparent endless energy for dancing!

While there, I also had the opportunity to "jam" with a talented young Chinese band in a local bar - which, as a long-retired drummer, was yet another highlight of my brief visit. It reminded me of my travels as a musician when I was much younger - and how music broke down assumed cultural barriers.

All this got me thinking about China, and our perception of it in the West. I've had plenty of opportunity to witness real Chinese life, and to get a feel for what type of society it is.

Here I am, living in "Communist" China, so why do I feel so free?

Is it because in Lijiang I never saw a policeman? Is it because everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, and doing exactly what pleases them? Is it because of the obvious entrepreneurial spirit that seems infuse Chinese culture? Is it because China is vastly more capitalist, in many respects, than most other western countries?

All I know, is that labels like "communism," "totalitarianism" and the like seem to be completely misplaced when applied to the actual experience of living in China.

China is NOT like the old Soviet Union - with its state-owned stores, where shoes or toilet paper were forever in short supply. China is NOT like North Korea, where people are literally living in a time warp - and brainwashed to believe they live in a paradise. In fact, China is more like Hong Kong, or Singapore in the making.

I've met scores of Chinese. I've witnessed their lives. These are not people truly suffering under any totalitarian yoke. If they are "slaves", then their serfdom is in many ways better than what we put up with in the West.

Sure there are vast differences between rich and poor. Yes, there is a lot of pollution in the big cities. And yes, I cannot access the BBC.com world news web site!

I can't publish criticism of the Communist Party in the local papers - but I can easily do it on the internet, and in person, talking with other Chinese. I can keep most of the money I earn. I can aspire to riches and achieve it. I can build a life of my own design. In fact, if I'm honest, I'd have to say that middle class Chinese have all the opportunities we assume are reserved for people in "free" countries.

There are some "downsides" of course.

I would have to take care of my own health - as there is no social welfare to speak of in China. Even a visitor can quickly realise this by noticing the plethora of advertising on TV for various hospitals! I'd have to get used to paying tolls on all the highways, as the Chinese are big on "user-pays." And of course, I would have to look after my own old age.

The truth is, in China there is virtually no welfarism - something most Westerners are now addicted to. So, yes, there is the hardship that comes with self-responsibility.

This got me thinking about the nature of practical freedom - of what is really important in leading life according to one's own wishes.

Is it more important to be able to write a letter criticising the government and have it published? Or is it more important to be able to live your life with the minimum of intrusion? Is it more important to live in a country with effectively just two political parties, and a system called democracy - or a country with just one party, and a system called communism?

Looked at from the perspective of an anarchist, both the "democratic" west and "communist" China share the same fundamental mechanism of the all-powerful state. So the real issue is, where can I live my life according to my own design and wishes - with the minimum of bureaucratic interference?

None of the Chinese people I have met seem overly-burdened by "Big Brother". They do not have their income siphoned off by the state, to the point of impoverishment. They are not watched from every street corner, as in London. They are not bullied on the roads by revenue-collecting traffic cops. They are not stopped from making a buck. They are not hounded by the politically correct do-gooder brigade.

Of course, the Communist Party does crack down on political dissent. So dissent moves "underground" - or should I say above ground, on the internet. Yes, the government is what we'd call "authoritarian" - and seeks to manage a free enterprise system.

If I was a Falun Gong practitioner, I wouldn't be happy in China. On the other hand, if I was a Christian, there would be no infringement on my religious beliefs or practice.

However, for a business-minded person, or someone (like the artisans of Lijiang) who just wants to mind his own business, China does offer quite remarkable opportunities. And life in modern China is certainly light years away from what life was like under Mao.

But there's more to it than that.

Why do I fear entering the USA more than China? Why do I feel safer walking down the streets of this city of 33 million than most other large western cities? Why do I feel the energy of entrepreneurship and opportunity in China, compared with the lethargy and dead-weight of dealing with bureaucratic and tax hurdles in most western countries? Why do I feel less watched, less listened to? Why does China feel on the move, while many western countries feel stagnant?

These are important questions, because they point to a disturbing fact regarding our western countries - the direction they are headed.

We are used to calling ourselves the "free world" - a badge of honour earned in a bygone age. But we are fooling ourselves if we think we are still free.

What is both fascinating and disturbing to me, is the DIRECTION different countries are taking.

China is a previously impoverished Communist country which is moving decisively in the direction of more practical freedom. In matters economic, it is proving to be a powerhouse of capitalism - where the inherent business talents of the Chinese are being liberated to create a massive growth in productivity and wealth.

This surge in prosperity and accompanying education will change the face of China in the future. And as Chinese people have said to me repeatedly, they expect their transition to more political freedom to be just a matter of time.

On the other hand, we in the West are experiencing movement in a completely opposite direction. More socialism, more fascism, more stagnation and continual infringements of the freedoms we say we hold so dear.

Should things get so bad that I need to escape to a bolt hole of "freedom", I would consider life in a place like Lijiang to be immensely preferable to some big western city on the verge of descent into disorder and violence - with the accompanying fascist crackdown by the state. In such a stark scenario, I know where my freedom would be best served.

And as my favourite French chef in Lijiang said, "There are no terrorists here!"

The world is not what it appears to be from a casual glance, or a moment's thought. Don't rely on what you read in the papers, or what your political leaders have to say. Their agenda is not yours. You have to go out in the world and look for yourself. And, like me, you may be surprised to find practical freedom in the most unlikely places.


October 3, 2005


(David MacGregor runs an information service and publishes a newsletter for freedom seekers and aspiring sovereign individuals at www.sovereignlife.com )
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Postby Winston » Fri Mar 14, 2008 4:57 am

Wow those articles about China are mesmerizing! Makes me want to go there so much! I'll share them with my mailing list too.

I guess the freedom in China that it cites makes sense, since they are able to sell pirated movie dvd's all over Asia and get away with it. Here in the Philippines they sell 12 movies on one DVD for around $1.50, imported from China, and they are everywhere. Some are bad quality, but others are near commercial quality.
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Postby DiscoPro_Joe » Sat Mar 15, 2008 12:47 am

Cool. If you want to be really mesmerized, then I'll e-mail you lots of awesome photos I found on the web of my favorite-looking Chiese cities. They'll absolutely blow you away!

I'll go ahead and send some to you, Wu, and if anyone else is interested, then e-mail me at discopro@hotmail.com
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Postby Jackal » Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:10 am

Well, I guess it depends on what types of freedom you are looking for. However, if freedom of religion and freedom of speech are important to you, China is not the place to go. In Tibet, people can be imprisoned or beat up for even uttering the words "Dalai Lama". How free is that?
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Postby Winston » Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:02 am

DiscoPro_Joe wrote:Cool. If you want to be really mesmerized, then I'll e-mail you lots of awesome photos I found on the web of my favorite-looking Chiese cities. They'll absolutely blow you away!

I'll go ahead and send some to you, Wu, and if anyone else is interested, then e-mail me at discopro@hotmail.com


W: That would be great. I'd love to see them. Also, you can post some of your favorite images here in the forum, by inserting the URL of the picture between the tags [img]URL[/img]
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Postby momopi » Sat Mar 15, 2008 3:57 pm

Jackal wrote:Well, I guess it depends on what types of freedom you are looking for. However, if freedom of religion and freedom of speech are important to you, China is not the place to go. In Tibet, people can be imprisoned or beat up for even uttering the words "Dalai Lama". How free is that?



In China you have freedom of religion but not assembly. This effectively means that you have religious freedom on a personal, but not organizational level, because the government does not permit any religious organizations under foreign dominion (i.e. the Vatican). Dictatorships don't like competition to absolute rule.

As an individual in China you're free to worship whatever deity you prefer in the comfort of your own home, or in assembly inside a religious facility licensed by the Religious Affairs Bureau.

What you cannot do, is organize your own unlicensed Church, Temple, Mosque, or go door to door to preach your religion. You could stand in front of your licensed Church and hand out Bibles to anyone who's interested, but not stop people in the street to give them a Bible.

If you operate a Church, Temple, or Mosque, the materials that you use for mass preaching may also be subject to review by the Religious Affairs Bureau. Preachings and religious textbooks that are considered subversive are subject to censorship. Oh and Buddhist reincarnations also require state approval... licensed reincarnations only, please.

While the situation is not ideal, you also won't find foreign-funded religious schools in China teaching its pupils that violence against nonbelievers are sanctioned by God.


State Administration for Religious Affairs
Main Function #6:
To support religious circles to make self-education on patriotism, socialism, motherland reunification, and ethical solidarity; and to unite and motivate the citizens with religions belief to serve the reform and opening up, as well as economic construction.
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Postby Jackal » Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:06 pm

Here's an interesting article about a BBC reporter in China and his account of being prevented from investigating a massacre in Shengyou.

http://chinaview.wordpress.com/2007/09/ ... -detained/
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Postby Winston » Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:08 pm

DiscoProJoe,

Check out these China pictures that a guy named Tom posted on this forum once:

http://www.happierabroad.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=713

See his links and see the two China girls that I referred to in one of his links, one of them was so hot and perfectly symmetrical.
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Postby Jackal » Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:06 am

momopi wrote:While the situation is not ideal, you also won't find foreign-funded religious schools in China teaching its pupils that violence against nonbelievers are sanctioned by God.


That might be the case, but I think most of the world agrees that the Chinese have gone way too far in Tibet. Tibetans are not like most Christians in Europe who just go to church on holidays; their religion is at the very center of their cultural identity. Furthermore, their religion is inherently peaceful with its emphasis on meditation and does not promote violence.

The Tibetans would harm no one if they could manage their monasteries and practice their religion as they see fit. On the contrary, a Tibet based upon the negotiated interests of both the Tibetans and the Chinese would benefit both greatly. China's image in the western world would be improved immensely if it agreed to stop repressing Tibetan culture, to stop polluting Tibet's natural environment, and to give Tibetans a say in the development of their homeland.

The Dalai Lama is not a threat to China's sovereignty. He is mainly interested in religious subjects. He would be glad to retire from political life and spend his time meditating and studying religious texts if the Chinese would finally agree to deal with the Tibetans in an equitable way.

China could take the high ground instead of showing the world that it is every bit as greedy and uncaring as the western powers that destroyed the many cultures of the Native Americans in the Americas.

The world has already experienced so many cultural genocides: We should stand united against another one.
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Postby momopi » Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:18 pm

The issue here is a grand-canyon sized gap on perception of what each side has to offer, and their perspective value system. The PRC government simply doesn't believe the Tibetan government in exile has anything worthy to offer, because they don't place any value on what Tenzin Gyatso has to give.
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Postby Jackal » Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:39 pm

momopi wrote:The issue here is a grand-canyon sized gap on perception of what each side has to offer, and their perspective value system.


Do you have suggestions how to bridge this gap?

momopi wrote: The PRC government simply doesn't believe the Tibetan government in exile has anything worthy to offer, because they don't place any value on what Tenzin Gyatso has to give.


They should value what the Dalai Lama can give them: negotiating with him can give them political stability in Tibet and would improve their image in the world immensely.
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Postby momopi » Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:35 pm

That's a tough one. Unlike HK or Macao in 1990s, Tibet (TAR) is already in PRC possession, so they have far less incentive to negotiate for Dominion or S.A.R. status. I'm not optimistic because I don't think the Tibetan government in exile can bring anything substantial to the table.

I do think at least a part of Tibet should be granted S.A.R. status as a long-term solution, but how to get from point A to point B is a giant question mark.
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Postby Jackal » Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:50 am

If the Dalai Lama and the many other highly respected lamas returned to Tibet, it would substantially increase religious tourism in Tibet. Right now, westerners like myself who want to study Tibetan Buddhism abroad have to go to Nepal, Bhutan, or India to find authentic teachers because all the best teachers have left Tibet for obvious reasons. Therefore the money we spend on room, board, and airfare will go to these countries instead.

Tibet without the Dalai Lama is like Rome without the Pope. Imagine how Rome would change if the Pope was in exile in Norway, the Vatican was little more than an empty museum, and even saying the Pope's name was illegal: The whole mood of the city would change and many tourists would choose to go elsewhere, and, needless to say, riots would not disrupt tourism in Tibet if the Tibetans were happy.

In short, the Dalai Lama SELLS Tibet like nothing else. The Dalai Lama has become Tibet's brand that is recognized and admired throughout the world. Some innovative economist should write a paper quantifying all the positive externalities (benefits) of the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet.
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Postby Winston » Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:50 am

But why does China hate Tibet so much and is so controlling? What does it have to gain from being that way toward Tibet?

Did anyone see the documentary "Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion"?
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Postby momopi » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:19 pm

It's a conflict of nationalism.
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