Responses to Slavoj Žižek’s Apparent Apologia for the Chinese Crackdown in Tibet

Shego Jinpa and others in the LRB on Žižek’s claims:

Not only does Žižek rely on Chinese propaganda for his understanding of Tibet’s past, he also interprets the current tragedy through TV images selected and transmitted by the Chinese government. These images repeatedly show footage of riots, but not the peaceful protests whose brutal suppression triggered the uprising. The Chinese authorities haven’t produced any evidence to show that there was a programme of organised violence by Tibetans: the wave of human rights protests and demonstrations in support of the Dalai Lama was vociferous but predominantly peaceful. In the incredible pictures of nomadic protesters on horseback in Amdo Bora (Gannan in Chinese) captured by a Canadian TV crew, for example, not a single weapon is being brandished. These nomads have guns so that they can protect their cattle, and it is their custom to carry swords and knives. But because they support the Dalai Lama’s message of peace, on this occasion they left their weapons behind. Žižek tellingly remains silent about the gunning down of unarmed Tibetan protesters (more than two hundred were killed), the mass arrests, the flooding of the Tibetan plateau with Chinese paramilitaries, the lockdown of monasteries and schools and the barring of independent foreign journalists from the region.

Žižek implies what the Chinese authorities have explicitly stated, that Tibet should be grateful for Chinese investment in its economy and its education and health systems. The presumption that Tibet would have remained unchanged had it not been for the Chinese invasion and colonial tutelage is preposterous, but there is also a failure to acknowledge what China gains from Tibet.