China Book Reviews

 

James West, Beijing Blur: a head-spinning journey into modern China, Penguin, Melbourne, 2008.

ISBN: 9-780143-006756




A journey into the new gay China: James West's Beijing Blur

by Jason Lee

In Riding the Iron Rooster, first published in 1988, Paul Theroux painted a rather bleak portrait of China, filling his text with continual references to Red Guards and Cultural Revolution horrors. The China that he constructed was of an Orwellian nightmare, full of naïve citizens incapable of thinking for themselves. In the country’s “gloomy” high schools, he encountered entire “armies” of students, all “toiling” over creaking desks, the lights dim. China, he wrote rather disdainfully, was a country so lacking in privacy that it “was a wonder that any children were conceived.”

This perceived lack of individualism was also a constantly recurring theme of Colin Thubron’s, who in his much read narrative,
Behind the Wall, described Beijing as a city full of commuters who “moved in unisexual flocks, all jacketed in olive green and boilersuit blue.” Everyone it seemed, had “conspired to fulfil Western clichés of themselves: inscrutable and all alike.”

Despite the dramatic changes that have occurred over the past twenty years as a result of China’s modernization efforts, such negative images continue to enjoy currency, with many of today’s media analysts still prone to the idea of a totalitarian China, controlling its citizens’ thought-processes through the use of an anachronistic education system that emphasizes the mindless rote learning of texts. In the lead up to the Beijing Olympics, the Washington Post for example, ran an article by its former China correspondent, John Pomfret, describing the country as “an authoritarian state” that “stifles ingenuity” by placing too many limits on the free flow of information.

This image of a regimented people, lacking in both individual creativity and intellect, is now beginning to be challenged by a new, younger generation of travel writers: Rob Gifford's China Road, Kirsty Needham's A Season in Red and Mark Anthony Jones' Flowing Waters Never Stale (reviewed earlier in the year on this site) all present the urban youth of today's China as being generally well educated and internet savvy - connected to the world - and as sexually liberated, creative, optimistic individuals, many of them well traveled.

James West's Beijing Blur is the latest in the genre, offering readers a detailed insight into the world of Beijing's over-sexed youth. Throughout the course of his narrative, West enters a brave new world of bloggers, punk-rock dens and underground queer culture - all of which makes for a fascinating read.

What West was initially expecting from China was a "display of kitsch, old-school communism: messages daubed on walls, Mao sculptures propped up against cash registers, crumbling socialist monoliths." But once his eyes hit Beijing for the first time, "all this fell away." (p.13)

Landing himself a job as a journalist with China Radio International, West, a 23 year old Australian, soon finds himself a local lover named Jason. With "flawless" skin and several piercings down each ear, Chinese Jason struts around in baseball caps, his t-shirts often novel.

West is at times surprisingly open and revealing of his romantic encounters: "...he told me to follow him through the hutong bends, my hand in his. We stopped at a roller door next to what looked like a hospital. He put his hand on my stomach under my t-shirt. It was the first time we had touched like this." (p.83)

Then later:

"He stuck out his tongue....I kissed him back, swapping top and bottom lips. His piercing clinked against my teeth." (p.84)

Three entire chapters are devoted to a discussion of Beijing's vibrant gay and lesbian scene, with West interviewing members of the Beijing Gay and Lesbian Alliance, as well as detailing his numerous excursions into gay bars like Destination. "I watched the alliance balloon with queer Chinese kids wanting to share their stories," he writes. "The strength of the alliance was tapping into this need to talk. It filled the gap. The agenda was wide-ranging and relevant: safe sex, dating, politics, film screenings, research, community activities....It felt like the salad days of an awakening gay movement." (pp.129-130)

What one learns from West's book is that gay Beijing is thriving despite a political climate that tries to keep the topic of homosexuality marginalized from mainstream discourse. One member of the alliance for example, expresses to West the view that "Chinese society is actually a very fractured society,"  the boy still angry after the government had shut down the mainland's first ever queer celebration, the Beijing Gay and Lesbian Culture Festival. "He was angry about the shutdown," notes West. "He saw it as an assertion of traditional Chinese values clamping down on difference. 'They won't allow anything unstable to break the balance of family, of normal relationships,' he said. The problem with the festival was that gay people had started to talk." (p.131)

"It might be years before pink really went with red," West later laments, "but at first glance, being gay in Beijing was OK. Bars like Destination were packed every weekend, even though they couldn't advertise. Gay kids were hooking up and starting relationships. At Destination boys were kissing boys, girls were kissing girls. But the message was clear. Don't get political. Just don't talk about it." (p.131)

Unlike the earlier generation of travelers to China, West takes the time to engage with the culture of his hosts rather than merely treating it with disdain for being some unknowable and presumably inferior Other. This especially comes across when West tries to make sense of the differences in gay culture between East and West:

"...my culture made sexuality the biggest thing about me. Pool Boy's culture didn't have a direct translation for the English word 'sexuality'. Until the 1990s, his culture had never treated sex or sexuality as something that could exist outside the highly structured system of family...Pool Boy felt uncomfortable with my divisions of gay and straight. Did living as a gay man mean he couldn't get married? Did it mean he had to love and have sex with one person, a man, his whole life? And what about his parents? Did it mean that he wouldn't fulfill his role for them in being married and having children? ....Becoming 'gay' or 'lesbian' made sexuality more important than having a family, and that was too high a price to pay. Pool Boy might even cease to exist." (p..137-139)

You might see guys like Pool Boy "blowing each other in the bathrooms of Destination," adds West, "but ask the same guys whether they love and cherish their girlfriends and they'll answer yes, absolutely-why-would-you-ask, yes."

"My cultural bias at the time thought that Pool Boy couldn't see the contradictions in the way he lived because he was a bit dumb...or worse, not brave enough. But in the end, Pool Boy had never thought about it, and my obsession with a homo-hetero divide didn't make sense to a boy fucking both genders without any complaints from either." (p.138)

Wrapping up his year in Beijing, West says that he felt ambivalent about the understanding of China that he had acquired: "China was many things I aspired to be myself: an optimist, sincerely accommodating of change. But there lingered questions of freedom and how to deal with the past. While it seemed clear that China wanted to drop the cultural suitcases at the bottom of the stairs and climb up into the future without them, would that forfeit something of the intellectual and cultural evolution that must accompany lasting economic success?" (p.223)

This is indeed a question worth pondering over.

Tim
9/1/2008 11:21:24 pm

I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! Beijing sounds like my kinda "Destination".

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Rachel MacPherson
9/2/2008 07:15:08 am

I bought a copy from Dymocks in the city. Just finished readig it, and loved it. There were a few dry places, but the opening chapter had me hooked and I thought the chapters on China's gay scene were really awesome. I had no idea that the Chinese were so sexually free. As West says in his book, we shouldn't be too surprised if China ends up legalising gay marriage before we do in Australia.

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9/2/2008 12:27:36 pm

Glad you enjoyed West's book as much as I did Rachel.

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li
9/3/2008 07:20:26 am

why anyone want to read this kind of book's topic? only you westerners and sickos attracted to gay books. stop polluting our china!

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Rob Lowe
9/3/2008 04:23:05 pm

li, you're a homophobic bigot, obviously. Westerners aren't "polluting" China at all. Firstly, there is nothing "polluting" or bad about homosexuals, and secondly, China has a long history of homosexuality. Even (according to Chinese scholars) the first Emperor of China, Qin Shihuang-di, maintained numerous young male lovers. So get off your high horse li, open your mind to difference, and learn to develop a greater level of tolerance.

I think it's a very encouraging sign that China's youth are today more sexually liberated than their parent's generation, and that homosexuality is once again becoming more tolerated. I shall order a copy of West's book from Amazon later in the day. I can't wait to read more about such positive developments.

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li
9/4/2008 10:27:11 pm

@ rob lowe, you say chinese scholars promote such dirty habits by claiming Qin Shihuang-di as a gay!!!!! how silly are you? which scholars say this? only you strange westener gays could imagine such things. again, I repeat, stop polluting china with your dirty habits.

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9/5/2008 12:26:08 am

li, I would prefer you to cease leaving comments here please. I encourage only thoughtful responses to the reviews I publish here. Thank you for your understanding.

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9/7/2008 11:10:31 pm

Dear Jason,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and it was interesting to hear about what Chinese authors have been writing about homosexuality and especially with regard to Tibetans and His Holiness the Dalai Lama's view.

Yes it is true that His Holiness the Dalai Lama did say a few things negative about homosexuality - specially in terms of the physical act of penetration but the information about him blaming the Han Chinese for this negative influence is news to me and to my knowledge it is not true and I hope it isn't.

On the issue of how Tibetans respond to such statements, you have to understand a bit of Tibetan history and also a bit of the Tibetan mentality and culture. Tibetans have a unique way of thinking - they are good at compatmentalizing and filtering what they hear and also what they think. Anything that His Holiness the Dalai Lama says is not digested at its face value. Tibetans tend to think and question it in a strange way (not the best thing to do but), whatever he says and understands and interprets it is the way they want.

As for the gay issue, most think, at least in my opinion, that His Holiness is a religious leader who not only represents Tibetan buddhists but buddhists from all over the world, and they do not think that it would be right of him to endorse homosexuality even if he personally thought it was okay. There's pros and cons to either doing it or not doing it. If he was to endorse it, then he risks being isolated from the larger Christian and the Muslim world and also a large part of the Buddhists community who disapproves of it. There are in fact very few religious leaders who've come out and spoken for homosexuality.

Anyhow whatever wrong he said of homosexuality, at the end he did correct his statement and spoke for "equal rights for all and non discrimination" which in a way makes it okay for Tibetans to believe that His Holiness feels okay about gay men and woman.

Okay, now to contradict myself, I think His Holiness knows very little about homosexuality per se and as a celibate monk, he has no need to know much about the gay world. This ignorance could have led him to come out with blunt statements which aren’t so favorable to the gay community. Whether his ignorance is justifiable or not is also quite tricky, as a Buddhist monk, sure we understand that he should stay away from such matters but as a world leader revered by millions, he has a responsibility which he took on himself decades ago when he decided to embrace the world.

As a gay Tibetan, I believe His Holiness in his purest sense, does understand our plight and even if he doesn’t understand at this moment in time, he will in time and help make a more accepting world for all of us. After all he is a man of peace and compassion.

Cheers
gaytibet.blogspot.com

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9/8/2008 12:18:27 am

Gay Tibet,

Good to hear from you. I'm genuinely interested in learning more about the situation in Tibet, though I regularly find myself subjected to many conflicting viewpoints.

James West, in his book "Beijing Blur" (reviewed here), includes a description of a trip he made to Tibet, which he described as "thoroughly Chinese, down to its internet-gaming parlours and thumping Lhasa clubs." (p.211) His Tibetan guide, Thuptan, was "himself a fan of Chinese modernisation. He wore a spectrum-blue t-shirt emblazoned with 'Nirvana' - the band, not the destination - Michael Jordon-era hightops, and walked like a breakdancer." (p.211)

I was very interested to read West's impressions, as they contrast quite sharply to those of Mark Anthony Jones, whose book I reviewed earlier in the year on this site. Rather than seeing modernisation as a culture-destroying force, Jones argues that today's Tibetans appropriate the foreign in ways that are culturally-specific, as do all other Chinese ethnicities. He cites various historical examples to show that Tibetans have a long history of appropriating foreign goods and ideas - everything from Indian Buddhism to the Persian game of polo, and from potatoes (introduced by a Scotsman) and tea (from eastern China) to Stetson felt hats (first introduced by an American diplomat.) The "Tibetan youths of today," he says, "are using modern technology to record traditional folk songs but in foreign contemporary styles, keeping their language but performing them as hip-hop or rap, sometimes combining T-shirts with chubas in their music videos. No culture can ever remain pure and static." (p.147)

West's Tibetan guide certainly approved of his country's increasing modernity: "My notion of best was a town that boasted untainted Tibetan culture," writes West. "His notion of best was a town with electricity, TV and Western toilets." (p.211)

Jones clearly empathises with Tibetans like West's guide. "Imagine you’re a Tibetan for one moment," he asks. "How would you feel if the state was to intervene in your personal life to the extent that it restricted your choice of dress, forcing you to wear only traditional clothes, insisting that you continue to live only in a traditional home, one without electricity or adequate plumbing – all in the name of preserving your cultural purity?" (p.145)

"Just because many...Tibetans...choose to live in modern apartments and to wear jeans instead of chubas, those cloaks of woollen cloth, hardly makes them any less Tibetan, does it?" he continues. "Why shouldn’t young Tibetans choose to become politicians and entrepreneurs instead of herdsmen or monks?" (p.145)

Jones rejects the Dalai Lama's claim that cultural genocide is occuring in Tibet, arguing that the opposite is in fact the case - that a cultural renaissance is taking place, and he attacks the Dalai Lama too for his homophobia. Let me quote from pp.141-143 for you:

"Before the Chinese occupation, or ‘liberation’ as Xiaojing prefers to call it, Litang County had twenty-seven monasteries. Now there are well over thirty. Despite constant monitoring by the Religious Affairs Bureau, which places restrictions on the number of monks allowed in monasteries, most lamas and monks here appear to be able to conduct their religious duties with considerable freedom.

This contrasts with the situation in the neighbouring Tibetan Autonomous Region, where religious freedoms are said to be more tightly curtailed, thanks largely to the number of vocal separatists there, who use their position within monasteries to mobilise support and to organise occasional protests for independence. The more conservative lamas, being the traditionalists that they are, despise the secular developments that the new economy has helped to bring about – their distaste for consumerism, with its more liberal attitude towards sex, is often echoed by the Dalai Lama, who condemns both premarital sex and homosexuality. In an interview he gave for The Telegraph of London back in 2006, he made it very clear that as far as he was concerned, sex is for the purpose of reproduction only, adding that any use of ‘the other two holes is wrong.’ The problem with Westerners, he argued, is that they have too many material possessions, which has ‘spoilt’ them, making their lives too easy.

Unhappy with the thought that Buddhism must now compete with liberal ideology, many within the Tibetan lamasery, like their spiritual leader himself, are now crying foul, identifying the shift in values and lifestyles brought about by Chinese Han investment as a force that is diluting traditional culture. Tibet’s economy has been growing at a rate of more than twelve percent a year over the past six years, and with incomes rising even faster, the demand for consumer goods and services has grown dramatically, with older Tibetans often left bewildered

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9/8/2008 12:34:15 am

COMMENT CONTINUED....

...as their teenage sons and daughters keenly embrace a life that revolves around the use of mobile phones, iPods, karaoke bars, discos and shopping. Premarital sex among young Tibetans is now on the rise, which alarms traditionalists, and even a flourishing gay community has emerged in Lhasa, with young Tibetan homosexuals now able to introduce themselves to one another online, or in gay bars like the Blue Sky, known to the locals by its Mandarin name, the Lanse Tian Kong.

Of course, not all young Tibetans are able to find decent paying jobs in the larger cities like Lhasa and Shigatse, despite the booming economy. Lacking in literacy skills, the more poorly educated immigrants from the countryside often arrive to find themselves ill-equipped to survive the rigours of a market economy. Prostitution provides many young women with a means to consume, but for the waves of illiterate young men, becoming a monk is all too often their only viable option in life. Once in the monasteries though, they are easily exploited, for their feelings of jealousy, anger and resentment make them receptive to those who are keen to push the separatist agenda – people who blame the Han for all of Tibet’s social ills, both imagined and real. Their gripe then, not surprisingly, is usually articulated along ethnic lines, often chauvinistically, their anti-Han sentiments sometimes spilling over into racial violence on the streets.

Such activities merely bolster the authority of the hardliners within local government, of those who prefer the practice of a zero tolerance policy in their approach to maintaining law and order, and as the Canadian historian A. Tom Grunfeld has observed, separatist activities in Tibet have merely ‘fostered increased repression’, which in turn has created even deeper and more widespread resentments. According to the political prisoner database cited by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China 2007 Annual Report, there were approximately one hundred Tibetan political prisoners as of September 2007, of whom at least sixty-four were either monks or nuns- most had been charged and convicted of ‘splittism’, the average length of sentence being ten years and four months." (pp.141-143)

For James West, as for Claire Scobie (another travel writer whose book, "Last Seen In Tibet" was a recent best-seller), the modernisation that Han investment has brought about is viewed as a negative force that dilutes traditional Tibetan culture. Some, like the Dalai Lama himself, even claim that "cultural genocide" is taking place.

Jones, by contrast, argues that modernisation is a positive force for Tibet, in that per capita literacy levels have greatly increased, that more Tibetans today are fluent in their own language than ever before (especially in the dominant Lhasa dialect), and that life expectancy has greatly improved, etc. Rather than viewing Tibetans as the passive victims of the Han modernisation effort, he credits the people of Tibet with a considerable degree of agency, arguing that many, if not most, in fact keenly embrace modernity, but by appropriating what is foreign and new, consuming them in ways that are very often culturally-specific - thereby allowing them to preserve their Tibetaness.

Does the Dalai Lama represent a socially progressive force? Or is he a reactionary politician, similar to the Pope, as Jones has argued?

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Rob Lowe
9/8/2008 01:05:34 am

Interesting views. I'm sure there are indeed many Tibetans who do support both modernization and Han political rule, as Jones says, but it might be worth remembering that West's Tibetan guide in Lhasa would not have been given the job of official guide had he not keenly embraced the modernization efforts of his Han rulers.

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Karma
9/9/2008 11:07:11 am

Jones attacks the Dalai Lama for his homophobia because he wants to discredit the just cause for a free and independent Tibet.

Nobody is totally progressive on every single issue. Just because His Holiness is homophobic doesn't mean he isn't socially progressive on other, wider, more important issues.

Homosexuality isn't a traditional part of Tibetan life, so his opposition to it is understandable. If it goes against his religion (which is the religion of the vast majority of Tibetans) then opposing it as a form of spiritual pollution is perfectly reasonable. Allowing the "flourishing" of gay bars in Lhasa will offend most Tibetans, and is made possible only because the Chinese allow it to happen. This is why the Dalai Lama is justified in claiming such encouragement as an example of cultural genocide. Traditional cultural values are being eroded by an environment that promotes alternative lifestyles that revolve around materialism and the sexualization of everyday life. If the people of Tibet prefer tradition over modernization, then they should have the right to preserve their traditions and to minimize modernization. At the moment they are denied that choice.

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Rob Lowe
9/9/2008 02:47:27 pm

Karma,

Do the majority of Tibetans, living in Tibet, prefer not to modernize? Must Tibetans give up their Tibetan-ness in order to modernize? Is the right to a gay identity a universal human right, or should homosexual Tibetans suppress both the public and private expression of their sexuality in order not to upset someone's concept of "tradition"?

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9/9/2008 03:14:16 pm

The Dalai Lama presents himself as a believer of non-violence, yet he openly supported India's development of nuclear weapons, and last year he accused the CCP of using the new railway link with Lhasa to flood Tibet with beggars, prostitutes and the unemployed. "Beggars and handicapped people are coming," he was widely reported as saying. "Jobless people facing difficulty in Chinese mainland are coming to Lhasa," he added before whipping up fear and hysteria by suggesting that Chinese tourists will flood Tibet, brining with the AIDS.

(see Friends of Tibet website at: http://www.friends-of-tibet.org.nz/news/march_2007_update_3.htm)

In other words, the Dalai Lama is a politician, a political chameleon who changes his views continually: supporting nuclear proliferation while simultaneously preaching the creed of non-violence, and stirring up fear and paranoia while preaching tolerance and understanding.

I have no time for hypocrits.

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Karma
9/10/2008 09:03:35 am

Geoff, get off your high horse will you.

The Dalai Lama is right to criticize the Chinese for spreading AIDS among the Tibetan community because Chinese soldiers and businessmen in Tibet are the main users of prostitutes. Their presence in Tibet not only creates a market for the sex industry, but it also results in the spreading and proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases. The very fabric of Tibetan society is thus beginning to fray, undermined as it is by the erosion of traditional moral values - which is tantamount to cultural genocide.

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9/11/2008 02:57:24 pm

Karma it seems to me as though you are the one who thinks he is looking down on us all from a position of high superiority, which I find amusing, since you're clearly not half as knowledgeable as you like to think. For starters, sexually transmitted diseases effected large sections of the Tibetan population long before Beijing's decision to reassert its sovereignty over the TAR in the late 1950s - veneral diseases had seriously impacted on the Tibetan population for hundreds of years prior to the estasblishment of the People's Republic - and syphilis in particular was a huge problem, especially, rather ironically, within the monastic communities.

According to the the 1906-07 annual dispensary report for Gyanste hosptial for example, 23 per cent of all those patients treated were suffering from venereal diseases. In the 1909–10 report a total of 3,428 patients are listed as being treated, of whom 14.6 per cent were suffering from venereal diseases.
In the words of Alex McKay, in an article he had published in the journal, Medical History (April 2001), the "treatment of venereal diseases was...the mainstay of the Gyantse Medical Officers' workload" as "venereal diseases were endemic" in Tibet.

In fact, sexually transmitted diseases were an important cause of infertility and population decline in Tibet, from at least around the 1700s onwards, which is why the Chinese, in 1952, launched a health campaign to reduce the spread of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases - a campaign that proved to be quite effective, and which many scholars (Western and Chinese alike) have attributed to bringing about a drastic improvement in the health of national minorities, including Tibetans.

Karma, try doing some serious research before you next decide to mouth off about how evil the Han Chinese are. Chinese soldiers aren't the only people in this world to have sex, in case you didn't know! Many Tibetan men and women also have multiple sexual partners, and are responsible for the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases - they ALWAYS have, and no doubt always will.

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Paul
9/13/2008 12:30:35 pm

There is a really interesting article about the comlexities of the Tibetan issue written by Professor Yan Sun, published in the New York Times, which I found via the Inside-Out China blog. You can find the article here:

http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/30/a-sichuan-family-and-tibets-future/

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9/14/2008 12:27:38 pm

Geoff - you neglected to mention the fact that the reports discussed by McKay "indicate that...the Chinese soldiers then in Tibet made up a high percentage" of those suffering from sexually transmitted diseases. The same may be true today - I'm not aware of any research that investigates this question though.

Still, like you, I disagree with Karma's hysterical claims.

Thanks too, for pointing me to the McKay article. It's very interesting, in that much of it supports the arguments that I present in my book, "Flowing Waters Never Stale" - which Jason quotes from in his comments above. As I have argued, the more conservative lamas, being the traditionalists that they are, despise the secular developments that the new economy is now helping to bring about. This was also the case as far back as the early 1900s, as I just discovered from McKay's article. In the early 1900s, Tibet's monastic leaders resisted British attempts to carry out their vaccination programs against smallpox and veneral disease because they felt that their power was threatened by it. "Adding to the potential for resistance in the Tibetan reception of biomedicine," writes McKay, "was the fact that the main preservers of the existing social structure were the monastic powers, among whose ranks...were those whose income (and status) derived from their knowledge and skilful practice of the Tibetan medical system. With the influence which the monasteries enjoyed throughout Tibetan society, these monks were potential leaders of opposition to biomedicine (and other aspects of modernization) and where the British sources do indicate resistance to their medical innovations, it is the monks who are blamed."

This is very insightful, because it shows that the Tibetan theocracy has had a long history of resisting modernisation - it is a reactionary social force, alarmed by the sexual liberalisation that is taking place within Tibetan society - a development that threatens to undermine its overall authority and social status.

Paul - thanks for pointing me to the Yan Sun article. It was also very enlightening.

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9/14/2008 03:23:30 pm

Thank you Mr. Jones. I have yet to read your book, but I'm pleased to have met a kindred spirit. Like you I have little time for the Dalai Lama.

Chinese soldiers may have helped to spread venereal disease among the Tibetan population back during the Qing period, but the Tibetans themselves also played a big role. Syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases were problems in Tibet way before the Qing period, and it was the Portuguese who first introduced syphilis to Asia, as far back as the 1500s. Karma wants to blame the Han for everything, which like you said, is hysterical.

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Aaron X Gardiner
9/14/2008 07:39:32 pm

Rachel,

I regret to say that my experience of Beijinger's tolerance towards gay folk is rather different from Mr West's: With mighty few exceptions, Chinese people face intense pressure from their families to marry and have children. I know a very rich Chinese woman (I mean American rich) who is married to a gay man and would never dream of telling her parents that she is a lesbian. She is a Beijinger, stupendously wealthy, and educated in America. If she doesn't feel free to be openly gay, who do you imagine would? It is always easy to reflexively imagine exotic Asian countries to be superior to Australia. In lots of things China is better than Oz, but surely not on this particular issue.

Karma,

His holiness is a bigoted ex-slaveowner. The Chinese government that took control of Tibet was violent, arrogant,totalitarian, and a marked improvement on the oligarchy they threw out.

Jason Lee,

Super cool blog man. I will recommend it to all my Sinophile friends, as Xujun recommended it to me. Keep up the good work!

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9/14/2008 09:03:53 pm

MAJ, Geoff and Karma, thanks for your discussion. All of you raise some valuable arguments.

Aaron X Gardiner, thanks for your kind words, and for sharing here your experience of the attitude of Beijingers towards homosexuality. Perhaps West mingled in different circles from you, as he does seem to be far more upbeat about Beijing's gay scene than you are.

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9/16/2008 02:31:12 pm

Great discussion, and great collection of book reviews. I look forward to reading the next one.

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10/11/2008 07:17:46 pm

China's gays need to articulate their own struggle for human rights as part of the class struggle against Beijing's capitalist counter-revolutionaries.

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