Friday, February 29, 2008

Gene Roddenberry and the Sino - Indian War: An Unexplained Fixation?

Is Gene Roddenberry’s somewhat frequent (though never overwrought) references to the Sino – Indian war on his various works somewhat propped up his mythical status?


By: Vanessa Uy


From Star Trek to the Earth: Final Conflict TV series, Gene Roddenberry’s use of the “apocryphal escalation” of the Sino – Indian Border Conflict of late 1962 which he refers to as the “S-I War” has become one of his most distinctive “literary tools”. The “SI War” always fires up my personal imagination because none of the Trekkies (Star Trek fans) I met so far (except one) really know what started this conflict and it’s historical significance. Have I finally found a topic that should be a “required reading” by all Trekkies, yet majority of them squirm away from it? But first, allow me to discuss the historically factual version of the Sino – Indian Conflict.

During the annexation of Tibet by the Peoples Republic of China back in 1951, His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet was forced into exile in India. The Dalai Lama’s choice of seeking political / spiritual asylum in India where many of his followers live angered Beijing because the Dalai Lama’s status as a spiritual leader still continues and thus Beijing labeled him as a “strategic threat”. The Beijing government threatened the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru to surrender the Dalai Lama to them or suffer the consequences. Prime Minister Nehru held his ground even when thousands of Chinese troops massed along the Chinese – Indian border which lead to the largely forgotten Sino – Indian Conflict of late 1962. But it is a big deal back then because the worlds largest democracy by population namely: India and the worlds largest Socialist / Communist country by population namely: China. Are on the brink of full-scale war, which is likely to attract intervention by Cold War era superpowers namely the US and the then USSR.

Does the Sino – Indian Border Conflict of 1962 remind you of how the Trojan War started? The war supposedly revolves around Helen of Troy but in truth the war was really about vying control of the lucrative “trade routes” of the Mediterranean Sea. Adventure stories from the Ancient Greeks which violates every rule of Sun Tsu’s “Art of War” – like conserving precious resources when conducting a campaign – seems to gain “blockbuster status” to us in the Western World. Mao Zedong’s famous “Red Book” was purportedly based on “The Art of War” by Sun Tsu, and yet even the Beijing Government fell into this trap by engaging a border conflict with India with the threat of the US and NATO being drawn into the conflict. Didn’t Sun Tsu point out that the best way to win a war is to deny a battle? By labeling His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet a greater threat than he actually is, China would have squandered precious manpower and materiel on a conflict with dubious political significance. Even today, the Sino – Indian War / Border Conflict of 1962 is largely forgotten unless you are a hard core “Trekky” with serious interest on the subject. The row over the Dalai Lama between China and India did inspire many a Star Trek TV episodes from the Original Series to Star Trek: The Next Generation and other related Star Trek TV series like Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and the latest Enterprise TV series which stars Scott Bakula.

But the “apocryphal escalation” of the Sino – Indian war of 1962 – which is often used by Gene Roddenberry – is what gave the world the story about the “Eugenics Wars” that gave rise to Ricardo Montalban’s character “Khan” of Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan. The “S-I War” in Earth: Final Conflict and related variants of the theme that is used in Enterprise. Like the three – part episode “Borderland,” “Cold Station 12,” and “The Augments” which explained the origin of various Star Trek characters like Khan, Dr. Arik Soong, the great – great – great – grandfather of Data’s creator Dr. Noonien Soong.

In my opinion, every one of us – not just “Trekkies” should re-examine the events surrounding the Sino – Indian War of 1962. This is so because our current “operation” to capture Osama Bin Laden and to restore the Rule of Law in Afghanistan is fought in a terrain not unlike that of the Sino – Indian War of 1962. This terrain is so hostile even for casual tourist and explorers that to conduct military maneuvers on such an environment borders on insanity. I once played a military simulation exercise / game similar to the terrain found on the Khyber pass and trust me, if the overexertion doesn’t wear you down the resulting “minor” injuries will. And we haven’t yet taken into account the low prevailing barometric pressure.

In Gene Roddenberry’s lifetime (sadly, he passed away on October 24, 1991) the geopolitical antics of China almost drove anyone - who cares about these events – into a nervous breakdown of sorts because China invaded Vietnam on February 17, 1979 by launching a major attack along their 500 mile border. Chinese forces supported by artillery and tanks were able to invade four Vietnamese provinces. Plus China’s subsequent claim of the oil rich Spratley Islands which almost give the Beijing Government “reasons” to annex the Philippines. Even at present with the Beijing Government’s complicity of the ongoing genocide in the Darfur Region of Sudan. Yet despite threats of boycotting the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, China continues her intransigence with regards to her “Foreign Policy”. If Gene Roddenberry is following these events from the afterlife, his “I told you so” could probably create a new Sci-Fi TV series.

Some “Trekkies” would be asking right now ”What does this all mean?” Well, even though Gene Roddenberry was only seen as an “entertainer” during the 1960’s. To me, he did contribute something to resolve the bitter issues in one of the most tumultuous period of America’s history. Gene Roddenberry might not be as vocal as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when it comes to Civil Rights issues, yet most of the issues presented in the original Star Trek series were about Civil Rights issues. When the late President John F. Kennedy inspired Americans to go to the Moon, Gene Roddenberry did his part too in inspiring not just the American people but everyone who saw Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry’s views about the Sino – Indian War of 1962 was probably his way of reminding all of us not to forget what George Santayana said about studying history.

15 comments:

Hera said...

To me the legacy of William Shakespeare's King Lear still inspires the creation of many a soap opera (Dallas for example) and the upstart new ones (South Korean soaps with a decidedly "Western" outlook are no doubt inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear) from various cultures around the world. Gene Roddenberry's creations - especially Star Trek - but also Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda retains the excellent storycraft of Shakespeare while incorporating contemporary political correctness that define our current aspirations.
Are you following the on-going anti Beijing Government demonstrations in Lhasa, Tibet? even the Buddhist Monks have already joined in as of March 14, 2008. The spectre of the October 1962 Sino - Indian Border Conflict now returns to haunt the People's Republic of China. And worst of all, its the Summer Olympic Year of Beijing.
During my teen years in 1979, my friends and I helped organize a "Boycott Campaign" against the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games due to the Kremlin's unlawful annexation of Afghanistan in December 26, 1979. And believe me, it was really hard back then to organize such an undertaking decades before the invention of "Web 2.0". The rational for this year's boycott for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics is quite sound, especially the Beijing Government's complicity in the ongoing genocide in the Darfur Region of Sudan and the government's "less than stellar" human rights record especially on Chinese Political Dissidents.
At present, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet is pleading the Beijing Government to avoid using "excessive force" against the citizens of Tibet expressing their views against the on going "cultural genocide" perpetuated by the Beijing Government on the Tibetan People since 1959.

Maribeth said...

First, there was that very famous soap opera called "Dallas" mimicing the real life events of the "Hunt Brothers Silver Debacle" Then came the recent events of Tibetan protests in Lhasa in which the Beijing Government has the audacity of accusing His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet for instigating the said event. Gene Roddenberry must either be psychic or a very good "Foreign Policy Strategist" in forecasting such events.
Is the People's Republic of China still suffering from the "Bad Karma" acquired for mistreating His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet? I've been researching about the Sino - Indian War / Border Conflict (or the S-I War to Earth: Final Conflict fans) since 1995 via books and the circa 1995 Internet and I can really say with utmost confidence that the "drama" behind this conflict that started way back in October 20, 1962 really did inspire many of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek episodes from the "Original Series" (TOS to us "Trekkies") back in the mid-1960's to the latter Star Trek incarnations like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, to Star Trek: Voyager and lastly the latest Enterprise which sadly ended in 2005. Though the Sino-Indian War ended in November 20, 1962 with the People's Republic of China emerging as the victor, to me, the Beijing government lost the "moral high ground" by engaging in such a foolhardy campaign. This despite the current resurgence in popularity of Marxist-Leninist Socialism that made Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Bolivian president Evo Morales a rallying point for critics of capitalism and the current unlawful "annexation" of Iraq by the Bush Administration.

Lilith Fair said...

The ghost of the 1962 Sino-Indian Border Conflict and the 1959 failed anti-Chinese uprising in Tibet seems destined to forever haunt the present Beijing Government. The People's Republic of China should forever be grateful that His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet and Richard Gere's "The Gere Foundation" haven't made a "Faustian Pact" with famed arms merchant Viktor Bout (are Star Trek's "Ferrengis" based on his character). The "Genocide Olympics","The Cultural Genocide": The ideas behind these events will probably - to me at least - serve as an excellent "story springboard" by the time the next Star Trek franchise comes along. Too bad though for the latest Star Trek: Enterprise that stars Scott Bakula, which was cancelled last 2005 due to lack of money and worse of all lack of fan support.

Rojer said...

The "Historically Real" 1962 Sino Indian War was even a front cover story on Newsweek back then. Yet today, no one remembers or knows about it, except hard core "Trekkies" and historians. Records of the conflict - some aspects of it - are still classified till this day. Yet, this conflict is probably the root cause on why most of the people on the planet defends His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet and why they are calling the 2008 Beijing Olympics the "Genocide Olympics". And most of them have not yet seen the overwhelming evidence of the Beijing Government's complicity in the on-going genocide in Darfur.

Hera said...

Despite the "One World, One Dream" fanfare of the numerically auspicious by Feng Sui standards 2008 Beijing Olympics. The evidence proving the Chinese government's complicity of the on-going genocide in Darfur is now indisputable. Dong Feng military trucks with crew serve machine guns had been seen in the region despite of the 2005 arms importation ban from China to Sudan. Roberta Cohen of the Brookings Institution says that with China's permanent seat on the UN Security Council will make it much harder to formulate actions against China. Looks like there will still be no justice yet for Tibet, The Dalai Lama, or the refugees fleeing the on-going genocide in Darfur.

Mischa said...

Has anyone of you seen the Sino-Indian war movie called Haqueequat? The Chetan Amad directed movie won India's National Film Award for Second Best Feature Film in 1965.
Roberta Cohen of the Brookings Institution has recently investigated the Beijing Government's complicity with regards to the on-going humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Like the prescence of Dong Feng military truks and Fantam A5 attack aircraft (designs probably stolen from McDonnel Douglas' A4 Skyhawk) on Darfur aren't proof enough. The effort is made harder with China's permanent seat in the UN Security Council. But don't despair, we can still support Joey Cheek's Team Darfur to spread awareness on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. Plus, the Free Tibet movement is still alive and well. Feel free to support the Milarepa Fund by visiting www.milarepa.org .

Anonymous said...

Is it good or is it bad that Tibet has not been turned into another "State of Israel" by the Truman Adminidtration by supplying His Holiness The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet with "too much" military aid? The outcome of the 1962 Sino-Indian War would have been much different as documented by history. Many blamed the 1962 S-I War as the reason of India's chronic poverty and lack of working public healthcare facilities. Too bad Gene Roddenberry is no longer available for comment.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the reason why Gene Roddenberry viewed the 1962 Sino-Indian War with much concern because it was conveniently timed to coincide with the height of the October 27, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and could be misconstrued as a coordinated attack against the US and the rest of the "Free World" by the then "Evil Empire" of the USSR?
The then Pres. John F. Kennedy even dispatched an aircraft carrier into the Bay of Bengal to prevent the Sino-Indian War from escalating.

Gibson said...

I think Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek as an example of a Marxist-Leninist Socialist Utopia that doesn't alienate people. Like what president Evo Morales is currently fostering in Bolivia. Looks like the People's Republic of China really missed the point when the Beijing Government functionaries forcibly annexed Tibet, given that Tibetan Buddhism is really not that different from the socialist views of Marx and Engels. The People's republic of China really did made a public relations blunder this time folks.

Madison Scott said...

Too bad Gene Roddenberry didn't live long enough to shoot his own big-budget Sino-Indian War epic.

April Rain said...

Has Gene Roddenberry ever worked on a Sino-Indian War epic?

Sherry said...

Are Col. Green and Khan Singh part of Gene Roddenberry's Sino-Indian War?

Ringo said...

A Gene Roddenberry Sino-Indian War epic "novelization" or movie based on the Star trek canon could involve Col. Philip Green and Khan Singh - escalating the conflict to the "Eugenics Wars".

Sans Ferdinand said...

Wasn't Major Ronald Sandoval a decorated veteran of Gene Roddenberry's Sino-Indian War?

Ringo said...

According to Gene Roddenberry's Earth Final Conflict storyline, Ronald Sandoval was an intelligence officer / spy during the Sino-Indian War and I think there are a few mentions that he might have attained a rank of major - though he's mainly an FBI agent for much of the Earth Final Conflict series. The decorated veterans of the "Gene Roddenberry's Sino-Indian War" are Major Liam Neville Kincaid and Major Raymond McIntyre.