Help Me Change China- With wallets rather than bullets: Sonam Wangchuk8 min read

sonam wangchuk in ladakh

Full text of Sonam Wangchuk’s talk: Help Me Change China- with wallets rather than bullets.


Ladakh is a mountain desert across the Indian Himalayas in the rain shadow of the mighty mountains. It’s so high and dry that it’s often called moon land. It looks more like a moonscape or a Mars scape.

Well, this one is a picture of the mask often called little Tibet. This region remains landlocked cut off from the rest of the world for half the year. Temperatures range from -30° to +30°.

Hi, I’m, Sonam Wangchuk, a simple indigenous tribal from this remote Ladakh. I was born in an even remoter tiny village of five households, but that was a long time ago. Today, my village has grown a hundred percent to become a village of 10 households, perhaps still a little bit smaller than your city.

We have no schools in our village. So I learned from the farmers from the rivers, trees, animals, and above all from my mother. I picked up English and other languages from the radio and meeting people from different countries. Later, went to some schools and finally finished mechanical engineering.

We love our Ladakh so much that while my engineering school mates went to Bangalore, Mumbai and the Silicon Valley, I came back to Ladakh and started solving problems of the people- children’s problems in school education, people facing harsh-cold winters and farmers facing water shortage in the face of climate change.

I’ve been doing these things for the last 30 years and the world has been very generous. They have not only acknowledged, but admired my work with various awards in different parts of the world. 

But today I have come here not to talk more about these things, but to share with you a bigger challenge that Ladakh is facing and to seek your support in solving our problem.

Yes, you can solve our problem. And not only that, you have the power to even avoid a world war.

Let me explain how. This is Ladakh.

Sonam Wangchuk

You see the famous Indus river flowing and over there the dark mountains. Across that are the valleys of Nubra and Changtang, where we share our border with Tibet, which is now occupied by China.

You may have heard that for the past few weeks the Chinese Army has intruded deep inside Indian Territory. This has been happening over the years and our shepherds who raise the famous Cashmere goats have lost a lot of their pastures and are in deep trouble.

Now the Indian army is there in large numbers across those mountains, matching China’s soldier to soldier bullet to bullet. But I don’t think that is a solution.

Both of these countries are nuclear powers and push comes to shove, India doesn’t need all of its 160 nuclear weapons to raise all Chinese cities and vice versa. And that would soon escalate into a full-fledged world war, world war three. Therefore, I have come to seek your support in solving this.

You, my friends, have the wallet power, which in this case can even diffuse a bullet for between different countries.

Let me explain how.

To understand your power, let’s first understand what China is doing and why and when?

Although China claims that Indian soldiers intruded into its territory, it could not be a coincidence that at the same time in the month of April and May, Vietnamese decide to bother China, Taiwan and the U.S. Navy also decide to bother China.

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And the timing is important. This is the time when the whole world is dealing with the pandemic. Who would even think of border dispute, but one country has serious reasons to do that. And that is China.

China being a totalitarian regime, fears, not so much the bullet power of India or the U.S. What it fears most is its own people- the 1.4 billion people that work like bonded laborers without many rights and enrich this regime.

When they are angry, there’s a situation for an uprising, a revolt. And today, after the COVID pandemic, people in China are furious with their government for how they handled the pandemic. Chinese businesses are shut. Factories are shut. Unemployment reaches 20% and it’s time for an uprising. And that’s when China picks up fight with several of its neighbors to divert the attention of angry citizens from the economy to nationalism.

And this is not the first time China is doing this from 1958 to 1962, during the worst great Chinese famine When people in China were very, very upset, Mao decided to invade India. And now Xi is doing the same thing again.

Well, this is the simple analysis of my simple tribal mind. If this be the case, then we, the citizens of the world should use our wallet judiciously and hit China, where it hurts most- the economy.

If enough people around the world decide that we will no longer buy Chinese goods and sponsor this regime, then that will see their worst nightmares coming through. And I think this is the only way we can bring the Chinese regime on the discussion table for peace dialogues.

We must always clearly remember that when we say China, it’s the regime and not the civilization, not the people. In fact, the Chinese people are themselves, the greatest victim in this. And that’s why my friends I’ve come to seek your support. 

We use so many Chinese products, software, hardware from apps and software that sends millions and millions of dollars to China, to products like clothing, phones, computers. If we boycott all these goods, it’ll send a clear message to China that the word is not happy with you.

But is it right to boycott goods from a particular country?

Normally not when it is among equal partners, but my simple tribal mind says that China is not a normal country.

If the word was a club of peaceful sheep, China is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

It doesn’t respect the rules of the game. It’s a totalitarian regime run by a clique. It’s not representative of its people. In fact, its people are just an instrument for its expansionist ambitions. It doesn’t respect international customs, our bodies like the WHO. And we saw because of its behavior, how the COVID spread so much and caused so much suffering. 

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Yet we, the people of the world also have double standards. We overlook everything and just want trade with it.

In 1947, China gobbled up in our Mongolia. We were silent. We wanted trade.

Later, Tibet with its 6 million Tibetan Buddhists were annexed. We were silent. We wanted trade.

And then Xing Jang, with its 10 million Uyghur Muslims were gobbled up. We were silent. We wanted trade.

In fact, 60% of today’s China is occupied territory, but we overlook that because we want trade.

But the biggest victims of this regime are the 1.4 billion Chinese. They work like bonded laborers, have hardly any rights. And if they raise their voice, they disappear. China has already blocked and banned Twitter, Google, Facebook, and keeps it people from all the information of the free world.

And now with the belt and road initiative, China is laying at death deathtrap around the world. Already countries like Sri Lanka have lost their land as they couldn’t pay the debts. Pakistan is soon becoming a colony of this kind. In Africa, Djibouti has already lost its land for China. Countries like Tonga have debts that amount to 44% of its GDP.

After Asia and Africa, They’re soon arriving in Europe, where assets are being built all over central Asia and Europe with loans from Chinese companies and contracts given to Chinese companies with very high rates and when you can’t repay the loans, you lose your land.

To my simple tribal mind, these belts and roads are the veins to suck the blood of the world, to send finished Chinese goods and to suck resources and money from around the world. But we overlook all these facts because we are addicted to cheap Chinese goods.

We must also find out why are these goods cheap in the first place? 

Can we ethically make cheap goods like this?

Well, they’re cheap because the labor is low. Paid labor laws are hardly there and natural resources are plundered like there’s no tomorrow. State subsidizes utilities to artificially lower their prices, and they manipulate currencies in their favor.

So it’s time that we citizens of the world take our wallets into our hands and say, we have personal economic sanctions on this regime. And yet in the free world, we have the double standards to say that if our own country has environmental and human rights restrictions, we move our factories to China.

Well, aren’t Chinese people, human beings with human rights? Isn’t nature in China, part of this planet?

Now, some people would ask, is it practical? How can we manage without Chinese good and what are the alternatives?

Well, if we are determined and give enough time to businesses and industry, things will adapt themselves. So that’s why I say:

Boycott Made in China software in a week, hardware in a year.

So your software apps like Tik-Tok, Helo that you have on your mobile phones, you can immediately uninstall. And uninstall in millions, So that China gets a message.

As for hardware like phones, computers, clothing, we take a year and slowly choose products source out of the free world.

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And my simple tribal analysis says that if you give time and clear determination, then businesses will adapt. A new ecosystem will develop where there’ll be enough goods to cater to people who don’t want to buy Chinese goods. Just like vegan people or Jain community, they don’t eat certain things; they don’t go hungry. Businesses adapt and they get what they want with time.

As for replacements and alternatives to Chinese good, I really don’t think that we need an alternative for everything. We have been buried under cheap Chinese goods. We have made our houses into museums, cluttered with cheap things that we don’t even need.

Why do we need 10 pairs of shoes? Why can’t we do with three pairs of shoes made very nicely by local craftsman? Why do we let these goods pollute our rivers, lakes? Can we learn to live simpler?

These lockdowns have actually taught us that we can be happy with much less. So can we also think out of this box and talk about a simpler life with local products?

If you want to learn more about how to live happily with simpler lives, please look up our movement

You may not agree with me, but if we keep appeasing China, because of our addiction to trade with it and overlook everything else, my simple tribal mind says that we might even be repeating history. 

How in the late 1930s, the British government led by Chamberlain, kept appeasing Hitler and giving into its demands finally led to the Second World War. If we continue on the same path, we might either be leading the world to a Third World War or at a world dominated and colonized by China.

Let me help you understand further what our addiction to trade with China can land us into. Here’s a story of the great Indian monkey trap:

A Man puts a sweet bit into the pitcher and then ties this pitcher to a tree with a very small opening. And the monkey comes, puts his hand into the pitcher, and grabs the sweet. As it closes its fist to grab this bait, the opening is so small that a closed fist cannot come out of its mouth.

But the monkey does not understand that all it has to do is let go of its little booty to free itself from slavery. It struggles and struggles to get its hand out, but doesn’t open its fist and let go of the bait. Continues for all night and in the morning, shoot hunters come and catch it. All because of its attachment to its booty.

I hope we are more evolved than monkeys and can let go of such bait.

Well, this is all that the last citizen from the remotest part of the planet can say:

The choice is yours.


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Sonam Wangchuk’s talk: Help Me Change China- with wallets rather than bullets.