Posts tagged ‘Tibetan Plateau’

17/09/2016

The plateau, unpacified | The Economist

AN ELDERLY woman with long, grey plaits, wearing a traditional Tibetan apron of wool in colourful stripes, has spent her day weaving thread outside her home near the southern end of Qinghai Lake, high on the Tibetan plateau. She is among hundreds of thousands of Tibetan nomads who have been forced by the government in recent years to settle in newly built villages. She now lives in one of them with her extended family and two goats. Every few months one of her sons, a red-robed monk, visits from his monastery, a place so cut off from the world that he has never heard of Donald Trump. Her grandson, a 23-year-old with slick hair and a turquoise rain jacket, is more clued in. He is training to be a motorcycle mechanic in a nearby town. Theirs is a disorienting world of social transformation, sometimes resented, sometimes welcome.Chinese and foreigners alike have long been fascinated by Tibet, romanticising its impoverished vastness as a haven of spirituality and tranquillity. Its brand of Buddhism is alluring to many Chinese—even, it is rumoured, to Peng Liyuan, the wife of China’s president, Xi Jinping. Many Tibetans, however, see their world differently. It has been shattered by China’s campaign to crush separatism and eradicate support for the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader who fled to India after an uprising in 1959. The economic transformation of the rest of China and its cities’ brash modernity are seductive, but frustratingly elusive.

The story of political repression in Tibet is a familiar one. The Dalai Lama accuses China’s government of “cultural genocide”, a fear echoed by a tour guide in Qinghai, one of five provinces across which most of the country’s 6m Tibetans are scattered (the others are Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and the Tibet Autonomous Region, or TAR—see map). “We know what happened to the Jews,” he says. “We are fighting for our existence.” Less commonly told is the despair felt by many young Tibetans who feel shut out of China’s boom. They are victims of Tibet’s remote and forbidding topography as well as of racial prejudice and the party’s anti-separatist zeal. They often cannot migrate to coastal factories, and few factories will come to them. Even fluent Mandarin speakers rarely find jobs outside their region.

Yet Tibetans are not cut off from the rapidly evolving culture of the rest of China, where more than 90% of the population is ethnic Han. Mayong Gasong Qiuding, a 26-year-old hotel worker in Yushu in southern Qinghai, listens to Mandarin, Tibetan and Western pop music in tandem. He can rattle off official slogans but can recite only short Tibetan prayers. His greatest wish, he says, is to go to the Maldives to see the sea. Tibetan women in Qinghai use skin-whitening products, following a widespread fashion among their Han counterparts; a teenager roller-skates anticlockwise around a Buddhist stupa, ignoring a cultural taboo. Young nomads frustrate their elders by forsaking locally-made black, yak-hair tents for cheaper, lighter canvas ones produced in far-off factories.

Han migration, encouraged by a splurge of spending on infrastructure, is hastening such change. Although Tibetans still make up 90% of the permanent population of the TAR, its capital Lhasa is now 22% Han, compared with 17% in 2000. Many Tibetans resent the influx. Yet they are far more likely to marry Han Chinese than are members of some of China’s other ethnic groups. Around 10% of Tibetan households have at least one member who is non-Tibetan, according to a census in 2010. That compares with 1% of households among Uighurs, another ethnic minority whose members often chafe at rule by a Han-dominated government.

Core features of Tibetan culture are in flux. Monasteries, which long ago played a central role in Tibetan society, are losing whatever influence China has allowed them to retain. In recent years, some have been shut or ordered to reduce their populations (monks and nuns have often been at the forefront of separatist unrest). In July buildings at Larung Gar in Sichuan, a sprawling centre of Tibetan Buddhist learning, were destroyed and thousands of monks and nuns evicted. Three nuns have reportedly committed suicide since. Of the more than 140 Tibetans who have set fire to themselves since 2011 in protest against Chinese rule, many were spurred to do so by repressive measures at their own monastery or nunnery.

Cloistered life is threatened by social change, too. Families often used to send their second son to a monastery, a good source of schooling. Now all children receive nine years of free education. “The young think there are better things to do,” says a monk at Rongwo monastery in Tongren, a town in Qinghai, who spends his days “praying, teaching [and] cleaning”. New recruits often come from poorly educated rural families.

Mind your language

In the TAR (which is closed to foreign journalists most of the time), the Tibetan language is under particular threat. Even nursery schools often teach entirely in Mandarin. A generation is now graduating from universities there who barely speak Tibetan. Some people have been arrested for continuing to teach in the language. In April last year Gonpo Tenzin, a singer, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for his album, “No New Year for Tibet”, encouraging Tibetans to preserve their language and culture.

In some areas outside the TAR, however, the government is less hostile to Tibetan. Since the early 2000s, in much of Qinghai, the number of secondary schools that teach in Tibetan has risen, according to research there by Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology at Korntal, Germany. The range of degrees taught in Tibetan has expanded too. Unlike elsewhere, someone who has studied mainly in Tibetan can still get a good job in Qinghai. A third of all government roles advertised there between 2011 and 2015 required the language. Despite this, many parents and students chose to be taught in Mandarin anyway, Mr Zenz found. They thought it would improve job prospects.

Karma chameleon

But work can be difficult to get, despite years of huge government aid that has helped to boost growth. Government subsidies for the TAR amounted to 111% of GDP in 2014 (see chart), according to Andrew Fischer of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Eleven airports serve Qinghai and the TAR—they will have three more by 2020. A 156-mile train line from Lhasa (population 560,000) to Shigatse (population 120,000), which was completed in 2014, cost 13.3 billion yuan ($2.16 billion). A second track to Lhasa is being laid from Sichuan, priced at 105 billion yuan.

Better infrastructure has fuelled a tourism boom—domestic visitors to the TAR increased fivefold between 2007 and 2015—but most income flows to travel agents elsewhere. Tourists stay in Han-run hotels and largely eat in non-Tibetan restaurants (KFC opened its first Lhasa branch in March). Tibetan resentment at exclusion from tourism- and construction-related jobs was a big cause of rioting in Lhasa in 2008 that sparked plateau-wide protests. Other big money-spinners—hydropower and the extraction of minerals and timber—are controlled by state-owned firms that employ relatively few Tibetans. The Chinese name for Tibet, Xizang, means “western treasure house”. But Tibetans have little share in its spoils. The rehousing of nomads has helped provide some with building jobs, but has also brought suffering: those relocated sometimes find it harder to make a living from herding.

In most other parts of China, villages have been rapidly emptying as people flock to work in cities. In the country as a whole, the agricultural population dropped from 65% to 48% as a share of the total between 2000 and 2010. On the plateau it fell only slightly, from 87% to 83%. It is hard for Tibetans to migrate to places where there are more opportunities. Police and employers treat them as potential troublemakers. In 2010 only about 1% of Tibetans had settled outside the plateau, says Ma Rong of Peking University. They cannot move abroad either. In 2012 Tibetans in the TAR had to surrender their passports (to prevent them joining the Dalai Lama); in parts of Qinghai officials went house-to-house confiscating them.

Karma chameleon

For university graduates, the prospects are somewhat better. There are few prospects for secure work in private firms on the plateau. But to help them, the government has been on a hiring spree since 2011. Almost all educated Tibetans now work for the state. A government job is a pretty good one: salaries have been rising fast. Few Tibetans see such work as traitorous to their cause or culture. But the government may not be able to keep providing enough jobs for graduates, especially if a slowdown in China’s economy, which is crimping demand for commodities, has a knock-on effect on the plateau.

Many of the problems faced by Tibetans are common in traditional pastoral cultures as they modernise. But those of Tibetans are compounded by repression. They are only likely to increase when the Dalai Lama, now 81, dies. The central government will try to rig the selection of his successor, and no doubt persecute Tibetans who publicly object.

In private, officials say they are playing a waiting game: they expect the “Tibetan problem” to be more easily solved when he is gone. They are deluding themselves. They ignore his impact as a voice of moderation: he does not demand outright independence and he condemns violence. Tibetan culture may be under duress, but adoration of the Dalai Lama shows no sign of diminishing. Poverty, alienation and the loss of a beloved figurehead may prove an incendiary cocktail.

Source: The plateau, unpacified | The Economist

Advertisements
25/11/2014

Massive Himalayan hydropower dam comes on stream in Tibet | South China Morning Post

Tibet‘s biggest ever hydropower project has begun generating electricity, state-run media reported, the latest dam developed on Himalayan rivers to prompt concern in neighbouring India.

tpbje20141123187_46897531.jpg

The first generating plant at the 9.6 billion yuan (HK$12.1 billion) Zangmu Hydropower Station, which stands more than 3,300 metres above sea level, went into operation on Sunday, Xinhua said.

The dam on the Yarlung Zangbo River, known as the Brahmaputra in India where it is a major waterway, will be 116 metres high when completed next year, according to reports.

It will have a total generating capacity of 510,000 kilowatts.

“The hydropower station will solve Tibet’s power shortage, especially in the winter,” Xinhua quoted an official from Tibet Electric Power Company as saying.

India has previously expressed concern about damming the Brahmaputra, one of the largest Himalayan rivers and a lifeline to some of India’s remote, farm-dependent northeastern states.

India’s Foreign Ministry last year urged China “to ensure that the interests of downstream states are not harmed by any activities in upstream areas” of the river after state media reports that China planned several more dams there.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said yesterday that New Delhi had been aware the dam was “coming up”.

“The Chinese have told us that it should have no implications for us,” he said.

Dam construction in China has been blamed for reduced flow and sudden flooding on the Mekong River, which flows into Southeast Asia, claims Beijing has denied.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters: “The hydropower stations China builds will not affect the flood prevention and ecological system of downstream areas.”

via Massive Himalayan hydropower dam comes on stream in Tibet | South China Morning Post.

30/09/2014

Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State | Stratfor

“Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.” This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China’s classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China’s would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history — but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity.

Tibetan Settlement in India

This dynamism is not limited to China. The Scottish referendum and waves of secession movements — from Spain’s Catalonia to Turkey and Iraq’s ethnic Kurds — are working in different directions. More than half a century after World War II triggered a wave of post-colonial nationalism that changed the map of the world, buried nationalism and ethnic identity movements of various forms are challenging the modern idea of the inviolable unity of the nation-state.

Yet even as these sentiments pull on the loose threads of nations, in China, one of the most intractable issues in the struggle for unity — the status of Tibet — is poised for a possible reversal, or at least a major adjustment. The long-running but frequently unnoticed negotiations have raised the possibility that the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, may be nearing a deal that would enable him to return to his Tibetan homeland. If it happens, it would end the Dalai Lama’s exile in Dharamsala, India — an exile that began after the Tibetan uprising in 1959, nine years after the People’s Republic of China annexed Tibet. More important, a settlement between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could be a major step in lessening the physical and psychological estrangement between the Chinese heartland and the Tibetan Plateau.

Read rest of article via Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State | Stratfor.

15/07/2014

One injured as explosion hits Xining airport car park in Qinghai | South China Morning Post

An explosion rocked the car park of Xining’s main airport today, state media reported. One person was injured by shrapnel, according to the authorities.

xining_blast-net.jpg

Police and bomb experts rushed to the scene within minutes of the blast and cordoned off the area around the busy Caojiapu (variably spelled as Caojiabao) airport.

One cleaner was hit when the object detonated in the lot just outside the terminal, the China West Airport Group said in a press statement at 4pm.

According to Chinanews.com, the staff was hit by a piece of glass and was sent to hospital.

Airport operations were not affected, the airport authority said. Cars in the parking lot were moved to other areas to clear the scene.

The Qinghai public security bureau and armed police are now conducting further investigation.

The explosives were concealed in a rubbish bin at the corner of the car park, according to the China Youth Daily.

A person surnamed Bao working for the public security bureau of Haidong prefecture near Xining told the South China Morning Post that the bureau’s command centre were not informed of the blast as yet, but that they would be sending staff to the scene.

“Airport police, anti-terror police, SWAT and paramilitary [officers] have cordoned off the site and are doing further investigation,” Bao said.

The Caojiapu airport is the busiest airport in the Tibet Plateau region. According to the airport’s figures, it handles four million trips a day.

Earlier in June, the airport held an emergency rescue drill – the largest held in the past 10 years – involving firefighters, medical emergency response teams as well as runway and airport maintenance teams.

Clearing explosives was part of the drill.

via One injured as explosion hits Xining airport car park in Qinghai | South China Morning Post.

19/12/2013

China protects key river sources – Xinhua | English.news.cn

China plans to strengthen the environmental protection of the Sanjiangyuan region of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the source of important rivers.

With an average altitude of 4,000 meters, Sanjiangyuan, which means \”source of three rivers\” in Chinese, lies in the hinterland of west China\’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and is home to China\’s biggest and highest wetlands ecosystem. (The place where the world famous Yangtse, Yellow and Lantsang  originate.)

A newly-approved protection plan for the region aims to expand the rehabilitation area from 152,000 to 395,000 square kilometers, according to a statement released after Wednesday\’s executive meeting of the State Council, the country\’s Cabinet, presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.

According to the plan, efforts will focus on protecting and rehabilitating vegetation in the area while improving a monitoring and warning network for local ecological conditions.

Meanwhile, a separate plan on lakes whose water quality are relatively sound was also approved at the meeting. It called for adjusting the industrial structure and distribution in major lake areas and strengthened pollution control of rivers that flow into these lakes.

The statement encouraged strengthened scientific management, wider use of proper technology and the strictest source protection rules, calling for greater government investment and a balance among environmental protection, economic development and people\’s livelihoods.

Also at the meeting, a report was delivered on combating sandstorms in Beijing and Tianjin, urging more forestation subsidies from the central government and a responsibility pursuit system for forests management.

\”Unapproved tree felling, land reclamation, farming, digging and the use of water resources in the forested areas must be strictly cracked down on,\” said the statement.

In addition, the meeting approved a blueprint on establishing a multifunction ecological experimentation zone in northwest China\’s Gansu Province that incorporates water saving, ecological protection, industrial restructuring, resettlement of residents and poverty relief.

via China protects key river sources – Xinhua | English.news.cn.

24/05/2012

* Technology Reaches Remote Tibetan Corners, Fanning Unrest

NY Times: “The young Buddhist monk, his voice hushed and nervous, was discussing the self-immolations and protests that have swept Tibetan regions of China when the insistent rap of knuckle on wood sounded behind him. Knock, knock, knock. His guest flinched, but the monk calmly gestured to a desktop computer next to the religious shrine dominating his cramped bedroom in this monastery town in Qinghai Province. The electronic knocking simply signaled the arrival of a message on Tencent QQ, China’s wildly popular messaging service.

These days, the unmistakable marimba jingle of iPhones and the melodic bleep of Skype can be heard in lamaseries across this remote expanse of snowy peaks and high-altitude grasslands in northwestern China. Even Tibetan nomads living off the grid use satellite dishes to watch Chinese television — and broadcasts from Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America.

“We may be living far away from big cities, but we are well connected to the rest of the world,” said the 34-year-old monk, who, like most Tibetans who speak to foreign journalists, asked for anonymity to avoid harsh punishment. The technology revolution, though slow in coming here, has now penetrated the most far-flung corners of the Tibetan plateau, transforming ordinary life and playing an increasingly pivotal role in the spreading unrest over Chinese policies that many Tibetans describe as stifling. Rising political consciousness has found expression through a campaign of self-immolations that the authorities have been unable to stamp out. Since March 2010, at least 34 people have set themselves ablaze, the vast majority of them current or former Buddhist clerics, many of them young.

Despite government efforts to restrict the flow of information, citizen journalists and ordinary monks have gathered details and photographs of the self-immolators, pole-vaulting them over the country’s so-called Great Firewall. In some cases, blurred images show their final fiery moments or the horrific aftermath before paramilitary police officers haul the protesters out of public view. News accounts, quickly packaged by advocacy groups and e-mailed to foreign journalists, often include the protesters’ demands: greater autonomy and the return of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, who has lived in exile since 1959.”

via Technology Reaches Remote Tibetan Corners, Fanning Unrest – NYTimes.com.

Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India