Monday, February 17, 2020

The Red Cross and the 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict

A letter sent by an Indian POW
(Courtesy: Col Nirmaljit Pannu)
My article The Red Cross and the 1962 Sino-Indian Conflict appeared in the USI Journal

Here is the link...

For the Indian nation, the 1962 conflict with China has been one of the most traumatic post-independence events. For more than 3,000 prisoners of war (PoWs), the experience was particularly harrowing.
This article looks at difficult relations between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva, the Indian Red Cross (IRC) and the Chinese Red Cross (CRC) Society. The ICRC’s archives in Geneva helped to understand the role of the international organization as well as of the two national Red Crosses and their respective governments during the conflict.
China not only refused to officially acknowledge the Geneva Convention of 1949 on PoWs, but also committed several violations in respect of the treatment meted out to captured Indian military personnel.
27 Military officers taken PoWs during operations were taken on a tour of china and repatriated on 04 May 1963.
The rosy picture painted by the Chinese propaganda had actually been a traumatic experience for the Indian PoWs.

For the Indian nation, the 1962 conflict with China has been one of the most traumatic post-independence event. For more than 3,000 PoWs, the experience was particularly harrowing.
Still today some veterans who spent several months in the PoW’s camps in Tibet, refuse to speak to their families and friends about these dark days. But according to Chinese records, never in the history of warfare have prisoners been treated so well.
Preferential treatment or propaganda?
An account recently published by China1 tells us: “During the Sino-Indian border war, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captured more than 3,900 Indian officers and soldiers2 (including one brigadier general and 26 officers). In the long-term goal of striving for friendship between the Chinese and Indian people and in accordance with the principle of lenient treatment of prisoners, which had always been upheld by the PLA, the treatment of prisoners of war by the Chinese side had far exceeded the provisions of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War, and many touching deeds had taken place”.
I shall cover the Geneva Convention and the role the Red Cross played in getting the PoWs released in several batches in 1962/63 a little later. This article looks at difficult relations between the Indian Red Cross (IRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross ((ICRC) in Geneva with the Chinese authorities represented by their Red Cross Society (CRC). It is often said the winner writes the history, but it is then with a deep distortion: “China released all Indian prisoners of war in a short period of time, playing an important role in winning over rivals, turning enemies into friends and promoting the restoration of friendly relations between the Chinese and Indian peoples,” mentioned the Chinese report.
Interestingly, China terms the Sino-Indian border conflict, a ‘counter-attack’, as if it was India who attacked China in NEFA or Ladakh. “In late October 1962, the General Political Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army issued several provisions on the question of prisoners of the invading Indian Army,” further explaining that the PLA “emphasised that captive officers and soldiers should not be killed, mistreated or insulted, or tied up and their private property should not be confiscated. The injured should be treated. At the same time, it was also required to take care of the living habits of all prisoners, and to find out the names and army numbers of dead bodies on the battlefield as far as possible, to bury them properly and to set up signs. Prisoners had to fill in medical records and death certificates signed by military doctors.” These principles were hardly followed.

No Declaration of War

An important legal element needs to be noted; there was no formal declaration of war between China and India. The Chinese said that they called the captured Indian Army personnel ‘captives’ and not ‘PoWs’; the camps were ‘captive shelters’, an euphemism. This was indeed part of the Chinese propaganda.3 The Chinese account does not mention the constant indoctrination sessions to which the Indian jawans and officers were subjected; China just says that meetings were organised to discuss “according to the wishes of the Indian prisoners …on the right and wrong issues in the Sino-Indian border dispute.” One can guess who was said to be right and who was wrong.
The Chinese described thus the departure of the PoWs from Tibet: “The captured Indian officers and soldiers, carrying clothes and souvenirs from the Chinese side, reluctantly bid farewell to the Chinese personnel. …the Indian captives in farewell with the Chinese Red Cross staff cheered their arms: ‘Long live the friendship between the Chinese and Indian people!’” The facts were, however, different.

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You can also watch this video made by the Chinese...

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Turbulent times for Beijing

My article Turbulent times for Beijing appeared in the Edit Page of the Pioneer.

Here is the link...

Only history can reveal the source of coronavirus. But the crucial issue facing China today is how the people perceive the communist regime’s response to the disaster

The world is going through tumultuous times. China, too, has not been spared. A dreaded virus has struck the Middle Kingdom and there’s no end in sight for the epidemic though it seems to be spreading at a slower pace outside Wuhan, its epicenter. The epidemic has strange collaterals. In usual times, internet and social networks are kept under close watch by the communist State and any “reactionary” or “anti-Government” post is deleted immediately. Ever since the outbreak of the virus, monitoring has been extended to topics that are usually out of the purview of the censor.
Recently, netizens received a notice from Douban, a popular Chinese social network, which said, “The news you posted has been removed as it contains radical, political or ideological content.” It referred to the lyrics of the Chinese national anthem, which starts: “Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves! With our flesh and blood, let us build a new Great Wall! From each one, the urgent call to action comes forth. Arise!”
Indeed, it is a revolutionary song … one that is dangerous for the ruling party in the present context as it evokes fears of a popular revolt against the way the Government has been handling the spread of the coronavirus. Take the case of Dr Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors who alerted the public about the outbreak. When Dr Li sounded the alarm in December, he was severely reprimanded by the local authorities. And when he passed away, the Wuhan Central Hospital first denied his death, triggering deep anger among the public.
Bill Bishop, the author of the well-informed Sinocism newsletter, noted: “Social media is blowing up the news that Wuhan whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang has died …but in a morbid twist, it appears that the relevant authorities, probably after seeing the online uproar, may not be allowing him to die officially yet.” The regime’s hesitation to announce Dr Li’s death showed the dilemma the communist party is faced with.
During the first month after the outbreak of the virus, China lost two battles. First, it was unable to foresee the seriousness of the epidemic (on the contrary, for a month, it tried to hide the truth from the public). Second, it lost control over the information warfare, which was then led by the citizens. China has now decided to retake the initiative on the information battlefield even as it uses the toughest possible preventive measures on the ground to manage the fallout of the coronavirus. This, at the risk of facing an economic slowdown.
On February 10, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the communist party, reappeared (with a mask) on the stage after several days of absence and spoke of “resolutely winning the people’s war against pneumonia epidemic.” According to Xinhua, Xi asserted that the situation remained very serious but expressed confidence that “China will certainly obtain a full victory in the fight against the epidemic.”
At Ditan Hospital in Beijing, Xi talked to medical workers of three hospitals in Wuhan via video conference and praised the work done by them. He said, “Wuhan is a heroic city and people of Hubei and Wuhan are heroic people who have never been crushed by any difficulty and danger in history.”
Xi’s return seems to be a well-orchestrated move to regain the initiative. The Chinese President was pompously termed as the “commander of the people’s war against the epidemic.” Before disappearing, he chaired a meeting with the Politburo Standing Committee. Here, he stressed that the party should “do a good job in propaganda education and public opinion guidance.”
HK01, a Hong Kong-based online news portal, said that such guidance must include “promoting in-depth publicity about the major decisions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, substantially reporting the effectiveness of the joint (epidemic) prevention and control measures in different regions and different departments, vividly telling touching stories about China’s fight against the epidemic and demonstrating the Chinese people’s spirit and the great power of unity and togetherness in fighting the epidemic.”
As a result, Zhang Xiaoguo, Director of the Information Bureau of the CCP Central Propaganda Department, announced that his department would send 300 reporters to Hubei province. The WeChat account of “Reporters Station” said that the scribes, besides providing reports on the epidemic prevention and control, “will present positive stories on humanity to the public to strengthen the guidance of public opinion.”
At the same time, authoritarian methods have been put in place. CNN mentioned, “They (Chinese authorities) are turning to a sophisticated authoritarian playbook honed over decades of crackdowns on dissidents and undesirables to enforce quarantines and lockdowns across the country”. The US channel spoke of a shift in the narrative “from a story of an entire country pulling together in a time of crisis to a darker tale of bad actors undermining efforts to keep people safe and spreading the virus through their own irresponsibility.”
The “Li Wenliang effect” had to be rectified by massive propaganda. The Globe, the Canadian media group, observed: “Stung by public criticism as the Wuhan virus outbreak continues to claim lives, Chinese authorities have reinvigorated the state hero-making machine, with official media promoting stories of sacrifice, dedication and love in arduous times.”
Meanwhile, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at the Tsinghua University in Beijing who has been under suspension, blamed the communist party leaders for putting politics ahead of the people. He wrote a strongly-worded piece that was published on overseas Chinese language websites. He said, “The political system has collapsed under the tyranny and a governance system [made up] of bureaucrats, which has taken [the party] more than 30 years to build, has floundered.”
Only history can reveal the source of the virus — whether it is animal-borne or originated from a laboratory working on a covert biological weapons programme. The crucial issue today is how people perceive the regime’s response to the disaster. This is the real battle in China at present. Since 1978, the current dynasty in China has managed to bring some wealth and well-being to the masses but in the process, the Chinese people have lost their freedom to think freely.
In every corner of the Kingdom, they are recognised by cameras, which record the most intimate details of their life. They have no choice but to follow the words of the party. With the novel coronavirus still spreading wildly, the system has started showing its limits.
More propaganda cannot undo the much-needed political reforms in China.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

How killer Coronavirus has dented President Xi's mandate

My article How killer Coronavirus has dented President Xi's mandate appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

There is no end in sight to the dreaded epidemic which continues to spread

Dynasties in the Middle Kingdom go through cycles. The Emperor of a strong and just dynasty brings peace and prosperity to the people with the 'Mandate of Heaven'. With time, the system becomes corrupt and the people start suffering. Disasters strike.
The Emperor loses his mandate after a peasant (or people's) revolt, leading to major changes, heralding a new era and the arrival of a wiser, fairer and more compassionate monarch or regime.

A cover up
This may not apply to the current 'dynasty' in China, in place since Deng Xiaoping's Open Door Policy in December 1978, which brought wealth and some wellbeing to the masses. In the process a price had to be paid: People lost the freedom to think independently.
Cameras record the most intimate details of their life, in every corner of the Kingdom. They have no choice, but to follow the words of the Party, led by a 'core' leader.Today, with the Novel Coronavirus' (nCoV) spread, the limits of this system have started to show. A telling case is the death of Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors to have alerted the public about the virus outbreak in December 2019. He was severely reprimanded by local authorities. Wuhan Central Hospital initially denied the news of his death. "In a morbid twist it appears that the relevant authorities, probably after seeing the online uproar, may not be allowing him to die officially yet," noted Bill Bishop, the author of the well-informed Sinocism Newsletter. The hesitation reveals the Communist Party's dilemma.
Unfortunately, there is no end in sight to the dreaded epidemic which continues to spread. Fifty million people have already been quarantined in Wuhan City and the Hebei province. While it is too early to say whether the virus can trigger dynastic changes, it has already shown to the present leadership that all is not fine in the Kingdom. The Chinese Dream heralded by Chinese President Xi Jinping sounds more like a nightmare at present.
One day, history may reveal the source of the virus, (whether it was animal-borne or originated from a laboratory working on a covert biological weapons programme). But today, the crucial issue is how the masses perceive the regime's response to the disaster.
"But even as the government (somewhat belatedly) sprung into action, its limited mobilisation of Chinese military assets and personnel has been notable - both because militaries traditionally play significant roles in battling pandemics and Beijing has in recent years been at pains to trumpet its burgeoning military capability," Defense One, a US-based website reported, mentioning another dysfunctional feature of Beijing's response to nCoV.

PLA's slow response
The first group of PLA medics arrived in relatively small numbers in Wuhan only on January 24, nearly a month after the virus was detected. The Army swung into action only after Xi, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, personally appealed to it "to shoulder its responsibility and continue contributing to the country's uphill battle to control the recent novel coronavirus". "As per the directive, all personnel must follow President Xi Jinping's instructions to the military's counterepidemic endeavours and carry out their tasks, such as curing infected civilians and providing logistics services," stated a release.Some 950 medics of the PLA's Joint Logistic Support Force and another 450 from the PLA's medical universities started running a newly constructed hospital in Wuhan. Why was the PLA response delayed? It is one of the numerous questions that the party will have to answer, if it wants to keep its mandate to rule.
Today, it is impossible to see the future implications of the crisis, undoubtedly the most serious occurrence in China since the 1989 student revolution at Tiananmen Square.
"Google closed all of its outlets in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. IKEA closed all its 30 stores in Mainland China. IKEA earlier only planned to close half of its stores. McDonald's closed all its 300 branches in Hubei Province," while most foreign airlines have stopped flying to China, Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore's primary Chinese language newspaper, reported.

Back to censorship?
Beijing has stuck to its old habits. The Cyberspace Administration of China has tightened controls on social media platforms after a brief period of tolerance, "as it cracks down on content that may sow fear and confusion amid the coronavirus crisis."
Meanwhile, the Communist leadership may delay the upcoming 'Two Sessions' of its legislative bodies, scheduled for early March. "We are discussing a range of options as the [virus] situation doesn't look likely to be contained by March," Reuters reported citing a Chinese official. Imagine 3,900 deputies wearing masks at a meeting.
Meanwhile, suspended Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun blamed Communist Party leaders for putting politics ahead of the people in a strongly worded piece. "The political system has collapsed under the tyranny, and a governance system [made up] of bureaucrats, which has taken [the party] more than 30 years to build has floundered," he said.
It is difficult to answer the question whether the leadership will manage to keep its mandate under these circumstances.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Wrong person at wrong time

My article Wrong person at wrong time appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer
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Nehru made a wrong choice of making Menon Defence Minister. Though the trauma of the 1962 war remains, many things have changed. The CDS should help in neutralising threats

India’s controversial Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon was recently in the news, courtesy a well-researched book, which did not elaborate enough on the implications for the country on account of having a wrong person at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Menon was one of the strangest characters, who appeared on the political scene after independence. PK Banerjee, the Indian chargé d’affaires in Beijing in 1962, who often encountered the haughty politician, wrote in his memoir: “Krishna Menon’s appearance in the Indian political arena was as sudden as it was unexpected... he had his education and was enrolled as a Barrister. He hardly had any legal practice …[but] became a protégé of Palme Dutt, a lawyer and founder member of the British Communist Party.”
How, after independence, he was suddenly nominated as the Indian High Commissioner in the UK is still not clear. A few years later, he came back to India and was made the Defence Minister: “In addition, for all practical purposes, he functioned as Foreign Minister de facto,” noted Banerjee. Menon was certainly brilliant in some ways. He joined the Union Cabinet as a Minister without a portfolio in 1956. It was former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who appointed him as the Defence Minister in April 1957.
Sixty-three years later, India still suffers because of Nehru’s choice. One of the many blunders that he committed was to stop using the seniority system in the Army, replacing it with the so-called merit-based method of promotion; in fact, posting his favorites in positions where they should have never been. This eventually led to the resignation of the then Chief of Army Staff, General KS Thimayya.
Let’s take a look at a few examples of the wrongs committed by Defence Minster Menon at the time when the Chinese troops attacked India in the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and in Ladakh. It was only after meeting Wing Commander Jag Mohan (Jaggi) Nath, the first of the six officers who have been twice decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), India’s second highest war-time military award, that I realised that the outcome of the 1962 war could have been completely different had India used its Air Force.
Nath received his first MVC for his role in reconnaissance missions between 1960 and 1962 over the Aksai Chin and Tibet. His missions proved immensely useful to learn everything about the Chinese military build-up on the Tibetan plateau. Unfortunately, the political leadership (first and foremost the Defence Minister) refused to believe the hard evidence gathered during of his sorties. After one of his missions over the Aksai Chin and Tibet, a message came that Nehru, Menon and their favorite General, Biji Kaul, wanted to be briefed about Nath’s reconnaissance sorties.
Along with former Air Vice Marshal DAM Nanda, the then Deputy Chief of the Air Force, Nath went to South Block to meet Menon. They were waiting outside the Minister’s room when Kaul came and he started talking non-stop: “I know, I know, these fellows [the Chinese] are there. They asked me to throw them back. I can throw them back, not a problem! But they will be back the next day. It has to be planned out properly.”
Nath was surprised that Gen Kaul would speak this way in front of a junior officer: “I was a low-level officer” but [Kaul] continued shouting: “You saw the Chinese soldiers.” I said, “Yes, sir, I saw them.” “OK, go to the Defence Minister”, he finally said.
Nanda and Nath finally landed up in Menon’s office.  Nath recalled: “He did not ask anything”, he just said, “Did you see the Chinese soldiers?” I answered: “Yes sir, I saw them.” “That’s alright, you can go.” That was it. Nath concluded: “There was a total breakdown.”
In a secret report written as he was forced to resign in November 1962, the flamboyant Defence Minister wrote: “China is reported to have the third largest Air Force in the world. This may well be true.” Though Menon was aware of the fuel issue: “[China] had inadequate  fuel capacity in terms of war requirements,” he ignored the findings of the brave airman, who explained: “If we had sent a few airplanes [into Ladakh or NEFA], we could have wiped the Chinese out and everything could have been different in the 1962 war. The political leadership did not believe me that China had no Air Force…” Unfortunately, the then Chief of Air Staff did not have the courage to put his foot down. This led to one of the greatest tragedies in India’s modern history. Mao had bluffed Nehru and it worked.
Another sad story about the 1962 episode was recounted by Lt Col (later Maj Gen) KK Tewari, the Commander of the Signal Regiment of the Corps based in Tezpur (Assam), responsible in the early 1960s for the Tawang sector of the NEFA. Tewari wrote: “On the 19th [October], Brig Dalvi [Commander of the 7th Infantry Brigade] talked to the General Officer Commanding [GOC] at Zimithang [near the Tibet border] on the telephone. He was pleading with the latter to let him move up to a tactically sound defensive position.” He described the existing position along the river where he had been ordered to stay by the Corps Commander [BM Kaul] before his departure for Delhi as a “death trap.” Brig Dalvi was told “not to flap but to obey orders and stay put. He was visibly upset and was very abrupt on the telephone to his boss. He passed the telephone to me.”
Tewari told the GOC that the Chinese were moving down the Thagla Ridge like ants. He could also see at least half a dozen mortars, which were not even camouflaged: “The Chinese could not be there for a picnic, their attack was imminent on a massive scale,” he added. But Dalvi and his men were told that they had been informed by the “higher authorities in Delhi” that the Chinese would not attack …at a time they had already attacked.
Today, though the trauma of the 1962 thrashing remains, many things have changed on the ground. The creation of a post of Chief of Defence Staff should go a long way in overcoming the complete lack of coordination between the three services experienced in 1962. This, however, will not absolve Nehru’s wrong choice of making Menon the Defence Minister, a post he occupied for five crucial years.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Situation worsens for Tibetans as China dictates terms to Nepal and Myanmar

My article Situation worsens for Tibetans as China dictates terms to Nepal and Myanmar appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

It is perhaps time for India to wake up and recognise that Tibetan refugees have never created any problems for India over the last 60 years.

While addressing a Chinese Lunar New Year reception held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, President Xi Jinping remarked: “From now to the middle of this century, the Chinese people will strive to build China into a great modern socialist country.”
“It will be a great era in which a new splendid chapter of the Chinese civilisation will be written. Every Chinese person must feel proud of living in such a great era,” Xi added.

Nepal capitulates

Sadly, Beijing’s ‘minorities’ — the Uyghurs, Tibetans or Mongols — do not seem to have been given a decent place in “the glorious goal of national rejuvenation.” The Tibetans in Nepal suffer most from Beijing’s new policies. When Xi visited Kathmandu in October 2019, the PM of Nepal, KP Sharma Oli, told Xinhua that he was committed to strengthening bilateral friendship. The two sides signed 18 cooperation documents but not an expected extradition treaty. It did not stop Xi from saying: “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.”
“Following apprehensions, it could infringe on its sovereignty” a milder pact on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters was signed, the Nepali media reported. It targets Tibetans leaving their country to take refuge in India. The illusion that the former Himalayan Kingdom could control its own destiny did not last long.
If the Tibetans were so happy in China, why would they take the risk of crossing the perilous Himalayan passes to escape the ‘Communist Paradise’?
On January 23, Nepal and China are said to have agreed to hand over citizens ‘illegally’ crossing their border. Meanwhile, the boundary management system signed during Xi’s state visit incorporated a provision to hand over individuals. The secret clause is now out in the open: Article 26 (2) of the agreement says: “The boundary representatives or competent authorities of both sides shall investigate cases of persons found while crossing the border illegally, ascertain their identities, crossborder facts and reasons as soon as possible and hand them over to the side where they stayed before crossing the border, within seven days from the day they are detained.”
According to experts interviewed by MyRepublica: “The provision could immediately target refugees from Tibet who sneak across the border to Nepal to make a safe passage to India.” Since the 1980s, Nepal has had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to let the refugees proceed to India (mostly to Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Dalai Lama) on humanitarian grounds. The new agreement will supersede this arrangement.

Myanmar enlisted
If the Tibetans were so happy in China, as projected by Beijing’s propaganda, why would the Dalai Lama’s followers take the risk of crossing the perilous Himalayan passes to escape the ‘Communist Paradise’? Beijing has a lot to answer on this. The truth is that today China is dictating terms to Nepal. Kathmandu does not have much choice. Nor does Myanmar.
During Xi’s recent visit to Myanmar, a joint statement said that “each side was pleased with the economic and social progress of the other.” Later, it was asserted that “the Myanmar side reiterates its firm commitment to the One China Policy and supports the efforts of China to resolve the issues of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, which are inalienable parts of China.” It was the first time that such a formula was imposed by China on a country. Myanmar has its reasons for wanting to please Beijing. The latter will now support the country on the Rohingya issue.
Meanwhile, the situation is worsening for Tibetans in Tibet. According to the official Tibet Daily, on January 12, the legislative branch of the Tibetan Autonomous Region voted in favour of new regulations to ‘strengthen ethnic unity’ in Tibet. In 2016, similar rules were introduced in Xinjiang. These were later used to justify crackdowns on Uyghurs.

A Xinjiang in Lhasa?
Tsewang Gyalpo Arya, the spokesperson of the Central Tibet Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala objected to the new regulations, arguing that the Chinese government wanted to make Tibetans a minority in their own country through systematic state-sponsored migration of a large number of Han Chinese. “This forebodes a very difficult and harsh time ahead for Tibetans in China,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kunchok Tsundue, the CTA’s Chief Planning Officer affirmed that “the demographic landscape of the Tibetans in exile has drastically changed, with more than half the population shown by a survey to have moved from India to Western countries.” According to a survey conducted in 2009, there were 94,203 Tibetans in India, 13,514 in Nepal, 1,298 in Bhutan, and 18,999 in the rest of the world, scattered in 27 countries, mostly Western countries.
“The Tibetans are now moving towards the West,” affirmed Tsundue. It is perhaps time for India to wake up and recognise that Tibetan refugees have never created problems for India over the last 60 years. In fact, they have been (and are) an asset for the country. The only ray of hope for Tibet is the immense difficulties faced by Xi Jinping; the coming Rat Year promises to be even more problematic for the Communist Party.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hans lead in China’s poverty alleviation projects

A 'village' out of nowhere
As my article Hans lead in China’s poverty alleviation projects appeared in the Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle, a Chinese website mentioned once again 'poverty alleviation' on the Tibetan plateau, but this time in a strange context.

China Tibet News' article is titled: “Moving into new houses to get rid of poverty”
It is very short; it just says that “Located in Zogang [Dzogang] County, Qamdo [Chamdo] City, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Sifangxianghe Village is a relocation site for poverty alleviation, with a total residential gross floor area of 79,918.51 m².”
‘Sifangxianghe’ is apparently a new name for the ‘village’. It is possibly linked to the Sifan tribe?
The article concludes: “The housing is multi-storey with frame structure, and water, electricity, road and network are equipped with. Now, 4,803 people from 902 households in 7 towns have moved into new houses.”

Nearly 5,000 people relocated out of nowhere is really strange, to say the least.
And as the map below shows, it is not far from the Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh.
The only thing we can think of, this new village could a shelter for migrants workers for the construction of a dam.
Two of the major Asian rivers with their source on the plateau flow through Dzogang county, the Salween and the Mekong.
The Salween or Nu River, is 2,815 kilometres (1,749 mi) long; it flows from the Tibetan Plateau into the Andaman Sea in Southeast Asia.
According to Wikipedia: “It drains a narrow and mountainous watershed of 324,000 km2 that extends into the countries of China, Burma and Thailand. Steep canyon walls line the swift and powerful Salween. Its extensive drainage basin supports a biodiversity comparable with the Mekong and is home to about 7 million people.”
A large number of dams are planned on the Salween.

Gyalmo Ngulchu is the name of the Salween in Tibetan
The Mekong is the seventh longest in Asia with a length of 4,350 km; it drains an area of 795,000 km2, discharging 475 km3 of water annually: “From the Tibetan Plateau the river runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The extreme seasonal variations in flow and the presence of rapids and waterfalls in the Mekong make navigation difficult. Even so, the river is a major trade route between western China and Southeast Asia,” says Wikipedia.
The Dzogang county is served by two major National Highway (214 and 318).
China National Highway 318 (G318) runs from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the China-Nepal border. It is the longest China National Highway at 5,476 kilometres in length and runs from Shanghai towards Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei, Chongqing, Sichuan, and ends in Tibet Autonomous Region.
China National Highway 214 (G214) runs from Xining, Qinghai to Jinghong, Yunnan. It is 3,256 kilometres in length and runs south from Xining towards Tibet, and ends in Yunnan Province.

Though the Chinese propaganda speaks of ‘poverty alleviation’, the new ‘village’ will probably be used for the migrant workers building a dam on the Salween.
Mr. Xi should check the data coming from the provinces; it is probably the easiest way to show that poverty has been eradicated, but if the workers have come from outside, the new ‘well-off’ society can not be listed in the achievements of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Dzogang county near the Indian border
Hans lead in China’s poverty alleviation projects 

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In the recent months, China has started in a massive relocation scheme in Tibet, redrawing the demography of India’s borders.
Beijing admits that though the rural poverty rate was more than 97.5 percent in 1978, it took 22 more years for Beijing to launch a serious program for aid development in the poorest areas of Western China. In 2012, 98 million Chinese people still lived below the poverty line; a year later, 128,000 villages remained classified as impoverished.
According to the China Daily, for Tibet it is a historic moment, “Chinese people felt excited and proud by the news that the local government in the Tibet Autonomous Region [TAR] had decided to strip 19 counties of their poverty labels, after 55 Tibetan counties cast off such labels in 2018.”
China’s aim was to eliminate the ‘Two Worries’, the lack of food and sufficient clothing.
While more than 100,000 villages are said to have been stripped of their ‘poverty label’ in China, the main ‘battle’ seems to have taken place in Tibet and Xinjiang, the two restive provinces which had been ‘liberated’ by the Communists in 1950.
This obviously raises the question, why have these areas, 'liberated' nearly 70 years ago, remained so poor? Beijing has a lot to answer for, what was the Party doing all these years?
In Tibet unfortunately, poverty alleviation is achieved by large population relocations, often near the Indian borders.
On December 24, China Daily cited Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development in Beijing, who stated that the TAR and in the four provinces where ethnic Tibetan people live (particularly in three prefectures in Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan) as well as the southern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region had been clubbed together: “Officials commonly refer to these regions as the Three Areas and Three Prefectures, the deeply impoverished areas.”
According to, all the TAR 74 counties and county-level districts have been lifted out of poverty in 2019, “which means the whole region has got rid of absolute impoverishment”.
The article takes the example of a Tibetan family, who in 2018 moved to a new house from Rongma Township in Nyima County of Nagchu Prefecture, (located north of Lhasa at an altitude of more than 5,000 meters), they have been relocated near the Tibetan capital. The website claims that it was the first high-altitude exemplary site of ecological relocation in Tibet: “From June 10 to 18 in 2018, 571 herdsmen moved in two batches to Lhasa which is over 1,000 miles away.”
It is just an example.
More worrying for India are the relocations through the Xiaogang (‘moderately well-off’) villages located on India's borders.
More than hundred villages have been built, whether in Yume (north of Upper Subansiri), Tsona county (north of Tawang), Rima area (north of Kibithu in the Lohit Valley) or Chiakang (not far from Demchok in Ladakh) as well as in some more populated areas like Yatung in Chumbi Valley, near Sikkim or Purang, close to the trijunction between Tibet, Nepal and India.
On September 30, Xinhua mentioned the number of Tibetans relocated to new homes in anti-poverty fight: “Nearly 250,000 people in Tibet have moved into 910 new settlements as part of poverty alleviation efforts by August 2019.”
The official News Agency noted that China had planned to invest 19.78 billion yuan (US$ 2.8 billion) in its relocation program to build 60,931 houses in around 970 settlements for 266,000 poverty-stricken citizens in the TAR.
According to Beijing, relocation is used as a means of poverty reduction: “By offering job opportunities in industrial parks and cities, the relocated residents are ensured ways to make a better living.” As the relocations often happen in brand new villages, one can ask, where are the 'industrial parks' in these places?
Another propaganda article in China Tibet News speaks of the happy life brought by the relocation. The story says: “Starting eastward from Shannan (Lhoka) prefecture after a three-hour driving, one can arrive at Gongkang Village in Lingda Town of Gyatsa County, with an average elevation of 3,269 metres.” Interestingly, the village is not far from the site of a new dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra in India). The new settlers are probably engaged in dam construction; in another word, they are migrant workers.
In August 2016, this place had already been designated as the target for poverty alleviation: “At present, there are 369 households and 1,269 people in Gongkang Village. The project of advancing relocation covers an area of 472,000 m², and its total investment reaches 210 million yuan (US$ 34 million),” said Xinhua.
All the villagers are said to benefit from a medical insurance, while the children enjoy favorable policies “at the stages of compulsory education and senior high school” and college students receive regional subsidies. Subsequently, the enrollment rate of the village's school-age children is 100%.
A Gongkang Village Industrial Development Co has been established, with five ‘mutual-aid teams’, namely ecological breeding team, agricultural and animal products processing team, labor-force exporting team and agricultural machinery promoting team. This sounds like the setting up of communes during the Great Leap Forward in China.
A list of benefits is given and the article concludes: “Nowadays, a harmonious and socialist new countryside has been built beside the Yarlung Tsangpo River under the Party's policy of benefiting people and Gongkang villagers.”
One important factor admitted by the Chinese authorities for relocating the Tibetans is tourism. Huang Yongqing, head of the regional tourism development department told Xinhua: “The regional government has encouraged rural residents and herdsmen to open family inns. The average annual income of the total of 570 family inns surpassed 100,000 yuan (US$ 16,000), and some even reached 300,000 yuan (US$ 48,000).”
It was observed that the number of tourists to visit Tibet reached 33.7 million, up 31.5 percent year on year; the income from tourism increased by 29.2 percent to 49 billion yuan (US$ 8 billion). Of course, these figures always need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but still there is no doubt that Tibet receives millions of Han visitors and their number is increasing.
More worrying, Xinhua announced in December that an application lab for Tibetan speech technology research had been established at the Tibet University in Lhasa: “The lab aims to create a platform of integrative development and application for ethnic language, phonology, and modern information technology, and to bring convenience in communication for local people in life and at work.”
iFlytek, an artificial intelligence heavyweight, had been working with the Tibet University for more than eight years on Tibetan speech technology.
It means that the relocated villagers, whatever their dialect, can now be monitored with the latest technology.
With one stone, China kills several birds: it provides employment to the poorer section, it monitors the restive populations better, particularly the nomads and it develops the border areas.
The ‘relocation’ will probably continue on a war-footing in 2020, bringing millions of new migrants to India’s border …and Happiness to the Party.
For India, the change of demography on her borders is a serious issue.
The new settlers are not Tibetans alone, Hans too are brought to the borders to take the lead in the implementation of the Party social and strategic policies.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Has China hit the spending curb?

My article Has China hit the spending curb? appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

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Though today it looks as if Xi's 'pockets' have no bottom, the question remains, can it last forever?

One question is highly relevant to predict China's future: How deep are the pockets of Chairman Xi Jinping, recently promoted to People's Leader of Communist China? Beijing's status in the world may depend on the answer. Though today it looks as if Xi's 'pockets' have no bottom, the question remains, can it last forever?
Take the Shandong, the first-generation Chinese aircraft carrier which was launched in April 2017 by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). It is China's second aircraft carrier after the Liaoning. The conventionally powered ski-jump carrier with a 70,000 tonnes displacement was commissioned on December 17, 2019 at Sanya (Hainan) by President Xi. It probably costs far more than the estimated cost of $9 billion. A third aircraft carrier, Type 003, is already under construction and may have a displacement of 85,000 tonnes.
For the first time, a catapult-assisted takeoff barrier arrested recovery (CATOBAR), like on the most-modern US carriers, will be used. The PLAN broke all the records by launching 28 ships in 2019. The list of the new ships was recently published on Twitter: Two Type-055 destroyers, Eight Type-052D destroyers, 16 Type-056 corvettes, one Type-075 LHD 1 (a multi-purpose amphibious assault ship capable of receiving helicopters and a well deck, known as a 'landing helicopter dock') and one Type-071 LPD (amphibious transport dock, also called a landing platform/dock). This is only one field. Another domain of 'investment' for the Chinese Government are foreign projects like the Belt and Road Initiative and the flagship China Pakistan Economic Corridor; the latter alone is estimated to cost $62 billion. If one adds international projects (some undertaken in India's neighbourhood i.e. in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Nepal), but also in Central Asia, Africa or South America, deep pockets are definitively required to finance all this, even if some of the 'generous' gifts are loans-in-disguise.
China is also pouring yuans in infrastructure, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang. In the last five years, it has relentlessly developed the infrastructure on the 'Roof of the World'. In 2017, China Tibet News announced the reconstruction and an extension of Lhasa Gongkar Airport. In April 2019, Xinhua wrote: "As one of the region's key projects during China's Five-Year Plan, the estimated investment reaches 3.9 billion yuan ($634 million) for the new terminal building construction." The main body of the construction was completed at the end of 2019 while the new terminal building is scheduled to be opened in 2020.

Infra push
Take the railways, on January 2, it was announced that most of the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway (north of Arunachal) had been completed; the balance is expected to be operational in October 2021; its total length will be 213 km. This massive requires money, as do the three new airports on the plateau, to be completed in 2021 or the railway to Kyirong at the Nepal border. Another 'investment' is the relocation of population on the Indian border. On January 6, Tibetan Autonomous Region's (TAR) government Chairman Che Dahla (or Qizhala)said that Tibet would start a pilot scheme for constructing 30 towns on the border: "In developing a group of border towns and villages into centers of commerce, logistics hubs or tourist destinations, Tibet will proceed from local conditions, pool strength and resources to upgrade infrastructure, improve public services. A few billions more! It is not only national defence, international cooperation or internal development which require billions and billions of yuans, internal security too. In 2019, The Nikkei pointed out: "Beijing has actually been pouring even more resources into domestic security than external security." The figures are flabbergasting: China's annual spending on domestic security has more than tripled since 2007, to reach $193 billion in 2017.
"The government of what is formally the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region said last month that its security spending alone rose 92.8 per cent last year from 2016 to reach 57.95 billion yuan. It had spent only 5.45 billion on security in 2007," as per a research published by Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology in Korntal, Germany. And what about the billions of dollars poured into propaganda by the United Front Work Department to project China's 'peaceful rise'?
The question is: Can the spending spree continue forever; the answer: It cannot. The Chinese economy is said to have only progressed by 6.0 per cent in 2019; it was the weakest growth rate since the first quarter of 1992. The trade war with the US, the weakening global demand and alarming high borrowings by local governments are responsible for the slowdown. "With the economic slowdown in China, the Chinese government is strictly controlling the volume of capital flowing out of China, making Chinese investors work much harder than before to shrink the debt level and difficult for Chinese investors to pay back the debts acquired overseas," according to Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao. The Communist country's pockets definitely have a bottom.