Monday, January 20, 2020

Has China hit the spending curb?

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


Here is the link...

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.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Lessons for China

My article Lessons for China appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

Tsai’s presidential poll win and the Hong Kong local elections last year show the weakness of the Chinese regime, which remains dependent on propaganda and influence to bully its neighbours

The just-concluded presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan might remain a turning point in the life of not only the island but  the entire region. President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) defeated Han Kuo-yu from China-friendly Kuomintang by more than 2.5 million votes (57.1 per cent for Tsai and 38.6 per cent for Han). The former became the first-ever candidate to capture more than eight million votes. James Soong Chu-yu, chairman of the People First Party (PFP) close to China performed poorly with only 4.2 per cent of the votes. More than 14 million (out of 19 million eligible voters) participated in the vote, which also saw the DPP retain its majority in the legislature, winning 61 out of 113 seats.
Many observers saw this as a slap in the face of China and its President Xi Jinping. The problem for Beijing is that this is a second debacle in a row — in November 2019, the Hong Kong District Council elections were held for 18 seats when a record 71 per cent of the electorate had voted. The election was viewed by many as a referendum on pro-democracy protests that continued for six months. The results came as a jolt for Beijing; the Communist regime had never expected a “tsunami” in favour of the pro-democracy movement, which took control of 17 of the18 district councils.
At first, it looked as if Beijing did not know how to react. According to The South China Morning Post: “Xinhua waited [two days] to release a two-paragraph news report on the polls. It only stated that the elections took place and 18 districts produced results.” The next day, the People’s Daily went on talking about the history of US intervention in foreign elections. In the weeks preceding the elections, the Global Times repeatedly claimed that a “silent majority” in Hong Kong was condemning the protests.
An important common factor, the country’s mobilising youth, has been pointed out by Juang Wen-jong, professor of public policy and management at Shih Hsin University in The South China Morning Post: “Young people — or those between 20 and 39 — were the key to the weekend’s elections as they made up at least 6.6 million of the eligible voters in Taiwan… They helped bolster the turnout rate, which helped increase both the vote for Tsai and her party.”
Many considered the Taiwan’s presidential election to be a proxy contest about its national identity. This probably explains why Beijing was not amused. What has made matters worse for China is that many countries sent congratulatory messages to the new Taiwanese President. “China cried foul, claiming that their actions violated the ‘one-China’ principle,” wrote the Taiwan News.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) had announced that officials from some 60 countries had greeted Tsai via phone call and email. It included US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi. “In a released statement, Pompeo congratulated Tsai on her well-deserved win and praised Taiwanese voters for demonstrating the spirit of democracy.”
The word “democracy” makes China see red. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang spoke of elections in “Taiwan region of China” and asserted that it was a “sub-national affair in China.” He added that Beijing deplores and firmly opposes “those countries” which violate the “one-China principle” by “offering the congratulations and lodged solemn representations.”
Geng declared that Beijing opposes any official relations between “the Taiwan region” and countries that have diplomatic ties with China. He asked these countries to deal with the issue “properly and with caution to avoid sending the wrong message to Taiwan’s independence forces.”
Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) released a communiqué asking Taipei to adhere to the “1992 consensus” between China and Taiwan. Ma Xiaoguang, the TAO spokesman, said: “Our political policy towards Taiwan is clear and consistent. We adhere to the basic principles of peaceful reunification; one country, two systems and one China.” We will resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, resolutely oppose any plot or act of “Taiwan independence” and resolutely promote the interests and “well-being of Taiwan compatriots.”
At the same time, Xinhua blamed Tsai and the DPP of using “dirty tactics such as cheating, repression and intimidation to get votes.” The official news agency claimed that it exposes “their selfish, greedy and evil nature.” In a Chinese language op-ed, Xinhua even accused Tsai of “buying votes and blamed the election results on external dark forces.”
The “dark forces” are obviously the “West”, which has sinned for “inventing” democracy (incidentally, is it the West which “invented” the “evil” democracy? Serious historians believe that elected village councils existed in India centuries before it was introduced in Ancient Greece).
The “two slaps” show the weakness of the Chinese regime, which depends too much on “propaganda” and “influence” to bully its neighbours — whether “Chinese ones” like Hong Kong or Taiwan or foreign ones such as Australia, Vietnam or the Philippines.
Once again, the billions of dollars used to change the mind of the voters did not help Beijing.  To the contrary, it looks as if it had the reverse effect and this may not change in the near future. Beijing is facing a dead end without even realising it.
Chinese leaders are unfortunately incapable of changing their tactics. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was recently in India to discuss the boundary issue with the National Security Advisor, went on the same old track. In Zimbabwe during an African tour, Wang affirmed that Tsai’s win would not stop Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland: “A local election on the Taiwan island will [not] shake [China’s determination] despite erroneous words and actions by some Western politicians… The rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the reunification across the [Taiwan] strait is inevitable. Going against the trend is bound to reach a dead end. Anyone separating the nation will stink for 10,000 years.”
Well, the human spirit for freedom and the aspiration to choose one’s own destiny is also difficult to suppress or extinguish. It is true not only for Hong Kong or Taiwan but places like Tibet and Xinjiang, too.
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. Four years ago, similar rules were introduced in Xinjiang. It was later used to justify crackdowns on the Muslim Uygur minority. But once again, it is not easy to tame the human spirit and change the hearts of the masses. Beijing will have to learn one day.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Relocations on India’s Borders

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 en.tibetol.cn, 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.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

India’s China agenda

My article India’s China Agenda appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

Compared to China, which is assertive and has undertaken innovative developments, India is definitively trailing. Preparation for any eventuality is the way forward to counter its rise

There is no doubt that 2019 has been a special year for China: Lavish events were organised to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In 1949, from the rostrum of the Tiananmen Square, Chairman Mao had announced, “China has arisen.” On October 1, 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping was on the same wavelength as his predecessor when he said, “No force can ever shake the status of China or stop the Chinese people and the nation from marching forward.” On that day, Beijing displayed several futuristic military gadgets.
On December 29, the Global Times listed China’s advanced weaponry. It said, “the year 2019” has been a “year of harvest” for China’s military equipment as the country showcased a “massive selection” of the latest, advanced and powerful weapons that operate on land, sea and air. It is not only in the field of advanced armaments that Beijing has been “doing well” but in this domain, the progress is indicative of an assertive China and of the innovative developments undertaken by Beijing. Comparatively, India is definitively trailing. Even though the communist party’s newspaper observed, “These displays of China’s new weapons showed transparency in the country’s military development” and sent a message to the world that China was determined to “safeguard sovereignty and peace,” the fact remains that China is still preparing itself.
Last week, in the Port of Dalian in Liaoning Province, China launched the country’s 23rd Type 052D and the sixth Type 055 destroyer. Experts said “the ship was one of the world’s largest and most powerful destroyers” and was capable of leading a high sea fleet or becoming the “pillar in an aircraft carrier battle group”, said the Global Times.
A few days earlier, China had officially commissioned its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong. The CNN reported, “China has officially commissioned its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, a significant step forward in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitions for the country to field a world-class Navy.” Xi attended the commissioning ceremony in the southern province of Hainan where the carrier joined the Chinese Navy. In 2019, China launched the highest number of warships in the world: Nine destroyers, one comprehensive supply ship, one comprehensive landing ship, one amphibious assault ship, 12 light frigates with a total displacement of 200,000 tonnes, surpassing the US by far.
The Global Times quoted military experts as saying, “2019 will not be the end of China’s military equipment development. More weapons are expected in 2020 and beyond.” But there is another side to the coin. President Xi has been facing a rough sea at home. The fourth plenary session of the 19th Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee was held in Beijing from October 28 to 31. The members discussed the work report presented by Xi and adopted it “to uphold and improve the system of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics and improve the party’s capacity for law-based governance and law-based exercising of state power.”
The communiqué mentions, the nation is facing “increasing challenges at home and abroad.” The gathering upheld the principle of “one country, two systems,” maintaining lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao, and “promoting the peaceful reunification of China.”
Despite the serious difficulties faced by China, India needs to be prepared to respond to its rise. But first, let’s talk about what India should not do. The two-day meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at a resort in October in Mamallapuram was an occasion to talk about “civilisation.” But was it of any help?
As it is, during Nehruvian days, India was fond of this hazy concept. The dictionary thus defines the term as “an act or a process of civilising, as by bringing out of a savage, uneducated, or unrefined state, or of being civilised.” Already, in the 1950s, this great “idea” allowed the Indian leadership to “dream” of lofty principles such as peaceful co-existence, while China was quietly consolidating its presence on the Tibetan plateau and preparing for a war with India.
Today, India should look after its own interests and forget about vague idealistic concepts. It should learn from the Chinese leadership, which has always remained pragmatic and down-to-earth. Unfortunately, when India speaks about its past, it does so to avoid talking about the present. This is what may have happened between India and China during the two-day encounter at Mamallapuram. Though it is not known what went on for two-and-a-half hours during the one-to-one dinner composed of exotic Tamil dishes, very few concrete decisions seem to have been taken. The Indian foreign secretary affirmed that the “K” word was not pronounced. This is regrettable for the occasion was opportune to clarify the Indian position.
One positive outcome from the meeting was the decision to establish a high-level economic and trade dialogue mechanism “with the objective of achieving enhanced trade and commercial relations, as well as to better balance the trade between the two countries.” This can, hopefully, help rebalance the trade deficit — today in India’s disfavour.
An example of a positive pragmatic policy for India has been the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). A day before the end of the year, the Government finally nominated Gen Bipin Rawat, outgoing Chief of Army Staff, as the first CDS “to drive the desperately-needed integration among the three services.”
But why did we have to wait for one day before the end of Gen Rawat’s tenure to see his name released? There was probably an intense lobbying from the babus to preserve their turf.  The history of modern India is a Mahabharata between the progressive forces, which want to change “eternal Bharat”, and the entrenched administration sticking to their privileges.
To win this battle would be the best way to counter China. As Rawat was handing over the baton to Gen MM Naravane, his successor, he was asked a question: Is the Army better prepared today to face the security challenges than when he took over? Gen Rawat replied, “Yes, we are better prepared.”
Preparation for any eventuality is the way forward to counter the rise of China. At the same time, India needs to continue investing in infrastructure, telecommunication systems, roads, airports and border areas while also providing a decent living and empowering frontier populations. In the future, Artificial Intelligence (AI), latest telecommunication means and new technologies should be indigenously developed if India does not want to be left behind. Only then will China respect India and will not be tempted to engage in an adventure like it did in 1962.
This is a tough agenda for 2020.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: A turbulent and eventful year for Indo-China relations

My article 2019: A turbulent and eventful year for Indo-China relations appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

Even as China speaks of ‘early harvest’ in border negotiations, existing Confidence Building Measures need to be improved in 2020 for a good crop to both the countries
.

This has been a turbulent and eventful year for Sino-Indian relations. The informal summits between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, helped maintain a ‘sound momentum’ in 2019, reported PTI sounding an optimistic note.

Doval-Wang Yi meet
However, while preparing the balance sheet of 2019, it is not easy to objectively see the ‘sound momentum’. After the 22nd Meeting of the Special Representatives (SR) of India and China held in New Delhi on December 21, between National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, an Indian communiqué mentioned: “The talks were constructive with focus on taking forward the India-China Closer Developmental Partnership as per the guidance provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at the 2nd Informal Summit at Chennai in October 2019.” The two spoke of “the importance of approaching the boundary question from the strategic perspective of India-China relations and agreed that an early settlement of the boundary question serves the fundamental interests of both countries.” This approach is not new.
During the meetings of the officials in 1960, while the negotiators of the two countries looked at the issue from a historic and juristic angle, in July 1961, China proposed a new ‘strategic’ approach. Zhang Wenji, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian Affairs Department met G Parthasarathy (GP), the Indian Chargé d’Affaires in Beijing. Zhang suggested that “each country presents a factual basis and, objectively compares them, looking to see whose information is relatively more logical, and finally parceling the land out to the country whose version is more beneficial to the two countries’ friendship.”
The Director further proposed that “if the two sides’ views differ greatly and it is impossible to bring them into line, each can keep to its own position and consider, from a political standpoint, what kind of resolution would be more beneficial.” “We can consider using the second method, with each side keeping its own views; depending on the facts of the situation, we will make some compromises and resolve the issues,” GP answered immediately. He added that the difficulty lay “in swaying popular opinion.” GP could not think of a way to overcome this political obstacle “other than making a big gesture.” He said that though it was his personal opinion, the first method, “is a very good method [examining the historical background], but I don’t know how much chance it has of succeeding.” He suggested making a “gesture that would do something to change the atmosphere… to stop conceiving of each other in a hostile way.”

‘Swap’ diplomacy?
The implications of Zhang’s proposals meant that India would keep NEFA (today Arunachal Pradesh) and China would continue to occupy the Aksai Chin, the ‘strategic’ artery between Xinjiang and Tibet, the two most restive provinces of the Middle Kingdom.
Beijing’s ‘solution’ had already been mentioned during Premier Zhou Enlai’s visit to Delhi in April 1960; for Beijing, it was ‘the most beneficial’. During the Doval-Wang meeting, Beijing went in the same direction, it agreed to “actively advance boundary negotiations in line with the Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question.” This was the agreement reached in 2005, which translated into keeping the status quo for inhabited areas like Tawang.
So, the recent talks are bringing us back to the 1961 formula, “let us go for a ‘swap’” and exchange areas administrated by India (Arunachal) against the ones occupied by China (Aksai Chin).

India, China status quo
Another major issue remains the Gilgit area, on which India has recently reiterated its claims by publishing new maps of the Ladakh Union Territory.
This is the fourth Sector of the boundary (along with the Eastern, Central and Western Sectors); it cannot be left to a hypothetical future accord, otherwise the ‘early harvest’ mentioned by China would be meaningless. Let us not forget that the UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949 prove without a doubt that the Gilgit area was part of the erstwhile territory of the Maharaja of J&K and, therefore, Indian territory.
Another problem is China’s changing claims. In 1956, Zhou had agreed to a line on a map in the Western sector; in September 1959, following China’s advances in the Aksai Chin, another line became the de facto line of control and then post-1962 war, China’s claims indented further into India’s territory. Where will India draw the line in these circumstances?
Today, even if China speaks of ‘early harvest’, it is not clear who will benefit from the harvest. It is far more important to “maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas, pending final settlement of the boundary question,” as per the Indian communiqué. Existing Confidence Building Measures, i.e. Border Personnel Meeting points, trading landports, bilateral communications, etc., need to be enlarged and improved; if this is done in 2020, it could bring a good crop to both parties.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 in Tibet: The Year of Relocation

In Tibet, 2019 should be declared "The Year of Relocation".
On December 24, China Daily announced that in 2019 in China, more than 10 million people were expected to be lifted from poverty; some 340 counties would no longer be labeled as 'impoverished'. This was stated by Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development in Beijing.
Liu particularly mentioned the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), as well as the four provinces where ethnic Tibetan people live (particularly in three prefectures in Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan), the southern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is clubbed with these areas: “Officials commonly refer to these regions as the Three Areas and Three Prefectures, the deeply impoverished areas.”
Liu’s report added: “In the renewed effort to combat poverty, local authorities were barred from merely handing out State benefits to farmers. Instead, they were required to adopt targeted measures in developing local industries and creating jobs that would help the poor attain sustainable incomes.”
This obviously raises the question, why these areas 'liberated' nearly 70 years ago, have remained so poor. The Communist Party has a lot to answer.
How can poverty be eliminated now?

Relocation of Population
‘Relocation’ has been one of the main tools for poverty alleviation in the TAR and Xinjiang.
According to en.tibetol.cn, all the 74 counties and county-level districts in TAR have been lifted out poverty in 2019, “which means the whole region has got rid of absolute impoverishment”.
On December 9, Tibet’s Poverty Alleviation Office published a notice saying that the last batch of 19 counties and county-level districts had finally been shaken off poverty: “Tibet was a tough nut to crack in China’s poverty relief campaign due to its harsh natural conditions and complicated historical reasons. In 2015, the occurrence rate of poverty in Tibet was as high as 25.32%," said the Chinese website.
The article takes the example of a Tibetan family who moved to a new house from Rongma Township in Nyima County of Nagchu Prefecture to Lhasa in 2018 (Nagchu is located at an altitude of more than 5,000 meters).
The website said 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.

The Xiaogang Villages
More worrying for New Delhi are the relocations through the Xiaogang villages, often mentioned on this blog, which are located on India's borders.
I have often written about Yume (north of Upper Subansiri), Tsona (north of Tawang), Rima (north of Kibithu in the Lohit Valley) or Chiakang (not far from Demchok in Ladakh) as well as 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 said that 250,000 Tibetans had been 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 a relocation program to build 60,931 houses in around 970 settlements for 266,000 poverty-stricken citizens in the TAR.
It was said that by the end of August, 93.6 percent of the investment fund had been used and 56,000 houses had been completed: “Tibet seeks to lift 266,000 residents out of poverty by relocating them from harsh living conditions and ecologically fragile areas, of whom 3,359 from 939 families originally lived at an altitude of over 4,800 meters.”
Again according to Xinhua: “Tibet has been using relocation 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.”
Though 'industrial parks and cities' are mentioned, the relocation are often done in new villages.
Where the 'industrial parks' in these villages?

Relocation in Pictures
On Christmas Day, Xinhua published a photo feature.
A series of photos (see below) taken two days earlier on the south bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River (the Siang and Brahmaputra in India) showing new houses built for herders migrating from Shuanghu County (known as Tsonyi in Tibetan) in Nagchu: “A total of 2,900 residents from three villages of Shuanghu County, have recently left their hometown with an average altitude of 5,000 meters above sea level and travelled nearly 1,000 kilometers to resettle in Gongkar County, which, at a relatively low altitude, is located to the south bank of the Yarlung Tsangpo River in southern Tibet,” said the caption.
Gongkar (29°07′48″N 92°12′15″E) is located in Shannan (Lhoka) Prefecture, north of Bhutan.
A propaganda photo shows local people 'welcoming' the new arrivants.
What would happen if one day the Government of India decided to ‘relocate’ thousands of people of Jharkhand or Bihar in Ladakh?
It is better not to think about it.

Another Example
Another article in China Tibet News speaks of the happy life brought by the relocation: “Being different from the habit of transliteration of traditional Tibetan villages' names, the name of ‘Gongkang Village’ originates from the slogan of Thanks to the Communist Party, and construct a well-off society together.”
The story says: “Starting eastward from Shannan (Lhoka) City (or prefecture) after a three-hour driving, one can arrive at Gongkang Village (29°05′17″N 92°38′40″E in Lingda Town of Gyatsa County, with an average elevation of 3,269 metres.”
Incidentally, the village is not far from the site of a new dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo.
Will the new settlers be engaged in dam construction? Probably.
In August, 2016, this place was designated as the targeted poverty alleviation relocation centre: “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.
Some 1,121 people relocated villagers (in 333 households) come from Chosam County (28°43′05″N 93°03′08″E in Lhoka )while 102 people (in 25 households) are originally from Tsomey County: “They have their new home at Gongkang Village now” said the Chinese media, adding: “In 2017, all the impoverished people of this village have been lifted out of poverty. In 2018, the village's per capital annual income has reached 7,016 yuan (US$ 1140) and the poverty incidence dropped to zero.”

Social Benefits for All
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.
The enrollment rate of the village's school-age children is 100%.
The description of the ‘paradise’ continues: “To ensure income of villagers, the village subsidies the disabled with disability allowance, ensures basic supply for the most vulnerable groups, provides employment training for those who have the force, and increases the income of those work at ecological positions.”
The article cites 168 people who have been trained, 401 ecological positions created and 218 impoverished people who have been provided with jobs: “With the help of county, town and village, Gongkang Village Industrial Development Co., Ltd has been established. The company has five mutual-aid teams, namely ecological breeding team, agricultural and animal products processing team, labor-force exporting team and agricultural machinery promoting team. All 574 workers have been arranged for each mutual-aid team, realizing the goal that everyone has a platform, everyone has things to do and everyone has income.”
It sounds like the propaganda during the Great Leap Forward in China.
The list of benefits goes on, before 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.”

Miracles in TAR
On October 13, Xinhua had already announced that “Miracles have been made in TAR; the number of people living in poverty has fallen from 800,000 in 2013 to 150,000 last year. This year, the region aims to eliminate absolute poverty that has been looming over the region for thousands of years.”
Yet another article explains: “In Tibet, the special geographical environment is one of the main causes of poverty in many areas. Extremely high altitudes, snow-capped mountains and barren land are standing in the way of people's efforts to shake off poverty. Some places are almost naturally isolated from the outside world. Relocation has been a major measure for the region to alleviate poverty.”
Is it also a miracle for the local population who are forced to 'welcome' thousands of migrants in their villages? This is another question.

Happiness for All
Rinchen a 38-year old herdsman from Nagchu, who has been relocated near Lhasa told the News Agency: “Life is so much better now. We have tap water, stable electricity supply and home appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines. This was unimaginable in the past," and his five children now enjoy better access to education and hospitals.
According to Xinhua, China plans to invest 19.78 billion yuan (2.79 billion U.S. dollars) in a relocation program to build 60,931 houses in around 970 settlements for 266,000 poverty-stricken residents in Tibet.
The examples could be multiplied, particularly with the villages on the Indian border.

The Role of Tourism
One important angle is admitted by the Chinese authorities: “Tourism has also been a major poverty-alleviation measure.”
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; while income from tourism increased by 29.2 percent to 49 billion yuan (US$ 8 billion): “The region helped 32,000 people rise out of poverty by developing rural tourism last year. It plans to help another 100,000 farmers and herdsmen gain employment through rural tourism in 2019”.
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.
The ‘relocation’ will probably continue on a war-footing in 2020, bringing along millions of Han Chinese …and Happiness to the Party.
For India, the change of demography on her borders is a serious issue.
Moreover, the new settlers are not only Tibetans, Hans too are brought to the borders to take the lead in the implementation of the Party policies, such as poverty alleviation.
"Do Not forget the Original Intention; Keep the Mission in Mind" says Chairman Xi.




 
Welcome?


 

Friday, December 27, 2019

End the Culture of Silence

Indian Dak Bungalow in Tibet
My article End the Culture of Silence appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

Here is the link...

It is surprising that successive Indian Governments preferred to remain mum even as China kept on making advances towards the border. If this continues, a new disaster may unfold

Recently, Sun Weidong, the Chinese Ambassador to India, declared that the positive effects of the second informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were gradually showing. He further said that China was keen to promote defence and security cooperation with India for regional peace and stability. This declaration, however, does not tally with the facts. Though he asserted that China’s position on Kashmir was “consistent and clear”, Beijing is planning to raise the Kashmir issue when the Special Representatives (SRs) of India and China meet to discuss the boundary issue on December 21.
It is doubtful if any progress can be made during these talks between Ajit Doval, the Indian SR and Wang Yi, his Chinese counterpart, especially after China requested the UN Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the situation in the Valley again. According to Reuters, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “China would like to echo the request of Pakistan and request a briefing of the Council ...on the situation of Jammu & Kashmir.” (On France’s insistence, the move was, however, dropped later).
In these circumstances, it is not only difficult to believe that the effects of the Chennai Connect are positive but to trust its hurtful actions such as internationalising an internal issue of India. Unfortunately, successive Indian Governments have not articulated a proper response to this doublespeak.
Take Tibet with its centuries-old relationship with the Himalayan belt, which faded away at the end of 1950s for no fault of India. It brought unbelievable hardship to the local Indian frontier population. In the years preceding the arrival of the Dalai Lama in March 1959, traditional trade as well as cultural and religious contacts between Tibet and India gradually collapsed due to the harsh Chinese occupation of Tibet. By early 1962, the situation was so bad that India had to refuse to prolong the “Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India”, infamously known as the Panchsheel Agreement. The principles of the lofty Preamble have never been respected by China. Recently, I came across a telling “Monthly Report from Tibet for October 1960” sent by Apa Pant, the Political Officer (PO) in Sikkim to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. At that time, the Chinese were fast consolidating their presence on the plateau and Indian interests were dismissed. The report says, “The programme of mass settlement of Chinese in Tibet has started. There are rumours in Lhasa that about two-and-a-half lakh Chinese civilians will be brought in and settled in Tibet in the near future. At the moment, the Chinese population, both in Lhasa and Gyantse, has increased considerably.”
While traditional trade with India was progressively stopped, infrastructure along the Indian borders was built on a war-footing (probably to prepare for the border war, which erupted two years later). Though New Delhi pretended to have been taken “by surprise”, reading Pant’s report, one realises that the Indian Government had all the necessary information to see the writing on the wall.
In the report, Pant notes that Chinese cadres continued to pour into Tibet in increasing numbers. Slowly, the demography of the plateau changed and put India and the world in front of a fait accompli. Tibet was Chinese.
Women cadres were also brought in from the mainland: “Lhasa now looks like a Chinese city where Tibetans form only an insignificant minority. The lamas have been taken out of the monasteries and put to work as labourers and the monasteries are being used as public offices by the Chinese.”
If this was the situation in October 1960, one can imagine how the Tibetan capital resembles today. The report continues,  “The Ramoche Monastery in Lhasa is now the headquarters of the traffic police, while the Kundeling Monastery, which had been damaged in the March 1959 struggle (at the time of the uprising against the Chinese occupation), is being utilised to house the Chinese cadres after repairs. The houses vacated by the Kashmiri Muslims have also been occupied by the Chinese cadres.”
Pant asserts that the Chinese “now appear to be in complete control of the administration.” The members of the former Tibetan nobility “are in concentration camps, except for those who had cast their lot with the Chinese Communists prior to the March 1959 conflagration. The latter have been given official positions and can be seen moving about in motor vehicles in Lhasa.” It was a luxury at that time.
What is surprising is that New Delhi kept quiet all these years, trying to negotiate with China an elusive agreement on the border, (still elusive 59 years later). In 1960, the Tibetans in Lhasa were made to adopt the Chinese dress, “the close collar coat and trousers, while the traditional Baku is being discarded… sartorial reforms were being ushered on grounds that they are more economical on clothing material.”
Tibetan children above the age of 12 were sent “in large numbers for education and training to China, which is to last for a period between three and five years… these Tibetan children would be systematically indoctrinated.”
The border trade, formerly carried out by Indian and Nepalese traders, was gradually taken over by the Chinese through restrictive policies and heavy taxation. The Kashmiri Muslims were particularly targetted: “A large number of Kashmiri Muslims have already left Tibet or are on the way out to India,” writes Pant but New Delhi remained silent.
At the same time, troops kept arriving from China: “About 60 vehicles ply each way daily between Lhasa and the Chinese mainland. There are reports of considerable movement of troops on the new Lhasa-Gyantse road. All these troops appear to be fresh arrivals from the mainland. About 10,000 of them have passed through Gyantse during the course of a few days. It is suspected that this movement is towards Bhutan.” Many of the new roads led to Tawang in the North-East Frontier Agency (today Arunachal), says Pant. China was advancing towards the border but probably not to hurt the Chinese feelings, India was keeping mum. When today China continues to hurt Indian interests and feelings, should it continue to keep silent?
It can only lead to a new disaster.