Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Boss has come: Yu's visit in Lhasa

Pema Thinley, Yu, Chen Quanguo and Zhang Yijiong
After visiting Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous  Prefecture (Kham) from January 6 to 8, 2013, Yu Zhengsheng, the Standing Committee member responsible for the Tibetan Affairs (as the Chairman of Central Working Coordination Small Group on Tibet) visited the former Amdo Province in early July this year.
In Gansu, Yu called "for lasting prosperity and stability in China's Tibetan regions by improving local livelihoods and fighting the 14th Dalai Lama clique."
Yu Zhengsheng has now visited the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
He apparently was around Lhasa (and Ngachu) from August 1 to 6; the most extraordinary news was that nothing appeared in the Chinese (or the local) press before Yu was back in Beijing on August 6 evening.
Outside China, it is difficult to believe that the official responsible for a region at the highest level of the government can stay for nearly one week in this region and the world would only know about it when he has left.
Xinhua informs us that for Yu Zhengsheng, development remains 'fundamental and key' to addressing all issues related to Tibet.
The Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference was keen "to promote efforts to rule Tibet by law and seek a regional development path with Chinese and local characteristics."
Like Xi Jinping when he addressed the Tibetan delegation in March in Beijing, he spoke of "achieving leapfrog economic and social development in Tibet and long-term stability".
Photo session with the 'masses',
Lobsang Gystsen and Chen Quanguo in attendance
Like in Gansu, he referred to (and rejected) the Dalai Lama's proposal for 'high-degree autonomy in Greater Tibet'.
Yu said that it "runs counter to China's Constitution, the law, and the fundamental interests of Tibetan Buddhism."
Yu asked the monks to "have a clear understanding of the secessionist nature of the Dalai Lama clique and resolutely safeguard national unification, ethnic unity and Tibet's harmony and stability, ...and comprehensively implement the ethnic and religious policies of the Communist Party of China and actively guide religions so they adapt to a socialist society."
Nothing really new.
But the 'secret' visit was unusually long (6 days) and seemed to have focused on the way "to scientifically develop ideas for the development of Tibet, strengthen infrastructure construction and cultivate industries."
It is interesting to have alook at the officials who accompanied Yu to understand the true objectives of this long visit.
  • First, Zhang Yijiong, the Executive Vice Minister of the United Front Department. It is logical since he stepped into the shoes of Zhu Weiqun.
  • Then Du Ying, a Deputy Director of the State Development and Reform Commission. 
  • Sithar, a German-speaking Tibetan posted in the United Front Department.
  • Weng Mengyong, a Vice Minister from the Transportation Ministry. By the way, his boss in the Ministry is Yang Chuantang, who used to be vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government.
  •  Shuai Junqing, Vice-President of the State Grid Corporation of China
In the next few days, I will try to provide more information on these officials and their connection with Tibet, if any.
Let us start by Weng Mengyong

Weng Mengyong, Vice Minister of Transport
In January 2011, I mentioned on this blog the opening of the last section of a tunnel leading to Metok County in Southern Tibet, on December 15, 2010 (the day Wen Jiabao arrived in India)
At that time, Weng Mengyong, already Vice Minister of Transport told Xinhua that this ended an era of isolation for the region: “The 3,310-meter-long Galongla Tunnel, built at an altitude of 3,750 meters, is a crucial part of the Metok Highway”; he further said that the extremely complex geological and meteorological conditions made highway construction work arduous and difficult.
The Chinese press did not mention the proximity of the Indian border; it was however admitted that the area was a natural 'paradise': "Metok State Nature Reserve, located in canyons at an average altitude of 750-4,800 meters, is home to numerous waterfalls and rivers as well as rich flora from tropical to cold-weather plants. As one 10th of China's plant species can be found in Metok, it has been dubbed the 'Natural Museum of Tibet' or 'Tibetan Botanical Garden'. Plants from both frigid and subtropical zones are compatible and coexist on this small isolated island."
But what will happen to the 'paradise' when lakhs of tourists and PLA's soldiers will pour into the county?

Shorter and safer
Metok, with a population of 11, 000 people was China's last county with no highway link. Bad weather, frequent heavy snow and rain made the narrow paths to the county impassable for nine months of the year; it took more than 10 hours to get out of the county on foot.
The Galongla Tunnel was the key sector of the road project. The new 117-km highway, linking Metok and Bome counties shortened by 24 km the old rugged mountain road.
No doubt it benefits the transportation of goods and local people. Fang Hong, a Metok-born member of the Menba (Monpa) ethnic group who works in another nearby county told a Chinese publication:"I can finally join my family during Spring Festival holidays."
Poor infrastructure has hindered economic development in Tibet in the past, affirmed Padma Choling, [then] Chairman of Tibet Autonomous Region. The central and local Tibetan governments have been sparing no effort to build a highway network of 58,000 km, which has boosted economic development and enhanced social stability in the region, he said.
The Metok-Bome Highway project was approved by the State Council in October 2008 with an investment of 950 million yuan ($ 144 million). It entirely financed by the Central Government (probably because of the proximity of the Indian border). The project includes 29 bridges and 227 culverts and took 36 months to complete.
Metok Tunnel
China Tibet Online pointed out that Tibet had tried to build modern roads to link Metok and other parts of the county as early as 1965. In the following decades the effort to build roads to link the county never ceased, but the best results were fragments of simply constructed paths, which only allowed hikers and horse caravans. Seven years before the country finally settled on the project to build the modern highway to Metok, prospecting teams were dispatched to survey geological conditions of the area where the highway has been laid.
What new project(s) had Meng come to supervise?
Probably an even better road connectivity which can be used for tourism and defence!

Shuai Junqing, Executive vice president of the State Grid Corporation of China
In China, many provinces regularly hit by severe power shortages during the summer period. Some factories have been forced to stop production on certain days of the week, despite local authorities' efforts to cope with the situation.
In 2011, Xinhua reported: “Financially crippled coal plants are shutting down their generators, even though the country is facing one of its most severe power shortages ever, which could hamper the 12th Five- Year Plan starting this year.”
The same year, Shuai Junqing told the Chinese press agency: “Some 26 provincial regions would suffer combined power shortages of at least 30 gigawatts this year. The deficiency could reach 40 million kilowatts when power consumption reaches its annual peak during the summer.”
Shuai added that the situation could become worse in 2012 and 2013.
On another occasion, Shuai Junqing said, "In order to address the power shortage, we will enhance transmission capacity across different regions, especially between the northwest and the northeast. The Three Gorges Dam is also stepping up efforts to produce more electricity."
At the end of 2011, China Tibet Online had reported the completion of the Qinghai-Tibet AC/DC Power Networking Project. This power grid interconnection project is one of China's 23 key projects of the western development strategy, which started in 2010.
According to Wen Weibing, deputy director-general of this power project, three sections are being constructed: 750 KV electricity transmission and conversion station along the Xining-Mt. Riyue-Wulan-Golmud line; 400KV. D.C. electricity transmission from Golmud of Qinghai to Lhasa of Tibet and 220 KV. electricity ring network in Lhasa.
A Chinese website explained: “Due to the complex highland natural conditions in Tibet, the power networking project requires sophisticated technology and take prudent measures to battle the high altitude, large frozen soil area, fragile biological environment and harsh working conditions.”
The Chinese media reported that 16.2 billion yuan and 60,000 workers have been involved in accomplishing this project. According to press reports, by December 2010, it had already witnessed remarkable progress.
It was later announced that “The Qinghai-Tibet AC/DC Power Networking Project ended the history of single power grid operation, and tremendously improve the power supply in Tibet.”
It sounded as if Beijing was planning to send electricity from the mainland to Tibet, which is the region of the world with the highest hydropower potential. Is it not strange?
Grid map
More than 2 billion dollars for supplying electricity to the Tibetan plateau which will soon produce gigawattas of electricity!
But the same equipment can probably use 'in reverse' and power will then be sent from Tibet to the mainland.
Last month, Xinhua announced: “Another ‘Heavenly Road of Electricity’ has been built on the snow-covered plateau, which is bound to bring light to the people. On June 6, 2013, the 330kV Interconnection Project between Yushu grid and the state grid was put into trial operation, which took one year to construct. The project puts an end to the isolated operation of Yushu grid and solves the power shortage problem in that area once and for all.”
Let us not forget that Yushu was hit by a serious in April 2010.
Apparently, the inaugural ceremony took place at the main site of Qinghai Electric Power Company while sub-venues were at Tangnaihe Substation, Maduo Switching Station, and Yushu Substation.
Qinghai Provincial Party Secretary and Chairman of Standing Committee of Provincial CPC Luo Huining, Deputy Party Secretary of Qinghai and the Governor Hao Peng [formerly Deputy Secretary of the TAR] attended the event. Standing Committee Member and Deputy Governor of Qinghai Luo Yulin and SGCC Executive VP Shuai Junqing were also present.
This was part of a larger grid project of SGCC for the plateau after the Qinghai-Tibet ADC/C Interconnection Project. The project is said to start from Huangzhong County, Xining City in the north, and ends at Gyêgu Township of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, passing through Xining, Hainan, Golog and Yushu. It the world’s highest 330kV transmission project, with an attitude of 3,200m to 5,000m. The project, with a total investment of 2.47 billion yuan, comprises of Tangnaihe 330kV Substation, Maduo 330kV Switching Station, Yushu 330kV Substation and the Riyue Mountain-Tangnaihe-Maduo-Yushu line. The total length is 803km.
The Yushu Interconnection Project is presented as “a civic project to ensure the post-quake reconstruction and the power supply for the socio-economic development in that area, promote national unity, and build a harmonious society”.
The Chinese propaganda adds that: “It is also a green project to promote the exploitation of hydropower resources and optimize resource allocation in a broader scope. The voltage of Yushu grid was upgraded to 330kV for the first time so the interconnection to other grids in Qinghai could be realized. It is certainly another milestone for the electric power development in Qinghai.”
During the inaugural function Shuai Junqing stated that “the project was an important measure of SGCC to implement the deployment of the CPC Central Committee and State Council and to promote the socio-economic development in Qinghai. The construction was quite difficult due to geological complexity, widespread permafrost, severe cold, and lack of oxygen.”
He concluded that “the mission [of building the transmission line] was an honor [for the SGCC]. During the construction, SGCC gave full play to the conglomerate operation and intensive management, standardized the construction, and combined specialized project management with localized project construction. All construction workers have ensured hardships and difficulties to complete a safe, reliable, quality, efficient, and green project with high standard, high efficiency and high level within a year.”
What are the new projects of Mr. Shuai?
Probably a series of dams producing electricity for the mainland.
In this case, number of 'grid' issues will have to be sorted out.
A day after Yi left Tibet, it was announced that a ceremony was held in Lhasa for 148 signed development projects: “City government officials and entrepreneurs intended to invest in Tibet attended the ceremony.”
China Daily says that agreements for 148 projects, with an investment totaling 104 billion yuan ($17 billion), were signed. Of them, 45 projects, with an investment of 10.9 billion yuan, have already been launched: “Tibet is relatively economically underdeveloped. There are about 58,000 impoverished people in Lhasa, accounting for 19.7 percent of the nomad and farmer population," said Qi Zhala [Choedrak], Party chief of Lhasa.
More electricity will be needed, in another words more dams and more tourists in view!

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