Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tibet is a paradise again, a fiscal one

The 'new' Potala Palace
A few years ago in France, I came across a series of newspaper articles written just after Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army invaded the Eastern Tibetan province of Kham in October 1950.
It was greatly interesting to go through these clippings and an eye opener to discover what impressions and perspectives senior correspondents and so-called Tibet experts held at this crucial time of Tibetan history.
One of the issues touched upon by the French press during the period between October 25 and November 10, 1950, was: 'Is Tibet a Paradise?'

Mythic Tibet
I came across many strange descriptions of Tibet, but one of the strangest was in an article in Combat, a newspaper founded during the WWII by the French resistance.
It began by explaining to its readers that the invasion of Tibet was not an ordinary invasion, there was something more behind it, an inner meaning: “for the lovers of signs and occult connections, the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese troops takes a particularly important meaning.”
After a short description of the religious scene prior to the invasion when Tibet, was “essentially devoted to prayers, to the adoration of the Divine and to inner life”, the journalist expounded his occult theory about the remnants of the Atlantis civilisation: "Tibet has a very special place in the Atlantis tradition. According to this tradition, the Atlantis, the motherland of a supremely wise and powerful humanity, kept the secrets of a communion with the spirit and the living matter which we have lost and which modern technology is powerless to recover."
That sounds today surrealistic, but it goes on: "Before the disappearance of this continent (and knowing in advance the fatal character of this disappearance), the initiated Atlantes have scattered through the entire world, in Egypt, in the Baltic countries, in Colombia and in Tibet and the druidic, Egyptian and Colombian civilizations are the degraded proof of this initiation. The Atlantes colonies have been linked by supernatural means to the mother-colony, Tibet. It is in Tibet itself, in an underground, sacred and inviolable city, l’Agatharta that according to them, are kept the last Atlantis secrets."
The article in Combat went on to depict what some Europeans have seen in Tibet: "It is in Tibet, amongst other things, that a Christian missionary has seen the ‘Tree of Life’, which does not belong to any known species. Each of its leaves is different from any other species, it bears mysterious characters said to be close to runic characters. It is also in Tibet that European travelers claim to have seen several times cases of levitation or reanimation."
The ‘Tree of Life’ mentioned here is most probably the tree of Tsong Khapa in Kumbum near the Chinese border. Having sprung up after the birth of the Buddhist master and reformer, on the site of his birth, the Tibetans believed that this tree had sacred mantras on each of its leaves.
Le Parisien Libéré  resumed the situation: "[Compared] to other parts of the world, Tibet has an inappreciable advantage: one can say anything without worrying about being contradicted. The reason for this is simple: the best informed people know only the boundaries. Only the rarest of the travellers, exceptionally brave, went through this land. They can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Nobody really penetrated Tibet."
A journalist concluded like many others that with the invasion of Tibet, a world was disappearing: a world of wisdom living outside time and space.
The vision of the several other newspapers can also be considered as another myth; they believed that Communist China would bring a 'true liberation’ to the people of Tibet who were eagerly waiting for them in order to start a new life, a free and ‘socialist’ life.
Le Soir commented: "As for the Tibetan farmer, no one can doubt that he envisages with joy to leave the rank of a slave and become a free man. Though it was announced that the PLA would have to fight very hard to enter Tibet, they had already reached Lhasa. On their way, they received an enthusiastic welcome of the newly freed people."
However, it was the farmers and the poor people who suffered the most due to the food restriction imposed by the Chinese forces a few years later.
For most of the authors/journalists Tibet was a paradise.
A French explorer André Guilbaud had however warned that the 'paradise' might not last forever.
Tibet, though protected by high mountains and boreal climate, has escaped for a few more years to tragic solidarity of other peoples; it is improbable that this anachronism will last very long. Already men with bizarre occupation , armed with small wooden pegs and surveying equipment have penetrated on its territory, and following them, roads have encroached on the land of the lamas and fields have been levelled for landing facilities.
Tibetans do not know what are those wooden pegs that Chinese engineers are planting to mark their path.
They do not know that they are the first signs of the vanishing of a very old past which is now on the death row. Will this past be replaced by something better?
Time is certainly not too far away when it will be possible to enter Tibet by car or by plane. Then the lamaist civilization will die. Perhaps I would be one of the last men to have known this very old age of humanity.
Sixty-three years later, Tibet is on the way to become a 'paradise' again. This time it is not a mythic paradise, neither a paradise for Han tourists, but a fiscal paradise.
According to Simon Rabinovitch of The Financial Times, 'Tibet opens up as new domestic tax haven'.
The London newspaper explains: "Cayman Islands, step aside. Private equity funds looking to cut their tax bills have a new option some 3,600 metres above sea level at the foot of the Himalayas. The only catch is, they will be playing a role in China’s strategy to tighten its grip on Tibet."
It further elaborates:
The government of Shannan prefecture, which lies in Tibet between Lhasa and the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, has started offering generous tax breaks and other sweeteners in an attempt to make itself a home for private equity funds and investment companies.
Cities across China regularly compete for investors, but lawyers and advisers say the package of incentives available in Shannan, known as Lhoka in Tibetan, is unusually aggressive and is beginning to attract interest.
The enticements for private equity funds to set up shop in Tibet are part of the Chinese government’s push to develop the region’s economy at the same time as establishing firmer control over it.
The Financial Times continues:
Of the 300,000 people in Shannan, more than 90 per cent are of Tibetan ethnicity. The investment companies that have been lured there are almost entirely managed by Han Chinese, consistent with the government’s strategy of encouraging Han to populate areas inhabited by minority groups.
Tibet has set the corporate tax rate for investors at just 15 per cent, well below the national norm of 25 per cent. Companies that pay more than Rmb5m ($820,000) in tax can have as much as 40 per cent returned to them.
The Tibetan government has also introduced a flat tax of 20 per cent on the incomes of some partners in private equity firms, a steep discount on the national rate where the highest bracket pays 45 per cent tax. And, unlike many other regions of China, it does not require that funds registering in Tibet invest in local companies; simply having Tibet as a domicile is enough.
“Many places throughout China, especially big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, have been offering preferential policies to private equity firms. But over the past year, lots more investors have been mentioning Tibet and talking about moving there,” said Wang Jinghe, a lawyer with Dacheng law offices in Shanghai.
Click here to read the article... 

Which Paradise do you prefer? The mythic paradise? The tourist paradise or the fiscal paradise? It is hard to choose.

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