Friday, May 8, 2015

Can China alleviate poverty in rural Tibet?

Du Qinglin during a previous visit to Tibet
A few weeks ago, I quoted an article published in China Tibet Online which hinted at a 6th Tibet Work Forum being held very soon.
The piece was titled: “Guess what? 6th Tibet Work Conference may be convened this year, netizens say.”
I then commented: “For China, it is new that netizens are aware of ‘State Secrets’ such as holding crucial meetings …and their timings!”
At that time, I guessed that the move was to prepare the ground for the TAR celebrations (and the new Tibet Work Forum).
The State media had asserted that from November 2014 to March 2015, “many in the central leadership as well as various government departments went to Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces to conduct research and make inspections, including: Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Du Qinglin, Vice Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, and Sun Chunlan, minister of the United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee.”
Du Qinglin was recently on the (Tibetan) roads again.
From April 27 to 29, he visited Gannan (Kanlho) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in today’s Gansu Province. It was his 4th visit to Tibet.
Two years ago, I had written on this blog: “In September 2012, the appointment of Ling Jihua as the boss of the CCP's United Front Work Department was reported by the Chinese press. Ling then replaced Du Qinglin. I thought that after his retirement, President Hu Jintao wanted to keep his fingers in the Tibetan pie through his protégé, Ling.
Since then, Ling has been arrested, probably because of the Ferrari accident of his son in which 2 Tibetan girls died.
In 2013, I wrote: “The interesting part of it is that though Ling replaced Du Qinglin, the latter now seats in his place in the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. That is a hot seat.”
Who is Du Qinglin?
Born in November 1946 in Jilin Province, Du joined the CPC in March 1966. He graduated from the School of Economics and Management at Jilin University with a major in national economic planning and management. He received a postgraduate education while in service and was awarded the degree of Master of Economics. Apart from his important job in the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, Du is also vice chairman of the 12th CPPCC National Committee.
Du is a important man in the Party and probably close to Yu Zhengsheng, the CPPCC's Chairman.
After he visited the Tibetan-inhabited areas of Sichuan and Yunnan in 2013, I had guessed: “Probably, the Standing Committee of the Politburo wanted his views on the prevailing situation in these regions.”
Xinhua had then commented: "Du urged them to serve local people with emotion and responsibility. He called for the cultivation of a number of capable and passionate cadres to enhance the Party's public support."
Du was back in Tibet at the end of April.
Recent visit to the Gansu Tibetan Research Institute

Du visit to Tibet
Chinese Tibet Network said that during his stay in Kanlho, Du Qinglin stressed that "to accurately understand and implement new ideas and new requirements on the precise poverty alleviation, [one needs to] identify the crux of the difficulties and the Tibetan poverty alleviation work."
Du Qinglin visited an 'impoverished' village of Xiahe County' and he had 'face-to-face exchanges with the masses of farmers and herdsmen, grassroots cadres, monks'. He got "a detailed understanding of the lives of the masses, the grassroots organization construction, and implementation of policies that benefit the temple management."
He discussed 'with the cadres of state, city, county' and stated that "to eradicate poverty in Tibet, the goal must be clear, accurate, feasible, reliable."
Du also stressed “the most formidable task in reaching the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects is in the countryside, and he particularity mentioned the economic development in the countryside is in the impoverished areas, especially the Tibetan areas.”
He added: “Industries with comparative advantages must be developed, infrastructure must be improved, and more efforts must be made to promote public service in order to achieve targeted poverty reduction in these areas.”
He reminded the local cadres that 2015 “marks the fifth year of poverty alleviation in Tibet Autonomous Region and the Tibetan-inhabited areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces.”
It was in June 2010 that the State Council in Beijing convened the Work Conference on Poverty Alleviation and Development in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces (Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai). Let us recall that the last Tibet Work Forum was held in January 2010.
Du said that the June 2010 Conference (or Forum) proposed to link Tibet and the Tibetan-inhabited areas 'as one impoverished area' in order to promote its development through a comprehensive approach.
By the way, it is one of the long-pending demands of the Dalai Lama.
Du was not shy to admit that: “Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces are the biggest poverty-stricken areas in China, including one autonomous region and four provinces; 19 cities (prefectures); 151 counties due to poor natural conditions, a fragile ecology and underdeveloped economy.”
This clearly gives some indications in which direction the 6th Tibet Work Forum will go when it meets: poverty alleviation in rural areas, using a scheme like the New Silk Road to bring wealth to Tibet.
The China Tibet Online article quotes another Chinese publication, the Financial News: “Since 2012, Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces have been actively implementing measures to reduce poverty and achieve steady growth through various loans. By the end of 2014, their financial institutions granted micro-credit loans totaling 12.56 billion yuan (2.02 billion US dollars), a 47.66 percent increase year on year.”
The article cites the highway to Metok which was open to traffic in 2013: “ending the county’s history as the ‘only island' on the plateau.”
This road is the most strategic road on the Tibetan plateau as it leads to the Indian border (Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh). Contrary to what the Chinese propaganda says, it is not purely to alleviate the poverty of the local Tibetans that the road was built. The PLA were clearly the main beneficiaries.
China Tibet Online gives the usual figures:  “Data shows that there are more than 70,000 kilometers of highway in Tibet, with a county-level passenger traffic rate of 98.6 percent, and a township-level passenger traffic rate of 56 percent.”
Once again, it is probably another indication in which direction China wants to go while dealing with the Tibetan issue. The TAR and ‘Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces’ are mentioned: Beijing wants to focus on the development of the education and put more energy for poverty reduction.
The publication gives an example: “Each student at the Number One Primary School in Dechen County of Yunnan Province can receive 3,000 yuan (483.3 US dollars) per year in subsidies. Room and board is free. Currently the rate of enrollment of school-age children for primary and middle schools in Dechen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is close to 100 percent.”
The article also mentions other social help for “Tibet [TAR] and Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces [which] have rapidly developed institutions that care for the elderly."
It points out that in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, "there are currently 31 nursing homes that provide more than 1,000 beds. There are already 333 elderly living in those homes, the majority of whom are ethnic Tibetans. There are currently more than 4,000 elderly in the prefecture who receive governmental support.”
China Economic Net shows the way Beijing has decided to go for Tibet when it affirms: “Tibet met the target of achieving economic growth rate of 11.7 percent in the first half of 2014, higher than 7.4, the average growth rate of other 23 provinces in the country. If this rate could be kept, it would be hopeful that Tibet and four Tibetan-inhabited areas would meet the goal that by 2020 poverty is basically reduced, and the per capita increase rate of farmers’ and herders’ income surpasses the national average."
Du's visit to Kanlho (he probably visited the Labrang monastery) clearly shows that in the years to come, Beijing will try to improve the economic situation in rural areas on the entire Tibetan plateau, not just in the TAR.
Why was it not done all these years, is another question.
For the purpose, the same recipe will be used than in Lhasa, Shigatse or Nyingtri; in a first stage, infrastructure will be developed; highways, airports, railway lines will be constructed and then tourists will be invited bringing along consequent revenues for these remote 'impoverished' areas.
Another scheme to help ‘alleviate’ poverty will be to link Tibet to Nepal (through Kyirong landport), Pakistan (through Karakoram highway and Pakistan Economic Corridor) and Xinjiang (as a gate to Central Asia and the main New Silk Route).
Where are the Tibetans in this scheme?
Nowhere, but they may become richer.

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