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 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.