Monday, March 30, 2015

Will China crack up?

My article Will China crack up? appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

Being a China watcher is a difficult job.
It can however make you rich or famous, provided you write something many in the West will enjoy: the announcement of the Middle Kingdom’s ‘coming collapse’. Unfortunately, wishful thinking is often (not to say never) followed by reality.
It is what David Shambaugh, a respected Chinese expert, who is director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, has done in his Saturday Essay in The Wall Street Journal.
‘Coming Chinese Crackup’ was prominently circulated on social media by all those with an interest in the ‘cracking’ of China. Wide circulation was probably the objective of the Journal; that way, Shambaugh’s piece has been a success, though it may not automatically make China crack up.
What did the professor ‘prophesied’? He wrote: “The endgame of communist rule in China has begun, and Xi Jinping’s ruthless measures are only bringing the country closer to a breaking point.”
Unfortunately for those who dream of the Dragon’s demise (I am one of them), it is only a point of view and it is doubtful if the events will unfold as forecast.
Bill Bishop, the editor of the excellent Sinocism Newsletter has different views, he commented: “I think his scenario has a 10% probability, and the probability of a ‘crack-up’ may even be lower now than it was in 2011-2012. Xi's apparent control of the PLA and security services, the instruments of hard power should make it much harder for anyone to mount significant resistance in an organized way … and the support from many quarters for what Xi is doing should not be underestimated. Shambaugh does a smart job hedging by leaving the timing open-ended...”
But Bishop sees a new surge of ‘coming collapse of China’ predictions.
Matt O'Brien’s article ‘Is China’s 1929 moment coming?’ in the Washington Post is another one.
As the National People's Congress (NPC) started its deliberations in Beijing, Shambaugh saw the delegates, “participating cheerfully and parroting back official slogans.” This might be true, but it does not mean that it is the end of China.
Interestingly, the author himself admits: “Predicting the demise of authoritarian regimes is a risky business. Few Western experts forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union before it occurred in 1991; the CIA missed it entirely. The downfall of Eastern Europe’s communist states two years earlier was similarly scorned as the wishful thinking of anticommunists—until it happened.”
Ditto for the ‘color revolutions’ in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and the Arab Spring; who predicted them?
Shambaugh’s main argument is the following: “Despite appearances, China’s political system is badly broken, and nobody knows it better than the Communist Party itself. China’s strongman leader, Xi Jinping, is hoping that a crackdown on dissent and corruption will shore up the party’s rule.”
Nobody can deny that there something rotten in the Kingdom. During the past 2 months, 30 officers of the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) of the rank of major generals and above are said to have been ‘investigated’. It is unprecedented.
The South China Morning Post spoke of the ‘horrible corruption in the PLA: “All People’s Liberation Army ranks have a price, getting a Communist Party membership has a price, and important military positions are reserved for cronies, senior officers’ children and in-laws.”
The Hong Kong daily quotes Major General Yang Chunchang, a former deputy commandant of China’s Academy of Military Sciences, saying: “Everybody in society knows that in the PLA … you need to pay to join the party. Promotions to become leaders at platoon, company, regiment and division levels all have their own price tags.” The general added “It has affected the security of the army. …It’s too horrible, bribes are in the scale of several tens of millions [yuan].”
The fact that President Xi Jinping is “determined to avoid becoming the Mikhail Gorbachev of China, presiding over the party’s collapse”, does not make China automatically ‘crack up’, as Shambaugh suggests, even if he adds: “His despotism is severely stressing China’s system and society—and bringing it closer to a breaking point.”
Shambaugh believes that: ‘The endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun …and it has progressed further than many think.”
There is no doubt that Communist China will crack one day; historically, it has happened to all empires and regimes, but it is worth noting that the present leadership in Beijing has carefully studied the ‘collapse’ of the Soviet Union and other authoritarian regimes and has drawn its own conclusions. Xi’s fight against corruption is just one action to avoid that end.
When Shambaugh makes the end bloody: “Communist rule in China is unlikely to end quietly. …Its demise is likely to be protracted, messy and violent,” the author does not raise the question: who will benefit from such an implosion or explosion?
Certainly not the United States or Europe which are so intimately linked, economically and otherwise, with ‘Communist’ China.
What would be more interesting to study is what would be the direct and immediate implications of a ‘collapse’ of China on the West and Asia.
Shambaugh speaks of ‘five telling indications of the regime’s vulnerability and weakness’.
Unfortunately, the author’s arguments often lack logic. Let us take the first ‘indication’: “China’s economic elites have one foot out the door, and they are ready to flee en masse if the system really begins to crumble.”
If a large number of wealthy Chinese flee to New Zealand, Canada or Australia, it has more to do with the crack-down on corruption institutionalized by Xi Jinping and his colleague Wang Qishan, than a sign of forthcoming collapse. Before ill-gotten wealth is confiscated by the all-powerful Central Discipline and Inspection Committee, corrupt officials and business people are keen to transfer their wealth to safe heavens abroad. How is it a sign on the forthcoming ‘end’ of the present regime?
In the same way, the other 4 ‘indications’ are not wrong, but conclusions are often hasty, to please the readers.
Shambaugh’s conclusion is: “These five increasingly evident cracks in the regime’s control can be fixed only through political reform.” It is certainly true, but one has to admit that China’s societal values are different from the ones of the West, and reforms do not mean the same thing in Washington and Beijing.
Looking at a recent example, has the Ukrainian revolution been a success or has the Western interference created further mess? It is a question that Shambaugh should ponder upon.
It is also surprising that the WSJ article does not mention Xi Jinping’s new theory of the ‘Four Comprehensives ‘which refer to building a moderately prosperous society, deepening reform, governing the country according to rule by law, and enforcing strict party discipline.
One can understand that the last ‘comprehensive’ is not palatable to the US, but it is not a proof of ‘collapse’.
The instability of the so-called ‘minorities’ areas (Tibet, Xinjiang, etc.) could be a more dangerous issue as it is presently wrongly handled by Beijing.
Ultimately, nobody knows if (and when) China will crack up, collapse or simply reform soon. The last would be the best alternative for China and the rest of the world.
By the way, do you think that the International Monetary Fund, many Western nations as well as some of US’s Asian allies (Australia, Japan and South Korea, etc.) would agree to participate in a Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), is China was perceived by them as ‘cracking’?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Yu Zhengsheng visits restive Ngaba

Tibetan national flags along with other flags during Losar
Ngaba (Chinese, Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is one of the most ‘restive’ prefectures in Tibet.
RFA’s Tibetan Service recently reported that on the occasion of the Tibetan New Year (Losar), several monasteries placed photos of the Dalai Lama on thrones, while monks made offerings and recited prayers for their leaders’ long life.
The forthcoming 80th birth year of the exiled leader was openly celebrated during the Losar celebrations in several places in Tibetan-inhabited areas and this, despite the fact that the display of Dalai Lama’s photos was harshly punished in the past.
The Dalai Lama's picture displayed during Losar
RFA mentions the monasteries of Se, Nyentse, and Sumdo of Ngaba Prefecture, where the Dalai Lama’s photos were displayed. It was also reported that some Tibetan national flags were carried along with flags for world peace and Buddhist flags, in Gomang monastery in the same county.
According to the US radio program, thousands of Tibetans took part in the festival, which is hosted each year, on a rotating basis, by one of six villages attached to the monastery. On March 4, the festival was held in Suwa village.
Again in Ngaba, a Tibetan woman, Norchuk, set herself ablaze in Trotsuk village. Norchuk's remains were cremated the next day by members of her village to prevent the Chinese authorities to take her body away, said RFA.
Norchuk, who is survived by her husband and one son and two daughters, became the 137th known case of self-immolation since 2009.
In another incident in the same area, a Tibetan monk was beaten and detained by police after he decided to launch a solo protest for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama. Gendun Phuntsok, 18, launched his protest around noon on March 8 on the main street of Ngaba town.
According to RFA, Phuntsok “shouted slogans calling for the Dalai Lama’s return. He also demanded freedom and equality for Tibetans, saying that Chinese policies in the region have caused intolerable suffering.” He was later taken into custody.
Before Losar, large numbers of Chinese security forces were deployed to Tibetan-populated areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces to ‘deter anti-China protests’.
RFA said that “the measures included checkpoints examining vehicles on major roads and police equipped with fire extinguishers and  fire trucks standing by to respond to self-immolations.”


Yu Zhengsheng in Ngaba
In these circumstances it is surprising that Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee visited Ngaba Prefecture between March 25 to 27.
According to Xinhua, Yu spoke of the ‘long-term prosperity, stability stressed for China's Tibetan regions’.
Xinhua reported: “Top Chinese political advisor Yu Zhengsheng has called for efforts to coordinate development and improvement of people's livelihood, promote religious and ethnic harmony to maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Tibetan regions.”
Yu and Wang Dongming
Yu spent three full days in the restive prefecture (from Wednesday and Friday).
He was accompanied by Wang Dongming, Sichuan’s Party Secretary, who earlier served as the Director of Office for Central Organization Committee of CPC Central Committee (from 2007 to 2012).
Xu would have declared: “The ultimate goal for accelerating the development of Tibetan regions is to improve people's livelihoods, and improving people's livelihoods should be a key criterion for evaluating the quality of development."
According to Xinhua, he promised more funds and projects favoring the grassroots, rural and pastoral populations.
According to official information, Yu inspected “schools, hospitals, monasteries and held symposiums with local officials.”
Yu, who is also the Chairman of Central Working Coordination Small Group on Tibet stressed the importance of having the education in both Mandarin Chinese and local ethnic languages (i.e. Tibetan).
Yu noted that the teaching of science and engineering should be strengthened to boost the ability of students of ethnic minorities: “Great efforts should be made to develop local medical services and cultivate high-level health workers in the Tibetan regions."
Does this visit mark a change in policy for the Tibetan-inhabited areas (i.e. former Kham and Amdo provinces)?
It is too early to answer this question, however Yu also mentioned that “local religious work should be conducted in line with the principle of rule of law, and religious figures should actively guide Tibetan Buddhism to adapt to a socialist society, while resolutely resisting the influence from foreign forces.”
What about the Dalai Lama? He is considered as a 'foreign force'?
Regarding the Rule of Law, it stipulates that it is the Party which chose the ‘incarnations’ of deceased Lamas.
If Beijing decides to follow the rule of the Party’s Law, this may create further tensions with the local population, particularly if the Party interferes in the ‘local’ belief system (reincarnation of Lamas).
Xinhua asserted that Yu praised social and economic achievements of Ngaba and urged the region to map out an employment-oriented development plan that combined infrastructure and environmental protection.
Official authorization to have photos of the Dalai Lama would probably be a first concrete sign that Beijing is interested to cool down the volatile situation in the Prefecture and elsewhere in Eastern Tibet.
Economic development and infrastructure have never been the main concern of the Khampa population.
Has Mr. Yu been told this during his 3-day visit?
Let us hope so.
As always, the visit was announced once the leader was back between the protected and safe walls of Zhongnanhai in Beijing.
It is perhaps safer for 'Central' leaders.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Are the Rafales, Mirages?

Air Chiefs Raha and Mercier in front a Rafale
The first dog fight on the French multi-purpose combat aircraft is on in full swing. It is not a battle in the air, but through communiqués, articles by ‘experts’, information and disinformation, and more importantly, tough negotiations which have been facing complex technical hurdles.
Negotiators need to find solutions for something which has never been attempted before in India, at that level of technology.
It is also true that India has the reputation to be a country which lives in ‘eternity’; it has serious drawbacks when it comes to defence procurement.
Take Egypt. Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, the Egyptian President wanted a few Rafales to show off at the forthcoming inauguration of the Suez Canal: the ‘negotiations’ with Dassault Aviation were completed in just 3 months. He bought 24 Rafales from Dassault Aviation; it included 5 to be delivered in time for the function in August. Egypt agreed to shell out the price paid by the French Air Force for its fighters, explained Eric Trappier, the CEO of Dassault. A similar ‘quick’ procedure may happen in the coming weeks with Malaysia and Qatar.
In India however, everything is different. First the political set-up is not the same, one person can’t take the decision on his own (Sissi personally negotiated the deal with the French Defense Minister), but also from the start, Delhi wanted to ‘Make in India’, through a large transfer of technology.
Indeed, everything always takes more time in India. In this case, the process started 14 years ago. The initial Request for Information dates from 2001, while the Request for Proposal (RFP) was only issued in 2007 and as the then minister, AK Antony wanted to add new clauses in the Indian defence procurement policy, such as the Total Life-cycle Costs, the process got further delayed. ‘Complications’ then started.
In January 2012, the French firm Dassault Aviation was selected for supplying 126 Rafales Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to the Indian Air Force (IAF). The Rafale fighter (in French, ‘rafale' means a 'gust of wind') had gone through a long competitive process which lasted five years, with the American F/A-18 and F-16, Russian MiG 35, European Eurofighter and Swedish Saab Gripen in the race.
Out of the 126 aircrafts to be supplied to the IAF, 18 planes are to be manufactured by the French supplier, Dassault Aviation, from its facilities near Bordeaux in France, while the remaining 108 planes have to be built in India, under a Transfer of Technology agreement, by Hindustan Aeronitical Ltd. (HAL). It is here that serious differences between Dassault and Delhi have appeared.

The complexity of the deal
Exercises over Jodhur
The complexity of the ‘mother of all deals’ partially explains the delay.
Trappier recently explained that once the contract is signed, France would continue for some time to build the subsystems, which will be shipped to India for assembly in Bangalore: “Over time the manufacture, including the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, will be phased over to Indian partners. The timetable is part of the negotiations,” he said.
“Dassault is patient and tenacious in its pursuit of the Indian deal for 126 fighters,” Trappier admitted. It is normal as the deal is important to France …but to India too.
A lot has been written in India about ‘liabilities’ to be incurred during the process of manufacturing 108 aircrafts in India. Should it be entirely the French supplier's responsibility? Indian Defence Minister Parrikar made it clear that he wanted the same quality for the 108 ‘Indian’ ones, as for the 18 French.
On February 9, Laurent Collet-Billon, the boss of the Armament Procurement Agency (Direction générale de l’armement or DGA) of the French Ministry of Defence for the first time gave a hint of a possible compromise: “Dassault will not be responsible for the whole contract. It is a co-management setup.”
Collet-Billion also admitted: “A lot of progress has been made since 2012.”
This was before the deal with Egypt for 24 Rafales.
By the way, the contract with Egypt is interesting in the sense that one of the main arguments of the anti-Rafale lobby has been that Dassault has not exported any plane so far. Now, this argument is not valid anymore.
At the end of February, a few days after the Aero Show 2015 was held in Bangalore, in which 3 Rafales participated, the French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar “to salvage the multi-billion Rafale contract”, said the press.
An official not wanting to be identified told PTI: “This visit was a serious attempt to thrash out the issues that continue to dog the deal.”
Two months earlier the French Minister had already visited India and met Parrikar to put the negotiations on the ‘fast track’.
The main issue was the cost of manufacturing 108 planes in India, which is probably not easy to calculate, considering that many technologies will be new for HAL.

Dwindling number of squadrons
In a meantime in India, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence recently expressed grave concern “over the dwindling number of fighter squadrons in the Indian Air Force. The squadron strength has come down to 25 from the sanctioned 42.” The Committee’s report which was tabled in the Parliament, stated that the Indian Air Force (IAF) required at least 45 fighter squadrons to counter a ‘two-front collusive threat’, while the government has sanctioned 42 squadrons only: “The revelation is astonishing, and the committee feels that the paradox in the required and sanctioned strength needs to be rectified at the earliest,” commented the Committee.
The AIF should maintain 32 squadrons of 18 aircrafts each. The committee noted: “Moreover, 14 of these squadrons are equipped with MiG-21s and MiG-27s, which will retire between 2015 and 2024. Thus the strength will be reduced to just 11 squadrons by 2024. Our capability has already come down.”
The Committee added that though the IAF has inducted several ‘force multipliers’, such as airborne early warning systems (AWACS), mid-air re-fuellers and tactical airlift aircraft, the dwindling fighter strength operationally means that the supremacy that India has enjoyed over its neighbours is fast eroding. There is no doubt that India needs the MMRCA deal, (the Sukhoi SU-30 is not a multi-purpose aircraft, as Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha reminded the press during the Air Show in Bangalore).

The latest progress
On March 4, during a visit to Dassault’s factory near Bordeaux, Eric Trappier, who accompanied French President François Hollande declared that Dassault Aviation and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be the ‘joint prime contractors’ to manufacture 108 Rafale fighters in India. This helped clarified the issue of responsibility for the timely delivery and quality of the 108 aircraft manufactured in India.
During a press conference on March 11, Trappier further explained that it was a ‘new development’ (probably arrived at during Le Drian’s visit to Delhi at the end of February). He added: “This is the first time Dassault agrees to be a co-contractor …Dassault and HAL will both take responsibility for the part they will each build on the Rafale aircraft made in India." He asserted that this was ‘in line with the Indian government’s initial request for proposals’. He also confirmed that Dassault’s price offer remains the same. This is less clear: does Trappier speak for the 18 manufactured in Bordeaux or for the 108 in Bangalore?
The will to conclude the deal seems present on both sides. No doubt that compromises have to be found and as often in these type of deals, a political intervention at the highest level will be required (for example in the case of Egypt, when Hollande requested French banks to participate). One more occasion to fill up the remaining gap(s) will be the forthcoming visit of Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to Paris; officially, he will be there to prepare Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in April, but there is no doubt that the Rafales will be on the table too; it is in the interest of both India and France to have the contract signed at the earliest.
An Indian website Defencenews.com summarized the issue: “By choosing Rafale, India also gains access to cutting-edge technology to advance its aerospace and defense industries. …The entire rationale behind the Rafale deal wasn't to get the least expensive fighter to meet India's needs, but the aircraft that would best satisfy the nation's long-range military needs as well as its industrial interests.”
Even if it is not said, it is also important for Delhi to diversify its procurement of fighter planes; India can’t afford today to put all its eggs in the Russian basket.
Perhaps as an appetizer, the IAF will get its first two upgraded Mirage-2000 with new avionics and weapons before the end of March.
An official told The Times of India: “The upgraded Mirages have been stripped down and virtually re-built with state-of-the-art avionics, radars, mission computers, glass cockpits, helmet-mounted displays, electronic warfare suites and long-range missiles.”
Let us hope that we will not have to wait too long for the main dish.

The next Dalai Lama, handpicked by China?

My article The next Dalai Lama, handpicked by China? appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

According to Beijing, it is for the Communist Party of China to ‘decide’ on the incumbent Dalai Lama’s successor. The process and the result can be farcical, as has been the case with the Panchen Lama

A topic which was not on the agenda of Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart State Councilor Yang Jiechi, the Special Representatives for the Indo-China Boundary issue, but which is at the core of the relations between the 2 countries is the future of the Dalai Lama’s institution after the demise of the Tibetan leader.
After their meeting, earlier this week, Xinhua reported: “China and India agreed to properly handle and control their disputes and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in their border regions before the boundary issue is solved,” however, no word about the Dalai Lama.
It was different during China's 12th National People's Congress (NPC) recently held in Beijing. During a press conference, Padma Choling, the senior-most Tibetan official objected to the Dalai Lama’s earlier announcement saying that ‘his traditional religious role should cease with his death’.
Choling, who is Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional (TAR) People's Congress, created a flutter when he declared: “it's not up to the Dalai Lama to decide [about his own reincarnation].”
He added that the process: “should follow strict historical conventions …and be approved by the central government.” Yes, according to Beijing, it is for the Communist Party of China to ‘decide’ who will be the next Dalai Lama.
How will the Communist Party choose the next Dalai Lama?
It is not difficult to guess, if you read a book ‘Surviving the Dragon: A Tibetan Lama's Account of 40 Years under Chinese Rule’ written by a Tibetan Lama, now in exile in the US, who was part of the great tamasha for the ‘selection’ of a new Panchen Lama in 1995.
The Lama, Arjia Rinpoche was the Abbot of the Kumbum monastery in today’s Qinghai Province before escaping from China.
Soon after the Tenth Panchen Lama passed away under mysterious circumstances while on a visit to Tibet, the Chinese government formed a ‘search team’ under Gyayak Rinpoche, the Panchen Lama’s religious teacher. Chadrel Rinpoche, abbot of the Panchen Lama’s Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and Arjia Rinpoche were to assist the old Lama. Arjia remembers: “The Chinese government trusted Chadrel Rinpoche to do their bidding.”
But soon after Gyayak’s demise, the scenario changed; Beijing discovered that Chadrel Rinpoche was secretly in contact with the Dalai Lama in India to find a ‘consensus’ candidate. In early November 1995, events accelerated and an emergency meeting was called in Beijing to ‘clarify’ the Communist Party’s position.
According to Kumbum’s former Abbot: “This was when I learned that Chadrel Rinpoche had been arrested. …[then] we were bombarded with statements like ‘We must not allow the Dalai's separatist clique to interfere in the Golden Urn Ceremony’. Though not spelled out, the message was clear: His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] would not be involved in the selection process, and the Golden Urn Ceremony would be the method of choice.”
The following day, another meeting took place to which Jamyang Shepa, abbot of Labrang-Tashi Kyil monastery, Bumi Rinpoche, a Lama from the TAR and Arjia participated. Ying Kesheng, the Party Secretary of Qinghai Province was also present.
The rinpoches had no other choice but to accept Beijing’s decision: “The meeting was swift and efficient. That same afternoon, central TV aired footage of the meeting throughout China and the rest of the world,” says Arjia Rinpoche.
Soon after, another meeting was called “for determining the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama using the Golden Urn Ceremony.”
It was to be held in the Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa: “We landed at Gonggar airport in Lhasa, which was tightly guarded by People's Liberation Army soldiers and armed policemen. …Soldiers were lined up along the entire route ‘for our protection’.”
At the hotel, the Lamas saw ‘squads of PLA soldiers’ with machine guns surrounding the hotel ‘so that nobody could slip in or out’.
The Communist officials told the rinpoches:" If a separatist clique [i.e. followers of the Dalai Lama] attempts any disruption of the [Golden Urn] ceremony, you will be protected …and if any among you support or participate in any such attempt, we will punish you without mercy."
The message was loud and clear.
The ceremony was held on November 29, 1995, at 2 am in the morning in Jokhang: “Although the night was dark, again we could see soldiers in their heavy bulletproof vests every few steps along the deserted streets. …we saw undercover policemen standing in every corner and shadow.”
Arjia Rinpoche continues the narration of the dramatic event: “In front of the statue of Sakyamuni Buddha was a large table covered with a yellow silk cloth. Alone on the table stood a golden urn about 15 inches high, surrounded by seated high officials.”
Luo Gan, a State Counselor (who later became a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee) and Gyaltsen Norbu (the then TAR governor) were present.
Then the Ceremony began: “Inside the gold urn was a small case, which contained three ivory lots with cloud scrolls etched at one end. The names of the three candidates were written on three separate pieces of paper and pasted to the ivory sticks. …The three ivory lots were placed into the Golden Urn.”
Bumi Rinpoche, who had been appointed Ganden Tripa (throne holder of the Yellow School) by Beijing, drew the lot. The Communist ‘puja’ was swiftly performed: Bumi handed a yellow pouch to Luo Gan for verification, the latter handed it to the Governor.
The name of the ‘selected’ candidate was Gyaltsen Norbu, like the Governor: “Gyaltsen Norbu chose Gyaltsen Norbu. The government chose itself as Panchen Lama,” a joke later circulated.
But the tamasha was not over. As you read on, you will understand how the next Dalai Lama can be selected.
After Gyaltsen Norbu’s enthronement in Tashi Lhunpo, Arjia Rinpoche returned to Beijing by plane. He and Jamyang Shepa were called in a private cabin by Li Tieying, a Central minister and Ye Xiaowen, the director of the Bureau of Religious Affairs in Beijing: “Both of them looked especially pleased with themselves. Li Tieying placed the event in the context of great moments in China's history.”
Ye Xiaowen then revealed the shocking secret: “When we made our selection we left nothing to chance. In the silk pouches of the ivory pieces we put a bit of cotton at the bottom of one of them, so it would be a little higher than the others and the right candidate would be chosen.”
That was the way ‘with Chinese characteristics’.
Twenty years later, Gedun Choekyi Nyima, selected by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama is still under house arrest, somewhere in China.
There is no doubt that the selection of the next Dalai Lama will be done in the same manner, if Beijing is allowed to have its way.
A tragic farce indeed!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The PLA Digest - January 2015

January 2015
  • PLA recruits first domestic homing pigeons
Source: ECNS.CN, (DoP): January 1, 2015

A military homing pigeon team in Chengdu, Sichuan province, has for the first time recruited new domestic members.
Pigeons that are recruited must fly very fast and be able to find precise locations. Eagles swoop downwards very rapidly but ascend slowly; by contrast, pigeons fly upwards very quickly.
After two months training, only pigeons that pass tests in stamina, courage and obedience are made full members.
Experts explained that in the digital era, the tradition of using carrier pigeons is maintained by the military because the birds are not easily interfered with by human activity and can accurately deliver messages to precise locations.

  • Japan's Triple Motives in Attacking Chinese Military Exercises
Source: People’s Daily, (DoP): 02 January 2015

Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the Institute of Military Studies of the Chinese Navy, argued in The People’s Daily about China’s right to conduct military activities in the waters of the Western Pacific Ocean. He said: “Since December 4, the Chinese Navy has been organizing ships and planned activities in the waters of the Western Pacific Ocean so as to conduct remote sea drills following its annual training plan. To the Chinese navy’s normal training activities, the Japanese side has appeared very uncomfortable and reacted inappropriately. Since December 4, the Japanese side has repeatedly sent ships and planes to follow, monitor, and harass China’s warships. Japan also issued several statements, such as the so-called ‘given the fact that China's military planes entered Japanese airspace, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force dispatched fighter planes in an emergency,' … hyping the information about the ‘China threat.’"

  • Two of China’s princeling generals retire as part of President Xi Jinping’s leadership reshuffle
Source: South China Morning Post, (DoP): January 2, 2015

Two princeling generals from the PLA have left their positions as part of an ongoing leadership reshuffle. Generals Zhang Haiyang and Liu Xiaojiang retired as the political commissars of the PLA Second Artillery Corps and Navy respectively. Zhang is the son of former Central Military Commission deputy chairman Zhang Zhen, while Liu is former party general secretary Hu Yaobang’s son-in-law and the son of Red Army veteran Liu Haibin. Both generals had turned 65 – the army’s maximum retirement.

  • Typist sentenced to death in China for leaking military secrets
Source: South China Morning Post, (DoP): January 2, 2015

A young typist who worked at a Chinese military manufacturer’s research centre that was developing a secret weapons system has been sentenced to death for spying for a foreign intelligence agency.
Yu Hongyang, a member of staff at an unnamed research office, was said to have damaged national security by leaking state secrets, The Global Times reported.
He was caught by the Ministry of State Security for allegedly buying secret information and then selling it in an ‘extremely severe’ case that warranted the death penalty.

  • PLA launches website for military equipment procurement
Source: ECNS.CN, (DoP): January 4, 2015

The Chinese PLA has launched a website www.weain.mil.cn for the procurement of military equipment.
The website will mainly publish new demands for military equipment on the first working days in January and July. It will include information on policy and rules, product technology, equipment knowledge, and services. Users of the website are divided into three groups with different access permissions – visitor, registered user, and certified user. The Chinese military has been pushing for reforms of military procurement as part of a larger government procurement reform effort.

  • China to achieve mass delivery of ‘Pterosaur’ UAV in 2015
Source: China Military Online, (DoP): January 5, 2015

The Pterosaur, a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) independently developed by China, has ushered in its maiden test flight in formations in early 2015. The mass delivery of this type of UAV can be expected this year.
With a body length of more than 9 meters and a wingspan of 14 meters, the Pterosaur UAV may stay in the air for a long time.
Flying in formations may help the Pterosaurs collaborate better during tasks performance, which is also a big test for the control system.
After more than 20 minutes of flying over mountainous in south China’s Guizhou province, the Pterosaurs found the airport accurately and landed successfully.

  • ‘Red Army’ division conducts winter training
Source: China Military Online, (DoP): January 6, 2015

The military website publishes pictures showing troops marching in a desert with the following caption: “A ‘Red Army’ division of the Chinese PLA stationed in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region conducted a five-day-long winter training under frigid weather conditions from December 27 to 31, 2014.”

  • Political commissars promoted to serve in Xinjiang in PLA reshuffle
Source: South China Morning Post, (DoP): January 5, 2015

Three political officers have been promoted to serve in the Lanzhou Military Area Command, the latest personnel changes in a major reshuffle within the PLA.
Lieutenant General Liu Lei, the former military political commissar in Xinjiang, has been promoted in the same role in Lanzhou MAC.
Lanzhou command oversees the restive Xinjiang region, as well as the neighbouring northwestern provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi and Qinghai, and the Ningxia region. Liu replaces Lieutenant General Miao Hua, who has become political commissar in the PLA Navy.
Liu, 57, who originally comes from Shandong province, joined the army when he was 16. He has spent more than 40 years serving in the northeast of China, including Lanzhou, Xinjiang and southern Xinjiang (opposite Ladakh).

  • China's J-10B fighter superior to main fighters of neighbors
Source: China Military Online, (DoP): January 6, 2015

Zhang Zhaozhong, a military expert at the National Defense University (NDU), said in an interview that the J-10B fighter is at least 30 percent better than the J-10A fighter in overall performance.
In addition, it possesses advantages as compared with the third-generation fighters of China’s neighboring countries and the 3.5-generation fighters deployed in the Asia Pacific Region by the U.S.. The J-10B fighter possesses advantages and does not lag behind, said the expert.
The website published pictures showing 14 J-10B fighters painted with the mark of the PLAAF on the parking apron at the airport of the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Co., Ltd.. This type of modified fighter will possibly be deployed by the PLAAF, according to a recent report on the website of the Jane's Defense Weekly.


  • PLA orders combat officers and commissars to trade places to boost fighting capability
Source: South China Morning Post, (DoP): January 11, 2015

The PLA has ordered combat officers and those in charge of political training at the grass-roots level to switch posts to improve both fighting capability and political loyalty of the army.
The new measure will apply to chief officers at all grass-roots units in the army and the armed police, according to a circular quoted by the PLA Daily.
The report said that President Xi Jinping wanted officers to have wider training early in their careers. "The circular will have a positive impact to help cultivate officers who show talent in both military and political affairs," the report said.
Political officers and commissars are in charge of ensuring the loyalty and political correctness of the army. Usually they have different career paths from combat officers.
The circular said the scheme would be expanded to all grass-roots units. But the army would still find ways to ensure the continuity of officers' career paths even though they would be moved around more often.

  • Hundreds of Chinese reported trapped as rebels battle government in north Myanmar: report
Source: South China Morning Post, (DoP): January 19, 2015

Beijing says it is investigating reports that hundreds of Chinese citizens are caught in fighting between government troops and rebels in Myanmar's Kachin state - but it has confirmed that some of its nationals were arrested earlier this month on suspicion of illegal logging.
The Global Times reported yesterday that hundreds of Chinese citizens, including jade dealers, gold miners and lumberjacks, were among 2,000 civilians trapped, citing an unidentified intelligence official for a Myanmar rebel group.
Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that China was investigating the report, but confirmed that Chinese citizens had been detained on suspicion of illegal logging. He did not say how many. Hong confirmed that Beijing had requested that the Myanmese government protect their safety and rights.
Some 146 people, including 126 Chinese, were arrested in raids on illegal logging operations that began on January 4 in Kachin.

  • Go through hell to become a PLA 'hunter'
Source: People's Daily Online, January 14, 2015

2014 is the year that Wang Jianbo will never forget. He did not take a sensible job offer like most other people would do; instead, he stayed in the army, trained to be a PLA ‘hunter’, won a Third-Level Merit.
When Wang Jianbo was a new recruit, the movie Charging Out Amazon triggered his dream of being a ‘hunter’. In order to realize his dream, Wang kept challenging himself —extreme physical training or field survival; he never let any opportunity pass. In 2012, he successfully passed the selection process and joined the training team to become a PLA ‘hunter’.
Late one night in 2014, Wang was attacked in his sleep and realized the whole class was being kidnapped. Little could he have expected the torture that awaited him. He recalls being tied upside down and submerged in water but he refused to answer any of the kidnappers' questions. He almost suffocated once. But for all that, he never said a word to the enemy. At last, the ‘bad guys’ gave in. It turned out to be a test of physical strength and psychological endurance for the ‘hunters’.
After a series of harsh and testing training sessions, Wang Jianbo won himself the title of ‘air force excellent hunter’.

  • Xi calls out military corruption, forbids ‘non-salary income’
Source: Global Times, (DoP): January 19, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping targeted corruption among high-ranking military officers that any income other than their salaries is strictly forbidden, after the PLA announced investigation on 16 senior military officials.
The PLA Daily quoted Xi saying that military officers can only rely on their salaries for income. Any unapproved income or illegal gains will be investigated and punished.
The editorial emphasized that Xi in his speech was targeting senior military officers: “The fight against corruption begun in 2012 is not a selective investigation of a few corrupt officials, but rather a campaign to uphold the rule of law and to eliminate the root causes of corruption," adding that the real solution to prevent corruption is to institutionalize anti-graft efforts and public monitoring.
The editorial also said that achieving real results in the crackdown will require the military to create a ‘new norm’ in which military officers are no longer interested in taking bribes.

  • PLA deploys military training tasks in 2015
Source: China Military Online, (DoP): January 20, 2015

The website published photos of troops of a brigade of the Chinese PLA stationed in the southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region conducting training with weight at an altitude of over 4,500 meters.
The General Staff Headquarters (GSH) of the Chinese PLA recently issued the Instructions on Military Training Tasks in 2015 for the PLA deployed for military training tasks.
The Instructions clarified that the PLA and the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) shall constantly strengthen their actual-combat military training and improve the capability of winning local wars in information-based environment.
The Instructions also stressed the need to deepen strategic and campaign training, launch conditioned training between various services and arms, enhance night combat and training suiting modern wars and training in complex electromagnetic environment and special geographical environment and under extreme weather conditions, and expand joint military exercises, training and competitions with foreign countries.

  • Official offered bribes of 40 million yuan to boss in bid to escape corruption charges
Source: South China Morning Post, (DoP): January 23, 2015

A Chinese official offered bribes of more than 40 million yuan (US $ 6.5 million) to his boss in a last-ditch attempt to save himself after being charged with corruption.
Former lieutenant general Gu Junshan, who was deputy head of the PLA General Logistics Department, confessed – and reportedly implicated former general Xu Caihou – when he realised Xu could not save him from charges of embezzlement, bribery, misuse of state funds and abuse of power.
Gu, who was sacked after being detained in 2012, admitted offering bribes to Xu, who retired as vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission last year. Xu is now being investigated on suspicion of corruption.
Details of Gu’s attempts to escape justice – and subsequent confession that implicated Xu – were revealed in an article by Honesty Outlook, a Sichuan provincial magazine that focuses on anti-corruption.

  • Anti-graft drive will strengthen PLA
Source: China Daily, (DoP): January 27, 2015

China faces major as well as potentially minor security threats, and given the complicated international situation, the security environment in its neighborhood cannot be said to be satisfactory. This calls for further reform of the military, without which China cannot safeguard its national security.
The reform of China's military is also necessary to keep pace with the military buildup across the world and to cleanse the force of bad elements, especially senior officers, that have indulged in corruption and pomposity and thus lowered the morale of patriots.
An armed force's main responsibility is to safeguard a country's national security and defend its territorial integrity against attacks. With such a perception in mind, China's leadership under President Xi Jinping has accorded the highest priority to military reforms. The reforms are also expected to improve national governance.
The ever-intensifying anti-corruption campaign, which has netted ‘tigers’ (corrupt high-ranking officials) as well as ‘flies’ (lower-raking officials), has prompted some people to ask whether the campaign would affect the fighting spirit of the military.

  • PLA auditor refers more corruption cases to graft busters
Source: South China Morning Post, (DoP): January 29, 2015

The PLA auditor handed more corruption leads to graft busters in 2014 than in the previous 30 years, according to the PLA Daily.
Among the audited senior officials, 21 were expelled from their posts and 61 were’ disqualified’ from their jobs for causing ‘economic havoc’. Seventy seven officers were ‘invited for a talk’ and 144 were transferred to other posts.
The CMC took over control of the PLA audit office in November, a move experts said would strengthen President Xi Jinping’s campaign to root out widespread corruption in the armed forces.
Previously, the military audit office was affiliated with the PLA General Logistics Department – which has turned out to be one of the centres of corruption in the military that saw two department deputy chiefs in succession detained in corruption probes.

  • Defense Ministry's regular press conference
Source: Ministry of National Defence, (DoP): January 29, 2015

Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, the spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) answered reporters' questions during a regular press conference on January 29, 2015. Two questions were related to India.

Question: It is reported that the United States is helping India in intelligence gathering on China’s naval submarine activities in the Indian Ocean. What might be the impact of such intelligence exchange on the military-to-military relationship between India and China?

Answer: Actually I have noticed the report that you have mentioned. Acting in accordance with relevant UN resolutions, the Chinese military has sent various kinds of naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast to conduct escort missions since 2008. And in the process, we have notified relevant countries of the escort missions of the PLA naval ships, including the PLA naval submarines. In the future, the Chinese military will send different kinds of naval ships to take part in the naval escort missions in accordance with the situation and the requirement to fulfill the task. These are quite normal activities and there is no need to read too much into them.

Question: From what you said about the submarines and the surveillance in Indian Ocean, can I presume that now there will be more Chinese naval activities in Indian Ocean? And also, there was also criticism or question marks raised on what was the purpose of submarine deployment in anti-piracy operations. How China explains the participation of submarines in such activities?

Answer: Just as what I have said, China has sent various types of naval ships to take part in the escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast since 2008. And different types of naval ships play different roles in missions.
You also mentioned Chinese naval activities in the far seas. It is indeed true that China has sent more naval ships to the far seas and conducted many operations including the naval escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast. And also, the Chinese Navy has provided humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and medical services for relevant countries and areas, and conducted search and rescue operations in international waters.
By doing so, the Chinese Navy is providing more public security services to the international society, which is conducive to maintaining global peace and promoting common development.

  • China’s army must strictly obey Xi Jinping’s orders: PLA Daily
Source: Bloomberg, (DoP): January 28, 2015

Military newspaper's exhortation suggests dissent within the ranks over the president's far-reaching anti-corruption campaign
China’s military must ‘resolutely obey’ President Xi Jinping’s orders, says a commentary on the PLA Daily’s website, in a sign that Xi is seeking to quell possible dissent as his anti-corruption campaign penetrates deeper into the armed forces.
“Adherence to the Party’s absolute leadership is a founding principal of the army,” says a commentary.
All officers and soldiers should ‘resolutely obey’ the Communist Party and Central Military Commission chairman’s orders. Xi heads both the party and the commission, the highest military body.
The publication comes two weeks after 16 PLA generals were put under graft investigation as Xi seeks to root out corruption that he says undermines the military’s combat readiness.

  • Don’t shoot! Curious bullhead shark halts China military exercise
Source: South China Morning Post, (DoP): January 29, 2015

A bullhead shark stopped China’s naval flotilla in its tracks while it was conducting a military drill on an escort mission to the Gulf of Aden.
The PLA’s naval news portal reported that the flotilla, lead by replenishment ship Weishanhu, had laid out dozens of balloons at sea in a two-nautical-mile area as targets for its gunners.
But the bullhead shark appeared through gunner Tong Yang’s viewing scope as he was about to pull the trigger. It appeared to have been attracted by the colourful balloons and was playing around them.
Tong’s superior ordered him to hold fire, the report said. It did not specify when or where the exercise took place.
The PLA has been intensifying its military drills over the past two years, after President Xi Jinping ordered the troops to be combat-ready.

  • China stresses more anti-corruption efforts in military
Source: Xinhua, (DoP): January 30, 2015

The CMC asked the army to root out ‘chronic diseases’, seek both temporary and permanent solutions and fundamentally improve their work style.
The management and supervision of middle and high-ranking officers should be highlighted, said a document, adding zero tolerance stance must be insisted upon. "There should never be any sanctuary for corrupt officers in the military."
CMC’s Chairman Xi Jinping has said that corruption threatened the survival of the Party and called for serious reflection on the corruption case of Xu Caihou, former CMC vice chairman.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Buddhist Union – Spiritual Confluence or Geo-Politics?

The Dalai Lama meets senior Sri Lankan Buddhist monks
My article Buddhist Union – Spiritual Confluence or Geo-Politics? appeared in NitiCentral.

Here is the link...

On March 19, an unusual event happened in Delhi.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama met with a delegation of Sri Lankan Theros (senior monks), to discuss about Vinaya, the Buddhist monastic discipline. It is a rather rare occurrence, as the followers of the Buddha rarely ‘exchange’ their views on their respective interpretations of the Buddha’s words.
The Dalai Lama told his Sri Lankan colleagues: “We are all followers of the same Buddha. At a time when scientific minded people are expressing some doubts about religion, many of them are expressing an interest in aspects of the Buddha’s teachings.” The Tibetan leader added: “To think of yourself as different from them, as someone special, is to create distance and a barrier between yourself and others, which can lead to isolation and loneliness.”
It is unfortunately what has happened between the different Buddhist schools over the years (or perhaps centuries). The Sri Lankan monks who attended the meet, were the heads of the three principal traditions of Sri Lanka: the Ramanya, Shiyam and Amarapura Nikayas; the President of the Mahabodhi Society was also present. The spokesman of the Sri Lankans later explained their presence in Delhi: “We discussed the Vinaya all day. We compared the Theravada and Mulasarvastivada traditions, which are the Vinaya traditions of Sri Lanka and Tibet respectively, and found no significant differences between them.”
During their meeting with the Dalai Lama, the Theros expressed the unanimous wish to see him in Sri Lanka soon.
This religious happening has however some strong political connotation and it is a direct outcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Sri Lanka.
In Colombo, Mr Modi affirmed: “Sri Lanka is where Buddhism has truly flourished.” Later, he paid a visit to Sri Lanka’s ancient capital Anuradhapura and offered prayers at the sacred Mahabodhi tree. It was a strong gesture, especially as he was accompanied by the Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena. Both spent 30 minutes at the Mahabodhi tree temple and performed some special Buddhist rituals.
Already during his official visit to Japan, the Prime Minister had reminded his hosts: “Buddhism from India has inspired Japan for over a millennium.”
This is important at a time when China tries hard to take the leadership of the Buddhism movement in Asia.
On October 27, 2014, The Buddhist Channel, a global news platform which provides news on Buddhism, reported ‘China lays claims to Leadership of the Buddhist World’.
Xinhua elaborated: “Hundreds of the world's Buddhists gathered at an ancient temple in northwest China's Shaanxi Province to open the World Fellowship of Buddhists' 27th general conference. Congregating around a relic said to contain one of the Buddha's finger bones at the Famen Temple in Baoji City, more than 600 representatives from 30 nations and regions were in attendance.”
When it is convenient, Communist China believes in the Buddha (and in the reincarnation of Buddhist masters); already in 1957, on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of Gautam Siddharth’s birth, Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier (and hardcore Communist), brought ‘back to India’ some relics of the Great Monk.
Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, who, in October, attended the WFB in Shaanxi on behalf of the German Dharmadutta Society delegation from Sri Lanka, praised China: “Though not officially acknowledged, China is today home to between 200-300 million Buddhists thus making it the country with the world’s largest Buddhist population. The restored grand Buddhist temples in Baoji and in close by Xian, and the impressive Buddhist cultural display at the opening ceremony of the WFB meeting if is anything to go by, it indicates that Chinese Buddhism has undergone a remarkable revival.”
Beijing always finds sycophants to support its claims and eulogize China’s ‘correct’ attitude.
The highlight of the conference was the speech of the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, Gyalsten Norbu who urged Buddhists worldwide to jointly strive for deepened exchange and cooperation and work together to boost environmental protection and safeguard world peace. Norbu told the international gathering: “Buddhism has already integrated into the Chinese culture and it is recognized by the Chinese government. For over thousand years Tibetan Buddhism has become the precious gem of the Chinese nation.”
Of course, there is another side to the coin: while Buddhism is promoted for ‘political reasons’ outside China, it is banned for entire sections of the society inside the country.
One can understand: 200 or 300 million ‘official’ Buddhists could be very subversive for the regime. Today, the membership of the Communist party is a small percentage of these figures, how could Buddha be more popular than Karl Marx in the Middle Kingdom?
Till the recent meet between the Sri Lankan monks and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (known as the Nalanda tradition) has had very few contacts with the Theravada School or Hinayana, which is prevalent in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand or Laos. It is quite regrettable.
For political reasons (Beijing’s pressure), the Dalai Lama has never been able to visit Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar or even Bangladesh where a tiny Buddhist minority of Buddhist’s lives.
Sri Lanka’s Modi initiative is most welcome; the time has indeed come for Dharamsala to create a South Asian Bureau for Buddhists Affairs to facilitate a Buddhist Union. A delegation of respected (Tibetan or Indian) Buddhist figures should at the earliest visit the South Asian capitals and start establishing contacts with local Buddhists.
With the strong support of the Modi Sarkar, it should not be impossible.
In this perspective, it was refreshing that New Delhi took the initiative to host a dialogue between Theravada Theros and Tibetan/Himalayan monks of Nalanda tradition on some aspects of the Vinaya. It was a first exchange since decades.
The Vinaya dialogue was organised by the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC). It was a long way since November 2011, when before the Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC), organized by the Ashoka Mission in New Delhi (with an attendance of some 900 monks and nuns from over 40 countries), Beijing objected to the presence of the Dalai Lama in one of the functions. After China threatened to call off the 15th round of the border talks between the Special Representatives, the then Indian government backed out: both the Prime Minister and President were suddenly too ‘busy’.
Interestingly, the Sri Lankan and ‘Nalanda’ delegations informally met over tea at the residence of Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, a native of Arunachal Pradesh. The most respected Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, a former prime minister of the Central Tibetan Organization was present for the occasion.
This current dialogue should definitely be extended to other Buddhist countries of the region.
And there is no reason why a country which treats its religious minorities so badly, should take the leadership of the Buddhist movement in Asia. The problem is that Beijing has a lot of money to invest in ‘soft’ diplomacy and many are tempted.
Tail End: It is regrettable that Amartya Sen could not understand that it was one of roles of the Nalanda University to organize such fruitful dialogues.

Friday, March 20, 2015

'Comprehensive' infrastructure development on the Roof of the World

The Mainling Airport, north of the LAC
While the Tibetan Diaspora continues to debate which paths to take for future Tibet (Independence or the Middle Path), China is building up at mad pace its infrastructure on the Roof of the World: whether it is expansion of existing airports, new highways or railway lines.
And there is no question of debate or discussions for China, Beijing is just forging ahead rapidly.
I have already mentioned the roads to the border in a recent post.

Expansion of airports
China Tibet Online announced a few days ago that, on March 15, the construction of an expansion project for Mainling County Airport in Nyingchi (Nyingtri) Prefecture, north of the Indian border of Arunachal, has started.
That is not all, the Lhasa Gongkar Airport and Chamdo Bangda Airport are also being expended “to ease the pressure of increasing passenger traffic coming in and out of Tibet.”
Let us remember that 15 million Chinese tourists visited the Roof of the World (TAR only) in 2014.
The reports says that Mainling/Nyingchi Airport is located in the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) valley at an attitude of 2,900 meters (it is the ‘lowest’ airport in Tibet).
China Tibet Online adds that this is part of China's “efforts to raise Tibet’s civil aviation capacity and safety standards, while also supporting Tibet’s economic and social development.”
In other words, the policy to ‘invade’ Tibet with tourism will continue.
The website states that “At the start of the second half of 2014, 800 million yuan (US$ 130 million) were invested in ‘airport expansion projects’ in Lhasa, Chamdo, and Nyingchi.
Wang Dasong, director of the Mainling Airport explained that the project had been officially sanctioned in June 2014: “[it] was based on the need to meet estimated passenger traffic of 750,000 people and a targeted cargo handling capacity of 3,000 tons by the year 2020.”
It will include a new 10,360-square-meter terminal, a 3,000-square-meter 'comprehensive' [everything is 'comprehensive these days in China] safe house, a new fire station and some pump stations; the restoration of the old terminal will cost 270 million yuan (US$ 45 million).
This airport is the most strategic airport vis-a-vis the Indian border in Arunachal as it is located a few kilometers north of the McMahon line (LAC) only.
Lhasa Gongkar Terminal

For the Lhasa airport, the 12th Five-Year Plan  allotted 170 million yuan for the relocation of the Gongkar Airport air traffic control tower. The work started in March 2015.
While in Chamdo, the construction of a second runway has begun in November 2014.
A Chinese official website explains: “In recent years, the growth rate of tourists entering Tibet has been comparatively large, especially during the peak tourism season, due to the rapid development of tourism in Tibet as well as increasingly strong international ties. So much so, that it is often the case that ‘one plane ticket is hard to get’, which prompted a need for Tibet Airlines to increase their transportation capacity.”
For Beijing, this is always good as these airports can also be used for military purposes, if need be.
The number of flights is also expanding. On March 19, Xinhua announced the opening of a new flight between Guangzhou Baiyun Airport and Nyingchi Mainling Airport.
China Southern Airline will now fly non-stop between Guangzhou and Nyingchi on every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The flight time is about three and a half hours. Comparatively, it used to take a night and two days for the same travel. "The new line is more convenient and efficient", says Xinhua.

Railway lines
An indication of what is coming in terms of railways could be heard during the Two Sessions recently held in Beijing.
The same China Tibet Online reported: “During the ongoing national ‘Two Sessions', a proposal submitted by Losang [Lobsang?] Sherdun, a CPPCC member from western Tibet's Ngari Prefecture, highlighted how the locals in his region have expectations for a railway.”
Lhasa Railway Station
Losang said: “Though a number of projects have consistently lead to a higher quality of life, where the people of Ngari lag behind is in transportation infrastructure, which has had an impact on the regional economic and social development.”
Losang/Lobsang is said to be Vice Chairman of the regional CPPCC of Ngari Prefecture.
For Beijing, it is an indirect way to announce the forthcoming railway line: one ‘deputy’ requesting the Central Government to help the masses.
In turn, it will help the masses  ...of Chinese tourists and ...the PLA posted near the Ladakh border.
The Tibetan deputy affirmed: “with the rapid development of tourism in Ngari and the progress of China's Western Development plans, passenger and freight volume in and out Ngari have been rising annually by an average of 45 percent. But the major means of transportation in the region remains road transportation, with support from air transportation [Ngari airport], which in itself is very limited and hinders the exports of locally produced goods.”
Losang’s 'proposal' is likely to be 'accepted' by the Central Government in Beijing: extension of the Southern Xinjiang Railway and Lhasa-Shigatse Railway to Ngari will ‘provide a rare opportunity for Ngari’, commented the website.
But that is not all. The Sichuan delegation at the National People's Congress made a similar request: “thee Sichuan-Tibet railway [lines] should be incorporated into the country's next five-year plan.”
The delegation requested Beijing for a special fund allotted for the 1,800-kilometer line which will connect Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, to Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It will cost some 200 billion yuan (US $32 billion).
As mentioned earlier, the construction of Lhasa to Nyingchi and the Chengdu to Ya'an lines started last year.
The delegation was particularity keen on 2 sections, i.e. Ya'an to Kangding and from Kangding to Nyingchi. It should start during the current year, they requested.
The Chinese website concluded: “After completion, the railway will form a ring with the Qinghai-Tibet line, which began operation in 2006. …The 13th Five-Year Plan will cover 2016 to 2020. By the time it gets underway, Sichuan will have nearly 7,000 kilometers of railway.”
Wei Hong, Sichuan's Governor affirmed during the Beijing Meet that the railway will improve regional transportation capacity and integrate Tibet more closely with other parts of China and …it will play an important role for the proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, ‘promoting ethnic unity and stability.’
How the railway lines in the landlocked Sichuan will help the Maritime Silk Road is however not clear?
Any excuse is probably good to get funds in China.

Developments of Roads and Highways
Same tactic for the roads and highways: Beijing asked the ethnic faces to make a ‘request’ for the masses.
Gyare Lozang Tenzin, a Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region declared in Beijing: "The length of highways opened to traffic in Tibet reaches 70,591 kilometers, but there is still no expressway in the real sense in Tibet."
China Tibet Online commented: “In July 2014, China's Ministry of Transport reported that China aims to extend highways in the Tibet Autonomous Region to 110,000 kilometers, expand railways to 1,300 kilometers, and increase travel by civil aviation to seven million passenger journeys by 2020.”
Xinhua reported that Tibet had invested 16.1 billion yuan (3 billion US $) into road construction in 2014, opening 4,332-kilometer new roads to traffic.
This is in addition to the Lhasa-Shigatse railway which was inaugurated in August 2104.
Xinhua admited: “Even though Tibet's transportation has seen leapfrog development in recent years, the conditions and networks in remote agricultural and pastoral areas still need further improvement.”
And as mentioned earlier on this blog, more and more roads leading to the Indian border are being built: “In recent years, road traffic rapidly develops in Nyingchi prefecture, especially in rural areas. Data shows that the total length of road up to 5,351 kilometers in Nyingchi Prefecture, and the rate of road access in towns and villages respectively occupy 96.3 pct. and 95.7 pct."
On the Indian side, the Border Road Organisation (BRO) is still struggling against inertia, bureaucracy, corruption, difficult terrain and other difficulties.

A consoling news?
The Chinese Defence Ministry recently affirmed that a road linking a village on border with Vietnam to Chinese city 100 km away would 'definitely be serious threat to national defence and security'.
The South China Morning Post reported: "China’s People’s Liberation Army halted a city government’s road construction project on the border with Vietnam last month because of fears it could be used as a shortcut for a 'Vietnamese invasion'."
A PLA officer in charge of border affairs in Fangchenggang city, in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region said that if finished, the road would “definitely become a serious threat to national defence and security”.
The two-lane road would have linked the village of Tansan, on the border with Vietnam, to the centre of Fangchenggang city, about 100 km away.
The PLA warned the residents of Tansan about the rationale of the move: "If war broke out between the nations, Vietnamese troops could use the road to launch an attack on the Chinese army."
Well, I always thought that it is an old Indian theory, held in the 1950s by the Indian ministry of Defence and External Affairs: "let us not built roads in NEFA, the Chinese can use them!!".
China even steals India's War Theories now!