Friday, October 20, 2017

The Communist High-Mass

The High-Mass of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has started.
Every five years, it follows the same precise ritual. The outgoing CCP’s General Secretary (in the present case, Xi Jinping), gives a 3 hour long speech, describing the internal and external changes facing the country, which the party needs to address.
Everything is scripted.
First, the election of 2287 delegates to the 19th Congress which took place months ago, among 40 ‘electoral blocs’ – representing each of China’s 31 provinces as well as the central party organs, national State institutions, the People’s Liberation Army, etc.
There are two types of delegates, the ‘big shots’ who will make it to the 200-odd member Central Committee (CC) and the ‘grass-root’ delegates which count for nearly half of the delegates; and five or seven ‘big ones’ who will eventually reach the Communist Paradise, the Politburo’s Standing Committee.
The Party Congress has three main purposes.
First, it establishes a new party line to be followed for five years; the Congress is the authoritative body to do so. The ‘draft’ read by the General Secretary has been seen and commented by thousands and hundreds of amendments have already been incorporated.
Alice Miller, one of the best experts in CCP’s affairs wrote: “Over the course of its session, a party congress sets down a consensus evaluation of the party’s work over the five-year period since the preceding congress and an assessment of the party’s present situation, and it sets forth general guidelines—the party’s line—for the party’s priorities, emphases, and tasks for the coming five-year period until the next congress.”
At the end, a resolution will endorse Xi Jinping’s speech establishing the party’s consensus on all policies that the party leadership will face.
Then, according to the Constitution, a CC Plenum must convene at least once a year to follow up on the directions given by the Congress.
The second purpose of the Meet is to revise the Party’s Constitution and introduce changes such as a new theory, a brain-child of the current Secretary General.
Finally, the Congress nominates a new leadership for the five years to come. It includes the CC whose plenums give directions to the Party between two Congresses, but also some 170 alternate members whose role is replace the CC’s full-members when required (when full members are sent to jail for corruption for example), as well as a new Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CDIC), whose job is to tackle corruption.
Finally, before the Congress closes its doors, the CC’s first Plenum will appoint the top party leadership. It also nominates the all-powerful Central Military Commission, a new Secretariat (the body that facilitates the implementation of Politburo decisions) as well as the State Council or Cabinet, headed by the Premier, usually the No 2 in the Party’s hierarchy.
During his speech on October 18, President Xi Jinping outlined his vision for the next five years of China’s development. According to The South China Morning Post, “he vowed to step up ideological guidance within the party, strengthen its anti-corruption campaign, retain the government’s grip on Hong Kong and Macau, and oppose any moves towards independence in Taiwan.”
One of the most expected parts of the speech was the inclusion of Xi’s so-called political philosophy; it will thereafter be known as ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era’.
The new motto will be repeated thousand times all-over the Middle Kingdom. It is said that there are 14 elements behind the elaborated concept; the first is that Party should lead in every aspect of life in China. Xi declared that “the dream of national rejuvenation would only be a fantasy without the leadership of China’s Communist Party. The party should lead in all areas and the authority of the party central leadership should be respected.”
Other highlights are ambitious targets to be achieved during the next 30 years and more, “From 2035 to 2050, China should become a nation with pioneering global influence.” The momentum of the anti-corruption campaign is ‘irreversible’ and rule by law would be maintained.
Of course, national security would be boosted and the Party would resolutely protect its sovereignty and interests. Xi spoke of ‘historical breakthrough’ in national defence and military reform: “The navy has protected the nation’s maritime interest and its army rapidly upgraded its weaponry. …The People’s Liberation Army should be a ‘world class’ force by 2050.”
Some in India may think, it is not necessary to worry; 2050 is far-away. However it is crucial to watch the CMC’s new composition. It may bring radical changes and surprises which could determine if new ‘Doklam’ incidents would take place in the years to come.
Sharp observers have predicted that the number of Vice-Chairmen of the Commission may go from two to four. Some of Xi Jinping’s close allies are expected to be promoted.
One is General Zhang Youxia, director of the Equipment Development Department, who is tipped to become one of two vice chairmen, while present vice chairman, Xu Qiliang, is expected to stay on. Zhang, like Xi is native from the northwestern province of Shaanxi and both he and Xi are children of former senior PLA officials.
The other two candidates are Li Zuocheng, director of the Joint Staff Department and Miao Hua, the new head of the Political Department; they may also make it.
Whether China will follow a ‘peaceful rise’ or a more tumultuous one, will depends on the capacity of Xi to impose a ‘rule of law’.
If the generals remain ‘wild’ as in the past, India may have to face a serious situation.
The battle is not yet played out.

The Tibetans in full costume 
Apart from the Secretary General's speech,  is it interesting to look at the attire of the delegates.
On the second day of the 19th Congress, the delegates of the 31 provinces met separately.
While most of the delegates wore suit and tie, the Tibetans had to show off their regional attire.
Just have a look at these photos.
Hubei Province delegation
Anhui Province delegation
Yunnan Province delegation

Fujian Province delegation
Delegation of the central financial organs

Qinghai Province delegation
Guangdong Province delegation

Gansu Province delegation

Zhejiang Province delegation
And now the Tibetan delegation.
Out of 29 delegates, 11 Tibetans are from the 'grass root'.
While the 'big shots', from the regional Standing Committee of the Tibetan Autonomous Region like Wu Yingjie, Lobsang Gyaltsen or Che Dralha wore suits and ties, the 'grass root' delegates have no choice but to show their regional costumes.
It is always a great attraction for the journalists and photographers.
Can it be considered as a display of Tibetan culture?
Are the delegates just for the show in Beijing ?
Difficult to say.






Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Join the People’s Liberation Army ...to get richer

Maj Gen Thubten Thinley
When the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entered Lhasa in September 1951, General Zhang Jingwu, the representative of the CPC’s Central Committee told Sumul Sinha, the head of the Indian Mission in Lhasa that the Chinese had come to Tibet for two reasons only (he spoke of ‘a dual mission’): to eliminate all imperialist influences and to improve the standard of living of the Tibetans.
Of course, there was no ‘imperialist influence’ on the Roof of the World, but poverty was there.
What is surprising is that, 66 years later, the Chinese government still speaks about fighting poverty alleviation in Tibet.
An article in China Tibet Online recently noted: “Through the establishment of archives, and accurate identification of those requiring help, the number of poverty-stricken people has reduced by more than 500,000 in the last four years. The Tibet Autonomous Region's Poverty Alleviation Office has gradually established a targeted poverty alleviation system, whereby the causes of poverty are analyzed and the limited special funds are used on the poor people.”
Apart from the Targeted Poverty Alleviation, the article speaks of Industry Poverty Alleviation, Education Poverty Alleviation, Tourism Poverty Alleviation, Health Poverty Alleviation, while asserting: “Tibet explores the practice of ‘the rich helping the poorer to wealth’, and uses the capable people as one of the main driving forces of poverty alleviation.”
One Tsering, deputy director of the Lhasa Poverty Alleviation Office, told the website: "these capable people have experience, skills and the mind, and also have the ability to help the poor escape poverty. With some help they are running a series of projects, which can provide the poor families with an income salary as well as a bonus and other secure incomes. The results are clear to see.”
Perhaps, but there is another way to alleviate poverty.


Join the People’s Liberation Army
One of the surprises in the PLA list of 253 delegates to the 19th Congress opening today in Beijing, is the inclusion of the name of Maj Gen Thubten Thinley (土旦赤列 - Tu-dan Chi-lie).
Who is General Thubten Thinley?
He is a 56 year-old Tibetan, born in December, 1961 in Lhasa.
Maj gen Ngawang Sonam
He is the senior most serving Tibetan officer with Maj Gen Ngawang Sonam who is posted in Qinghai.
Thubten Thinley was admitted to the Communist Party in July, 1987 after spending three years in the lower ranks of the PLA.
Prior to joining the military, he completed a four year university course and then did a couple of mid-career stints at the Central Party School in Beijing.
Thubten Thinley entered the PLA through the back door rather than as a foot soldier.
He joined as an educated historian and would-be journalist just out of college and then gravitated, step by step, in the direction of political propaganda, military recruitment and the promotion of military-civilian relations. 
It is here that his career is interesting: he has been specializing in military recruitment and the promotion of military-civilian relations.
It means that his job is to recruit Tibetans in the PLA.
It is part of the poverty alleviation program  though not officially listed by the TAR government. 
For China, it makes sense to enroll more Tibetans in the PLA (it is said that there are already 10% of ‘ethnic’ Tibetans posted in the Tibet Military District of the Western Theater Command).
How the Tibetans Diaspora will react to the new move, is not clear?
The shift will probably be ignored, which not be healthy in the long run.
For India, it means that the Indian Army will have to face more Tibetans in their future confrontations with the PLA.
A question however remains: how ‘safe’ is it for China to have too many ‘ethnic’ jawans in the PLA.
The selection of General Thubten Thinley is nonetheless a clear indication of the importance attached by Beijing to the 'poverty alleviation' program, via ‘local’ Army enrollment.

Bio of Maj Gen Thubten Thinley
September 1980
Spent four years at what is now called Xizang Minzu University where he became a History major. The University is located outside all the Tibetan areas of China in Shaanxi Province near the city of Xian. It began in 1958 with the name ‘Tibet Public School’ and upgraded in 1965 to the ‘Tibetan Nationality Institute’. The university was again upgraded in 2015

September 1984
Joined the Political Department of the PLA in Tibet where he edited a journal dealing with the Tibet Militia. His editorial status was equivalent to a full Platoon leader level.

August 1985
Continued with the same editorial team but his work status was raised to Deputy Company leader.

December 1986
Transferred and reassigned to the Secretarial Office of the Tibet PLA Political Department still at the Deputy Company leader level.

December 1988

Promoted to full Company work in the Secretarial Office of the PLA Political Department.

November 1990
Still in the PLA Political Department, transferred to its Masses Work Office keeping the same work status.

December 1991
Promoted to Deputy Battalion leader in Masses Work Office.

December 1994
Promoted to full Battalion leader work in the same Masses Work Office

April 1996
Promoted to Deputy Head of the Masses Work Office

October 1998
Was made concurrently Deputy Head of both the Secretarial and Masses Work Offices

March 1999
Appointed Director of the Political Department within the Logistics Department of the Tibet PLA

January 2001 — March 2003

He attended training classes at the Central Party School in Beijing

April 2005
Became Political Officer for Tibet PLA Army Committee charged with preparing for the induction and assignment of new troops

January 2006 — September 2008
He attended courses in the Graduate School of the Central Party School in Beijing

May 2008
Deputy Director of the Tibet PLA Political Department

July 2008
Deputy Director of the Masses Work sub-office under the General Office of the General Political Department (Central Military Commission) in Beijing (a full Division level position)

December 2009

Political Commissar of the Lhasa Garrison Command

April 2010

Member of the Lhasa Party Standing Committee, Political Commissar of the Lhasa Garrison Command of the Tibet Military District

March 2013

Promoted to PLA Deputy Political Commissar in the Tibet Military District

April 2014

TAR Deputy Political Commissar, Deputy Group leader for the TAR Leading Small Group on Conscription

June 2014
Promoted to PLA Deputy Commander in Tibet (upgraded to 1st class 正军级 in 2016)

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Indian government might well be asking, 'what will China do next?'

My article The Indian government might well be asking, 'what will China do next?' appeared in Mail Today/Daily Mail (UK).

Here is the link...

Post-Doklam, many observers, whether in the defence services or government circles, have been thinking “what could China do next to put India’s in its place.”
Of course, Luo Zhaohu, the Chinese Ambassador in India, spoke of ‘turning the page to a new chapter’. Can India believe him?
In an oped in a national newspaper, Luo says that the outcome of the August BRICS Summit in Xiamen (China) went beyond his expectations: “An important consensus has been reached to enhance mutual trust, focus on cooperation, and manage differences.” Luo even quotes the Chinese President: ‘the dragon and elephant should dance together’.
Mr Luo is lucky that the Indian media is Alzheimerish and has already forgotten the nasty words used by Chinese officials against Indian leaders during the Doklam episode, because Delhi did not allow mighty China to build a road on Bhutan’s territory.

Chinese woman
 Incidentally, how could Beijing have engaged in this misadventure without a sort of ‘clearance’ from its man on the spot (in India)?
On its part, China has not forgotten the standoff on the ridge near the trijunction; while the Ambassador speaks of ‘turning a page’, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) cancelled the ceremonial border personnel meetings (BPM) to mark China's National Day on October 1.
Several times every year, the PLA and the Indian Army meet at five designated Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) points along the 3,488-km long Line of Actual Control (LAC); in Ladakh (Chushul and DBO), in Arunachal (Bumla and Kibithoo) and in Nathu-la in Sikkim.
Local commanders (usually the brigade commanders) meet their Chinese counterparts to sort out differences on local issues, but also to get know each other. This is an excellent confidence building measures during which ‘gifts’ such cigarettes, liquors, etc are exchanged. The fact that it was not held on October 1 shows that the PLA is not ready to close the chapter.
India Today commented: “the suspension of scheduled confidence-building measure between the two militaries comes at a time when China appears to be reaching out to India to normalise relations after the Doklam stand-off.”
But that is not all: the annual joint exercise between the Indian Army and the PLA will not be held in 2017.
Called ‘Hand-in-Hand’, it was held in Pune last year. The Indian and Chinese troops simulated counter-terrorism scenarios and worked together during a couple of weeks. Again a good CBM cancelled. In March 2017, Delhi wrote to Beijing to start the initial planning process; no answer from China.
China has also not provided data for the Sutlej and the Yarlung Tsangpo, as per the agreement signed by the two countries. Some vague excuses have been given for not doing so.
In this morose context, an incident took place in Dharamsala, the hometown of the Dalai Lama in Himachal Pradesh.
On October 1 (incidentally, the Chinese National Day), a Chinese woman, a long-term guest in India, holding a US passport, physically assaulted a Tibetan woman “hurling verbal abuses and also vandalizing a part of the photo exhibition set up by our NGO near the Dalai Lama’s Temple, in McLeod Ganj,” according to the Police complaint.

Physical assault
 A Dharamsala-based Tibetan NGO called Gu-Chu-Sum, started by former Tibetan political prisoners, had organized a photo exhibition to mark the 30th anniversary of 1987 Tibetan unrest in Tibet. The exhibition was held at proximity of the main Temple.
According the complaint: “While hundreds of other foreigners, Indian tourists and local people visited the exhibition, this Chinese woman, Ms Zhu Wenqi, 44, objected to the photo exhibition saying that she was angry with these photo exhibits. She was visibly restless and beyond control. Ms Wen shouted verbal abuses against all Tibetans saying that these photos insult China.”
She attacked Namgyal Dolkar Lhagyari, a Member of the Tibetan Parliament and Gu-Chu-Sum president, when the latter tried to pacify her; the correspondent of Voice of America (Tibetan language) who was filming the scene, was hit in the face and thrown on the floor by Zhu.
The NGO told the police “We fear she may unleash more such violent abuses. Her presence in here is clearly a threat to the peace and tranquility of Dharamsala.”
Though there is no proof that the Chinese lady is linked to the regime in Beijing, the attack however raises serious issues.

Troop movement
 First for the Dalai Lama’s security: Zhu recently appeared on a photo with a group of Chinese inside the Cathedral. Are all the followers/students of the Tibetan leader properly screened?
Second, how did Zhu get a five-year visa to ‘study’ in India? Who provided the guarantee for her visa?
Even presuming that she was a genuine ‘student’ at the time of application, is there a way to keep a tab on all ‘Buddhist’ and other seekers gravitating around Dharamsala? How far is the Himachali town infiltrated by the Chinese intelligence? All these questions need to be answered.
For the past fifty-five years, the Tibetan refugee community has been an exemplary and peaceful community in India. This should remain so and the Tibetans should not be disturbed by unwarranted elements.
Whatever the results of the enquiry, Delhi needs to realize that the Chinese ‘answer’ to Doklam may not be visible on a mountain ridge in Arunachal Pradesh or Ladakh, but may be ‘asymmetric’.
Today, it is obvious that the Doklam page has not been turned; for example, as Indian Foreign Secretary landed in Paro to take stock of the relations with Bhutan, there are persistent rumors that the PLA has massed troops in the Chumbi valley, north of Doklam.
Delhi needs to remain fully alert and ready to tackle any situation, military or otherwise.

Monday, October 2, 2017

New infrastructure developments in Tibet

Lhasa-Lhoka Express Highway
Yesterday the Lhasa-Nyingchi (or Nyingtri in Tibetan) High Grade Highway was opened for trial operations.
Quoting from the TAR’s transportation department, Kangba TV reported: “except Songduo Tunnel and Milashan Tunnel, Lhasa-Nyingchi High Grade Highway has been well prepared and begins trial operation from October 1.”
The four-lane Lhasa-Nyingchi High Grade Highway is 398 km long; it is designed for a 80 km/h speeed.
According to the Chinese media: “The operation of Lhasa-Nyingchi High Grade Highway shortens the travel time between Lhasa and Nyingchi from 10 hours to four hours, which can greatly improve the traffic condition of the golden tour line as well as boost local economy development.”
The train on the same route should follow in a couple of years.

The Rongme Ngatra tunnel
Another project, termed as the world's highest highway tunnel, was also recently opened to traffic.
The China Daily wrote: “The Que'ershan Tunnel, stretching 12.997 kilometers on National Highway No.317, in Ganzi, Sichuan province, opens to traffic on September 26, 2017. It is said to be the world's highest tunnel on a highway. The tunnel, whose highest point is 4,378 meters above sea level, was completed 15 years after the launch of the project.”
Que'ershan  is the Chinese name for the Rongme Ngatra is the highest peak of the Chola Mountains in the Kham region (today’s Sichuan).
According to the press release: “With the opening of the tunnel, it takes only 10 minutes to pass through the perilous and steep Que'ershan Mountain that stands 6,168 meters above the sea level. The project is projected to become a new impetus to help drive the economic and social development of the remote Tibetan region.”
The project is part of a highway (NH 317) between Nagchu and Chengdu.
Chengdu, Sichuan via Garzi (756 km), Dege (960), Jomda (1070), Chamdo (1298), Riwoche (1403) Dengchen (1546) Bachen (1782), Sog (1812) and Nagchu (2043).

The Tibet-Nepal Road
On August 29, 2017, the Kyirong-Nepal border post was reopened for foreign travelers.
The Middle East North Africa Financial Network reports: “It not only saves the expensive flight cost but also offers a superb overland landscape along the driving trip.”
Located in the Kyirong County, Shigatse, Kyirong border post is a vital landport between Tibet and Nepal.
Kyirong border is located 85 km away from Nepal's capital Kathmandu; from China-Nepal highway section, Kyirong docking distance is only about 30 km.
Interesting, the article mention that it is the terminus of the National Highway 216 (Xinjiang-Tibet Highway second line). I mentioned earlier about this extremely important development ('A new road between Tibet and Xinjiang').

The website gives the historic background of Kyirong border post:
  1. In 789 AD, according to legend, when Nepal's Princess Bhrukuti married the Tibetan King Songtsan, she followed the trekking route to Tibet via Kyirong Border. Kyirong border was the main channel of the political and cultural communication between China and Nepal, but also the traditional border trade market. Tibetan people main export sheep to Nepal.
  2. In 1972, China's State Council has approved Kyirong Border become a national second-class land port and set up the departments such as customs and commodity inspection department. But trade market and the departments in Kyirong Border were closed later because of the prosperity of Zhangmu port.
  3. In 1987, China's State Council has approved Kyirong Border for the national first-class land port. Except for barter transactions, Nepalese currency, and RMB is also as a means of payment.
  4. In 2014, China government decided to expand the opening in Kyirong Border.
  5. However, in 2015, the road to the Kyirong border has been severely damaged by the heavy earthquake in Nepal. Therefore, the Kyirong border was closed for foreign travelers. Besides, in June 2016, heavy monsoon rains along the Kyirong border caused severe damage to the roads.
  6. On August 29, 2017, Kyirong border in Tibet was reopened for foreign travelers.
In April 2017, I posted this article, also on the infrastructure

Bridge over the Tsangpo
Last week, Xinhua announced the construction of a new 'scientific' observation station in Metok, north of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh: “The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) will build a new observation station in Tibet, to assist research and monitoring of the ecological system in the southeast of the Autonomous Region,” said an official release.
The station is located in Deshing village of Metok County, north of the McMahon Line.
It will cover 2,600 square meters and will be completed by October 2017.
Zhu Liping, a researcher with Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Research Institute (under the CAS) explained: “Rich in bio-diversity, Metok plays a special role in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau ecosystem."
It is also one of the most strategic places on the plateau.
Officially, it will be not only used for observing vegetation, glaciers, lakes and atmosphere, but also researching and monitoring bio-diversity and its impacts on climate change.
It is too close to India to believe that it will only observe wild animals and glaciers; specially when one knows that this area, the lowest part of the plateau, has very few glaciers.
The CAS also affirmed that the station is the latest of a series of observatories located in places such the Namtso lake, north of Lhasa and Mount Chomolangma (Everest).
The observatory may be watching birds, but let us not forget that any infrastructure development on the plateau has a dual use (civil and military).
It will certainly take a look at the 'birds' in Tuting Circle of Upper Siang too.

A Bridge over the Yarlung Tsangpo
Around the same time, Kangba TV announced the construction of a bridge at Mingze, (Mingtse?), near Tsetang on the way between Lhasa and Nyingtri (Nyingchi).
On March 25, the first bridge over Yarlung Tsangpo River on the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway line was completed.
A press release said that: “as the first completed bridge among the 16 ones over Yarlung Tsangbo River, it has accumulated valuable experience for bridge construction on high altitude areas.”
It is crucial portion of the 435 km Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway which is estimated to be finished in 7 years (as it started in November 2015, the line should be completed in 2022).
The train will run at a speed of 160km/h; in 2022, it will take less than 3 hours to travel (or bring troops) from Lhasa to Nyingchi.
The 3,376 m Mingze Bridge is one of key projects of Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway. It has 105 pier bodies, out of which 44 are on the Yarlung Tsangpo.


Lhasa-Lhoka (Shannan) Express Highway
Apart from the railway line, China is building a Lhasa-Lhoka (Shannan) Express Line (Highway), also part of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Highway.
On March 6, 2017, China Tibet News published some pictures of workers on the Lhasa-Lhoka Express Line driving an engineering vehicle. The news agency commented: “At present, the Lhasa-Shannan (Lhoka) Express Line project goes well. This project started on August 26, 2016. The whole line is 47.46 kilometers with bidirectional four roadways. [It is] designed speed is 80 kilometers per hour. The project can not only bring the benefits of development to both Lhasa and Shannan [Lhoka], but also has a positive significance to improving people’s livelihood and driving the accelerated development of the whole region’s economy industry chain.”
The highway will run in parallel to the train.
Both will have dual use.

New terminal opens at Nyingchi airport
But that is not all.
Xinhua announced the second-largest airport terminal in Tibet has started its operations in Nyingchi: “The new terminal, the sixth to open in Tibet, is located at Nyingchi Mainling Airport. It covers an area of 10,300 square meters and will be able to handle 750,000 passengers and 3,000 tons of cargo throughput annually by 2020.”
It is said that it will allow the airport to open new air routes, for example to Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. This will allow to greatly increase the traffic on the existing routes to Lhasa, Guangzhou, Kunming, Chongqing and Shenzhen.
Nyingchi is located at an average elevation of 2,950 meters above sea level.
Xinhua says: “The city has attracted more visitors in recent years thanks to tourist attractions such as its peach blossom festival.”
More than three millions according to Chinese statistics.
Incidentally, the Bayi Township owned by the People’s Liberation Army and located nearly is also served by the same airport.
The Indian border will be provided a good access to the PLA …in case.

The Lhasa-Nepal Railway
The other railway line from Lhasa/Shigatse to Kyirong on the Nepal border has been delayed by the 2015 earthquake whose epicenter was near Kyirong.
The area is fast recovering and according to Xinhua the total volume of trade at the border port of Kyirong hit 3.4 billion yuan (490 million U.S. dollars) in 2016, a 4.5-fold increase year over a year.
The magnitude 8.1 earthquake on April 25, 2015 had forced the closing of Zham and Kyirong ports. In October 2015, Kyirong was reopened for trade.
Slowly, Kyirong should take over Zham’s trade function, which used to clear about 90 percent of land-borne trade between China and Nepal before the earthquake, says the official Chinese news agency.
Yin Weifeng, deputy director of the Lhasa customs indicated: “Gyirong port is expected to become a major route for trade between China and Nepal.”
Nepal seems very keen on this.

Wu Yingjie and Nepal's Prime Minister
Nepal Prime Minister visits Tibet
On March 28, Wu Yingjie, Tibet’s Party Secretary met with visiting Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda. The chairman of the Standing Committee of the Autonomous Region People's Congress, Lobsang Gyaltsen and Che Dralha, the head of the Tibetan government were in attendance.
Wu Yingjie extended a warm welcome to Tibet to Prachanda: “The Nepalese government has always firmly adhered to the One-China policy and does not allow foreign forces to use Nepal's territory to engage in anti-China activities,” affirmed Wu.
Wu Yingjie pointed out that throughout the history, Chinese and Nepalese have been like 'lips and teeth’, like brothers.
Prachanda Prime Minister was on his way back from the annual Boao Forum for Asia; he had later stopped over in Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping and Vice Premiers Zhang Gaoli and Wang Yang. “The visit has achieved fruitful results”, according to Xinhua.
During his encounter with Wu, Prachanda said that Nepal highly appreciates the Chinese philosophy of fraternity, honesty, gratitude, and tolerance, and Nepal would continue to firmly adhere to the One-China policy and would not allow any forces (read Tibetan refugees) to engage in any anti-China activities in Nepalese territory.
On March 29, Prachanda returned to Nepal after spending some hours visiting the Tibetan capital.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Chairman Xi shuffles his pack as China begins to analyse the Doklam incident

My article Chairman Xi shuffles his pack as China begins to analyse the Doklam incident appeared in Daily Mail (UK) and Mail Today.

Here is the link...

While the Doklam incident is over and many still rejoice that India 'won' the battle, some uncertainty remains. And if corrective measures are not taken from the Indian side, it is clear that similar incidents will happen again with a different outcome the next time.
There is no doubt that China has started analysing the incident too. In this context it is interesting to look at the changes which have taken place in the Chinese defence forces since an agreement was found between Beijing and Delhi on Doklam.
First, it is obvious that China may remain belligerent for some time, partly because China had to withdraw from the Bhutanese territory without being able to build a road.
For example, the Communist media, particularly The Global Times, has gone ballistic against the Indian Army Chief: 'Rawat has such a big mouth that he could ignite the hostile atmosphere between Beijing and New Delhi. He not only turns a blind eye to international rules, but also made us see the arrogance probably prevailing in the Indian Army.'

Attack
For Beijing, attack remains the best form of defence, but vital changes have taken place within the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
On the positive side, some officials in Beijing seem to realise that aggression can lead China nowhere.
Maj Gen Qiao Liang, one of the best known military strategists and the co-author of Unrestricted Warfare, a book which created waves in strategic circles in the West, wrote in The Global Times: 'We should spare no efforts to avoid pushing the country into a war as peace is the best outcome.'
Qiao continued: 'Road construction in this area is not a matter of right and wrong, but we need to understand that it's not always right to do something right at any time.
'Only doing the right thing at the right time is correct… resorting to war is irresponsible. Whenever there may be a way to solve a conflict without war, war should be avoided.'
At the same time, Xi Jinping, the Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission (CMC), has undertaken an overhaul of the defence forces.
A few weeks before the Party's 19th Congress (scheduled to start on October 18), new faces have appeared on the scene; a massive reshuffle of the PLA's generals, not only at the Group Army (Corps) level but also at the top of the hierarchy, is ongoing.
Analysts believe that Xi is promoting his favourites to PLA's top posts to gain absolute control over the military; in the process, two top generals got sacked hardly a month before retiring.
Gen Fang Fenghui, the equivalent of the US Chief of Defence Staff, was replaced as Chief of the PLA's Joint Staff Department by Gen Li Zuocheng, a Xi protégé.
Fang and Gen Zhang Yang, another CMC member, will not even participate in the forthcoming Congress.
The rumour mill said that they were being 'investigated', a term not usually auguring well for the targeted person.
This may indicate bad days ahead for the generals.

Impermanence
By mid-October, out of 11 members of the CMC, only two may remain, the Chairman and Gen Xu Qiliang, one of the two serving vice-chairmen.
Note that in China, unlike democratic India, there is no fuss about 'seniority'; superseded generals have only to learn the meaning of 'impermanence'.
Remember the case of Lt Gen Yang Jinshan, a former Deputy Commander of the former Chengdu Military Region (MR), who served several years in Tibet. He was a rising star of the PLA; in 2012, he was even promoted to Central Committee, the Party's top heaven; at that time, he was senior to his direct boss, Li Zuocheng, who then commanded the MR.
Today, Yang Jinshan is languishing jail, being 'investigated' while Li Zuocheng is the powerful Chief of the Joint Staff Department. On September 1, Gen Han Weiguo, only 61, was appointed commander of the PLA Army and Gen Ding Laihang, 60, commander of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF).
Gen Han served in Fujian in the 1980s at the time Xi was Deputy Mayor of Xiamen, while Gen Ding's career also overlapped when the latter was Governor of Fujian Province.

Surprises

The recently-released list of PLA's delegates to the 19th Congress had some surprises. The 303 'elected' members belong to 31 different units, compared with 19 in 2012; one example, the new PLA Rocket Force is now represented.
More than 90 per cent of those 'elected' will be first-time attendees, representing a new generation of officers who will owe their rise to Chairman Xi only.
Further, according to The Asia Times, the ethnicity factor still plays a negative role in promotions: 'While sweeping military change is on the cards at China's upcoming communist party Congress, few expect ethnic minority officers from unstable regions to make top brass.'
Though there is a slight rise in the number of 'ethnic' delegates (6 per cent of the delegates are ethnic minority officers, from 4.6 per cent in 2012), their number is relatively small and they don't occupy important post.
The Asia Times noted: 'The Manchus and Tibetans will each send three delegates, while the Uyghur, Hui and Tujia will each put forward two. The Zhuang, Xibe, Korean, Qiang, Bai and Naxi ethnicities will each send one delegate to the Congress.'
This remains the PLA's Achilles' heel.
The future of the relations between India and China is undoubtedly linked to the outcome of the seismic changes in the PLA.
India should not only watch carefully, but also get its acts together, particularly in the field of border infrastructure.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tibet: China moving the West ...and the South

In the recent months, rapid developments have taken place in Western Tibet.
This will be the object of several posts.


Banning Foreign Tourists 
As the 19th Congress approaches, China is nervous.
The Chinese authorities have banned foreigners to travel to Tibet from October 18 to 28.
During this period, the crucial Congress will be held in Beijing.
On September 22, Radio Free Asia (RFA) asserted: “The ban was announced by telephone about ten days ago”.
A Tibetan working in a travel agency in Xining (in Qinghai province) told the radio’s Tibetan Service: “During this period, it is not just foreigners but also Tibetans living in the Amdo region of Qinghai who are not allowed to travel in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).”
Agence France Presse confirmed: “During the sensitive, high-level talks, Tibet will close its borders to foreigners, while visitors traveling the country during that period will likewise be required to leave by October 17.”
Usually, foreign visitors and Tibetans living in the Chinese western provinces are not allowed to visit Tibet in March, at the time of the Two Meetings and the anniversary of the Tibetan uprising on March 10.

Demonstration of Force
Incidentally, on September 26, the TAR held the Ninth Regional Congress in Lhasa.
According to the Chinese media: "Police officers and civilians, armed police and soldiers and other involved in the keeping the stability of the region participated. There was a parade ‘to inspire the people’, during which the police vowed to keep a fearless fighting spirit and dare ‘to win the powerful momentum’".
The slogans were: “Loyal to the party, keep in mind the mission, fight terrorist violence, governance for stability, strong base solid, cohesion, advocate honor, dare to win.”
The participants pledged to the Party to maintain the security during the Congress. “Raise right fist, take collective oath.”

A New Highway in Shigatse
In the meantime, a new 40-km highway was opened which should shorten the journey from an hour to 30 minutes between Shigatse airport and the city centre.
According to The Global Times: “Experts believe the development will enable China to forge a route into South Asia in both economic and defence terms.”
It is not clear how 40-km of road could 'link' the plateau to South Asia; it looks more as a propaganda exercise to ‘scare’ India.
The Chinese tabloid says: “The road runs parallel with the Shigatse-Lhasa railway line linking the 5,476 kilometre G318 highway from Shanghai to Zhangmu on the Nepal border.”
Zhao Gancheng, a so-called expert and director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, who was one of the Chinese hardliners during the Doklam incident, told The Global Times: “It can link with the future cross-border Sino-Nepali railway. …The Sino-Nepali railway, which passes through the Chinese border town of Zhangmu and connects with routes in Nepal, will be the first railway by which China enters South Asia.”
Zhao has it probably wrong: the only railway ever mentioned is crossing to Nepal near the landport of Kyirong.
The new railway is apparently part a deal signed when Nepal Deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara visited China in early September.
The People’s Daily wrote: “The railway includes two lines: one connecting three of Nepal’s most important cities and two crossing the border.”

A New Road?
RFA also mentioned the project of a new road affirming that Chinese soldiers and civilians who are building a road linking Southern Tibet to Nepal, set up a banner at the border, inviting Nepalese citizens on the other side to help them extend the road farther into Nepal.
Apparently the troops arrived at Nepal’s border near Kyirong on September 1: “they distributed food and clothing to the Nepalese, promising to help them with the roadwork and other construction projects in Nepal if permission can be obtained from government authorities in Kathmandu.”
It is rather strange that Chinese soldiers have started pressurizing Nepali local villagers to get the permission to continue the railway to Kathmandu.
RFA’s source said: “The Chinese began building a road from the Tibetan side of the border up to the Nepalese side about two years ago, and they have now finally finished that work. …Now, a group of Chinese military and civilian officials have appeared at the border, raising a banner and the Chinese national flag to win the hearts and minds of the people on the border.”
The fact is the road was greatly delayed due to the earthquake epicentered in Kyirong.
The railway line will probably follow the same route as the highway.
I have often mentioned on this blog, the new road (as well as the railway) which will link Nepal and Tibet.
The PLA soldiers carried a banner urging ‘loyalty to the Chinese motherland’ and calling for ‘harmonious living’: “This is a new development, and the local Nepali residents are concerned and have mixed feelings about China’s distribution to them of free goods,” said RFA.
The entire episode is strange but it denotes the Chinese authorities’ will to develop Western Tibet (Ngari Khorsum for the Tibetans) on a grand scale and open up on Nepal. It could be the beginning of a flood of goods and people onto the erstwhile kingdom.

Thre railway lines in Nepal?
Last year The Kathmandu Post had reported that four Chinese companies had shown interest to conduct feasibility study for Kathmandu-Rasuwagadhi railway line.
Kathmandu had asked China to conduct a survey and a detailed project report (DPR).
The Nepali newspaper noted: “Once the proposed railway is constructed, it will establish direct railway connectivity with Chinese railway which is expected to arrive in Kyirong, a bordering town of China across Rasuwagadhi, within a few years.” It was said that Sinohydro, China Railway Fist Survey and Design Institute Group, China Engineering Oversees Group (COVEC) and China Railway Construction Corporation Limited (CRCC) applied for conducting the survey.
The Post added: “The Chinese proposals follow Nepal’s request to China to provide financial and technical support for the feasibility study and the preparation of the DPR of the proposed Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu and Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini Railway Project. The request was made during former prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China in March. During the visit, it was agreed that the relevant authorities of both sides would exchange ideas and proposals on constructing cross-border railways and rail network in Nepal, and support enterprises to start related preparatory work as soon as possible.”
This was during Oli’s times; it is clear that Beijing is putting pressure on the new government in Kathmandu to continue with the project.


Photo taken in 2012
The Strategic Importance of Shigatse
During the Doklam episode, Chris Biggers mentions in Bellingcat the strategic importance of Shigatse: “Commercial imagery acquired during July and August has shown up to eight PLAAF J-10 multi-role fighters parked on the apron [of Shigatse]. They likely arrived between March and April after at least five Shenyang J-11, a modified and locally produced variant of the Russian Su-27SK, departed the airfield.”
There is usually a rotation of the war planes between Shigatse ‘Peace’ and Lhasa Gongkar airports.
The article continues: “Similar to Gongkar, the fourth generation aircraft were also joined in late June by a rotation of MI-17 or MI-171 HIP, the latter an improved variant. At least two of the four HIP [NATO code name] had weapons racks or winglets attached suggesting they could perform combat or transport roles. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force and the PLA Aviation Corp operate the platform.”
Further on August 6 says “we saw the first known deployment of a drone to the airbase. A single CH-4 medium altitude long endurance UAV, joined the HIP on the western parking apron. A primary satellite link was also located at a leveled support area north of the runway. The presence of the satellite link suggests the UAV is piloted from the airbase. This is the first drone deployment at a forward airbase observed since the Doka La crisis was triggered.”
The author concludes: “Bottom Line – Despite SAM [Surface-Air Missile] assets on alert throughout July, fighters deployed to Shigatse remained within baseline for the airbase. However, additional platforms deploying to this location should be watched closely as the PLA operationalizes its new theater commands and tensions remain with India.”

A crucial hub
There is no doubt that in the future the Shigatse airport will become a crucial hub.
This seen with the rapid development of the infrastructure (highway, railway line, ‘oil’ road) in Western Tibet, it is something that India should take into consideration.
I shall come back to this in forthcoming posts.

Photos of the Parade in Lhasa on September 26
 
 
 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tibet's Representation at the 19th Congress

Can Cui make it to the Central Committee
China has ‘elected’ 1,909 civilian delegates for the 19th Party Congress to be held in October.
They are representing Central Departments working under the CCP Central Committee (CC), Central State organs, Central Enterprises and China’s provinces and centrally-administered Municipalities.
How they were ‘elected’ is not clear.

Jayadev Ranade of the Center for China Studies and Analysis explains: “The Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) members are, as per practice, all Delegates to the 19th Party Congress. Pertinently and possibly because of the focus this year on poverty alleviation, all PBSC members represent the poorer provinces. Xi Jinping is the Delegate from Guizhou, Li Keqiang from Guangxi, Zhang Dejiang from Inner Mongolia, Yu Zhengsheng from Xinjiang, Liu Yunshan represents Yunnan, Wang Qishan is the Delegate from Hunan and Zhang Gaoli from Shaanxi.”
Ranade quotes the Hongkong media: “at least eight prominent omissions from the list of Delegates to the upcoming Congress. All are either Full or Alternate members of the 18th CCP Central Committee and all are, interestingly, past members of the Communist Youth League (CYL). They are also eligible in terms of age."
The eight losers are:
  • Qin Yizhi - Head of the CYL; CC Member; 51 years.
  • Zhao Yang - Deputy Director of General Administration of Sports; Alt Member CC; 54 years.,
  • Deng Kai – Deputy Party Chief of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU); Alt Member CC; 57 years.
  • Liu Jian – Chairman, State Development and Investment Corporation; Alt Member CC; 47 years.
  • Zhang Zhijun – Director Taiwan Affairs Office; CC Member; 64 years.
  • Nur Bekri – Director, National Energy Administration; CC Member; 55 years. Yang Yue – Vice Governor, Jiangsu Province; Alt CC Member; 49 years.
  • Wang Anshun - Head, State Council Development Research Centre; CC Member; 59 years.
The PLA list
More interesting perhaps are the changes in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The list of representatives of the PLA and People’s Armed Police Force (PAP) has also come out. The PLA has a total of 253 delegates, while the PAP has 50 representatives.
A massive reshuffle of the PLA’s generals, not only at the Group Army (Corps) level, but at the top of the hierarchy too, is taking place and two top generals got the sack hardly a month before retiring.
Gen Fang Fenghui, the equivalent of the US Chief of Defence Staff, was replaced as Chief of the PLA’s Joint Staff Department by Gen Li Zuocheng, a Xi protégé and former Commander of the Chengdu Military Region (under which Tibet used to come).
Fang and Gen Zhang Yang, another CMC member will not even participate in the forthcoming Congress. The rumour mill said that they were being ‘investigated’, a term not usually auguring well for the targeted person. This may indicate bad days ahead for the generals.

The Lessons of Impermanence
Reading these lists is a teaching about impermanence.
Remember the case of Lt Gen Yang Jinshan, a former Deputy Commander of the former Chengdu Military Region (MR), who served several years in Tibet. He was a rising star of the PLA; in 2012, he was even promoted to Central Committee, the Party's top heaven; at that time, he was senior to his direct boss, Li Zuocheng, who then commanded the MR.
Today, Yang Jinshan is languishing jail, being 'investigated' while Li Zuocheng is the powerful Chief of the Joint Staff Department.
But in this game, connections are important, not to say vital.
On September 1, Gen Han Weiguo, only 61, was appointed commander of the PLA Army and Gen Ding Laihang, 60, commander of the PLA Air Force (PLAAF). Gen Han served in Fujian in the 1980s at the time Xi was Deputy Mayor of Xiamen, while Gen Ding’s career also overlapped when the latter was Governor of Fujian Province.

Other Surprises
The list of PLA’s delegates has some other surprises. The 303 ‘elected’ members belong to 31 different units, compared with 19 in 2012; one example, the new PLA Rocket Force is now represented.
More than 90 per cent of those ‘elected’ will be first time attendees, representing a new generation of officers who will owe their rise to Chairman Xi only.

Ethic Representations

Though there is a slight rise in the number of ‘ethnic’ delegates (6% of the delegates are ethnic minority officers, from 4.6% in 2012), their number is relatively small and they don’t occupy important posts, except for one Tibetan who is said to be a Major General.
Asia Times noted: “The Manchus and Tibetans will each send three delegates, while the Uyghur, Hui and Tujia will each put forward two. The Zhuang, Xibe, Korean, Qiang, Bai and Naxi ethnicities will each send one delegate to the Congress.”
Tibet is represented by a senior officer, Thupten Trinley alias Tidan Dan (土旦赤列), a Deputy Commander of the Tibet Military Region and two ladies, Kaslang, alias Gesangba and Sonam Dolma. Their qualification or designation is not mentioned.
Lt Gen Xu Yong (许 勇), the Commander of the PLA Tibet Military Region is also present in the list.
A Chinese lady, Zhang Aiying (张爱英), a communication officer and instructor posted in the Tibet Military Region has also been ‘elected’.
That is not much.
One can also note the absence in the list of Lt Gen Diao Guoxin (Political Commissar, Tibetan Military District), Maj Gen Song Baoshan (Commander, People's Armed Police, TAR) and Lt Gen Xiao Tang (Political Commissar, People's Armed Police, TAR).
Lt Gen Peng Yong (Commander of the Xinjiang Military District) has also disappeared from the radars.
[Please read the corrections sent by a reader, posted below]

The civilian list
The civilian list is posted below.
Noticeable is the absence of the most senior Tibetan official, namely Pema Thinley, alias Padma Choeling, an out-going member of the CC (and the only Tibetan in the CC).
Is Choeden La a wrong spelling for Che Dralha, the head of the TAR Government.
[Please read the corrections sent by a reader posted below. Some of the errors are due to the spelling mistakes in the list available to me.]
Lobsang Gyaltsen, the Governor of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and an Alternate Member of the CC is in the list, making illegible for a seat in the CC.
In the list of 29 delegates, one finds six out of 13 or 14 members of the Standing Committee of the Regional Communist Party (Wu Yingjie, the TAR Party Secretary, Lobsang Gyaltsen, Ding Yexian, one of the TAR Party Deputy Secretary, Wang Yongjun and two relatively junior Tibetan cadres, Pema Wangdue and Penpa Tashi).

Will Cui represent Tibet?
Apart from Lobsang Gyaltsen, a possibility is that Cui Yuying, one of the few ‘ethnic’ Tibetans who today serves in a senior position in the Central government in Beijing, could become the ‘Tibetan representative’ in the CC.
Born in 1958 in Changle County of Shandong Province, she joined the Communist Party in 1980, and graduated from Tibet Agricultural and Animal Husbandry College with a Bachelor Degree in 1982. After occupying different junior posts in Tibet, she served as the Director in the Publicity Department of CPC’s TAR Regional Committee from 2006 to 2011.
In December 2011, she was transferred as Deputy Director of the Central Office for Overseas Publicity in Beijing; from 2012 to 2015, she became Deputy Director of the Information Office of the State Council.
In February 2015, she became Deputy Director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, a ministerial level post.
Will she make in the CC? The bets are opened!
I will mention in a separate post the Tibetans ‘elected’ in the Qinghai, Yunnan and Sichuan delegations.

The list of the delegates to the 19th Congress has been published.

In red, members of the Standing Committee of the TAR Regional Party

1 Ding Yexian Han TAR SC
2 Ma Shengchang Han
3 Wang Yongjun Han TAR SC
4 Ba Zhen  Tibetan Female
5 Pema Yangchen Memba Female
6 Pema Wangdue Tibetan TAR SC
7 Nyima Dangqu  Tibetan
8 Penpa Tashi  Tibetan TAR SC
9 Penpa Tashi  Tibetan ChaThongMon
10 Da Boer Lhoba
11 Zhu Zhongkui Han
12 Ren Houmin Han
13 Xiang Batashi  Tibetan
14 Xiangba Pincao  Tibetan Jampa Phuntsok?
15 Choedon la  Tibetan Could it be Che Dralha?
16 Tsering Paldon  Tibetan Female
17 Tsering Yangchen  Tibetan
18 Xu Chengcang  Han
19 Wu Yingjie Han TAR SC
20 Zhang Yanqing Tibetan
21 Abu  Han
22 Lhatso  Tibetan Female
23 Sonji Tashi  Tibetan
24 Lhopon Dhondup Tibetan Is it Norbu Thondup, TAR SC?
25 Lobsang Gyaltsen Tibetan TAR SC
26 Yao Chi  Tibetan Female
27 Tan Haiyu  Han Female
28 Ceng Wanming Han Probably Zeng Wanming, TAR SC
29 Jampa Dolma Tibetan Female