Saturday, December 31, 2016

‘Tibet’ Tiger’s Heads are Rolling

General Wang Jianping in Tibet in 2014
Reuters reported that General Wang Jianping has been placed “under investigation on suspicion of taking bribes.”
According to the news agency, it is the “first incumbent senior military official to be targeted in the China’s anti-graft campaign.”
The information was confirmed by the spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defence (MND).
At the time of his arrest, General Wang was deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department under the Central Military Commission.
Yang Yujun, the MND's spokesman (recently promoted Senior Colonel) announced during his monthly press conference that Wang was “under probe by military prosecutors”.
I had mentioned this in August (the news had then leaked to The South China Morning Post).
Wang is the first full general in service to be investigated since President Xi Jinping launched his crackdown on corruption in 2012.
Wang earlier served as Commander of the 1.2-million-strong People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF); before that he was posted in Tibet for several years.

Gen Wang's return to Tibet in 2014
In June 2014, I mentioned that he visited Lhasa, his old fiefdom, as PAPF Commander.
Wang inspected the TAR PAP’s training camp, a traffic police detachment, Tibet’s Forest Armed Police Corps, the 117 Police Division and a detachment of Ngari Police. According to The Tibet Daily, he wanted to get a detailed understanding of the situation.
The Chinese newspapers reported that Wang Jianping acknowledged the success achieved by the Armed Police's Tibet Corps and the Armed Police Forces and asked all the armed police officers and men to understand the serious and complicated situation that Tibet is facing. He told them to strengthen the police force for war preparation and continue the good job of building up (the police forces).
Gen Wang also asked the Force to ensure the completion of every task, giving first priority to the tasks that need to be dealt with urgently, providing a strong support for Tibet’s continuous stability, long term stability and comprehensive stability.
‘Stability’ was and is the main priority in Tibet.
Walking to the Potala Palace Square’s Police Station, Gen Wang said that the police should understand the ‘Tibet’ work; for example, the duty of the Police Station, the range of service, the promotion the urban grid management.



Other heads is rolling
Yesterday, it was also announced that China had decided to prosecute for graft, a former ‘senior spy catcher’: “Ma Jian, once a vice minister at China's Ministry of State Security, is the most senior security official to be investigated since former domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang was ensnared in a graft scandal and jailed for life last year.”
More interestingly, as far as the ‘Tibet’ Tigers’ heads are concerned, Le Dake, who headed of the State Security Department in Tibet from 2004 to 2013, has been found guilty of bribery.
It was announced in a statement posted on the official microblog account of the Zhengzhou City Intermediate People's Court. Zhengzhou is located in central China's Henan Province.
Reuters said “It was not possible to reach Le or a representative for comment.”
Obviously!
Quoting the Court, Xinhua noted that Le was fined 2 million yuan ($290,000) “and his illegal gains shall be recovered and turned over to the State treasury.”
Le Dake was a deputy director of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress. He had taken advantage of “various official posts from 2005 to 2014 to seek benefits for others in project contracting and official promotions and reassignment.”
The amount of bribe is said to be over 18.7 million yuan.
The Court showed leniency “as Le confessed to his crimes, expressed remorse and voluntarily returned his illegal gains.”
Le Dake had become infamous in Tibet when he organized the repression on a large scale after the unrest on the plateau in the Spring of 2008 (at the time of the Olympics Games in Beijing).
The Epoch Times, a publication of the Falun Gong group had reported in July 2015: “A leading official in the administrative region of Tibet, who was formerly the most powerful security official there before becoming deputy of the legislature, was purged recently.”
The newspaper noted that the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection “didn’t go into the specifics of Le’s case …But overseas Chinese news websites, attuned to the subtleties of political struggle in China, noted Le’s deep and long-standing ties with the notorious Zeng Qinghong, the well-known henchman of former Party leader Jiang Zemin.”
The case against Le Dake would have been linked with General Yang Jinshan, a former commander of the Party’s military forces in Tibet (and later Deputy Commander of the Chengdu Military Region): “Yang, in turn was a client of [General] Xu Caihou, formerly one of the most powerful men in the military who was purged and died last year.”
Duowei, a Chinese news company remarked: “Le’s removal seemed sudden, since he was seen going about his normal routine just two days before anti-corruption investigators made their move. Le had been in the regime’s public security apparatus for almost his entire career. He started as a public security officer in the provincial branch in Jiangxi, and eventually headed Tibet’s public security department until 2012.”
Le hails from a village in Jiangxi province, which is located near Zeng Qinghong’s own village: it how Le started his career under Zeng’s patronage in Jiangxi.
According to Bowen Press, an independent publishing house based in Texas, “The suppression of the Tibetan independence movement by the local public security bureau was the most severe during Le’s tenure as public security chief.”
One question remains: what happened to Lt Gen Yang Jinshan, the other bid ‘Tibet’ Tiger whose head also rolled?


The Fate of the Generals
Exactly a year ago I wrote: “Fate is strange. It is especially true in Communist China. In 2014, Lt Gen Yang Jinshan, a former Commander of the Tibet Military District of the Chengdu Military Region (MR) was a rising star in the PLA and the CPC.
He had been promoted as a member of the Party's Central Committee, which was not the case of his direct boss, General Li Zuocheng, the commander of the Chengdu Military Region.
Yang was therefore 'senior' to his boss, Li Zuocheng, in the Party hierarchy.
Today, Yang Jinshan is languishing jail, being 'investigated' and his boss Gen Li Zuocheng is tipped to become the first chief of a newly-formed land force command.
What a reversal of fate!
The courts have not announced as yet the fate of General Yang, while General Wang and Le Dake have now been informed where they will spend the next decade.


The case of Pema Thinley
Incidentally, two senior Tibetan cadres have been demoted during the last reshuffle of the Party’s Standing Committee of the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
Pema Thinley (or Choeling) the senior most Tibetan in the Party and lonely Tibetan member of the Central Committee is no more Deputy Secretary of the TAR, though he remains Chairman of the Regional Congress.
The second Tibetan head to roll was Gonpo Tashi’s, an influential Tibetan, who was the boss of the regional United Front Department. What happened to him is not clear.
And as I mentioned in a previous post, PLA officers have no place anymore in the Party’s regional Standing Committee of the TAR.
Quite a revolution!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

For India, CPEC is a corridor to nowhere

My article For India, CPEC is a corridor to nowhere appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer

One fails to understand why Beijing is so adamant to not re-open the Himalayan land ports between India and Tibet, while at the same time, it is ‘inviting' New Delhi to join the CPEC bandwagon


Here is the link...

The Indian media always gets excited when there is a possibility of a thaw with Pakistan. One can’t do anything about it; it is too deeply engrained in the Indian psyche to dream of a rapprochement between the two neighbours.
The latest occasion was when Pakistan’s Southern Command Commander Lt Gen Amir Riaz remarked that India should join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and enjoy its benefits. Riaz said “New Delhi should ‘shun enmity’ with Islamabad and jointly reap the benefit of the multi-billion dollar project.”
The CPEC is a Chinese ‘dream’; when he visited Islamabad in April 2015, President Xi Jinping pledged 46 billion dollars for it.
When asked about India joining the venture, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying replied:  “I wonder whether the Indian side takes this offer made by the Pakistani general as a goodwill gesture,” before adding: “The CPEC, as an important component of China’s Belt and Road initiative, is an open initiative. …China would like to discuss the possibility of introducing a third party.”
The Global Times, the Communist Party mouthpiece further commented: “New Delhi should consider accepting the olive branch Pakistan has extended in a bid to participate in the CPEC.”
The Indian press was quick to find a great opportunity to ‘dream’.
Nobody asked why this sudden kindness and why India was suddenly invited to reap the benefits?
The answer is that it might not be such a grand scheme after all, with Islamabad facing more and more difficulty to sell the Chinese ‘gift’ at home and Beijing slowing realizing that the project is more complicated than expected, mainly due the internal situation in Pakistan.
According to The Business Recorder, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that his government had raised a Special Security Division (SSD), comprising of 15,000 military and civilian armed forces for ensuring the safety of Chinese ‘brothers’ working on the CPEC.
Who will pay? Pakistan for the time being, but many in Pakistan realize that the Chinese ‘gift’ is a costly one
While welcoming Zheng Xiaosong, the Vice Minister of International Department, Shariff remarked that “the CPEC and its related projects symbolise the people-centric approach of the two countries.”
Does Islamabad really need India’s help? It seems a bad joke.
Another rationale for India’s participation is given by Li Xiguang, a professor at Tsinghua University, who told The Hindu that India and Pakistan should be establishing soft borders “rather than go for a final settlement of boundaries in Kashmir,” Li added: “this could lead to New Delhi’s rapid integration into an expanded CPEC.”
The scholar explained that the concept of ‘soft borders’ is in tune with the approach of former ‘Core’ leader Deng Xiaoping.
The commentators here tend to forget that India had ‘soft borders’ with Tibet, its northern neighbour, for centuries.
In any case, China not is ready to implement what it is preaching.
After Tibet was invaded by China in October 1950, the traditional Himalayan passes progressively closed down. An effort was done in 1954 to regulate the flow of people and goods through the 'Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India', the infamous Panchsheel Agreement, however China was not ready to implement the letter or the spirit of the Agreement which eventually lapsed in 1962.
The question is, today why is China so adamant to not reopen the Himalayan land ports between India and Tibet, while at the same time, ‘inviting’ Delhi to join the CPEC bandwagon?
The 1954 agreement stated that “traders of both countries known to be customarily and specifically engaged in trade between Tibet Region of China and India may continue to trade.”
Though a number of trade marts were named, as China increased its physical grip on the plateau, the trade progressively became thinner, more complicated, the Chinese authorities started harassing the Indian traders and finally in 1962, the trade exchanges completely stopped.
The entire Himalayan belt from the Kararoram Pass to eastern Arunachal had lived for centuries from the trade with Tibet. Why does Beijing never mention this?
As the result of the 1962 border war and the non-renewal of the Agreement earlier in the year, exchanges between Tibet and India came to an end.
It is only after the visit of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to China in December 1988 that a ‘Protocol for Resumption of Border Trade’ was signed.
It was followed by an accord for the ‘Resumption of Border Trade’ in 1991; in 1992, trade through Lipulekh Pass in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand was reopened on a small scale; and in 1993, a protocol to reopen Shipki-la in Himachal was signed. But trade never picked up due to the lack of interests of the Chinese authorities and the restricted list of tradable goods; further the agreements did not include pilgrims.
In July 2006, Nathu-la in Sikkim was added to the two other passes; it is today doing much better than the two others.
It is true that in 1954, despite the nice preamble (The Five Principles), the two delegations were miles apart, a story shows how already at that time there was little trust between India and China. In the Hindi version of the Agreement, the Indian translators had written chhota mota vyapar for ‘petty trade’. The Chinese Hindi expert could not reconcile chhota and mota, apparently two contradictory words. It took two weeks to convince the Chinese that the term chhota mota vyapar meant ‘petty trade’.
Today, while Beijing speaks of ‘soft borders’, it is tightening its grip on the Himalaya: a new ‘Border Resident New Identity Card’ (BRNIC) for people living near the Indian borders (as well as on the frontiers of Korea and Nepal) has been introduced.
Though the Chinese Public Security Bureau (Police) said that the BRNIC can be obtained online, its introduction will strengthen the Chinese control over the Himalaya border.
It is not only the goods which should circulate more freely, it is persons too. It was a good surprise when the concept of ‘open border’ received the unexpected support from the J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti last week; she declared: “I am in favour of opening of more routes. I strongly favour starting of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra through Leh so that the area gets a tourist and economic boost.”
Nawang Rigzin Jora, the Leh MLA admitted that it is China which blocks the issue: “[China] may have their own reasons,” however he noted: “the safest route [to the Kailash via Demchok] is through Leh. You can fly to Leh, take one or two days to acclimatize and then drive up to Kailash Mansarovar.”
Indeed, Demchok should be reopened soon.
It is up to Delhi to strongly pressurize Beijing on this sensitive acupuncture point; for India, it make more sense than joining a Corridor in Pakistan (and Occupied Kashmir).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A new road between Tibet and Xinjiang

The Changthang or ‘Northern plain’ (in Tibetan), occupies a large part of the Tibetan plateau.
In April 2000, with the approval of the State Council, the Changthang National Nature Reserve, located in northern Tibet, south of the Kunlun Mountains, became a national reserve.
It spreads on a total area of 391,200km, which makes it the second largest nature reserve in the world, after the Northeast Greenland National Park.
With the recently-established adjoining reserves, there is now a total of 496,000 km2 of connected Nature Reserves.
The Changthang National Nature Reserve lies at an average elevation of 4,500 meters. Administratively, it comes under the Prefectures of Nagchu and Ngari. Some parts of the Reserve are located in the County of Rutok, bordering Ladakh and the Aksai Chin.
Only a few Tibetan nomads permanently live there, but it is a paradise for wild animals such as wild yak (Bos grunniens), Tibetan wild ass or kiang (Equus kiang), Himalayan blue sheep or Bharal (Pseudois nayaur), Argali (Ovis ammon), Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa) and Tibetan antelope or chiru (Pantholops hodgsonii). The list of predators is also long; it includes snow leopards (Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia), Tibetan wolves (Canis lupus chanco), Turkestan lynx (Lynx lynx isabellinus) and Tibetan blue bears (Ursus arctos pruinosus).

Road will cut through the eastern part of the Reserve
An Environmental Impact Assessment
Recently, a “Public Announcement for the Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] of the New Reconstruction Project of National Highway No. 216 (Tibet Area)” was made from Ngari Prefecture in Western Tibet.
According to published abstracts of the EIA: "The State Environmental Protection Bureau of the National Highway 216 (Tibet area) area has basically completed the project environmental impact, for pollution prevention and control.”
(National Highway 216 (G216) runs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the southern direction from Altay City to Baluntai in Hejing County, where it joins China National Highway 218. It is 857 kilometres in length). 
The EIA says: “Control measures analysis and evaluation have been completed in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Interim Measures for Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment”.
Some ‘relevant’ contents of the EIA have even been made public, probably a first in China.
The new road shoud join the G 219 Highway
north of Rutok

Here some extracts of the Chinese documents (please excuse inexactitudes; it is a translation through Google language).

I.    Overview of construction projects

The Overview provides an idea of the route followed by the new highway starting from Xinjiang (near Dunhuang? Crescent Lake?) and joining the G 219 (the Aksai Chin road) in the Rutok County.
The Highway will be connecting Xinjiang and Tibet via Minfeng, it should ultimately connect with the Highway G 216 in Xinjiang.
The project is 558 km long.
The deeply-worrying aspect of the project is that it crosses the highly eco-sensitive Changthang National Nature Reserve.
It will run for 110 km in the main reserve, about 270 km in the buffer zone and some 100 km in the ‘experimental area’.
The starting point of this project is the Jieze Lake near the G 219 highway (north of Rutok).
According to the EIA, the road will be built “in accordance with the two-lane highway construction.”
The total investment for the project is RMB 6.453 billion (more than 1 billion US dollars). The construction should start by the end of the current year and the road will be put into operation early 2021. The construction period has been estimated at 48 months.
The main environmental impact assessment says:

1- During the construction period
  1. Noise: The main noise sources during the construction period will be the mechanical bulldozers, the loaders, the excavators and other construction equipment and transportation vehicles. Construction units will carry out the construction work in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations of the State (China) and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
  2. It will be characterized by “a reasonable layout of the construction site; reasonable arrangements for operating time of the work; scientific management and civilized construction [sic]”.
  3. Exhaust gas: Strict implementation of the relevant provisions of the State and the Tibet Autonomous Region will be followed.
  4. Dust: Measures will be taken to minimize the dust: the earth mixer/cement mixer will be closed; the area will be sprinkled; the site will be regularly cleaned; the asphalt mixing station will used ‘good sealing’ materials; high efficiency dust mixing equipment will be used to create the less possible impact on the atmospheric environment.
  5. Wastewater: Construction camps will prevent the seepage of the domestic sewage. After use, the wastewater will go through a sedimentation treatment plant; dust suppression will be taken care of.
  6. Solid wastes: All excavated soils produced by the project shall be reused or transported in closed vehicles. Offloading shall be prohibited to prevent spillage. Earthworks dumps shall be selected according to relevant requirements and measures shall be taken to prevent soil erosion.
  7. Ecological: The construction should be strictly in accordance with the provisions of the approved design. The construction should remain within the scope of plans and it shall not be allowed to expand. At the same time [at the end of the project?] a project evaluation shall seriously be implemented and an assessment made of biological and ecological diversity according with the environment protection laws. At the end of the construction period, timely measures will be taken to reclaim the land (of the construction site).
2 -After the construction period
  1. Environmental noise: Near the sensitive points, speed will be limited and other measures to reduce traffic noise will be taken. Appropriate measures will be taken for the traffic noise in the sensitive areas. The future planning of both sides of the open space should be based on the results of noise assessment.
  2. Ambient air: The air pollution will come mainly from automobile exhausts; the vehicle control, particularly of the automobile exhaust, will be strengthened.
  3. Water environment: During the operation period, the domestic sewage generated from the maintenance area will be treated by anti-seepage aqua plants. Bridge across the river will set up runoff collection systems at both ends of the bridge using sedimentation tanks.
3 - The preliminary conclusions of the EIA report are:
The proposed project is in line with the National Highway Network Plan (2013-2030). The route selection takes full account of the economic, environmental and technical feasibility principles.
It is line with the strict implementation of the ‘three simultaneous’ system, respectively, for the ecological environment, water environment, atmospheric environment.
It takes effective protection measures, will effectively control the adverse environmental impact of roads, along the area to promote economic and social development [of the area]
The project is considered to be viable from the perspective of environmental protection under the premise of obtaining the forest assessment and the biodiversity evaluation report and obtaining the approval of the related project of forestry department.

4 - Seek public views on the main issues
In order to listen to the views and suggestions of the community on the environmental protection work of the national highway 216 (Tibet border) and the 'rebuilt' section of the highway, the project will be publicized to solicit the public's valuable opinions and suggestions.
The main issues include: whether you are aware of the construction of this project; after the completion of the project, your views on the surrounding environment and the impact on your working life; your views and suggestions on environmental protection work.

5 - The public views 
During the ‘publicity period’ for the environmental impact assessment of the project, the public can contact the Construction Unit and the EIA unit.
The public may contact the project construction unit or the EIA unit by way of letter, telephone, e-mail, etc. to obtain supplementary information or to express opinions and opinions on the project construction and EIA work.

The environmental impact assessment unit will record the opinions and suggestions of the public in the environmental impact report of the project and forward the public's valuable opinions and suggestions to the construction unit and the relevant departments of the Government.

Construction Unit:
Key Project Management Center of Transportation Bureau of Ngari District, Tibet Autonomous Region

Evaluation unit:
Beijing Yan State Environmental Technology Development Co., Ltd located in Beijing

Implications for India
This of course does not deal with the strategic implications of the new road which should shorten the time to travel from Urumqi to Rutok (near the Indian border).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

PLA out of the TAR Standing Committee

Where are the green uniforms in the TAR Standing Committee?
A new radical 'reform' is bound to create a lot of resentment in the ranks of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA): generals commanding a military district or area have been removed from the Regional/Provincial Standing Committees of the Chinese Communist Party.
They used to play an influential role in the past.
Since the days of the Revolution in 1949, it has been the tradition that either the region’s Commander or the Political Commissar were made members of the Region’s Standing Committee.
And they were influential members.
It will not be the case anymore.
Remember the first Party Secretaries in Tibet, Zhang Guohua, Fan Ming, Zhang Jingwu, Zhang Guohua, Ren Rong, Yin Fatang; all were PLA generals. They ruled the plateau from 1951 to 1985.
Wu Jinghua and later Hu Jintao (later President and General Secretary of the CPC) were the first civilians to be Party bosses in Tibet.
On Saturday, The Global Times, the Party’s mouthpiece, explained that according to ‘experts’ (i.e. the Leadership of the Party): “removing military officers from the standing committee of provincial Party committees would help reduce the military's influence over local governments and create a better military.”
Probably true, but does it mean that the influence of the PLA over ‘regional affairs’ will vanish?
According to The Legal Mirror which broke the news: “The previous practice saw a member, who serves as military commander or political commissar from a provincial military command, sitting in the standing committee,” is stopped.
The Global Times reported: “Fourteen provinces have removed the position of military members in the shuffle of new standing committees. …Shanghai, Tianjin and Northwest China's Gansu Province have no post for the military.”
More interesting for India: the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has also lost its PLA’s representative(s). During the last couple of years, either Lt Gen Xu Yong, the Commander of the Tibet Military Command (TMC) or Lt Gen Diao Guoxin, the TMC’s Political Commissar attended the meetings of the TAR Standing Committee.
After the recent 9th Regional Congress, I noticed that their names were missing from the list (and the photo, see above). I wondered if it could be a ‘mistake’, but the Party never does a ‘mistake’.
We have now the explanation.
Xu Yaotong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, told The Global Times: “Not choosing any military officer as provincial standing committee member would help create well-equipped military forces and comply with the development requirements."
Perhaps, but how will this new ‘reforms’ be digested by the military?
For Xu: “The military used to have enormous clout over local governments when military officers dealt with their private affairs, such us helping family members," the professor also argues that “corruption surfaces when they enjoy privileges because of social links with the government, also called guanxi. “
Can China survive without guanxi?
This is a serious question.
In 2013, I  mentioned  the removal of Lt Gen Peng Yong, the Commander of the Xinjiang Military District from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region's Standing Committee.
Gen Peng must have done something wrong. Three years later, it is still not clear what had happened.
Now, The Global Times quotes the example of Wang Bianjiang, the Political Commissar in Liaoning Military Command, who was removed as a member of the Standing Committee at the first plenary meeting of the 12th Liaoning Provincial Committee.
Though The Legal Mirror reported that a total of 28 provincial military commands are under the National Defense Mobilization Commission, it is not the case of the TMC which was ‘upgraded’ earlier this year and which now depends on the PLA Army (as well as the Western Theater Command).
Xu Yaotong commented: “Since the military, which involves national mobilization, only engages with the local government when carrying out their duties in the region, it is unnecessary for military officers to assume posts in administrative organs," but it is not the case of the TMC, which does not report to the National Defense Mobilization Commission, therefore the argument is invalid.
What it exactly means for the Tibet Military Command may take some time to emerge, but it is clear that the objective of the current military reforms is to have a professional Army with "a significant improvement in key combat capabilities."
The new reform may help the senior officers to concentrate on military issues, though once again, it is bound to create resentment among many.
Further a close coordination between the local Party and the Military Command is required in time of peace or war.
How will it be done is anybody's guess.

Auditing Practices
At the same time, Xinhua announced that a revised regulation has been issued “to streamline auditing practices in the armed forces and tighten disciplinary supervision.”
The regulation will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017: “All economic activity of the Chinese People's Liberation Army and the Armed Police is subject to auditing, and officials with economic duties must also be placed under scrutiny. …Officials with a lot of financial and logistics responsibilities, those who have been considered for promotion and those who are leaving their posts should be placed under particularly close watch.”
The new Regulation also says: “Military auditing agencies with powers to investigate and penalize must hand over disciplinary and legal violations cases in the financial sector to anti-graft and prosecution authorities for further investigation.”
The screw is being tightened.

The Loyalty to the Party
The Central Military Commission (CMC) has also decided “to ‘prioritize’ political loyalty in selecting military delegates to the 19th National Congress”.
According to Xinhua, a CMC document says that the delegates from the PLA at the National People’s Congress (NPC) “must be absolutely loyal and reliable, and they must unswervingly adhere to the Party's absolute leadership over the Army.”
The Party members' political integrity and moral qualities are major criteria for selecting candidates, says the regulation: “Military authorities must strengthen supervision over the election to prevent canvassing and bribery.”
Does it mean that bribery is still prevalent?
Life for the Chinese generals is becoming dangerous; some 55 of them have already been sacked.
The ‘happy’ days under Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao seem over.
We will have to wait and see how the other PLA officers, not just the generals, take the on-going reforms.
The game is not won for Xi Jinping.

India, China and the 'long march of deep military reform'

Recent PLA's exercises somewhere in Xinjiang
My article India, China and the 'long march of deep military reform' appeared in The Daily Mail.

Here is the link...

China has a Dream: to ensure economic prosperity, social stability, and a decent life to its citizens, but also to become a powerful nation; in fact it dreams to become one day the most powerful nation of the planet.
Military power will play a crucial role in the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
This explains the in-depth military reforms undertaken by President Xi Jinping a year ago.
China is really serious about this.
On December 5 in Beijing, President Xi Jinping, who is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) attended a two-day meeting during which he called for “a smaller army with better combat capability and optimized structure.” Some 230 high-ranking military officials as well as the 11 CMC members were in attendance.
Xi told the generals: “If China is to build a strong world-class army. …We must seize the opportunity and make breakthroughs.”
Xi spoke about the informationized modern warfare and emphasized the importance of joint operations. He called for readjusting and optimizing the military's structure: “new type of forces must be developed, the ratios between different types of forces must be rationalized, and the number and the scale of the military be downsized.” Xi added: “Quantity should be reduced, quality improved to build a capable and efficient modernized standing army."
This raises two important questions. While undertaking these reforms, has China not taken a too large bite, which is now difficult to chew?
The other question is: what does this mean for India?
Xinhua remarked that December 2015 “marked a fresh start in the history of the Chinese Armed Forces, as the nation embarked on a long march of deepening military reform.”
The official news agency added: “China has entered a key stage of transforming itself from a big country to a strong power, which calls for greater courage in advancing military reform.”
On December 31, new services were created, namely, the PLA Army, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force and a few weeks later, the seven erstwhile Military Regions were regrouped into five PLA Theater Commands.
Xinhua admitted: “Despite the remarkable achievements, arduous tasks remain;” therefore, the comparison with the Long March.
The creation of a PLA Strategic Support Force is a plunge into the future as it will deal with cyber and space warfare, probably the keys of tomorrow’s conflicts.
But changing mindsets and controlling vested interests is not an easy proposition. Peter Wood, the Editor of the China Brief of the Jamestown Foundation noted that Chinese publications “calling for the PLA to ‘cast off’ old concepts about the predominance of the Ground Forces are further indication that the transition has not gone smoothly.”
For the new Forces, “to work together in coordinated campaigns also remains a key bottleneck for the PLA,” is not obvious.
This major hurdle is far from being overcome.
Regarding India: it is high time India undertakes reforms, in which the role of the ground forces (Indian Army) need to be rebalanced with the Navy and the Air Force, giving a greater role to ‘informationized warfare’.
There are other issues which need to be reviewed: take for example the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). In December 2015, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that the post of CDS “could be a reality soon”. He then added that the Prime Minister “marked defence reforms as a priority and stressed that ‘jointness at the top’ was a need long overdue.”
The CDS would coordinate between the three services, the strategic command responsible for the nuclear weapons …and one day, the cyber and space commands.
The creation of a post of CDS was already recommended by a Group of Ministers in 2001. But what happened since then? Practically nothing.
Another example of the apathy of the Indian system is the Indian National Defence University (INDU).
Planned since decades, the government finally approved the setting up of the INDU at an estimated cost of 2.95 billion in Haryana in 2010.
On the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2013, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, the then chairman of the chiefs of staff committee asserted that “India needs military leaders who can critically analyse, demonstrate professional acumen and are capable of meeting the threats & challenges at the tactical, operational & strategic levels."
What has happened to the INDU? Lost in the corridors of South Block?
In the meantime, Kanwa Asian Defense, a Chinese-language publication reported that China's military build-up is coming closer to India. 
Beijing's military would have placed more missiles and fighter jets along the Indian border: “The weapons have been deployed in Tibet and in the western region of Xinjiang along with airborne early warning and control systems.”
Kanwa said that Chinese troops have placed the J-11, the J-10 and the Kongjing-500 (airborne early warning and control or AEW&C aircraft) in rotational deployment. The Shenyang J-11 is a twin-engine jet fighter, developed to compete with fourth-generation fighters.
On December 3, 2016, a PLA website showed pictures of airmen “assigned to an aviation regiment under the PLA Western Theater Command performing flight checks on a J-11 fighter jet prior to a round-the-clock flight training exercise under realistic combat environment at a military airfield.”
The airport is located near the Indian border.
Kanwa also said that in Korla (Xinjiang), China may have deployed troops for the launch of midrange ballistic missiles and in Hotan, north of the Aksai Chin, J-10 and H-6K strategic bomber would have been spotted.
Is it not high time for the Indian defence forces to seriously embark on its Long March to modernization?
Exercise of  the Western Theater Command (in Xinjiang)
Photo obviously taken at another location
Troops exercising in Southern Tibet

J-11 fighter planes exercising in Tibet (Western Theater Command)
 

Monday, December 26, 2016

My new website is online

I am happy to inform readers that my new website went online on the Christmas night.
It features different sections such Books, Exhibitions, Historical Documents, Research Papers and Interviews.

The 'historical' section contains archive documents on the Indian Presence in Tibet (1947-1964), Tibet as an Independent Nation, The 1959 Tibetan Uprising, the arrival of the Dalai Lama in India (March 1959), the Sino-Indian boundary issue, The North-East Frontier Agency, the 1962 Sino-Indian War,  all the White Papers on China, a selected collection of maps, etc...
Any contribution to enlarge the 'historical documents' section is most welcome.

Click here to visit

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A new dam on the Brahmaputra

First picture of the construction of the Gyatsa hydropower plant
The construction of a second large dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo (which becomes the Siang and later the Brahmaputra in India) is well under way.
The dam is coming up at Gyatsa (Chinese Gyaca), a few kilometers downstream from the first dam at Zangmu.
In November 2014, the Indian Press mentioned the launching of the first unit of the run-of-river hydropower plant at Zangmu.
Xinhua then affirmed: “Tibet’s largest hydropower station became partly operational, harnessing the rich water resources of the Yarlung Zangbo (Tsangpo) River to develop the electricity-strapped region.”
The Zangmu hydropower plant, located at 3,300 meters above sea level, has a height of 116 metres for a length of 390 meter; it is 19 meter wide at the top and 76 meter wide at the bottom. The project is said to cost US $ 1.5 billion.
In 2014, Xinhua asserted that the entire project, which “straddles the middle reaches of the roaring Yarlung Tsangpo River, will have a total installed capacity of 510 megawatts upon completion”.
Liu Xiaoming, an official of the State Grid’s Tibet Electric Power Co said: “The hydropower station will solve Tibet’s power shortage, especially in the winter,” while Lobsang Gyaltsen, the head of the Tibetan Government in Lhasa affirmed: “The region has strived to protect the environment throughout construction. The hydro-plant is a good example of clean energy development.”
I then wrote: "Zangmu, the only hydro-power plant on the Yarlung Tsangpo, once completed, would probably be acceptable to India, but China plans to have a cascade of five other dams along the river at Jia Cha [Gyatsa], Lengda, Zhongda, Jie Xu and Lang Chen."

The Gyatsa Dam
The second large dam on the Yarlung Tsnagpo, has progressed very fast according the picture posted above.
According to Tibet Online: "The construction of hydropower energy is closely related to the overall development and will benefit the masses to a great extent. Tibet is rich in hydropower resources and has enormous development potential."
The Beijing-run website adds: "The construction of hydropower projects cannot only solve Tibet’s electricity problem, but also let the Qinghai-Tibet power network play a much great role as well as spare space for the local industrial development."
The website gives another piece of information: "In accordance with the water resources development plan of Sanjiangyuan region, by the end of the 13th Five Year Plan, the energy continuous base of 'West-East power transmission project' will be basically built in Tibet."
The Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve (SNNR) or Three Rivers Nature Reserve, is the area on the Tibetan Plateau where the Yellow River, the Yangtze River, and the Mekong Rivern have their sources. The SNNR has been established to 'protect' the headwaters of these three rivers. The reserve consists of 18 subareas, each containing three zones which are managed with differing degrees of strictness.
Does it mean, 'no more dams after 2020'?
It is very doubtful as in any case, the SNNR and the Yarlung Tsangpo basin are not located in the same area of the plateau.
However the power grid will probably be completed.
In all probability, the Gyatsa dam is of run-of-river dam with more or less the power-generating same capacity than the Zangmu dam.

Friday, December 16, 2016

New railway lines in Tibet

I have already mentioned in this blog that during the coming year, the Tibetan Autonomous Region's government is planning to construct more than 20 new highways (included new routes from Lhasa to Nagchu; Dege to Chamdo; Chamdo to Jaka; Lhasa to Shigatse Airport; and Gongkar Airport to Tsethang) with a total investment of more than US$ 5 billion.
More information has now come out.


Loop-line around Lhasa City
A 73-kilometers 'loop-line' around Lhasa is under construction. Some 4.9 billion yuan has been spent so far on the project and the basic work is completed.
According to China Tibet News, the loop-line is expected to be finished by the end of this year. The website says that the project “is meaningful to perfect city traffic network, drive the exploitation and utilization of land around, and reserve space for the urban development in the future.”
It is probably necessary to receive 25 million tourists.

Lhasa Nyingchi (Nyingtri) railway line
The Lhasa Railway Office has announced that the main engineering work for the Lhasa section of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway has been completed. Next year, the beam-laying  will start on this section.
The total length of Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway will be 430 kilometers; it is designed for a speed of 160 kilometers an hour. It will have 9 stations including Gongkar, Chanang, Tsetang, Sangri, Gyaca (Drumpa), Nang County, Minling, Chaoyang and Nyingchi.
Started in 2014 it should be completed in 2021.
One difficult section is the tunnel under the Galai mountain; it will opened in 2017. With a total length of 4,373 meters, the tunnel is “one of the controlling projects of Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway. At present, most half of the project has been excavated and it is expected to be completed in the next year. Adopting ballastless track laying skill, passengers can feel more stable and comfortable in the process of driving,” says the website.
Some 700 workers are employed on the line. Part of the work is sub-contracted to transportation, labour service and equipment leasing companies.
The Chinese website explains: “This project plays an important role in promoting economic coordinated development of eastern and western areas, perfecting regional railway network layout, connecting Yangtze River Economic Zone and Sichuan-Chongqing Economic Circle, promoting the opening up of Sichuan Province and Tibet Autonomous Region, accelerating the development of Shangri-La ecotourism area [in Yunnan], improving investment environment, promoting economic development and new township construction, improving people's living standard, and speeding up the poverty alleviation work.”
Clearly, the intention of the Chinese government is to link their different ‘corridors’, till one day they reach the most important one, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In the meantime, the work is progressing fast in the TAR, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces.
Regarding the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway line, defense is not mentioned but is certainly one of the most important factors as the terminus will be near the Indian border of Arunachal Pradesh.


The Train to Nepal
No mention is made of the present stage of construction of the Shigatse-Kyirong railway line, though on December 5, Chinese news agencies reported that the first Guangzhou-Tibet-Nepal 'block train' reached the freight terminal of Lhasa Railway Station …on his way to Nepal.
One site, VTIBET.com wrote: “It was said that it is the first time that road-rail intermodal transport is used in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The modern transportation mode has effectively reduced transportation cost and enhanced and guaranteed the timeless of logistics. The opening of this transportation line will boost the trade of Tibet Autonomous Region and Guangdong Province and also play on distinctive role in coordinate regional economic, social development nationwide, which marks the successful operation of the line.”
And more importantly, it could one day link the Mainland to Nepal.
The block train started from Dalang in Guangzhou province; it used the Chengdu-Chongqing Railway, Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Lhasa–Shigatse Railway, Shigatse-Gyirong Highway before crossing into Nepal at Kyirong and finally arrived in Katmandu. The 6,070 km long journey included 4,200km by rail and 870 km on highways.
The cargo was worth of 19 million yuan; it included garment, furniture, electric appliances, electronic products, etc.
All what India does not want to be dumped on her territory.
However take a look at the map above, it seems to indicate that China would not mind continuing the line to southern Nepal and India.
To dump what?

The Tibet-India Border trade
Incidentally, during the current year, the Indian trade with Tibet via the Nathula pass in Sikkim has surpassed all previous records. According to The Times of India, during the May-November trading season, the export of Indian goods to the TAR amounted to Rs 63.68 crore as against imports worth Rs.1.8 crore: "Bilateral trade saw an increase of around Rs 16 crore this year as far as exports were concerned. Imports plummeted by around Rs 5 crore as against that in 2015, according to official data."
The report says that initially, Indian traders were reluctant to trade with Tibet due to lack of tradeable items: "After six seasons of low-profile trading, the directorate general of foreign trade in 2012 revised the list of tradeable items and allowed traders from both sides of the border to export and import more commodities."
Interesting development.  By the way, what has happened to the project of having a railway line to Chumbi?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

On Dalai Lama, India stops being defensive

My article On Dalai Lama, India stops being defensive appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

China can keep complaining, but the Dalai Lama is a guest in India, and it is certainly the prerogative of the President to invite him to Rashtrapati Bhavan. The NDA regime is not going to be defensive about the issue
On December 10, President Pranab Mukherjee hosted the first-ever ‘Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit’ at Rashtrapati Bhavan. While reiterating that his Government was committed “to the noble task of fulfillment and protection of child rights everywhere”, the President admitted that some factors “hampering the progress of disadvantaged children need to be removed and equal opportunities provided to them”. The fact that India has decided to take a lead in this field is welcome, and to offer the presidential residence for such noble cause is commendable.
But there’s more to it. One of the guests was the Dalai Lama, Beijing’s bête noire. In the past, Beijing had given all sort of uncharitable names, such as ‘splitist’ or even ‘devil in monk’s garb’, to the Tibetan leader. The last time the Dalai Lama was a formal guest at Rashtrapati Bhavan was when he visited India on the occasion of the 2,500th anniversary of the Buddha Jayanti in the 1950s. In 1957, President Rajendra Prasad hosted a dinner party, which was attended by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, his Cabinet colleagues and the Tibetan delegation (including the Panchen Lama). The Panchen Lama was then zealously accompanied by Chinese ‘guardians’.
Apa B Pant, the political officer in Sikkim dealing with Tibetan affairs later wrote: “The Chinese in the party gave an impression as if they were ‘greatly upset’… in many ways they tried to ‘protect him’ from too many contacts with Indians. They used to suspect every move of ours and get upset by small incidents which were trifling and insignificant in themselves. The flying of special flags for the two lamas and the non-appearance of the Chinese flag also brought about some comments… they thought that we were ‘making too much of these two lamas’ and giving them too much importance.” What upset the Chinese most was President Rajendra Prasad calling on the Dalai Lama: In a way they thought that we were trying to steal away the lamas from them.”
After nearly 60 years, the Chinese are still upset, though this time they did not make their anger public. How can they criticise the President of India and dictate whom he chooses to receive?
It was not the case when the Tibetan leader recently visited Mongolia. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saw red and urged Mongolia “to stick to its commitment to Tibet-related issues for maintaining the sound development of bilateral ties... The Dalai Lama is a political refugee who has long been engaged in activities to split China and alienate Tibet from China in the name of religion.”
Geng added: “China resolutely opposes the Dalai Lama visiting any country…We also stand firmly against all forms of contacts between officials from any country and the Dalai Lama.” Well, the Dalai Lama is a guest in India, and it is certainly the prerogative of the President to invite him to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Does this indicate a change of the Indian policy vis-à-vis the Tibetan issue? It is too early to say, but in the case of Mongolia, the leaders in Ulaanbaatar have been quite courageous to dare facing Beijing’s ire. Beijing’s response was not long to come: A meeting to negotiate soft loans and projects on Tavan Tolgoi railroad, a copper plant and coal gasification project were cancelled. Munkh-Orgil Tsend, Mongolia’s Foreign Minister informed the Press that China had also canceled a bi-annual consultative meeting between the two countries’ Parliaments.
The spokesperson was angry: “We strongly demand that Mongolia…do not provide any form of support and convenience to the group of the Dalai Lama.”
The interesting outcome is that Mongolia turned to Delhi for support. Ulaanbaatar asked India’s help to cope with the freezing of the critical $4.2 billion loan, which was to provide an important lifeline for the country. Vikas Swarup, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, asserted that India was “ready to work with Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Mongolian visit in May 2015, announced a credit line of one  billion dollars: “Mongolian leadership was highly appreciative of this gesture”, said Swarup.
China is not amused. The Global Times remained philosophical: “China won’t be overly sensitive about India’s cooperation with Mongolia, and won’t mistake India’s assistance as a counter to China… China’s influence on Mongolia’s economy cannot be replaced by India in the short run, and efforts will be in vain if India attempts to ‘bribe’ Mongolia’s loyalty with only one billion dollars.”
While India ‘bribes’ Mongolia, China only ‘helps’ Nepal!Xinhua reported that dozens of trucks carrying $2.8 million worth of products such as clothes, appliances, electronics and building materials had left mainland China for the Nepalese border.
In that case: “When it comes to cooperation with other countries, both China and India should refrain from excessive sensitivity” commented The Global Times, adding: “China’s efforts to connect itself with Nepal will be conducive not only to the export of Chinese-made products, but also to the import of goods from Nepal or even from India.”
Regarding the Lama’s visit to Mongolia, there is probably a political angle to it, which disturbs Beijing; the Mongols would like the Lama to find a reincarnation of their religious leader. It was rumoured that it might have been one of the reasons for inviting the Dalai Lama; the Jetsun Dhampa Lama, who lived many years in India and passed away in 2012, is due to reincarnate. This cannot please Beijing, which would like to keep a monopoly on ‘reincarnations’, and has started making preparations to recognise the next Dalai Lama.
Was the Dalai Lama’s presence at Rashtrapati Bhavan’s function a part of a new Great Game? A soft one? In any case, it is a sign of bolder soft diplomacy on the part of the Modi Government. Remember November 2011? As the preparations for the Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC), organised by the Ashoka Mission (with an attendance by some 900 monks and nuns from over 40 countries), were going on in Delhi, Beijing suddenly objected to the presence of the Dalai Lama in one of the functions; it threatened to call off the 15th round of the border talks between the Special Representatives if India refused to yield and cancel the conference. Beijing also objected to the Indian Prime Minister and President attending the opening ceremony of the GBC.
Eventually, India backed down partially, with the Prime Minister and the President suddenly becoming ‘busy’. But Modi’s India is not Manmohan Singh’s. This time, the Dalai Lama was seen offering a Buddha statue to President Mukherjee.
There is a message for China: India likes the Dalai Lama.

Today’s India in not the India of the 1950s

Gen Zhao Zongqi with the Indian Army Chief
Gen Zhao Zongqi is a rising star of the People’s Liberation Army. He spent most of his military carrier in Tibet where he occupied different posts before being transferred as chief of staff of the Jinan Military Region (MR) in December 2007. Later he commanded the MR where he got promoted to the rank of full general. On February 1, 2016, he returned to the Indian borders, now called the Western Theater Command, regrouping the erstwhile Lanzhou and Chengdu MRs, which face India from Ladakh to Arunachal.
As Gen Zhao arrived in Delhi, it is interesting to have a look at the latest developments in the fields of defense in China …and in India.
A year ago President Xi Jinping undertook in-depth military reforms.
Beijing often speaks of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in which military power will play a crucial role.
On December 31, 2015, new services were created, namely, the PLA Army, the PLA Rocket Force and the PLA Strategic Support Force and a few weeks later, the seven erstwhile Military Regions were regrouped into five PLA Theater Commands.
On December 5 in Beijing, President Xi Jinping, who is also Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) attended a two-day meeting during which he called for “a smaller army with better combat capability and optimized structure.” Some 230 high-ranking military officials as well as the 11 CMC members were in attendance.
Xinhua remarked: “China has entered a key stage of transforming itself from a big country to a strong power, which calls for greater courage in advancing military reform.”
The creation of a PLA Strategic Support Force is a plunge into the future as it will deal with cyber and space warfare, probably the keys of tomorrow’s conflicts.
This reminded me ‘reforms’ undertaken by India in the 1950s. During a Defense Council meeting on July 3, 1953, Nehru decided that “the Army was to reduce its strength yearly by a minimum of 10,000 personnel for the next five years.” The Indian leadership wanted a smaller army  …without better combat capability!
The Army Headquarters had to work out a rundown programme of approximately 11,500 per year. The proposals envisaged a 5% reduction in establishments spread over the first two years and the disbandment of a certain number of units during the following three years.
According to a note prepared by by Major General J.N. Chaudhuri, the Chief of General Staff (later Army Chief) and passed by Prime Minister Nehru: “The opinion of Army Headquarters is that while the 5% cut spread over two years will not materially affect the effectiveness of the Army, there will certainly be a loss of morale if approximately 23,000 personnel are sent out and establishments reduced while aid to Pakistan is being discussed.”
The US was then actively supporting a stronger Pakistani Army.
A year later, M.K. Vellodi, the Defense Minister agreed to implement the proposal: “The budget for the next year has been framed on the basis that there will be a reduction of the order of 10,000 men next year as decided by Government already.”
It added: “this reduction should be effected not by disbanding any unit but by effecting about 2 ½ % reduction in the strength of units.”
The same month, the infamous Panchsheel Agreement was signed.
Today, things have changed; the old pacifist mindset has gone. India’s leadership has realized that the best way to bring peace is to be ready for any situation. A few examples will show the importance of preparedness as a deterrent to war.
In August 2016, Delhi decided to deploy the 4th regiment of BrahMos Missile in Arunachal Pradesh. The Cabinet Committee on Security approved the raising of a new regiment of an advanced version of the missile to be deployed in the north-eastern State at a cost of Rs. 4300 crore. The regiment is to be equipped with five autonomous missile launchers with command post and 100 BrahMos missiles. This does not amuse the Chinese who have taken note.
A month earlier, T-72 Russian-origin tanks were inducted in Eastern Ladakh facing China: “This adds a new dimension to any future war in the area that is marked by an average height of 14,000 feet, where oxygen is scarce,” says The Tribune. According to The Daily Excelsior published from Jammu, for the Indian Army “the move is part of the winter drill to validate the capability of the tanks at such heights and is not an inimical move against China.”
On November 8, for the first time, the Indian Air Force successfully carried out a test landing and take-off of C-17 Globemaster-III at Mechuka’s Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh. Mechuka is strategically located just 29 km from the border.
After the upgradation of Mechuka's ALG, the giant Boeing C-17 could land. It should eventually ensure transport of men and material in the remote border village of West Siang district, which was invaded by the Chinese in 1962.
Arunachal will soon have seven ALGs in Walong, Mechuka , Vijaynagar, Tuting, Pasighat, Ziro and Aalo and later one in Tawang.
Other good news: India did not back down when confronted by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is Demchok village in South-East Ladakh. The national press reported that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Indian Army were caught for three days in an eyeball to eyeball situation with PLA on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Demchok. In April, the residents of Demchok had appealed to the Deputy Commissioner in Leh for their resettlement elsewhere in the district because of continuous obstructions to any developmental work in the area by the Chinese troops.
This time India did not blink.
We could multiply the examples.
These are important messages for General Zhao to take back home: today’s India is not the same as in the 1950s.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A great image of soft diplomacy

Yesterday President Pranab Mukherjee spoke during the opening session of the first-ever “Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit” at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The President affirmed that the government is committing itself “to the noble task of fulfillment and protection of child rights everywhere”.
However some factors which are “hampering the progress of disadvantaged children need to be removed and equal opportunities provided to them through policy actions taken by the government.”
A Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said the President added: “programmes and actions for children have to take centre stage in national policy-making. We have a shared responsibility to reduce the inequalities that harm the underprivileged children more than any other age group.”
He also asserted: “The path towards an equal future will come through prioritising. The disparities in education, health and poverty indicators will have to be eliminated. The factors hampering the progress of disadvantaged children will have to be removed. We, indeed, have a moral obligation towards our children, towards their development and security and in giving them equal opportunity.”
The fact that the Dalai Lama participated in the function is sign of bolder soft diplomacy from the part of the Modi government.
Remember in November 2011.
As the preparations for the Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC), organized by the Ashoka Mission (with an attendance by some 900 monks and nuns from over 40 countries), were going on in Delhi, Beijing suddenly objected to the presence of the Dalai Lama in one of the functions.
At that time, China went a step further than just protest; it threatened to call off the 15th round of the border talks between the Special Representatives (SR) if India refused to yield and cancel the Conference. Beijing also objected to the Prime Minister and the President attending the opening ceremony of the Congregation.
Eventually, India backed partially down with the Prime Minister and the President suddenly becoming ‘busy’, but the program with the Dalai Lama was reconfirmed.
This time the Dalai Lama participated to the function in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Great soft diplomacy? A message to China?

The Dalai Lama with President Rajendra Prasad in 1957
One of the Tibetan leader's last visits to Rashtrapati Bhavan
 
 










Saturday, December 10, 2016

More roads to the Tibet borders

China actively continues to invest on infrastructure towards Tibet’s borders with its neighbours.
According to Kangba TV, a new Yunnan-Tibet highway is under construction. The project will eventually cost 2.34-billion-yuan.
Starting from Bingzhongluo Township in Yunnan Province, it will proceed towards Gongshan Derung and Nu Autonomous County of Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture. The road will  then pass through Tshabarong (pinyin: Cawarong Township) and ends up in Zhowago (the Tibetan rendering is not clear) in Zayul County of Nyingchi Township of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Bingzhongluo Township in Yunnan is famed for the coexistence of different religions including Tibetan Buddhism, Catholicism and Christian.
The village of Tshabarong lies at the relatively altitude of 2,003 meters. Formerly known as Tsarung, it was traditionally on a southern trade route running from Yunnan to Tibet; it was also part of the fame tea-horse road. Wikipedia describes the road thus: “An unsealed road cut into the cliffs above the Nu River links it to Bingzhongluo in Yunnan.”
Tshabarong is a stage towards the Khawa Karpo’s pilgrimage, the highest mountain in Yunnan’s province (part of the Tibetan territory lies in Yunnan). The peak is located on the border between Dechen County of Yunnan, and the  counties of Tsogang (Chinese: Zogang) in Chamdo Prefecture and Zayul in TAR. Khawa Karpo is one of the most sacred peaks in Tibetan culture.
The new 280-kilometer road will run for 253 km in the TAR where it will link up with the Sichuan-Tibet highway.
Official sources said that the new Yunnan-Tibet highway is expected to meet the 4th national highway standard: “Due to the low altitude, the highway enjoys a variety of cultures and natural landscapes including sharp cliff standing on the bank of Nujiang [Salween] River, barren dry and hot valley, flourishing forest and magnificent glacier.”
The road will end up near the Indian border, opposite the Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Khawa Karpo

Plan for Nyingchi Prefecture
The same Kangba TV reported about the TAR’s economic and social achievements during the 12th Five-Year period and the details of the 13th Five-Year Plan.
According to the report, the Communist Party’s regional committee of Nyingchi Township has adopted new “policies to advance the social reform and development, which leads to much progress in diverse fields.”
During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, Nyingchi’s objective should be one of the first townships “to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in 2018. By 2020, it is expected to be built into a higher-level moderately prosperous society.”
It says that the main index of its public services may reach the average level of western China.
It will work in ‘six major sectors’ which includes improving people’s livelihood, expanding the investment, protecting the ecology, promoting the industries, boosting innovation and ensuring the social stability.
Though, not mentioned in the press release, the roads to the Indian borders will be a major component as I mentioned in recent posts on this blog.

Road to Nepal Border
In the meantime, The Kathmandu Post said that China was extending its road connectivity up to the Nepal-China border point at Tiptala Bhanjyang in Olangchungola, which is a village in the north-eastern of Nepal.
It was once a busy and historical trade route with Tibet. Located at 3,100 m on the Tamur River, Olangchungola is named after the local inhabitants, the Walungs who came from Tibet.
According to The Post, the villagers in Olangchungola, Taplejung are excited about the prospects of having a road connectivity with Tibet. Once the road is opened, the villagers can transport daily essentials from the Chinese mart on the Tibetan side.
People living in border areas of Taplejung buy their daily essentials, including rice, salt and oil, from Riu Bazaar in Tibet, while exporting herbs and carpets.
The new road extending all the way to Tiptala Bhanjyang will cut the travel duration and make it easier for the people to ferry heavy loads. In the past, people had to walk around 2km to reach Tiptala Bhanjyang.
The road connectivity with Tibet has created a great excitement among the people in the area, said The Post: “We have been travelling on foot to reach Lachiphungchung in Tibet before taking vehicles to reach Riu bazaar. Now, we can get vehicles at the border point itself,” remarked Dawand Lama, a trader.
The local authorities still have to open 17 km road on the Nepali side, from the border point to Olangchungola. Local people have also urged Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to request the Chinese administration to provide excavators to open a road on the Nepali side.
China will certainly oblige; one more Chinese in-road into Nepal.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New Terminal for Lhasa Airport

Recently, the design of Terminal 3 of the Lhasa Gongkar has been made public.
It is said that the design was inspired by “traditional Tibetan culture in the pursuit of  the heart of the sun and the moon - the eternal Shambhala". 
What does this mean? Is not clear.
China Tibet Net added that this project will “not only meet its functional purpose, but also perfectly combine architectural style and regional culture".
I leave it to the readers to decide if the culture of Tibet is represented in the model.

Importance of Gongkar Airport
On July 1, China Military Online had reported that new steps had been taken to “help PLA Air Force (PLAAF) cope with emergencies.”
A joint meeting on the development of military-civilian integration of dual-use airports of the PLAAF had been held in Beijing on June 17.
On the agenda was the "Interim Provisions of Operation Security at Dual-use Airports of the PLA Air Force." The PLA website said that it is based on win-win principles for both the military and civilian sides.
The new arrangement, to integrate the development of military-civilian airport resources between the PLAAF and civil aviation is being implemented, noted the website, which further explained: “Its main purpose was to establish a complementary management mechanism with smooth coordination and shared resources to gradually form a support capability that guarantees flight safety at peace times and meets combat needs at wartimes.”
Beijing believed that “two [first] airports [Lhasa and Sunan Shuofang] are good examples of dual-use airports.”

Why Lhasa Gonggar Airport?
As it provided “important support for Tibet's economic development and national security in China’s Southwestern region.”
Lhasa Airport has always been the hub to ‘defend' China’s borders …against India.
China Military Online remarks: “On the one hand, as an important force in Tibet’s transportation, the airport has made great contributions to Tibet's economic construction. It has safely transported more than six million passengers in total since it was put into use. The cargo throughput also surpassed 140,000 tons.”
It adds: “On the other hand, the airport is an important channel to transport the PLA's new recruits and strategic materials to Tibet. The airport is also a major ‘airborne bridgehead’ in Southwest China.”

Today, Xinhua announced that the number of passengers 'handled' by Lhasa Gonggar Airport will exceed 3 million in 2016: "it shows the rapid development of its civil aviation industry," says the agency.
For the first time in 2006, the Lhasa airport saw the number of passengers crossed 1 million and in 2013, it reached 2 million.
A senior regional civil aviation official told Xinhua: "The rapid growth in passenger numbers at Lhasa airport shows people's confidence in Tibet's social stability, and is a symbol of the rapid economic development of Tibet."
For the Chinese authorities, the so-called stability of the plateau is clearly linked to the number of passengers using the 71 routes from the Mainland to Lhasa.

Incidentally,  on November 25, China Daily announced that more than 20 new highways will be built in the TAR in 2017 (with a total investment of more than 33 billion yuan or 5 billion US dollar).
Among them, a highway between Lhasa and Shigatse Airport and the one between Gongkar Airport to Tsethang.

Monday, December 5, 2016

‘New normal’ in form of old for Beijing?

My article ‘New normal’ in form of old for Beijing? appeared last week in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.


Here is the link...

China has been asserting itself globally. The US's possible withdrawal from the TPP will help Beijing.  Can China be a champion of ‘globalisation' and yet remain an authoritarian regime internally

The new Literature Nobel Prize laureate once sang, “The Times They Are a-Changin”. Lately, they have been changing even faster. Realignments are swiftly taking place, creating a sense of planetary incertitude. Take the example of US President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement that the US would pull out of the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); it could undoubtedly create a void that Beijing is dreaming to fill. New York University professor Ian Bremmer noted that “officials in China are excited about Trump’s plan to withdraw from the US’s participation in the planned TPP”.
The New York Times report headlined, ‘China’s Influence Grows in Ashes of Trans-Pacific Trade Pact’, remarked that an apparent defeat was “an unalloyed triumph for China”. There is no doubt that we may soon witness a considerable realignment in Asia, with China taking the lead.
During his keynote speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Lima in Peru, Chinese President Xi Jinping renewed his call for ‘globalisation’; he pushed for the construction of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). While the new US dispensation preaches protectionism and is crusading against economic globalisation, Xi plays the ‘global’ card: “We should firmly pursue the FTAAP as an institutional mechanism for ensuring an open economy in the Asia-Pacific”, he said. Were Mao Zedong to come out of his mausoleum, he would not believe his ears.
But nothing is simple in today’s world. The TPP was to promote fairer and freer trade with far-reaching provisions for labour and environmental protection. The US withdrawal may trigger a halt of domestic reforms in the Middle Kingdom. The fact that China will face no restriction anymore, will not help Beijing become a ‘normal’ state. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) pointed out: “The scale of the pact was expected to put external pressure on Beijing to lift its own standards.”
Zhao Minghao, a researcher with the China Centre for Contemporary World Studies, told the SCMP that “the TPP’s demise would be a ‘double-edged sword’ for China”. It pointed out that other deals such as the FTAAP “did not require the Central Government to make painful domestic changes”.
Can China simultaneously promote free-market and remain an authoritarian regime, controlling its own people in a repressive manner? In this context, it is interesting to look at the new counter-terrorism law which came into effect on January 1, 2016. The new law consists of 97 Articles in 10 chapters, covering issues such as terrorism designation, prevention, intelligence gathering, investigation, emergency response, international co-operation or legal liabilities.
While one can rejoice that China has decided to become a ‘normal’ state ruled by law, one is forced to notice that general repression of individual freedom of speech and thought, has dramatically increased since the 18th Congress in November 2012. Though Rule of Law is one of The Four Comprehensives, President Xi’s new mantra (namely build a moderately prosperous society; deepen the reform; govern according to law; govern strictly under the direction of the Party), it is feared that the last ‘comprehensive’ will not be in accord with the third one. Can a state be governed without checks and balances and at the same time follow the Rule of Law?
Moreover, the new federal Anti-Terrorism Law will be part of a ‘package’ which will include a National Security Law, a Non-Governmental Organisations Management Law and a Cyber-Security Law, amongst others. How far can the new law become a tool to further contain the resentment of the people? Will the Internet and social media networks be an instrument of information or repression?
A few months ago, David Shambaugh, a respected Chinese watcher, who is director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, wrote a Saturday Essay entitled, ‘Coming Chinese Crackup’. It was published in The Wall Street Journal, but circulated widely on social media. Later Shambaugh, elaborated his theory in a 203-page new book, China’s Future, where he argues that “China is in a state of ‘atrophy’ and ‘decline’, which will continue if no major political reform takes place in the near future”.
It is certain that the new law will engender more fear among the so-called minorities and though, like everywhere on the planet, religious extremism may exist in China, ‘regionalism’ in Xinjiang or Tibet is always assimilated to separatism and terrorism. The question remains: Can China become a normal state?
Xinhua had reported: “The regional Government of Xinjiang unveiled China’s first local counterterrorism law. Based on China’s Counterterrorism Law, passed in December 2015, the regional law details and supplements the national law in defining terror activities and terrorists, security precautions, intelligence, investigations, countermeasures and punishment.”
The fact that a ‘counter-terrorist law’ was immediately enacted in Xinjiang (it will probably happen in Tibet soon) makes the future of human rights in China quite disquieting. Once again, it is too easy to associate regional resentment with terrorism. Authoritarianism has other implications.
The Diplomat recently published an article titled, ‘China and Germany: The Honeymoon is over’. It said, “The prolonged honeymoon between China and Germany has come to an abrupt halt. In Berlin, awareness has grown that Beijing has moved from being an economic partner to a serious global competitor.” It cited the recent visit to China of Sigmar Gabriel, the German Economy Minister, which “came in the middle of an atmosphere of crisis in German-Chinese economic relations” It added,  “Instead of attempting to improve matters, however, Gabriel set out to teach the Chinese a lesson.”
Gabriel is also Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and is a possible candidate for the next chancellorship.
The Diplomat explained that Gabriel burst out by quoting the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “China is by far the most restrictive industrial country in the world. Unlike the freedom of maneuver Chinese companies enjoy in the West, foreign firms in China are not allowed, for instance, to invest in the banking, telecommunication, or media industries. Public tenders usually are awarded to Chinese companies rather than to foreign ones.”
All this together creates a rather confusing situation; it shows that China is far from stepping into the US’s shoes as the world leader.
Indeed the question is: Can China be a champion of ‘globalisation’ and yet remain an authoritarian regime internally? The answers are not easy to get.