Friday, January 30, 2015

The shadowy Mr. Xiao

The meeting with the Karmapa did not go so well
The BBC News’ Shanghai correspondent has just reported about ‘China's super-rich communist Buddhists’, in which there is a footage of an audience given by the Dalai Lama to Xiao Wunan, a shadowy Chinese character.
I had mentioned Xiao on this blog in October 2012.
I then wrote:
According to the website of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a delegation from this Hong Kong based organization ‘visited India and Nepal upon invitation’.
The [organization] website gave some details: "During the visit in India, APECF delegation went to Dharamsala and visited the 17th Karmapa, both parties had a pleasant talk about the issue of bilateral religious and cultural exchange."
The APECF webmaster has forgotten to mention that Xiao Wunan, a senior CCP cadre and executive vice-president of APECF also met with the Dalai Lama and Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected Tibetan leader.
Why to only mention Karmapa?
The Chinese leadership probably wanted to keep the encounter with the Tibetan leaders as informal and low-key as possible.
None of the Tibetan websites reported the event which is an important one.
It appears that the meeting with the Karmapa did not go well and the young lama eventually walked out. It is not know what exactly happened.
A year earlier, I had already mentioned Xiao Wunan in connection with the so-called Lumbini project:
The Economist recently reported that China plans to invest $3 billion in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. The Economist explained: “After Prachanda, the leader of Nepal’s Maoists, stepped down as prime minister in 2009, he several times met representatives of The Asia Pacific Exchange and Co-operation Foundation (APECF). In July Chinese media reported that the Hong-Kong-based foundation—which is widely thought to have China’s backing—had signed an agreement with UNIDO, the UN’s industrial-development organisation, to invest $3 billion in Lumbini.” The objective is to make a ‘Mecca for Buddhists’. The Economist said that the news caused an uproar in Nepal as neither the central government nor the local authorities responsible for Lumbini were consulted. Later the Nepalese government refused to entertain the deal. “If this was an exercise in Chinese ‘soft power; it was a disaster’, The Economist commented.
Despite the 'uproar', Xiao Wunan stayed a week in Nepal.
The APECF website says: "From August 14th to 22nd, the Executive Vice Chairman of APECF Mr. Xiao Wunan, the Deputy Secretary General Ms. Gong Tingyu and Ms. Ge Chen, etc and representatives from China Railway 21st Bureau and China Potevio Group visited this area mentioned above, and had extensive exchanges with all parties in the aspect of bilateral and multilateral religious and cultural exchange and the further implementation of Lumbini Recovery Plan, and obtained fruitful results."
The Lumbini project is certainly not shelved as: "During the visit in Nepal, APECF delegation visited Mr. Parmanand Jha, the Vice President of Nepal, Mr. Prachanda, the President of Lumbini Development National Directive Committee, Mr. Posta Bahadur Bogati, the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mr. Hridesh Tripathi, the Minister for Physical Planning, and Mr. Kamal Thapa, the Minister for Telecommunications."
And Mr Xiao wants also to help Nalanda!
About the encounter between the Dalai Lama and Xiao, posing as an emissary of Xi Jinping, I then concluded: “Anyhow, it is an extremely interesting development."
I thought that it could have been a small step forward.
At that time I was not aware of some other facets of Mr. Xiao's character.
The recent BBC reportage raises some serious issues.
Who is really Xiao?
Who are his sponsors in Beijing?
Why is Xiao suddenly back on the Buddhist stage?
How did Xiao Wunan get the footage of his audience with the Dalai Lama?
Why has he decided to make it public now?
Why has he not ‘released’ footages of his interviews with the Karmapa and Lobsang Sangye, the Tibetan Prime Minister?
It is difficult to answer these questions.
By the way, when he met the Dalai Lama, Xiao Wunan was accompanied by Simon Kei Shek Ming (alias Ji Shiming), a Hong Kong journalist who later interviewed Prof. Jin Wei of the Central Communist Party School. The latter suggested that Beijing should invite the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong.
If Xiao is a Chinese emissary, a messenger, there is no doubt that some of his visits abroad are related with the fact that Beijing has tried to project a 'soft' image of a Middle Kingdom, which could become the leader of the Buddhist world.
Yes, Beijing would like to be Marxist and Buddhist at the same time!
Already in July 2011, The China Daily had announced a plan to raise US $ 3 billion to turn Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace in Nepal into a Mecca for Buddhists: “a Hong Kong-based transnational foundation signed a memorandum with a United Nations agency that promotes industrialization in developing countries. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization will rely on its Beijing-based investment and technology promotion office for China to offer technical support for the project in Lumbini, Nepal.”
This then, it appears to have been shelved, at least temporarily.
But from where this money would have come from?
From the cash box of the Party?
The Chinese publication then affirmed: “As part of the project, the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation has promised to bring roads, communication equipment, water and electricity to Lumbini, a poverty-stricken United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site that attracts about half a million visitors a year.”
Isn't it amazing?
Who is this APECF?
The China Daily says that the board is composed amongst others of Steven Clark Rockefeller Jr.; Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress; Leon H. Charney, a real estate tycoon and former US presidential adviser; Prachanda, leader of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist); and Paras, the former Nepali crown prince known for his excesses.
In 2011, Xiao Wunan, executive vice-chairman of the foundation had explained that the Lumbini project will help "transcend religion, ideology and race" and rejuvenate the culture and spirit of Buddhism. …Buddhist dignitaries from around the world, including those from the Mahayana, Hinayana and Tibetan schools of Buddhism, have expressed enthusiasm about the plans.”
There is little doubt that some Chinese officials, with the help of Xiao Wunan would like China to take the lead in the world Buddhist movement.
In October 2014, I wrote about the Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) held in China.
Xinhua then reported: “Hundreds of the world's Buddhists gathered at an ancient temple in northwest China's Shaanxi Province to open the World Fellowship of Buddhists' 27th general conference. Congregating around a relic said to contain one of the Buddha's finger bones at the Famen Temple in Baoji City, more than 600 representatives from 30 nations and regions were in attendance.”
It was the first time that the three-day event, organized by the Bangkok-headquartered WFB, met on the Chinese soil (from October 16 to 18).
Xinhua also said: “Buddhist leaders at the opening ceremony included the 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu [Gyaltsen Norbu], and Nichiyu Mochida, chief abbot of Japan's Sogen-ji Temple.”
Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, who attended the WFB on behalf of the German Dharmadutta Society delegation from Sri Lanka, commented on the impressive display of Chinese Buddhist culture and hospitality.

Xiao with Admiral Rogel, Chief of the Naval Staff (France)
Around the same time, Xiao Wunan was in France.
A Chinese publication reported: “A dinner to celebrate the Sino-French "SeaOrbiter" was hosted by the Institut de France - the Jacques Rougerie Foundation and co-sponsored by the Asia Pacific Exchange & Cooperation Foundation. It was held in French navy headquarter on the evening of October 16. Admiral Bernard Rogel, chief of staff of the French Navy, Mr. Jacques Rougerie, initiator of the 'SeaOrbiter' project and Chairman of the Jacques Rougerie Foundation, Mr. Xiao Wunan, Executive Chairman of APECF, Mr. Li Shaoping, Cultural Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in France, and other distinguished guests attended the dinner. In March this year, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to France, the Institut de France - the Jacques Rougerie Foundation and APECF signed a memorandum of understanding on the SeaOrbiter–China Project in Paris. They plan to build the world's first 'SeaOrbiter' in the South China Sea.”
I did not know that SeaOrbiter was a Sino-French project!!
In a speech in August, the eclectic Mr. Xiao had explained that China's State Council “officially listed the SeaOrbiter as one of ten major scientific and technological projects and praised this cooperation from a national strategic perspective. ...China hopes this project will turn it into a maritime power and assume more responsibility exploring our oceans.”
Xiao Wunan is indeed very versatile.
A month earlier, he visited Tel Aviv at the invitation of Israel's Labor Party. His website says: “During the visit, they exchanged ideas with Israel's Labor Party, the Prime Minister's Office, think tanks, the national bank and other institutions and achieved fruitful results.
He met Isaac Herzog, Chairman of Israel's Labor Party who gave him an autobiography of his father (the former president of Israel).
Xiao Wunan has a particularity: he likes to be photographed with important persons. One can understand, as he probably has to report to Beijing about the huge amounts of money he lavishly spends when he moves around.
Bizarre Affair!
Later, he was spotted in the United States.
As one of the characters in the BBC reportage admits, today in China, one becomes Buddhism to get richer.
It looks like the case of Mr. Xiao. It is true that to get rich in China was till recently relatively easy (with or without Buddha's help).
The question remains: who are Xiao's sponsors?
Some rumours have linked an APECF's Vice-Chairman with Zhou Yongkang, the demoted former member of the Politburo's Standing Committee. Is Mr Xiao's money coming from in oil, gas, media, hospitality and communications?
It is up to Wang Qishan and his Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to find out.
But presently, Xiao Wunan is doing well ...till his karma catches up with him!

White Paper VII on China

I have posted on my website, a digital version of the White Paper No.VII (also known as Notes, Memoranda and Letters Exchanged Between the Governments of India and China).
This volume relates to the period between July 1962 and October 1962, the months preceding the India-China War.
It was published by the Ministry of External Affairs Government of India in November 1962 :
On 6 August 1962, the Prime Minister presented to Parliament the Sixth White Paper containing the notes, memoranda and letters exchanged between the Government of India and the Government of the People's Republic of China since 2 December 1961. This White Paper contains the notes, memoranda and letters exchanged between the two Governments, since 28 July 1962. It also contains 5 earlier notes which had not been included in the previous White Paper."

Click here to download...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

High on rhetoric, but ill-prepared on ground

My article High on rhetoric, but ill-prepared on ground appeared today in the Edit page of The Pioneer.

Here is the link...

If we are to be prepared to counter Chinese designs along the Line of Actual Control and China’s claim over States like Arunachal Pradesh, we need to dramatically ramp up road infrastructure at the borders

President Barack Obama has come and gone. The dust is slowly settling over the Indian capital. Even if very few concrete projects have materialised during the three-day visit, it was a great diplomatic success for Mr Narendra Modi. The bonhomie displayed by the two heads of Government is certainly a good omen for the future. At last India has come out of the dreadful ‘non- alignment’ syndrome.
But one serious concern comes from Mr Modi’s own camp: Several Ministers are not able to think before speaking. The latest is Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma who stated, “If there was a religious centre in Aksai Chin, China would not have dared [enter] and there would have been no need for border security.” Religion and spirituality were Tibet’s way of life, but the Chinese invaded and destroyed 6,000 monasteries.
But that is not all for Mr Modi. Take Arunachal, for example. Despite the good intentions and the publicised resolutions to transform the State, changes take more time than expected. Irredentist China still asserts that the State belongs to it. During his recent visit to Delhi, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was fired by Beijing because he stated that Arunachal Pradesh was under India’s control. Beijing immediately lodged a strong protest: “We hope Japan fully understands the sensitivity of the China-India boundary question”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
At the time of the incident, the website, China Tibet Online explained its stance: “The areas located between the illegal ‘McMahon Line’and the traditional customary boundary between China and India [down to Assam], have always been Chinese territory.” Though this does not make any historical sense, Beijing continues with its claims. At the same time, China develops the areas north of the McMahon on a war footing.
For centuries, one of most sacred places in Tibet was a remote area known as Pemakoe. Dominated by Mt Namcha Barwa, at an altitude of 7,782 metres, it is located in Metok county, north of Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. For the Tibetans, this pristine region was one of their ‘hidden valleys’, said to be the home of Goddess Dorjee Pagmo, Tibet’s Protecting Deity.
As Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao landed in Delhi in December 2010, Xinhua dropped a bombshell: “The tunnel of highway linking Tibet’s Metok completed”, it informed. Though unnoticed by the Indian media, it heralded a significant strategic change for the defence of India’s borders. On October 31, 2013, China Tibet Online reported that the 117-km Metok Highway had been opened to traffic: Pemakoe was not ‘hidden’ anymore. Xinhua announced that the journey by cars or buses to the nearby Bomi county would take hardly eight hours.
Last week, Xinhua announced that the same Metok county “celebrated a tourist boom last year thanks to a new highway”. Tashi, Party chief of the county declared that Metok “received 96,000 tourists last year, almost doubling that in 2013, …[it] expects to welcome 110,000 visitors this year”, bringing revenue of nearly one billion US dollars to the area.
On the Indian side, Prime Minister Modi has to deal with unbelievable difficulties. One is the terrain itself, while others have been the creation of the previous Congress Government. Take the Border Roads Organisation, which has clearly been unable to deliver the goods. There was an irrational dual command between the Ministry of Surface Transport looking after ‘administration’ and the Ministry of Defence taking care of ‘operations’. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar admitted that “with two masters, you don’t get work output”.
It may take years to set things right, but the Modi regime  seems determined. It has been decided to transfer the BRO under the MoD. The organisation will entirely be “defence-controlled and defence-financed”, according to the Defence Minister, quoted by Business Standard. Mr Parrikar added that the Modi Government was “considering transferring of 6,000-7,000 km of roads, which are not in sensitive areas, to the National Highways Authority of India”.
This is good, but today, nobody in Arunachal Pradesh believes that the BRO will be able to keep its promises (amongst them, to complete by 2016 the strategic Balukpong-Tawang road). Another small step in the right direction is the exemption by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest of necessary clearance for the “construction/widening of roads entrusted to the BRO in the area falling within 100 kilometers aerial distance from the Line of Actual Control”.
Press Trust of India reported that the BRO’s Director General , Lt Gen RM Mittal, accompanied by the organisation’s top brass, paid a five-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh early this month. The Director General must have heard of the pathetic case of the 221-km Daporijo-Taksing road in Upper Subansiri district. In November and December, the BRO’s local Chief Engineer, Brigadier HK Pokhariya had to tour the project on foot. This time, the officials flew to the LAC, “for ascertaining the progress of work and to suggest steps to speed up the work”, said a communique.
All essential goods have still to be carried to Taksing circle, which often witnesses Chinese intrusions. The BRO has not enough camps, and, in some cases, according to local sources, it takes three to four  hours for the workforce to reach their workplace. After working a couple of hours, the time comes for the workers to return to their base. When will this be sorted out? The situation on the ground shows that Mr Modi’s dream to stop the migration from the border areas will continue to face huge hurdles.
Another example was that the Protected Area Permit for foreigners, was made more complicated: Tourists from abroad had to go through a tour operator who was charging several times the $50  fixed by the authorities. It appears that the issue has now been solved; a proposal has been approved for relaxation of the permit to promote tourism.
Yet another issue that the Modi Government has not yet been able to solve is the Chinese intrusions. This is going to take more time. It is a pity that the Government remains hesitant and still insists on the antiquated Inner Line Permit (and PAP) for Arunachal Pradesh. This timid attitude seems to encourage Beijing to persist with its wild claims on the region.
Delhi should assert once and for all that the entire Arunachal Pradesh is Indian territory and, therefore, it must treat it on par with any other Indian State. Every Indian national should be allowed to freely visit the State, while, of course, keeping in mind the security issues. Similarly, in every field of governance, the progresses are slow. Still, as long the Modi Government keeps trying to bring about change, there is hope.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkeys: CCDI in Tibet

Applauding the Party at the Tibet People's Congress
A few days ago, China releases a long list of PLA commanders under investigation for alleged corruption.
The South China Morning Post wrote: "The military made a rare move by listing 16 senior commanders to come under investigation for graft over the last year. The People's Liberation Army has singled out corrupt individual officers over the past two years but never so many at one time. The list includes familiar names as well as new additions, including two from the logistics department, a PLA unit that oversees military spending."
The list of the 16 generals was made public.
The situation is different in Tibet.

Yesterday, The Global Times announced: "Several officials who participated in the illegal underground 'Tibetan Independence' organization, provided intelligence to the Dalai Lama clique and assisted activities that would harm national security, were put under investigation in 2014." The mouthpiece of the Party quoted 'authorities' in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
However, no names were given.
Why this double-standard between Party cadres in Tibet and PLA generals?
Wang Gang, an official of the Central Committee of Discipline Inspection (CCDI) stated that "15 officials were punished by the Communist Party of China (CPC) for violating Party and political discipline in 2014."
Who are they?
We are only told that there are "Six 'typical' cases of Party members and civil servants violating discipline and 45 officials who abandoned their positions and neglected their duties".
Did they visit Dharamsala during their holidays? Wang would not say, though we are told that they have been severely punished.
Ye Dongsong, head of the CCDI inspection team who visited Tibet in November 2014 added: "Some officials failed to take a firm stand on issues related to the Tibet question and some grass-root officials in the region were found to be seriously corrupt."
The CCDI official suggested that the Tibetan regional government should focus "on neutralizing separatists and maintaining social stability, cracking down on corruption and strictly monitoring projects in the region."
It looks to me  like 'killing a few chicken for scaring the monkeys', as the Chinese proverb says.
Last week, during the 'Two Meetings' (the annual Tibet People's Congress and Tibet People's Political Consultative Conference), all the big shots were around. It probably means that the 15 black sheep who dared admiring (or worshiping) the Dalai Lama, are relatively junior officials posted at the county level.
[Three days after writing this post, Xinhua, quoting the CCDI's website, gave a name. It was announced that "Losong Tsering, secretary of the CPC committee of Tibet's Transportation Department, is the subject of an investigation relating to 'serious disciplinary violations', according to the regional discipline inspection commission. The commission did not elaborate on the 'violations'." Losong Tsering served earlier as Party Secretary of Shannan (Lhoka) Prefecture from 2006 to 2011].

The Fashion Show

By the way, Caixin.com reported that "Two-Thirds of Provinces Say They Missed GDP Growth Targets in 2014," and added: "At least two-thirds of China's provinces, regions and municipalities failed to meet their targets for gross domestic product growth for last year, prompting regional governments to lower their projections for 2015."
Interestingly, among the 22 provinces and regions which have released macroeconomic statistics for 2014, only Tibet managed to meet the target of 11 percent growth.
One could add, thanks to the tourism boom.
This year too, the Two Meetings witnessed the usual fashion show.
Please note that some of the 'models' were not really politically correct as they wore animal fur.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The McMahon Line is legal

My article The McMahon Line is legal appeared in NitiCentral.
Here is the link...

Soon before India started suffering from an acute Obama fever, a small incident took place which, though largely unnoticed, it made China extremely unhappy.
During his recent visit to Delhi, the Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida dared to speak about what Beijing calls “a Chinese territorial area adjacent to India as Indian Territory.” According to The China Daily, the Japanese diplomat was referring to Arunachal Pradesh
Beijing immediately lodged a strong protest: “We hope Japan fully understands the sensitivity of the China-India boundary question,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, who added that in his speech in New Delhi, “Kishida attracted media attention after referring to a southern area of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region as Indian Territory. …Beijing has taken notice of the report, expressed serious concerns, demanded Japan make a clarification and immediately manage damage control.”
Hong affirmed that Tokyo had earlier stated its position of “no taking sides in regard to the areas disputed by China and India” and promised Beijing that it will not get involved in the issue.
Later, Kishida’s clarification did not satisfy China.
Unfortunately for Beijing, the bullying tactics do not work with Japan.
Apart from the China’s official position expressed by Hong Lei, Beijing used one of its ‘scholars’ to add to the barrage of artillery against Kishida.
Geng Xin, who teaches at Renmin University in Beijing and is involved in Japan-based China Studies Think Tank, spoke to The Global Times, the Communist party mouthpiece. He affirmed that Kishida’s words had
“unveiled Japan’s intent of ‘uniting’ the countries that have territorial disputes with China, in an attempt to create a strong impression that Japan, along with China’s other neighboring countries, is bullied by a rising China.”
At the time of the incident, the website China Tibet Online explained Beijing’s position vis-à-vis the border:
“Arunachal Pradesh, which includes three areas in Tibet Autonomous Region -Monyul, Loyul and Lower Tsayul, is currently under Indian illegal occupation. The Chinese government’s stance on these areas, located between the illegal ‘McMahon Line’ and the traditional customary boundary between China and India, is that they have always been Chinese territory.”
Historical facts speak very differently.
Contrary to what China says today, the McMahon Line is very much legal: it was signed by the Prime Minister of Tibet (Lochen Shatra) and India’s Foreign Secretary (Sir Henry McMahon) in March 1914.
As importantly, during the last two millennia, the Chinese have never set a foot in Arunachal Pradesh (formerly NEFA), except for one short visit in one particular location in 1910.
Soon after their occupation of Lhasa in 1910, the troops of Zhao Erfeng, a Chinese warlord troops undertook the subjugation of Poyul, the region located north of the territory inhabited by the Abors in the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra Valley. Zhao Erfeng also invited Chinese settlers to come and settle in Zayul, near Rima on the Tibetan side in the Lohit valley. During the summer of 1910, some Chinese officials posted near Rima, went as far south as Walong in Indian Territory where they planted boundary flags, in a place called Menilkrai.
This incident rang the bells in Delhi and London. Something had to be done.
This brief intrusion in the Lohit valley more than 100 years ago, does not means that the entire NEFA has always belonged to China.
In November 1913, the Secretary of State sanctioned what the British called a ‘promenade’. T.P.M. O’Callaghan, the Assistant Political Officer (APO), accompanied by an escort of the 1/8th Gurkha Rifles visited Rima at the invitation of the Tibetan authorities, and clarified the location of the border.
On May 6, 1914, Sir Archdale Earle, the Chief Commissioner of Assam wrote:
“Mr. O’Callaghan’s report confirms the information …that there are at present no Chinese troops anywhere in the neighbourhood of Rima.”
The APO had found Chinese markers at Menilkrai, near Walong (one set dated from 1910 and new markers had been placed in 1912 by the Chinese troops). O’Callaghan removed the markers, repositioned them upstream, near Kahao, just south of the McMahon Line.
O’Callaghan however suggested that a military post needed to be established at Walong:
“I am more than ever convinced of the necessity of the finishing of the road to our frontier and the opening of a post as near our frontier as soon as possible.”
Even before the McMahon Line was formerly delineated, there was no Chinese presence in NEFA.
It is however true that there were areas where the Tibetans had some influence (it represented some 10% of the NEFA’s/Arunachal’s territory); it was mainly in Tawang area; in today’s West Siang [Pachaksiri], Upper Siang [Tuting, Geling], and Lohit/Anjaw, where tribes affiliated with the Tibetans (Monpas, Mempas, etc…) lived.
This again does not make Arunachal ‘Chinese'; the Chinese never even visited these areas.
China knew this and admitted it. Take a letter from Jawaharlal Nehru to U Nu, his Burmese counterpart; on April 22, 1957, Nehru wrote: “I am writing to you immediately so as to inform you of one particular development which took place here when Chou En-lai (Zhou Enlai) came to India. In your letter you say that while premier Chou En-lai was prepared to accept the McMahon Line in the north (of Burma), he objected to the use of the name ‘McMahon Line’, as this may produce ‘complications vis-à-vis India’, and therefore, he preferred to use the term ‘traditional line’.”
Nehru continued: “[Zhou] made it clear that he accepted the McMahon Line between India and China, chiefly because of his desire to settle outstanding matters with a friendly country like India and also because of usage, etc. I think, he added he did not like the name ‘McMahon Line’.”
Whether he liked or not the ‘colonial’ connotation, the line remained the border and till September 1959, there was no dispute about the border!
NEFA/Arunachal as part of China is definitively a claim which followed the border tensions at the end of the 1950s and culminated in the 1962 War.
It is however true that the shyness of the Government of India, which still insists on an Inner Line Permit (or Protected Area Permit for foreigners) encourages the Chinese government to continue with its wild claims.
Delhi should assert once and for all that the entire Arunachal is Indian and therefore treat at par with the other Indian States and every Indian national should be allowed to freely visit the State, while, of course, keeping in mind the security issues.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Tibetan blues

My book review of Meltdown in Tibet by Michael Buckley (PanMacmillan), entitled The Tibetan blues appeared yesterday in the Sunday Pioneer (Agenda) .


Here is the link...

This well-documented work delves deep into issues which are bound to get hotter with time, writes CLAUDE ARPI

André Malraux, the famous French Philosopher and General de Gaulle’s Culture Minister once said, ‘The 21st century will be spiritual or will not be’. Without denying the role that spirituality can play in the present planetary crisis, it is obvious that if the world leaders do not rapidly take some drastic actions to solve the planet’s environmental issues, annihilation will befall upon humanity by the end of the current century.
Michael Buckley’s, Meltdown in Tibet, delves deep into these burning issues. His well-documented work deals with topics which are bound to be hotter as the years pass by. Buckley says that he isn’t a scholar who analyses problems from air conditioned rooms, he sees himself more as an adventurer. The Canadian environmentalist has extensively travelled on the Asian roads, more particularly in the Himalayas and the Roof of the World where he witnessed the changes brought about by the wild development of modern China. He is an Asia-trotter, having spent most of his time in our continent, particularly in Tibet. His book, Heartlands: Travels in the Tibetan World had earned him the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award.
He is also a keen rafter and points his finger towards the Tibetan plateau: “Glance at a physical map of the Tibetan Plateau and you will see why the rivers of Tibet are so important to southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The Tibetan plateau is the source of the major rivers of this vast region, stretching all the way from the coast of China in the east to Pakistan in the west. Ninety per cent of the run-off from Tibetan rivers flows downstream into China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, India, Nepal etc. At the tail-end of those same rivers lie the world’s largest deltas...close to two billion people rely on Tibet’s waters-for drinking, for agriculture, for fishing, for industry.”
The first lines of Meltdown in Tibet accurately highlight our century’s vital issues: the fate of more than half of humanity depends on the waters from Tibet. Speaking about the water situation in China, Xinhua recently admitted a ‘domino effect on water supply’. The Chinese news agency was commenting on the first comprehensive study of China’s glaciers which proves that on an average, 244 sq km of glaciers disappear every year. The Chinese glaciologists “had warned of ‘chain effects’ that could have an impact on water supplies in the country’s western regions” …and one should add, on India.
The figures come from the survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which found, “China had 48,571 glaciers in its western provinces, including the Tibetan regions of Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces.” This is indeed not encouraging news, but despite the impending shortage of water in the long-term, China continues to dam rivers originating from the Third Pole; Buckley explains this terminology: “Outside of the Arctic and Antarctic, the Tibetan Plateau has the largest store of ice on earth, leading to its designation as the ‘Third Pole’. …In terms of human impact, however, meltdown of Tibetan Plateau glaciers will have far greater repercussions.” Even the Chinese scientists agree that there is far less scientific data available on the Third Pole than on the Arctic and Antarctic .
An interesting feature of Buckley’s book is that the author links different issues which are not correlated at first sight. When he speaks about the ‘Crisis at the Third Pole’, he asks, ‘What does a rain of black soot have to do with this?’ He himself answers the question: “There is no doubt that greatly elevated CO2 emissions from both China and India are leading causes of warming on the Tibetan Plateau. But for glacial meltdown, another significant factor may be the rain of black soot...Lumps of coal burned in households in China result in a tremendous output of black carbon, or soot, also referred to as black soot. …Black carbon from cities in both India and China travels on air currents and gets trapped on the Tibetan Plateau.”
That is not all, the carbon particle, being black, absorbs the heat from the sun “both while floating in an air column or once settled on the ground — or the ice”. Everyone has experienced that wearing white clothes in summer is cool, as white reflects the light (and the heat) but if you have a black shirt, you will soon feel the heat. Scientists say that when the sun’s rays hit the earth, a certain percentage of the energy is reflected back into space. The amount of radiation reflected is called, the albedo. The sun’s energy at the poles reflects more rays (and heat), it has a high albedo. The more ‘black’ particles and the less snow and glaciers, the faster the earth will warm up with incalculable consequences for the small humans living on it. It triggers a vast exponential domino effect.
'We have only one Tibet'
Chapter after chapter, Buckley enlightens us on the ‘Ecocide on the Land of Snows’; on why Tibet matters so much today; on the fate of the mighty rivers of Tibet and their damming (‘What on earth are China’s engineers up to?’); on China’s appetite for energy (‘Where is the thirsty dragon going to guzzle next’); on the fate of the nomads parked in new ghettos (‘Vanishing Nomads, Vanishing Grasslands’) or Plundering the Treasure House (‘How much can an ecosystem take before it collapses?’). He believes that Beijing’s water policies dictated by their new godhead, i.e. ‘Development’, will lead Asia to natural disasters.
In the chapter ‘Downstream Blues’, he mentions the consequences of the Third Pole’s environmental degradation for India and the possibility of a Himalayan Water War (if the Brahmaputra is diverted, for example). At the end, the author asks a vital question, valid not only for China (Tibet), but for India, Bangladesh or Pakistan too: “Why can’t they just leave the rivers alone?” It’s a difficult question, because development is today a ‘must’ for most modern states.
Is there a way out? A middle path? Buckley does not provide an answer, except mentioning the importance of trans-boundary collaboration. He rightly says: “Water, not oil, is now becoming the world’s most important resource. Though we live on a planet covered by water, very little of it is accessible.” The fate of the 21st century will indeed depend on water; spirituality could perhaps help in bringing some wisdom into humans’ brains and hearts, though it may soon be too late; as the Dalai Lama says in his preface: “We only have one Tibet. There are no backups.”

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Return of General Peng Yong

On November 4, 2013, I mentioned on this blog the sacking of Lt. Gen. Peng Yong; it had been then reported by Reuters.
At that time, I thought that Peng's removal from the Standing Committee of the Regional Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region's Party was linked to the Depsang Plains incident in April 2013. I then wrote:
From 2011 till recently, [Peng] commanded the Xinjiang Military Region. In November 2012, he was promoted as a member of the CCP's Central Committee.
Let us remember that the Xinjiang Military Region of the Lanzhou Military Area looks after the Indian border in Ladakh as well as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Reuters says that he had been 'booted off' for the attack, presumably by Uygyur militants, on the Tiananmen Square.
Why should the PLA Xinjiang Commander (and Central Committee) be responsible for a problem of law and order (Tiananmen incident).
The PLA's job is the defence of China's borders and is concerned with external threats from abroad (in this case, India).
The internal threats are dealt with the People's Armed Police (PAP) and State Security apparatus (Public Security Bureau or PSB).
If a head had to roll for the embarrassing (for Beijing) incident which happened in the heart of the Chinese capital, the Party Secretary (and Politburo member) Zhang Chunxian should have lost his job.
PAP and PSB should have also been sacked. They did not. It means that Peng Yong was shown the door for other reasons, the Depsang incident is a strong probability.
Lt. Gen. Peng Yong
I had concluded: "Let us see what happens next."
My reading was that after being sacked from the Standing Committee, Peng would swiftly be removed from his command in Xinjiang Military District.
I was probably wrong, because General Peng has now reappeared and he is apparently going strong.
Quoting him, Chinese military websites title: 'PLA strengthens Xinjiang forces to foil terror attacks'.
The communique explains: "China is strengthening its military power in its northwestern frontier region bordering Afghanistan and Central Asia. The military reinforcement comes against a backdrop of United States troops pulling out of Afghanistan and extremists launching terrorist attacks on civilian targets."
Quoting General Peng Yong, the article says that the PLA troops, based in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region will vigorously enforce border controls.
Not only Peng is  still commander of the PLA Xinjiang Military District (of Lanzhou Military Region), but he appears to have been reinstalled in the Standing Committee of the XUAR.
Peng declared that during this year, the PLA will continue to carry out 'realistic combat training' and increase its ability to carry out a variety of military exercises.
According to The South China Morning Post, Peng stated: "We have the responsibility to stay on high alert and strike hard against terrorist activities in the region."
He made these remarks during the annual session of the 12th People's Congress of Xinjiang in Urumqi.
It looks like Peng is back in his old seat in the regional Party.
The South China Morning Post further explains: "Three more PLA generals have been appointed to the Xinjiang military region, including Li Wei, a major general, who will serve as its commissar. The two other appointees, Ye Jianjun and Han Bingcheng, are also major generals. ...Xinjiang is the largest provincial-level military region in China. It has four deputy commanders and four deputy commissars, while other military regions normally have only one deputy commander and one deputy commissar."
Not a word about India's border with Xinjiang and Tibet though the Hong Kong newspaper mentions: "Xinjiang shares a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Xinjiang military region increased the number of routine patrols last year to guard against infiltration by terrorist cells after the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan."
The return of General Peng Yong shows that one can often be wrong when one assess China. We will probably never know why he was sacked and why he has been rehabilitated now.
The Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom!

Now Yong and Yong are running the Indian borders (Lt. Gen. Peng Yong - Xinjiang and Lt. Gen. Xu Yong - Tibet).
(According to China Military Online, both Xu Yong and Diao Guoxin, commander and political commissar respectively of the Tibet Military Command [or District] who were promoted lieutenant generals on July 15, 2014, participated in the China-Vietnam border war).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

China: more and more dams in Tibet

A few weeks ago, I questioned the real objective of the newly launched Sichuan-Tibet electricity grid.
Was the purpose to bring electricity from the mainland to Tibet or vice-versa?
At that time, the Chinese press said that the purpose was the former.
Now China Tibet Online speaks of a "Breakthrough in outward power transmission from Tibet".
What does it mean?
It signifies more and more dams will be required in the future ...to feed the outward power transmission and some of these dams will be built on the Yarlung Tsangpo-Brahmaputra.
Chinanews.com announced: "Tibet Autonomous Region is expected to see a breakthrough in outward electric power transmission this summer."
It quotes the Tibet Electric Power Company Limited, to say: "when the three power stations in Dzam [Zangmu?], Dondup [Pangduo?] and Guoduo [located on the upper reaches of the Mekong River in Tserwe Township] are put into operation,Tibet will begin transmitting electricity to other provinces for the first time. This will be achieved with the help of Sichuan-Tibet Power Grid and Qinghai-Tibet DC Networking Project."
It is not what China was saying a few weeks ago:
Xinhua reported that the opening of the 1.08 billion U.S. dollar project linking Chamdo in the TAR and the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze in Sichuan Province, aims at "putting an end to the electricity shortages of the 500,000 residents of the Chamdo region and ease power strain in Tibet as a whole".
Now, the Chinese website admits: "The two lines will increase Tibet’s outward power transmission capacities to 350,000 and 20,000 kilowatts, or 1 billion and 600 million kilowatt hours a year respectively."
Beijing has invested a lot of money in the project: the Sichuan-Tibet Power Grid and Qinghai-Tibet DC Networking Project cost 4.6 billion US dollars. It was part of the 12th Five-year Plan Period (2011-2015).
China Tibet Online affirms: "Together with the Central Tibet Power Grid and Chamdo Power Grid, the two lines will certainly ease local power shortages and boost economic development in eastern Tibet. It is believed that the power grids in Tibet will cover 58 counties and benefit 2.18 million local residents by the end of the year."
Now comes the most telling part:
The foundation work for outward power transmission will be advanced steadily in 2015 by accelerating hydroelectric development in the middle section of the Yarlung Zangbo River [Brahmaputra], said Losang Jamcan [Lobsang Gyatsen], chairman of Tibet's regional government during the Third Session of the Tenth Tibet People's Congress.
Investment in power grid construction in Tibet is predicted to hit a record 60 billion yuan (9.7 billion US dollars) in the 13th Five-year Plan Period. By 2020 Tibet can bid farewell to the history of its power shortage and realize large-scale outward power transmission. The capacities in 2020, 2025 and 2035 will reach 20 million, 40 million and 110 million kilowatts respectively, industry analysts said.
In 2015, China will be "accelerating hydroelectric development in the middle section of the Yarlung Zangbo River."
The conclusion of the website was "Tibet is abundant in water power resources and will serve as an important energy base for the west-east electricity transmission project."
In other words, more and more dams will be built in Tibet ...to feed electricity to China. It will have serious consequences for India and Bangladesh.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rajaspksa played for China, ignored India

My article Rajaspksa played for China, ignored India appeared in NitiCentral

Here is the link...

On September 25, when asked about the docking of one Chinese submarine in Colombo, Col. Geng Yansheng, the spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said that it was a 'routine' affair.
Defending the move, Geng explained that the sub had visited Colombo Port on September 15 for ‘a regular port call for replenishment of supplies’. He added that it was ‘an escort mission to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia’.
This was nonetheless the first time that a Chinese submarine ‘openly’ visited a foreign port.
Ecns.cn, a Chinese English-language website admitted that the visit had triggered speculation (in Delhi) that the Chinese Navy wanted to boost its strength in the Indian Ocean.
On January 8, the situation drastically changed with the results of the presidential elections which saw the end of the nine-year rule of Mahinda Rajapaksa over the Island. Before the fateful day, Rajapaksa was widely seen as the great favorite for his own succession. But following a record turnout of 81.5%, the people of Sri Lanka elected Maithripala Sirisena with 51.3% of the votes; he had earlier served as health minister in the Rajapasksa Cabinet.
Amid the rumor of a coup attempt by Rajapaksa’s clan (who denied any foul play), Sirisena was hastily sworn-in as the new head of the state on January 9. He immediately appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister.
Rajapaksa had no choice but to ‘bow down to the people’s verdict’.
The great looser of the elections was Communist China which ironically does not believe in democracy.
Prime Minister Wickremasinghe soon declared that the new government “will take an even-handed approach and balance its relations with the two friendly neighbors China and India.”
In an interview with NDTV, he stated that his government will redress the pro-China tilt of the previous regime, admitting: “President Rajapaksa's regime tried to play China against India and India against China but it came a cropper."
Beijing had invested some $6 billion in Sri Lanka, mostly in strategic infrastructure projects such as ports and airports. Wickremesinghe announced that his government would particularly review the Colombo Port City project, launched during last year’s visit of President Xi Jinping to the Island: “Because we have not yet seen the feasibility study and the environment impact assessment. I asked when I was with the opposition, in Parliament, but the government didn't help. Therefore we will have to look into the environmental and feasibility aspects," he stated.
In the meantime, Reuters reported that in December 2014, Sri Lanka had expelled the Colombo station chief of India's intelligence agency, accusing him of organizing the opposition to oust Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was alleged that Delhi would have helped convincing Maithripala Sirisena to quit the cabinet and run against Rajapaksa, resulting in the present political swing (which sends China out of orbit).
The rumor of India’s ‘help’ was denied by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman. Whether it is true or not, the result of the elections is good for India, and specially for the Tamil population who sees some hope of fresh dialogue on the various issues plaguing the relations with Sri Lanka.
Reuters rightly analyzed: “[India’s] concern turned to alarm late last year when Rajapaksa allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Sri Lanka without warning New Delhi as he should have under a standing agreement.”
It was undoubtedly the turning point.
Beijing was quick to put up a brave face. The Global Times reported: “Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has promised continued cooperation with China during his meeting with the Chinese ambassador. …Sri Lanka is willing to further strengthen bilateral pragmatic cooperation in various fields for mutual benefits and win-win results.”
The friendly relations between China and Sri Lanka have withstood the test of time, would have added Wickremesinghe. There is no doubt about that, but things will not be as easy as before for China and Beijing is aware of this.
On January 20, the same Global Times commented: “Observers say this [the result of the elections] poses challenges to the Sino-Sri Lankan ties and particularly to the mega projects planned by the two sides,” admitting: “The Chinese side will suffer heavy losses if the $1.5 billion project that started in September is halted. Given similar cases in Myanmar, this has triggered many concerns domestically.”
Beijing’s mouthpiece concluded: “These uncertainties may prove true …but they are not necessarily subversive for a China-Sri Lanka relationship that is built on a sound practical basis and can transcend the power shift.”
The large number of articles carried by Beijing during the last few days shows China’s nervousness; another piece argues: “Competition between China and India in Sri Lanka is not exclusive or confrontational.”
But the real issue is China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR) for which Beijing had planned to make Sri Lanka “a shipping hub on the Indian Ocean”.
During a visit to Delhi in February 2013, Chinese Special Representative Yang Jiechi had conveyed to his Indian counterpart, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon an invitation for India to join the MSR, Xi Jinping’s new baby.
Officially, the objective of the MSR and its sister project, the New Silk Road were: “To integrate all kinds of ongoing cooperation especially cooperation on connectivity in the spirit of (ancient) silk road.”
Though it was not said openly, the MSR was clearly a tool to counter the influence of India and the United States in Asia.
For Delhi, the MSR was a ‘soft’ scheme hiding a far more assertive action: the establishment of a broad network of Chinese military bases and commercial facilities along important sea lines of communication extending from the Chinese mainland to Africa. India was (and is) seriously concerned by the strategic bases in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Maldives.
Interestingly, The Global Times commented: “As to whether China has been too aggressive in pushing investment in Sri Lanka, the answer will lie in the development of the bilateral relationship in future years. As long as political development in Colombo is logical, China's investment will not be in vain.”
Beijing is aware of the new tilt towards Delhi; yet in another article, The Global Times asserts: “India is a proud nation, competitive and unwilling to lag behind. So it is eager to challenge China in every aspect, from aerospace, military force, to economic strength,” adding that “democracy, which the nation is so proud of, has become a burden for development. For example, building a railway in India takes much more time than it does in China.”
It may be true, but democracy has spoken in Sri Lanka, and the years to come will hopefully witness a more balanced approach from Colombo towards India.
Though it may take time, let us hope that a similar outcome will one day happen in Nepal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chinese Wild Claims in Arunachal

McMahon Line signed by Lochen Shatra and Sir Henry McMahon
The Chinese are not happy at all. Why?
Because the Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida dared to speak about what Beijing calls "a Chinese territorial area adjacent to India as Indian territory."
According to The China Daily, the Japanese diplomat was referring to Arunachal Pradesh.
Beijing immediately lodged a strong protest: "We hope Japan fully understands the sensitivity of the China-India boundary question," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
He added that in a speech in New Delhi, "Kishida attracted media attention after referring to a southern area of China's Tibet Autonomous Region as Indian territory. ...Beijing has taken notice of the report, expressed serious concerns, demanded Japan make a clarification and immediately manage damage control."
Unfortunately for Beijing, the bullying tactics do not work with Japan.
Hong however affirmed that Tokyo had earlier stated its position of "no taking sides in regard to the areas disputed by China and India" and promised Beijing that it will not get involved in the issue.
Beijing requested Tokyo to "pay due respect to efforts made by China and India in resolving disputes through negotiations and be cautious with words and actions when it comes to the issue," as the two countries (China and India) are "seeking a fair, reasonable solution that will be acceptable to both sides."
The website China Tibet Online explains: "Arunachal Pradesh, which includes three areas in Tibet Autonomous Region -- Monyul, Loyul and Lower Tsayul, is currently under Indian illegal occupation. The Chinese government's stance on these areas, located between the illegal 'Mcmahon Line' and the traditional customary boundary between China and India, is that they have always been Chinese territory."
Historical facts say differently.
First of all the McMahon Line is very much legal: it was signed by the Prime Minister of Tibet (Lochen Shatra) and India's Foreign Secretary (Sir Henry McMahon) in March 1914 (see map above).
As importantly, during the last two millennia, the Chinese have never set a foot in what is today Arunachal Pradesh (former NEFA), except for one short visit in one particular location in 1910.
To quote from my book, 1962: the McMahon Line Saga:

Soon after their occupation of Lhasa [in 1910], Zhao Erfeng’s [Chinese warlord] troops undertook the subjugation of Poyul, the region located north of the territory inhabited by the Abors in the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra Valley. Zhao Erfeng invited Chinese settlers to come and settle in Zayul, near Rima on the Tibetan side of the Lohit valley.
The British knew what was going on.
In the decades to come, the entire North-East policy would be based on the Chinese threat [in this area].
During the summer of 1910, some Chinese troops were posted near Rima. They went as far south as Walong where they planted boundary flags, in a place where the Lohit joins the Yepuk river.
This incident rang the bells in Delhi and London. Something had to be done.
A brief intrusion in the Lohit valley does not means that the entire NEFA has always belonged to China, but it is what Beijing pretends today.
In any case, the  so-called boundary markers were soon removed by the British.
I again quote from the McMahon Saga (note that the British called their small expedition a 'promenade'):
The Walong Promenade and the Chinese Cairns
On November 19, 1913, the Secretary of State sanctioned a new ‘promenade’. T. P. M. O'Callaghan, the Assistant Political Officer, Sadiya was in charge. He was accompanied by an escort of the 1/8th Gurkha Rifles led by Major C. Stansfeld and Lt. H. R. Haringlon.
The British officers visited Rima at the invitation of the Tibetan authorities, and apparently cordial relations were established.
On May 6, 1914, Sir Archdale Earle, the Chief Commissioner of Assam writes: "Mr. O'Callaghan's report confirms the information in the possession of the Chief Commissioner that there are at present no Chinese troops anywhere in the neighbourhood of Rima. It urges nevertheless the importance of carrying the Lohit Valley road to our frontier, and of establishing a post as near the frontier as is practicable at the earliest possible date. This view is shared by the Chief Commissioner, but he realises that, for reasons which will presently be stalled, it will probably be found advisable to move slowly in the coming cold weather. He thinks, however, and he trusts that the Government of India will agree in this view, that the impossibility of recognising a Chinese boundary in the neighbourhood of Menilkrai has been finally established, and he regards Mr O'Callaghan's action in removing the boundary posts as thoroughly justified."
The APO had found Chinese markers at a place called Menilkrai, just below Walong. One set dated from 1910 and new markers had been placed in 1912 by the Chinese troops. O'Callaghan removed the markers, repositioned them upstream, near Kahao just south of the McMahon Line.
O'Callaghan confirms that a post needs to be established at Walong: "I am more than ever convinced of the necessity of the finishing of the road to our frontier and the opening of a post as near our frontier as soon as possible. From Walong to Rima, there is no difficulty in road making and the Lohit Valley road already constructed and open up to Mankum only required continuation to Manglor flat, a distance of less than 30 miles, to make the opening and rationing of the post a practicable scheme."
Even before the McMahon Line was formerly delineated, there were no Chinese presence in NEFA.
It is however true that there were areas where the Tibetans had some influence (it represented some 10% of the NEFA's territory); it was mainly in Tawang area, in today's West Siang [Pachaksiri], Upper Siang [Tuting, Geling], and Lohit/Anjaw, where tribes affiliated with the Tibetans (Monpas, Mempas, etc...) lived.
This again does not make Arunachal 'Chinese' as the Chinese never even visited these areas.
It is however true that the shyness of the Government of India which still insists on an Inner Line Permit (or Protected Area Permit for foreigners) encourages the Chinese government to continue with its wild claims.
Delhi should assert once and for all that the entire Arunachal is Indian and therefore treat at par with the other Indian States and every Indian national should be allowed to freely visit the State (while, of course, keeping in mind security issues at the proximity of the border with China).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The new Delegation Policy of China

Padma Choling (center) in Latvia
A new policy trend has appeared in 2014: Beijing has started to send on a larger scale, Tibetan Communist leaders abroad  to provide to the West (according to them,'brainwashed' by the Dalai clique), a 'true picture' of the situation in Tibet.
It is an interesting development which will probably take some amplitude in 2015.
Will it succeed in convincing the West, is another question.
China Tibet Online reported "Tibet Embraces the World With More Int'l Exchanges"
The website explains: "Tibet, known as the 'lost horizon' in the western world, has opened its mind to becoming more engaged in the international world. In 2014, ten Tibet-related international cultural exchange activities were conducted. A brand new face with more confidence has now been shown to the world."
Here is the list of the 'delegations' mentioned in the Chinese press:
Delegation to offer a true picture of Tibet in U.S.
Dradul, deputy mayor of Lhasa led a 'cultural exchange delegation' from Tibet; the delegation was on a four-day visit starting from Jan.10, 2014. In Los Angeles, the delegates met American reporters. According to Xinhua: "They described the true picture of modern Tibet and dispelled many common misunderstandings about the situation in China's Tibet Autonomous Region. ...Dradul denied the rumor that the hazy days in Lhasa last December were caused by overexploitation, saying it is too soon to talk about excessive development in Lhasa."
The mayor stated: "In fact, the economy of Lhasa started at a slow pace, and has shown limited development potential compared with its inland counterpart cities. Besides, the government of Lhasa has put hefty investment in preventing and reducing the side effects of pollution to the environment."
A delegation of the National People's Congress to Latvia
The Chinese 'Tibetan' delegation was headed by Padma Choling (alias Pema Thinley), chairman of the Standing Committee of the Tibet People's Congress. He was received by Latvia's Speaker of Parliament Solvita Aboltina. Padma Choling was accompanied by some legislators of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region. There were in Riga on March 20, 2014.
During his visit Padma Choling declared that his visit to Latvia was aimed to deepen mutual understanding and trust in a bid to further push forward the bilateral ties.
Solvita Aboltina would have said that Latvia attached a great importance to developing the relations with China; that Latvia adheres to the One China policy and respects China's core interests and major concerns. She would have added that Latvia hopes to communicate and cooperate with China in more fields.
In other words, do good business!
Tibet legislative delegation visits Poland
A delegation of Tibet People's Congress visited Poland and attended a seminar with some Polish politicians on March 17 and 18.
Xinhua reported that the delegation was also led by Padma Choling, who admitted: "In the international world there had long been a deep prejudice toward and misunderstanding of China's policies on Tibet, either because of people's ignorance of the real situation in Tibet or the difference in political beliefs."
The Polish parliamentarians would have said that "they had been paying attention to developing a strong relationship with China, and would enhance cooperation with China's National People's Congress, to boost the China-Poland strategic partnership."
A Tibetan delegation in Australia
A Chinese Tibetan cultural exchange delegation went to Sydney and Canberra on June 16 to 18. The delegates had meetings with the local Chinese as well as some Australian parliament members.
On June 16, the Chinese Tibetan delegation visited the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China.
Luorong Dradul, a professor from Sichuan University who headed the delegation delivered a lecture on 'China's Tibet-past, present and future'.
Tibet development forum in Lhasa
I have already mentioned on this blog the The Forum on the Development of Tibet held in Lhasa in August.
According to Xinhua: "The forum had three primary aims: to facilitate exchanges between Tibet and the outside world, to help people - especially foreigners - to further understand Tibet's culture, history, and current situation, and to attract more tourists to visit Tibet."
It ended by the infamous 'Lhasa Consensus'.
Chinese Tibetan cultural exchange delegation visits Belgium
A Chinese 'Tibetan' cultural exchange delegation went for a three-day visit to Belgium starting on September 21.
It was reported by Chinanews.com that the delegation met some officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium.
Zhang Yun, Director and Professor of the Institute of History Studies of China Tibetology Research Center, the delegation's leader "gave an overview of the economic and social progress achieved in Tibet after its peaceful liberation, China's ethnic policy, and the protection and traditional Tibetan culture."
The Chinese website says that "all of these issues are the central concerns of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
Doubtful!
Tibetan culture on display in Strasbourg
The Chinese consulate in Strasbourg, France, "organized Tibet-themed conferences and cultural events with the aim of helping people in the city understand more about this vast region of southwest China."
It was held between September 24 to October 2.
Zhang Yun, who let the Tibetan cultural delegation said that these activities were organized "to promote understanding of Tibet and its position in modern, multi-ethnic China."
One Dr. Tsering spoke of the history and practice of Tibetan medicine, and one Mrs. Gesang outlined the development of Tibet in recent decades. A Buddhist monk explained the role of religion in Tibetan society.
Tibetan dances in Africa
Actors from the China Tibet Art Troupe performed traditional Tibetan dances in Harare, Zimbabwe on October 24.
Xinhua reported that the visiting troupe had been invited to perform in Zimbabwe and Mauritius:"The art troupe aimed to let the African people know about Tibet through art."
Nyima Tsering, head of the Tibet Art Troupe and also director of the Tibet Cultural Bureau "hoped the performance would promote cultural exchanges between Africa and China's Tibet." He invited African art troupes to perform in Tibet.

Chinese delegation in Canada
A 2014 China Tibetan Culture Week was held in Toronto, Canada. The delegation addressed the media on November 3.
Dorje Tsedrup, Vice Chairman of the People’s Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region stated: "I hope friends from the press get a real picture of Tibet through this cultural event. I sincerely invite you to visit Tibet, enjoy its beautiful landscape, and experience the great changes that have taken place over the past 63 years."
The Tibet Culture Week was organized by the Association for Promotion of Chinese Culture in Canada.
The event was held in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto: "It showcased various activities including Tibetan folk culture, Tibetan movies, Thangka exhibition and singing and dancing performances.
The event was the second of its kind hosted in Canada, aiming to offer Canadian people a glimpse of Tibet's beauty, culture, and economic development and to promote international friendship."
These events certainly indicate a new policy put in place by the Chinese Government which is keen to counter the tremendous negative image Beijing has earned for its policies on the Tibetan plateau.
What is surprising is that the Tibetan diaspora did not take the occasion to engage the visiting delegations and start a serious dialogue with the Tibetan delegates.
It is possible that the visits and venues were kept secret till the last minute; this would explain the absence of fruitful discussions between the Tibetans living in the West and their official Communist countrymen.
If this is correct, this would mean that China is still very nervous to debate the 'true' situation in Tibet, despite the fact that Beijing pretends to show "a brand new face with more confidence to the world."
There is no doubt however that this 'delegation' policy will amplify in 2015.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

An Umbrella Revolution in TIbet?

Soon after the new year, China Tibet Online posted a nice picture of the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
Is it an omen that a new 'Umbrella Revolution' will take place in the Land of Snows in the coming year?
We never know!
In the meantime, the local government reported a further tourism boom, with more than 15 million visiting Tibet in 2014 ; an increase of 20 percent compared to the previous year.
Lhasa itself received some 9.25 million tourists, which brought 11.2 billion yuan (1.79 billion U.S. dollars) revenue.
The same China Tibet Online says: "Traditional Tibetan festivities, such as the Horse-racing Festival and the Shoton Festival, the highlight of which is the 'sunning of the Buddha' ceremony in the 600-year-old Drepung Monastery, have proved to be major attractions." It added that Lhasa saw 1.4 million tourists during the week-long Shoton Festival in June.
Tibet is expected to receive 17 million tourists in 2015!
The Disneyland of Snows may need its Umbrella Revolution before it is fully submerged.
But don't think China is not getting ready for it.
Here is a detachment of the People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) training in the snow in Kangding (Tibetan, Dartsedo) in today's Sichuan province.
 
 
 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Diverting the Indus to Xinjiang

On Christmas Day, The New York Times reported: “Within a few days, water that has traveled more than 800 miles for two weeks in one of the world’s most ambitious, and controversial, engineering projects is expected to begin flowing through Beijing faucets.”
The objective of the scheme is to bring water from upper reaches of the Han River, a tributary of the Yangtze, through the central route of the South-to-North Water Diversion project, the second of three routes planned to transfer water from China’s wet south to the dry north. Once fully functional, the Central Diversion is expected to provide a third of the capital’s water needs.
The project is estimated at 80 billion U.S. dollars, says Xinhua, adding: “The completion of the water scheme marked major progress in the nation's enormous south-to-north water diversion project, the largest of its kind in the world.”
The official news agency boasts: “It is another engineering achievement by the Chinese,” quoting the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, the world's longest man-made river, opened in the 13th century for transporting grain.
The pro and the cons of the present project will continue to be debated in the months and years to come; in the meanwhile, some researchers in China have thought of another smaller ‘pilot’ project: to divert the Indus river towards Xinjiang. A detailed report on the scheme is posted by a blogger on the website ScienceNet.cn.
Beijing will argue that this new project is merely the product of the fertile brain of some freelance scientists, and that it has ‘nothing to do with the government’.
You may ask, what is this ScienceNet.cn? According to Wikipedia: “ScienceNet.cn is a science virtual community and science blog,” launched by Science Times Media Group (STMG) and supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China “with the mission of establishing a global Chinese science community.”
Since January 2007, more than 5,000 scientists and graduate students have posted their papers on ScienceNet. The editorial board of ScienceNet says that it has been ranking first among Chinese science websites.
The blogger quotes Chinese researchers who argue that the other planned 'diversions' require extremely complicated construction plans, large investments, long building periods and face a lot of engineering problems due to the complexity of the issues involved (I would add, and 'displacing millions of people'). It makes these projects difficult to undertake, while a small-scale, with low investment and a quickly realizable scheme, could be an ideal pilot project.
The ‘researchers’ propose to add a South Western segment to the Western Diversion Route (not yet started), which is the third part of the South-to-North Water Diversion project. It would involve the diversion of the waters from the Indus river in Western Tibet (before it enters Ladakh) towards the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang. According to the authors, the scheme would meet the requirements of a ‘pilot’ scheme.
In a summary, the ‘scientists’ explain that the water diversion project referred to in their paper could be called “the South Western section of Western Route Project”; water could be taken from the Tibetan Plateau in the West and brought by gravity to the Tarim Basin in Xinjiang. The text describes the preliminary survey of the South Western part of the Western Route Project. The size of the diversion program and a brief description of China’s northwest after the transfer of the Indus’ water, are given. The main conclusion is that the diversion will help maintaining long-term stability in Xinjiang. The paper explains why and suggests deepening the research before an early implementation of the South Western section.
According to the ‘researchers’, the diversion of the Indus could bring ten benefits to China:
  • It could increase the total amount of water resources in the Tarim Basin, which is located in the hinterland of Taklimakan Desert and suffers from important sand dune mobility. In this highly arid region, which receives low precipitations, water is extremely valuable
  • The diversion could increase the local hydropower capacity. Water would flow from the high Qinghai-Tibet plateau, at an elevation of over 3,000 [in fact 4,000] meters and at the receiving end, water would be at only 1,500 meters above sea level.
  • Once this section is completed, the water could create an oasis in the desert. The Western section would transform an entire region into an oasis; it would further bring a great return on the investment.
  • Once the project is fully implemented, the total amount of water resources locally available could greatly increase; it could provide a substantial increase in the amount of hydroelectric power; the desert could become an oasis, it could improve the ecological environment, which in turn could promote local economic development of the region and the living standards of the local people.
  • According to some scientific hypotheses, the water brought by the diversion could also increase precipitations in the region.
  • The research says that the new oasis could in turn ‘curb global warming’ [sic]. If the global warming argument is indeed correct, say the ‘scientists’, the South Western section could increase the rainfall in China; this countermeasure could help curb global warming for the entire humanity; this is why the diversion project must be able to get the global support and backing of most countries [what about India?]. China can then get a substantial increase in the local precipitation; the desert in northwest [Xinjiang] would disappear; the desert would become an oasis which would be able to grow food and have power plants; humans would be able to reduce the need for fossil fuels; after additional diversion oasis would absorb large amounts of greenhouse gases each year, thus it would achieve the goal of curbing global warming.
What an argument! But that is not all:
  • It could contribute to China’s food and energy security. After the diversion, the desert turned-oasis could increase the country's arable land for China to contribute to the world food security.
  • The western development could make a significant contribution by reducing regional disparities. China's population distribution is unbalanced; the development gap between China and western regions and other regions is too large; it has been extremely detrimental to the country's development.
And now the cherry on the cake:
  • The diversion could strengthen China's actual control of Aksai Chin, and help to resolve the territorial dispute. Sino-Indian border has not been formally delimited in the Aksai Chin and Pangong Lake areas; there are some territorial disputes [with India]. The water diversion project, through Aksai Chin, could help the actual control of this region; the implementation of the project could also help to resolve the territorial dispute [with India].
  • Finally, the project could promote national unity and maintain long-term stability of Xinjiang. This, according to the authors, is the main benefit of the South Western section: the long-term stability of Xinjiang.
This ‘easy’ pilot project does not, of course, take into account what the neighbours (including China’s all-weather friend, Pakistan) would have to say.
That may not make the pilot project so simple after all!
The question is, while Beijing is very quick to remove internet content which contests its rule, why is such a crazy and highly objectionable project allowed to be posted on a semi-governmental website?
Similarly, the website of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission of China’s Ministry of Water Resources has a 50-page report on the diversion of the Brahmaputra, and though Beijing denies any bad intention, the project remains on the ‘official’ website.
How can we trust China?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Tibet: a large native reservation?

Recently, I came across an interesting historical document; it is the Annual Report of the Indian Trade Agency in Gyantse (Tibet) for the year 1952-53. It is written by the Indian Trade Agent (ITA), Maj. S.M. Krishnatry. Posted in Gyantse, then the second city in Tibet, Krishnatry informs his bosses in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi (Jawaharlal Nehru was then the Minister) about what the situation in Tibet, a few months after the People’s Liberation Army marched into the Land of Snows.
Krishnatry writes: “Perhaps the historians will not fail to record that the year marked out a period of great success for the Chinese communists in their plans to incorporate Tibet as an integral part of New China. The process of subjugation and the struggle with the recalcitrant masses and peasantry of Tibet is just beginning to show signs in favour of Chinese success; and looking back retrospectively, it is obvious that the communist dictatorship is now far too well dug in and consolidated and has come to stay.”
The Chinese are first and foremost strategists; according to the ITA: “they concentrated on quickly improving their communications and roads and rapaciously grabbing all they could find in the way of foodstuffs and other supplies,” Krishnatry then concludes: “They aimed, by means of virile and strong blows of propaganda, to capture the heart and soul of Tibetans and won. Will Tibet ever finds her soul again?”
Sixty-three years later, has Tibet recovered her soul?
The official Chinese press has recently written a great deal about Tibet’s achievements in 2014, and Beijing’s expectations for the coming year. A website associated with Xinhua, chinatibetnews.com conveys the gist: “Tibet’s tourist revenue in the first three quarters of 2014 reached 16.382 billion yuan (2.68 billion U.S. dollars) accounting for 24.76 percent of its regional annual GDP in the same period.”
Nearly a quarter of Tibet’s GDP comes today from tourism. It is massive; the Roof of the World has indeed become a mega tourist park; and then, adds the website: “By 2015, Tibet is aiming to receive 15 million tourists from home and abroad …to meet the demand of the domestic and international market as a world tourist destination.”
Another website, China Tibet Online goes into details: “In 2014, the Tibet Autonomous Region took various measures to boost its tourist industry …giving people from other areas of China access to tourist information about Tibet.” You can call it the Disneyland of Snows!
While the Government of India still prevaricates about opening Arunachal Pradesh to tourism without cumbersome Inner Line Permits (or Protected Area Permits for the foreigners), China has unlocked the gates of adjoining areas: “The southeast Tibet’s Nyingtri Prefecture received 2.8 million tourists in 2014, earning a revenue of 2.6 billion yuan [450 million US dollars], up 12 and 14% respectively in a year. The tourist industry has become the first industry in the prefecture.”
Wang Jun, director of Nyingtri Tourism Bureau says that in 2015, Nyingtri will have a ‘World Ecological Tourism Zone’ with tourist attractions and ecological villages.
Does ‘sleepy’ India realize that this ‘development’ lies just north of the Indian border (let us not forget that China still claims the entire Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet)?
The media announced that the remote Metok County, located a few kilometers north of Arunachal’s Upper Siang district (where the Yarlung Tsangpo/Siang/Brahmaputra enters India) will be further developed in 2015:
All the villages in the County will soon have uninterrupted power supply. Knowing the difficulty of access to the area, it will be a great achievement; in contrastme, the populations of many isolated Indian villages south of the McMahon line, still dream to have proper road access.
The Chinese press predicts other forthcoming achievements.
All Tibet's 75 lakes will be protected, for which a new standard will include water quality and ecological management.
All farmers and herders will be provided with safe drinking water.
Tibetan arts and crafts, such as thangka painting, will be encouraged; new standards for the preservation and development of this traditional art will be promulgated and artisans will get State sponsorship.
The GDP of Shigatse, which was upgraded to a municipality in 2014, will reach 12% by the end of 2015, while the net annual income of farmers and herders will rise to 13%.
And again and always tourism: Tibet is to build up 1,000 star family hotels, 10 model tourist counties, 20 tourist townships, 200 tourist villages; winter tourism will be promoted: “Tibet will get half price in Tibet's tourist attractions especially Mt. Qomolangma [Everest] from November to March.”
China Tibet Online listed the 10 top news stories for 2014.
The best story of the year was about the 60th anniversary of the completion of Qinghai-Tibet highway: “the lifeline for the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It has boosted the economic growth of regions along the road and enabled many people's dreams to come true.” The article quotes President Xi Jinping who called it a miracle for Tibet: "The highways have played a vital role in Tibet's social system, economic and social development, as well as consolidating the southwest frontiers and promoting national unity".
Consolidating the border with India is never forgotten.
What the websites do not say is that 2014 has witnessed the largest numbers of military exercises on the plateau.
But let us come back to Krishnatry’s comments; he spoke of “virile and strong blows of propaganda, to capture the heart and soul of Tibetans.”
Soon after the New Year, Radio Free Asia reported that the Chinese police “attacked and beat members of a Tibetan farming family, leaving one in critical condition, after the group protested authorities’ efforts to force the sale of their land for construction of a police barracks”.
RFA’s source said that incident occurred on December 30 in Dzamthang county of Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Four protesters were severely injured; one of them is said to be in a critical condition. The Tibetans were just protesting against the local government’s attempt to force them to sell their land for police barracks.
In another incident, also reported by RFA, two Tibetans sustained gunshot wounds while attempting to protect a monk who had self-immolated in protest against the Chinese policies. The incident occurred after Kalsang Yeshe, 38, set himself ablaze in the Kardze (Sichuan).” It was the second self-immolation within a week in the area.
China’s virile and strong policies have helped develop Tibet to a certain extent. The Tibetans are certainly economically better-off than 60 years ago, but it is clear that they are now slowly swamped by millions of Han tourists.
Will the Tibetans lose their soul under the tourist invasion? Will they become like the Native Americas in their reservations?
Till now, they have resisted, but for how long?