Govern the nation by governing the borders; govern the borders by first stabilizing Tibet; ensure social harmony and stability in Tibet and strengthen the development of border regions.” Thus did President Xi Jinping speak of China’s relations with Tibet.
For a few months, the authorities in Tibet have started implementing the theory of their boss and the party’s propaganda is doing its best to entice the local Tibetan population to side with the Communist Party. This is a serious development, unfortunately ignored in India.
The new formula can be found in every speech of the local satraps ~ the inhabitants of China’s borders (with India) should be “the protectors of the sacred homeland and the builders of happy homes.”
It has taken concrete shape with the mushrooming of new ‘model’ villages and towns on the Tibetan side of the Indian border, mainly north of Arunachal Pradesh; officially, this development is linked with ‘poverty alleviation’ and the ‘defence of the borders’.
Several senior Communist leaders have visited these new villages, either north of Kibithu in the Lohit valley; in Metok, north of Upper Siang district; in Yume (also written Yumai), north of Takshing in Upper Subansari or in Lepo, Marmang and Tsona, north of Khenzimane and Tawang. Wu Yingjie, the Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) recently gave an interview to The People’s Daily on the development in the border areas.
When the reporter asked Wu about the significance of implementing the new strategy of “rejuvenating villages under the banner of the protectors of sacred homeland and the builders of happy homes”, Wu answered: “This is the first requirement for carrying out the important strategic thinking of General Secretary Xi Jinping to govern the country and administrate the borders first.”
In fact, it all started soon after the conclusion of the 19th Congress, when Xi Jinping sent a reply to two young Tibetan herders who had written to him introducing their village, Yume. According to Xinhua, Xi “encouraged a herding family in Lhuntse County to set down roots in the border area, safeguard the Chinese territory and develop their hometown.” Xi acknowledged “the family’s efforts to safeguard the territory, and thanked them for the loyalty and contributions they have made in the border area. Without the peace in the territory, there will be no peaceful lives for the millions of families,” he wrote.
The two Tibetan girls, Choekar and Yangzom had told the CCP’s Secretary General about their “experiences in safeguarding the border area and the development of their township over the years.”
The girls’ village, Yume is located a few kilometers north of the McMahon Line, not far from the remote Indian village of Takshing, which incidentally has got for the first time a motorable road this month. Xi further hoped that the girls’ family could “motivate more herders to set down roots in the border area like kalsang flowers [which bloom in hard conditions].”
On May 8, a function celebrating the ‘Happy and Beautiful New Frontier in the New Area’ took place in Yume, the least-populated township in China. A reporter of China-Tibet Online wrote: “At sunrise, the construction site of the Yume ‘new era’s border well-off township’ is already going on full swing. I saw dozens of construction machinery working in an orderly manner. The roar of excavators and bulldozers was also heard. Heavy trucks shuttled back and forth.”
China is ready to invest 110 million yuan in the Yume Well-Off Rural Construction Project; to start with, 56 sets of light-steel prefabricated residential houses are being built, linked by two new municipal roads, a central park and six squares. Electricity and water have already reached the border village.
Luo Yuguang, executive manager of the Construction Project admitted: “To ensure that the project can be completed on schedule, we are racing against time and working overtime. The construction started on December 19, 2017 and it is expected to be completed by October 2018.”
It is the Emperor’s project, no question of delay.
These measures seem to be post-Doklam; the rationale is “to consolidate border and to promote the deep integration of the military and the people.” Tourism and ‘cultural’ industries remain the pillars of the scheme; it is supposed to help the population to get rid of poverty through participation in tourism while promoting ‘ethnic exchanges’ …with Han tourists. Yume is the model for the entire scheme.
In his interview, Wu Yingjie concluded: “Let the people of all ethnic groups have more feelings of happiness; to take a clear-cut stand against splitting, in order to maintain the stability of Tibet and always be the guardians of sacred land and the builders of happy homes.”
Another pet project of Xi Jinping is the Military Civilian Integration (or ‘Fusion’); this too applies to the border. Consider Zhayul County located north of Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh in the Lohit valley. According to China Tibet News, the villages of the county have started implementing the ‘double-support model city’ which translates into full military and civilian integration: “For decades, on the borders stretching several hundred kilometers, the border guards and soldiers stationed have been working with the local people to protect the sacred territory and build a beautiful home.”
The article speaks of the civilian population and the soldiers working ‘hand in hand’ and the love of the local people who support the New Age Army.
On May 10, Wu Yingjie participated in a plenary session of the Military and Civil Integration Development Committee in Lhasa for an “in-depth implementation of Xi’s strategic thinking and “to provide a strong momentum for Tibet’s long-term development and long-term stability.”
Another aspect needs to be noted ~ a ‘cultural’ one. China is building memorials on the border to celebrate the 1962 victory against India. The Zhayul County Hero’s Memorial Park is located north of the Indian border. According to China Tibet News Network, the project covers an area of 42,420 square meters; it has a building area of 1,680 square meters surrounded by large gardens. The project honours 997 martyrs with a tall monument, historical exhibition halls, a martyrs’ wall and tombs of the heroes.
The exhibition area displays photos, videos, cultural relics, ‘technology simulation scenes and some 18 CDs and 33 books are for sale.
It celebrates the Chinese ‘martyrs’ who died in Walong in November 1962, the famous battle took place some 50 km south in the same valley. It is in Walong that the 11th Infantry Brigade and in particular the 6 Kumaon of the Indian Army managed to stop the Chinese advances and paid a high price for it. The Chinese too suffered heavy casualties.
Che Dalha, the TAR Governor, who is also director of the district border defence committee, recently inspected a Hero Memorial Park. He told the villagers that the masses should deeply cherish the memory of the revolutionary martyrs. The memorial is also in honour of the Chinese soldiers who fought the Tibetan resistance in the late 1950s.
Another memorial stands north of the Thagla ridge in Tsona County. The Forward Command post of General Zhang Guohua, who commanded the PLA operations in 1962, which are called by Beijing the ‘Sino-India Self-Defence Counter Attack Battles’, has been reconstituted and opened to tourists.
It is located in Marmang village, the first hamlet north of the McMahon Line. Hotels are already mushrooming to receive the visitors. All this is part of the Information Warfare that China has started waging on India. Has Delhi grasped the importance of this? Not sure.
The writer is an expert on China-Tibet relations and author of Fate of Tibet.