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Saturday, April 12, 2008

And after Tibet?

This is the disputed territory of Arunachal Pradesh (red) - currently Indian, formerly part of Tibet, and included in Tibet on modern Chinese maps. See "Better Days" blog post (Nov 2004) here; a current Indian political comment here; Wikipedia entry on the region here. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Tibetans number an estimated 5 - 7 millions. The official Chinese 2000 Census has the Chinese Han population in the "Tibetan Autonomous Region" (TAR) as merely 6% of the total. However, as this illuminating BBC guide explains, the TAR is not Tibet as its government in exile defines it. The larger Tibetan area including Amdo and Kham contains 6.5 million Tibetans and 8.5 million Chinese immigrants. And there may be bigger plans: "Chinese demographers back in the 1980s estimated that Tibet could provide living space for 100 million Chinese."
Tibet is important because of timber, minerals, extra living space for Chinese - and it houses up to a third of China's nuclear arsenal. A major interest is water, because Western China is very dry; among other plans, one is a hydroelectric plant exploiting the Brahmaputra River, which further down flows through Bangladesh and ultimately joins the Ganges. The Chinese claim it will have twice the output of the Three Gorges Dam. "Work is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2009 but has been described as a 'declaration of war' against India and Bangladesh. One of Tibet's most sacred lakes, Yamdrok Tso, has already been mined, tunnelled and used for hydroelectric development."
The population of Arunachal Pradesh (formerly a part of the Indian state of Assam) is slightly over 1 million. The area was a lifeline to China in WW2 after the Burma Road was cut off by the Japanese in 1942. It is well watered and forested.
Climate change already threatens to reduce the great northern Indian rivers to "seasonal water flows", without further constriction by Chinese projects. The potential extra disruption is discussed in this Guardian article from a year ago.


Anonymous said...

Call this territory what you will, but to be absolutely honest this area should be legally and morally under either Tibet, or China.

I know cos'I've been to this area on an extended tour --the people and culture are very close to Tibetan or South Chinese and not at all Indian. In fact Indian faces stand out like a sore thumb here(forgive the language, used thataway as no better word) and you get the odd feeling of being in an Indian colony--military everywhere, ubiquitous bureaucratic Indian officers, overempasising(of Indian ownership) nameboards in Government offices and locals usually dirt poor though cheerful.Also people I interacted had at best lukewarm regards towards India/Indians.
However its a must-see area if one is patient enough to bear red tape and sore bottoms.
Thats my two cents.

Sackerson said...

I like the either/or, which at least suggests that yours may not be the official Chinese position (i.e. it's part of Tibet and Tibet has always been part of China).

The Wikipedia article referenced tends to support your observations on the ethnic makeup of the majority peoples there, though it descibes them as "Tibeto-Burman or Tai-Burmese"; the others appears to be Indian and Bangladeshi. Chinese claims would appear to be based on history rather than a sort of Sudeten Czech argument.

My theme is that China is being forced by ecology and population changes into increasingly aggressive moves beyond its boundaries. See this article for a worried and passive-aggressive Indian response:

Anonymous said...

Isn't it wonderful what "climate change" can be used to excuse?

Anonymous said...

Well, I dunno how my opinion got clubbed with Chinese official position?!

I am just giving a Western tourists perspective and I dont pretend to know the history.But I did 2 consecutive 14-day tours independently in the interiors.The Western area has all the feel of Tibet proper.If the nameboards didn't exist, you cant tell it from Tibet.The Middle and eastern areas have the feel of Southeast asia or south east china.The locals appear to have a sullen attitude to Indians and I even found my host assaulting one. It wont surprise me if both nations India and China are playing for the resources--the area is mostly unpopulated jungle and the hydropower potential seem mindboggling.

Sackerson said...

Hi Anon, no offence intended, I did say your comment suggested it wasn't the official position - and I welcome this, because I suspect the Chinese are starting to get internet-smart and trolling anon comments onto blogs, just like New Labour does on polit blogs in the UK. We're going to get a lot about Tibet being theirs since the 13th century; given China's history, that's an admission that it wasn't theirs for the preceding 4,000 years-plus. Not that that will impress the toughs in sky blue, I expect.

Your personal experience is much appreciated, since I think not very many Westerners have been where you went. Thank you for visiting this blog - do come again!

James Higham said...

There're another two reasons - the need for the western end of the superhighway to be relatively trouble free and the need to stymie American attempts to destabilize the region.

Sackerson said...

James, please don't tease - do say more about both.