Arunachal: After Building Hundreds Of Villages Along LAC, China To Give 'City Status' To Two Tibetan Towns Near Indian Border

Arunachal: After Building Hundreds Of Villages Along LAC, China To Give 'City Status' To Two Tibetan Towns Near Indian Border

by Swarajya Staff - Thursday, April 6, 2023 12:25 PM IST
Arunachal: After Building Hundreds Of Villages Along LAC, China To Give 'City Status' To Two Tibetan Towns Near Indian BorderChinese President Xi Jinping (Illustration: Swarajya Magazine)

After building and upgrading hundreds of villages along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), China has decided to give city status to two Tibetan towns located along the boundary with India.

The latest step in China's border consolidation project in Tibet comes just days after it put out names of 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh in Chinese, Tibetan and pinyin characters, a third such attempt in the last few years at asserting its claim over India's eastern-most state.

Since 2017, China has been working on a project to build and upgrade around 628 villages in Tibet, most of which are located along the LAC. Some of these villages, as reported by Swarajya earlier, are located in Indian territory which has been under Chinese control for decades.

The aim behind the construction of these villages, as senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Tibet have hinted, is to assert Chinese claims on the border and ensure the dominance of the LAC.

With the village building programme almost complete, the Chinese are planning to give two counties along the eastern section of the LAC — Milin and Cuona — the status of "city states".

According to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, a publication run by the Alibaba Group of China, the change would lead to the counties being "taken under the direct administration of the regional government."

"Both areas have populations of less than 25,000 but Milin — also known as Mainling — is an important border town and transport hub whose territory covers 180 km (115 miles) of the Indian frontier," it reported.

Mainling, located in Nyingchi, is where Chinese President Xi Jinping landed in July 2021 for his first-ever visit to Tibet after taking over the leadership in 2012.

The CCP is aggressively pushing tourism to the frontier areas of Tibet, a project made possible by the rapid development of dual-use infrastructure along the border over the last two decades.

In Nyingchi, for example, tourist arrivals have gone up sharply in the last few years with the construction of an airport in Mainling, located only 15 kilometres away from Tibet's border with Arunachal, and the opening of a 450-km-long railway line linking the border town to Lhasa in June this year.

In the last five years, Nyingchi has received over 32 million tourist trips, and revenue from tourism stands at 24 billion yuan ($3.69 billion).

The project has turned border villages into new tourist hotspots and herders into hoteliers. Earnings from tourism — as high as 100,000 yuan ($15,000) in a season in some cases — act as an incentive.

Such incentives, including state subsidies, help the local apparat in "repopulating the area with residents from other areas" who then "take the responsibilities of patrolling the border by herding livestock." In some cases, residents are dispatched for border patrols "at least once a month," and it takes "a week for them to make a complete tour".

China's efforts seem to be working — population of border areas has grown by 10.5 per cent (population of border counties grew to 485,000 by 2020), Wu Yingjie, the Communist Party secretary for Tibet, revealed in August 2021, at an event marking the 70th anniversary of the "peaceful liberation of Tibet".

In the 21 border counties of Tibet, the per capita disposable income of rural residents has "reached 14,000 yuan in 2020, a year-on-year increase of 12.7 per cent".

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