གཟའ་མིག་དམར། ༢༠༢༤/༠༦/༢༥

Hot 'Political' Summer on the Plateau

By Claude Arpi

When the sun becomes too hot in Beijing, the Chinese capital, it is time for the top leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to move to the beach resort of Beidaihe in Hebei Province, some 280 kilometers away. Since Mao’s times, it has been the ‘summer capital’ of the Communist regime. The leaders gather there not to relax, but to sort out some of the problems facing the country.

This year too, during the first week of August, ahead of the 20th Party Congress to be held in November, issues such as the third consecutive term for Chinese President Xi Jinping, the situation in Taiwan or the poor state of the economy will be secretly discussed.

But before the secretive closed-door sessions are held in Beidaihe’s luxurious villas, some homework needs to be done; it often takes the form of inspection tours in different ‘hot’ provinces or regions. Several ‘important’ inspection tours have recently taken place in Xinjiang and Tibet in preparation for the Beidaihe conclave.

Xi Jinping’s Tour in Xinjiang
The ‘Core Leader’, President Xi Jinping’s visited Xinjiang; it was his first tour in the restive western region after Beijing unleashed a campaign of mass detentions against local Uyghurs; according to The New York Times: “His trip amounted to a proclamation of success in his years-long effort to quell ethnic resistance, in spite of international condemnation.” In Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, Xi asserted: “Every ethnic group in Xinjiang is an inseparable member of the great family of Chinese nationhood.” He added: “Enhanced efforts should be made to uphold the principle that Islam in China must be Chinese in orientation, and to adapt religions to a socialist society." It was a reiteration of China’s new policy of sinicization of all the religions.

Wang Yang Visit to Qinghai
Already at the end of June, Wang Yang, another member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) toured several Tibetan areas in Qinghai Province, on the north-east of the Tibetan plateau “to research counterpart aid [from other provinces] for youth.” During his tour, Wang stressed the need for the locals “to deeply understand the Communist Party's strategy for governing Tibet in the new era, adhere to the main line of casting a firm sense of Chinese national community …and not fall behind in the overall modernization process of the Chinese nation.”
He urged the Tibetans: “to build a moderately prosperous society.”

Hu Chunhua's Tour
A few days later, Hu Chunhua, Vice-Premier of the State Council and at one time Xi’s heir-apparent, paid a visit to Tibet to check the progress “of consolidating and expanding the results of poverty eradication and revitalizing the countryside.”
Though Hu emphasized the need “to thoroughly implement the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's series of important speeches,” his visit was hardly covered by the Chinese media.
The ‘important’ speeches of Xi Jinping are usual leitmotivs in the Chinese officials’ speeches; high or low, they have to pay homage to the ‘People’s Leader’, but the poor coverage of Hu’s visit probably means that he is not in the race for the top job anymore.

Li Zhanshu in Tibet
Two other members of the Politburo’s Standing Committee (Li Zhanshu and Han Zheng) visited Tibet while Xi Jinping was in Xinjiang; in other words, four out the seven supreme leaders ‘inspected’ what are known as the minorities’ areas in China.

Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (and No 3 in the hierarchy) was in Tibet from July 12 to 15 “for research on ecological protection legislation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.” During his visit, he stressed the need to have a legislation to protect the ecology of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau; his declared objective was “to adhere to systematic protection, coordinated protection and special protection, and develop a good law that can stand the test of history and the people in the spirit of science.”
While in Tibet, Li Zhanshu went to a few cultural places such as the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa and the Tashilunpo monastery in Shigatse.

Han Zheng on the Roof of the World
Perhaps more unusual, was the visit Han Zheng, Vice Premier of the State Council to Nyingchi, north of the Indian border, on July 14. Han Zheng inspected a new tunnel at the Serkhyem-la pass at an elevation of 14,983 ft above the sea level, where the new highly-strategic railway line between Lhasa and Chengdu (Sichuan) will pass in 2030.Han Zheng also toured the Milin County, close to the Indian border to “listen to the development of clean energy on the Yarlung Tsangpo River.”
The media reported that he was briefed about the construction of the major hydropower development project; apparently, this refers to the mega hydropower plant on the Yarlung Tsangpo (known as the Brahmaputra in India). Will China go ahead with the project which is already giving nightmares to India and Bangladesh downstream?

Visit of the Chinese Panchen Lama
Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chinese-selected Panchen Lama, traditionally No 2 in the Tibetan Buddhism hierarchy, visited for the first time areas bordering India, (Longju, Yume, Lhuntse, Lepo, Marmang, Tsona). Some of these villages like Longju, are 'disputed' since decades by the two Asian giants (incidentally, the Panchen Lama selected by the Dalai Lama still languishes in jail for the past 25 years). Interestingly, Norbu admitted that intermarriages between Hans and Tibetans were prevalent on the new border villages which have sprung out of nowhere during the last four years.
Norbu also batted for Xi: "we have to be grateful to the party, listen to the party, follow the party. …this is the fundamental guarantee of our happy life."

This constellation of stars in the skies of Xinjiang and Tibet highlight the extraordinary importance of the stability of the ‘minorities’ areas’ for Beijing, which is obviously worried about its borders with India. This issue will certainly come up for discussion in Beidaihe