poverty in Tibet

Despite political tensions, Tibet has seen marked improvements in everyday life for its average citizens. The central government in Beijing and other nations may have ulterior motives behind their funding, but the result is the same: a more prosperous Tibet. Aid is flowing in from the Chinese government, the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and Nepal, to name a few.

According to the regional authority, over the course of the past five years, over 530,000 people have escaped poverty in Tibet. It comes as no surprise that with a falling poverty rate, there is a rise in registered capital. Currently, the number stands at over $162 billion, a 39.4 percent increase from the previous year.

Tibetan Politics: A Delicate Situation

Tibet and China have been in a tense struggle over Tibet’s autonomy since the 1950s. Many Tibetans wish for independence, and in the past, the Chinese government has acted forcefully.

The most notable example of this is the situation with the current Dalai Lama who has been living in exile in India since the Tibetan Rebellion. Despite the Dalai Lama’s tension with Beijing, it seems even he believes that remaining with China is in Tibet’s best interest. Couple that with the many development projects China has enacted in Tibet, and it appears that their relationship is looking up.

China Tries to Tackle Poverty in Tibet

The government in Beijing gives the impression that its best path to quieting Tibetan independence talks is to tackle the region’s poverty problem. One such project that China has funded is in Amdo County, where once-nomadic herders who lived in adobe huts are now receiving homes paid for by the government with a market rate of approximately $47,000.

The Shopko family, one of the recipients of these homes, have gone on the record to express their heartfelt thanks for their new home. Their old hut sat at 16,000 feet with no heating or roads to connect them to the nearby villages.

To help with the move, the Chinese government is giving migrants jobs at local tourism centers, hotels and car washes. It follows up on this guarantee with monthly bonuses for locals who manage and protect the essential grasslands, as well as 5,000 yuan a year to residents who enroll in university.

While the Shopkos serve as an ideal for how the government attempts to tackle poverty in Tibet, the program has only reached 121 families so far, but in the previous five years, the government has spent more than $9 billion to try to alleviate poverty in Tibet. Seemingly, Beijing is looking for answers to its political issues.

Foreign Aid to Tibet

Foreign countries are investing in Tibet as well. The Nepalese government has been distancing itself from its neighbor, India, in favor of China. This political posturing could be for a host of reasons; however, the projects Nepal is planning in Tibet are apolitical for the Tibetan people.

Gobinda Karkee is a Nepalese diplomat who oversees development projects with China. The most famous of these is the Friendship Bridge, which was renovated in 2016. The plans are not all symbolic, though. By 2020, Nepal plans on finishing a rail network that will connect with Tibet and lessen its reliance on using Indian ports. The $226 million project is jointly funded by Nepal and China. Along this rail line will be multiple trading points and border checks. The two nations hope the plan will boost the local economy and help rebuild much of the infrastructure that was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.

Poverty in Tibet has often gone unnoticed in the media because when the region is in the news, it is being celebrated for its rich culture and history. The UNDP sought to take advantage of this by building tourism infrastructure in rural areas, which in turn provides higher paying jobs for the impoverished people in the Tibetan Steppe.

Much like the Chinese government’s program, UNDP has put a heavy focus on preserving the local ecology and economy. The bulk of the project focuses on Old Lhasa City. The city is famous for its courtyards, which UNDP is mapping, landscaping and organizing the foundation of to make Lhasa a tourist destination. Old Lhasa has become an exemplary case of the economic and cultural benefits of the UNDP program.

Tibet rests in a political hotbed in South Asia, and the effects of the decisions made by its neighbors can have unintended consequences on the proud region. Throughout the religious and diplomatic dilemmas, poverty in Tibet has long been a debilitating issue. Thanks to organizations like the UNDP, this problem is now being dealt with and has already improved the lives of half a million people.

– David Jaques

Photo: Flickr

With the support of the Chinese government, progress continues to be made toward the alleviation of poverty in Tibet. Tibet has been controversially occupied by China since 1950, when the newly established communist regime launched an invasion of its sparsely populated neighbor with the goal of making it a permanent part of The People’s Republic of China. Today, international perspectives of China’s occupation of Tibet remain controversial, but many have become more receptive to China’s presence in the region due to Beijing’s insistence that the government has significantly reduced poverty in Tibet.

Part of China’s most recent Five Year Plan (2016-2020) are provisions to finish construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, which will link the most remote and mountainous region of Tibet to the rest of the world. With an estimated cost of roughly $36 billion and a plan to build well over 1,000 miles of railway, this ambitious project will vastly improve economic access to the region, greatly .

Other provisions of the Five Year Plan include continued expansion of housing projects, which the central government reports have provided modern housing for over 236,000 Tibetans to date. Many of the people that benefit from this program were reportedly living without either running water or electricity previous to receiving government assistance. The Chinese government aims to eliminate these dire conditions by 2020.

Though many critics in the international political sphere have expressed concerns over the preservation of Tibetan culture while the region remains under Chinese control, the central government has sought to reassure the international community of its intentions to preserve Tibetan religious and historical sites. Western fascination with Tibetan Buddhism and history has caused an uptick in tourism in recent years, which has provided a boost to the Tibetan economy.

Many people continue to question the validity of the Chinese government’s statistics regarding poverty in Tibet. To this day, some see China’s occupation of Tibet as illegal, including exiled Tibetan political groups that advocate for its independence.

Though also living in exile in India, the foremost Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama, has recently affirmed his pro-China stance, saying that Tibet’s inclusion in Chinese politics offers the invaluable opportunity for economic modernization and environmental protections. In a speech given at the Indian Chamber of Commerce in November 2017, the Dalai Lama urged the Chinese government to enhance its respect of Tibetan culture and heritage, but stressed that Tibet is not seeking independence from China. Rather, says the Dalai Lama, the development and alleviation of poverty in Tibet made possible by its dependence on the central Chinese government validates this arrangement.

– Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr