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