A new report, Tracking the Steel Dragon: How China’s economic policies and the railroad are transforming Tibet, from the International Campaign for Tibet has focused attention on the impact of the Qinghai-Tibet railway on the region. In an op-ed for Asian Age, report author Kate Saunders writes:
The expansion of the network reveals China’s strategic objectives in Tibet. Beijing intends to consolidate nation-building, tighten control, and extract Tibet’s resources in order to help satisfy the nation’s rising demand for minerals, energy and water.
The mapping of mineral deposits in Tibet and the establishment of an infrastructure that makes their extraction possible, for the first time, have prompted a re-evaluation of the importance of Tibetan areas to the Chinese state. For the first time, China is systematically applying modern transportation technology to penetrate a once remote territory, and the increased Chinese presence has created new interests that require protection.
This means that there has been a stepping up of military readiness on the plateau.
The government immediately put out a statement denying any negative impact. From Reuters:
China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the key claims of the report and praised the Qinghai-Tibet railway for improving exchanges.
“We believe the Qinghai-Tibet railway has played a positive role in promoting Tibet’s economic and social development,” spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference, adding it had proved a “huge benefit”.
The full 260-page report can be downloaded from the ICT website.