For China’s Nomads, Relocation Proves a Mixed Blessing

From Washington Post:

Last year, local Communist Party officials relocated a 64-year-old Tibetan cattle and sheepherder named Lhabu to a newly created town called “Nomads’ New Village,” about seven hours south of this provincial capital. The woman moved into a small brick-and-tile house, one of hundreds of thousands the Chinese government has built as part of an expensive and controversial campaign to resettle the country’s Tibetan nomads.

The government’s effort to control an itinerant population of more than 2 million of its citizens is billed as a plan to improve the nomads’ living standards and to protect rivers and grasslands from overgrazing. But it is also an increasingly important tool to contain Tibetans and counter the influence of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

The “peace and contentment” that nomads derive from improved housing “is the fundamental condition for us in holding the initiative in the struggle against the Dalai clique,” Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party secretary for Tibet, wrote in a party journal earlier this year.

For centuries, Tibetan nomads have ranged across an arc of western China, grazing herds of sheep, cattle, goats and yaks. Now a culture that embodies Tibetan identity is at risk. Following the deadly protests against Chinese rule this spring that started in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, and radiated out to several western provinces on the Himalayan plateau, China’s rulers are tightening political controls across the Tibetan regions, including stepping up the government-directed relocation of nomads.

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