Sizing up the dragon's 'miracle'

 

 

August 20, 2006

 

By Lobsang Yeshi, Vice-President of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC)

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"The only thing rising faster than China is the hype about China." - Minxin Pei, senior associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. - Rangzen Magazine, Sunday, August 27, 2006.

 

On May 10, 1869, a hastily arranged, Golden Spike Ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah, marked the opening of the World’s First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States that connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. The culmination of this movement, which required enormous feats of engineering and labor in the crossing of plains and high mountains of America, was regarded as one of the crowning achievements of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, completed four years after his death.

 

The building of the 1,776 miles of rail took four years, involving mostly Irish and Chinese workers, of whom hundreds lost their lives to avalanches, accidents, and illness during the construction. The building of the railroad was motivated in part to bind the Union together during the American Civil War. However, it primarily accelerated the populating of the West by whites, while contributing to the decline of native Americans in these regions. Today the Indians, who are obliterated into an absolute minority, attribute the tragic demise of their civilization and the race largely to the Golden Spike Movement. In fact, the Golden Spike Movement changed the entire face of America.

 

Similar historical devastation follow the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway that connects Moscow and European Russia with the Russian Far East provinces, Mongolia, China and the Sea of Japan, etc.

 

The Railway Networking had, since then, become a vital strategic project undertaken by the occupying forces to colonize the vast territories under their control. The high-capacity transportation systems effectively facilitate mass demographic resettlement and ease political control and economic exploitation in their colonies. And the Gormo-Lhasa Railway is no different.

 

Historians note that, throughout the twentieth century, successive regimes governing China employed railway lines to consolidate their control in China.

 

In 1859, Li Hungchang, Viceroy of Jiangsu, objected to the construction of a proposed British railway from Suzhou to Shanghai. “Fearful of western imperialist intentions, the government ordered the removal of the Shanghai-Wusung line, the first railway ever built in China, in 1877. The British undertaking was viewed as a national security threat that would encourage ‘invasions of Chinese territory’ and threaten its ‘independence as a nation.’”

 

China’s Manchu rulers first built railways in their home territory to counter growing Russian and Japanese military threats in the 1880s and 1890s. But in doing so, they opened the floodgates of Chinese settlers in the region, who were earlier generally restricted from venturing north of the Great Wall. The process of Chinese migration was actually expedited by over a decade of furious rail constructions by the Japanese occupiers in 1930s. Over the years, massive Han immigration had turned Manchuria into a Chinese dominated region.

 

Erling Hoh illustrates in his article titled, “Train heads for Tibet, carrying fears of change” in the San Francisco Chronicle, February 25, 2005, “The Han Chinese population of Inner Mongolia increased fivefold after the completion of a railroad from Zhangjiakou to Hohhot between 1912 and 1949. By 1949, Han Chinese outnumbered Mongolians 11 to 1.” Today nearly 3 million Mongolians live with 18 million Chinese immigrants in Inner Mongolia. Likewise, the arrival of the rail line in Xinjiang, at the close of the Great Leap Forward, facilitated the complete integration of the entire region with China. The Uighurs are now a minority among Xinjiang’s 19 million people.

 

True to the policies of Communist Party of China, Chang Kia-ngau, former Minister of Railways of China, earlier said, “The colonization of Mongolia and Chinese Turkestan would be greatly encouraged by the construction of this system, colonization and railroad construction being dependent upon each other for their success.” Earlier on, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaopeng tries to justify the influx of Han Chinese into Tibet as a necessary step to promote economic development in the region.

 

Today the apocalypse threats loom large over yet another great civilization of the world at the threshold of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway. Although long before the laying of the tracks, Han Chinese immigrants were streaming into Lhasa through highways and air routes overwhelming Tibet’s 6 million Tibetans with over 8 million Chinese. So the Gormo-Lhasa Railway will simply accelerate that ongoing process with a projection of over 20-30 million Chinese deployment into Tibet as a final solution of the ‘Tibetan Problem.’

 

The idea of Railway to Tibet was formally raised by Sun Yat-sen in the early 1900s and in 1940s by Chairman Mao. But when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) occupied Tibet, they initially laid the tracks from Xining to Gormo in 1979, which was completed in the late 1980s. This segment of the line, from Xining to Gormo, was said to be built with large numbers of prisoners.

 

Before the advent of railway, Gormo was just open steppe with wandering Tibetan herdsmen. But today Gormo is home to over 200,000 people, almost all of them immigrants from the eastern China and the Tibetans, the natives, account for less than 5% of the population.

 

"Essentially it is to do with political and strategic integration," says the independent Tibetan historian Tsering Shakya, author of ‘Dragon in the Land of Snows’. "Tibet's natural economy faces westward towards South Asia; Beijing wants to tie it firmly eastward with China and to encourage more migration from the [Chinese] interior.”

 

The Chinese Government does not deny the political and strategic objectives of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway. Senior politburo member Li Ruihuan, in tune with Hu Jintao’s statement in New York Times, said: "Expanding Tibet's economy is not a mere economic issue, but a major political issue that has a vital bearing on Tibet's social stability and progress. This work not only helps Tibet, but is also related directly to the struggle against the Dalai Lama's splittist attempts.”

 

Echoing his predecessor Chen Kuiyuan’s commitment to extinguish everything Tibetan, Zhang Qingli, the new TAR Party Secretary, declared recently, plans to step-up Communist Party's patriotic education campaign in Tibet, beyond monasteries and nunneries to the wider population. He said it was a "fight-to-the-death struggle" with the Dalai Lama, who was "the biggest obstacle hindering Tibetan Buddhism from establishing normal order.” The Chinese Government had accordingly launched a renewed and intensified campaign to prosecute Tibetans in the name of religion and their professed loyalty towards His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibet.

 

 

Hints for coming ‘prosperity’

 

 

Despite Chinese Government’s claim of prosperity, Tibetans inside Tibet lived the deception and declared, "It is not that we are against development or against a railway to Lhasa and given the opportunity, we may have even decided to build one ourselves, the problem is that we never got to make that decision”. Recently, a Tibetan from Tibet, in his interview to the Voice of Tibet, radio service, after the advent of the hyped Gormo-Lhasa Railway, said, “the Railway will take away all the precious minerals and wealth of Tibet and bring in all the unemployed, beggars, thieves, murderers and Aids to Tibet. This is not for us.”

 

Likewise, Peter S Goodman in his recent reports from Shanshan in Xinjiang titled, “China’s Westland” said, “Most projects under the ‘Develop the West scheme’ transport vital resources from the west to the East to fuel development there. Almost none of these plans aim at developing manufacturing industry in the Western regions.”

 

China’s rigorous hullabaloo over developing Tibet were easily taken to task by many analysts who found that most of the money invested in Tibet so far has gone into the development of strategic roads and railways instead of public welfare facilities like schools, hospital, water and electricity etc. For example, despite great claims of development and modernity, the Chinese Government has failed to lighten up the house of over 30 million people in China over the past half a century although it has send men into space. And a 2002 December report by US Embassy in Beijing revealed, “Over 1,374,000 (52.8%) Tibetans leave in darkness and has no electricity facility. Tibet’s is the worst of condition in the entire China.”

 

Gabriel Lafitte in “Fast Tracking Tibet” further explained, “Though China speaks of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway bringing development and prosperity to the local Tibetans, Yet the three million Tibetans half the total- who live in Inner Tibet have little to show for the advent of modernity. Little wealth has trickled out of Chinese urban compounds onto the pasture of the nomadic yak herders and farmers. Resource extraction enclaves situated along strategic railroads have brought capital, technology and Chinese settlements to areas endowed with minerals, while the vast Tibetan rangelands get little by way of basic human services such as health or education.”

 

At US $4.2 billion, the Gormo-Lhasa Railway is almost triple the amount Beijing has spent in the Tibet Autonomous Region on healthcare and education for the past five decades.

 

China spent huge funds on grandiose projects like the present ‘Engineering Marvel’ while poverty in Tibet remains widespread. And experts question the rational of, “building an expensive railroad in a region where the illiteracy rate is four times that of neighboring Sichuan province and the number of vocational schools per capita one-fourth that of the rest of China may not be the best allocation of resources.”

 

Throughout the construction and afterwards, China strongly assert that the railway is aimed at the economic interest of the Tibetans. And the billboards erected on the Railway, proclaim, "Build the Qinghai-Tibet railway, create prosperity for people of all nationalities.” Likewise, the Chinese officials had announced earlier that 65 percent of railway workers would be locals. But according to Zhu Zhensheng, the Railway Ministry's project chief, “Of the roughly 100,000 laborers who built the $4.2 billion Gormo-Lhasa stretch, only 10 percent were ethnic Tibetans.” Mr. Wang Dianyuan, head of Tibet's planning development committee further confirmed the grim truth, “most of the work units on the railway come from inland but we do employ some local people to do manual work, like digging.”

 

And the people traveling on the ‘Sky Train’ witnessed further truth.“ We were actually really surprised that there was no Tibetan staff on the train,” said Lawing, 23, a Tibetan student, who was headed home on the first train after graduating from a college in Beijing.

 

The tales of the construction of the Gormo-Lhasa Highway, built in 1954 as the primary artery into Tibet, was a tale of deaths and sufferings. It was reported that more than 3,000(official figure) people died and several hundred crippled during the construction of the Gormo-Tibet Highway. "The Qinghai-Tibet Highway was paved by blood and life. Every one km of advance meant there would be three workers falling down,” Said Wu Weizhou, a chief coordinator of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway recently.

 

The tales of the construction of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway were no less gory. Although according to Chinese officials, none of the 100,000 workers died since construction began in 2001, Locals say at least 100, maybe many more, were killed in accidents. "A dozen or more people died here in 2004," said a worker named Ma at one of the clinics lining the road across the plateau. Observers believed that several hundred could have died and many maimed for life to built this fateful railway.

 

 

Implications ala ‘Miracle’

 

 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, while supporting developments, expressed reservations over the Gormo-Lhasa Railway, "Cultural genocide is taking place,” he said last year. "In general, a railway link is very useful in order to develop, but not when politically motivated to bring about demographic change.”

 

David Lague, in his report, “The Human Tide Sweeps Into Cities,” in Far Eastern Economic Review, revealed, “In all, 200 million Chinese rural dwellers will move to the cities between 2000 and 2010, according to the United Nations report. This represents the largest movement of people in history, challenging the stability of China’s social, political and economic landscape, and that of Tibet’s.” And a large portion of them is expected to venture into Tibet through the Railway network and all.

 

The strategic implications of the Railway for India and Asia as a whole is so immense that it made the Indian Government to announce, though belated, a massive road construction program along the Indian border on ‘war footing’ on 29th June, reports DNA daily.

 

P Stobdan, a Senior Fellow with Institute for Defense studies and Analysis (IDSA), New Delhi, in his article “Flattening the Himalayas” analyze, “China’s Western Development Policy has a lot to do with Tibet's strategic location, which is also a factor in Sino-Indian relations. China aims to achieve a strategic capability vis-a-vis India through this railway project. Though China does not pose a direct military threat to India today, its strategic infrastructure in Tibet will enhance its military capability and would potentially enable it to coerce India on the border dispute.” This was confirmed by the China's Qinghai Daily description of the railway as the "political frontline in consolidating the south-western border of the motherland" in other words, India's border.

 

“Militarily, 360 railway wagons built with Bombardier’s assistance will help China’s second artillery bring ICBMs, the DF-31A and other tactical mobile nuclear missiles 1,000 kilometers closer to the Indian border. It will also facilitate quicker mobilization of heavy military hardware and weapon stockpiles to the roof of the world and build Tibet as a strategic depth and second-strike capability vis-a-vis US/Taiwan”, Mr. Stobden added.

 

Experts further believed that China would accomplish three major strategic objectives, which will have profound implications in the trans-Himalayan zone. The opening of the Gormo-Lhasa railroad, the new Nyingtri Airport near the tri-junction of Tibet, India and Myanmar and a land route access to Bay of Bengal through Nathu La, will mark the success of China’s long-drawn political, military and economic strategies to deal with domestic and external challenges.

 

"With even a single (rail) line, the Peoples' Liberation Army could move about 12 infantry divisions to central Tibet in 30 days," said U.S. defense expert William Triplett. The most precise location-tracking system GSM-R digital wireless communication network and surveillance system acquired from Canadian Nortel Networks Corporation for the railway is believed to be meant for other strategic purposes.

 

The railroad poses myriad threats to Tibet's fragile environment. Included among these are the escalation of the ongoing natural resources exploitation, damage to wildlife, disruption of migration patterns, deflation and soil erosion, and contamination of water bodies including the Yangtse, Salween and Mekong rivers.

 

And yet, during the ceremony launching of the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway project on 29th June 2001, when speaking of environmental protection, Premier Zhu Rongji suddenly stood up and solemnly declared: "Nobody can destroy a single plant and grass during the work”.

 

Such unsubstantiated statements are unveiled by the massive destruction of the environment of Tibet through systematic colonial exploitation of its resources over the last half a century. And Beijing’s pompous announcement of closing down several of the over-exploited and drained-out gold mines etc as an environment preservation drive, would do little to obscure the past and the ongoing gross environment destructions in Tibet.

 

Beijing’s green commitment is also evident from the following instance; Beijing Youth Daily, on January 5, 1994, reports of the success of the anti-poaching Wild Yak Brigade, being credited with contributing to a reported 70% reduction in poaching since they started work in Kekexili area of Qinghai Province in 1992. The founders, Jeesang Sonam Dhargye and Dakpa Dorjee, were later killed due to lack of proper support from the Government. To add to the woe, the highly successful local Tibetan effort for environment preservation was shattered when the Government finally disbanded the Wild Yak Brigade.

 

Just the other day, Beijing again demonstrated its duplicity over environment preservation. The Beijing Youth Daily reports that The Chinese government is inviting bids from foreign tourists for the right to hunt endangered species under a kill-to-conserve campaign. In the first auction, which will took place on Sunday, the 13th of this month, in Chengdu, capital of the south western province of Sichuan, the starting price for a permit to shoot a wild yak, of which there are few remaining in Tibet, is $40,000 (£21,000). Bids to bag an argali (wild sheep prized for their massive spiral horns) begin at $10,000. Wolves -- the only predator on the list -- may go for as little as $200. The campaign would be yet another Chinese Government’s destructive onslaught on Tibet’s environment.

 

Furthermore the government’s approval of a plan to build 25 new townships, many along the railway, is a revelation of the major strategic and political objectives of the Railway that threatens to erode the Tibetan traditional lifestyle and the environment.

 

Nonetheless, Chinese Government assured that ‘Railway Won't Bring Influx of Settlers in Tibet.’ Xinhua News Agency on July 12, 2006, reported of TAR vice-chairman Wu Yingjie’s response to an Austrian reporter's question whereby he said, “The newly opened railway that has linked Tibet with the rest of China will not bring an influx of permanent settlers to the plateau. Tibet's unique natural conditions make it impossible for the Han people and other ethnic groups to settle down here," He further said, “Tibet is a vast land of ‘1.2 million square’ kilometers, so tourists won't overburden the local ecology in the short run” he said.

 

The contradictions in the Statements within the Government officials are stark reminder of the unreliability of the assurances. Pan Yue, the deputy minister of the environment, earlier said, “The Qinghai Plateau and the western region of China are so ecologically stressed that they can no longer support their current populations. Because there is not enough space for them all to be resettled quickly.” Notwithstanding these assertions, the forthcoming obliteration of the Tibetan as a race and the civilization, through massive demographic transfer, would be the greatest strategic turning point of the 21st Century.

 

 

Costs be dam_ed!

 

 

Xinhua News Agency reported the first fatal collision of two locomotives on the Gormo-Lhasa Railway Line on January 21st, 2006. The accident, which occurred near a railway station some 127 km away from Lhasa, left one dead and several seriously injured (official figure). But future collisions do not promise to be so less drastic with the railway service in full swing and thousands traveling each day through the tightrope.

 

The fear for the future of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway network is clear from the Government’s reaction on the very first day. Security was beefed up at the opening of railway accompanied by elite armed corps on the maiden journey. Of the 870 passengers on the first two-day journey from Beijing to Lhasa, about 300 are working staff, including a number of uniformed police.

 

For the smooth operation of the Railway, the conference on 'The Judicial Response to the Opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railroad' in Lhasa on June 15 chaired by Vice President Zhang Jun of the Supreme People's Court, asserted the need for the legal system to support "striking hard against illegal activities along the railroad and assuring Tibetan political and social stability.

 

Other Analyst notes that operating costs under the inhospitable conditions are also bound to be significant, regardless of traffic flow. Routine maintenance of tracks, switches, tunnels, bridges and other structures will be difficult due to permafrost freezing, global warming, seasonal soil dynamics, and localized hazards created by landslides, thunder strike and sandstorms etc.

 

Experts regards earthquake, among other natural hindrance, as one crisis that seriously threatens the railway. It is an earthquake prone region where an earthquake measured at 8.1 rocked the region in 2001, - ripping a 7km crack through the earth. Any critical infrastructure failure would cause traffic stoppage and possible loss of life. Responding to any such emergency could be hampered over much of the route due to the remote and inaccessible nature of the areas the railway passes through.

 

Abraham Lustgarten notes in “Next stop, Lhasa” June 5th2006, Fortune Magazine, “No doubt, railroads and oil pipelines have been built on permafrost since the early 1900s in Russia, Alaska, and Canada. But those projects--including the Russian railway that Chinese researchers modeled their engineering on--have required extensive maintenance. The Russian railway experienced a 30% failure rate, Chinese permafrost experts say, meaning that nearly a third of the track had to be reconstructed every few years.”

 

Other studies point out that the great permafrost-engineering marvel (Elaborate system of refrigeration on permafrost) has never been used for a railway although it has been tried on foundations of houses. Besides, all the permafrost engineering is based on an assumption that the rate of climate change, and thus the rate that the ground will melt on the plateau, is predictable. If one is wrong and change happens faster than one thinks, the train could be inoperable in a decade, notes experts.

 

Mr. David Wolman, a popular writer and traveler who recently visited the site and boarded the ‘Miracle Train’ spoke to the man in charge of the permafrost management in Gansu Province, Mr. Wu Ziwang of The Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute.

 

Mr. Wolman said that Mr. Wu is worried that the precarious condition of the permafrost beneath the railway is being overshadowed by the government’s post-construction celebrations. He points to a stack of copies of letters he has sent to the Ministry of Railways over the past few years. The general theme: a sometimes pleading, sometimes stern call for better permafrost monitoring and maintenance along the Qinghai-Tibet. “Every day I think about whether the railway will have problems in the next 10 to 20 years,” he says. The government has thus far only ignored or chafed at his warnings. “When I express concerns to the media,” Wu says, “the ministry and construction companies call to say, ‘Why did you say this? Everything is OK with the railway, so why did you say otherwise?’

 

"The Siberian Railway has been running for over 100 years, yet stability problems remain," said Professor Valentin Kondratiev from Russia. "It is little wonder the magnificent Qinghai-Tibet Railway would suffer some problems”. Similarly American permafrost engineering expert Max Brewer said that the Alaska Railway, which also runs over permafrost was built in 1923. "It is naive to expect such a long railway not to encounter problems," he said.

 

“But Mr. Wu Ziwang has good reason to worry. The ground under this railway is what could be called barely permanent permafrost. Unlike the terrain in Alaska and Siberia, where frigid temperatures typically keep permafrost well below the thawing point, the subsoil on the Tibetan plateau is just a few degrees from turning into a muddy, unstable mush,” laments Mr. David Wolman.

 

On July 29,2006, AFP report from Beijing confirms the fear that China's railway to Tibet, opened with great fanfare, is developing cracks in its concrete structures while its permafrost foundation is sinking and cracking. “The frozen ground that forms the foundation of the railway is sinking and cracking in some sections, making the railway unstable in some places," the Beijing News quoted railway ministry spokesman Wang Yongping as saying.

 

Wang added that shifting sands in the region were also causing greater harm to the railway than expected. Tunnels were built under elevated sections so that the endangered Tibetan antelope could pass by without danger.

 

But planners have failed to cope with a far less timid and more numerous beasts -- the yak, thousands of which graze along the tracks and wander across them. Engineers of the ‘Miracle Train’ had still not figured out how to keep herds of yaks off the tracks. "These form dangers to passengers on the train,” he said.

 

After all, it is believed that it was always likely to be harder to maintain than to build a ‘miracle.’ Besides it should be noted that Gormo-Lhasa Highway too has suffered the impact of a hostile climate and is pocked with potholes and other damages. Despite several reconstructions, it was clear that trucks remained a grossly inefficient way to transport anything, even in good weather. And experts wonder how a railroad would fare any better.

 

But all the engineering in China can't halt global climate change. ”I'm worried about money for maintenance in the coming 10 to 20 years,” said Mr. Wu Ziwang of The Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute.

 

Already Hong Kong Standard newspaper on, July 25, 2006, reports China’s Ministry of Railway seeking alternative funds for the operation and maintenance of the ‘Sky-Train.’ “It is now forming joint ventures with local and provincial governments, seeking loans and allowing asset sales to overcome a potential shortfall as revenues fail to meet the cost of its expansions,” said John Scales, senior transportation specialist with the World Bank in Beijing. "There will be a lot of capital expenditure over the next 14 years on the railroads, something like US$12-15 billion a year and it's at a level that has never occurred before,” he added.

 

Despite the opening of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway with great hype, the train-rides were an extraordinary bumpy for the passengers. In an article, “Tibet train line no vacation for some travelers,” Fu Yingqing mentions difficulties faced by the travelers into Tibet. Jenny An, a local saleswoman, was hospitalized on a trip to Tibet due to acute altitude sickness, and billed for more than 2,000 yen. She was turned down by her insurance company, [which told her] altitude sickness is not an accidental injury.

 

Fears of 'miracle' train going up in smoke is expressed by experts as Chinese officials gear up for the danger of banned cigarettes in the railway cars, where oxygen is pumped into the sealed cars as they reach high altitudes. Geoffrey York reports in The Globe and Mail, last month, “Officials refused to say what kind of combustion could occur if someone lights a cigarette once the cars are oxygenated -- a definite risk in a country where two-thirds of men are addicted to smoking.”

 

The Associated Press also reports of pens spitting ink and packaged foods bursting in the low pressure as the "Sky Train" climbed the 16,640-foot Tanggula Pass. Laptop computers and digital music players reportedly failing, the tiny air bags that cushions their moving parts broken at high altitude. Many passengers threw up even while popping Diamox and Tibetan herbs or breathed oxygen from tubes to counter breathing difficulties.

 

Above all, the smooth disaster-free operation of the ‘Sky Train’ could be only possible provided there is constant patrolling of the railroad to prevent: sabotage by humans and nature. And that could be one ‘Miraculous’ task, no doubt.

 

That the building of the Gormo-Lhasa Railway was without the adequate compensation for the uprooted Tibetan farmers is one great achievements of the Chinese Government. And the resettlement too had been involuntary. Last may, Radio Free Asia reports of Tibetan farmers along the route of China's Gormo-Lhasa Railway appealing against eviction from their homes and the paltry compensation offered by the Chinese Government. “The Tibetan farmers went to different departments, including the Tibetan Autonomous Region government, to appeal but nothing really helps,” an elderly woman from the affected area told RFA. "All this is what they call the great western development plan. We are victims of these developments," the woman said.

 

“A Tibetan nun who recently escaped into exile from Tibet reported that her family had lost land and been denied adequate compensation due to the railway construction. She said: "We appealed to county-level cadres about our dissatisfaction over the inadequate compensation for the land used by the State for the railway track. But none of the authorities pay attention to our petition. We are helpless,” reports Kate Saunders in “China railroads over Tibet's suffering.”

 

And for a nation desperate for global glory, the ‘miracle’ will stand whatever, the human, environment and financial cost.

 

Chinese President Hu Jintao announced during the opening of the Railway on 1st July, "The project is not only a magnificent feat in China's history of railway construction, but also a great miracle of the world's railway history." In fact, the railway line is primarily aimed at promoting the cause of Chinese nationalism and great power status.

 

 

The ‘Peaceful’ Rising

 

 

China’s pursuit of glorious campaign is apparent across the country. For example, the Three Gorges dam at cost of $24 billion, Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl tower, the highest TV tower in Asia, Lupu bridge, world's longest steel-arch bridge at cost 2.5bn yen (£171m), Terminal 3 Beijing Airport, world's largest at £1.2bn, Beijing's Olympic Stadiums, (early estimates put spending between £17bn and £22bn, now US $40 billion) and Shenzhou Space Mission (October 2003) that made China the third country to send a human into space, 2007 Shenzhou Moon Mission etc are some of China's glorious engineering feats. And all these while millions are homeless, jobless and starving in China.

 

Current China’s strategic missions and campaign, inevitably draw a relevant parallel with the Hitler’s Nazi. In 1936, Berlin Olympic Games provided a perfect opportunity for the infamous dictator Hitler to demonstrate to the world, how efficient the Nazi Germany was. It was also the perfect opportunity for the Nazis to prove to the world the reality of the Master Race.

 

So consequently, Hitler built vast Olympic stadium with a capacity to hold over 100,000 spectators from over 49 countries. 150 other new Olympic buildings were completed on time for the event. Soft-pedaling its anti-Semitic agenda and plans for territorial expansion, it successfully camouflaged its racist and militaristic character and exploited the Games to bedazzle many foreign sportsmen, spectators and journalists with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany -- anything was done to ensure that the Games went smoothly and caused no upset. The grand eyewash impressed the visitors so much so that, many including a director of NBC in America even congratulated the Nazis for the wonderful hosting.

 

With the conclusion of the Games, Germany's expansionist policies and the persecution of Jews and other "enemies of the state" accelerated, culminating in World War II and the Holocaust. It was too late for the world to undo the Nazi misgivings.

 

Today the tragic history is repeated in China albeit with greater elan. The 2008 Olympic is that golden opportunity for the China to culminate its ‘ Peaceful Rise’. And China is doing, virtually, everything to make the final impression. It has uprooted thousands of Beijingers to make way for the hosting of the Magnificent Beijing Olympic and interestingly; the IOC officials are already fascinated over the preparation (May visit statement). China is spending over US $ 40 billion for the game, the highest investment ever in the Olympic history. And for a struggling and impoverished country like China, that is suicidal and scandalous.

 

And why so much haste? a western observer once quipped. “In the U.S. a construction project (Gormo-Lhasa Railway) that big might have taken 15 years from start to finish. In China things are happening in different ways than we are used to,” says Amir Levin, general manager of BSP. A China watcher aptly quotes, “China simply wishes to achieve in a decade what took other countries over a century.”

 

Professor Arthur Weldron of International Assessment and Strategy Center based in Washington draws four ‘heping jueqi’ moves by China that include dramatic economic growth, huge increase in military power, prominent role in diplomacy and international organizations and the continuation, yet unmodified, of a Communist Party Dictatorship. Mr. Arthur further points out, “With respect to China's headlong military buildup, I would develop the argument that it is the product not of any real external threat, but rather of an internal need to invoke security to justify autocratic rule. I would note how the buildup is increasing tension and distrust in the region.”

 

"Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?" said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

 

The extensive strategic infrastructure developments coupled with extensive militarization through a bloated annual defense budget of over US $ 100 Billion, proliferation of nuclear technology, fueling regional conflicts with arms supply and excessive nexus with rogue, dictatorial and undemocratic regimes like Sudan, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Myanmar and Cuba etc only authenticate China as another imperialist power in the making, threatening the peace and stability of the world at large.

 

In the meantime, while the world wrestles each other over a slice of China’s economic marvel, like any other imperialist state, China whips up ultra-nationalism fervor and undertakes unparalleled military buildup; campaigning for global accreditation at the same time.

 

Sooner the world would be treated to a yet another feast of a lifetime, is the apprehension of all and sundry.

 

And the countdown begins not later than the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Are we ready for the showdown?

 

Tibet is the pointer to the inevitable.


~~~~~

 

Lobsang Yeshi co-authored the Tibetan response to China’s White Paper titled, “ Tibet- The Gap between Fact and Fabrication”, published May 2005 by TYC.

 

Copyright 2006, Phayul.com.

http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=13677&article=Sizing+up+the+dragon's+'miracle'&t=1&c=1 

 

 

Additional related reading:

 

 

The ticket for Qinghai-Tibet Railway has been confirmed, sources from the 8th conference of the leading group for Qinghai-Tibet Railway construction.

 

 

 

June 29, 2006

 

 

From-----To

Distance (km)

Hard Seat Price

Hard Sleeper (Bottom Berth) Price

Soft Sleeper (Bottom Berth) Price

Beijing West-Lhasa

4,064

389 yuan (US$49)

813 yuan (US$102)

 1,262 yuan (US$158)

Chengdu-Lhasa

3,360

331 yuan (US$41)

712 yuan (US$89)

 1,104 yuan (US$138)

Chongqing-Lhasa

3,654 

355 yuan (US$44)

754 yuan (US$94) 

1,168 yuan (US$146)

Lanzhou-Lhasa

2,188  

242 yuan (US$30) 

552 yuan (US$69)

854 yuan (US$107)

Xining-Lhasa

1,972   

226 yuan (US$28) 

523 yuan(US$65)

810 yuan (US$101)

 

 

The ticket for Qinghai-Tibet Railway has been confirmed, sources from the 8th conference of the leading group for Qinghai-Tibet Railway construction.

http://info.tibet.cn/en/news/tin/t20060627_126644.htm

 

 

Train heads for Tibet, carrying fears of change - Migration, tourism likely to increase

 

 

February 24, 2005

 

 

By Erling Hoh, Chronicle Foreign Service

The San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco, California

http://www.sfgate.com

To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@sfchronicle.com 

 

 

Tuotuohe, China - In this muddy truck stop along the Qinghai-Tibet highway, Zhao, the Chinese owner of the Lanzhou Handmade Noodle Tavern, reminisced about the good old days.

"If you had been here in 2002 at this time of day, every table would have been taken," he said while surveying his restaurant's empty tables.

When the 695-mile, $3.2 billion Qinghai-Tibet railway is completed, Zhao may have to close his noodle shop. Travelers are sure to shift en masse from riding vehicles over bumpy dirt roads to sitting in comfortable modern railway cars.

But Tibetans fear that much greater changes may occur.

Upon completion in 2007, the world's highest railroad, linking Golmud, a major city in Qinghai Province and Lhasa, Tibet's capital, will bring 5 million tons of goods into Tibet and take out nearly 3 million tons annually.

The railway also is expected to generate $500 million in direct and indirect income and bring about 900,000 tourists every year -- mostly Chinese -- to see Tibet's majestic snow-capped mountains and its lakes, wetlands and vast grasslands.

Beijing is eager to finish the huge project -- a centerpiece of China's "Develop the West" program -- and reportedly is ahead of schedule. But critics say the railway will open the floodgates to ethnic Han Chinese from overpopulated urban areas, potentially ending hopes of any degree of long- sought independence for Tibetans, who practice a distinct form of Buddhism.

"Migration is the primary concern among educated Tibetans," said Robert Barnett, lecturer in modern Tibetan studies at New York's Columbia University. "In public, they will not voice any criticism. In private, some will tell you that this is the end of Tibet."

Even now, Chinese make up the majority of the population in Tibet. There are 7.5 million Han Chinese and Hui Muslims in the Tibet Autonomous Regions, as it is officially known in China, and only 6 million Tibetans. Other analysts note that the 695-mile railroad could beef up China's already heavy military presence in Tibet as well as help deploy tactical nuclear weapons to the border with India, which fought a brief territorial war with China in the Himalayas between 1962 and 1963.

"With even a single (rail) line, the Peoples' Liberation Army could move about 12 infantry divisions to central Tibet in 30 days," said U.S. defense expert William Triplett.

The railroad also is expected to accelerate mining activities in Tibet, which could help Tibet's struggling economy.

In the past few years, 13 copper lodes have been discovered with an estimated reserve of more than 1 million tons. Two cobalt deposits, with a combined reserve of 20,000 tons, also have been found along the route of the railway.

"On the positive side, it (railway) is good, it brings new machinery, and there would be development," Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, told reporters in December. But he expressed alarm at the "demographic aggression" of more Chinese immigration.

To be sure, the railway is one of the most daring engineering projects ever undertaken. About 485 miles of track run more than 14,764 feet above sea level, and 342 miles of track traverse permanently frozen earth. The highest pass reaches 16,640 feet.

There will also be 286 bridges, including a 3,281-foot-long span across the Lhasa River. Due to the high altitude, rail cars will be pressurized much like airplane cabins.

All along the highway from Golmud to Lhasa, work on the railroad is forging ahead as billboards proclaim the importance of the project with slogans such as "Build the Qinghai-Tibet railway, create prosperity for people of all nationalities." The line's seven main tunnels, including the 2-mile- long Yangbajain tunnel 50 miles north of Lhasa, already have been completed.

In Amdo, the first town on the Tibetan side of the Tanggula Mountain pass at an altitude of 15,748 feet, several Hui Muslim migrant workers squatted outside the national railroad company's medical clinic as they waited for $120- a- month jobs of backbreaking work that had been promised them. After a week in Amdo, they were still suffering from altitude sickness, which causes throbbing headaches and loss of appetite. Officially, all workers are required to present a clean bill of health, but one of the migrant laborers said "80 percent of the doctor's certificates are fake."

According to Chinese officials, not a single death has occurred since construction began in 2001. But harsh conditions -- freezing snow and wind is so fierce that construction crews can work only five months out of the year -- render such claims doubtful, some observers say. More than 3,000 workers died during the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet highway in the 1950s, according to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency.

In Zaziqu village in the Qugaxiong Valley some 62 miles north of Lhasa, 18 families make their livelihood by herding 1,000 yaks and 1,500 sheep. The railroad will run through their valley, forcing them to bring the animals to summer pastures in the mountains through a small tunnel under the tracks.

"We don't know whether or not the animals will refuse to pass through the tunnel," said a village leader. "We are not opposed to this project, but it is creating big losses for us" by dividing pasture lands with other farmers.

Back at a construction site framed by the snow-capped Tanggula Mountains, a reporter from Tibet TV interviewed a Chinese engineer with an armband labeled "Communist Party Vanguard Project."

"We lack oxygen, but we don't lack the right stuff," he told the reporter.


 

Effect of railroads on Chinese regions

 

Mass migration into isolated regions after railway construction follows a pattern seen elsewhere in China in the past century.

The Han Chinese population of Inner Mongolia increased fivefold after the completion of a railroad from Zhangjiakou to Hohhot between 1912 and 1949. By 1949, Han Chinese outnumbered Mongolians 11 to 1.

The same occurred in Manchuria with the help of railroads built by the Japanese, who seized that region in 1931.

Urumuqi, the capital of Xinjiang, is a predominately Chinese city even though the province is home to several Muslim Turkic groups who, like the Tibetans, have been struggling to maintain their culture. In Kashgar, a vibrant Islamic center in Xinjiang, the Chinese population increased by 30 percent in 2001, the year after the railroad there was completed.

 

Copyright 2005, The San Francisco Chronicle.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/02/24/MNG7FBG71U1.DTL

 

 

China to extend Tibet's new railway to China-Nepal border

 

 

August 27, 2006

 

Zee News - no author provided at originating website address/URL.

 

Beijing, China - China has assured Nepal that it will extend the newly-built Qinghai-Tibet railway to the Sino-Nepalese border for enhancing trade and economic exchanges.

"Tibet is a remote place that is looking forward to being connected to South Asia. The railway extension will promote business," chairman of the government of the Tibet autonomous region, Qiangba Puncog assured visiting Nepali Deputy Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli in Lhasa, Tibet's capital.

Oli, who is also Foreign Minister, arrived in Lhasa yesterday on a eight-day official visit to China, said Nepal hopes China can extend the railway to the border.

China and Nepal have more than 1,400 kilometers of border and five open border crossings.

Nyalam, in Xigaze Prefecture, is the only border crossing that boasts a highway.

The Xigaze Prefecture borders India, Nepal and Bhutan in the south.

According to current plans, a branch line will be built next year from Lhasa to Xigaze, the region's second largest city, located at an altitude of about 3,800 meters and some 270 km from Lhasa.

The project is expected to take three years, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Qinghai-Tibet railway, the world's highest, stretches 1,956 kms from Xining, capital of Qinghai province, to Lhasa, started operating July 1, 2006.

The city of Xigaze is the traditional seat of the Panchen lama, Tibet's third highest Buddhist leader, and the Prefecture is also an important production base for Tibetan agriculture and animal husbandry.

 

Copyright 2006, Phayul.com.

http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?article=China+to+extend+Tibet%60s+new+railway+to+China-Nepal+border&id=13680 

 

 

Tibet train line no vacation for some travelers

 

 

July 23, 2006

 

No author provided at originating website address/URL. Shanghai Daily

China - Tibet Information Center

http://en.tibet.cn/ 

To submit a Letter to the Editor: e-editor@tibet.cn 

 

The new, high-tech Qinghai-Tibet rail line to Tibet Autonomous Region has been a tempting way to spend an adventurous vacation.

But for many tour planners and tourists, it has been anything but a vacation. Tickets are scarce. Passengers may unwillingly get stuck with hard seats for an overnight trip. And some travelers in fact say a Tibet trip made them ill, due to altitude sickness.

Some travel companies which had looked forward to promoting the train are turning their backs on it. With no tickets, there was no point to promote the destination, they said.

"We prepared several travel packages for the railway trip, but now it seems a no-go," said Lu Guanliang, general manager of the Shanghai Old Chenghuang Temple Travel Agency.

Another local travel agency that specializes in Tibet travel, said small tour groups have a better chance to get on the train.

"I tell my clients that they may have to postpone their schedule," said Wang Jiping, general manager of the Shanghai Odyssey Travel Agency.

To get sleeper tickets is a tough mission, said the manager. The agency sent off three groups since July 16, half of the travelers had to take hard seats from Xining, Qinghai Province, to Lhasa, capital city of Tibet. The overnight trip takes about 27 hours.

Tourists like Huang Yumao, 60, canceled his Tibet trip on July 16, when he thought he would end up with a hard seat.

To solve the ticket problem, Wang has employees stationed in Xining to buy tickets.

"I can't guarantee my tours leave on time if my employees didn't line up two days in advance at the ticket booth," said Wang. "Usually you need to line up a couple days in advance to have the tickets."

On July 3 when the first Beijing-Lhasa train stopped at its Lhasa terminal, the hotel occupancy in Lhasa peaked at 97 percent that night. However, local authority announced a cap at 2,300 tourists daily to the Potala Palace to protect the Tibetan religious landmark built in the 7th century. About 1,300 tickets are sold to tour groups, and the rest to individual travelers.

"Therefore, it's now better to buy tickets one day ahead," Liu Bihong, spokeswoman at the Tibetan Tourism Bureau Shanghai Office, said.

The latest complaints came from tourists who suffered from acute altitude sickness on the plateau. Some asked for reimbursements from insurance companies, but came back disappointed.

Jenny An, a local saleswoman, was hospitalized on a trip to Tibet due to acute altitude sickness, and billed for more than 2,000 yuan. She was turned down by her insurance company. A company spokesman said altitude sickness is not an accidental injury.

 

http://tibet.cn/en/news/sur/travel/t20060723_135349.htm