NEW China has no money problem. When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited debt-laden Greece last week he promised to double trade in five years and buy Greek bonds when Athens returns to international markets. It is a way to invest the Middle Kingdom’s phenomenal export trade surplus.
Another way to invest is to build infrastructure within the boundaries of China. This serves several purposes: it helps stabilize ‘restive’ regions of the Empire, gets some revenue out of the tourism development and perhaps more importantly ‘defends’ the borders of the People’s Republic of China.
“¦nobody is fooled by Beijings propaganda: the train will be used to bring more Han migrants and change the mountainous regions demography.
The construction work on a strategic rail line which will be connecting Lhasa to Shigatse, the Tibetan Autonomous Region’s (TAR) second largest city is an important step towards the borders of Nepal, and also India and Bhutan.
Zhang Ping, the head of the powerful National Reform and Development Commission (corresponding to our Planning Commission) stated that the 253-km extension will cost about 13.3 billion yuan ($2 billion) and take four years to complete.
Officially, the railway is being brought to modernize and develop the region. But nobody is fooled by Beijing’s propaganda: the train will be used to bring more Han migrants and change the mountainous region’s demography. In The China Daily, Railways Minister Liu Zhijun admitted the ‘vital role (of the railway) in boosting tourism …and promoting the rational use of resources along the line’. Despite the declarations of Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party boss in Tibet: “The railway will detour around nature reserves and drinking water sources… measures will be taken during construction to better protect the fragile plateau environment.” It sounds like looting the rich mineral resources of the Tibetan plateau.
The extension of the railway towards the Nepal border will make it easier for the Peoples Liberation Army to rapidly deploy missiles targeting the large Indian metropolis, without being spotted.
But that is not all. More importantly for India, the rail can be used to bring missiles closer to the Indian border. Recently in its annual report, the Pentagon stated: “To improve regional deterrence, the PLA has replaced older liquid-fuelled, nuclear-capable CSS-3 intermediate-range ballistic missiles with more advanced and survivable solid-fuelled CSS-5 [DF21] MRBMs (Medium Range Ballistic Missile) and may be developing contingency plans to move airborne troops into the region.”
Known as DF 21, some of these missiles have been based in Qinghai province in the north-eastern part of the Tibetan plateau. The Federation of American Scientist Security blog found out: “In one image, taken by the GeoEye-1 satellite on June 14, 2010, two launch units are visible approximately 230 km west of Delingha (with Da Qaidam, it has been the traditional bases of the Second Artillery Corps in the region). The units are dug into the dry desert slopes near Mount Chilian along national road G215. Missile launchers, barracks, maintenance and service units are concealed under large dark camouflage, which stands out clearly in the brown desert soil.”
The proximity to the highway makes them mobile. The same blog explains: “It requires solid ground when launching to prevent damage from debris kicked up by the rocket engine. As a result, launchers would have to stay on roads or use the pre-made launch pads that stand out clearly in high-resolution satellite images.”
Moreover, a launcher needs support vehicles for targeting, repair, and communication; though it is not an easy proposition to move these missiles around, the train may, in the future be of great help.
The extension of the railway towards the Nepal border will make it easier for the People’s Liberation Army to rapidly deploy missiles targeting the large Indian metropolis, without being spotted.
The Pentagon report has mentioned only the road network: “China is currently investing in road development along the Sino-Indian border primarily to facilitate economic development in western China; improved roads would also support PLA border defence operations.”