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What is China's action plan for Tibet?

December 16, 2021 06:56 IST
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National security, consolidation of border defences and border security highlights China's Tibet policy, points out Jayadeva Ranade, the former senior RA&W officer and China expert.

IMAGE: A sign marking 70 years since Chinese rule over the Tibet Autonomous Region, Potala Palace Square, Lhas. Photograph: Martin Pollard/Reuters

Within a fortnight of the conclusion of the Chinese Communist party central committee's sixth plenum (November 8-11) in Beijing, the Study Times (Xuexi Shibao) published a signed article by the newly appointed party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Wang Junzheng.

The article published in the Study Times on November 26, was titled 'Drawing Wisdom from a Hundred Years of Glorious History to Write a New Chapter for Long-term Security and High-quality Development' and seemed to set out Wang Junzheng's action agenda for the TAR.

The Study Times is a flagship publication of the central party school in Beijing -- a training ground for select upward mobile Chinese Communist party cadres.

A graduate of Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua and Renmin Universities, 58-year- old Wang Junzheng was appointed TAR party secretary on October 18, 2021.

Prior to this he was closely involved with security work as head of the political and legal affairs commission of the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In Xinjiang, Wang Junzheng worked with the Xinjiang party secretary and Politburo member Chen Quanguo, who introduced the 'grid social management system' in TAR during his tenure as TAR party secretary.

Chen Quanguo was handpicked as TAR party secretary by Xi Jinping, then China's vice president.

Wang Junzheng along with Chen Quanguo have been sanctioned by the European Union, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom for human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region.

With TAR receiving enhanced attention from China's Communist leadership, these factors would have contributed to Wang Junzheng's elevation and appointment as TAR party secretary.

Wang Junzheng is an alternate member of the 19th Chinese Communist party central committee and a cadre on the fast track.

His political acumen is evident in this article where he mentioned Xi Jinping 34 times within the first 9 of 17 paragraphs in the article!

The 3,700-word article, which was on the front page of the Study Times, at the outset focussed on the sixth plenum resolution and particularly highlighted the need to 'learn from history and create the future' and the importance of "unifying thinking, unifying will, unifying action, uniting cadres and masses of all ethnic groups to work hard and move forward courageously" for good long-term governance and the high-quality development of Tibet.

The article outlines Wang Junzheng's action plan for TAR.

He emphasised the Chinese Communist party's important role in the liberation and development of China and Tibet and asserted its pre-eminent position in China.

He identified propaganda as an important tool and said popular methods and understandable language should be used to increase propaganda efforts and guide the people.

Wang Junzheng insisted that the valuable experience accumulated since the 18th party congress -- when Xi Jinping was installed as China's leader -- be utilised to make every effort to ensure stability, development, ecology, and strength.

National security, consolidation of border defences and border security, and long-term stability, along with the continuous improvement of people's living standards and ensuring a sound ecological environment, were identified as priorities to realise "the great dream of rejuvenation".

Wang Junzheng highlighted that frontier defence is 'the first line of defence of the national security barrier' and must be strengthened. He added it is important to implement the strategic thinking that 'ruling the country must govern the borders, and first stabilise Tibet'.

He explained this would be done by garrisoning troops and the people, strengthening the borders and making them prosperous and promoting 'economic, social and border defence construction' to build rich and strong borders.

Additional steps to strengthen the frontier, he said, will include acceleration of military-civilian integration and development of border security capabilities.

He explained that the construction of well-off (xiaokang) border villages, increase in subsidies given to border residents, and the development of industries in accordance with local conditions, will instil a strong sense of patriotism among the people on the border.

Hinting at a long-term programme to re-settle people along the TAR's borders, the TAR party secretary urged that 'people of all ethnic groups should take root in the border, protect the country and build their hometown'.

Domestic security, or maintaining social stability, merited an entire paragraph.

Asserting that national security is an important cornerstone for the maintenance of stability, he stressed the need to deepen the struggle for anti-separatism, anti-osmosis, and anti-self-immolation, anti-riot and terrorism, anti-crime campaigns, anti-disorder and 'other special struggles'.

In this context, he mentioned the need to strictly control key personnel, complex areas, investigate and resolve contradictions and disputes, and improve the work mechanism of mass prevention and management.

Emphasis was accorded to the need to 'unswervingly safeguard the absolute security of the ideological realm, and ensure the continuous, long-term, and comprehensive stability of the overall situation of Tibetan society'.

Wang Junzheng underscored the importance of 'forging the consciousness of the Chinese nation's community', further building 'the common spiritual home of the Chinese nation', deepening the expansion of national unity and promoting the in-depth integration of all ethnic groups.

The main points in Wang Junzheng's article in the Study Times reflect those made by Xi Jinping during his visit to Tibet earlier this year and repeated at the national religious conference in Beijing on December 3-4, 2021.

Xi Jinping emphasised 'the training of a team of party and government officials who are adept at the Marxist view on religion, familiar with religious affairs, and competent to engage in work related to religious believers'.

He additionally 'urged fostering a group of religious figures who are politically reliable, have noble characters and religious accomplishments, and can play their role at critical times'.

The major infrastructure development projects planned for TAR in the '14th Five Year Plan (2021-2025) and the Long Range Objectives through the Year 2035 for National Economic and Social Development of the People's Republic of China' will see the influx of large numbers of workers from different parts of China.

With this as the backdrop, Wang Junzheng can be expected to vigorously push border defence, domestic security and the 'absolute security of the ideological realm'. He will be assisted by Yan Jinhai, the current acting chairman of the TAR people's government who, though an ethnic Tibetan, was born in Qinghai province.

Jayadeva Ranade, former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, is the President, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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