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(This paper presented at the International Conference on ‘The Development of Modern Tibet’, organized by the Institute of South Asian Studies, Sichuan University, China, 20th July 2016)



Connectivity and capabilities of Modern Tibet

Innovations in technology, communication and transportation have directed uncontrollable globalization in the 21st Century. Classical geopolitics has been fretted by globalization and has expanded global economic integration and interdependency by converging nation states into a common goal of peaceful and mutual development.

Historical Tibetan plateau was vulnerable to incessant western and eastern foreign attacks due to its location and strategic richness in natural resources. Foreign powers endeavored to detach Tibet from foreign affairs in order to protect their hegemonic power. Natural location of the plateau made the goal. However after the unification of Tibetan Autonomous Region in 1965, Tibet returned to international affairs with Chinese characteristics. China’s liberal market economy and Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Go Global policy’ heavily manipulated the lifeline of Tibet, stimulated to go beyond Tibetan borders and engage in global economy. Apart from Xinjiang autonomous region, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, Tibet has the capabilities to link up the Southwest slowly developing areas of China to the South Asian global market. Since India, Nepal, Bhutan Burma and Kashmir share national borders with Tibet, these borders facilitate the development of Tibet and entire China.

China’s ‘Go Global Policy’ has been developed by the norm of ‘One Belt One Route’ in the 21st century. This norm is laid upon the ancient Chinese silk route which exchanges unity, mutual trust, equality, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual beneficial cooperation. Countries of different races, beliefs and cultural background are fully capable of sharing peace and development under the valuable inspiration of the Silk Route.[1] In this backdrop, China promotes neighborhood diplomacy; firstly, to achieve sound regional space for her own development, secondly, to apply national development for the development of neighboring countries and thirdly, to achieve common development with all states.


                             China’s basic policy of diplomacy with neighboring countries is to treat them

as friends and partners to make them as feel secure and to support their

development. This policy is characterized by friendship, sincerity,

reciprocity and inclusiveness…. We should advocate inclusiveness,

stressing that there is enough room in the Asia-Pacific region for all

countries to develop and promoting regional cooperation with an

open mind and enthusiasm. We must embrace and practice these

ideas, so that they will become the shared beliefs and norms

of conduct for the whole region.

-Xi Jinping, President of People’s Republic of China[2]


This is the spirit of modern China’s Tibet practices neighborhood diplomacy essentially with India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Kashmir. Tibet is the best practitioner of neighborhood diplomacy of China because Tibet was the reason for China to detach from Nepal in 1855, India in 1962 and originate protracted mutual suspicion. Currently, the spirit of Tibet in neighborhood diplomacy stands for mutual development and peaceful coexistence. The Tibetan spirit lying on globalization is robust than classical geopolitics in the 21st century.


Connectivity through infrastructure developments

Infrastructure development projects-railroads are the core of enhancing connectivity between China’s Tibet and neighboring countries. Qinghai-Tibet Railway which provides a major access route to South Asian countries such as Nepal and India. Qinghai-Tibet Railway provides strong support for Tibet to enlarge the border trade with Nepal and India, which could help Tibet to become a new frontier of economic communication with South Asia.[3] This Railway has already extended to Shigatze. China plans to build two lines from Shigatze which would lead to Kerung, the nearest town from Nepal and other line to Yadong on the India-Bhutan border.[4]

Infrastructure development projects have originated a new pathway to India to develop her northern roads and railroads which are the way as same after the independence. However the memories of 1962 conflict still influence policy makers of India. Although there is no military instrument in current India-China relations, writings, statements of decision makers and ancient defense mentality obstruct the spirit of China’s Tibet. Remote relations improve misunderstanding and closer relations lend a hand to understanding actual challenges and opportunities. The five principles of peaceful co-existence have never been broken by China in its economic relations with other countries. This is the green light to increase economic cooperation between India and China’s Tibet. The one route heavily depends on Asia’s rising India to make tide the economic belt. It benefits and protects 67% of population of Asia who represent one third of global economy.


China’s Tibet as a role model

Neighboring region of China’s Tibet- South Asia has ethnicity based development issues. Ethnicity based demarcation develops egoism rather than patriotism. Unstable conflicting ethnic societies face inequalities and delay their own economic development, national development and security. Multi-ethnic South Asia is exercising this common reality. The rapid expansion of Terrorist, separatist and extremist movements question the sustainability of national as well as regional development and security.

China’s Tibet faced a lot what South Asian countries are facing today. Even though there are many ethnic Tibetans who practice different customs and cultures, they have patriotic voice today. Tibetans are culturally distant but economically contiguous because of the economic policies of the Chinese government. Strategic economic policies ran up entire region without rely on the ethnical differences. This inclusiveness has increased the per capita income, national economic development and peaceful co-existence in Tibet.

China’s Tibet has resolved problems which were occurred by the multi-ethnicities. Its inclusive economic policies peacefully addressed inequalities and protected sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is why South Asian countries can get China’s Tibet as a role model of solving ethnic issues and achieving national and regional economic development.

by Shalika Dias






End Notes


(1989) China’s Foreign Relations: A chronology of events (1949-1988), Beijing: Foreign Language Press.

(2014) Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, Beijing: Foreign Language Press.

Atul Aneja, All is not smooth on the Silk Road 11 July 2016

Chen Tiejun, The Development of Transportation Infrastructure and International Links in China’s southwest Region (2010), ERIA Research Project Report 2009-7-5, Jakarta, 12 July 2016

China Seminar Report, Tibet- Connectivity, Capabilities and Consequences, No. 190 (2006), 11 July 2016.

David S.G. Goodman and Gerald Segal (1997), China Rising, London: Rutledge.

John W. Garver (2001), Protracted Contest: Sino-Indian Rivalry in the 20th Century, USA: University of Washington Press.

Kennet Christie (1998), Ethnic Conflict Tribal Politics: A Global Perspective, Britain, Curzon Press.

Monika Chansoria, China’s Infrastructure Development in Tibet: Evaluating Trendiness, No 32 (2011), New Delhi: Centre for Land Warfare Studies, 12 July 2016

Nie Xiaoyang (2012), Tibet: Fast and Furious, the Commercial Press.

Ram Rahul (1992), Modern Tibet, New Delhi, Munshiram Manoharal.

Ramakant (1988), China and South Asia, Jaipur: university of Rajastan.


[1] Xi Jinping (2014), Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, Beijing: Foreign Language Press.


[2] Ibid.

[3] Chen Tiejun, The Development of Transportation Infrastructure and International Links in China’s southwest Region (2010), ERIA Research Project Report 2009-7-5, Jakarta, 12 July 2016

[4] Ibid.


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