In a development that attracted relatively little international attention, Xi Jinping unveiled the Communist Party of China’s (CPC’s) new policy towards Tibet at a conclave in late August. As my colleague Manoj Kewalramani explained in the Hindustan Times last week, Xi’s new strategy “entails a mix of persuasion, development, connectivity, indoctrination and coercion”. Beijing intends to construct an “ironclad shield to safeguard stability” against separatists and hostile foreign interests by sinicizing Tibetan Buddhism, stepping up ideological education, manufacturing a favourable historical narrative, strengthening border defence, deepening surveillance and enhancing connectivity to neighbouring Chinese provinces. The new policy continues to betray the CPC’s insecurities vis-a-vis Tibet, but it also indicates that Xi believes Beijing occupies the dominating heights of its relationship with Tibet.
He is not wrong in thinking so. Over the past two decades, Beijing has used its growing power to limit the Dalai Lama’s global outreach, severely constrain protests in Tibet, and change the demography of the region. Transforming the Tibetan landscape and economy, it has created vested interests in favour of Beijing’s rule among Tibetans and Han Chinese alike. It has found numerous ways to put pressure on New Delhi to limit formal interactions with the Dharamsala-based Central Tibetan Administration. Even as the PLA has increased transgressions across the length of the India-Tibet border, Beijing has become more forceful in pressing its claims to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims as “South Tibet”.