March 20, 2017

China’s urbanization in Tibet (and across the country) is aimed as a solution to China’s slowing economy. The policy is intended to bring millions of Chinese migrant workers to settle and do business in Tibet. As part of this process, Tibet’s cities have gone through demographic shifts, resulting in the strong influence of Chinese culture. The projected rate of 30 percent urbanization in Tibet in the coming few decades would mean that all cities in Tibet will be dominated by ethnic Chinese. As a result, Tibetans lose the language rights associated with autonomous status. Meanwhile, mobility and communication for urban residents is monitored strictly whenever the government deems it necessary.

To feed the growth of cities, land, which is the only asset that many rural Tibetans inherit from their ancestors, is bought by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and foreign companies. Tibetans from rural areas who lose their land must look for unskilled, usually temporary work. If the current rate of urban land requisition by the Chinese government continues, the ownership of land in many areas in Tibet will be transferred to Chinese migrants, businesses, and the state.

In response to these changes, Tibetan resistance will grow stronger. Urbanization in Tibet, with the resulting damage to traditional ways of life, cannot win the hearts of Tibetans as explicitly called for by Xi Jinping at the last Work Forum held in Tibet. It has only created more resentment among Tibetans.

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