(TibetanReview.net, Apr10’21) – China has approved investments to build a series of major new airport projects in the so-called autonomous region part of Tibet, all close to the border with India. The approval was given by the National Development and Reform Commission recently, reported the official chinadaily.com.cn Apr 9, citing the regional party mouthpiece Tibet Daily.
The report said that with a total investment of over 13.6 billion yuan ($2 billion), the projects included three new airports in the counties of Burang (Tibetan: Purang), Dingri and Lhunze (Lhuntse), as well as a runway expansion at the region’s Gongkar Airport.
While Burang is the county in which the sacred Mt Kailash is located, Dingri is the Mt Everest county. Lhunze is located just next to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
In 2018, China launched large-scale investments into mining precious metals like gold and silver in Lhunze County of Shannan (Lhokha) Prefecture. This followed reports that rare earth minerals valued at over $60 billion had been found.
Reports suggested that the gold rush had led to an unprecedented influx of Chinese people into the region. This is perceived as China’s plan to claim the disputed border with India (Arunachal Pradesh) by turning the region into “another South China Sea“, according to a South China Morning Post report Dec 30, 2019.
The chinadaily.com.cn report said the projects will contribute significantly to the region’s overall transportation network, including the travel needs of local people, emergency rescue and regional economic and social development.
But the location of so many airports so-close to each other in border areas suggest that their primary purpose may be military. Gongkar Airport is already a dual military-civilian airport.