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China’s upgrading of two border counties in Tibet as cities seen as provocative

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(TibetanReview.net, Apr06’23) – In a move to strengthen control and speed up development, including by thereby encouraging more Chinese immigration, China has decided to upgrade two Tibetan towns along the disputed border with India to city status. This step is likely to further inflame tensions between the two Himalayan neighbours, placing the Narendra Modi government under renewed pressure against its attempts to underplay the Chinese belligerence, said thewire.in Apr 6.

The announcement, which one analyst said amounted to an assertion of its sovereignty, follows a row this week with India after the Chinese authorities published a map of newly “standardised” place names that included “Indian-held” territory south of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), reported the scmp.com Apr 5.

China and India historically became neighbours only after the former annexed Tibet in 1951, especially after the two signed a border trade agreement in 1954. China now insists the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to it and calls it Southern Tibet.

On Apr 3 China said two counties along the eastern section of the LAC – Milin (Tibetan: Mainling) and Cuona (Tsona) – would be upgraded to county-level cities and taken under the direct administration of the regional government at Lhasa, thereby taking it out of the jurisdiction of the Prefecture-level Nyingtri City government.

Both areas have populations of less than 25,000. Milin is an important border town and transport hub whose territory covers 180km (115 miles) of the Indian frontier. It is linked by rail to the regional capital Lhasa and lies along a highway linking Tibet and Xinjiang, as well as having its own airport.

Cuona borders Bhutan to the southwest and lies across the LAC from the Tawang sector. Part of the territory China claims as part of the new city is currently controlled by India, noted then scmp.com report.

Liu Zongyi, a senior fellow with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, has said the upgrade may help Beijing further strengthen its control over the region, particularly in Cuona.

“By upgrading the administrative status, China has strengthened control by asserting its sovereignty and reinforcing governance of the two areas,” Liu has said. “There will be more resources invested in the regions.”

Under China’s administrative system, such an upgrade usually sees more resources being allocated to local development and the local authorities being given more powers, noted the scmp.com report.

Liu has said the upgrade may help Beijing further strengthen its control over the region, particularly in Cuona.

The Apr 3 announcement of their new city status was issued by the Tibet Autonomous Region government a day after the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing said it had “standardised” the names of 11 places, including five mountains, in the region and published a map that included Indian-held Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet to announce the changes.


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