What Is the Value of Tibet and Xinjiang to China

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Strategic China Essay

What is the value of Tibet and Xinjiang to China?

By: Annette Bergmann (13236885)
Date: 20. July. 2012

What is the value of Tibet and Xinjiang to China?

This essay focuses on the two of the five autonomous regions of China; Tibet and Xinjiang. These two regions have become widely known due to their fight for national independence. These regions consist of national minorities and have had long periods of national independence before they were included in the Chinese empire during the Qing Dynasty in 1949, (Central Tibetan Administartion, 2011). China places a large emphasis on these regions and will not allow them to separate, as Tibet and Xinjiang are valuable to China due to the prevailing belief of the importance of unity, a unified China is seen as a strong China (Elmer, 2011). Furthermore, China’s history, with the century of humiliation, plays a big part in why China cannot loose Tibet and Xinjiang, as it would be seen weak. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) sees the Tibet and Xinjiang region as historically a part of China. China’s major development schemes in both of these regions cannot be lost; in addition the rich resources of Tibet and Xinjiang are crucial to China’s future. Lastly, Tibet and Xinjiang are seen geopolitically important to China.

Background of Tibet and Xinjiang
Tibet is located southwest of China and is one of the least populated but the second largest provinces by area, (as you can see in the Appendix Map 1). Tibet declared its independence in 1913, and kept their autonomy until 1951, but due to a military conflict between Tibet and China, Tibet was incorporated into the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and declared an autonomous region of the PRC in 1965. There are many tensions between China and Tibet, due to the prevailing desire of the Tibetan people for independence and the Chinese government policies that restrict the Tibetan people, (Central Tibetan Administartion, 2011). Xinjiang or Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is China’s largest province and is home to a population of Turkic and Muslim people, it also borders more then eight countries, (see in the Appendix, Map 1). This region has been fighting for independence; China continuously insists that ‘Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of the Chinese motherland since ancient times,’ (Kemenade, 1997). Though the presence of Chinese in Central Asia has been estimated to only 425 out of 2000 years, (Kemenade, 1997). Ethnic tensions have intensified since the collapse of the Soviet Union and emergence of Central Asian states, (Moneyhon, 2002). The two regions are immensely important to China and that is why China cannot allow them to separate and become independent.

Territorial Unity

China cannot allow the Tibet and Xinjiang territory to become nationally independent, due to the strong believes of the PRC government in territorial and national unity and the vast history of the country with the century of Humiliation playing a immense role in China’s decisions. The PRC believes that a unified China is a strong China, (Elmer, 2011). If China were to loose territory and the unity of the people it would be seen weak and fragile and could potentially be defeated. Additionally, the history of China and the century of Humiliation play a significant role in China’s strong hold on territory and the inability of the Chinese government to allow China to look weak. The emphasis on territorial unity within the PRC is due to the believe, that periods of unity have led to more successful development and have been more productive, than the periods of disunion, thus China places a high importance in territorial unity, (Elmer, 2011). Beijing has two geopolitical imperatives and they are to: “maintain internal unity so that far powers can't weaken the ability of the central government to defend China” and to “secure China’s periphery by anchoring the country's frontiers on impassable geographical...
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