Chinese President Xi Jinping has made a rare visit to Nyingchi, a strategically located Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh, the official media reported on Friday. Xi arrived at the Nyingchi Mainling Airport on Wednesday and was warmly welcomed by local people and officials of various ethnic groups, Xinhua news agency reported.
Xi Jinping then visited the Nyang River Bridge, to inspect the ecological preservation in the basin of the Brahmaputra river, which is called Yarlung Zangbo in the Tibetan language. Nyingchi is a prefecture-level city in Tibet that is adjacent to the Arunachal Pradesh border.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet, which is firmly rejected by India. The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Chinese leaders periodically visit Tibet, but Xi Jinping, who heads the ruling Communist Party of China and the powerful Central Military Commission — the overall high command of the Chinese military — is perhaps the first top leader in recent years to visit Tibet’s border town.
Nyingchi was in news in June when China fully operationalized its first bullet train in Tibet. The train connects Tibet’s provincial capital Lhasa with Nyingchi. It has a designed speed of 160 km per hour and operates on a single-line electrified railway covering 435.5 km.
In 2008, the region exploded in deadly rioting after rising anger over the perceived dilution of its ancient culture by rapid Chinese-fuelled development.
In footage released on 23 July by state broadcaster CCTV, Xi Jinping was seen greeting a crowd wearing ethnic costumes and waving Chinese flags as he left his plane, in a red carpet welcome as dancers performed around him.
On 23 July, he headed to the Nyingchi Railway Station to learn about planning for the Sichuan-Tibet Railway before taking a train to Lhasa.
Beijing sees ‘development’ as an antidote to discontent in Tibet, where many still revere the Dalai Lama the region’s exiled spiritual leader and resent an influx of Chinese tourists and settlers.
Since 2008 China has poured investment into the region, making Tibet one of China’s fastest-growing regions economically, according to local statistics.
Sporadic protests have broken out in Tibet in recent decades, including some self-immolations by monks in the heart of Lhasa and large protests against Chinese rule in 2008, which left many dead.