Rare information has surfaced about how China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is assisting inhabitants of rural villages in the construction and maintenance of infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India as it pushes for the development of dual-use habitats along the disputed boundary.
As part of its attempts to integrate civilian and military resources, the PLA has even sent army cooks to a town near the India border to train local Tibetans how to create popular “Chinese foods.”
Yumai, China’s last major border settlement, is only a few kilometres from the Upper Subansiri district in Arunachal Pradesh, according to a spot report published this week on an official military webpage.
Yumai, in Longzi county, is in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s (TAR) Shannan region, bordering India and Bhutan; it is regarded as China’s first “xiaokang,” or “well-off hamlet.”
In 2017, President Xi Jinping issued a brief letter to a family of Tibetan herders, stating he hoped they would “motivate more herders to dig down roots in the border area like galsang flowers, and become protectors of Chinese land.”
The settlement, which was formerly home to only one family, is now believed to be home to hundreds of households.
“In recent years, Yumai has inaugurated an asphalt road and erected schools, health centres, police stations, and other public service institutions and units in fast succession, and more and more people have relocated here,” according to a military site news item.
The report made no indication of the village’s population or why “an increasing number” of individuals were migrating to the distant locale.
However, according to a news item published in the state-run China Daily newspaper in August 2021, the community had 200 people at the time.
“The ‘three-person township’ grew to include 20 people in 1999 and 30 in 2009.” It is now recognised as a moderately prosperous and picturesque community with over 200 people from 67 households. “Villagers now take turns guarding the border,” according to the China Daily storey.
Residents have established at least “five homestays” with the assistance of personnel from the Tibet Military Region, which is part of the Western Theatre Command, which supervises the whole length of the disputed Sino-India boundary.
Televisions, oxygen generators, and the internet are available in the rooms.
According to the article, the PLA has sent military cooks to educate hotel owners how to prepare Chinese food.
Hotel managers stated they didn’t know how to produce Chinese meals like “twice-cooked pork” and “diced spicy chicken” for visitors from other parts of the nation until lately. They do now, according to the research.
Military physicians are sent to the village twice a week, and troops patrolling in the region have been directed to call on the elderly.
The goal is simple: establish contact with local Tibetans. “In Yumai, the military and citizens are one family,” the article stated, quoting an officer who predicted a new chapter of strong friendship between the military and residents will be formed.
Several settlements have sprouted up in the tri-junction of India, Bhutan, and China, and a new hamlet is claimed to have sprouted up in Longju, near Arunachal Pradesh, which witnessed the first confrontation between India and China in 1959, according to India-based Tibet specialist Claude Arpi.
When Indian media reported that China had developed communities on the Indian side of the LAC, close to Yumai hamlet, the Chinese foreign ministry issued a forceful reaction.
“China’s regular building on its own land is absolutely a question of sovereignty,” the ministry replied when asked about the new hamlet in January 2021.
China approved a new legislation in October to improve land border defence amid ongoing military tensions along the disputed border with India, solidifying the military-civilian role in defending the country’s frontiers.
The legislation, the first of its kind since the formation of new China in 1949, codified the combination of military defence of China’s land borders with improved social and economic development in border districts.
It reinforced the PLA’s strategy of collaborating closely with civilians living in border areas, such as Tibetan people living along the border with India, Bhutan, and Nepal, to serve as the first line of defence.
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