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I wrote in Part 1 that this wave of conflict can be said to have begun with the 1914 Simla Convention, but the events that led to the current conflict did not occur suddenly or without precedent. Tibet has historically been a much contested area; Great Britain, Russia, Mongolia, and China have not fought for centuries over it without reason.
Being a small, mountainous region with relatively harsh conditions, at first glance it seems strange that Tibet is so desired. However, with a closer look, there are several reasons Tibet was, and is, an important region to have.
This is, in fact, quite a short hub, but I felt like it was best to explain the motivation and driving factors before diving any deeper into the conflict. Why China wants Tibet is essential to an understanding of the conflict. With that being said, let's take a look at what Tibet has that's desirable enough to have driven several countries to war.
1.) Military position. Located on a high plateau region overlooking India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, the region wields a great deal of influence in Central Asia. In the 20th century, when Russia and England were both vying for power in Asia (eventually, in fact, leading to the Simla convention [see Part 1]), Tibet was the main focus of both their attempts to expand their influence. Of course, in 13th century warfare, when battles were fought on foot or on horseback, the upper ground was of very prominent importance, but even in today’s world of fighter jets and nuclear weapons, the Himalayas’ natural barrier and strategic location in the center of Asia makes Tibet a valuable asset.
Mountains in Tibet, rich in resources
Source: livepine at flickr.com
2.) Resources. The Himalayan Mountains in Tibet are extremely valuable for a very different reason: the rich minerals and rare earths buried underneath them. For example, even without deep exploration, Tibet already has the largest uranium reserve in the world.
Additionally, it has been estimated that Tibet has 10 million tons of copper, 6,000 tons of coal, 27,000 tons of zinc and lead, and possibly much more. In the 21st century, these minerals may be of more interest to other nations than even the potentially invaluable military position.
Tibet is also rich in other resources, like wood and renewable energy. Getting those resources has cost a great deal for the natural environment, from deforestation to mining damage. The official China.org.cn site lists several important resources, including wild plants, wild animals, renewable energy, and minerals. (http://www.china.org.cn/english/tibet-english/zirzy.htm)
Anti-PRC Taiwanese protesters. October 25, 2008.
Source: MiNe at Wikimedia
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