Chinese village expansion raises concerns amidst border dispute with Bhutan

Reports have emerged detailing the construction of at least three villages in the mountainous region that divides China and Bhutan, despite ongoing border negotiations between the two nations....

Reports have emerged detailing the construction of at least three villages in the mountainous region that divides China and Bhutan, despite ongoing border negotiations between the two nations. Initially framed as a poverty alleviation initiative, the swift expansion reportedly fulfills a dual role, tackling economic development while also addressing national security concerns, as underscored by statements from ruling Chinese Communist Party officials.

18 newly arrived Chinese residents were seen preparing to move into their recently completed homes, in a remote Himalayan village within the contested border region. The construction of 147 new residences intended to house 235 households, supplementing the existing 70 dwellings have been revealed through satellite images obtained by Maxar Technologies. This expansion is part of a larger project spearheaded by the local Chinese government in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

According to a statement from the Tibet Federation of Industry and Commerce on its WeChat account, the first batch of residents, comprising 38 households from the Tibetan city of Shigatse, relocated to the expanded Tamalung village on December 28. This village is one of several constructed by China within the disputed area, with Tamalung alone doubling in size in the latter half of 2023, led by local governments in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Despite the signing of a “Cooperation Agreement” between China and Bhutan, tensions persist along their contested borders. China’s ongoing construction of well-equipped villages along its disputed borders with India and Bhutan underscores the complexity of regional geopolitics.

Past tensions between China and India, notably over the Doklam plateau, highlight the volatile nature of the region. A standoff in 2017 arose when China attempted to construct a road in the area, prompting strong opposition from India due to its strategic implications for the Siliguri Corridor, a vital link connecting India with its northeastern region. The standoff ended after Beijing abandoned its road construction plans, but unresolved issues remain with both India and Bhutan.

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