Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development

China’s attempt to consolidate its control over Tibet through modernization has gone tragically awry. After pouring money into programs for a “new socialist countryside,” “civilized cities,” and “comfortable housing” and even a “gratitude education” campaign, Beijing faces resentment. Yeh digs beneath accurate but incomplete conventional narratives of ethnic prejudice and religious repression to show how development efforts in the region have affected relations between Tibetans and the ethnic Han who make up the majority of China’s population. Entrepreneurial Han migrants to Tibet rent land and living space from residents and use government aid to start businesses, pushing local people to the economic margins. In response to Tibetan disaffection, the authorities have increased surveillance, making Tibetans feel “already guilty” just for looking and acting Tibetan. Drawing on anthropological theory, Yeh argues that development imposed from outside is “both present and poison.”

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