The Real Reason China Wants Tibet

December 16, 2021 Updated: January 19, 2022


As I write this, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing cultural genocide in Tibet. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has demanded a “new modern socialist” Tibet, as well as the “sinicization” of the Tibetan people.

To ensure mass compliance, the CCP has implemented a string of new policies in the supposedly autonomous region. In Tibet, banned activities and practices now include visiting temples and the use of rosary beads or any other religious objects.

According to the Policy Research Group, Beijing “has appointed special agents in each office and community to report on Tibetan cadres and officials who break these laws.” Any person found to have engaged in any of the banned activities or practices faces “sacking from their government jobs, denial of all special entitlements, and even arrest.”

In an effort to eradicate the country’s cultural DNA, the Tibetan language is no longer being taught in schools. Instead, Mandarin is now the new language of instruction.

The country’s monks also are being persecuted and punished for fabricated crimes. According to Human Rights Watch, two monks recently received “17- and 15-year sentences, respectively, simply for arguing with the cadres during the education session.”

On Dec. 10, 2021, Go Sherab Gyatso, a Tibetan writer and educator, was sentenced to a decade behind bars. His crime? He refused to denounce the Dalai Lama. It should be noted that Dec. 10, 2021, was Human Rights Day, a fact that added an extra layer of cruelty to the prison sentence.

Why is China so obsessed with Tibet, a remote land with a population of a little more than 2 million people? Upon closer inspection, the reason becomes obvious. It involves water—more specifically, freshwater.

Who Controls the Water Controls the Future

Across the globe, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Each month, at least 2.7 billion people experience water scarcity. By 2025, “nearly 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could face water-stressed conditions,” according to the United Nations.

Only 3 percent of the world’s water is freshwater. Roughly three-quarters of the planet’s freshwater is stored in glaciers. When one thinks of glaciers, one automatically thinks of Antarctica. However, the Tibetan plateau has more than 46,000 glaciers, making it the third-largest reserve of freshwater in the world, behind only Antarctica and Greenland.

Glaciologists refer to the Tibetan plateau as the “third pole.” Others refer to it as the “water tower” of Asia—and for good reason. Asia’s major rivers begin in the plateau, including the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow rivers. At least 240 million people in 10 different countries—Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam—rely on these rivers for survival. This is the real reason why control of Tibet is non-negotiable for Xi and the CCP.

Epoch Times Photo
Indian fishermen paddle down the Brahmaputra River during sunset at Ujanbazar Ghat in Guwahati, India, on June 25, 2015. The Brahmaputra originates in Tibet, where it’s known as the Yarlung Zangbo. (Biju Boro/AFP via Getty Images)

In China, millions of citizens face severe water scarcity, especially in the northern part of the country, according to scholar Yong Jiang. China’s water scarcity is “characterized by insufficient local water resources as well as reduced water quality due to increasing pollution, both of which have caused serious impacts on society and the environment,” he said.

Of course, China doesn’t have a monopoly on water-related crises. Across the Asian region—from Mongolia to Pakistan—a water crisis looms for 270 million people. Tibet’s freshwater resources have never been as valuable as they are today. If the CCP controlled these waters, it would have serious leverage across most of the continent.

The Tibetan plateau also contains large reserves of silver, lead, and zinc, as well as copper and gold. In recent years, China’s exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources has increased at a significant pace. The exploitation includes forced labor camps.

According to Free Tibet, a group dedicated to ending China’s occupation of the secluded, mainly-Buddhist territory, Tibet is China’s number one source of lithium, which is used in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras, and electric vehicles. As the world faces an “acute” shortage of lithium, China continues to profit from Tibet’s seemingly endless supply.

The Tibetan plateau is also home to uranium, a heavy metal used to generate electricity in nuclear power plants. According to Bloomberg, the CCP plans to build “at least 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35,” thus allowing China to “surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest generator of nuclear power.”

What can be done to help the people in Tibet? What can be done to stop the CCP from exploiting the Tibetan Plateau? In December 2020, Congress passed a measure known as The Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA), which upgraded Washington’s support for the people of Tibet. Not surprisingly, the legislation has had little effect on occurrences in the region.

As long as Tibet continues to provide China with an abundance of natural resources, no sanctions will prevent the CCP from inflicting even more misery on the Tibetan people.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published, among others, by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.