China’s Cadre Transfer Policy toward Tibet in the 1980s
During the 1980s, China transferred large amount of its personnel to Tibet. China had been regularly implementing mass migrations to and from different regions for centuries; economic opportunities and family-related considerations. However, Tibet has seen China’s personnel transfer as a premeditated government program exclusively aimed at Tibet, rather than the product of a countrywide relaxation of economic management.
The word cadre refers to two different types of personnel – one refers to those who perform public functions in a political or bureaucratic capacity, the other refers to those who hold clerical positions but who formally fall under the official nomenklatura list (i.e. teachers, technicians, managers etc).
The policy of sending personnel to Tibet was part of China’s policy of sending cadres to ‘border and remote regions’ (bianyuan diqu), although the supervision to Tibet was much more tightly controlled than in other areas.
These border areas are defined by a number of different ways – “The geographic criterion mainly refers to the fact that these regions are located along China’s borders; natural conditions pertain to the high altitudes and low temperatures of these regions. Political and economic criteria, on the other hand, are devised to take into account ethnic factors and the level of poverty. An application of these criteria yields a formal division of border and remote regions into three categories, with the third-category regions having the most difficult conditions according to the specified criteria. All of Tibet is classified as a third-category region”.
Incentives were established to help encourage cadres to be transferred to this area, including higher pensions. There are reasons as to why special incentives had to be implemented and why Tibet has been treated in a different way to other regions. Not only do ethnic tensions have to be considered but the harshness of the area has made it unpopular for Chinese. Transferring cadres to Tibet has been compared to Qinghai, another province with similar economic and ethnic conditions.
The transfer of cadres to Tibet was suspended during the Cultural Revolution and only resumed after the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee in December 1978. In 1979, three thousand cadres were sent to Tibet “the increase in the number of people transferred to Tibet in 1979 was probably to replenish the stock of Chinese cadres in anticipation of the large-scale, three-year withdrawal of Chinese cadres from Tibet that the central government was to implement in 1980, 1981, and 1982”. In 1980, three thousand cadres were sent back to China.
Another important reason for the transfer of cadres in the 1980s was to help Tibet’s failing economy through importing technical experts into the region. “Evidence for this can be seen in the policy orientation of stressing technical personnel as laid out in the government documents, and also in the type of central government agencies that have been involved in organizing the transfer activities”.
Tibet asked for teachers and doctors to be sent over and the Chinese government complied, sending low numbers but those who were sent had great experience. As one Chinese document states: “Selecting and dispatching cadres to Tibet must be handled strictly and should be carried out on the principle that they should be few in number but high in quality. Cadres to be transferred to Tibet must be in the most urgent demand in Tibet; those not in need now should be delayed being sent in. [To ascertain this demand,] investment projects and the people to be transferred must be screened and determined on a case-by-case basis”.
In addition to this, China implemented a system of withdrawing cadres from Tibet when it was determined that they were not needed and were resettled in inland positions elsewhere. As well as this, it also helped local ethnic Tibetans in local Party and government agencies.
Tibet has always been a sensitive area for China and the rest of world. The Chinese government has been seen as cruel, dominating and ruthless with Tibet in Western eyes. However, once we look more closely we can see that it is the Chinese government who has been trying to help the Tibetans standard of living rise.
Huang, Yasheng (1995) China’s Cadre Transfer Policy toward Tibet in the 1980s, Modern China, Sage Publications, Inc.