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Rails To Lhasa

China has finally finished a railway line to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, in what is now the world's highest railroad, and now the trains are rolling:

The first of an expected 4,000 passengers a day will set off from the Chinese capital at 9.30am on a 48-hour journey to Lhasa. They will travel across mountain passes, alpine deserts and the vast plains of the Qinghai plateau. Some are likely to require oxygen, which will be available under the seats, because of the thin air.

At its highest, the railway hits an altitude of 5,072 metres (16,604ft), higher than any European mountain peak and more than 200 metres higher than Peru's railway in the Andes - previously the world's highest. The Chinese track, which cost 34bn yuan (£2.4bn), was completed a year ahead of schedule despite the permafrost under much of its route.

The Dalai Lama has cautiously approved of the line, but notes the danger of 'cultural genocide' that may be more likely now that the rail line is completed. Or . . . it could increase tourism that can highlight the Tibetans' plight, and open a door to the world from this previously isolated region through which an increased prosperity and communication becomes possible, actually aiding some kind of autonomy.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 1 July 2006 01:05 PM


Some financial assistance to the area will be given, but I'd say it's an overall loss for the tibetans, who have been victimized by the red chinese as everyone knows. Hu jintao is not doing this out of the kindness of his heart.

Posted by: lester at July 1, 2006 05:17 PM

Unfortunately I think you are right Lester, but hopefully some good will come of it.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at July 1, 2006 06:21 PM

did you ever read Robert Kaplans piece about Xinjian? It was in the atlantic monthly and I think reprinted in his book imperial grunts. It's just old fashioned imperialism. I wonder if there is a conflict ahead for the han chinese and chinese muslims in "east turkistan".

Posted by: lester at July 2, 2006 08:53 AM

There has been conflict there for a long time. There have been terrorist acts going back for decades in Xinjiang, there is a very active separatist movement there.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at July 2, 2006 08:45 PM

I have a movie on VCD called "Princess Frangrance" which is set there. It's really quite beautiful. Out in the mountains not the city. There are some cool muslim martial arts traditions from that region.

Posted by: lester at July 3, 2006 12:59 PM