This paper was written while at Peking University. It is entitled, “The Failure of the Western Poverty Reduction Project: How Misinformed Americans Limited Economic Development in Qinghai.” Below is the introduction.
Qinghai is one of China’s poorest and most controversial provinces. It borders Tibet, Gansu, Sichuan, and Xinjiang. The region is filled with desert and common sandstorms which leads to, for being the biggest province in China, a contribution of only .3% of China’s per capita GDP.1 Economic and environmental concerns for its inhabitants caught the eye of the World Bank in 1999, which is when they began implementing “The Western Poverty Reduction Project.” The project involved voluntary relocation for individuals in remote and barren areas, production of dams, providing agricultural provisions, and construction and monetary support for basic education and health facilities.2 The Western Poverty Reduction Project had been successful in neighboring Gansu and Inner Mongolia, so the bank did not believe relocation services would cause uproar in Qinghai. They were wrong.
The center of debate circulates around the Bank’s relocation practices and environmental concerns. Because Qinghai used to be Tibetan territory and there is a significant Tibetan presence in the territory, concerned American “Free Tibet” advocacy groups protested the World Bank’s Western Poverty Reduction Projects in the Qinghai province. Specifically, Free Tibet groups were concerned with relocation of Han Chinese into areas where ethnic Tibetans reside. Furthermore, proposed dam construction projects raised eyebrows because of similar projects that had a history of failure.
Unfortunately, the debate between the Free Tibet groups and the World Bank focuses on land and environmental issues, and the quandary was highly politicized due to strained Sino-American relations. These problems detracted from the human element, which was ultimately forgotten. To elaborate on this concept, this paper will explain the historical context upon which the debate is founded, explain the conflict in detail, then finally note how humanism was lost in the Bank’s and Congress’s focus on appeal to constituencies instead of human rights.