China's annual central conference on rural work, which will set the tone for next year's agricultural and rural development, will convene in Beijing soon. Revitalizing the countryside is expected to be one of China's high priorities in 2018, and poor villages along the borders of Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region with India, Nepal, Bhutan and other neighboring countries may receive more attention than usual.
Tibet has achieved rapid economic growth over the past few years, but many people in the region, which is locked away among the Himalaya Mountains, are still suffering from poverty. Since the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China concluded in October, 628 border villages in Tibet have gained more attention for their economic and human development. It is intended that every border village will have access to roads by 2020, as part of a broader effort to lift more rural areas out of poverty.
Tibet's rural poverty alleviation drive is complex and difficult, partly due to the poor infrastructure that has long plagued rural residents. However, that situation is changing. Tibet must seize this rare opportunity to lift rural people out of poverty. With expanded preferential policies, per capita disposable incomes in border villages are expected to double by 2020.
Tibet has seen great development and stability but confronting separatism remains a challenge for the region. Raising living standards for local residents is a fundamental way to guard against activity sabotaging China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Tibet's rural poverty alleviation will help maintain stability in the border areas.
Besides, Tibet occupies a key strategic position connecting the rest of China with India and some South Asian countries and regions along the route of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative. The total length of roads in Tibet is expected to reach 89,000 kilometers this year, up from 82,000 kilometers in 2016. More highways are likely to be built in the border areas next year, which will support the implementation of the B&R initiative.
Tibet still lags behind some coastal regions in terms of economic reforms and opening up to the outside world, but to promote the B&R initiative, we have to change that situation. The region is greatly increasing the pace of its opening to its neighbors and driving forward the development of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. These efforts deserve the support of the central government.
There is every reason for China to put more focus on the economic development of Tibet's rural areas, and that is surely to happen next year.