Tibet Outside the TAR: Pari
By Steven D. Marshall and Susette Ternent Cooke
PARI TIBETAN AUTONOMOUS COUNTY
Pari is one of only two Tibetan Autonomous Counties not located within a Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the other being Mili in Sichuan Province. Pari TAC forms the southernmost part of Wuwei Prefecture which lies northwest of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province. The Wuwei region has been important for Chinese control of the Gansu Corridor since the Han Dynasty, when the Chinese first began to build fortifications there in a bid to incorporate the territory under Chinese rule. As the most northeasterly point officially designated a Tibetan autonomous area, Pari stands as a corner marker of Tibetan settlement extending to the Silk Road even in Chinese political geography. Pari was also the first autonomous county to be established by the Communist Chinese Government, in 1950. Pari's Tibetan character has thus been recognized by the Chinese State, even though Tibetans are far from the majority population, and many people might be surprised to find an officially designated Tibetan enclave so close to the Chinese city of Lanzhou.
Covering an area of 7,150 square kilometers and lying at an elevation ranging between 2,000 and almost 5,000 metersí Pari lies northwest of the provincial capital Lanzhou, at the southern end of the narrow neck of the Gansu Corridor. Its terrain rises from the wide dusty plain of the Zhuanglan River, a tributary of the Yellow River, to the forested slopes and snow peaks of the great Qilian Mountain Range which rims the Gansu Corridor right along its southern edge. Although a formidable divides, the Qilian Range can be breached in places. Over the millennia various peoples, including the Tibetans, have descended from the Qinghai Plateau through these passes onto the plains below, a constant menace to the Chinese who have settled there in an effort to block other invaders from the west beyond the Corridor. Pari has thus been an area of mixed ethnicity for centuries, as it is today, although its particular Tibetan character has been recognized in official Chinese political administrative divisions.
Tibetans form a majority in very few of Pariís townships, although they are represented as a significant residential component in most of them. Only in the west of the county where alpine pastoralism is the main form of economy do Tibetans dominate. Pari is rich in mineral and forest resources, medicinal plants, wildlife, livestock and tourist attractions, all of which the county authorities are eager to exploit. Development in the county town suggests they are making progress, although perhaps not with tourism, as Pari is closed to foreigners. Mining, widespread throughout the county, provides the county's strongest source of revenue.
Agriculture supports the majority of people in the county. Almost 88% of the county population was registered as rural in 1994, a slight drop from 1988, although not all these people are farmers. Township, as opposed to village, population, was 46% in 1994, reflecting the many settlements in the county where commercial enterprises, mining operations and industrial facilities also absorb the employed population. All ethnic groups in the county engage in farming. Rapeseed appears to be an increasingly important cash crop, as in many parts of northwest and southwest Chine where largely subsistence agriculture was formerly the norm. Economic levels remains low for the rural sector (agriculture and pastoral), whose per capita net income for 1992 was only 513 Yuan. Unit workers, by contrast, received a per capita net income of 3,155 Yuan for the same year.
Many agricultural-pastoral economy, mainly in the part of the county lying west of the Lanzhou-Urumchi line. Pigs are raised in larger numbers than would normally b e associated with a "Tibetan" region, due to the high presence of Chinese farmers. Closer to Qilian Mountains, where high alpine pastures favors the rising of yaks, horse, sheep and goats, Tibetans and some Tu practice a more familiar form of Tibetan Pastoralisms. Forces settlements of nomads may have occurred, as the country authorities are interest in developing more commercialized products from the pastoral industry. On the provincial level Pari's yak-breeding capabilities are considered of some consequence, as Pari's Qilian grasslands produce 17.5% of Gang's yaks. An experimental farm for breeding Pari's famous white yaks has already been established. Plans are also afoot to develop the valuable cashmere industry on a provincial basis, towards which some villages are already raising cashmere goats. Such developments should be economically beneficial to the Tibetan participants who, if already forced into lifestyle settlements, may be glad to turn their situation more specific economic gains
Pari has rich mineral and forest resources, which official sources indicate are quite heavily exploited. Numerous mining sites exist throughout the county, extracting coal, gold, quartz, gypsum, iron copper, lime, nickel, titanium and other minerals, and provide a basis for industrial processing. Uranium deposits are also found within the county.
In the mid-1980's coal mines in Pari were producing over 200.00 tonnes of coal per year. Many workers in these mines would be unregistered, non-local Chinese employees, whose presence would not be recorded in official population figures.
China's constitution awards ownership of natural resources to the State. Where county level primary production in which logging or mining occurs, the numbers are invariably too low to account or animal husbandry production. Were such statistics available for Pari, it is unlikely they would reflect the county's extensive mining.
Copyright 1998-2005, Tibet Environmental Watch (TEW)