Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tibet protests a reaction to meat prices?

In an article from AsianWeek about the roots of the discord in Tibet, the author puts forth the thesis that the agrarian nature of Tibet has clashed with rising demand for meat and grains worldwide. Raising livestock across the fertile Tibetan Plateau is the primary economic activity of Tibet, and China's voracious appetite for meat means that controlling the fertile lands of Tibet is important to the Chinese Communist Party as a means of controlling food prices, which if left unchecked could engender discontent among China's billions. Prices for meat are already highly distorted thanks to Western countries' farm subsidies, transportation subsidies, and ethanol subsidies, and the Chinese economy is hobbled by the remnants of a socialism.

It's no wonder that these two highly anti-market forces would conspire to oppress the average Tibetan, who is at the mercy of Beijing thanks to the lopsided economic outcome of the Communist Party's foray into pseudo-capitalism. It also explains the attacks on noodle shops in Tibet as a form of protest:

Tibetans were buying a leg of lamb for the price of a whole animal, and few would ever stop to consider the inflated price of fuel and truck leasing for the Muslim middleman. In the first day of the Lhasa riots, most of the casualties of arson were Hui Muslim noodle restaurant workers, who migrated to the newly prosperous provincial capital over the past decade — just as Mexican immigrants have gone to major cities to work as dishwashers.

And in other, slightly-related news, on Intrade, futures in any EU country officially boycotting the Olympics are trading at 45%.

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