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China’s ‘Xiaokang’ border defence villages along LAC

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  • Context (IE | IE): China moves its nationals into its vacant ‘defence villages’ along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

What are Xiaokang border defence villages?

  • China has been constructing 628 Xiaokang or “well-off villages” along India’s borders with the Tibet Autonomous Region for over five years now.
  • The border villages include structures include mostly double-storey, large and spacious buildings. 
  • Though their exact purpose remains unclear, they are understood to be dual-use infrastructure, can be used both for civil and military purposes, and have been a concern from a defence perspective.
    • It can also be a way to assert Chinese claims over certain areas along the LAC.

Is there any law governing these border villages?

  • A new law on China’s land borders was brought into effect from January 1, 2022.
  • It was passed in 2021 by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress China’s rubber-stamp Parliament), for “protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas”.

India’s response

  • The Indian government announced the Vibrant Villages Programme in 2022 to develop its border villages into modern villages with all amenities and as tourist attractions.
  • The programme builds on the existing Border Area Development Programme (BADP) under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

Other infrastructure projects by China along India’s borders

  • Construction of new roads and bridges to improve connectivity through the passes in the northeast.
  • There has also been a push to develop alternate routes to the LAC and improve inter-valley connectivity in the northeast.

Line of Actual Control (LAC)

  • LAC is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese controlled territory.
  • India considers the LAC to be 3,488 km long, while the Chinese consider it to be only around 2,000 km.
  • LAC is divided into three sectors:
    1. Eastern sector (spans Arunachal Pradesh & Sikkim): Boundary dispute over the MacMahon Line.
    2. Middle sector (Uttarakhand & Himachal Pradesh): It is the only one where India and China have exchanged maps on which they broadly agree.
    3. Western sector (in Ladakh): Boundary dispute pertains to the Johnson Line.

Line of Actual Control

For details on LAC, visit >PMFIAS-IG-01-India

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