Evolving Nepal-China Cross-Border Relations & its Impact on Borderland Citizens

Posted by : CESIF Nepal


Date : 2023-10-02

This research report by the Center for Social Inclusion and Federalism (CESIF) examines the status of border dynamics and the impact of border control on three border points between Nepal and China: Rasuwagadhi-Keyrung (Rasuwa district), Kodari-Zhangmu (Sindhupalchok district), and Nechung-Lizi (Mustang district). The study compares and analyzes the unique dynamics at each of these border points, as well as the impact of border control on changing livelihood measures and gender and social inclusion.
Each of the three border points selected for this research is unique. Rasuwagadhi-Keyrung became an international border point in 2017. Kodari-Zhangmu, once a bustling hub of trade and exchange, lost its significance after the 2015 earthquake, when it was unilaterally closed by China, resulting in a complete halt to trade and people’s movement. Nechung-Lizi, a sensitive border point due to China’s security concerns, used to open twice a year during the trade fair for people’s movement, but has been completely closed since 2020.
Recent years have seen significant development at these border points. China, with its dominant position due to its stronger economic and military power, has been taking unilateral decisions on border operations in the region. Nepal, a landlocked country, needs its neighbors to cooperate on trade and transit. However, China’s unilateral border decisions have met with frustration and discouragement from traders, the general public, and politicians in Nepal. This research report analyzes the status of border dynamics and the impact of China’s unilateral border actions on borderland residents at the three border points discussed above.
The field study was conducted from March to August 2023. Primary data and information from the northern bordering districts were studied, evaluated, and analyzed. Secondary data and information were gathered through different books and historical accounts, previous research studies, and media reports. CESIF researchers conducted extensive interviews with a large number of experts and stakeholders in Kathmandu and the field study sites, including politicians, bureaucrats, experts, journalists, academicians, local government officials, border officials, customs and immigration officers, and members of civil society. Household surveys were also conducted in the selected districts to understand the perceptions of borderland residents. In addition, focused group discussions and consultative meetings were held with stakeholders to understand the impact of border control on the livelihoods of borderland citizens and the changing gender and community dynamics.
We believe the study will be valuable to understand the changing dynamics of Nepal-China border in historical and current context and its impact on the livelihood of border residents over time.