New Roads, Old Trades: Trans-Himalayan connections

Public talk organised by Swiss Association Singapore and hosted by St.Gallen Institute of Management in Asia, University of St.Gallen, 111 Amoy Street.


For two generations, trans-Himalayan trade between Nepal and the People’s Republic of China was severely restricted. Vibrant trade-routes became remote peripheries. However, these old pathways have recently seen a stark revival due to China’s policies of opening up, fostering trade, and building new roads. The PRC’s rise increasingly shapes the lives and dreams of those living directly across its borders. “Neighbouring China” has become both a defining condition and an important skill in the high Himalayas.


Here is a brief write-up on the website of the St. Gallen Institute:

On the topic of Neighbouring China, Dr Martin Saxer, SNF-sponsored anthropologist at the National University of Singapore, presented his studies on peripheral regions in the Southern Himalayas where the combination of vigorous infrastructure development and production of cheap consumer goods by China have brought a surge in entrepreneurship and economic development.

Rather than turning towards the market areas inland or in India’s core land, an emerging class of wealthy merchants sees more lucrative deals and trades beyond the peaks and passes of Asia’s highest mountains. As a result, cross-border trade is prospering and is fundamentally changing the socio-economic structure in an area NGOs consider development aid very urgent.

Dr Saxer concluded his presentation that such increase in trade would be no new trend, however, but a resurgence from century-old patterns which were constrained by political restrictions caused in the 20th century. Thus, liberalisation of trade and commerce have not altered, but reinstated older traditions in the region.