In August, policymakers and scientists convened in Xining to discuss China’s plans to create a unified park system [File: Florence Lo/Reuters]

There’s a building boom on the Tibetan plateau, one of the world’s last remote places. Mountains long crowned by garlands of fluttering prayer flags – a traditional landscape blessing – are newly topped with sprawling steel powerlines. At night, the illuminated signs of Sinopec gas stations cast a red glow over newly built highways.

Ringed by the world’s tallest mountain ranges, the region long known as “the rooftop of the world” is now in the crosshairs of China‘s latest modernisation push, marked by multiplying skyscrapers and expanding high-speed rail lines.

But this time, there’s a difference: The Chinese government also wants to

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