PLA troops patrol the Tibet-Qinghai railway. Photo: PLA Daily
PLA troops patrol the Tibet-Qinghai railway. Photo: PLA Daily

Pressurized oxygen therapy and portable barracks are being introduced to the regiments of the People’s Liberation Army deployed on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

The region is known as the “roof of the world” for its harsh, arctic-like climate and the thin air that can trigger acute altitude sickness.

While Beijing has been steadily moving residents off the plateau with many ethnic minorities claiming that they are being forced to pull up stakes, the PLA is going the opposite way. It is piling up weapons and soldiers in the vast, alpine backwater to upgrade defensive security against neighboring India and to help spy on neighbors.

Which is where the oxygen comes in.

The PLA Daily reported that all frontline training troops and border outposts had been equipped with oxygen generators and cylinders.

The PLA Medical University’s Xinqiao Hospital in Xigaze, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, is developing a form of high-pressure oxygen therapy, used to cure brain damage and carbon monoxide poisoning. It provides swift relief against symptoms of mountain sickness, which is a major threat to troops’ combat capabilities. Thin oxygen levels in the region particularly affect new PLA recruits for long periods after they arrive in Tibet for the first time.

Once breathing is no longer a challenge, the PLA also has to offer warmer, more cozy accommodation in a region that is among the least popular places for deployment among generals and soldiers.

Beginning last year, old, prefabricated tents have been replaced by “portable barracks” specifically designed for PLA use in plateau areas in Tibet and Qinghai.

The new barracks’ design and materials make them sturdy, moisture-proof and thermally insulated, keeping the room temperature at 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) or above, even in the worst days of a Tibetan winter that normally lasts between September and April.

These warmer, more spacious tents are equipped with cutting-edge camouflage nets to make them difficult to be identified during field operations.

Taking care of the soldiers’ stomachs means four warm meals and soups per day. The meals feature high protein and high-calorie dishes such as concentrated milk, canned butter, salted sausage and ham and other staple foods. Their inclusion is now laid out in the new dietary guidelines for PLA members deployed to the high plateau regions.

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