Here follows analysis and sum-up on Tibet's economic development after the breakdown of the decayed serfdom system, extracted from Government White Paper: Tibet's March toward Modernization.
Modernization has been an important issue confronting countries and regions worldwide in modern times. Since the invasion of the Western powers in the mid-19th century, it has been the most important task of the people of all ethnic groups in China, the Tibetan people included, to get rid of poverty and backwardness, shake off the lot of being trampled upon, and build up an independent, united, strong, democratic and civilized modern country.
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, and especially since the introduction of reform and opening to the outside world, the modernization drive in China has been burgeoning with each passing day, and achieved successes attracting worldwide attention. China is taking vigorous steps to open even wider and become more prosperous. China's Tibet, with its peaceful liberation in 1951 as the starting point, has carried out regional ethnic autonomy and made a historical leap in its social system following the Democratic Reform in 1959 and the elimination of the feudal serf system. Through carrying out socialist construction and the reform and opening-up, Tibet has made rapid progress in its modernization drive and got onto the track of development in step with the other parts of the country, revealing a bright future for its development.
I. The Rapid Social Development in Tibet
Modernization has been the fundamental question in the social development of Tibet in modern times. The feudal serfdom under theocracy, which had lasted for several hundred years in Tibet, became an extremely decadent social system that contradicted the progressive trend in the modern world, for it stifled the development of the social productive forces of Tibet, seriously hindered social progress, relegated Tibet to the state of extreme poverty, backwardness, isolation and decline, to the point verging on total collapse.
-- Backward social system and harsh economic exploitation.
The society of old Tibet under feudal serfdom was even more dark and backward than in Europe in the Middle Ages. The three major estate-holders -- officials, nobles and upper-ranking monks in monasteries -- accounted for less than five percent of Tibet's total population but owned all the farmland, pastures, forests, mountains and rivers, and the majority of the livestock. The serfs and slaves, accounting for more than 95 percent of the population, owned no land or other means of production. They had no personal freedom, had to depend totally on the manors of estate-holders for livelihood or act as their family slaves from generation to generation. They were subjected to the three-fold exploitation of corvee labor, taxes and high-interest loans and their lives were no more than struggles for existence. According to incomplete statistics, there were over 200 kinds of taxes levied by the Kasha (the former local government of Tibet) alone. Slaves had to contribute more than 50 percent or even 70 to 80 percent of their labor free to the Kasha and estate-holders, and over 60 percent of the farmers and herdsmen were burdened with similar high-interest loans.
-- Low level of development and a precarious life.
Cruel oppression and exploitation by the feudal serf-owners, and especially the endless consumption of human and material resources by religion and monasteries under the theocratic system and their spiritual enslavement of the people, had gravely damped the laborers' enthusiasm for production, stifled the vitality of the Tibetan society and reduced Tibet to a protracted state of stagnancy. Even in the middle of the 20th century, Tibet was still extremely isolated and backward, almost without a trace of modern industry, commerce, science and technology, education, culture and health care; primitive farming methods were still being used; and herdsmen had to travel from place to place grazing their livestock. There were few strains and breeds of grains and animals, and some of them had even degenerated. Farm tools were primitive, grain yield was only 4 to 10 times the seeds sown, and the level of both the productive forces and social development was very low. Deaths from hunger and cold, poverty and diseases were commonplace among the serfs, and the streets in Lhasa, Xigaze, Qamdo and Nagqu were crowded with beggars of both sexes, young and old.
The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 brought hope for the deeply distressed Tibetan people. In conforming to the law of historical development and the interests of the Tibetan people, the Central People's Government worked actively to bring about Tibet's peaceful liberation. After that, important policies and measures were adopted for Tibet's Democratic Reform, regional autonomy, large-scale modernization and reform and opening-up. All this has contributed to changing the lot of Tibet and propelling Tibetan society forward in seven-league boots.
--The peaceful liberation opened the way for Tibet to march toward modernization.
On May 23, 1951 the "Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" (hereinafter referred to as the "17-Article Agreement") was signed by the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet, marking the realization of the peaceful liberation of Tibet and opening a new page for the development of the region. The peaceful liberation of Tibet, which was a part of China's national democratic revolution, enabled Tibet to shake off the penetration of imperialist forces and the political and economic shackles imposed by them. After the peaceful liberation, the People's Liberation Army and people from other parts of China working in Tibet persisted in carrying out the 17-Article Agreement and the policies of the Central Government, actively helped the Tibetan people build the Xikang-Tibet and Qinghai-Tibet highways, the Damxung Airport, water conservancy projects, modern factories, banks, trading companies, post offices, farms and schools. They adopted a series of measures to help the farmers and herdsmen expand production, started social relief and disaster relief programs, and provided free medical service for the prevention and treatment of epidemic and other diseases. All this has promoted the economic, social and cultural development of Tibet.
-- The Democratic Reform cleared the way for the modernization of Tibet.
In 1951, when Tibet was liberated peacefully, in consideration of the special history and reality of Tibet the "17-Article Agreement" affirmed the necessity of reforming the social system of Tibet and, at the same time, adopted a prudent attitude toward the reform.
The Democratic Reform abolished the feudal serf-owners' right to own land and the serfs and slaves' personal bondage to the feudal serf-owners, repealed the old Tibetan laws and barbarous punishments, and annulled the theocratic system and the feudal privileges of the clergy. The reform liberated Tibet's million serfs and slaves politically, economically and spiritually, making them masters of the land and other means of production, giving them personal and religious freedom, and realizing their human rights. The reform greatly liberated the social productive forces in Tibet, and opened up the road toward modernization. According to statistics, the former serfs and slaves got over 2.8 million kai of land in the Democratic Reform and, in 1960, when the Democratic Reform was basically completed, the total grain yield for the whole of Tibet was 12.6 percent higher than in 1959 and 17.7 percent higher than in 1958, before the Democratic Reform. Moreover, the total amount of livestock was 9.9 percent more than in 1959.
-- The policy of reform and opening-up gave a powerful impetus to the modernization of Tibet.
The 1980s witnessed a great upsurge of the reform, opening-up and modernization drive in Tibet, as in the other parts of China. To promote the development of Tibet, the Central Government formulated a series of special favorable policies, such as "long-term right to use and independently operate land by individual households" and "long-term policy of individual households' ownership, raising and management of livestock." These policies promoted the reform of the economic system and opening-up in Tibet. Since 1984, 43 projects have been launched in Tibet with state investment and aid from nine provinces and municipalities. The implementation of the policy of reform and opening-up and the state aid have strengthened and invigorated Tibetan industry, agriculture, animal husbandry and the tertiary industry with trade, catering and tourism as its mainstays, raised the overall level of industries and the level of commercialization of economic activities in Tibet, and helped Tibet take another step forward in its economic and social development.
-- The modernization drive in Tibet has entered the new stage of rapid development with the strategic decision of the Central Government to accord special attention to Tibet and get all the other parts of China to aid Tibet.
In 1994, the Central Government held the Third Forum on Work in Tibet, and set the guiding principles for work in the region in the new era as follows: Focusing efforts on economic construction, firmly grasping the two major tasks of developing the economy and stabilizing the situation, securing the high-speed development of the economy, overall social progress and lasting political stability in Tibet, and ensuring continuous improvement of the Tibetan people's living standards. At the forum, the Central Government also adopted the important decision to devote special attention to Tibet and get all the other parts of China to aid Tibet, and formulated a sequence of special favorable policies and measures for speeding up the development of Tibet. The forum formed a mechanism for all-round aid to the modernization of Tibet, by which the state would directly invest in construction projects in the region, the Central Government provide financial subsidies, and the other parts of the country provide counterpart aid.
Since 1994, the Central Government has directly invested a total of 4.86 billion yuan in 62 projects; 15 provinces and municipalities and the various ministries and commissions under the State Council have also given aid gratis for the construction of 716 projects, contributing a total of 3.16 billion yuan; and over 1,900 cadres have been sent from all over the country to assist in Tibet's construction. As a result, the production and living conditions in Tibet have been greatly improved and its social and economic developments revved up. In the meantime, Tibet has promoted all-round reform in its economic and technological systems, adjusted its economic structure and mechanism of enterprise operation and management, set up a complete social security system, enlarged its scope of opening-up, and actively encouraged and attracted funds from both home and abroad for its economic construction. In this way, the economy with diverse forms of ownership has developed rapidly, and Tibet's inner vitality for growth has been strengthened. In June 2001, the Central Government held the Fourth Forum on Work in Tibet, at which it drew up an ambitious blueprint for Tibet's overall modernization in the new century, and decided to adopt more effective policies and measures to further strengthen the support for the modernization of Tibet.
With attention from the Central Government, aid from the other parts of the country and the efforts of people of all ethnic groups in Tibet, the development of the region's economy has been speeded up, the people's living standards have been greatly improved, and the modernization drive is vibrant with life as never before. According to statistics, from 1994 to 2000, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Tibet increased by 130 percent, or a yearly increase of 12.4 percent, changing the situation in which Tibet had lagged behind the other parts of China in the GDP growth rate for a long time in the past. Urban residents' disposable income per capita and the farmers and herdsmen's income per capita increased by 62.9 percent and 93.6 percent, respectively; and the impoverished population decreased from 480,000 in the early 1990s to just over 70,000.
To sum up, the development history of Tibet in the past five decades since its peaceful liberation has been one of proceeding from darkness to brightness, from backwardness to progress, from poverty to prosperity and from isolation to openness, and of the region marching toward modernization as a part of the big family of China.
II. Tibet's Modernization Achievements
In the past years, thanks to the leadership of the Central Government, the aid of the whole nation and the unremitting efforts of the people of all ethnic groups in the region, Tibet has kept marching forward along the road to modernization and made significant achievements that have attracted worldwide attention.
-- The economy has progressed significantly.
During the past 50 years, Tibet has witnessed tremendous changes in its economic system and economic structure and significant progress in its aggregate economic volume. Having thoroughly eliminated the former closed, natural economy based on the manorial system, Tibet is fast on its way toward a modern market economy. In 2000, the region's GDP reached 11.746 billion yuan, twice as much as in 1995, four times as much as in 1990, and over 30 times as much as in the pre-peaceful liberation period. The economic structure is becoming more and more rational. The primary industry accounted for 30.9 percent in the GDP, as against 99 percent 50 years ago, and the proportions of the secondary and tertiary industries rose to 23.2 percent and 45.9 percent, respectively.
Modern industry, having grown from nothing, has gradually become an important pillar of the rapid economic development in Tibet. So far, over 20 branches of the industry have been set up, including energy, light industry, textiles, machine building, lumbering, mining, building materials, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, printing and foodstuff processing. This modern industrial system with Tibetan characteristics has produced some nationally famous brand names, such as Lhasa Beer, Qizheng Tibetan Medicine and Zhufeng Motorcycles. By 2000, Tibet had 482 enterprises at and above the township level and the added value of its secondary industry reached 2.721 billion yuan.
Basic industries, such as energy and transportation, have thrived. Power industry has developed rapidly, and a new energy system has been formed, with hydropower as the mainstay backed up by supplementary energy sources such as geothermal power, wind energy and solar energy. By 2000, there were 401 power plants in Tibet, with a total installed capacity of 356,200 kw and an annual energy output of 661 million kwh -- a world of difference from before the peaceful liberation, when there was only one 125-kw power plant, which worked irregularly and supplied electricity only to a handful of aristocrats. Putting an end to the history of Tibet having not a single highway, a three-dimensional transportation system is now in place, with highway transportation as the major part, and air and pipeline transportation developing in coordination. A highway network now extends in all directions with Lhasa as the center, including such trunk roads as the Qinghai-Tibet, Sichuan-Tibet, Xinjiang-Tibet, Yunnan-Tibet and China-Nepal highways and 15 main highways and 375 branch highways. These roads total 22,500 km, and reach every county and over 80 percent of the townships in the region. The two civil airports in Tibet, Gonggar Airport in Lhasa and Bamda Airport in Qamdo, operate domestic and international routes from Lhasa to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi'an, Xining, Shanghai, Deqen and Kunming in Yunnan Province, Hong Kong, and Kathmandu of Nepal. Meanwhile, a 1,080-km petroleum pipeline has been built from Golmud in Qinghai Province to Lhasa, the highest-altitude pipeline in the world. It carries over 80 percent of petroleum transported in the region. In June 2001, work started on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, and the days when the region was inaccessible by rail will be gone for good in the foreseeable future.
The tertiary industry has become the largest industrial sector in Tibet. Such newly emerging industries as modern commerce, tourism, postal services, catering, entertainment and information technology, unknown in old Tibet, have grown by leaps and bounds. Telecommunications have developed particularly speedily, and an advanced modern telecommunications network covering the whole of Tibet has taken shape, with Lhasa as the center, and including cable and satellite transmission together with program-controlled switching systems, digital and mobile communications. In 2000, Tibet Telecom business totaled 384 million yuan-worth and its income was 123 million yuan, 179 times and 1,086 times the 1978 figures, respectively, and on average increasing by 26.6 percent and 24.3 percent respectively each year over the past 22 years. By the end of 2000, the total installed capacity of fixed telephones reached 170,200, and 111,100 telephones were installed. The total installed capacity of mobile telephones has reached 123,000, with 72,300 mobile telephone users. There are also nine Internet websites and 4,513 users. By 2000, the added value of the tertiary industry had reached 5.393 billion yuan, the highest among all the constituents of the region's GDP.
The mode of production in agriculture and animal husbandry has changed radically, and the productive forces and production returns have risen by big margins. Since the peaceful liberation, the state has invested heavily in water conservancy works, and put great efforts into a number of capital construction projects for agriculture and animal husbandry, especially in the comprehensive development of the middle reaches of the Yarlungzangbo, Lhasa and Nyangqu rivers. These endeavors have greatly improved the agricultural and animal husbandry production conditions in Tibet, and are changing the Tibetan peasants and herdsmen's traditional lifestyles of living at the mercy of the elements. A series of agricultural and stockbreeding technologies have been spread widely, including scientific fertilization, improvement of breeds, pest control and stockraising. The mechanization of agriculture and production efficiency have both improved by a large margin, and farming and animal husbandry are advancing along the line of modernization. By 2000, the added value of the primary industry in Tibet had reached 3.632 billion yuan, the total grain yield had reached 962,200 tons, the total amount of livestock had come to 22.66 million head, self-sufficiency in grains and edible oils had been basically realized, and the distribution of meat and milk per capita had risen above the national average.
-- Remarkable achievements have been made in opening up.
The policy of reform and opening-up has promoted the unprecedented development of Tibet's commerce, foreign trade and tourism, and strengthened its interrelations and cooperation with the inland areas and the rest of the world. The regional market system has taken initial shape, and is gradually being integrated into the market system of the whole country and even that of the world. A great number of farmers and herdsmen have become businessmen, throwing themselves into the mainstream of the market economy. Commodities from other parts of the country and the world are flowing into Tibet in a continuous stream to enrich both the urban and rural markets and the lives of the local people. A great quantity of Tibetan famous-brand products, and special local products and handicrafts have entered the domestic and international markets. The flourishing of commerce and trade has given a powerful impetus to the development of the farm and stockbreeding products processing industry and, as a result, agriculture and animal husbandry are going market-oriented. The state has formulated a series of preferential policies to encourage domestic and foreign enterprises to invest in enterprises in Tibet, and expand both domestic and international economic exchanges and cooperation. Tibet has attained the contractual value of US$ 125 million in overseas investment over the past five years. By 2000, its total imports and exports had reached US$ 130 million-worth, of which the total export value came to US$ 113 million.
The "roof of the world" has become one of China's most popular tourist destinations, attracting numerous tourists from both home and abroad with its unique natural views and places of cultural interest. In 2000, Tibet received a total of 598,300 tourists from both home and abroad, of whom 148,900 were overseas tourists, earning a direct income of 780 million yuan, and an indirect income of 2.98 billion yuan, accounting for 6.6 percent and 25.38 percent of the region's GDP, respectively.
-- Environmental and economic development has progressed in coordination.
Large-scale development and construction will be certain to bring enormous pressure to bear on the fragile ecological environment of Tibet. Since the initiation of the policy of reform and opening-up, the Central Government and the local government of Tibet have consistently adhered to the strategy of sustainable development, simultaneously planning and implementing environmental protection and economic construction as an integral whole, to guarantee that the demonstration, design, construction and operation of engineering projects would give full consideration to eco-environmental protection to promote coordinated environmental and economic development. The "Regulations on Environmental Protection" and the "Regulations on the Administration of Geological and Mineral Resources" have been formulated and implemented in Tibet, to form a complete system together with such state laws as the "Agrarian Management Law," "Water Law," "Law on Water and Soil Conservation," "Grassland Law" and "Law on the Protection of Wildlife." Now, with the introduction of an effective supervision and management system for environmental protection and pollution control, most of the forests, rivers, lakes, pastures, wetlands, glaciers, snow mountains and wild animals and plants in the region are well protected, and the water, air and environmental quality is excellent. Eighteen nature reserves at the national and provincial levels have been established, including those in Changtang, Mount Qomolangma and the Yarlungzangbo Grand Canyon, whose combined area accounts for half of the total area of China's nature reserves, playing an important role in the protection and improvement of the fragile plateau eco-environment. Over the past few years, Tibet has invested over 50 million yuan in the control of waste water and gas at enterprises and institutions such as the Lhasa Brewery, Yangbajain Power Plant, Lhasa Leather Plant, People's Hospital of the Autonomous Region and Lhasa Cement Plant, effectively improving the urban environment and the quality of the region's water. Since 1991, Tibet has invested a total of 900 million yuan in carrying out the development projects in the areas of the Yarlungzangbo, Lhasa and Nyangqu rivers, playing an active role in the prevention and control of soil erosion and the halting of desertification through the construction of water conservancy works, the improvement of pastures, the amelioration of medium- and low-yield fields, and large-scale afforestation, achieving remarkable comprehensive benefits for coordinated social, economic and environmental development. According to the environmental evaluation indices, Tibet's ecology, which basically remains in its primordial condition, is the best in China in terms of environmental conditions. With the implementation of the state's strategy of large-scale development of the western region and the carrying out of the essential points of the Fourth Forum of the Central Government on Work in Tibet, the region is strengthening its eco-environmental protection and planning to invest 22.7 billion yuan and launch 160 key projects for ecological protection by the mid-21st century to further protect and improve its ecological environment.
-- The people's quality of life has greatly improved.
Social and economic development has improved the people's material and cultural life remarkably. In 2000, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet had basically shaken off poverty, and had enough to eat and wear; and some people were living a fairly comfortable life. Along with the improvement of the people's livelihood, diversified consumption patterns have appeared, and such consumer goods as refrigerators, color TV sets, washing machines, motorcycles and wristwatches have entered ordinary families. Many farmers and herdsmen have become well-off and have built new houses; some have even bought automobiles. Currently, Tibet ranks first in per capita housing in the country. Radio, television, telecommunications, the Internet and other modern information transmission means, which are at the same levels of the country and the rest of the world, are now parts of the Tibetans' daily life. By 2000, the coverage of radio stations had reached 77.7 percent of the population in Tibet, and that of TV stations, 76.1 percent. News about the rest of the country and other parts of the world reach most people in Tibet by means of radio and TV, and they can obtain information from and make contact with other parts of the country and the rest of the world through telephone, telegram, fax or the Internet at any time.
| 2011: Lhasa invests 4 mln for 'courtyard economy'|
Tibet plans to sow 3.69 mln mu cropland this year
Tibetan area in Gansu expedites construction of natural gas pipeline project
Tibet strives for key global tourism destination (II)
|Related Channel News|
Copyright © 1997-2009 by www.people.com.cn. all rights reserved