The feudal serfdom in old Tibet seriously handicapped the development
of the social productive forces. The economy in Tibet was in a state
of extreme backwardness for a long time. Wooden ploughs were the
basic tools for agricultural production and yaks were employed for
threshing. Slash and burn cultivation and the burning of grass to
fertilize land were still customs retained in a few localities.
In 1952, each mu of land (15 mu equal to 1 hectare) could only produce
80 kg of grain on the average and the per-capita share of grain
came to 125 kg. Livestock breeding hinged on climatic conditions
and frequent natural calamities often caused the deaths of large
numbers of animals. In 1952, the region had only 9.74 million head
of livestock. The handicrafts industry was also extremely backward
and modern industry was nonexistent in old Tibet. Dangerous and
difficult roads made it hard to travel in the region. The transport
of goods and the delivery of mail had to depend on human and animal
power. There were no bridges on the Yarlung Zangbo River that dissects
Tibet, except for a few chain constructions left over from the Ming
Dynasty. Since there were no highways in Tibet, the car given to
the Dalai Lama by the British had to be dismantled and carried to
Lhasa by draught animals. Tibet was also backward in regard to sources
of energy. In 1950, on the eve of Tibet's peaceful liberation, there
was only one 125-kw hydropower station in the region, which supplied
electricity only intermittently. The backward economy and the cruel
exploitation by the serf-owners kept the people in dire poverty
and misery. As far as Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, was concerned,
there were only 20,000 residents in the city proper before the Democratic
Reform in 1959, and close to 1,000 tattered tents thrown together
for the poor and beggars could be seen on the outskirts of the city.
Prison authorities offered no food to the convicts, and "prisoners"
in handcuffs and wooden cangues begged in the streets. And the pathetic
remains of those homeless people who died of frost and hunger could
be spotted anywhere in the city.
The Democratic Reform
has greatly fired the enthusiasm of farmers and herdsmen for production.
In the past four decades, particularly since the reform and opening
up of the last ten years and more, earth-shaking changes have taken
place in Tibet. With the support of the central government and people
throughout the country, the Tibetan people have developed production,
alleviated poverty and built up family fortunes.
the first harvest since the Democratic Reform.
The development of agriculture
and animal husbandry has been given top priority in the Tibetan
economy. During the early stage of the Democratic Reform, the central
government and the Tibetan local government formulated a series
of policies and principles for the development of agriculture and
animal husbandry which were compatible with the local conditions.
Financial and material support was also provided. As a result, Tibet's
production levels of agriculture and animal husbandry increased
greatly. Total grain output rose from 180 million kg in 1959 to
315 million kg in 1966, registering an average growth rate of 8.3
percent a year. Cattle soared from 9.556 million head in 1959 to
18.175 million head, a rise of 90.2 percent. The living standards
of the people took the first step towards improvement.
Since 1980, the government
has imposed no levies on farmers and herdsmen, with both agricultural
and livestock taxes exempted. In 1984, in addition to continuing
the practice of interest exemption for agricultural and livestock
loans, the government annulled repayment of pre-1980 collective
loans used for the building of water conservancy projects and purchasing
machinery for agriculture and animal husbandry. Agricultural and
pastoral areas have introduced various forms of contracted production
responsibility systems on a household basis, developed household
sideline occupations, restored open markets and conducted large-scale
capital construction of farmland and grassland. Before the liberation
of Tibet, there was no farm machinery or chemical fertilizer in
Tibet. Nowadays, farming households own tractors.
Scientific farming and
breeding of cattle has become highly valued and welcomed. Introduction
of modern tools for production and the application of science and
technology have boosted overall production. In 1991, the total output
value of agriculture reached 2.046 billion yuan in Tibet, 4.4 times
higher than in 1952. Grain output came to 580 million kg and the
average per-mu yield was 224 kg, showing rises of 3.7 times and
2.8 times respectively over 1952. Although the 1991 population of
Tibet was almost double that in 1952, the per-capita share of grain
in 1991 came to 290.5 kg, or an increase of 2.2 times that of 1952.
The output of animal by-products rose by a substantial margin. In
1991, the total meat output stood at 91,000 tons and the total output
of milk reached 177,000 tons.
Modern industry started
after the Democratic Reform of Tibet. In 1965, 80 industrial enterprises
were established in Tibet. Employing close to 10,000 workers, they
covered the building, power, motor vehicle repair, lumber, tanning,
borax and coal industries. The total industrial output value reached
28.83 million yuan that year. The government has paid close attention
to the development of the national handicrafts. In 1965, it had
widened to encompass 33 trades and its total annual output value
rose from 1.24 million yuan before the Democratic Reform to 8.9
million yuan, showing a 7.2-fold rise. Tibet was short of petroleum
and coal, and energy supply was inadequate in the past. To change
the situation, a power station was built in Lhasa in 1956. It was
the first public power enterprise in Tibet. Tibet is rich in geothermal
resources and the state invested in building a geothermal power
station in Yangbajain with the biggest generating capacity in China.
In 1991, the installed power generating capacity of Tibet reached
140,000 kw and the annual output of generated electricity came to
400 million kwh. After 40 years of construction, Tibet boasts a
dozen or so modern industries such as power, mining, building materials,
lumber, wool textile, printing and food. Employees of state-owned
enterprises total 51,000. In 1991, the total industrial output value
came to 403 million yuan, a rise of 5.3 times that of 1959. The
output value of the handicrafts stood at 46 million yuan.
view of the No. 318 national road after renovation in the Tibet
Autonomous Region March 28, 2002. A highway network has formed
in Tibet, which is mainly composed of five national roads spanning
Tibet had no regular
highways in the past. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the
first large-scale construction project was to build highways from
Sichuan and Qinghai to Lhasa on the high mountain ridges with an
average elevation of 3,000 meters. The Sichuan-Tibet Highway is
2,413 km long and the Qinghai-Tibet Highway 2,122 km long. Since
then, the Xinjiang-Tibet, Yunnan-Tibet and China-Nepal highways
have been built one after another. Currently, there are 15 arterial
highways and 315 feeder roads, with a total length of 21,842 km,
throughout Tibet. Except for Medog County which is located deep
in the mountains, highways provide access to all the counties and
77 percent of the townships in Tibet. A highway network, with Lhasa
at the center, consisting mainly of the Qinghai-Tibet, Sichuan-Tibet,
Yunnan-Tibet and China-Nepal highways, has taken shape. In order
to solve Tibet's fuel supply problem, the state allocated funds
to build a refined oil transmission pipeline from Golmud in Qinghai
Province to Lhasa. This 1,080-km-long pipeline has played an important
role in guaranteeing energy supplies for Tibet in its economic construction.
To meet Tibet's need to open to the outside world, since the start
of an air route from Lhasa to Beijing in 1956, domestic airlines
have offered services from Lhasa to Chengdu, Xian, Lanzhou, Shanghai
and Guangzhou. International air links have been inaugurated between
Lhasa and Kathmandu, Nepal.
Modern science and technology
did not exist in old Tibet. The period since the Democratic Reform
has seen the establishment of agricultural, animal husbandry, communications,
power, construction, geological, water conservancy, meteorological,
public health, pharmaceutical and educational research institutions
in Tibet. They have trained Tibetan scientific and technical personnel.
The Academy of Social Sciences of the Tibet Autonomous Region was
set up in 1985. Currently, Tibet has 17 special scientific research
institutions with 26,900 technical personnel. Over the past 40 years,
347 scientific and technological achievements have been awarded
prizes at the autonomous regional level. Of these, 21 scientific
research achievements such as "the comprehensive development
and utilization of solar energy resources in Tibet" have been
honored by state prizes.
The snowy peaks, famous
monasteries and relics of historical interest on the Tibetan Plateau
have attracted many adventurers and tourists from other countries.
In opening up, Tibet's tourism industry has gradually flourished.
At present, Tibet has 11 travel agencies and 19 tourist hotels and
guesthouses with 3,600 beds for foreign guests. The autonomous region
has opened over 60 scenic spots to the public. Between 1980 and
1991, Tibet received 150,900 overseas tourists.
image shows the modern light decorations in a new commercial
& trade street that opens on the Yutuo Road, a prosperous
area in Lahsa, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, July
30, 2002. This 920-metre-long street connects Dazhao Temple
and the Bakuo Street.