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Tibet: Change and Development (Part II)

2003/10/14


by Wang Wen

Stability and Development

Upon the peaceful liberation of Tibet, Chairman Mao designed a principle of steady progress for the region. When the Tibet Autonomous Region was established in 1965, the Central Government also formulated a principle of steady development in Tibet.

Tibet, which is located on the roof of the world, has long witnessed an acute struggle against separatism. Social stability is of vital importance for ensuring the sound development of various undertakings and steady improvement of people's living standard. However, due to the destructiveness of hostile Western forces and the Dalai clique in exile, Tibet lost favorable opportunities for economic development after its peaceful liberation, thus widening its gap with other parts of China.

Since 1994, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region has taken economic construction as the central task, putting its focus on economic development and stability. This has ensured rapid economic development, long-term social stability and constant improvement in the people's livelihood. The regional government and people have also fought resolutely against separatism and contained the emergence of disturbances, ensuring a stable political situation in Tibet.

Under these circumstances of social stability, Tibet has enjoyed sustained and rapid economic growth and great improvement in the people's standard of living. Dortai, a Tibetan who has lived in Lhasa for more than 50 years, had much to say while talking about the changes in the Tibetan people's lives and in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet.

"Lhasa now is much larger, with its area expanding from less than 3 square km to more than 40 square km and its population increasing from 37,000 to 138,000. Various ancient structures in Lhasa, such as the Potala Palace, Jokhang Monastery and Ramoche Monastery, have been repaired, well preserving their original features. Lhasa now has 14 asphalt paved roads, stretching over 70 km. Automobiles speed in an endless stream along these roads, which are brightly lit by street lamps at night.

"The hundreds of new cultural, sports and tourist facilities and department stores have traditional ethnic as well as modern flavor. The two water works ensure we drink clean water. Dilapidated buildings in the old city proper have been renovated and 15 new residential quarters have been built around the city, making the city's per-capita housing area reach 13 square meters, which ranks first among all Chinese capital cities."

Farmers in the suburbs of Lhasa also lead an improved life. For instance, there are 330 households in Donggar Township of Doilungdeqen County. They all have savings deposits in the banks and have built new dwellings. Many households have stored surplus grain that can feed them for at least two or three years. A farmer, named Puncog Cering, opened a private factory making hada (pieces of silk used as greeting gifts) with an investment of 390,000 yuan, while doing farm work. He has earned a handsome income during these years and spent a lot of his money on the education of his children. His eldest daughter has graduated from the Tibet Ethnic College. His second daughter is taking a graduate course at West China University of Medical Sciences in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, and his son is majoring in computer science at a university in Chongqing. His adopted daughter is a graduate of the Tibet Institute of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. In Donggar Township, there are quite a number of farmers like Puncog Cering.

External Aid and Self-Reliance

It was unimaginably difficult for New Tibet to build up a modern civilization on the basis of a feudal serf society with extremely backward productive forces. Over the past five decades, the State has provided constant aid for Tibet's construction. In particular, with the enhanced national strength, the State has increased its aid to Tibet and the construction of projects with its aid has been sped up. The 43 aid-Tibet projects launched by the State in 1984 brought great changes to Lhasa and other cities in Tibet. In 1994, another 62 engineering projects to help Tibet were launched. These comprise nine agricultural and water conservancy projects, 17 energy projects (including four correlated ones), seven transportation and communications projects, 11 industrial projects, and 22 social service and municipal construction projects. With a total investment of 4.16 billion yuan, these projects have been completed and are now providing services for regional economic development and the production and life of people of various ethnic groups in Tibet. Locals regard these projects as "projects of happiness" that bring them tremendous benefits.

Nyizhoin (center), 62, lives happily with her family in the northern suburbs of Lhasa.

Old Tibet did not have a single highway. Today, a highway network with Lhasa as the center covers all parts of the region. Every day, more than 20,000 vehicles speed on roads that stretch for a total of some 20,000 km. Tibet, which used to be regarded as an area forbidden from air service, now has Gonggar Airport in Lhasa and Bamda Airport in Qamdo, from which planes fly to various major cities across the country. In addition, Tibet has also opened an international air route from Lhasa to Kathmandu in Nepal.

Tibet had no power supply 50 years ago. Today, the region has more than 500 large, medium-sized and small power stations, with an annual electricity generation of 578 million kwh. Even herders are able to watch television and use electrical appliances to make butter. In the past, Tibet did not have modern postal and telecommunications services. Now, it has 41 postal routes with a total length of 15,000 km. All counties are accessible by telegraph, telephone service has been automated, and the long-distance telephone system has been connected with the international and domestic automatic telephone networks, enabling residents in Lhasa to communicate with people in 180 countries and regions across the world.

Meanwhile, Tibetans have not just waited passively for modernization to be presented gratis by the State and other provinces. The region has decided to change the former practice of free aid and introduce a mutually beneficial policy of absorbing external support in order to make Tibet a hotbed for investment and business development in west China. The Tibetan people have realized that external aid alone can by no means end the region's economic backwardness and they have to build up their own capabilities for regional development.

For this purpose, Tibet has been learning successful reform and opening-up experiences from other parts of China, especially the coastal areas, and has conducted reforms in such sectors as planning, investment, science and technology, education, taxation, finance and pricing in light of its actual conditions. As a result, a socialist market economic structure has taken initial shape in the region. Tibet has also made great efforts in developing the non-public economy and the outward-looking economy. At present, the region has seven companies that have gone public, and the proportion of taxes contributed by the non-public sector has exceeded 30 percent of the region's total tax revenue. The region has approved the establishment of 115 foreign-funded enterprises, introducing US$160 million in foreign capital.

Today, Tibet has built up a considerable capacity for self-accumulation and self-development. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway to be built soon will further improve Tibet's investment environment.

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