Tibet is the only region of China without rail access due to its special geological structure, and harsh and changeable weather. Isolated by high mountains and snow-covered peaks, Tibet was long shrouded in mystery. Poor communications were an important factor restricting rapid economic development.
Today, 30 years after the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region, four routes from Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan and Xinjiang, along with the China-Nepal Highway, provide road links between the Roof of the World and other inland areas. They have ensured the development of the region's economic construction and rapid improvement of living standards. The Sichuan-Tibet Highway, built across many high mountains and numerous rivers, and the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, formed on frozen earth, are the main arteries. During their construction, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) overcame a series of technical difficulties, such as earth frozen solid, avalanches, mud flows and landslides, to finally open them to traffic in December 1954, creating the basic conditions for Tibet economic construction. The PLA soldiers and construction workers overcame many difficulties and hardships, and even gave their lives for the completion of the two highways. Just as the description on the monument of the Sichuan-Tibet and Qinghai-Tibet highways declares:
The Roof of the World,
the Vast Expanse of Land,
with thin air and severe cold,
curbed by snow-covered mountains
Five years of painstaking work,
three thousand strong men,
died a heroic death.
The outstanding achievements will
go down in the annals of history
Highway on the plateau,
a miracle in the history,
well-known in the country and praised by all people.
In 1956, the Civil Aviation Administration of China opened the Beijing-Lhasa air route, bringing aviation to Tibet for the first time. Now, the region has five air routes linking more than 10 inland cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Chongqing, and five direct links with Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. Yesterday's dangerous transport situation relying on manpower and domestic animals has gone forever.
In recent years, post and telecommunications have developed rapidly. By early 1994, 41 communications satellite receiving stations had been set up. Half of the region's counties are linked with 28,000 direct dial telephones. A 900-MHz cellular mobile communications system has been opened in Lhasa. Six prefectures and cities have their own pager telephone service.
During the 1996 Spring Festival, when an old Tibetan woman saw her daughter on satellite visual telephone in Beijing wishing her a Happy New Year, she was very excited and could not refrain from tears. "I cannot imagine I can hear the voice and see the picture, as if my daughter was in front of me. It is so marvellous. I never dreamt of this in the past,'' she said.
Along with the rapid development of post and satellite communications, TV and radio broadcasting have made constant progress. Nowadays, TV and radio cover the entire region. TV and broadcasting satellite ground stations expanded from one in 1984 to 720 in 1994. Tibet TV also relays its programs by satellite to enable people of the whole country and even the world to know more about Tibet. Television and radio have entered thousands of ordinary households in Tibet. Cable TV channels have also opened in Lhasa, which enliven the people's life and make their spare time more interesting and colorful.