Column: Feelings from Tibet

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by Guillaume Guibe

BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Some people abroad could expect me to comment about the legendary landscapes of Tibet or about local people. Some might even ask me whether I saw the Snowman in Tibet.

When I was a child, my imagination was populated with such cliches and, for many foreigners, Tibet remains an unknown and mysterious place, easily giving free rein to their imagination.

When you visit Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China for the first time, as I did, it is much more than a trip. It is, in fact, a life experience that makes you think a lot about yourself, your relationship to life, to others, and to nature. It is an experience that matures you. You cannot remain the same after you go to Tibet. This certainly is my opinion on the impact such a visit has on a person.


Tibet's landscapes are impressive, seemingly endless. They leave you with this unique feeling of infinity. They touch you deep inside by reminding you how small and weak you are in comparison with the scope and power of nature.

There is generous terrain around Nyingchi City which reminds me of Switzerland, harsh landscape around Baingoin County, extreme conditions in desert areas and in the high mountains, where the expression third pole of the Earth finds all its meaning.

There is no way to control such a nature. You can only live with and adapt to it. It represents a major challenge for any attempt at development.


This nature has not only forged impressive landscapes but also the people in Tibet.

Even if each one is different, some common features can be sketched out.

First, they are valiant, powered by an internal strength and eager to deal with change. None of them, even the most modest, arouse pity.

In addition, they greatly value their multi-millennium cultural heritage and their families. At work, they know what hard, competent and sustainable work means.

They value and respect nature on a daily basis, and this is reflected in their medicine. Tibetan medicine, based on thousands of years of observation of nature, resulting in natural proven treatments, has gained the common trust of locals.


Over the last decades, Tibet developed based on a unique model combining economic growth, preservation of cultural heritage and protection of the environment.

But how to implement such development? How to develop a region emancipated from feudal serfdom just over 60 years ago?

Firstly, through massive investment in quality infrastructure. I was very impressed to see electricity everywhere, reaching even the most isolated villages and houses in the high mountains. Roads are modern, safe, comfortable to drive on. Speed radars were even installed at the entrances of villages to protect people and domestic animals.

At 5,200 meters high, I could get my emails and chat on my mobile phone.

The running water system does not stop expanding, spreading step by step to reach remote locations. Residential buildings are sprouting in cities, while modern and equipped new houses are gradually replacing old and insalubrious ones.

The railway network is effective and modern. Merchandise can be exchanged faster and cheaper with a reduced impact on the environment when compared to trucks, and for the benefit of all. As a passenger, I could travel from Lhasa to Nyingchi in a fast and comfortable train.

I could also notice the tangible investments made in the healthcare system, from high-quality hospitals, ready to accept a large number of patients, and offering many specialties, to medical houses providing services in remote villages.

Secondly, through smart business investments. I saw how quality tourism, respectful of nature, while also preserving and promoting this unique cultural heritage, could facilitate the development of good quality family hotels, fine restaurants, museums, activities for tourists as well as the development of a dynamic network of local sub-contractors.

I was also impressed by a water plant where top-quality water from Tibet's glaciers, very pure, gets bottled via a top engineered production line. The factory is not only performing in terms of cash, but has also created many direct and indirect employment opportunities, allowing even modest families to gain access to a better life and better future.

The third axis of development is the solidarity and support from other Chinese provinces, companies or institutions. A primary school in Baingoin County, funded by Sinopec, is actually a full educational complex including a spacious recreational yard, a sports stadium and even dormitories. It gives local children the best gift and tool to escape from poverty -- education. And you can see how they are willing to learn, how their eyes shine because of their faith in a future where opportunities are henceforth unlocked and where everything has become possible. Once adults, some of them may choose to become teachers, engineers, entrepreneurs or business executives.

What struck me, among other things in Tibet, are the faces of the new generation. They are radiant, blooming, healthy, and they express confidence and faith in the future. They are animated by an inner strength you cannot feel from their ancestors who could never have imagined their descendants having such a life, so much more comfortable, with access to so many services and gates opened to the most prestigious careers. This was totally out of their range of imagination.


In just a few decades, Tibet has not only created sustainable economic value but also offered dignity, opportunities and faith in the future to millions of people, a major challenge very impressively dealt with.

This progress was, is and will be criticized. Criticized by people who never went to Tibet and who live thousands of kilometers away. Criticized by those people who have never achieved anything in their lives but criticize the achievements of others. Criticized by people making a living from peddling fake stories.

But facts are there. Tibet, once a feudal and very large sub-developed region, is now on the track of modernity and prosperity, has performed sustainable investments which will secure value for many generations, and all of this by preserving a unique multi-millennium cultural heritage and through the protection of its environment.

This land has opened my eyes, erasing the cliches I had accumulated during my childhood, and shedding light on a unique and inspiring experience of development.

Editor's note: Guillaume Guibe is a French employee of China Petrochemical Corporation. Enditem

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