II. Tibet's Modernization Achievements
In the past 50 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.
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.
With its natural economy old Tibet lacked the dynamics of urban development and had only a few small cities and towns. Lhasa, the most populous urban center, had a population of just over 30,000. Other places with comparatively large populations were big villages rather than cities, each having only a few thousand residents. Even Lhasa lacked a sound urban operating mechanism of any sort and had scarcely any of the amenities of a proper city. At present, the urban scale of Tibet is expanding constantly together with industrial growth. By 2000, there were two organic cities in Tibet, 72 counties and districts and 112 organic towns. Moreover, the urban population totaled 491,100, and the total urban area was 147 sq m. The comprehensive functions of the cities and towns have improved steadily, and complete systems have taken shape in various fields, such as roads, water supply, public security and community services, basically satisfying the needs of the lives of the urban residents and the economic development of the cities. Tibet is now marching toward modernization in urban appearance and environmental protection. Its urban environmental index now ranks first in the country with the per capita area of its urban public lawns reaching 10.27 sq m and a greenbelt coverage of 24.4 percent. Urban development groups radiating from Lhasa have come into existence in Tibet, while efforts are being made to form an economic pattern centered on cities and towns to promote economic development in neighboring areas and stimulate mutual development through the integration of urban and rural areas.
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.
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.
In old Tibet there was not a single school in the modern sense, and education was monopolized by monasteries. The enrollment ratio of school-age children was less than two percent, and the illiteracy rate of the young and middle-aged people reached 95 percent. But now, education has been widely popularized, and the broad masses of the people enjoy the right to receive education. The state has invested enormously in developing education, and a complete education system is now in place, covering regular education, preschool education, adult education, vocational education and special education. By 2000, Tibet had set up 956 schools of all kinds, with a total enrollment of 381,100 students; the enrollment ratio of school-age children had increased to 85.8 percent; the illiteracy rate had declined to 32.5 percent; and 33,000 persons had received education above the junior college level, accounting for 12.6 per thousand of the region's total population and higher than the average national level. Now Tibet not only boasts its own master's and doctorate degree holders, but also a number of nationally renowned experts and scholars.
Growing out of nothing, modern science and technology have been developing rapidly. There was no modern scientific research institute in Tibet before its peaceful liberation, and even such applied technology as astronomy and calendrical calculation were monopolized by the monasteries behind a mysterious religious facade. Attaching great importance to scientific research and the popularization and application of science and technology, the Central Government and the local government of Tibet have set up 25 scientific research institutes over the past half century, employing 35,000 professional scientific and technical personnel in disciplines such as history, economics, population, linguistics and religion, and dozens of sectors such as agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, ecology, biology, Tibetan medicine and pharmacology, salt lakes, geo-thermal and solar energy, among which studies in Tibetology, plateau ecology, Tibetan medicine and pharmacology take the lead in the country. Besides, a number of academic achievements made in Tibet are of worldwide influence.
Medical and health care has grown vigorously. In the old days, when traditional Tibetan medicine was monopolized by feudal nobles and monasteries, the region was extremely short of doctors and medicine, and most sick people lacked both money for medical care and access to doctors. Now a medical and health network has been established in Tibet, integrated with traditional Chinese, Western and Tibetan medicines, covering all the cities and villages in the region, with Lhasa as the center. Tibetan medicine and pharmacology, with unique ethnic features, are promoted all over China and abroad. By 2000, the medical and health organizations in the region had increased to 1,237, with 6,348 beds and 8,948 professionals. The numbers of hospital beds and health workers available per thousand people in Tibet exceeded the national average level. At present, the cooperative medical service program covers 80 percent of the Tibetan rural areas, and 97 percent of children have been immunized against epidemic diseases. There is no longer any lack of medicine, and the level of the Tibetan people's health has improved substantially. The incidence of various infectious and endemic diseases prevalent in old Tibet, such as smallpox, cholera, venereal diseases, macula, typhoid fever, scarlet fever and tetanus, has declined to eight per thousand, and some of the diseases have been wiped out. The childbirth mortality rate has dropped from 50 per thousand in 1959 to approximately seven per thousand; and the infant mortality rate, from 430 to 6.61 per thousand. The average life expectancy of the people has increased from 35.5 years in the 1950s to the present 67 years. The population of old Tibet had increased rather slowly; over the 200-odd years before the 1950s, it had fluctuated at around one million. (According to the census of the Qing Dynasty government from 1734 to 1736, Tibet had a population of 941,200, and the population reported by the Tibetan local government headed by the Dalai Lama in 1953 was one million, an increase of only 58,000 in 200 years.) However, over the 40-odd years since the Democratic Reform, Tibet's population had increased to 2.5983 million by 2000, or an increase of more than 160 percent.
Considerable achievements have been made in sports. A number of sports facilities up to the international standards have been built in Tibet, and traditional Tibetan sports have been revived, standardized and popularized, some of them even having been included in national competitions. Some excellent athletes from Tibet have scored outstanding achievements in various national sports games and competitions, and in mountain climbing in particular Tibetans have always taken the lead in the country. In 1999, the Sixth National Ethnic Games were held jointly by Tibet and Beijing, further improving the level of Tibetan sports.
The state has invested a huge amount of capital, gold and silver in the maintenance and protection of the key historical monuments in Tibet. The Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple have been included in UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage List. The collation of the Tibetan-language Tripitaka (Gangyur and Tengyur) has been completed. Known as an "encyclopedia" of ancient Tibet, the Bonist Tripitaka has been sorted out in a systematic way and published in its entirety. The Life of King Gesar, which had been handed down orally for centuries, has reached the grand total of more than 200 volumes. Thanks to the great support of the state and unremitting efforts in the past few decades, more than 300 handwritten and block-printed copies of this "Homeric epic of the East" have been collected, of which more than 70 volumes have been published in the Tibetan language, over 20 volumes in the Chinese language, and several volumes in English, Japanese and French. Folk songs, dances, dramas, tales and other forms of artistic expression have been refined and imbued with new ideas and higher forms of expression for enjoyment by the general public. The state has invested in the construction of a large number of cultural and recreational facilities with complete functions and advanced facilities in Tibet, such as museums, libraries, exhibition halls and cinemas, in sharp contrast to the old days when Tibet almost had no cultural and recreational facilities to speak of. By 2000, the Tibet Autonomous Region had more than 400 public cultural centers, more than 25 professional theatrical troupes of various kinds, such as the Song and Dance Ensemble, Tibetan Opera Troupe and Modern Drama Troupe of the Tibet Autonomous Region, more than 160 amateur performance troupes, and 17 itinerant performance troupes at the county level. They can meet the demands of the broad masses of the people for cultural entertainment.
The Tibet Autonomous Region has the right to decide its local affairs and work out relevant laws and regulations in accordance with the law and local political, economic and cultural characteristics, as well as the right to flexibly implement or cease to implement relevant decisions of the state organs at the higher levels, upon approval by the higher authorities. Since 1965, the Regional People's Congress and its Standing Committee have formulated and promulgated more than 160 local laws and regulations, involving the building of political power, economic development, culture and education, spoken and written language, protection of cultural relics, protection of wildlife and natural resources and other aspects, thus effectively safeguarding the special rights and interests of the Tibetan people. For instance, the power and administrative organs of the Tibet Autonomous Region have designated the Tibetan New Year, Shoton (Yogurt) Festival and other traditional Tibetan festivals as the region's official holidays, apart from the official national holidays. Out of consideration for the special natural and geographical factors of Tibet, the region has fixed the work week at 35 hours, five hours fewer than the national work hours per week.
The Tibetan people's freedom of religious belief and their traditional customs and habits have been respected and protected. According to statistics, since the 1980s the state has allocated more than 300 million yuan and a large amount of gold, silver and other materials for the maintenance and protection of the monasteries in Tibet. For instance, the state allocated more than 55 million yuan for the repair of the Potala Palace, and the renovation lasted more than five years, being the largest project and involving the largest amount of capital in the maintenance history of the palace in the past few centuries. At present, Tibet has 1,787 monasteries and sites for religious activities, and over 46,000 resident monks and nuns; the region's various important religious festivals and activities are held normally; and every year more than one million Tibetan people go to Lhasa to pay homage. While maintaining the traditional Tibetan ways and styles of costume, diet and housing, the Tibetan people have absorbed many new modern civilized customs in the aspects of clothing, food, housing and transportation, as well as marriage and funerals, thus greatly enriching their lives.
The Tibetan people's freedom to study, use and develop their own spoken and written language is fully protected. The government has established the special Tibetan Language Work Guidance Committee and editing and translation organs so as to promote the study, use and development of the Tibetan language. The Tibetan language is a major course of study for schools at all levels in Tibet. Tibetan textbooks and reference materials have been compiled, translated and published for all courses at all levels of schools from primary to senior high. Tibet University has compiled 19 varieties of teaching materials in the Tibetan language, which have already been used on a trial basis. The laws and regulations, resolutions, announcements and other official documents issued by the Regional People's Congress and the Regional People's Government, and the name plates and signs of public institutions and sites are written in both the Tibetan and Chinese languages. The courts and procuratorates at all levels handle cases and issue legal documents in the Tibetan language with regard to the Tibetan litigants and other participants.
Newspapers, and radio and TV stations use both the Tibetan and Chinese languages. The Tibet People's Radio Station broadcasts Tibetan-language items 20.5 hours a day, making up 50 percent of the station's total broadcasting hours and amount. The Tibet TV Station releases 12 hours of programs in the Tibetan language every day, and the channels in the Tibetan language were formally relayed via satellite in 1999. Now Tibet has 23 Tibetan-language newspapers and magazines, and the Tibet Daily has installed computer editing and typesetting in the Tibetan language. Great progress has been made in the standardization of information technology in the Tibetan language. The Tibetan code has been brought up to the national and international standards, becoming the first minority written language in China to reach the international standards.
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.
The people's political status has been constantly raised, and their participation in political affairs is becoming more extensive with each passing day. Like the people of other ethnic groups in China, the Tibetan people have the right to vote and stand for election, and extensively participate in the administration of state and local affairs according to law. Of the deputies to the National People's Congress, 19 are from Tibet, of whom over 80 percent are of the Tibetan ethnic group or other ethnic minorities. Of the deputies to the people's congresses at the regional, county and township levels, those from the Tibetan ethnic group and other ethnic minorities make up 82.4 percent, 92.62 percent and 99 percent, respectively. The main leading posts of the people's congresses, governments, political consultative conferences, and courts and procuratorates at all levels in the region are filled by Tibetan citizens, and Tibetan cadres also hold leading posts in all the state organs at the central level. Of the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibetans and people of other ethnic minorities make up 71.4 percent; of the members of the Standing Committee of the Regional People's Congress, 80 percent; and of the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Regional People's Government, 77.8 percent; of the total cadres in Tibet, 79.4 percent; and of all the technical personnel in Tibet, 69.36 percent.
Tibet is still an underdeveloped area in China, because it is located on the "roof of the world," which is frigid, lacks oxygen and has bad natural conditions. Another reason is that Tibet had very little to start with and its social and historical conditions were burdened with the legacy of centuries of backward feudal serfdom. Tibet's economy is small; its development level is low; agriculture, animal husbandry and the ecological environment are fragile; the infrastructure facilities are weak; and science and technology and education are backward. In addition, Tibet lacks the ability for self-accumulation and development, and its modernization level lags far behind that of the southeastern coastal areas of China. But it is beyond doubt that the development of Tibet in the past half century has greatly changed its former poor and backward features, and laid a solid foundation for realizing a leapfrog development in its modernization drive.