Tibet, averaging more than 4,000 meters above sea level, forms the main part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and is well known as the "roof of the world." The Himalayas, ranging from east to west on the southern edge of the Tibet Plateau, run for 2,400 kilometers with an elevation of more than 6,000 meters. Mount Qomolangma is the world's highest peak with an elevation of 8848.13 meters. The Yarlungzangbo Gorge, at a depth of 5,382 meters, is the world's deepest gorge.
There are more than 90 known mineral types in Tibet, reserves of 26 of which have been proved while 11 of them rank among the top five in the quantity of reserves in China. The minerals include chromite, lithium, copper, gypsum, boron, magnesite, barite, arsenic, mica, peat, kaolin, salt, natural soda, mirabilite, sulphur, phosphorus, potassium, diatomaceous earth, iceland spar, corundum, rock quartz and agate.
Tibet is rich in water, geothermal, solar and wind energy. It produces approximately 200 million kilowatts of natural hydro-energy annually, about 30 percent of the nation's total. It has 354.8 billion cubic meters of surface water resources, 13.5 percent of the nation's total; and 330 billion cubic meters of glacial water resources. Tibet has about 56. 59 million kilowatts exploitable hydro-energy resources, 15 percent of the nation's total. Tibet also leads China in geothermal energy. The Yangbajain geothermal field in Damxung County, Lhasa, is China's largest high temperature steam geothermal field, and also one of the largest geothermal fields in the world.
Tibet is like a giant plant kingdom, with more than 5,000 species of high-grade plants. It is also one of China's largest forest areas, preserving intact primeval forests. Almost all the main plant species from the tropical to the frigid zones of the northern hemisphere are found here. Forestry reserves exceed 2.08 billion cubic meters and the forest coverage rate is 9.84 percent. Common species include Himalayan pine, alpine larch, Pinus yunnanensis, Pinus armandis, Himalayan spruce, Himalayan fir, hard-stemmed long bract fir, hemlock, Monterey Larix potaniniis, Tibetan larch, Tibetan cypress and Chinese juniper. There are about 926,000 hectares of pine forest in Tibet. Two species, Tibetan longleaf pine and Tibetan lacebark pine, are included in the listing of tree species under state protection. There are more than 1,000 wild plants used for medicine, 400 of which are medicinal herbs most often used. Particularly well known medicine plants include Chinese caterpillar fungus, Fritillaria Thunbergii, Rhizoma Picrorhizae, rhubarb, Rhizoma Gastrodiae, pseudo-ginseng, Codonopsis Pilosula, Radix Gentiane Macrophyllae, Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae, glossy ganoderma, and Caulis Spatholobi. In addition, there are over 200 known species of fungi, including famous edible fungi songrong, hedgehog hydnum, zhangzi fungus, mush rooms, black fungi, tremellas and yellow fungi. Fungi for medical use include tuckahoes, songganlan, stone-like omphalias.
There are 142 species of mammals in Tibet, 473 species of birds, 49 species of reptiles, 44 species of amphibians, 64 species of fish and more than 2,300 species of insects. Wild animals include Cercopithecus, Assamese macaque, rhesus monkey, muntjak, head-haired deer, wild cattle, red-spotted antelopes, serows, leopards, clouded leopards, black bears, wild cats, weasels, little pandas, red deer, river deer, whitelipped deer, wild yaks, Tibetan antelopes, wild donkeys, argalis, Mongolian gazelles, foxes, wolves, Iynxes, brown bears, jackals, blue sheep, and snow leopards. The Tibetan antelope, wild yak, wild donkey and argali are all rare species particular to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and are under state protection. The white-lipped deer, found only in China, is of particular rarity. The black-necked crane and the Tibetan pheasant are under state first-grade protection.
Tibet continually developed and exploited its unique tourism resources, both human and natural. The region currently has four tourist areas of Lhasa, the west, southwest and south.
The Lhasa tourist area includes Lhasa, Yangbajain, Damxung, Gyangze, Zetang, Xigaze and Yamzhoyum Co Lake. Lhasa itself is not only Tibet's political, economic, cultural and transportation center, but also the center of Tibetan Buddhism. Major tourist sites include the Jokhang Temple, Ramoche Temple, Potala Palace, Barkhor Bazaar, Norbulingka Palace and three great monasteries of Ganden, Drepung and Sera. The Jokhang Temple, the Potala and Norbulingka palaces and Ganden, Drepung and Sera monasteries are key cultural relics under state-level protection.
Western Tibet is Nagari Prefecture, the so-called "rooftop atop the world's rooftop." The area draws visitors because of its great religious significance. Many tourists and pilgrims from Nepal and India come into Tibet through the Burang port of entry to visit the area's sacred mountains and lakes.
The southwest Tibet tourist district is a place for mountaineers, many of whom are Nepalese who come to Tibet through Zhamu entry/exit port to enjoy the mountain scenery or do some climbing.
In southern Tibet, centered around Nyingchi, one can pass through the four seasons of the year in a single day. There are snow-capped mountains, dense primeval forests, surging rivers and azalea-covered mountainsides. This beautiful scenery is easy to enjoy given the pleasantly humid and mild climate.
New tourist routes and specialty tours have been added in recent years. New routes are Lhasa-Nyingschi-Shannan-Lhasa (eastern circle line) and Lhasa-Xigaze-Ngari-Xigaze (western circle line). Specialty tours include exploration by automobile, trekking and scientific investigation tours. Other special events include the Shoton Theatrical Festival in Lhasa, the Qangtam Horseracing Festival in the North Tibet Plateau and the Yarlung Culture and Arts Festival in Shannan.
Tourist facilities: By the end of 1994, Tibet had opened more than 30 travel agencies of various types, and 50 tourist hotels open to foreigners, seven of which are rated. There are more than 400 buses and cars and over 3,000 staff waiting to serve visitors. The Tibetan tourism network extends to hotels established by the region in Beijing, Chengdu and Xi'an and tourism offices set up in Hong Kong, Nepal, Beijing and Chengdu. In 1994, 28,000 overseas tourists visited Tibet, generating 180 million yuan, and more than US$ 10 million in foreign exchange.
Environment and current issues
Tibet has thinner air, more sunlight, lower temperatures and less precipitation than other areas in China The air contains only 150-170 grams oxygen per cubic meter, 62-65.4 percent that of plain areas.
The degree of industrial and other pollution in Tibet is comparatively light. No major instance of environmental pollution has ever occurred and there is no acid rain. Whenever a construction project with potential environmental effects is begun, there is an evaluation of environmental impact. This system also requires that pollution control facilities be designed, constructed and completed at the same time as the main project in question. Some former sources of pollution have been brought under control. The smoke prevention and dust removal rate for fuel combustion waste gases is 80 percent in the region. Urban construction is reasonably planned and afforestation is stressed. The ¡°green rate¡± in Lhasa is 17.6 percent, supplying an average 12 square meters of green space per person.
In recent years, technical and research departments have completed a number of investigations into the sources of industrial pollution in Tibet and regional wild plant and animal resources. Environmental supervision and monitoring stations have been established in Lhasa, Xigaze and Qamdo. Investigations indicate that Tibet's environment is currently in good shape. The air and water are essentially unpolluted. Environmental radiation is within normal limits and no manmade radioactive pollution is present.
Enforcement of environmental protection laws
The government of Tibet Autonomous Region has consistently stressed the implementation of the nation's fundamental policy that natural resources be rationally utilized so as to protect the environment, conscientiously realizing the coordinated planning and carrying out economic, urban and rural, and environmental construction.
In recent years, the Standing Committee of the Tibetan People's Congress and the regional government have issued a series of regional laws and administrative regulations geared to environmental protection, including the "Tibet Autonomous Region Environmental Protection Ordinance,¡± "Tibet Autonomous Region Forest Protection Ordinance,¡± "Interim Provisions for Grasssland Manag ement in the Tibet Autonomous Region,¡± "Tibet Autonomous Region People's Government Proclamation on the Protection of Aquatic Resources¡± and "Tibet Autonomous Region Administrative Procedures for Environmental Protection in Construction Projects.¡± There are 20 regulations governing the protection of wild animals.
The government of the Tibet Autonomous Region established an environment protection agency in 1975 and an environment protection committee in 1990. Environmental protection laws and regulations concern forests, wild plants and animals, species preservation, ecological agriculture and animal husbandry, headwaters, natural and man-made sites deserving of protection for scenic or cultural and historic reasons, valuable geological landforms, and mountains. For many years hard work has gone to preventing forest fires and planting more trees.
Total population: 2.52 million (1998)
Population growth rate: 1.59 percent (1998)
Life expectancy (average): 65
At the end of 1994, the population of Tibet totaled 2.32 million and it grew to 2.52 million in 1998, of which, 2.236 million are Tibetan (96.4 percent), 66,000 Hans (2.8 percent) and 18,000 (0.8 percent) of other ethnic groups. In addition to Tibetans, other ethnic groups include the Lhoba, Moinha, Han, and Hui¡£
The Moinba people have lived on the Tibet Plateau since ancient times. Most of them are distributed in Moinyu in the south and some are scattered in Medog, Nyingchi and Cona counties.
The Lhoba people are mainly found in Lhoyu of southeastern Tibet, with some scattered in Mainling, Medog, Zayu, Lhunze and Nang counties.
Most of the Hui people living in Tibet today are descendants of the Hui who moved over from Gansu, Shaanxi, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a minority came from Central Asia. Most of them live in cities and towns of Lhasa, Xigaze and Qamdo. They work in commerce, handicrafts or animal slaughtering.
Since the Qing Dynasty, many Han people have moved to Tibet. Some have been assimilated into the Tibetan ethnicity. Today, most Han people living in Tibet are technicians, workers, teachers, medical workers and officials from other provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.
At the end of 1998, 2,907 people in Tibetan were graduates with an educational level of college or above, 25,743, senior middle school, 158,400, junior middle school, 947,500, primary school In addition, there were 1.11 million illiterate or semi-illiterate people.
GDP: 9.19 billion yuan (1998)
GDP annual growth rate:
Average GDP per capita: 3,716 yaun (1998)
GDP ration (1st, 2nd and tertiary industries): 34.3, 22.2 and 43.5% respectively.
Poverty alleviation plan
In comparison with inland provinces, and coastal regions in the southeast in particular, Tibet remains an underdeveloped region, where there are still 210,000 people living in poverty, representing 9.8 percent of rural residents.
At the end of 1993, the national poverty relief program started with the goal of solving the food and clothing problems for the existing 80 million poor people throughout China in the remainder time of the 20th century. Tibet¡¯s poverty relief program followed soon after, which required that governments at every level of the region pour all the financial, material and man power necessary in helping the 480,000 poor Tibetans get out of poverty in six years. The campaign worked smoothly with the combined efforts of the government and ordinary people. From 1994 to the end of 1997, the population in poverty dropped from 480,000 to 210,000, while the number of poor counties was reduced from 22 to nine.
Demographically, the poor population of Tibet is concentrated in three areas of the region ¡ª the northern foothills of the Himalayas, central section of Tibet where farming and pastoral areas meet, and the Hengduan Mountain Range in eastern Tibet. Because of the harsh environment for living and production, these areas are notorious for primitive living conditions, with the per capita net income of local rural residents being less than 500 yuan per year, far from enough for basic necessities.
This poverty relief campaign was designed to help the poor population by improving the living and production environment so as to create better conditions in which they could change their lives by their own efforts. Public projects were financially supported by government and participated in by the local people with labor work, which included improving and rebuilding farmland, grassland and irrigation facilities, developing forestry, fruit growing and processing, animal husbandry, and a Tibetan-style handicraft industry. Building primary and middle schools and opening technical training classes were also regarded as important measures.
In 1996 and 1997 alone, 246 projects were carried out with a combined investment by both the central and local governments, which totaled 410 million yuan. With these newly-built agricultural infrastructure projects available, 9,700 hectares of low- and medium-yield farmland were transformed into high-yielding fields, 4,000 hectares of wasteland reclaimed, 53,000 hectare of grassland built, and 62 ditches stretching for 700 km and 37 drinking water systems for human and animals constructed. These provided a necessary foundation for local people¡¯s efforts to get out of poverty.
The majority of the Tibetan poor live in the areas with terrible natural condition, lacking arable land, grassland, water resources and suffering from frequent natural disasters. Hence, the final measure to wipe out local poverty may mean moving residents to other places with better living and production conditions. In Gyangze County, for example, the government has helped 41 households move from deep mountains to a development zone along the Nyang Qu River in recent years, where their food and clothing problems have been easily solved. While the government funded a major proportion of the moving expenditure, the households provided a small part. By 1997, the Xigaze government helped 326 households with 2,119 people to move, enabling 76 percent to quickly get out of poverty.
Recently, many rural Tibetans have begun attributing poor living conditions to their large families and have sought to local government for help requiring that the medical departments of the government provide them with contraceptives. In Rinbung County, a part of the county government¡¯s poverty relief plan is to encourage later marriage, later child-bearing and healthy reproduction. In the past couple of years, along with moving out of poverty, the county has held its population increase under 12 per thousand.
While enjoying direct investment and loans rendered by the central government, Tibet will keep benefiting from a number of preferential policies. For example, Tibetan poor rural households are exempted from the duty to sell grain to the state; they receive subsidies regularly for purchasing chemical fertilizer, pesticide, plastic films for agricultural use and so forth; and the expenses for development projects in Tibet¡¯s poverty-stricken areas are supported by government budget.
Besides, inter-provincial and inter-city projects aimed at helping Tibet will continue. For these provinces and cities, helping the target cities or areas in Tibet to get out of poverty is a part of their own economic and social development plan, so that they guarantee that people in the two places will walk hand-in-hand in striving for a better life.
Revenues: 364 million yuan (1998)
Industrial output value: 1.28 billion yuan (1998)
Agricultural output value: 2.24 billion yuan (1998)
By the end of 1998, the region¡¯s total imports and exports stood at US$120 million. It has taken advantage of state preferential policies to actively expand exports of animal by-products, local traditional handicrafts and some other industrial products. State-run foreign trade enterprises have expanded their operations and border trade markets have developed. Presently, Tibet has become China's doorway to South Asian continues.
At the end of 1998, the number of registered foreign-funed enterprises totaled 74. Foreign investors came from the United States, Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Nepal, Macao, and Hong Kong.
International aid programs
Since 1981, UNDP has provided US$ 4 million for the construction of the Yangbajain geothermal power plant. In 1989, UN's WFP provided financial aid for comprehensive agricultural development projects geared to drought resistance and prevention and improving irrigation conditions in the four counties of the Lhasa River valley, all of which has already been used. The UNICEF provided US$ 3.22 million in aid for ten projects including health centers for women and children. In 1995 the UNDP decided to provide US$ 822,000 in aid to four counties of Nyalam, Tingri, Dinggye and Gyirong in the Qomolangma Nature Reserve in western Tibet for projects involving agriculture, housing, school, wind power and household handicraft production.
Tibet¡¯s pillar industries involve mining, farming, animal husbandry, traditional handicraft, forestry and tourism industries.
Telephones: 59,166 subscribers (1998)
Radio and TV stations: 2 radio stations and 2 TV stations (1994)
The first phase of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway was completed in the early 1980s and is now carrying both cargo and passengers. Running 846.9 kilometers from Xining, the capital city of Qinghai, in the east to Golmud in western Qinghai, the line is built at more than 3,000 meters above sea level on average, rising to 3,700 meters at its highs.
Today, a 22,000-kilometer highway network radiating from Lhasa consisting of 15 main highways and 315 subsidiary roads has been formed. Most important are the Qinghai-Tibet Highway runs 2,122 kilometers from Xining to Lhasa. The Sichuan-Tibet Highway covers 2,413 kilometers from Chengdu to Lhasa. The Xinjiang-Tibet Highway, from Yecheng to Gartok, runs for 1,179 kilometers. The Yunnan-Tibet Highway, from Xiaguan to Markam, is 315 kilometers long, while the Chinese section of the Sino-Nepalese Highway stretches 736 kilometers from Lhasa to Zhamu entry/exit port.
The Lhasa Airport has scheduled fights to Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. The distance by air from Lhasa to Chengdu is more than 1,100 kilometres. Each year more than 100,000 passengers and 1,600 tons of goods fly this route. The Gonggar Airport outside Lhasa now allows access to large passenger aircraft like Boeing 767. The 250-million-yuan Banda Airport, the world's highest, was completed in September 1994.
VI. Projects wanting foreign investment
The government of Tibet Autonomous Region welcomes foreign investment in energy, transportation, architecture, light industry, textiles, machinery and electronics, commerce, food, aquaculture, processing, tourism and in the development of agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry.
Foreign investors may establish wholly-owned enterprises and joint ventures or join in economic and technological cooperation. Medium- and long-term investment projects and high-yield development projects are particularly welcome.
The regional government also encourages individual entrepreneurs and private enterprises to start Sino-foreign-funded and Sino-foreign cooperative enterprises and join in business involving material processing, processing with supplied samples, parts processing and compensation trade as well as border trade
VII. Favorable policies for foreign investment
The regional government gives foreign-invested projects priority through each step of the formation process in planning, project approval, provision of capital, construction start-up, establishment of the business itself and registration.
The regional government protects the legitimate rights of foreign businessmen according to law. Foreign business people with an interest in a wholly-owned enterprise or a joint venture may empower friends or relatives in China to act as their agent regarding that interest provided that they have legally valid power of attorney; likewise, they may transfer possession or distribute in succession the said interest. When a foreign businessperson decides to cede his interest to the Chinese government for compensation or when the state proceeding from public interest requires the appropriation of that interest, such actions will be taken through legal procedures and appropriate compensation given.
In case of disagreements arising during the performance of a contract or other contract related disputes involving a foreign businessperson, the concerned parties should make their best efforts to seek a negotiated settlement. If any of the concerned parties refuse the negotiated settlement or if a settlement can not be reached, the foreign businessperson may petition the Trade Arbitration Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region for arbitration. With the consent of all parties to the contract, application may be made to national or provincial-level arbitration organizations in China or to international arbitration organizations.
Foreign businesspeople who invest in Tibet can buy building property and land-use rights for terms ranging from 50 to 70 years. A wholly foreign funded enterprise with a period of operation exceeding ten years is exempt from city land-use tax during the approved construction period if it occupies state-owned land and from cultivated land occupation taxes if it occupies cultivated land. During the eight years following the start of operations it will pay half of normal land use taxes. Enterprises with a period of operation less than ten years occupying cultivated land are exempt from cultivated land occupation taxes and from city land occupation taxes during the period of construction. Joint ventures, Sino-foreign cooperative enterprises and other joint operations using a site currently under the control of a Chinese partner or newly occupying approved state-owned land, are exempt from city land-use taxes during the approved construction period and, if they occupy cultivated land, from cultivated land occupation taxes. They are further exempted from land-use taxes for eight years following the start of operations. Production-type foreign-invested enterprises receive preferential treatment regarding land use fees.
Tibet exercises a compensable development of resources according to law. With the approval of the regional government, all mineral resources not specifically excluded by state statute can be exploited by foreign businesspeople. The foreign entity may participate in a joint venture or a cooperative enterprise or operate as wholly foreign-owned enterprise in prospecting and mining. China's "Mineral Resources Law" and "Provisions for Mineral Resources Compensation Levies and Their Management" state that resources tax and resources compensation are to be collected from all miners regardless of their economic status or form of operation or the type of mineral resource exploited (including, e.g., geothermal energy, sandstone used in brick and tile making, sand shale used in building, clay, granite and marble).
The government encourages and supports Tibetan enterprises and joint ventures which choose to set up sole proprietorships or joint operations in neighboring counties to produce goods for sale exclusively outside China using raw materials, semi-manufactured goods or technical facilities from within or without the region. Foreign trade enterprises are permitted to swap imported goods with other provinces and regions in China for materials needed for engineering construction, production or daily life in Tibet. The Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Bureau of Tibet Autonomous Region is authorized to issue permits setting import and export commodity quotas with approval of the responsible state-level department, in addition to commodities exported under unified state management through tender offer and commodities imported by state-stipulated specialized companies.
All goods, whether produced by enterprises in Tibet, other provinces of China or other countries, can be sold in border markets. Permits for import and export commodities can be obtained from local border trade administrative departments authorized by the Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Bureau of Tibet Autonomous Region. Commodities imported at border markets can be sold elsewhere in China after approval by the government of Tibet Autonomous Region.
Industrial and commercial taxes, income tax and customs tax are reduced or remitted to varying degrees depending on the amount invested by the foreign businessperson, type of product produced and length of investment. Earnings from a production-type enterprise set up by a foreign businessperson in Tibet are subject to a ten percent business earnings tax beginning the first year the enterprise shows a profit: the enterprise is exempt from local taxes on earnings. Production-type enterprises working in energy, transportation, agriculture or animal husbandry with a period of operations in excess of ten years are exempted from business earnings taxes for the first five years after they show a profit; business earnings taxes are then paid at a 50 percent discount for the subsequent three years. Enterprises engaging in processing agricultural or animal by-products or other processing or the manufacture of traditional handicrafts and tourist commodities with a period of operation in excess of ten years are exempted from taxes on earnings from the first four years after showing a profit: taxes on earnings then receive a 50 percent discount for the next two years. Tour smelted enterprises capitulated with an investment of over US$ 5 million or RMB 30 million yuan with a period of operation in excess of ten years are exempted from taxes on earning for three years after showing a profit, receiving a 50 percent discount on taxes on earnings the following year. Enterprise that do not meet the above descended standards are exempted from taxes on earnings for the first two years of operation and receive a 50 percent discount on taxes on earnings for their third year.
Foreign business entities that do not maintain a physical presence in Tibet but receive stock dividends, interest, rents, proprietary right use fees or other revenues from Tibet pay a seven percent tax on earnings, unless legally exempt. If a foreign businessperson reinvests profits earned from a business in Tibet in another operation in Tibet or use profits to expand production for a period no less than five years, he will be returned all his tax already paid on earnings from his investment. He pays all other taxes than those on earnings as other enterprises of the same type in Tibet do.
Foreign businesspersons are permitted to use RMB in place of foreign exchange for tax payments. When a foreign businessperson remits his profits or when a foreign staff member remits his personal income outside of China, he will be exempted from income tax on the remitted amount. Any enterprise with exports revenue accounting for more than 50 percent of sales revenue in a given year will receive a 50 percent discount on taxes on earnings for that year, in addition to the above exemptions and reduced rates. That portion of a foreign business entity's investment that goes for machinery, equipment, building materials, miscellaneous parts and components used in the enterprise is exempt from import taxes and the industrial and commercial consolidated tax. Likewise, reasonable quantities of imported office appliances, household items and vehicles for the foreign businessperson's own use are exempt from import taxes and the industrial and commercial consolidated tax; such articles do not require an import permit, only customs inspection.
Imported raw materials, accessory materials, packing materials, miscellaneous parts and components used in manufacturing or processing products exclusively for export are exempt from import taxes and the industrial and commercial consolidated tax. If only a portion of such goods produced are for export, that portion of imported materials and parts used for export production is exempt from import taxes and the industrial and commercial consolidated tax, while the remaining portion used for goods sold in China receives a 50 percent discount on import taxes and the industrial and commercial consolidated tax.