From Potala Square at the heart of Lhasa to herdsmen's settlements in remote pastoral areas, the Tibet Autonomous Region is filled with jubilant crowds.
We join the 2.7 million people in Tibet and share their joy and pride on the 40th anniversary of the region's self-governance.
Without understanding the past and present of Tibet, one cannot fully appreciate the gaiety permeating the region today.
Locals no longer bother to compare today's Tibet with what it was four decades ago. The gap is too wide, and the pace of change is accelerating all the time.
For several consecutive years, the region's statistical authorities have reported economic indicators at levels higher than the national averages. But one does not need to consult dull account books to feel the changes.
If the up-to-date communication network, urban public infrastructure and almost-completed Qinghai-Tibet Railway are indicators of government input in public services, the recent emergence of private vehicles on the streets, addition of farm machinery in rural courtyards and TV antennas at pastoral settlements are obvious signs of improvements in the life of the average Tibetan.
Tibet has benefited tremendously from its status as an autonomous region.
The constitutional right to local autonomy gives the region enormous latitude for managing local affairs. Besides the privilege of modifying and indigenizing major central government policies, there are various tax breaks and exemptions, along with other tailored policy favors.
Under a long-standing national aid program, almost all provinces and central government departments have been engaged in aid projects across the region.
Since the central government announced a 62-project aid program 12 years ago to upgrade basic infrastructure in the region, hundreds of major construction projects have been carried out.
Tibet could not have become what it is today without the billions of yuan pumped in from State coffers as well as from fraternal provinces.
Such assistance has resulted in brand new schools, hospitals and office buildings that enlighten the local landscape.
They bring in badly needed professional expertise, management know-how and, most importantly, new concepts for development.
A person is free of confusion at the age of 40, as Confucius said thousands of years ago. So is the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The past four decades have prepared solid foundations for its ambition to pursue further prosperity. Through the long and arduous learning curve, the people of Tibet have a clear sense of direction.
Local decision-makers have made up their minds to get rid of the region's historical role as a pure aid recipient. Months ago, local authorities unveiled an ambitious roadmap for local development.
Its idea to focus on local advantages and place emphasis on environmental consequences was a reassuring sign the local leadership is aware of the disastrous folly of its counterparts in the rest of the country and shares a political will to avoid mistakes.
As the rails of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway reach Lhasa, the region is eagerly awaiting a new impetus for local progress.
When it embraces the anticipated opportunities, we hope the temptation of quick profits will not carry local planners away from their current resolve to carve out a different way towards prosperity.
If they pass that test, we can expect to see a still better future for Tibet.
(China Daily September 1, 2005)