Located on the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River and south of the Nyainqentanglha Mountains on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Shannan Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region is the cradle of Tibetan civilization. With an area of over 80,000 square kilometers, it is hemmed in by the capital city Lhasa to the north, Xigaze to the west, Nyingchi to the east and India and Bhutan to the south. With a boundary line of more than 600 kilometers, it is of great strategic importance and serves as China's southwestern border area.
In June 2004, 38 civil servants from Hubei Province -- the fourth batch of civil servants sent by the provincial government to support Tibet's economic reconstruction -- arrived in Tibet to start their three-year aid work in Shannan Prefecture.
On July 11, 2005, Chen Jingang, who led this team of civil servants from Hubei, told China.org.cn that Hubei Province has contributed 330 million yuan (US$40 million) in aid to Shannan over the last ten years.
Chen noted that the type of aid work or assistance pouring into Tibet has changed with the time. The mode has shifted from free assistance to more mutually beneficial cooperation projects.
According to Chen, one of the biggest economic aid projects in Tibet is currently being built in Shannan. It is the construction of the Tibet Huaxin Cement Production Line, a joint project by Hubei's Huaxin Cement Co. Ltd and a local cement factory. When completed by the end of August this year, the factory will have a daily production capacity of 1,000 tons. More important, it will provide employment for over 500 local people.
Most of Shannan economic aid comes from Hunan, Hubei and Anhui provinces. From 2000 to 2004, Hunan and Hubei each provided 1 million yuan (US$120,824) a year to help train 1,000 Shannan professionals. Anhui started their contributions in 2001. Between 2003 and 2004, Anhui pumped in 2 million yuan to train 200 professionals.
Shannan Prefecture is just one of the examples of what has come out of a 10-year nationwide campaign to provide economic assistance to Tibet.
Tibet's natural conditions and environment -- high altitudes and difficult terrains -- and its history steeped in a feudal serf system contributed to its economic backwardness. Compared with other parts of China, Tibet is an underdeveloped area.
At the Third Tibet Work Forum in 1994, the central government developed an assistance plan for Tibet, identifying areas for development, projects and alterations. All 73 Tibetan counties and Shuanghu Special Administrative Area were covered in the plan .
The Qinghai-Tibet railway, for example, is one of the more significant aid projects to date.
Tibet has also educational aid from other parts of China. In pre-1951 Tibet, school attendance rates were less than 2 percent, and 95 percent of the young and middle-aged population was illiterate. On August 27, 2002, the Ministry of Education introduced the following measures: 16 universities including Southwest Jiaotong University in Sichuan Province were designated to support three Tibetan institutes of higher education; eight universities including Renmin University of China in Beijing set up training bases to train educational professionals. The plan was to train 1,980 professionals from 2003 to 2007.
In 2002, the State Economic and Trade Commission organized a symposium in Lhasa to promote cooperation among enterprises. Although the cooperation agreements signed during the symposium had a total value of only 500 million yuan (US$60 million), over 30 enterprises expressed their willingness to develop their businesses in Tibet.
In 2003, over 1,960 domestic and foreign enterprises set up shop in Tibet, bringing in a total investment of 4.6 billion yuan (US$556 million). That year, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) reached 6,874 yuan (US$831). Since then, it has continued to grow. Per capita GDP in 2004 was 7,779 yuan (US$940), 33 times that of 1965.
From 1994 to 2004, central government earmarked 50 billion yuan (US$6 billion) for infrastructure construction. Eighteen provinces and cities, 61 state departments and organizations, and 17 state enterprises invested a total of 6.4 billion yuan (US$773 million) in Tibet's economic reconstruction.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wang Qian July 19, 2005)