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Figures and facts: five decades of Tibet's development

Farmer Nuosang ties a hada to one pillar of his newly-built house, in Gurong township, Duilongdeqing County of Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, March 21, 2008. Nuosang has just completed 8 new rooms with the government's financial aid. Since the government of Tibet Autonomous Region launched the project of "living in peace and contentment" for local farmers and herdsmen two years ago, it has allocated about 7.022 billion yuan (nearly 1 billion dollars) for the dwelling of 114,000 households, totaling 594,000 farmers and herdsmen. (Xinhua Photo/Soinam Norbu)
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    BEIJING, April 14 -- The Lhasa riots on March 14 have stirred strong indignation among all ethnic groups living in Tibet. Facts and figures speak louder and show how much Tibet has transformed since its liberation.

    No roads to accommodate vehicles; no modern industry to make even a match; not a penny of local fiscal income; no vote from the common people... This is what Tibet was like before its liberation in 1951.

    However, since the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region in September 1959, Tibet has witnessed significant progress in economic, political and cultural development, thanks to the policy of regional ethnic autonomy and the great support from the central government and people all over the country.

    Figures released by the statistic bureau of the region show the central government subsidized Tibet with 95 billion yuan ($13 billion) in the past five years.

    Tibet has registered an annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of over 12 percent for seven consecutive years. In 2007, the region's GDP reached 34.2 billion yuan ($4.88 billion), and its per capita GDP was 12,000 yuan ($1,714).

    The economy of Tibet has been growing rapidly especially after the reform and opening up in the late 1970s. In 1992 the fiscal income of the region reached 10 million yuan ($1.4 million) for the first time after the breaking up of a "zero" record in 1988. The number doubled in the year that followed.

    In 2007, the local fiscal income reached 2.314 billion yuan ($330 million), an increase of 34 percent year on year. The local fiscal expenditure amounted to 27.9 billion yuan ($4 billion), a year-on-year increase of 38 percent.

    Before the 1950s Tibet had no industry except for a small armaments factory and a small mint set up by the 13th Dalai Lama. But in 1959 when the region was peacefully liberated, the gross output value of industry in Tibet leaped to 43.44 million yuan ($6.2 million).

    In 2007 Tibet witnessed a year-on-year increase of 18 percent on the gross output value of industry to reach 4.7 billion yuan ($670 million), according to statistics from the Reform and Development and Reform Commission of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

    Today Tibet boasts dozens of industries with local characteristics, including mining, green food and beverage, Tibetan medicine and handicrafts.

    There were more than 300 modern industrial enterprises in the region by the end of 2007, including two domestically renowned brand names, 12 local brand names and 23 enterprises as well as seven products exempt from export inspection due to their high quality.

    Apart from achievements in economy, Tibet has made great progress in the infrastructure construction, highlighted by the completion of the Qinghai-Tibet railway and several highways.

    The 1,956-kilometer Qinghai-Tibet Railway, which began operation in July 2006, is the world's highest and longest plateau railway. It has profound impact on Tibet's development since it ended the history of the landlocked region without railway.

    Completed in the mid-1950s, the road linking Tibet and Sichuan province is the first cement-surfaced road in Tibet, the longest plateau highway in the nation and also one of most difficult roads ever built in the world.

    It is of great importance to the economic and overall development of the region because it ended the history of transporting goods by manpower or animals. Since then, several other highways like Qinghai-Tibet Highway or Xinjiang-Tibet Highway have been built to bridge the gap between the geographically remote Tibet and the inland areas.

    Before 1959, Tibet had long been a society of feudal serfdom under the political and religious rule of lamas. The serfs making up more than 90 percent of Tibet's population lived no better than the slaves in the plantations in the southern states of America.

    The Democratic Reforms of 1959 put an end to Tibet's theocratic political system by abolishing the serfdom and introducing a new political system of people's democracy.

    In line with the Constitution, Tibetans enjoy the rights to administer their own affairs in their autonomous region and have an equal political position with people of other ethnic groups.

    The Tibetan people began to exercise their rights to vote and to stand for election. In the 2002 election for new leaders at the village, county, municipal and regional levels, 93.09 percent of people all over the autonomous region voted directly for their county leaders and in some counties the poll amounted to one hundred percent.

    At present, many Tibetans have become top leaders in both government and party organizations at all levels in the Tibet Autonomous Region, such as the five chairpersons of the government of the Autonomous Region.

    Some Tibetans also hold important posts in the central government. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, also known as the Chinese parliament, has always had at least one post of vice-chairman reserved for people from Tibet. At present, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme and Pagbalha Geleg Namgyai are the NPC Standing Committee vice chairmen. This post was even reserved for the 14th Dalai Lama during the first few years of his exile in India.

    As a result of the huge financial input and support from the central government, the Tibetan people today lead a better life than before. Their traditions and religious beliefs are well respected and preserved.

    The government earmarked 20 million yuan (about $3 million) to solve the drinking water difficulties and ensure drinking water safety for 231,349 farmers and herdsmen.

    By 2007, over 56,600 households with 500,000 farmers and herdsmen have moved into new houses after the government launched a comfortable housing program since 2006.

    As Tibet has more than 1,700 religious sites for Tibetan Buddhism that accommodate 460,000 monks and nuns, four mosques with 3,000 Muslims and a Catholic church for 700 believers, the central government has allocated 570 million yuan ($81 million) for the preservation of 22 historical and cultural relics in the southwestern part of the region.

    Over the past two decades, the central and local governments have invested more than 700 million yuan ($100 million) in total in the preservation and maintenance of historical and cultural relics in Tibet. This covered more than 1,400 monasteries, cultural relics and religious sites.

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