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Tibetans facing better future, says new report

Updated: 2009-03-31 07:46

In recent years, the completion and operation of the Qinghai-Tibet railway has greatly spurred growing demand for tourism, cars, housing, catering and entertainment. In 2008 Tibet's retail sales of consumer goods came to 12.908 billion yuan, up 15.2 percent over 2007. Of these, the retail sales of consumer goods in urban areas stood at 6.428 billion yuan, up 14 percent over 2007; the retail sales of consumer goods at the county level or below totaled 6.48 billion yuan, up 16.4 percent over 2007. Looking at particular sectors, the wholesale and retail trade in 2008 yielded 10.459 billion yuan, up 18.1 percent over 2007; the retail sales for the lodging and catering sector recorded 1.951 billion yuan, up 3.8 percent over 2007; and the retail sales of other sectors hit 498 million yuan, up 7.3 percent over 2007.

In the wholesale and retail sector above a designated size, retail sales of clothing, shoes, hats and textiles grew by 35.4 percent, that of petroleum products by 30.9 percent, that of gold, silver and jewelry by 20.4 percent, and that of food, beverages, tobacco and alcohol by 68 percent.

Posts and telecommunications have seen unprecedented growth. In 1959, Tibet had only 276 telephones, mostly located in large and medium-sized cities like Lhasa. The earnings of postal and telecommunications services then totaled only 990,000 yuan. Now, Tibet has formed an advanced communications network covering every part of the region with Lhasa as the center, providing services such as optical cable and satellite transmission, combining program controlled exchange, satellite communication, digital communication and mobile communication. Statistics show that over the past 20 years the business transactions of the postal and telecommunications services in Tibet have grown at an annual rate of 34.4 percent, reaching 4.173 billion yuan in 2008, up 35.1 percent over 2007. By the end of 2008, telephone (including mobile phone) subscribers in Tibet totaled 1.562 million, an increase of 117,000 subscribers over the previous year. Now in Tibet there are 55 telephones per 100 persons, with the rural telephone subscribers numbering almost 27,000 households. In addition, Tibet has over 800 Internet websites, providing services to about 200,000 netizens.

In 2008, the balance of deposits in both renminbi and foreign currencies in Tibet's financial institutions stood at 82.902 billion yuan, up 28.9 percent over 2007, with the savings of both urban and rural residents hitting 18.536 billion yuan, up 15.8 percent over the previous year. Also in 2008, the balance of loans in both renminbi and foreign currencies from financial institutions amounted to 21.932 billion yuan, up 13.3 percent over 2007; cash receipts for the financial institutions totaled 79.532 billion yuan, up 3.8 percent over 2007; cash disbursements were 82.985 billion yuan, up 4.2 percent over the previous year; and the net cash injections amounted to 3.453 billion yuan, an increase of 407 million yuan over 2007.

Tourism is playing an increasingly important role in Tibet's tertiary industry. Though it has unique natural, cultural and tourism resources, Tibet developed its tourism sector very late. Before 1978, there was almost no tourism in Tibet. In 1980, there was only one hotel that could receive overseas tourists, with fewer than 100 beds. The reform and opening-up policy has helped Tibet open its long-closed doors to the outside world, enabling its tourism to gain a considerable expansion. It has greatly improved its tourist reception capabilities, with 93 tour agencies of various kinds, and 62 star-rated hotels. The total fixed assets of the region's tourism sector stand at 1.78 billion yuan, with 12,032 employees.

Since the completion and operation of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, Tibet's tourism has entered a period of rapid development. In 2008, 2,246,400 Chinese and foreign tourists visited Tibet, a figure bigger than the total number of tourists who went to Tibet between 1980 and 1997. Tourism revenue in 2008 reached 2.259 billion yuan, almost equaling the total revenue generated between 1980 and 2000. Tibet has now formed a tourism resources pattern, with Lhasa as the center, supplemented by Shigatse, Shannan and Nyingchi, and extending to Nagqu, Ngari and Qamdo (see Fig. 7).

At present, in addition to its contribution to the region's GDP and revenues from foreign exchange, Tibet's tourism plays an increasingly significant role in increasing employment and tax revenues, and raising the living standards of both urban and rural residents. Tourism has become a major channel to create job opportunities and increase people's incomes.

(4) Industrial Structure and Development Pattern

Tibet's industrial structure has been increasingly optimized, as the region's economic aggregate is expanding, with its industries developing at a rapid and coordinated speed. This can be seen in Fig. 8, which shows the proportion of the added value of primary, secondary and tertiary industries in the region's GDP and the ratio between the three industries in the three years of 1959, 1997 and 2008.In 1959, the proportion of Tibet's primary, secondary and tertiary industries in the region's GDP was 73.60 percent, 12.60 percent and 13.80 percent, respectively; the added value of primary industry accounted for over 70 percent of the GDP, indicating that Tibet was then a typical agricultural society. In 1997, the proportion of Tibet's primary, secondary and tertiary industries in the region's GDP was 37.80 percent, 21.90 percent and 40.30 percent, respectively; the added value of tertiary industry made up over 40 percent of the GDP, indicating that tertiary industry had become the region's largest type of industry. In 2008, the proportion of these three types of industries in the region's GDP was 15.30 percent, 29.20 percent and 55.50 percent, respectively; the added value of tertiary industry accounted for over 55 percent of the GDP, indicating that tertiary industry was playing a dominant role.

In 1959, the ratio of added value of Tibet's primary, secondary and tertiary industries was 1:0.17:0.19; primary industry being the largest industry proves that Tibet was a typical agricultural society. In 1984, the ratio of added value of the three types of industries was 1:0.44:0.71; the plunging ratio of the added value of primary industry in the GDP indicates that it was beginning to lose its domination in the region's economy. In 1997, the same ratio turned out to be 1:0.58:1.07; the added value of primary industry historically gave way to that of tertiary industry. In 2003, the ratio became 1:1.17:2.38; the added value of tertiary industry made up more than half of the region's GDP, and the added value of agriculture took the last place. Tibet's industrial structure was upgraded again, forming a pattern with tertiary industry as the largest, secondary industry taking the middle place and primary industry as the smallest one in light of their weight in the region's GDP. This pattern has since continued, indicating the soundness of regional economic development.

Thus, judged from either the proportion of the added value of the three types of industries, or the ratio between the three of them, Tibet's present economic structure has achieved a transformation from one mainly relying on the manufacturing sector, to one depending mainly on the service sector. An economic structure mainly supported by the service sector can help create more job opportunities, and will play an important role in preserving the region's ecological environment and traditional culture.

II. Human Development: Goal of Economic Development

Development, a multidimensional concept, is commonly understood as the development of the economy, an integral process of economic growth and the transition of the growth pattern. But the meaning does not end there. The word has also become recognized as the development of human beings. Economic development promotes the accumulation of social wealth, providing the necessary conditions and basic materials for human development. Human development, which improves the fundamental qualities of people and increases opportunities, is the ultimate goal of economic development.

1.Population: Quantity and Quality

Since the introduction in 1978 of the reform and opening-up policies, the exchange of human resources between Tibet and the inland areas has seen a steady increase, with more and more migrant workers seeking employment and business opportunities in Tibet. Yet the Tibetan population remains the overwhelming majority in the region, accounting for a steady 90% or more of the total population.

Moreover, the increasing birthrate of the local Tibetan population is the major reason for the overall population boom, as shown in Figs. 9 and 10 [10] [11] while the total population of the Han and other ethnic groups has always been under 10% of the total population.

The 1959 democratic reform brought unprecedented changes to the growth pattern of the population of Tibet, as a result of the ensuing economic development and improved medical services.

First, in the less than 60 years from the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951 to 2008 the total population of Tibet increased from 1,228,000 in 1959 to 2,870,800 in 2008, and the population of the Tibetans increased from one million to 2.7 million. The family planning policy widely adopted in inland areas is not implemented in the vast farming and pastoral areas of Tibet. According to a sample survey, conducted by relevant statistical organization, of 1% of the resident population in Tibet, the annual growth rate of the local resident population for the past ten years has remained above 10,[12] far exceeding the national average. In contrast, during the two centuries before the democratic reform, the total population of Tibet increased by a mere 58,000, and the Tibetan population practically stopped growing.

Second, average life expectancy is an important index of human development. The current average life expectancy in Tibet is 67 years, as shown in Fig. 11. In contrast, the figure was only 35.5 in old Tibet.

Third, the mortality rate of population in Tibet has dropped significantly. The average mortality rate before the democratic reform was a stunning 28, and those of women and children-two vulnerable groups-were even higher, at 50 and 430, respectively. Currently the mortality rate of pregnant women and women giving birth has dropped from 50 in the early 1950s to 3.1 in 2007, and infant mortality rate has dropped from 430 to 24.5 in the same period (see Fig. 11).

It can be concluded from the above that the population of Tibet has undergone a change in its development pattern. Old Tibet experienced two highs and two lows in population development - "high birth rate and death rate, and low life expectancy and growth rate." In contrast, Tibet today sees a comparatively high birth rate and life expectancy, low mortality rate, and a steady growth in population. It is also clear that the assertion that "local Tibetan people are becoming a minority due to a large inflow of Han people into the region," made by some international non-governmental organizations and individuals, is a false assumption contrary to the facts.

2.Education and Human Capital

The government of the Tibet Autonomous Region attaches great importance to the establishment of an education system, with a view of spreading technology and culture as well as increasing the value of human capital. By the end of 2008, Tibet had 1,017 schools of various kinds at all levels, including 884 primary schools, 117 regular secondary schools, ten secondary technical schools, and six colleges and universities. Now, an education system with local characteristics has taken shape, covering education for preschool children, primary and secondary education, higher education, vocational education and adult education (see Figure 12). Before the democratic reform, education was monopolized by monasteries. Only some 2,000 monks and children of noble lineage were studying at government-funded schools and private schools, which shut their doors on the average farmers and herdsman.

The illiteracy rate in Tibet was 95% before the democratic reform. To enhance the educational level and scientific and cultural qualities of the Tibetan people, the local government has increased spending on the establishment of an elementary education system, and made great efforts to eliminate illiteracy in young and middle-aged population. By the end of 2008, all 73 counties in the region had completed the task of "making six-year compulsory education available to all school-age children," with a 100% coverage rate. Some 311,800 students were studying in primary schools, and the enrollment rate was 98.5%. Seventy counties had realized the goal of "making nine-year compulsory education available to all school-age children," with a 90.2% coverage rate. The number of students studying in junior high schools reached 139,900, with an enrollment rate of 92.2%. The number of students receiving senior high school education is on the rise, as 44,600 students are now studying in senior high schools, with an enrollment rate of 51.2%. At present, the local population receives an average 6.3 years of education. For adults without school education, especially those under the age of 50, literacy courses and evening classes are provided, reducing the illiteracy rate to under 2.4% (see Fig. 13).

In 2008, 29,409 students were studying at four-year colleges and universities and three-year junior colleges. With an enrollment rate of 19.7%, the region saw steady development in higher education, which has been enlarged in scale and significantly improved in teaching quality.

The first secondary technical school in Tibet opened in 1959. By the end of 2008 there were around ten technical schools, with 21,000 students. Higher technical education in Tibet started during the period of the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005), and has been enjoying rapid development ever since. Now there are over 5,000 students studying in higher technical schools in Tibet.

With substantial support from the central government, all of Tibet's 74 counties have undertaken to establish training bases for workers and farmers. In light of the needs of the labor market in Tibet, training courses in practical skills and techniques are also offered to farmers and herdsmen, covering areas such as farming, animal husbandry and mechanical maintenance. Training courses are also offered to surplus laborers from farming and pastoral areas for their future employment. In 2008, some 255,000 farmers and herdsmen across Tibet took part in such training courses, greatly improving the quality of the local labor force.In addition to improvements in the local education system, Tibetan students also enjoy opportunities to study in inland areas. Since 1985, the accumulated investment in Tibetan education from 18 provinces and cities in the inland areas has reached 576 million yuan. More than 300 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools have been rebuilt in all 74 counties. Since 1985, classes and schools for Tibetan students have been set up in 20 provinces (cities) across the nation, covering education from junior high schools to colleges and universities. By the end of 2007, there were 28 schools in China with classes for Tibetan students, including 19 junior high schools, seven senior high schools and two teacher training schools.

In addition, 53 inland senior high schools accept Tibetan students, and over 90 inland colleges and universities now admit high school graduates from Tibetan classes. The inland junior high school Tibetan classes have an accumulated enrollment of 36,000 persons, and have fostered 18,000 qualified personnel for Tibet. [14]

While modern education flourishes, Tibet has always paid special attention to education in the Tibetan language. As clearly stipulated in the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, the right of ethnic minorities to use and develop their own languages is protected and guaranteed. Regulations of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Study, Use and Development of the Tibetan Language (2002 Revision) once again strengthened the legal status of the Tibetan language in education in Tibet. By the end of 2006, a total of 880 primary schools and 1,351 teaching institutions offered bilingual courses in Chinese and Tibetan, with 310,000 students, accounting for 95.60% of the total number of students in Tibet's primary schools. Moreover, 117 secondary schools offered bilingual courses, with over 110,000 junior high school and 28,000 senior high school students. accounting for 94.62% and 85.96% of the total number of junior and senior high school students, respectively. In the local teaching force, 15,523 teachers are bilingual. As an ordinary institution of higher learning, the Tibetan Traditional Medical College uses three models in bilingual teaching, with 589 students. In elementary and secondary education, both the Tibetan and Chinese languages are compulsory courses for Tibetan students; such courses are offered from grade one in primary school to grade three in senior high school. In the college entrance exam, the two languages are also subjects of examination, whose scores are taken 50% respectively into the final score.[15]

3. Public Services and Civil Projects

In old Tibet there were only three government-run organizations of Tibetan medicine and a small number of private clinics, all shabby and with poor facilities. The total number of medical workers then was less than 400, averaging 0.4 for every 1,000 Tibetan people. In view of such a situation, the state has carried out a special health care policy in Tibet since the democratic reform in 1959. In cities and towns residents have personal medical insurance accounts with the individual contributing a certain percentage of his/her monthly salary to the account and his/her employer contributing some more depending on the individual's share. In farming and pastoral areas people enjoy free medical care. During the past 50 years, the state has allocated more than 1.8 billion yuan of special funds to develop the health care system in Tibet, and the medical subsidies for Tibetan farmers and herdsmen have exceeded 20 million yuan every year. At the end of 2008, there were 1,339 medical care organizations in Tibet, an increase of nearly 20 times over 1959; the number of hospital beds had increased to 7,127 from 480 in 1959, and the number of hospital beds for every 1,000 residents was 2.5, or 2.11 beds more than in 1959. The number of medical workers increased from 791 in 1959 to 9,098 in 2008, and the number of medical workers for every 1,000 residents was 3.05, or 2.41 more than in 1959. The numbers of hospital beds and medical workers for every 1,000 residents in Tibet were both higher than the national average, and were also higher than the average level of middle-income countries, as shown in Fig. 14.[16]

In 2008 there were 80 disease and epidemic prevention and control centers and organizations, and 58 women and children's health care hospitals and stations. Serious epidemic diseases like tuberculosis, iodine deficiency disorders and Kaschin-Beck disease had been effectively controlled. Iodized salt had been introduced to 66 percent of the total population of Tibet. At present, more than 97 percent of Tibetan children have had vaccinations against serious ailments.

Before the democratic reform, more than 90 percent of Tibet's serfs had no private housing. After the democratic reform, the farmers and herdsmen gradually obtained houses of their own, but the per capita housing area was still small and the living conditions poor. Since the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005), the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region has actively invested in housing in farming and pastoral areas, and worked on key projects like rebuilding farmers' houses and constructing settlement centers for nomadic herdsmen. About 100,000 of the 400,000 rural households of farmers have rebuilt or newly built their houses. The living conditions of some farmers and herdsmen have been improved to a considerable extent. In early 2006, the regional government started across the region the "comfortable housing project" for farmers and herdsmen. During the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), the regional government will complete building new houses or rebuilding houses for 219,800 households, involving 1,252,000 farmers and herdsmen. It is projected that over 80 percent of Tibetan farmers and herdsmen will be settled in safe and comfortable houses in five years. By the end of 2008, the region had invested more than seven billion yuan to help 200,000 families, or about one million farmers and herdsmen to build new houses. The per capita housing area for farmers and herdsmen has now reached 22.83 sq m, close to the national average.

For a long period of time, the poor drinking water quality for both people and livestock held back the rural economic development of Tibet. But since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951 the central government has taken various measures to solve that problem. Especially since the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005), the central government has increased its investment in the construction of safe drinking water projects in Tibet's farming and pastoral areas, allocating close to 500 million yuan in total for such projects in all 74 counties in Tibet. During the 10th Five-Year Plan period, 4,525 safe drinking water projects of various types were completed across the region, benefiting 580,000 people and 5.56 million head of livestock which previously had difficulty obtaining safe drinking water, and making drinking water safe for another 200,000 people. Now the percentage of farmers and herdsmen who have running water available has increased from 12 percent in 2000 to 29 percent. In 2005, a rural safe drinking water program was initiated in Tibet, and the central government also increased the investment in related projects. By the end of 2007, the total funds invested in the program had reached 450 million yuan, and over 600,000 farmers and herdsmen in Tibet were provided with safe drinking water. While constructing the safe drinking water projects, the government has given priority to comfortable housing project sites, areas suffering from high arsenic or fluorine contamination in the water or Kaschin-Beck disease, border areas and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities with smaller populations. It is planned that safe drinking water will be provided in all farming and pastoral areas in Tibet by the end of 2010.


(China Daily 03/31/2009 page8)