Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Flow of people moves both ways

By Du Yongbin (China Daily) Updated: 2012-03-20 08:47

Regrettably, some Westerners and Tibetans in exile choose to see only the flow of China's other ethnic populations into the Tibet autonomous region and other Tibetan areas and ignore the movement of Tibetan people heading the other way.

Turning a blind eye to the two-way population flow, they constantly claim that the Tibetan language, culture and ethic character, as well as Tibetan Buddhism, are on the verge of extinction; in danger of being washed away by a so-called one-way tide of Han people flowing into the Tibetan areas.

In fact, although in response to government calls to aid the construction of the country's border regions, a large number of Han people have moved westward to the Tibetan areas after the founding of New China in 1949, at the same time, Tibetan people have also continued their long tradition of migrating eastward to Han-inhabited areas, and this has accelerated over the last 30 years since reform and opening-up was adopted in the late 1970s.

The Han people that have moved to the Tibet autonomous region and Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan provinces have mostly been migrant workers and private industrial and commercial businesses. They have undoubtedly made a profit but they have also made huge contributions to social progress and the development of the local economies, which have dramatically improved people's livelihoods and well-being.

Meanwhile, the settling of Tibe-tan people in the country's other provinces has gathered pace, demonstrating that they can establish good relations with the Han and other ethnic groups. And even when they are in regions far away from their hometowns, these Tibetan migrants are still free to communicate, work and study in the Tibetan language and have freedom of worship, they are also free to disseminate Tibetan Buddhism if they so desire.

Following reform and opening-up many Tibetan people have joined the nationwide population movement and chosen Chengdu, Beijing and other large cities as their destination for study or work. Chengdu, which has close links to Tibet and other Tibetan areas, is called a "second hometown" by many of the Tibetan people living there. Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Shanxi, the Northeastern provinces and Guangdong province in the south have also attracted quite a few Tibetan migrants.

The country's adoption of a series of preferential policies for non-Han ethnic groups and pro-Tibetan policies and measures has also played a role in tempting Tibetan people from their generations-old hometowns. For example, in Chengdu, the authorities promulgated a document aimed at helping incoming ethnic minorities do business in the local area.

Meanwhile, under the enormous aid of preferential government polices and selfless assistance from neighboring regions, the vast Tibetan autonomous region is leaving its feudal past behind and enjoying the fruits of development.

By moving between their hometowns and well-developed cities such as Chengdu and Beijing, Tibetan migrants can also adapt to the seasonal changes in their hometowns.

The two-directional flows between Tibetan and other ethnic populations have not only increased exchanges, communication and integration among different ethnic groups but have also helped spread Tibetan culture to China's other regions and even to the outside world.

At the same time, the two-way population flow has also helped boost the competitiveness and economic force of Tibetan-populated areas while boosting the development of the whole national economy, and promoting harmony between ethnic groups.

The increased outward flow of Tibetans from their hometowns to the country's other regions is a reflection of their awareness of their national Chinese identity.

The author is a researcher with the Institute of Contemporary Studies under the China Tibetology Research Center.

(China Daily 03/20/2012 page8)

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