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White paper: Democratic Reform in Tibet (full text)

China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-28 07:34
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IX. Strengthening Ethnic Equality and Unity

The Chinese people of all ethnic groups are united in diversity. In the long course of history, the ethnic peoples of Tibet have worked together to develop the plateau and create the history of Tibet, which is an important part of the history of the Chinese nation. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the CPC and Chinese government have taken a pragmatic approach toward ethnic problems, formulated and implemented ethnic policies in the principles of ethnic equality and unity, regional ethnic autonomy, and the common prosperity of all ethnic groups.

Over the past 60 years, Tibet has fully implemented the ethnic policy of the CPC to enhance the awareness of ethnic solidarity and the sense of community of the Chinese nation, strengthen ethnic communication and integration, and build a new type of socialist ethnic relationship featuring equality, solidarity, mutual assistance and harmony. In the effort to maintain national unity and oppose separation, the ethnic groups of Tibet have withstood all tests and resisted all risks by rallying around the CPC Central Committee.

Over the past 60 years, the central government and all ethnic groups have been committed to the coordinated development of Tibet and the nation. From 1959 to 1965, financial subsidies from the central government continued to increase in spite of economic difficulties across the country, adding up to 590 million yuan. From 1963 to 1964, the state earmarked 1.4 million yuan to help farmers and herdsmen, purchasing cattle and sheep for more than 3,000 households. The central government has also allocated special funds for some major projects. It is estimated that from 1959 to 1964, the central government issued a total of 8.47 million yuan in interest-free and low-interest loans for agriculture and animal husbandry. The loans were used for purchasing over 20 million kilograms of seeds and grain, 18,000 head of cattle, 13,000 sheep, 3,500 other domestic animals, 100,000 farm tools and 95 tons of steel for making tools.

At major historical points in Tibet's socialist construction, reform and development, the central government has mobilized and organized as many resources as possible from across the country to help Tibet to realize common prosperity. In the 1960s, goods for work and daily life such as grain from Xinjiang, tea from Fujian, fine breeds of livestock from Sichuan and blankets from Shanghai were provided to meet the needs of the people in Tibet.

The bond is close between all ethnic groups, particularly when disasters strike. In 1966, when Xingtai in Hebei Province was hit by an earthquake, a group of around 60 herdsmen from Tibet walked for a total of 26 days, covering more than 5,500 km to bring 240 horses to Xingtai to help with the relief work. Thirty years later, a contingent of 28 people from Xingtai drove 60 locally made tractors to Lhasa to return the old favor. In 1985, 1990 and 1997 when blizzards struck Nagqu, people all over China reached out to help, sending food, quilts and coats to Tibet. In 2008 when Wenchuan in Sichuan Province was hit by an unprecedented earthquake, all the ethnic peoples of Tibet offered donations to the affected area. The list of such stories of mutual aid goes on.

After reform and opening up, the central government has been stepping up its assistance to Tibet. The National Symposium on Work in Tibet was held in 1980, 1984, 1994, 2001, 2010 and 2015 to improve the preferential policies applying to Tibet. After the first symposium, a series of policies to improve the economy, alleviate poverty, and work for a better life were implemented. After the second symposium, policies were introduced giving priority to household-based business operation and market regulation. Long-term government policies toward Tibet allow private ownership of livestock on a household basis, independent feeding management and business operation in pastoral areas; in agricultural areas, household-based ownership of farmland is allowed, and farmers independently make decisions regarding the use and operation of their land. After the third symposium, the central government issued a range of preferential policies covering taxation, investment and financing, financial service, price subsidies, foreign trade, social security, agriculture and rural areas, and enterprise reform. In 2005, another long-term policy of public ownership of grassland, the household contract system, and independent management was adopted by Tibet.

After the turn of the new century, the central government strengthened support for preferential policies in Tibet in line with changes in overall national and local development. There are 40 preferential policies in the Notice of Preferential Policies on Accelerating the Development and Maintaining Stability in Tibet released by the General Office of the State Council in 2006. These became more comprehensive in the Opinions on Major Policies and Projects Concerning Giving Support to Social and Economic Development in Tibet in 2016. It is estimated that financial aid from the central budget totaled 1.24 trillion yuan from 1980 to 2018, making up 91 percent of Tibet's financial expenditure.

Assistance from other provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the central government, and large and medium-sized enterprises began in the 1960s. Since the start of reform and opening up in 1978, assistance from developed provinces and cities has increased. In 1994, the Third National Symposium on Work in Tibet set down the principle of rallying national support for Tibet and specified the assistance pattern of allocating responsibilities to certain provinces and rotating them on regular intervals, giving more impetus to Tibet's development. To date, a total of 18,000 officials and professionals from supporting provinces have been involved in the assistance campaign. Since 2015, assistance by educational and medical personnel from across the country has contributed tremendously to social development in Tibet. More than 10,000 projects are receiving support, representing a total investment of over 40 billion yuan.

With deeper reform and opening up, the economic and cultural ties between people in Tibet and those in the rest of China have become closer, with an increasing number of mixed communities and a closer emotional bond. More high-caliber people from across the country are coming to Tibet with advanced concepts and technologies, and their contribution is warmly welcomed and appreciated by local people. More Tibetans are also opening businesses in Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. There is easy mobility among ethnic groups and intermarriages have become a common sight. In Tibet today, families consisting members with different ethnic background are to be seen everywhere. There is a courtyard near Barkhor Street in Lhasa which is home to more than 20 households composed of Han, Tibetan and Hui people who live harmoniously like one big family.

X. Development of Tibet in the New Era

Since the 18th CPC National Congress was held in 2012, the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the core has attached great importance to Tibet and its ethnic groups. The CPC Central Committee has formulated major policies for development and stability in Tibet to meet the requirements for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, achieving the Two Centenary Goals, and realizing the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.

Xi, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, put forward an important strategic idea: "To govern the country well we must first govern the frontiers well, and to govern the frontiers well we must first ensure stability in Tibet." He issued instructions to "strengthen ethnic unity and build a beautiful Tibet." He presided over the Sixth National Symposium on Work in Tibet in August 2015, defining guiding principles, objectives, and tasks in Tibet in the new era. It was decided at the symposium that the central government would support a large number of key construction projects that were to be included in the 12th and 13th Five-year plans (covering ten years from 2011 to 2020), and a series of special preferential policies benefiting all ethnic groups in Tibet were enacted. General Secretary Xi wrote a series of letters to celebrate the launch of the second comprehensive scientific investigation and research of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the 60th anniversary of Xizang Minzu University, and to reply to a letter from the people of Yumai Township in Lhunze County. He wrote instructions for tree planting in Nagqu, and directed research into the Sichuan-Tibet Railway construction plan. He issued many important instructions on the development and stability of Tibet.

The general plan for governing Tibet in the new era defined by the CPC Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the core is consistent with the principles and policies applied to Tibet since the beginning of democratic reform, while responding to Tibet's development needs in the new era. It thus promotes the development and long-term stability of Tibet.

To develop Tibet in a new era, the Central Authority is committed to the philosophy of people-centered development and the concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and inclusive development. It strives to promote economic and social development, safeguard and improve people's well-being, promote exchanges and integration among ethnic groups, and strengthen environmental protection. These efforts will give vitality and vigor to Tibet.

-Committed to innovative development and greater economic vitality

Considering innovation as the primary driving force, the government of Tibet has worked hard to implement the strategy of innovation-driven development.

It strives to promote institutional innovation. Driving development with supply-side structural reform, it is advancing reforms in key areas such as state-owned enterprises, the non-public economy, the factor market, the fiscal and taxation system, financial system, old-age insurance system, and medical and health system to tap the potential for development.

It drives development with scientific and technological innovation, while enhancing government guidance. To achieve this, it is working to establish a market-oriented scientific and technological innovation system with enterprises as the mainstay and collaboration between government, enterprises, universities, and research institutes; and building platforms for scientific and technological innovation. It is also working hard to enhance commercialization of scientific and technological advances, and improve contribution of science and technology to economic development.

By 2018, Tibet had established 74 entrepreneurship and innovation entities, including makerspaces, sci-tech enterprise incubators, innovation and entrepreneurship bases for college students, and bases for small and micro businesses, and these entities have attracted 1,338 entrepreneurship teams and startups. A number of scientific and technological innovation enterprises have grown stronger. In 2018, the number of high-tech enterprises in Tibet exceeded 50, 53 percent more than in 2017. The number of small and medium-sized enterprises featuring scientific innovation reached 75, up by 142 percent on a year-on-year basis.

Tibet has cultivated a series of industries with local characteristics, such as highland barley, yak, and Tibetan medicine, which are profitable in themselves while constituting a strong support for other industries in the Region. This rapidly rising "local characteristic" economy has become one of the most dynamic and promising highlights of the Tibetan economy.

The four national agricultural science and technology parks in Lhasa, Xigaze, Nagqu and Nyingchi and the Nyingchi National Sustainable Development Experimental Zone have a significant radial impact. Twelve state-level innovation-driven agricultural centers have played an active role in commercializing scientific and technological achievements in agricultural and pastoral areas and in boosting the people's income.

-Committed to coordinated and sustainable development

In view of the current economic and social climate, the government of Tibet, while properly addressing economic and social problems and unbalanced and insufficient development, has been working hard to handle the following relationships:

・ between state investment and social investment;

・ between major projects and projects to improve people's well-being;

・ between taking advantage of strengths and strengthening areas of weaknesses;

・ between urban employment and convenient employment, such as providing nearby job opportunities and improving people's employability;

・ between relocating impoverished people to urban areas and relocating them to areas with surplus productive resources and relatively complete infrastructure;

・ between protecting ecology and benefiting the people;

・ between developing urban areas and improving basic public services in agricultural and pastoral areas;

・ between streamlining administration, delegating power to lower level and localization;

・ between increasing the output and efficiency of enterprises and improving the welfare of employees and the incomes of farmers and herdsmen.

Tibet has created a rural revitalization plan to cultivate new driving forces for rural development. In 2018, there were 8,364 specialized farmers cooperatives, and the total output value of the agricultural products processing industry was 4.2 billion yuan. Rural infrastructure has been improved. Systems are in place for agricultural disaster prevention and response, inspection and testing of the quality and safety of agricultural products, and animal epidemic control. Work has been done to improve the rural living environment and refuse and sewage treatment. And 98 percent of administrative villages in Tibet have access to optic fiber networks.

Tibet promotes balanced regional development. It is accelerating the development of backward areas, and encouraging different locations to use their strengths to the full and exploit industries with local characteristics, thus enhancing the economic strength of the whole Region. As a result, there is competition between different areas, and an increase of engines for economic growth.

Tibet has worked actively to develop Lhasa and Xigaze, two important nodes on the Belt and Road, and to open central and frontier cities to South Asia. The economic integration of Lhasa and Shannan is progressing, and a "three-hour" economic and transport circle in central Tibet is taking shape. New progress has been made in improving transport and energy supply infrastructure in eastern Tibet, and ecological protection in northwestern Tibet has been strengthened. Allseason and all-area tourism in southeastern Tibet is developing fast. The urbanization rate of permanent residents is 31 percent.

-Committed to green development and a beautiful Tibet

The government of Tibet firmly believes that clear waters and green mountains are invaluable assets, and that ecological protection is also a means of protecting productive forces. Bearing these ideas in mind, it prioritizes green development with ecological protection.

It defines primary responsibilities for ecological protection, follows strict principles of ecological safety, and prohibits high-pollution, high-emission, high-energy projects from entering Tibet. It strictly implements the systems under which only one leading official is granted the right to approve projects for the exploration and development of mineral resources, while at the same time a single veto will block any project detrimental to the environment.

Tibet operates a mechanism of incentives or subsidies for ecological protection. It has assigned 700,000 people to ecological protection posts, enabling the majority of farmers and herdsmen to find employment and earn a good living through ecological protection. Several key ecological projects have been implemented. Tibet promotes land greening in all areas, and a comprehensive regional ecological protection network is in place.

Tibet is working hard to develop green industries and promote clean energy. In 2018, green industries such as natural drinking water recorded an added value of 5.3 billion yuan, an increase of 14.3 percent over 2017. Another dividend of green development is a 30 percent growth in Tibet's tourism revenue and a 31.5 percent increase in the number of tourists in 2018.

Tibet continues to protect ecological barriers and build new ones, while making steady progress with afforestation of the basins of the Yarlung Zangbo, Nujiang, Lhasa, Nianchu, Yarlung (a tributary of Yarlung Zangbo), and Shiquan rivers. The mechanism for assessing and rewarding or punishing activities with an ecological impact has been improved. As a result of these efforts, nature reserves now occupy one third of the Region. The living wood growing stock, per capita forest area, per capita forest stock, per capita natural forest stock, and forest stock per unit area all rank first in China. River source areas, grasslands, lakes, wetlands, natural forests, water ecology, geological relics, and biodiversity are under effective protection, ensuring azure sky, green mountains, and clear waters in Tibet.

According to monitoring and evaluation conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and relevant government departments, the ecosystems of the Tibetan Plateau are generally stable, and the quality of its air, water, soil, and general ecological environment remain good. Noise and radiation levels are positive. Most parts of Tibet are still in their pristine state. Tibet is still one of the regions with the best ecological environment in the world.

-Committed to open development and mutually beneficial results

Following the Belt and Road Initiative, the government of Tibet is building a policy structure that is inclusive, open, and cooperative in nature, while accelerating opening up.

Tibet sees the Belt and Road Initiative as an important channel for opening to South Asia, and has joined the initiative by participating in the construction of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor and promoting the Trans-Himalaya Economic Cooperation Zone. To strengthen infrastructure interconnection with Nepal, Tibet is building railways and highways; in 2014, China's Tibet Airlines and Nepal's Yeti Airlines founded a joint venture-Himalaya Airlines-to create air corridors. In the meantime, Tibet is moving faster in expanding trading posts such as Gyirong and Burang, and re-opening Zham.

Tibet works hard to develop an open economy. It successfully hosted the 16th China Tibet-Nepal Economic and Trade Fair in 2018. It is building the Gyirong Cross-border Economic Cooperation Zone and the Lhasa Comprehensive Bonded Zone. The output value of economic and industrial parks at all levels has exceeded 25 billion yuan. In 2018, the Region's imports and exports reached 4.8 billion yuan, and the volume of trade between the inhabitants of border areas increased by a factor of 1.8 over the previous year.

Tibet has intensified its effort to attract outside investment. In 2018, it unveiled 1,450 projects designed to invite external investment, which brought in funds of 63.08 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 38.8 percent.

Tibet carries out extensive external exchanges and cooperation by promoting the strategy of "inviting in and going out". It has advanced exchanges and cooperation in tourism, culture, agriculture, animal husbandry, among others. It has successfully hosted four sessions of the China Tibet Tourism and Culture Expo and has made this a high-end Tibetan brand with nationwide and international influence, while serving as a driving force for regional development. Tibet has twice held the Forum on the Development of Tibet in Lhasa, along with the First Belt and Road Forum on Trans-Himalaya Cooperation, and the China-South Asia Standardization Forum. Through active communication with world-renowned experts and academics on advanced development concepts, Tibet is searching for new pathways and models for development in the new era.

-Committed to shared development to enhance the happiness of the people

The government of Tibet works hard to enhance the sense of participation and gain for people of all ethnic groups, ensuring that the fruits of development are shared by all the people.

Tibet is constantly improving the level of social security while steadily building a moderately prosperous society. It is creating a social security framework that guarantees all the people the rights to care for preschool children, education, remunerable employment, healthcare and old-age care, housing, and assistance for the weak.

Since 2013, more than 273,000 new urban jobs have been created. In 2018, the registered urban unemployment rate was 2.83 percent, and per capita disposable income increased by 10.2 percent and 10.8 percent respectively for urban and rural residents. A social security system covering both urban and rural residents is in place. Orphanages have been set up at the city (prefecture) level, and nursing homes for the elderly have been founded at the regional, city (prefecture), and county (district) levels. Tibet has become one of the first parts of China to realize centralized care of orphans and those who are eligible for the "five guarantees". Since 2013, about 710,000 people have been raised from poverty. The poverty head count ratio fell from 35.2 percent in 2012 to below 6 percent in 2018.

Urbanization is advancing steadily. Xigaze, Shannan, Nyingchi, Qamdo, and Nagqu were converted from prefectures to cities. Since 2013, 314,600 government-subsidized homes have been built.

Partnership assistance from other parts of the country to Tibet is increasing. From 2013 to 2017, 1,736 assistance projects were launched, with a total of 14.35 billion yuan in funds.

According to a special survey of the National Bureau of Statistics, more than 97 percent of Tibet people are satisfied with their situation, and 97.3 percent are confident of achieving moderate prosperity.


The leap of Tibet's development over the past 60 years fully demonstrates that its democratic reform conformed to the historical trend of the times and the fundamental aspirations of all ethnic groups in Tibet, and met the people's real demand for social progress. This reform has led to a historic transformation in Tibet's social system. It has brought rapid development to the Region and a happier life to the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet, and ensured the people's rights are fully guaranteed.

Since democratic reform, the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet have become the masters of the country. It is deeply rooted in the people's minds that we must remain committed to the leadership of the CPC, the socialist road, and the system of regional ethnic autonomy. For many years, however, the old Tibetan forces represented by the Dalai Lama have attempted to deny the achievements of democratic reform and development in Tibet, for the sake of their political interests and out of a hankering for the dark and backward days of feudal serfdom. They disregard facts, and attempt to reverse the tide of history in opposition to the interests of human civilization.

Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet are working together with the whole country to create a better life and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. With steady progress being made toward socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, Tibet is bound to have an even brighter future.

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