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Peaceful development of China's Tibet

Chinese Tibet is known as the 'Roof of the world'. The average height of the country is over 15,000 feet. From the days immemorial, Tibet has been a part of China, from the time of emperor Yuan in 1279. Whole of Tibet was under Chinese rule by the beginning of the 20th century. The British imperialists entered Tibet and tried to distance it from China.


Chinese Tibet is known as the ‘Roof of the world’

They received the fullest co-operation of the aristocracy and Lamas for this sinister scheme. They wanted to create a division between China and Tibet so that an independent state could be created thus weakening China. Before the British got involved in the affairs of Tibet there was no equivalent word in the Tibetan language for independence.

The main object of this article is to depict how Tibet advanced in every field after it was liberated from the yoke of Lamas and the aristocrats and brought under the control of the central government in Beijing.

Prior to 1959 the government in control of Tibet was aristocratic. The ordinary people who were peasants and nomads did not own 95 percent of the land. All the arable land was owned by Lamas and aristocrats who comprised 5 percent of the population. The ordinary people were surfs and the system that existed in Tibet could be termed as semi-slavery. It was said that ordinary people owned nothing but their shadows and footprints. These enslaved people received their political, religious, economic, social and cultural freedom after 1959. They obtained the same freedom enjoyed by the people of other provinces of China.

Political freedom

After 1959 millions of former serf become masters of their society and destiny. Tibet changed from an autocracy to a democracy. Tibet become a autonomous region under the umbrella of the central government. The administration of the region was done by the Tibetans themselves. The chairperson of the People's Congress was a Tibetan and women too received voting rights.

The people of Tibet obtained full economic freedom after 1959. Ninety five percent of the population who were peasants and nomads received the freedom they needed to till and graze animals on the lands and receive the income of those lands. As a result their incomes started to rise since 1959.

People who were deprived of having a square meal managed to fill their belles with this change. The gross domestic product which was 174 M Yuan reached 50.74 B Yuan by 2010. The per capita income which was 144 Yuan in 1959 reached 15,000 Yuan in 2010.

The central government obtained assistance from other provinces to develop Tibet. A certain percentage of the revenue of other provinces was diverted for the development of Tibet. The centre was keen on creating economic parity in Tibet comparing to other provinces.

The partnership assistance programme started in 1994 and fifteen other provinces have helped Tibet to initiate 62 new projects.

Agriculture

With the freedom they received in their land the peasants of Tibet, diversified their crops, they cultivated. The grain production on which was 182,000 tons in 1951 reached a staggering 1,100,000 tons in 2010. The annual paddy production of one Mu in 1959 was 91 Kgs. The peasants managed to increase it to 400 kgs in 2010. The number of animals under the nomads and peasants in 1959 was 9.56 million and it increased to 26 million in 2010.

There were no industries in Tibet prior to 1959. Some people started industries with the direction provided by the central government. After 1959 generation of electricity, mining textile, cottage industries and some medium sized industries started in Tibet. Fruits of opening the economy in 1978 brought many benefits to Tibet. Comparing to the provinces, Tibet holds the second position in the production of copper. Tibetan beer produced from barley is famous today. The industrial added value skyrocketed from 1.5 M Yuan to 3,500m, in 1910.


Tibetan culture village Xiagei. Pic. courtesy: Google

Foreign trade

In 2004, the value of foreign trade was US $ 22.355 million and it increased to US $ 835.94 million in 2010. Tibetan products are exported to countries like India, Nepal, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and America.

A good road network is a basic necessity for economic development. Prior to 1984 all the roads of Tibet were in a ramshackled state. People who lived in remote areas had to carry their products on their shoulders or on the back of animals, when transporting them to markets sometimes miles away. It was indeed a miserable existence.

A reporter of China daily who travelled from Beijing to Lhasa in 1959 had spent 21 days travelling. The central government which understood this drawback started constructing new roads with the concurrence of the provincial government all over Tibet from 1959. Today new roads are constructed from Lhasa to very remote areas such as Metog. The first expressway was started in 2009, from Lhasa to Gonggar airport. By 2006, the central government managed to link Lhasa to Beijing railway reducing the travel time between the two cities to 24 hours. Before 1959 the traveling time was 21 days.

As a result Tibet managed to send its exports to other provinces as well as to the world market in double quick time. New airports not only in Lhasa but also in Nuingahinao, Ngari and Xigwge, paved way for rapid development in remote areas. There were only 7,300 km of highways in Tibet and by 2010 it increased to 58,200 kms.

New houses

Prior to 1959 most of the peasants lived in mud huts along with their livestock. After 1959 the central government along with provincial administration launched a programme to improve the housing standards of these peasants. By 2006 they managed to provide decent housing to about 1.4 m ordinary people, spending RMB 1.7 billion. The name of this was 'Safe and Cozy' with amenities such as electricity running water paved roads, post officers, telephones and facilities for TV and radio reception. Electricity was provided to 740,000 persons and drinking water was provided to 952,000 people. The coverage of telephone and TV/radio signals now stands at 90.28 percent and 91.41 percent respectively and 135,000 rural households are new cooking with biogas.

Prior to 1959 only 2 percent of the children of pre-school age attended school. Illiteracy rate was 95 percent.

Today the illiteracy rate has come down to 1.2 percent. Today the education is provided free of charge. In other provinces of China a fee is charged for education.

Financial assistance granted to village students in Tibet was increased to 2000 Yuan in 2011.

First university was started in 1984 and today several universities are found in Tibet. Medical College of Tibet was started in 1989. There are more than 100 PhD holders in Tibet and Tibetan botanist Nunyuna Zhovna is one of the ten leading women scientists of China.

Tibetans are free to follow any religion they wish. This has been accepted by the regional administration as well. There are about 1,700 Buddhist temples and monasteries and over 40,000 Buddhist monks in Tibet today. Huge sums are spent by the central government and the provincial administration to preserve Buddhism, to develop Buddhist places of worship, to preserve Buddhist books and manuscripts and for the restoration of the Buddhist temples.

Living standard

Under the new administration the living standards of the Tibetan people have gone up tremendously. Tibetans who led a miserable existence in past lead somewhat a better life like most of other people of China today.

The people who used dung cakes for cooking purposes today use L.P. gas. Some own motor vehicles and most of the people use small comforts like television and cellular phones.

As life has become somewhat comfortable the population has increased from 1.23 million in 1959 to 30 million today. Life expectancy of average in Tibetan is 69 today. Sixty years ago it was 35.5 years.

Some Tibetan separatists who have escaped to India spread canards with the assistance of some Western media agencies that genocide is being conducted by China to decimate the population of Tibet. But in reality Tibet that was backward in every sphere before 1959 is advancing at an unprecedented growth rate like the rest of China.

The writer is the Secretary of Sri Lanka - China Society

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