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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Beijing Review Archives
UPDATED: May 7, 2008 NO. 20, 1991
Tibet: 40 Years' Economic Development
By Li Rongxia, our Staff Reporter

In the past 40 years since Tibet's peaceful Liberation in 1951,tremendous changes have taken place in the autonomous region. The Tibetan people have become their own masters, the economy has developed rapidly and the standard of living has improved day by day. Educational, scientific and cultural undertakings have come a long way, as well. At present, the Tibetans are exploiting its resources, developing agriculture and animal husbandry, improving its transport facilities and alleviating the energy shortage to pave the way for future economic development.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Only 40 years ago, Tibet was a feudal serf society with the overwhelming majority of Tibetan people suffering under the three kinds of estateholders (aristocrats, monastic autocrats and feudal officials). After the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951 and, in particular, following the Democratic Reform in 1959, the feudal serfdom was overthrown and the Tibetan people were emancipated. The tremendous changes which have taken place in Tibet, especially in the past ten years, is evidenced by the rapid development of the economy and peaceful social order.

Statistics show that in 1990 Tibet's gross product was 2.217 billion yuan, the income was 1.67 billion yuan and the total value of industrial and agricultural output was 1.024 billion yuan. The total industrial output value increased by 7.4 times over the 1965 figure, while the total agricultural output value was up 4.5times over 1952.

In 1989 the total grain output in the Tibet Autonomous Region reached 530,000 tons, a record high. In 1990, the region's total grain output was 555,000 tons, higher than that of 1989 and a 200 percent increase over 1959.

Grain Output

Tibet is based on agriculture and animal husbandry with agriculture accounting for over 75 percent of the total output value of industry and agriculture.

Before the Democratic Reform, Tibet's agriculture was basically primitive, with an annual grain output of only 180,000 tons.

In order to develop agriculture and animal husbandry, the state earmarked a total of 13 billion yuan for Tibet in recent decades, most of which was made after the adoption of the policy of reform and opening to the outside world. The Tibet Autonomous Region has carried out the government's long-term policy that grants individual households the right to till their own land, own the livestock they breed and make their own production and mangement decisions. It has also implemented the policy of building water conservancy projects and spreading scientific and technological knowledge, thus, accelerating the development of Tibetan agriculture and animal husbandry.

In Gyangze County, we were told that the county's output of grain and oil-bearing crops in 1990 exceeded 50 million kg, making it a major grain and oil producing county in Tibet.

Puncog, Party committee secretary of Gyangze County, said that in the past 40 years, Gyangze's agriculture had constantly developed, especially since the reform and opening to the outside world. According to statistics, the whole county's gross output of grain and oil-bearing crops in 1959 was 5.7million kg, while in 1979 it was 19.36 million kg, a three-fold increase in 20 years. In 1989, the figure shot up to 45 million kg, a rise of 135 percent over 1979.The county's gross value of agricultural output in 1979 was 3.6million yuan, and the average per-capita income of farmers was 127 yuan annually, while in 1989, it reached 45.58 million yuan and the average annual per-capita income was 699 yuan.

The development of agriculture greatly improved the living standards. Puncog said that his county had the six following specific improvements:

1) New houses. About 80 percent of farmers in the whole county have built new houses, totalling 37,000 with a construction area of 500,000 square metres, an average of 10 square metres added for every person.2) Increased grain production. About 90 percent of farmers' households had surplus grain, enough for the whole family for one to three years. 3) Increased purchase of high-grade minority-style furniture. 4) Increased purchase of modern, high-grade and durable consumer goods. 5)More oil. 6) Increased savings deposits.

Puncog attributed such a big progress in agriculture to the implementation of the central government's special policy for Tibet, adding that the policy stimulated the farmers' enthusiasm. The farmers also benefit a lot from water conservancy projects built over the past few years and agro-technology adopted.

During the past ten years, Gyangze County concentrated its resources on building water conservancy projects and harnessing the Nyang Qu River, constantly improving its production conditions. It newly built and renovated a total of 33 main canals and transformed 22 small ditches in hills, thus shortening the irrigation period of crops from the previous 30 days to between seven and ten days. It harnessed the Rinang, Tuanjie and Nagno rivers, built eight reservoirs and 39 water pools with a total storage of 5.35 million cubic metres. It established the first and second level Karmai pump storage stations. At present, the efficiently irrigated areas in the county has reached 6,667 hectares, some 74 percent of the county's 9,000 hectares of cultivated land.

The use of agro-technology has also been of importance. To spread agricultural science and technology in Gyangze, however, requires time. The farmers of the area are used to the traditional way of the plough and don't know about the benefits of improved varieties, chemical fertilizers and insecticides.

The county's Party secretary, Puncog, took the lead by experimenting with his family-contracted land and obtained a measurable increase in production. As the farmers saw with their own eyes the great impact that agricultural science and technology had on crop production, they accepted many new ideas. Now the rate of use of improved seed variety has reached 80 percent of the county's total land and areas cultivated by machinery reached over 50 percent. About 480 kg of chemical fertilizers are used per hectare.

Gyangze is the epitome of Tibetan agriculture.

Since 1987, Tibet has designated ten agricultural counties, all located along the Lhasa, Nyang Qu, Yalong, Nyang and Yarlung Zangbo rivers, as commercial grain bases. The dissemination and popularization of scientific farming in these counties has turned them into grain producers with high and stable yield.

Statistics show that Tibet has established more than 16,500 water conservancy projects, providing an annual water supply of 1.567 billion cubic metres, and that the effectively irrigated area has reached 54.3 percent of Tibet's total cultivated land area. Small hydropower stations in rural areas have a total installed capacity of 48,000 kw, producing 75 million kwh of electricity annually.

The number of people of Tibetan nationality involved in scientific farming has reached 10,476, accounting for 65 percent of the region's total. They have selected and bred 70 or so improved varieties of grain and other economic crops. After the varieties were used, production increased by 15 to 30 percent.

This year Tibet will arrange 12 million yuan for the construction of water conservancy works and provide an agro-technical service. Currently, the number of farmland cultivated under technical guidance has reached 113,000 hectares.

Tibet's animal husbandry has also developed rapidly. The output value of animal husbandry in 1989 was 430 million yuan, an increase of 48.3 percent over 1978.

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