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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Culture/Customs
UPDATED: May 6, 2008  
U.S. Journalist: China's Efforts to Develop Tibet

The Chinese government has made impressive efforts to bring Tibet to the modern world of the 21st century and preserve its traditional culture, a U.S. journalist said on Sunday.

David Jones, the interim managing editor of the Washington Times, said in an email interview with Xinhua that he saw during his trip to Tibet last September that large sums of money had been put into repairing temples and building museums.

Traditional Tibetan singing and dancing were also kept alive as part of the government's efforts to preserve Tibetan culture, he said.

"Large sums have been spent to preserve and restore Tibet's temples and monasteries ... Almost 30 million U.S. dollars has already been spent on the Potala Palace alone," he wrote in a report about his trip to Tibet published in October.

"The government also sponsors professional and amateur dance and theater troupes and set aside up to one-third of Tibet's total area for wildlife preserves," he added.

In his October report, Jones said officials in Beijing and Lhasa seem to have come to the same conclusion that they could attract tourists to the region by preserving the world's most original culture.

Jones recalled that he had a "romantic picture" that Tibet was rather a backward and very religious place before he went there, but he was surprised to see a modern Tibet with first-class highways, many SUVs and good communication, and that even yak herders have cell phones and motorbikes.

"It is obvious to me that the government had spent a lot of money to build infrastructure," he said. "The mobile phone reception in some parts of Tibet is even better than West Virginia."

He also found the government of Tibetan Autonomous Region is "very much a mixture of Tibetan and Han officials at all levels."

Jones, a former reporter based in Hong Kong in 1980s, said that he has witnessed China's dramatic change in politics, economy and social life during several visits to the country from 1983 to 2007.

"Each time I went to China, I was amazed to see how much progress and development that have been (achieved) in such a short time."

Jones said that he was surprised to see how much more freedom Chinese people enjoy nowadays in choosing their professions and traveling abroad, among others.

He said he realizes westerners should not deny China's development mode based on its 5,000-year history. They should acknowledge how dramatically China has changed in such a short period and how challenging it is to undertake these changes in such a populous country.

(Xinhua News Agency May 5, 2008)


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