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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Background
UPDATED: March 30, 2009
Report on the Economic and Social Development of Tibet


Economic development in its conventional sense is defined as a unification process of the growth of social wealth, optimization of industrial structure, improvement of people's ability to create wealth, and other factors. Economic development in its modern sense emphasizes human, fair, coordinated and sustainable development as well as GDP growth.

This report follows the general principles of economic development, accords with the basic facts of Tibet's economic and social development over the past 50 years, outlines Tibet's economic development, especially in the farming and pastoral areas, since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, with a focus on development in recent years, and sets the well-being of Tibetans, especially farmers and herdsmen who are the majority of the Tibetan population, as the yardstick. From this standpoint, the report discusses the economic and social development of Tibet, and presents an objective and equitable exposition, analysis and summary of the realities, achievements and challenges in these fields. The objectives of the report are to provide:

-- A blueprint for a comprehensive understanding of the economic and social development of contemporary Tibet by those concerned with this field;

-- A source for making policies related to the further economic development of Tibet;

-- A review and summary of Tibet's economic development over the past 50 years since its democratic reform in 1959.

The China Tibetology Research Center, the promulgator of the report, is an academic research institution specializing in Tibetology. The authors of the report are Tibetan and Han Chinese researchers from the China Tibetology Research Center and other scholars who have been long engaged in the study of Tibet's development. In May 2008, the authors conducted on-the-spot surveys and case studies of the realities of Tibet's economic and social development after going through relevant materials and working out an outline. Following the completion of the first draft, the authors carried out another on-the-spot survey tour of Tibet in August and September 2008, adding new materials, and making revisions and improvements to the report. The structure and contents of the report are as follows:

I. Growth and Change: Basis of Development

Tibet's local GDP is growing rapidly, and its industrial structure is undergoing fundamental changes. The structural and proportional changes of the primary, secondary and tertiary industries signify a positive transformation of Tibet's conventional industrial structure, which exhibits both growth in quantity and enhancement of quality.

II. Human Development: Goal of Economic Development

Promoting human development is one of the main objectives of economic development. The studies of Tibet's human development index and related issues reveal that major indicators of the human development index, including population growth rate, GDP per capita, average life expectancy and average education level, of Tibetan residents, especially those of the Tibetan ethnic group, are experiencing revolutionary changes along with the rapid development of the local economy. Therefore, Tibet's development is characterized by improved quality of life and guaranteed rights and interests, as well as accumulated social wealth.

III. Sustainable Development: Development Rooted in Environmental Protection and Green Industry

As Tibet's economy is developing rapidly, the government is making increasing legal, administrative and financial efforts to protect the environment and improve the ecology of Tibet, and giving priority to ecological and environmentally-friendly industries in the process of framing industrial development policies and guiding the market. In China, Tibet is the place nearest to the sky and furthest away from pollution.

IV. Government and Market: Encouragement and Promotion for Development

As Tibet is undergoing a reform toward a market economy, the market is playing an increasingly important role in resource allocation, especially in the price system. In view of the intrinsically unbalanced resource allocation of the market mechanism in Tibet's farming and pastoral areas, and the comparative backwardness of those areas, as well as the low competitiveness of farmers and herdsmen, the local government is mobilizing its administrative resources, financial support from the central government in particular, to rectify shortcomings in the market and foster the development of the farming and pastoral areas and the people who live there. While the changes in the cities and towns throughout Tibet during the preliminary and intermediate stages of reform and opening-up remain fresh in our memory, the development of the farming and pastoral areas in recent years is even more impressive.

V. Difficulties and Challenges: Obstacles to Development

Since the democratic reform in 1959, and especially since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, Tibet has witnessed remarkable economic development. Nonetheless, for various reasons, many challenges remain, including high cost of economic and social development, underdeveloped market, unbalanced economic and social development in urban and rural areas, low market competitiveness of farmers and herdsmen, and underdeveloped human capital. These are the long-term challenges that Tibet has to address in order to achieve sound economic development.

VI. Conclusion: Prospects for Growth and Development

Although Tibet's society and economy were affected by the March 14 Incident in 2008, the impact on most local industries was limited, except for temporary difficulties for tourism in Tibet. In the next few years, Tibet's economy is expected to maintain sound and rapid development in virtue of favorable factors such as increasing investment and transfer payments from the central government, rising income level of farmers and herdsmen, and burgeoning consumption by local residents.

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