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New or improved schools, a system of compulsory schooling for nine or six or three years depending on the area and the stage of objective development , and quite competitive higher educational institutions. A bewildering range of consumer goods and shops. Modern blue-tinted office buildings, new residential complexes, and a great deal of co nstruction activity in town and country.

Hospitals and health centres dispensing both modern and a flourishing Tibetan indigenous medicine. Surplus grain production, new agricultural methods and practices, tractors, surplus-producing peasants, commoditis ed agriculture, water conservancy, irrigation, hydroelectric, geothermal, horticulture, and animal husbandry projects.

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Small and medium-sized industries and businesses. Ambitious infrastructure projects. A sustained economic growth rate close to 10 per c ent per year. Nascent scientific research, surveys, and social science activity. A substantial Tibetan Archives, active promotion and use of the Tibetan language written and spoken , and big projects, funded largely by the Central Government, to record, collate, edit and publish Tibetan literary classics, such as King Gesar , and Buddhist sacred texts.

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Extensive repair, renovation, restoration and protection of cultural treasures under a strict and elaborate cultural protection regime. Environmental consciousness and concerns expressed in strict regulations, policies, an Environmental Protection Bur eau, afforestation, greening. New roads, highways, cars, two-wheelers, tractors, speeding trucks and every kind of modern vehicle.


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Newspapers, radio, television, mobile phones, twenty-first century telecom, even a few Internet bars. A nascent interest in biotechnology. Hotels for various budgets, organised tourism, and a host of other modern tertiary activities. This is not surprising given the post policies of reform and opening up, which have brought enormous economic changes across China. Under the impact of these policies, over the past six years the economy of the Tibet Autonomous Region has grown at a n annual rate close to 10 per cent, which is above the national average.

Last year, the Region's GDP grew at 9. Recently released data on GDP growth for the first half of revealed that Tibet's 8. Economic growth during the second half of the year is expected to be higher. At the same time, the traditional is very much on view in town and country. As you speed along the highway to Tsetang, you catch a glimpse of how the bulk of Tibetans live, in mud and stone houses, cultivating small plots and tending livestock; prayer fl ags fluttering; primitive farming and nomadic practices; poor living conditions; colourful long skirts, striped aprons and beads; people squatting road-side; children working at home, in the fields, or tending livestock.

This reflects the truth that the level of economic development, the development of productive forces, and the living standards of the people in the Tibet Autonomous Region are visibly lower than the Chinese average. Tibet is clearly at a preliminary stage of modernisation. To ask it to remain frozen in its traditions, as romantic disillusionment with the process of modernisation demands, is to be unrealistic as well as unfair to the mass of Tibetan people. For all t heir observable religiosity, they are as keen as people anywhere else to solve basic problems of food, clothing, shelter, transport, education, health, and decent work, and to improve living standards as quickly as possible.

The head of the ten-member family, seven of whose members still live in this unpretentious but spacious and traditionally decor ated house, is year-old Lhodru. He and his wife are illiterate, but four of the five children have been to school. The girl is the exception. In the s, the family had no land of its own and subsisted on raising donkeys and some cattle, although, as Lhodru noted, it was not a family of serfs and did not belong to the poorest of the poor. The family acquired some land after the Democratic Reform in , but until the late s it produced just enough to keep its head above water.

Today, Lhodru's family owns 22 mu of land, that is 1.

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The proof of its improving living standards can be seen i n the main living room, in the elaborately decorated furniture and a range of consumer goods. According to Lhodru, electrification arrived here around and the basic improvements came after the whole village was shifted to this location at the end of the s. Of the five children, three, including the young woman, live with the parents. The youngest member of the family, a boy, is in high school; the young woman has a job in the country administration; and of the three remaining sons, one works in the fields, another is a tractor-driver, and the third makes a living riding a rickshaw in the local market.

Lhodru observes that as living standards improve and the market economy develops, attitudes, beliefs and aspirations undergo a significant chang e, especially among the young. Secondly, he notes, how specific families fare in the new situation depends very much on capabilities within the family, which vary considerably; his family has done quite well in response to the new economic opportunities, benefited from the Central Government's preferential policies towards Tibet, and lifted itself above a subsistence status, but it is by no means a rich family.

In Lhasa, the transforming effects of modernisation are much more visible, whether you visit a factory, the main bazaar or a large department store or a high school or a hospital, or simply look around and observe the new office buildings, the new-style residential blocks, and the extensive construction in progress. These realities are profoundly different from those that used to prevail in old Tibet.

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One of the recurrent complaints of the 'independence for Tibet' campaign is that the Chinese Government has sought to 'justify its policy on Tibet' by 'painting the da rkest picture of traditional Tibetan society. Historical and social records and the accounts of foreign visitors show that before the Democratic Reform, which might have actually come later had there not been an armed uprising and had the Dalai Lama not fled to India, Tibet was a feudal serfdom. Land as well as most means of production were in the hands of the three categories of estate-owners - government officials, nobles, and upper class Lamas - who comprised merely 5 per cent of the population.

The mass of the population, serfs and slave s, lived in extreme poverty, as appendages to estates owned by their masters, lacking education, health care, personal freedom, any kind of entitlement, obliged to provide unpaid labour services or ulag , an expansive Tibetan term for extortionate taxes, corvee and parasitical land rent. Agriculture was largely of the slash-and-burn kind, modern industry was virtually non-existent, and transportation was chiefly on animal or human back. Life in general was brutish and short, with diseases r ampant, the population stagnant, and life expectancy at birth hovering around At the top of this profoundly inequitable and oppressive system sat the institution and person of the Dalai Lama whatever be the 'reformist' fourteenth Dalai Lama's subjec tive claims and feelings on this state of affairs.

As against these basic realities, the 'independence for Tibet' campaign advances the argument that there was plenty of Buddhist kindness, compassion, and caring in old Tibet.

While this may be true, there is only so much that kindness, compassion, and ca ring can achieve in the face of overpowering objective realities in a feudal serf-owning society and an extremely backward economy, where 95 per cent of the population was illiterate and the overwhelming majority lacked the ways and means to meet basic - even subsistence - needs. Since Liberation in , China's economic, political and social policies have gone through some sharp swings, twists, and turns.

Such volatility has taken a considerable toll of the economic and social development effort, with the decade of the Cultural Revolution bringing nothing short of all-round calamity. Nevertheless, the record of four decades of democratic reform in the economic field in the Tibet Autonomous Region has been solid. Basic needs have been met to a substantial extent; social and hum an development indicators have risen impressively; poverty has been reduced; Tibet has acquired the fundamentals of a modern economy with briskly growing primary, industrial, and tertiary sectors; infrastructure, especially roads, highways, the energy se ctor, and telecommunications, have been developed on an ambitious scale; free medicare has been provided to a large proportion of the population; and Tibetan society, which is, in its composition, younger than most other parts of China, has become a lear ning society.

According to an official publication, there have been four waves of accelerated economic development since the early s. The first wave, which came in the s, saw large-scale infrastructure construction especially in the field of transport; this wave saw the rapid completion of three major highways linking Tibet to Sichuan, Qinghai and Nepal, and the Gongkar airport, wh ich helped end the isolation of Tibet.

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The second wave came in the mids, triggered by two National Conferences on Work in Tibet held in and jointly by the Communist Party of China and the State Council. In , the Central Government decided on two policies towards Tibet that would not be changed for a long time to come -''the land will be used by households, and will be managed by them on their own'' and ''livestock will be owned, raised and managed by households on their own. In , the Central Government mobilised manpower and material resources from nine provinces and municipalities to help Tibet bui ld 43 projects as part of the 'Golden Keys Programme'.

The total investment involved was about million yuan. The third wave came in the late s and early s, when the state invested more than 3. Among other things, this has brought a comprehensive development project in t he Three River Area, that is, the area around the Yarlung Zangbo, Lhasa, and Nyang Rivers encompassing agriculture, water conservancy, and afforestation.

The ambitious project is expected to benefit more than 45 per cent of TAR's cultivated land, 18 coun ties and a population of ,, to lead to the development of a new base of commercial agriculture and light industry, and to spur development in the rest of Tibet. The fourth wave, initiated at the Third National Conference on Work in Tibet held in July , has been by far the most ambitious in the series. It has meant more investment, more projects, wider coverage of areas, and a greater emphasis on quality and accountability.

The Third Forum set an annual growth target of 10 per cent for Tibet's economy over the medium term and decided that the Central Government together with 29 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities would help TAR construct 62 proj ects ''without compensation,'' involving a total investment of more than four billion yuan.

Virtually all these projects have been completed ahead of schedule. The target of quadrupling the GDP by was actually fulfilled two years ahead of sched ule. A new wave of economic development in Tibet is expected to be generated once China's Western Development campaign, a strategic push for large-scale development of the western region during the Tenth Five Year Plan , gets into full swing. For a year, Tibet's Development and Planning Commission has been working on a detailed plan to fit into this strategy. The plan is expected to be ready in early Colonialism, invariably, involves a huge drain of resources and wealth from the colony or semi-colony.

In the case of Tibet, between and , the Central Government invested an estimated 40 billion yuan, provided major financial subsidies, and tran sported vast quantities of material. Particularly after some stock-taking in the early s by the Communist Party of China, which came to the conclusion that conditions in Tibet were unacceptably poor and backward and the level of development in Tibet was unacceptably low, the stepping up of assistance to TAR from the Central Government and provinces and municipalities has made all the difference, quantitatively as well as qualitatively, to TAR's economic performance.

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Tibet, like other autonomous regions, is a major beneficiary of preferential policies that have been in operation since the mids and been firmed up by the Central Government over the past two decades. Among other things, this involves a low tax poli cy, a no-ceiling policy for loans given to the region, preferential interest rates, and a per cent retention rate for the region's export earnings. Tibet's GDP at the end of was 9.

The region's per capita GDP was a creditable 3, yuan. Per capita income in rural households was 1, yuan, which was 57 per cent of the comparable national average. Tibetan rural households spent signi ficantly more of their living expenditure on food and clothing, and significantly less on education, culture and recreational articles and services, than the comparable national average. Rural Tibetans consumed more or less the same quantity of grain per capita as other Chinese, but significantly less vegetables, poultry, eggs, aquatic products, and liquor.

They had a lower consumption of almost all consumer goods, including bicycles, sewing machines, watches, washing machines, refrigerators and TV sets , but scored higher with respect to radio sets and radio-cassette players. The statistics suggest that people in urban Tibet are quite advantageously placed. They have greater per capita gross living space than the national average. About 73 per cent of them have access to piped water.

Access to public transportation, paved roa ds, public green areas and other civic amenities is, in per capita terms, better than the national average.

Monastic education, going back a thousand years and focussing on the study of Buddhist scriptures and to some extent the Tibetan language, was the leading form of education. In addition, ab out 20 schools run by local governments and some small-scale private schools together catered to a total student body of less than 1, in Tibet. These schools outside the monastic system were meant for the training of lay and monk officials or for imparting a modicum of basic education - reading, writing and arithmetic besides the recitation of Buddhist scriptures - to the children of aristocratic, wealthy, and business families.

After the Revolution of put an end to the Qing dynasty in China, the thirteenth Dalai Lama decreed the establishment of a Tibetan language primary school in every county in Tibet, stipulating that "all children aged 7 to 15 must attend government-ru n schools. Prior to peaceful libe ration in , a pathetic two per cent of school-age Tibetan children were in school and the illiteracy rate was an estimated 95 per cent.

Modern education made progress in Tibet after peaceful liberation, but the Cultural Revolution represented a major setback. Over the past two decades, developing education in Tibet has been identified at the highest political level as a strategic task.