Rapid Development of Various Undertakings

Updated: 2021-05-21 (Xinhua) Print

Thanks to the leadership of the Central People's Government and strong support from the rest of China, and to the great endeavors of people of all ethnic groups in the region, Tibet is catching up with other parts of the country in terms of socioeconomic development. With a more solid base, it enjoys better opportunities and enormous potential.

– Sustained and rapid socioeconomic development

Over the last seven decades, the central government has introduced many favorable policies for the region, covering tax and finance, infrastructure, industrial development, education, health, cultural preservation, environmental protection, and other fields. The central government increases its fiscal transfer to Tibet every year, and has planned and carried out a number of major projects at different stages which have a bearing on the long-term development of the region and the living standard of the people. As a result, the local people enjoy much better working and living conditions, and their sense of gain, happiness, and security is growing. From 1994 to 2020, the provinces and equivalent administrative units, central government departments, along with state-owned enterprises (SOEs) directly under the central government, provided support to Tibet in the form of paired assistance through 6,330 projects, representing a total investment of RMB52.7 billion. They also selected and dispatched 9,682 outstanding officials to assist the region. In 1951, Tibet's GDP was only RMB129 million. In 2020, its GDP exceeded RMB190 billion. There has been substantial economic growth and significant improvements to the economic structure. In 2020, Tibet's retail sales of consumer goods reached RMB74.6 billion, more than 2,000 times larger than in 1959.

Xizang Shimo Jiyao, a book published in 1930, described the roads in Tibet as extremely rough and dangerous for passengers and their horses. In the old days, it took between six months and a year to make a round trip between Lhasa and Xining in Qinghai or Ya'an in Sichuan. Since 1951, Tibet has gradually built a comprehensive transport network composed of highways, railways, air routes, and pipelines. Highways with a total length of 118,800 km have been built, providing access to all administrative villages in the region. Ninety-four percent of towns and 76 percent of administrative villages have direct access to asphalt and concrete roads. Some 700 km of expressways and grade-one highways are in service. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the Lhasa-Xigaze Railway have been completed and opened to traffic. The construction of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway has begun. A number of feeder airports have been built, including Bamda Airport in Qamdo, Mainling Airport in Nyingchi, Peace Airport in Xigaze, and Gunsa Airport in Ngari. Tibet now has 140 domestic and international air routes in operation, reaching 66 cities.

With a modern communications network mainly consisting of optical cables and satellites, Tibet is part of the information expressway. All administrative villages have mobile phone access, and optical cable broadband coverage has reached 99 percent. Before 1951, Tibet had only one hydropower station, which supplied electricity only to a handful of aristocrats. Now, a comprehensive energy network is in place, with hydro power as the mainstay, supplemented by solar, wind, and geothermal power. In 2020, Ngari Prefecture was connected to the central Tibet power grid, completing the full coverage of the main power grid across the whole of Tibet.

A great effort has been made to develop agriculture, animal husbandry, green industries and tertiary industries adapted to local conditions. In 1965, the total value of output from Tibet's agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, and fisheries was no more than RMB264 million. In 2020, it reached RMB23.4 billion. In 2015, grain yield was over 1 million tonnes, and the yield of highland barley exceeded 795,000 tonnes. The region now has a modern industrial system with distinctive local features, covering clean energy, natural drinking water, farming and animal product processing, folk handicrafts, Tibetan medicine, and building materials, among others. The clean energy industry is developing rapidly, with a total installed capacity of 4.23 million kw and generation output of over 9 billion kwh. In 2020, despite the impact of Covid-19, the growth rate of the added value of industrial "enterprises of designated size" (enterprises with a turnover exceeding RMB20 million per annum) reached 9.6 percent, which was the highest in the country. Tourism in the region maintained rapid growth momentum, receiving more than 35 million tourist visits. There has been widespread development of service industries. E-commerce services are fully available at the city, county, township, and village levels, and total online retail sales exceeded RMB20 billion. The high-tech digital industry has seen multiple innovations, and the scale of digital economy surpassed RMB33 billion.

– Marked improvement in living standards

Prior to liberation, more than 90 percent of Tibet's residents had no private housing and lacked adequate food and clothing. Now, residents in the region enjoy a relatively comfortable life. Thanks to low-income housing projects for farmers and herdsmen and affordable housing projects in urban and rural areas, the per capita living space of farmers and herdsmen reached 41.46 sq m in 2020, and that of urban residents reached 33.4 sq m. From 2011 to 2020, the central government allocated funds totaling RMB17.3 billion, supporting the construction of 351,900 affordable homes in urban areas. Since 2019, the central government has allocated funds of RMB230 million to support the transformation of 8,900 dilapidated urban dwellings. The region has carried out comprehensive improvement projects in farming and pastoral areas, which mainly involve the supply of water, electricity, gas, telecommunications, postal services, radio and television, the construction of highways, and improvements to the environment. This has brought tremendous change to these areas. In 2019, the urbanization rate of Tibet reached 31.5 percent. In 2020, the per capita disposable income doubled in comparison with 2010. The average per capita disposable income of rural residents was RMB14,598, up 12.7 percent over the previous year and representing double-digit growth for the past 18 years. In the past five years, it recorded an annual increase of around 13 percent – the fastest growth in China. The average per capita disposable income of urban residents in 2020 was RMB41,156, a year-on-year increase of 10 percent.

– All-round progress of basic public services

The public cultural service system keeps improving. As of 2020, there is a five-tiered public cultural service system in place, which consists of the autonomous region, city/prefecture, county/district, town/township, and village/community levels. Libraries, people's art halls, museums, comprehensive culture centers, and reserved halls have become important sites where people can participate in cultural activities. Tibet now has 10 professional performing art troupes, 76 art troupes at county/district level, 153 part-time Tibetan opera troupes, 395 performing teams at township level and 5,492 at administrative village level, with more than 100,000 performers, including amateurs and professionals. A large number of excellent works, including The Laundry Song and Another Folk Song Dedicated to the Party, have been released, highlighting the spirit of the times, demonstrating the flavor of Tibet, and winning popularity among the people. Designed to meet people's cultural aspirations, free or subsidized performances have become increasingly colorful, and more than 24,000 such shows have been staged.

Notable progress has been made in developing a digital public culture. The region's digital service capacity is increasing. The "Beautiful Tibet, Lovely Hometown" project designed to supply excellent cultural products to rural residents has been implemented. 9.33TB of programs with special local flavor or revolutionary themes have been produced and released on public culture and digital culture websites. Commissioned programs numbered 2,950, with a total size of 20TB. 4,169 hours of digital programs have been dubbed into minority languages.

Tibet's radio, TV, press, and publications are expanding rapidly. In 2020, the region had one radio station, one TV station, and 75 radio-TV stations, 112 radio and TV receiving and transmitting stations at township/village levels, 27 medium and short-wave transmitting and relay stations, and 3,933 FM TV transmitting and relay stations. More than 600,000 households of farmers and herdsmen can receive 26 radio channels and 54 TV channels via direct broadcasting satellites. The coverage rates of radio and TV programs have both reached 99 percent. A total of 18,594 hours of radio programs and 6,881 hours of TV programs have been translated or dubbed in minority languages. Tibet publishes 66 newspapers and periodicals, and has built 5,464 rural libraries and 1,787 monastery libraries, providing libraries to all administrative villages and monasteries.

In old Tibet there was not a single proper school. The illiteracy rate exceeded 95 percent, to say nothing of complete ignorance of modern science and technology. From 1951 to 2020, the central government invested RMB224 billion in Tibet's education. Now, the region has established a modern educational system which includes preschool, primary and middle schools, vocational and technical schools, institutions of higher learning, and continuing and special education institutions. Students enjoy 15 years of publicly-funded compulsory education. All primary schools are offering math course, all middle schools have completed teaching plans for math, physics, chemistry, and biology courses, and all vocational and technical schools are offering the courses prescribed in the national catalog of courses for these schools. A campaign to popularize senior high school education was completed on schedule. Since 2015, organized educational professionals from across the country have made a tremendous contribution to Tibet's education system. At present, Tibet has 3,195 schools of various types and at various levels, hosting more than 790,000 students. These include seven institutions of higher learning, 12 secondary vocational schools, 143 middle schools, and 827 primary schools. In addition, more than 92,000 students attend schools outside the region. The gross enrollment rate for the three-year preschool education has reached 87 percent. The net enrollment rate in primary school is more than 99.9 percent, and the gross enrollment rate in junior high, senior high, and higher education are 107, 90.2 and 56.1 percent respectively. Basic balanced development of compulsory education has been realized in all counties. The completion rate for compulsory education has reached 95 percent, and new entrants to the region's workforce now have an average of 13.1 years of education.

Tibet is addressing issues of employment by relying on the concerted efforts of the government, society, and enterprises. The employment rate among higher-education graduates has remained above 95 percent for the past five years, and reached 99 percent in 2020. The development of scientific and technological platforms and talent teams is accelerating. Tibet has 92,000 professional technical personnel, and the contribution of science and technology to economic growth has reached 45.6 percent.

Before liberation, there were only three small, shabby government-run institutions of Tibetan medicine and a small number of private clinics. Now, Tibet has a full system covering regular medical services, maternity and child care, disease prevention and control, and Tibetan medicine and therapies. In Tibet today there are 1,642 medical institutions of various types, 11 of which are grade A tertiary hospitals. There are 4.9 hospital beds and 5.89 medical workers per thousand people. Medical teams from other parts of China have been sent to assist Tibet, to ensure that people can receive excellent medical services in their own neighborhoods. The medical and healthcare network now covers the whole region. All townships have health centers and all villages have clinics.

These improvements in medical services have brought about a corresponding improvement in public health. The death rate of women in childbirth has dropped to 48 per 100,000, and the infant mortality rate to 7.6 per thousand. Both are record lows. The average life expectancy has increased from 35.5 years in 1951 to 71.1 years in 2019. Victims of more than 400 major diseases can now obtain treatment within the region. Ailments that were once widespread in Tibet, such as hydatidosis, Kashin-Beck disease, congenital heart disease, and cataracts, have been eradicated or brought under effective prevention and control.

Social security provision is improving. The registered urban unemployment rate is below 4 percent. The employment rates of key groups are among the highest in the country. A social security system including mainly five major types of insurance (old age insurance, medical insurance, unemployment insurance, work-related injury insurance, and maternity insurance) is now in place and covers both urban and rural residents. Basic living standards are effectively guaranteed. In 2020, the basic medical insurance systems of urban and rural residents were integrated, and the standard subsidy increased to RMB585 per person per year. One-time settlement after diagnosis and treatment, full coverage of the insured, and balance of insurance funds have been realized. Individual reimbursement of medical expenses can be as high as RMB140,000, nearly seven times the average annual per capita disposable income of urban and rural residents in Tibet. A special treatment policy has been extended to cover 38 serious diseases. Basic medical insurance is more effective. Full coverage of social insurance has been realized, and people of all ethnic groups now enjoy comprehensive social security.