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Rising above the Snow-Covered Plateau

2003/10/14

Natural conditions in Tibet are extremely harsh. On the Tibetan Plateau the air is thin and temperature low, with air pressure and oxygen levels measuring less than two-thirds of those at lower-altitude plains. The duration of time that the temperature is above ten degrees centigrade is less than half that in Heilongjiang province--china's most northern province. Arable land accounts for only 0.2 to 0.3 percent of the whole of Tibet. In an effort to change the backwardness of Tibet and bring prosperity to all nationalities, the Central Government has adopted favourable policies with respect to Tibet and people throughout China have donated manpower, materials financial and technical aid to Tibet.

In the past 40 years, the Central Government has channelled 20 billion yuan RMB into Tibet as financial subsidies and capital construction investment. In recent years the amount has been no less than one billion yuan per annum, the highest per capita amount of all provinces and municipalities. In addition to providing financial aid, the Central Government has adopted a low-tax policy with regard to Tibet. There is an unlimited amount of credit available to Tibet. Investors enjoy favourable interest rates while the local government is allowed to keep all the revenue it earns in foreign currency. Tibet is among the few districts in the world where no agricultural tax is collected.

Before the 1950s Tibet had no industry except for a 92 '-kilowatt hydropower station in Lhasa, a small armaments factory and a small mint whose staff members scarcely numbered 1 00. Today Tibet boasts a dozen or so modern industries including power, mining chemical industry, engineering and textiles. There are more than 300 modern industrial enterprises. Tibet's mineral industry is famous as China's biggest chromium iron reserves is found in Luobusa in Qusum County and China's biggest geothermal experimental base is located on the Yangbajain grassland. Manufactured goods in traditional Tibetan styles are produced in better quality materials with the international market in mind. Tibetan carpet leather handicrafts and objects for religious use have already appeared on the international market.

Infrastructures construction has begun to shorten the distance between Tibet and China's interior, as narrow paths and rattan bridges are becoming relics of the past. Modern cars travelling along the highways have replaced the old transport systems which mainly depended on humans and animals. Dozens of national and international air routes and the five highways connecting Tibet with Sichuan, Qinghai, XinJiang, Yunnan and Nepal have fundamentally changed the former isolation of Tibet. A transport network within Tibet has also been established. Meanwhile the development of telecommunications has allowed Tibet to become an information society. Tibet now has 41 satellite receiving stations and half of the counties are equipped with programme-con trolled telephones. It has over 720 broadcasting television and satellite receiving stations. Towns and cities can generally receive at least five television channels. The Tibetan television station is connected to a satellite which covers the whole country so its programmes can be seen in the rest of China and other countries. The transformation and expansion of urban Lhasa is eye-catching. Residential housing has already reached one million square metres and the earth roads of the past have been replaced by granite-surfaced or cement roads.

From 1951 to the present, the population of Tibetans in Tibet has enjoyed its fastest growth in the past 1,000 years. When China conducted its first national census in 1953. the local Tibetan government headed by the Dalai Lama declared that Tibet had a population of one million. The second national census conducted in 1964 showed that Tibet had a population of 1.251 million of which 1.209 million were Tibetans, accounting for 94.4 percent of the total. Tibet's population had risen to 2.196 million by 1990 according to the fourth national census, of whom 2,096 million or about 95.46 percent were of Tibetan nationality. The average life expectancy rose from 35.5 years old in the 1950s to 65 years old. Between 1982 and 1990, the natural growth rate of the population of Tibetans in Tibet was 17.34 per thousand, 2.64 per thousand higher than the average national figure. The farming and pastoral areas of Tibet are the only districts in China where the family planning policy is not implemented. There every woman has 4.2 children on aver age. Improvement in medical care and hygiene have played an important role in the population increase. There are now 1 ,070 medical establishments in Tibet, with 5,042 beds and, 9,683 professional medical workers. Thus there are two hospital beds and 1 .25 doctors for every thousand people. It is common knowledge that people in northern European countries enjoy free medical care, but this policy has lasted for more than 40 years in Tibet.The poor and the handicapped enjoy even more favourable treatment.

In old Tibet, education was extremely backward and was controlled by the monasteries. The number of children going to school was no more than 3,000 at its highest. Thus less than two percent of children of school age were able to go to school. Education developed very quickly after the peaceful liberation of Tibet. In 1994 there were over 3,000 schools of all kinds with 230,000 students which means that 63.2 percent of children of school age were attending school. In an attempt to preserve Tibetan culture and ancient traditions, children in Tibet, whether Tibetan or Han Chinese, are required to learn the Tibetan language. Education in Tibet from primary school to university level is free. Primary school students in remote outlying areas enjoy the benefits of a special policy making the government cover the costs of their accommodation, food and clothing. Some of the more developed provinces in the interior help to share the expense of Tibet's education system. Indeed Tibetan schools or classes have been established in 26 provinces and cities in the interior where children learn the Tibetan language, mathematics, physics, chemistry, history, Chinese and English. Tibet is represented in cultural performances, sporting competitions and art exhibitions at national level and in some of these fields Tibetans display first-rate achievements.

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