In his book on China’s ethnic minorities, Colin Mackerras writes in regard to Tibet: ‘However, what strikes me most forcefully about the period since 1980 or so is not how much the Chinese have harmed Tibetan culture, but how much they have allowed, even encouraged it to revive; not how weak it is, but how strong’. But cultural realities can never be separated from economic questions, especially in light of the Chinese Marxist emphasis on the human right to economic wellbeing.
What do Tibetans themselves have to say about all this. An insight is provided by Tibetan delegates as the two sessions of parliament this year in Beijing. As the Global Times reports:
Kelsang Drolkar, a deputy of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and a village Communist Party chief in Chengguan district of Lhasa, told the Global Times on Monday that she was glad to see Tibet has not become a forgotten area when the country is moving forward to a moderately prosperous society.
National policies, as well as support from other regions across China, have helped the region achieve tremendous changes in the medical, economic and education sectors, and made local people “live a happier and safer life,” she said.
Tibet registered 10 percent GDP growth year-on-year last year, marking the 25th straight year of double-digit growth. Its GDP reached 131.06 billion yuan ($20.5 billion) in 2017.
In 2018, Tibet set a target to achieve GDP growth of about 10 percent, with an 18 percent increase in fixed-asset investment as well as increases of more than 10 percent and 13 percent for urban and rural per capita disposable incomes respectively, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
In 2013, the average yearly income in her village was 10,540 yuan per capita. That number almost doubled last year to 19,550 yuan, Drolkar said.
The Chengguan district has implemented a 15-year compulsory education system from kindergarten to high school. Last year, 93 students from the district were admitted by universities across China, with government covering most of their tuition, Drolkar said.
Bilingual education in schools also contributes to ethnic unity in the region, as learning Putonghua helps Tibetan people understand more about the country and its policies, she said.
Other NPC deputies from Tibet praised past legislative work on national security.
“Laws on national security, counter-espionage, anti-terrorism, activities of overseas NGOs, cybersecurity and national intelligence have provided significant legal support to safeguard national security and the country’s core interests,” Sodar, an NPC deputy and head of Tibet’s higher people’s court, said at a Monday group discussion during the ongoing session of the NPC.
The legislation also provided powerful legal support to combat separatists, terrorists and the Dalai Lama clique, said Sodar.
Tibet had a prospering economy in 2017, with about 44,000 new market entities established in the region, according to local authorities.
The figure brought the total number of registered businesses in the region to 227,000, a year-on-year growth of 19.1 percent, according to Xinhua.