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New report seeks to garb China’s Tibet propaganda in academic veneer

April 3, 2009

Tibetan Review
April 1, 2009

The China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing
published on Mar 30 a lengthy report that seeks
to lend academic justification to Beijing’s
political propaganda on Tibet’s economic and
social development over the past 50 years. The
authors, all scholars having long been engaged in
Tibetan studies, compiled the report from
in-person surveys and case studies after two
trips to Tibet last year, said China’s official Xinhua news agency May 30.

The report highlighted the enormity of the
Chinese commitment of resources for Tibet’s
development by saying that for every 100 yuan
that the region had spent, more than 90 yuan came from the central government.

The report uses Tibet’s pre-1959, pre-industrial
situation as the reference point for measuring
its current develop successes and showers praises
on the Chinese government for it.

There were few comparisons of the developmental
progress in Tibet vis-à-vis those in China
proper. One of these was that Tibet's per capita
gross domestic product (GDP) was 13,861 yuan (US
$2,029) last year, a giant leap from the 142 yuan
claimed to have been recorded in 1959, although
still much less than China’s national average of
22,698 yuan. This was justified with the comment
that the region's economic growth had started from a very low level.

The report seeks to justify China’s new official
propaganda lie that Tibet had been a multiethnic
region with a substantial Chinese population. It
claims that during the two centuries before the
1959 democratic reform, the local population only
increased by 58,000, while the Tibetan population
practically stopped growing. The obvious
suggestion is that the 5.8 percent growth in
Tibet’s population over the two centuries was
accounted for by immigration, possibly from China.

And yet, the report also claims that although
more people from other parts of China have come
to Tibet to seek employment and business
opportunities, the Tibetan population remains the
overwhelming majority there, accounting for a
steady 90 percent or more of the local population.

The massive floating Chinese population which
surely would have a significant impact on the
region’s socio-economic development is entirely ignored.

The report says Tibetan farmers and herdsmen are
leading relatively comfortable lives, and durable
goods like TV sets, radios, video recorders and
mobile phones have entered many rural Tibetan
homes. However, it stops short of committing the
faux pas that they lacked these modern luxury
items before they had even been invented.

Among the continuing difficulties for the
region’s development, the report cites high costs
associated with its “remote and harsh location”,
developmental imbalances between rural and urban
areas and relatively underdeveloped human capital.
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