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Speech by Vice-chairman of Tibet Autonomous Region, Dotok, on Rome Forum

(2009/10/24)

Honorable Ladies, Gentlemen and Friends:

First, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the entertainment by the Italian-Sino Foundation. Italy is one of the ancient civilizations in the world, and I am very pleased to be able to pay a visit to this beautiful country and hold the "China Tibetan Development Forum".

This is a wonderful attractive place, and it has attracted much attention of the world with its unique natural scene, long history and splendid culture. So it is with the development of Tibet. Here I would like to take a chance of this occasion to introduce to you, my friends in the presence, the development process and prospect of Tibet.

1. Development Process-Two Strides Have Been Made

This year marks both the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and the 50th anniversary of democratic reform of Tibet. As for the process of 50 years development of Tibet, it has made two historic strides, if in summary.

The first stride is the great change of its social systems. The Tibet 50 years ago was still a society in a feudal serf system, which was a unity of politics and religions, and a regime ruled by priests, nobles and feudal officials. Charles Bell, a Briton known as an "old Tibet hand", described Tibet in his Portrait of a Dalai Lama: The Life and Times of the Great Thirteenth as such, "A trip from Europe and America to Tibet will bring you back to hundreds of years ago, to a place still in a feudal age." The owners of serfs, less than 5% of the whole population, possessed almost all the productive resources, and serfs and slaves who numbered more than 95% of the population had nothing at all, let alone any human rights. So there went a saying among serfs at that time: "The only thing that can be carried is one's shadow, and the only thing that can be left is one's footsteps".

After the founding of New China in 1949, Tibet was liberated in peace in 1951. The year 1959 witnessed a democratic reform in Tibet, which abolished the serf system, and the numerous liberated serfs and slaves became the master of the state, the master of Tibet. In 1965, the Tibet Autonomous Region was established, which practices the system of regional autonomy by minorities. In this way, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet took a socialist road, and made a historical stride in the field of social systems.

Today, among the 34,000 plus representatives of People's Conferences of Representatives at different levels in the Autonomous Region, people of Tibetan group and other minorities number more than 94%. In the National People's Conference of Representatives, 20 representatives come from Tibet Autonomous Region, of whom there are 12 Tibetan citizens, one of Menpa minority and one of Lopa minority. The directors of the Standing Committee of Tibet Autonomous Region People's Conference of Representatives and the presidents of the Tibet People's Governments in sessions are all Tibetan citizens. Among the staff members of governmental agencies at the three levels the Region, prefectures (municipalities) and counties, citizens of Tibetan group and other ethnic minorities amount to 77.97%. Since 1965, the Standing Committee of the Regional People's Conference of Representatives has constituted more than 250 local statutes concerning politics, economy, culture and social life.

The second stride is a leap in its economic and social development. Over the 50 years in the past, thanks to the solicitude of the Central Government of China and the unselfish aids of people of various ethnic groups all over the country, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet have held together and strived painstakingly, making a stride in its economic and social development. In 1959, the gross production in Tibet numbered only 174 million RMB, but by 2008, it had increased to 39.591 billion RMB. Compared in comparable prices, it has increased 65 times. In 2008, the farming and stock raising industries in Tibet met its 21st harvest year, and the per capita pure incomes of peasants and herdsmen reached 3,176 RMB, with an increase rate 13.6%, and for 6 successive years, it had kept a two digital increase. Tibet has completely shaken off its closed natural economy, and established a modern industrial system. In other words, infrastructure construction has prospered, newly arising industries have developed rapidly, and peasants and herdsmen have constantly improved their living standards, stepping towards a better-off life steadily. Together with the important leaps in economy, various social causes have also constantly progressed. Here I give a pair of comparable data: the total population has increased greatly, from 1,228,000 in 1951 to 2,870,800 in 2008. The situation of long-termed sluggish population growth in old Tibet has been completely changed. In addition, average life has increased from 35.5 to 67.

2. Development Prospect-Opportunities and Challenges Coexist

The development for half a century has laid a firm foundation for Tibet to make more strides in future. According to its present goal, Tibet will be built into a better-off society in all respects by 2020; and by the middle of this century, it will have largely been modernized together all the people in China. Looking into the future, we are facing both favorable opportunities and many challenges. But in general, we have more opportunities than challenges.

The first is the favorable domestic development environment in China. During the 60 years since the founding of PRC, the Chinese people have successfully found a road characterized with Chinese conditions, that is, a socialist road with Chinese characteristics, and economy, politics, culture, society and ecological culture are all moving forwards in all respects along the reviving road of the Chinese nation. The favorable domestic development condition in China has provided a satisfactory guarantee for our building of a modernized New Tibet.

The second is that Tibet is facing the favorable opportunity of "Development of the West Regions". The "Development of the West Regions" strategy is an important strategic decision of the Central Chinese Government to coordinate the development of regional economy and speed up the economic and social development in west China. As a provincial region in west China, Tibet is an important place to implement the "Development of the West Regions" strategy. During the recent 10 years, the Central Chinese Government has carried out favorable policies for funds, projects and human resources in the provinces and regions in west China, including Tibet, and a group of important infrastructure projects such as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway have been built up in succession and put into use. In the new historical period, the Central Chinese Government will further push forwards its "Development of the West Regions" strategy. Especially in the complete implementation of its total plans to cope with the international financial crisis, it will continue to tilt towards the west regions in the fields of financial transfer payment and newly increased investment for enlarged domestic demands, mainly investing in people's livelihood projects, infrastructure and ecological environment, etc. Tibet is facing an uncommon opportunity.

The third is that Tibet has been enjoying a special policy of solicitude by the Central Government and aids from all over the country. The Central Chinese Government has always been concerned with Tibet, supporting its construction and development. Since 1984, the central government has held four sessions of symposiums specialized in the research of Tibetan work, formulating a series of special favorable policies and investing a great amount of human, material and financial resources. From 1959 to 2008, the financial transfer payment from the Central Government to Tibet had summed up to more than 201.9 billion RMB, with an annual increase nearly 12%. Only in the field of infrastructure, the Central Government had allocated 100 billion RMB in total to Tibet from 1959 to 2008. In 1994, the Central Government began to implement its counterpart-to-counterpart aid strategy for Tibet, arranging more than 60 central governmental agencies, 18 provinces (municipalities directly under the leadership of the Central Government) and 17 enterprises directly under the leadership of the Central Government to aid Tibet in succession. That is an advantage that any other provinces, municipalities and regions dare not imagine. All the above mentioned have provided more favorable policies, more project support and more helpful work instruction for the reform, development and stability of Tibet, and they have greatly boosted and will continue to greatly facilitate the leaping development over there.

The fourth is that Tibet has vast territories and abundant resources. Tibet has abundant resources including forests, grasslands, minerals, water energy, terrestrial heat, wind power and solar energy; especially, its tourist resources are enormous. Tibet is the major component of the Tibetan Plateau, which has been known as the "roof of the world", it has been famous for its unique natural plateau landscapes such as the highest peak in the world Qomolangma, the deepest valley Yarlung Zangbo River and the highest and largest slightly salted lake Nam Co. What is more, it has been famous for its long history, ancient culture, pious religious belief, simple folk customs and practices, and its world cultural heritage such as the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Monastery and the Norbulingka Garden. In addition, the traditional Tibetan cultural and artistic things such as Thang-ga and Tibetan dramas are also very interesting. In a word, all these have made Tibet one of the most attractive tourist resorts in the world.

The support from the Central Chinese Government, the unselfish aids from people of all ethnic groups all over the country, and the outstanding regional advantageous resources have brought an unprecedented opportunity to the development of Tibet. But due to natural and historical reasons, Tibet is still an underdeveloped area, and is confronting with some problems and challenges if compared with coastal provinces and municipalities: 1. Tibet has a weak economic foundation and poor self-accumulation and self-development capability; 2. The infrastructure in Tibet is still too weak to meet the requirement of economic and social development, and the contradiction between energy supply and demand is especially serious; 3. The development conditions need to be further optimized, and the introduction of investment has to be further strengthened; 4. The commodity-based awareness is not strong enough, and the extent of marketization is still low, and there is still a large disparity between the development of featuring industry and the requirement of efficient scales and marketization; 5. Great disparities still exist between different areas in the sense of natural and economic conditions and unbalanced development; especially, the development of social causes in rural areas are still lagging behind, and further research is needed to establish a long-termed mechanism for the income increase of peasants and herdsmen; 6. The ecological environment is fragile, and the task of ecological construction and environmental protection is still heavy.

Ladies, gentlemen and friends, we are well aware that, in the face of these opportunities and challenges, it still means a long-termed painstaking struggle and endless sweat to bring a happier life to all people in Tibet. The development of Tibet still has a long way to go. But meanwhile, we are convinced that, thanks to the brilliant leadership of the Central Government, the unselfish aids by the 1.3 billion people all over China, the sincere solicitude of friends from all countries, including Italy, and with the rallied struggle of all people of various ethnic groups in Tibet, we will certainly build a new road of development with Chinese and Tibetan characteristics. In this case, we will be able to achieve a better, higher and greater economic and social development, turning the Tibet of China into a new socialist one with advanced industries, better-off life and benign ecological environment.

As a civilization of a long history, Italy has made great achievements in its modernization, and accumulated abundant experiences. We sincerely hope Italian friends and experts, scholars from all countries and people of all circles offer their precious suggestions for the development and construction of Tibet. At the same time, we are ready to perform exchanges and cooperation with Italy and any other countries in the fields of economy, culture and learning, so as to improve the understanding and friendship between us, and boost our common development and progress.

Thank you.



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