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Tibet's surprising changes in 50 years

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

09-06-2015 15:35 BJT

By An Caidan, Researcher of China Tibetology Research Center


In the old days, Tibet had no roads in the modern sense. According to historical records, it took over a month riding by horse from Lhasa to Xining or Chengdu. Horses, yaks and goats served as the main means of transportation. 

After 50 years of construction, highway mileage open to traffic in Tibet reached 75,000 kilometers: linking Tibet with Sichuan and Yunnan in the east, with Xinjiang and Qinghai in the north, and India and Nepal in the south. In addition, the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, Lhasa-Shigatse Railway and more than 60 international and domestic air routes has greatly shortened the distance between Tibet and the inland and other parts of the world.

GDP growth

Over the last five decades, Tibet's aggregate industrial volume has kept increasing. A Tibet-specific industrial system, comprising competitive mining, construction and building materials, national handicraft and Tibetan medicine industries, has begun to take shape. Gross industrial output value increased from 1965’s 9 million yuan to 2014's 15 billion yuan.

When the Tibet Autonomous Region was established in 1965, its GDP stood at only 327 million yuan. In 2014, the figure had risen nearly 300-fold to 92.08 billion yuan. Particularly since the Third Tibet Work Conference convened in 1994, Tibet's GDP has maintained double-digit growth for 21 consecutive years.


With its unique natural and cultural landscape, Tibet attracts large numbers of domestic and foreign tourists. The number of tourists to Tibet increased from 8,624 in 1981 to 15.53 million in 2014, a rise of nearly 1,800 times. Although tourism has developed over a short time in Tibet, it has become a pillar industry. 

In the development process, Tibet has always maintained environmental protection as a baseline. Currently, the region has set up 22 ecological protected areas, eight national forest parks, five national wetland parks, four geological parks, three national-level scenic spots and 47 nature reserves, with a total protected area of 412,200 square kilometers, accounting for 34.5 percent of the area of Tibet.


Tibet's per-capita disposable income reached 10,730 yuan in 2014. The per-capita net income of rural residents hit 7,359 yuan, while the per capita net income of urban residents reached 22,016 yuan. With improving living standards, consumer goods such as refrigerators, TVs, computers, washing machines, motorbikes, mobile phones and cars entered the homes of ordinary people.

Due to improving medical conditions over the last 50 years, Tibetans' average life expectancy has constantly increased. It has risen to 68.2 years old now from 35.5 in the past. The total population of Tibet has also increased from 1.14 million in the past to 3.17 million now. The housing project for Tibetan farmers and herdsmen was launched in 2006. By the end of 2013, the total investment in the project amounted to 27.8 billion yuan, realizing the dream of 2.3 million farmers and herdsmen for new houses.


People's religious freedom is respected in Tibet. It is common to see followers chanting sutras, making pilgrimages and worshiping Buddha in Tibet. Religious activities are held frequently. Niches for Buddha are worshiped in families of both urban residents and rural families.

The government has also provided social security for monks and nuns in Tibet. A lot of cadres have been sent to temples to help them solve difficulties.

In the past five decades, Tibet has developed at an unprecedented speed and revealed a brand new outlook in front of the world. It is believed that its future will be much better.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


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