Aerial photo taken on Aug. 10, 2019 shows the Potala Palace in Lhasa, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Li Xin)
LHASA, May 23 (Xinhua) — Dodramog, 86, was born a serf in present-day Shigatse, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. In his eyes, there were only three kinds of days in old Tibet.
He said he had been trapped in an endless circle — one day serving his lord without pay, one day working for more fortunate serfs to fill his stomach, one day farming on land rented from his lord, and then starting all over again.
“At the end of the year, I hardly had any highland barley left for myself after paying the rent and repaying the grain borrowed in the previous year,” he said, adding that he also had to pay all kinds of taxes to the lords.
Now, 70 years after the peaceful liberation of Tibet, Dodramog and other Tibetans are living much better lives as the region has made unprecedented strides in social and economic development, and pushed for the well-rounded development of the people.
FROM SERFDOM TO SOCIALISM
In old Tibet, the three major stakeholders — officials, aristocrats and higher-ranking lamas — and their agents, made up about 5 percent of the population but owned almost all of the land, pastures, forests, mountains, rivers and flood plains, and most of the livestock.
Serfs and slaves, who accounted for 95 percent of the local population, had no means of production or freedom of their own.
On May 23, 1951, the 17-Article Agreement was signed by the central government and the local government of Tibet on the peaceful liberation of Tibet.
Since that date, the people of Tibet have broken free from the fetters of invading imperialism for good, and embarked on a bright road of unity, progress and development with all the other ethnic groups in China.
In March 1959, democratic reform was launched in Tibet and feudal serfdom was finally abolished. In September 1965, the First Session of the First People’s Congress of Tibet was convened, proclaiming the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
With regional ethnic autonomy established and through the socialist transformation of agriculture and animal husbandry, Tibet embarked on the road of socialism.
During the democratic reform, Dodramog received his share of land as well as beef and mutton. “I never dreamed that I would one day get so much land of my own.”
Now, Dodramog and his three sons own 50 mu (about 3.33 hectares) of arable land, and their annual income exceeds 200,000 yuan (about 31,000 U.S. dollars).
UNPRECEDENTED SOCIOECONOMIC FEATS
“In New China, all undertakings in Tibet have seen unprecedented development and progress,” said Qin Yongzhang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Since 1978, the Communist Party of China Central Committee has held seven national meetings on Tibet to make major decisions and plans for the region.
Thanks to the leadership of the central government and strong support from the rest of China, Tibet is catching up with other parts of the country in various endeavors.
Over the past 70 years, the central government has introduced many favorable policies for the region, covering tax and finance, infrastructure, industrial development, education, health, cultural preservation and environmental protection.
In 1951, Tibet’s regional GDP was approximately 129 million yuan. Last year, its GDP exceeded 190 billion yuan.
Since its peaceful liberation, the region has gradually established a comprehensive transport network of highways, railways, air routes and pipelines. Highways totaling 118,800 km in length have been built in Tibet.
The region has also made coordinated progress in improving its environment, investing a total of 81.4 billion yuan in the area by the end of last year. In 2020, the forest coverage reached 12.3 percent, and the comprehensive vegetation coverage of natural grassland grew to 47 percent.
In the new era, Tibet is enjoying rapid and sustained growth thanks to social harmony and stability.
WELL-ROUNDED HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
“Since the peaceful liberation, well-rounded human development has been Tibet’s greatest historical achievement,” said Li Xuan, a researcher with the institute of Tibetology at Sichuan University.
By the end of 2019, all registered poor residents and counties in Tibet had shaken off poverty, eliminating absolute poverty in the region for the first time in history.
Before 1951, more than 90 percent of Tibetan residents did not have private housing. In 2020, the per capita living space of farmers and herders reached 41.46 square meters, and that of urban residents reached 33.4 square meters.
The average life expectancy has increased from 35.5 years in 1951 to 71.1 years in 2019.
Education has also witnessed tremendous advances. In old Tibet, there was not a single proper school. The illiteracy rate exceeded 95 percent.
From 1951 to 2020, the central government invested 224 billion yuan in Tibet’s education. Students now benefit from 15 years of publicly funded education in the region.
“Today’s Tibet has an unprecedented foundation, unprecedented opportunities and unprecedented stamina for development,” said Qizhala, chairman of the regional government.