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Tibet makes historic strides: senior official

by Silvia Marchetti

ROME, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Thanks to efforts by the central government, Tibet has undergone a fast development process which has laid sound foundations for further growth, Vice President of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region Duotuo said Thursday.

Attending an international forum on Tibet's development here on Thursday, he said the process of the 50-year development in Tibet has made two historic strides, the first being the social transformation from a feudal system to a democratic society following the peaceful liberation of Tibet and the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Duotuo noted the increasingly important role of Tibetan political, economic and cultural representation.

"Today, among more than 34,000 representatives of the People's Congress in the region, Tibetans and other minorities amount to 94percent," he announced. In the National People's Congress, 20 representatives come from Tibet.

Tibet's second historic stride was the rapid development in its economic and social development supported by the central government's policies, Duotuo said.

He pointed out that in 1959, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Tibet amounted to only 174 million yuan (about 25.5 million U.S. dollars) but in 2008, the region's GDP increased to 39.5 billion yuan RMB (about 5.78 billion dollars).

According to the regional vice president, Tibet has evolved in just 50 years from a "closed natural economy" to a "modern industrial system" through infrastructure investments and the founding of new industries.

The progress has thus led to an improvement in living standards and life expectancy in the region. The population in Tibet has reached 2.87 million people in 2008, up from 1.228 million in 1959.

Duotuo explained how the 50-year development has "laid a firm foundation for Tibet to make more strides in the future," predicting a full modernization of the region by 2050.

He said there exist many opportunities for regional development, such as the Chinese socialist agenda of progress which has created a favorable domestic development condition and the development strategy in the western regions adopted by the central government to boost regional growth through investments in strategic projects and human resources.

Duotuo also mentioned the construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and future plans aimed at stimulating domestic demand, improving people's livelihood and protecting the environment.

The central government has always attached importance to Tibet's development, he said, citing financial transfer from the central government which reached 201.9 billion yuan RMB (about 29.6 billion dollars) as of 2008, with an annual increase of 12 percent.

Another important milestone was the launch of the aid strategy for Tibet in 1994, which led to assistance from some 60 governmental agencies, 18 provinces and 17 enterprises, Duotuo added, explaining that Tibet had been enjoying a unique policy for development.

Meanwhile, Duotuo said Tibet is "still an underdeveloped area with many challenges" despite its opportunities for development. He vowed to push forward the development process of the region.

The support of the central government and cooperation with other countries and regions will help "build a new road" for Tibet, he declared.

Duotuo voiced his hope that scholars and experts from Italy and other nations will "offer their precious suggestions for the development" of the region.

The second international forum on Tibet's development, hosted in Rome on Oct. 22-23, has attracted more than 400 participants from China, Italy, Austria, the United States, India, Australia, Spain and Belgium.

The academic forum is jointly sponsored by the State Council Information Office of China, the Italy-China Foundation of Italy and the Chinese embassy in Italy. The first forum was held in Vienna in November 2007.



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