On May 23, 1951, the central people’s government and the former local government of Tibet signed the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, also known as the 17-Article Agreement, bringing about the peaceful liberation of Tibet.
The peaceful liberation enabled the Tibet autonomous region to cast off the yoke of imperialist aggression, safeguarded national sovereignty and territorial integrity and created the prerequisites for Tibet to join the other parts of the country in the drive for common progress and development. With the great reunification, the Chinese nation entered a new period of development.
Over the past 60 years, thanks to the care of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the central government, the struggle of the liberated people of all ethnic groups in Tibet and the support of the people of the entire country, Tibet has made great achievements in various undertakings.
With the abolition of the centuries-old serfdom and theocratic rule and the establishment of regional ethnic autonomy in Tibet, millions of serfs and slaves who did not have even a minimum of human rights have enjoyed equal political rights to participate in the administration of local and ethnic affairs. They have the institutional guarantee and the right to be their own masters. Today, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet enjoy full political, economic, cultural and other rights guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution and other laws of the country.
Through peaceful liberation, socialist transformation and reform and opening-up, Tibet has witnessed remarkable progress in economic and social development and a marked improvement in living standards of the Tibetan people.
Tibetan cultural heritage has been protected and carried forward, and people’s freedom of religious belief has been fully respected and protected..
Over the past 60 years, Tibet has encountered some difficulties and challenges, too. The negative impact of the “Tibet issue” over national sovereignty and Tibet’s social stability, relatively weak local economy and competitiveness, and the conflict between traditional culture and modernization and globalization are the major contradictions restricting Tibet’s economic development and social stability.
Tibet’s progress has been realized by the continuous overcoming of difficulties and challenges and the region’s efforts to adapt to the country’s political, economic and cultural development.
Tibet could not have made such great achievements without the correct policies and strategies of the CPC, the hard work of the Tibetan people and the strong support of the whole country. The availability and convenience of modern traffic and communications have also played a significant role in promoting Tibet’s development.
Tremendous changes have taken place in Tibet over the past 60 years. It has traveled from a state of self-seclusion to opening-up, from tradition to modernization and from poverty to prosperity. Tibet has integrated into the bigger family of the Chinese nation and into modern society, and shares the fruits of country’s modernization and human progress with all Chinese people.
Tibet is the first place in China where compulsory education was made free, the first place where all rural residents got free medical care and the first place where urban and rural residents were both given a subsistence allowance.
Tibet has seen a jump in comprehensive strength and people’s quality of life over the past six decades. The attractiveness, influence and competitiveness of Tibet have improved significantly. Tibet’s development is a unique contribution to national unity, social stability, border security, cultural prosperity and ecological improvement.
The changes in the region over the past six decades proves that only under the leadership of the CPC, only by adhering to the socialist road with Chinese characteristics and only by following the system of regional ethnic autonomy can Tibet enjoy prosperity and progress, which are in line with the fundamental interests of the Tibetan people.
But the Dalai Lama group and some Westerners see Tibet’s peaceful liberation and development through tinted glasses. They either ignore the unprecedented development that Tibet has experienced or think Tibet’s development threatens traditional Tibetan culture. Their logic seems to be to treat Tibet like a museum piece – it should not undergo any change if its culture is to be preserved.
They do not acknowledge that the development and progress of human society cannot be kept back. Tibet and the Tibetan people should also share the fruits of the development of human society, technological progress and modernization. These are the unalienable rights that all humans are endowed with.
The West’s development process itself proves that modernization is not mutually incompatible with traditional culture and national features. By giving outdated traditions a decent burial and discarding the dross of traditional culture, modernization can promote the development of traditional culture, as well as people’s material and spiritual life.
The Fifth National Conference on Work in Tibet confirmed the development strategy, path and goal of Tibet’s future, namely ensuring rapid economic and social progress, cultural prosperity, improved lives and livelihoods, ethnic unity and environmental protection and improvement. A more united, democratic, prosperous, civilized, socialist and harmonious Tibet is bound to move ahead with the nation’s modernization drive.
The author is a research scholar with the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing.