Xizang plateau pilot area a path to achieve high-quality development
Xu Wuda

Editor's note: Xu Wuda is deputy director and researcher at the Institute of Rural Economics, Academy of Social Sciences of Xizang Autonomous Region. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN. It has been translated from Chinese and edited for brevity and clarity.

Development is the universal theme of our era. Since the peaceful liberation of Xizang Autonomous Region, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the diverse ethnic groups in Xizang have undergone historic transformation, addressing the absolute poverty issue that had loomed for hundreds and thousands of years, in just a few decades. The hallmark goal and baseline task of building a moderately prosperous comprehensive society along with the entire country has also been achieved. Xizang's economy and society have shifted the focus from mere sustenance to quality, marking the commencement of a new voyage towards socialist modernization.

The eradication of poverty, the improvement of people's livelihoods, and the gradual realization of common prosperity are fundamental requirements of socialism and a pivotal mission of the CPC. The Qinghai-Xizang Plateau has nurtured Xizang's complex and varied terrain, climate, and environment. It is troubled by a fragile ecological environment, scarce resources, land and water shortages, frequent natural disasters, and harsh living conditions. Xizang's extreme poverty was primarily characterized by natural factors which contributed to high costs and formidable challenges in poverty alleviation.

Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has launched a poverty alleviation campaign of unprecedented magnitude that involves the largest number of beneficiaries nationwide, to fulfill the arduous task of eradicating absolute poverty.

Xizang, a region at extremely high altitude, orchestrated a remarkable feat in the history of poverty alleviation. A targeted poverty alleviation strategy was adopted according to Xizang's local conditions. Six areas were targeted, namely, accurate identification of the poor, arranging targeted programs, efficient utilization of capital, household-based measures, talent dispatch based on village conditions, and achievement of set goals. 

The "Five Measures for Poverty Eradication" were also adopted, which include boosting the economy to provide more job opportunities, relocating poor people from unfavorable areas, compensating for economic losses associated with ecological protection, improving education in impoverished areas, and providing subsistence allowances. These measures have addressed the "Five Questions in Poverty Alleviation", namely, who should help, who should be helped, how to help, how to evaluate whether someone has emerged from poverty, and how to ensure those people stay free from poverty.

These measures have enhanced the precision of poverty eradication and improved its overall effectiveness. By the end of 2019, Xizang had lifted 628,000 registered impoverished individuals out of poverty, and all 74 impoverished counties (and districts) had been raised out of poverty, completely eliminating the absolute poverty that had plagued Xizang for thousands of years.

Through targeted poverty alleviation, income and welfare of the impoverished population have significantly improved. The comprehensive implementation of the "Two Assurances and Three Guarantees" policy ensures a considerable improvement in conditions for education, medical care, housing, and drinking water, which not only satisfied basic survival needs but also laid the foundation for subsequent development.

In 2022, the per capita income of the population lifted out of poverty reached 13,800 yuan ($1,893), with an annual growth rate higher than that of the per capita disposable income of rural residents, indicating a notable increase in the degree of common prosperity.

Meanwhile, the per capita disposable income of all residents has surged from 8,568 yuan in 2012 to 26,675 yuan, a growth of 2.11 times. Specifically, the per capita disposable income of rural residents has increased from 5,698 yuan in 2012 to 18,209 yuan, up 2.2 times. The urban-rural income disparity has continually narrowed, with the income ratio decreasing from 3.22 in 2012 to 2.67. 

Driven by the rapid growth of residents' income, the total retail sales of consumer goods have soared from 31.84 billion yuan in 2012 to 72.65 billion yuan, marking a 1.3-fold rise. The size of the consumer goods market has expanded continuously, and consumption has emerged as the prime driver of economic growth.

The implementation of a suite of policies supporting, benefiting, and strengthening agriculture has augmented the purchasing power and consumption willingness of farmers and herdsmen. The share of the rural market has increased year by year.

Xizang's quest to establish a pioneering area for high-quality development of the plateau economy must rest upon the unique resource endowment of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, a suitable economic development model, vigorous promotion of the plateau's specialty industries, and active cultivation of emerging industries. It must embark on a high-quality development path that is eco-friendly, low-carbon, and plateau-featured. 

Since the 18th National Congress of the CPC, Xizang has focused steadfastly on ensuring the decisive role of the market in resource allocation and enhancing the government's role. It has deepened the systematic reform of the economy and coordinated efforts in stabilizing growth, promoting reform, optimizing structures, benefiting the people, and preventing risks. 

As a result, Xizang has witnessed a sustained revitalization in economic activity. In 2022, the region's gross domestic product reached 213.26 billion yuan. At constant prices, this represents a growth of 1.28 folds compared to 2012, with an average annual growth rate of 8.6 percent. Xizang's economic growth rate ranks among the top in China. 

Through the iterative upgrading of the modern industrial system premised on "optimizing the primary industry, strengthening the secondary industry, and improving the tertiary industry", resource advantages have been transformed into industrial strengths, resulting in a more reasonable industrial structure and remarkably enhanced self-development capabilities. 

To meet the standards of building vital bases for agricultural products with plateau characteristics, Xizang has fostered production bases and industrial belts for specialty agricultural and animal products. Particular emphasis has been placed on the highland barley industry, premium animal husbandry, and facility-based agriculture. This strategy has freed the Xizang people from their traditional reliance on natural conditions for sustenance and livestock. 

Grain production has exceeded one million tonnes, rising from 948,900 tonnes in 2012 to 1,073,400 tonnes in 2022. Total livestock inventory has decreased from 20.56 million heads in 2012 to 16.79 million heads by the end of 2022, while meat and dairy production had increased from 606,400 tonnes in to 816,300 tonnes. 

Xizang has also adhered to ecological conservation. Following the requirements of establishing bases for critical national strategic resource reserves, it has spearheaded the development of green mining, natural drinking water, and ethnic handicrafts, aiming to develop and fortify clean energy transmission bases. Electricity generation has skyrocketed from 2.62 billion kilowatt-hours in 2012 to 11.423 billion kilowatt-hours, marking a 3.36-fold increase. 

The establishment of the Xizang plateau pilot area must consider the people's ever-growing desire for a better life as the starting point and ultimate goal. It should continuously transform development achievements into improved quality of life and constantly enhance people's sense of fulfillment, happiness, and security. It is essential to consistently achieve new successes in advancing ecological protection and sustainable development of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, thus charting a high-quality development path that adheres to Xizang's realities.

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