Merging Tibetan Culture into the Chinese Economic Fast Lane

French Centre for Research on Contemporary China
Publication Type:
Journal Article
China Perspectives, 2003, 50 (November - December), pp. 42 - 56
Issue Date:
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The nature of Tibet's historical situation relative to China 1, and its current manifestation as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) within the People's Republic of China (PRC), has generated specific administration policies from the central government since the 1950s2. With the adoption in 2000 of a new national strategy for developing its western regions, China plans a completely new look for these areas3, not least the TAR, where effects of the Great Western Development (GWD) policy (Xibu da kaifa) are likely to be more profound than for any other provincial-level constituent of the PRC. While the central government has included the TAR as just one of multiple provincial-level components of its new strategy, it has also refocused its specific Tibet policy in tandem with the national project, a recognition of the TAR's distinctive characteristics and problems. Among the PRC's five autonomous regions, all of which are included in the GWD, the TAR's cultural and ethnic characteristics are more homogeneous than in any of the others: a single non-Han culture and nationality dominates the region, who have a clear, commonly-shared self-identity. Ethnic and cultural diversity characterises many of the other areas under the GWD, but before 1950, when the Han Chinese began to arrive in Tibet, one term could sum up everything that was there as Tibetan.
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