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Tibet Autonomous Region
Chinese : 西藏自治区
Xīzàng Zìzhìqū
Tibetan : Tibet Autonomous Region name.svg
Abbreviations:   (pinyin: Zàng)
Tibet Autonomous Region is highlighted on this map
Origin of name See Origin of name
Administration type Autonomous region
(and largest city)
CPC Ctte Secretary Zhang Qingli
Chairman Padma Choling[1]
Area 1,228,400 km2 (474,300 sq mi) (2nd)
Population (2004)
 - Density
2,840,000 (32nd)
2.2 /km2 (5.7 /sq mi) (33rd)
GDP (2008)
 - per capita
CNY 39.59 billion (32st)
CNY 13,861 (28th)
HDI (2006) 0.621 (medium) (31st)
Ethnic composition 92.8% Tibetan
6.1% Han
0.3% Hui
0.3% Monpa
0.2% others
Prefecture-level 7 divisions
County-level 73 divisions
Township-level* 692 divisions
ISO 3166-2 CN-54
Official website
Source for population and GDP data:
《中国统计年鉴—2005》 China Statistical Yearbook 2005
ISBN 7503747382
Source for nationalities data:
《2000年人口普查中国民族人口资料》 Tabulation on nationalities of 2000 population census of China
ISBN 7105054255
*As at December 31, 2004
Template ■ Discussion ■ WikiProject China
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The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), also called Xizang Autonomous Region (Tibetan: Tibet Autonomous Region name.svg; Wylie: Bod-rang-skyong-ljongs; simplified Chinese: 西藏自治区traditional Chinese: 西藏自治區pinyin: Xīzàng Zìzhìqū is a province-level autonomous region of the People's Republic of China (PRC) created in 1965.

Within the People's Republic of China, Tibet is identified with the Autonomous Region, which includes about half of ethno-cultural Tibet, including the traditional provinces of Ü-Tsang and the western half of Kham. Its borders coincide roughly with the actual zone of control of the government of Tibet before 1959. The Tibet Autonomous Region is the second-largest province-level division of China by area (spanning over 470,000 sq mi/1,200,000 km2) after Xinjiang.

Unlike other autonomous regions, the vast majority of inhabitants are of the local ethnicity. As a result, there is debate surrounding the extent of actual autonomy of the region. The Chinese government argues that Tibet has ample autonomy, as guaranteed under Articles 112-122 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China as well as the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy of the People's Republic of China, while some human rights organizations accuse the Chinese government of persecuting and oppressing the local population.[2]

The Central Tibetan Administration, commonly referred to as the Tibetan Government in Exile and headed by the Dalai Lama considers the administration of Tibet by the Chinese government as an illegitimate military occupation and holds that Tibet is a distinct sovereign nation with a long history of independence.[3] Nevertheless, the Dalai Lama currently does not seek full independence for Tibet, but would accept Tibet as a genuine autonomous region within the People's Republic of China.



From 1912 to 1950, the present extent of the Tibet Autonomous Region (comprising Ü-Tsang and western Kham) was ruled by the government of Tibet headed by the Dalai Lama. Other parts of ethno-cultural Tibet (eastern Kham and Amdo) had not been under the administration of the Tibetan government since the mid-eighteenth century [4]; today they are distributed among the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. (See also: Xikang province)

Following Soviet practice, there is a convention that the governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region is an ethnic Tibetan, while the general secretary of the local Communist Party committee is an outsider, usually Han Chinese. Notable general secretaries of the local party committee include Hu Jintao, who served in the 1980s.

In 1950, the People's Liberation Army entered the Tibetan area of Chamdo, crushing minimal resistance. In 1951, the Tibetan representatives, under Chinese military pressure, signed a seventeen-point agreement with the Chinese Central People's Government affirming China's sovereignty over Tibet. The agreement was ratified in Lhasa a few months later.[5][6] Western Government secret intervention into Tibet began before the 1959 CIA supported insurrection. British MI6 agent Sidney Wignall, in his recent autobiography, [7] reveals that he travelled to Tibet with John Harrop in 1955 posing as mountaineers. Captured by the Chinese authority, Wignell recalled that he was surprised to find two CIA agents were already under Chinese detention. Tibetan exiles trained in a CIA camp in Colorado clashed with Chinese forces in 1959 during the celebration of the Tibetan New Year, after which the 14th Dalai Lama, with CIA help, went into political exile in India. After 1959, the CIA trained Tibetan guerrillas and provided funds and weapons for the fight against China. However, the effort stopped when Richard Nixon decided to seek rapprochement with China in the early 1970s. Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison, in The CIA's Secret War in Tibet [8], reveal how the CIA encouraged Tibetan revolt against China — and eventually came to control its fledgling resistance movement. The New York Times reported on October 2, 1998 that the Dalai Lama's administration acknowledged that it received $1.7 million a year in the 1960s from the CIA, but denied reports that the Tibetan leader benefited personally from an annual subsidy of $180,000. The money allocated for the resistance movement was spent on training volunteers and paying for guerrilla operations against the Chinese, the Tibetan government-in-exile said.[9][10]

Though minimally active within the TAR, the international Tibet independence movement seeks autonomy within the PRC or independence for the TAR and other Tibetan regions.


The Tibet Autonomous Region is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the highest region on earth. In northern Tibet elevations reach an average of over 4,572 metres (15,000 ft). Mount Everest is located on Tibet's border with Nepal.

The Chinese areas of Xinjiang, Qinghai and Sichuan lie to the north and east of the region. China has border disputes with the Republic of India to the south including the McMahon Line of South Tibet. The disputed territory of Aksai Chin is to the west, and its boundary with that region is not defined. Other countries to the south are Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. Tibet also shares a short southeastern border with the People's Republic of China autonmous province of Yunnan.


The Tibet Autonomous Region is a province-level entity of the People's Republic of China. It is governed by a People's Government, led by a Chairman. In practice, however, the Chairman is subordinate to the branch secretary of the Communist Party of China. As a matter of convention, the Chairman has almost always been an ethnic Tibetan, while the party secretary has almost always been a non-Tibetan. The current Chairman is Padma Choling and the current party secretary is Zhang Qingli, who was previously the party secretary of Tai'an and Lanzhou, and commander of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.[1]


Administrative divisions

Tibet Autonomous Region is divided into one prefecture-level city and six prefectures.

Map # Name Hanzi Hanyu Pinyin Tibetan Wylie Administrative Seat Type
Xizang prfc map.png
1 Ngari 阿里地区 Ālǐ Dìqū མངའ་རིས་ས་ཁུལ་ Mnga'-ris Sa-khul Gar County Prefecture
2 Nagqu 那曲地区 Nàqū Dìqū ནག་ཆུ་ས་ཁུལ་ Nag-chu Sa-khul Nagqu County Prefecture
3 Qamdo 昌都地区 Chāngdū Dìqū ཆབ་མདོ་ས་ཁུལ་ Chab-mdo Sa-khul Qamdo County Prefecture
4 Xigazê 日喀则地区 Rìkāzé Dìqū གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་ས་ཁུལ་ Gzhis-ka-rtse Sa-khul Xigazê Prefecture
5 Lhasa 拉萨市 Lāsà Shì ལྷ་ས་གྲོང་ཁྱེར་ Lha-sa Grong-khyer Chengguan District Prefecture-level city
6 Shannan 山南地区 Shānnán Dìqū ལྷོ་ཁ་ས་ཁུལ་ Lho-kha Sa-khul Nêdong County Prefecture
7 Nyingchi 林芝地区 Línzhī Dìqū ཉིང་ཁྲི་ས་ཁུལ་ Nying-khri Sa-khul Nyingchi County Prefecture

These in turn are subdivided into a total of seventy-one counties, one district (Chengguan District, Lhasa) and one county-level city (Xigazê).


The Tibet Autonomous Region has the lowest population density among China's province-level administrative regions, mostly due to its mountainous and harsh geographical features.

In 2000, 92.8% of the population were ethnic Tibetans, who mainly adhere to Tibetan Buddhism and Bön.

Han Chinese comprised 6.1% of the population. [11] However, the region has seen further Han migration beginning early in the decade, especially since the 2006 completion of a railway line linking Tibet with the rest of China. [12]

Muslim ethnic groups such as the Hui and the Salar have long inhabited Tibet Autonomous Region. Another Muslim group is the Tibetan Muslims, who are ethnically Tibetans but believe in Islam. They are counted as Tibetans by the Chinese government. [13]

Smaller tribal groups such as the Monpa and Lhoba, who follow a combination of Tibetan Buddhism and spirit worship, are found mainly in the southeastern parts of the region.

Towns and villages in Tibet

The Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of the TAR


The Tibetans traditionally depended upon agriculture for survival. Since the 1980s, however, other jobs such as taxi-driving and hotel retail work have become available in the wake of Chinese economic reform. In 2008, Tibet's nominal GDP topped 40 billion yuan (US$5.7 billion), nearly triple the 11.78 billion yuan (US$1.47 billion) in 2000. In the past five years, Tibet's annual GDP growth has averaged 12%.

While traditional agricultural work and animal husbandry continue to lead the area's economy, in 2005 the tertiary sector contributed more than half of its GDP growth, the first time it surpassed the area's primary industry.[14][15] The collection of caterpillar fungus (cordyceps sinensis, known in Tibetan as Yartsa Gunbu) in late spring / early summer is in many areas the most important source of cash for rural households. It contributes an average of 40% to rural cash income and 8.5% to the TAR's GDP.[16] The re-opening of the Nathu La pass (on southern Tibet's border with India) should facilitate Sino-Indian border trade and boost Tibet's economy.[17]

In 2008, the Chinese news media reported that the per capita disposable incomes of urban and rural residents in Tibet averaged 12,482 yuan (US$1,798) and 3,176 yuan (US$457) respectively. [18]

The China Western Development policy was recently adopted by the central government to boost economic development in western China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region.

  • Lhasa Economic and Technological Development Zone


Tourists were first permitted to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region in the 1980s. While the main attraction is the Potala Palace in Lhasa, there are many other popular tourist destinations including the Jokhang Temple, Namtso Lake, and Tashilhunpo Monastery. Some areas remain restricted to tourists.


The airports in Tibet are Gonggar Airport in Lhasa,[19] Bamda Airport in Qamdo Prefecture and Mainling airport in Nyingchi Airport.

The Gunsa Airport in Ngari is expected to start operation on July 1, 2010, to become the fourth civil airport on the "Roof of the World". [20][21]

Peace Airport for Xigaze prefecture is to be completed before the end of 2010.[22]

Nagqu Dagring Airport is expected to have the world's highest altitude airport by 2011 at 4,436 meters above sea level.[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Leadership shake-up in China's Tibet: state media". AFP. France: France24. 2010-01-15. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ See Tibetan sovereignty debate
  4. ^ Grunfeld, A. Tom, The Making of Modern Tibet, M.E. Sharpe, p245.
  5. ^ Gyatso, Tenzin, Dalai Lama XIV, interview, 25 July 1981.
  6. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn C., A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951, University of California Press, 1989, p. 812-813.
  7. ^ [A Spy On the Roof of the World]
  8. ^ Morrison, James, The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, 1998.
  9. ^ Dalai Lama Group Says It Got Money From C.I.A. Retrieved on March 29, 2008
  10. ^ Reassessing Tibet Policy (same)
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han
  14. ^ Xinhua - Per capita GDP tops $1,000 in Tibet
  15. ^ Tibet posts fixed assets investment rise
  16. ^ Winkler D. 2008 Yartsa gunbu (Cordyceps sinenis) and the fungal commodification of rural Tibet. Economic Botany 62.3. See also Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han
  17. ^ China and India to trade across Himalayas | World news | The Guardian
  18. ^ Tibetans report income rises
  19. ^ Gongkhar Airport in Tibet enters digital communication age
  20. ^ Tibet to open fourth civil airport on July 1, 2010
  21. ^ Ngari Airport to open to traffic next July
  22. ^ Tibet to have fifth civil airport operational before year end 2010
  23. ^ World's highest-altitude airport planned on Tibet

Further reading

  • Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han, travelogue from Tibet - by a woman who's been travelling around Tibet for over a decade, ISBN 9789889799939
  • Sorrel Wilby, Journey Across Tibet: A Young Woman's 1900-Mile Trek Across the Rooftop of the World, Contemporary Books (1988), hardcover, 236 pages, ISBN 0-8092-4608-2.

External links

Pro Chinese rule and policies in Tibet

Contra Chinese rule and policies in Tibet



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