Tibetan towns and villages are the remotest areas in China regional society. The remoteness is evident in two aspects: (1) the natural environment; located in the southwestern frontier of China, as the core of the “the Third Extreme”, Tibet claims to be the farthest area in terms of space, altitude and distance – and compared with towns, this is really true of the villages, (2) the social environment; with the rapid development of Tibet’s tourist industry in recent years people tend to focus more on Tibet, but mainly on such cities as Lhasa, Shigatse and Tsetang. Beyond people’s attention, towns and villages stay far away not only from those socio-economically and culturally developed areas but also from the focus of intensive social development.
The remoteness of Tibetan towns and villages becomes both a burden and a pressure…and because of this the development of those areas is further neglected. Investment efficiency in economics is prone to exclude rural areas. Economics expounds that economic scale saves business cost in order to increase the efficiency of resource allocation. Therefore, certain economist remark the “it is indeed a waste to construct a village with some only 1,000 or 2,000 people.” With an area of 122,840,000 square kilo-meters, Tibet is dotted with 890 townships and 7,577 rural villager’s committees. According to the statistics of the fifth census, the rural population in Tibet in 2000 totaled 2,108,003, of which the average population in each town stood at 2368.5 and in each village 278 . Such scale and dispersion of population in rural areas are obviously beyond the economists’ consideration. Pertinent to investment efficiency preference, urban construction and development become the option and objective of urbanization. Townships and villages are neglected and further ruled out of the investment efficiency preference in the process of urbanization.
Owing to the above-mentioned facts and theoretical preference, Tibet’s rural areas are confronted with severe challenges. What is the way out? The paper assumes that Tibet’s rural areas are the root of cities, which is an unavoidable existence. As long as towns and villages exist, their construction is necessary. The prosperity of Tibet’s rural areas constitutes the basic content of Tibetan social and cultural development and prosperity. Tibetan urbanization should and must include towns and villages. Urbanization does not intend to gloss them over or make them decline. Instead, an effective way should be found out to help restore their vigor so that they will better adapt to the open society. In the light of this theme, the paper will, proceeding from the virtual existence of Tibet’s towns and villages, discuss and elaborate on their status quo in the process of urbanization, so as to make an exploration of a new direction and management strategies for Tibetan rural development, and finally arrive at a conclusion.
I. The Existence of Tibet’s Towns and Villages
As a principle part of Tibet’s regional society, towns and villages occupy an essential position in terms of history, population and space. They boast the oldest Tibetan historical remains. The mud walls stone utensils and maize corn unearthed in Kar ro (mkhar-ro) Site are just the proof of Tibetan ancestors’ rural life. Although aristocratic castles, buildings and culture gradually attract the eyes of people of later generations, the social-cultural base is still deeply rooted in rural areas. Towns and villages embrace the simplest ethnic culture and memory, and inspire the deep homesickness of those in city life. Drifters sing the song Back to Lhasa, and Lhasa in the song is full of countryside.
Tibet’s townships and villages have always been the base for Tibetans, and the rural population accounts for a majority in the total Tibetan population. It’s needless to comment on the previous periods, just in 1981 the rural population stood at 90.2% of the total. For over 20 years, even though the ratio of rural population has been decreasing (83.6% in 1990  and 80.57% in 2000 ), the absolute number of rural population keeps on the rise, that is 1,676600 in 1981,1,873,700 in 1990 and 2,108,000 in 2000, respectively. Furthermore, Tibetans made up 97.63% (2000) of the rural population. And 84.79% of Tibetan population is rural population. (See the following table).
The Distribution of Some Ethnic Groups in Rural and Urban Areas in Tibet (Based on the Fifth National Census)
|Total number in Tibet||2,108,003||290,547||217,779||2,616,329|
The existence of Tibetan rural population is a basic fact. The quality of its livelihood represents the entire Tibetans’ life quality in Tibet. In the past fifty years, especially in the recent twenty-odd years, Tibet has witnessed significant development in its rural areas, and a great number of documents registered this tremendous achievement. This can also be observed from the increase of per capita net income of farmers, for example, in 1990, it was 649.17 yuan; in 1995, 1200.31 yuan; in 2000, 1330.81 yuan; in 2004, 1861 yuan and in the year 2005, it exceeded 2000yuan. However, Tibet’s rural development is far from optimistic if viewed from a wider perspective. The income and living quality of Tibet’s rural population remain a low level compared with those in other rural areas, the lowest among the five autonomous regions. In addition, the urban-rural gap is the biggest. The ratio of per capita net income of rural population to the urban disposable income in 2004 is as follows: it was 32.08% in Inner Mongolia, 32.14% in Ningxia, 26.52% in Guangxi, and 29.92% in Xinjiang; in some developed areas such as Guangdong, Zhejiang, the ratio being 32.04% and 41.91% respectively. The national average was 31.16%, however, it was only 22.70% in Tibet.
Tibet’s towns and villages do exist in this vast land of 1,220,000 km2. However, businessmen, entrepreneurs, theorists and those in pursuit of “political achievements” frequently neglect those areas. Rural areas are in effect left on the margins of development.
II. The Status Quo of Rural Areas in the Process of Urbanization
Since human society ushered in industrial civilization, urbanization has progressed smoothly. At the beginning of the urbanization of China’s rural areas, it was expected to shoulder the responsibility of the times and solve such issues as rural population, the urban-rural development gap, agriculture, rural areas and farmers. Even the share of the state’s policy resources has to depend on the implementation of urbanization. In the 21st century, urbanization seems to be the only orthodox path in China’s development. When urbanization was carried out in Tibet, people found that Tibet’s population (just over 2 million) accounts only for a small fraction of that in Beijing. Therefore, theorists in their offices are letting their minds run free, believing that a multitude of development issues in Tibet will be easily resolved through urbanization by building large numbers of cities. This is a real though-provoking issue, which is closely connected with the resolution of the future development of Tibet’s rural areas.
It is said that Tibet’s urbanization can date back to some 4000-5000 years ago, however, until half a century ago, Lhasa the most populous urban center, had a population of just over 30,000. As industrialization is inevitable in Tibet’s development, so urbanization is an inexorable trend. The problem is whether towns and villages can be kept in the process of urbanization, and how?
Urban development is bound to be the predominant focal point for urbanization. Such an urban construction and development as well as their advantages in distribution over the limited social resources in rural cannot be evaded in this process. However, urbanization does not simply mean to construct cities, nor does it mean investment by administrative orders. As a spatial distribution deriving from the transformation of economic development patters, urbanization includes the growth of towns and villages; that is to say urbanization partly depends on rural development, which is a basic way for urbanization to obtain necessary materials. Rural development enhances the flow of production elements and its capacity into cities, narrows the rural-urban gap, helps build up the platform for elements to flow between urban and rural areas, and form a mechanism for a production elements surplus resulting from a new economic pattern and promotes them to flow to non-agricultural fields. Lacking direct support from the regional industrial development and auxiliary development of related services sector, Tibet’s urbanization, instead, with the aid of the opening-up conditions, takes advantage of external industrial technology to reform its agriculture, husbandry industry and service industry. Thus, urbanization in Tibet is likely to possess a unique industrial support base.
With the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the conditions of passenger transport and the interflow of goods and materials in and out of Tibet has been improved, and the tertiary industry led by tourism has shown a rapid development, which will exert a huge impact on the means and ways of urbanization in Tibet. The interflow and concentration of external elements become an important factor for urban growth. Therefore, the existence of rural areas and urban development are facing challenges from the flux of external elements. Can rural areas assimilate into the new open environment? Can urban development reach further into rural areas? Different results lead to different urban-rural patterns. If rural areas continue to remain closed to the outside world, and cities keep aloof and detached, urbanization in Tibet will invite an internal depletion from the mono and dual economic structures. So, the flow of external elements and their manifestation may well be restricted on account of urban-rural separation. External elements are chiefly gathered by and only confined to cities like Lhasa, Shigatse or Tsetang, Bayi, Nag-chu and Chab-mdo. The dual urban-rural structure is bound to be largely aggravated as a result, and urbanization is inclined to become an unbalanced city construction divorced from rural development. What will Tibetan towns and villages be like under such circumstances? Can the concentrated investment of a few cities offer a way out for rural areas? If Lhasa, Shigatse, Tsetang, Bayi, Nag-chu and Chab-mdo doubled their population, the impact arising from it on Tibetan socio-economic development would also bring about obvious limitations. The most prominent problem is that towns and villages will continue to be neglected by cities, and according to the standard of modernization, they are struggling to exist. The development elements brought by the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway are still accumulating in the regional boom cities, pursuing scale efficiency. However, towns and villages are over-looked by urban development. For a long period of time to come, cities will fail to effectively absorb enough rural population to reduce its number. At the same time rural development is deemed to become an unavoidable reality that Tibet’s development and the construction of a harmonious society must cope with.
Actually, in the course of opening-up and speedy development in Tibet in recent years, the fastest progress and biggest changes are still centered in such cities and towns as Lhasa, Shigatse, Tsetang and Bayi. Absorbing new development elements and bolstered by their service industries, those cities and towns have become more and more prosperous. Of all the elements, one important one is non-native population. According to the 2000 census, the non-native population (temporary migrants whose household registrations are not in Tibet) in Tibet was about 108,700, among which over 50,000 were gathered in Lhasa. Temporary migrants play an essential role in propelling those cities and towns to become prosperous and make progress. However, the problem is that Tibet’s agricultural population is unskilled for engaging in service businesses in cities and towns and the local agricultural population out of the newly-increased urban population is small. Therefore, towns and villages will have a sense of estrangement towards urban construction. Though temporary migrants play an active part in promoting urban prosperity and help to create more jobs, this situation may well impede the followers into cities, and trigger contradictions between the localities and non-native population while maintaining a dual economic structure and urban-rural development gap. This does not conform to the original intention of urbanization, nor does it tally with the benefits of Tibet’s urbanization.
The aforementioned analysis assumes that the trend of Tibet’s urbanization will not wipe out the existence of rural areas, nor will it resolve urban-rural contradictions automatically. Particularly, the inter-flow of new influences under the open conditions and the active involvement of many elements pose new challenges to Tibetan urban development and urban-rural relations. We should actively maximize development initiatives for both rural and urban areas, follow the internal logic of steady development of urbanization, and take urban development as a focal point for embracing rural development. Only by doing so, can urbanization further comply with the overall benefits of Tibet’s march toward modernization and the construction of a harmonious society.
III. Rural Management – New Orientation for Tibetan Rural Development
In recent years, Tibet’s rural development has gradually moved into a period of theoretical and policy research. The achievements of Tibet’s poverty-alleviating program, one of the significant research project conducted by the China Tibetology Research Center in 2002, clearly showed that rural reconstruction is the basis of anti-poverty work. Construction programs formulated and implemented by the People’s Government of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), including the appropriate assistance from the other parts of China, start to favor rural development. The importance of Tibet’s rural progress begins to attract social consensus. Attaching great importance to Tibet’s rural construction and enhancing it is not only essential for Tibet’s modernization but also vital to Tibet’s urbanization and construction of a harmonious society.
In Tibet’s rural development, besides tangible investment in such areas as rural public facilities, farming and livestock breeding infrastructure, rural organization and management, another important element concerned with is the formation of a concept of management. That is, make rural development adapt itself to an open society and market economy, so as to take rural management as an intrinsic part of and a new orientation for rural construction. If infrastructure construction is regarded as an external environment construction, the concept of management is market awareness. Tibet’s rural construction should be adaptable to the market economy. We should gear it to the needs of opening-up and broadening the rural tourism market so as to push its towns and villages with a positive stance into the huge market economy, turning them into unique economic entity with Tibetan cultural characteristics and the natural scenery of the countryside. Therefore, it will become a brand name well received by the market. In this way, better economic returns will have been obtained, which will change the prejudice that rural development achieves only poor benefits. A number of gorgeous natural scenic spots and places of cultural heritage in Tibet’s countryside, including folk handcrafts, feature products, customs, legends and well-known temples, will gradually become marketable brands if properly managed and popularized. Thus, a new way of development for rural areas can be found. In fact, in some villages such as Gongzong Vilage in Nying-khri Town (ecological tourism) and Bangna Village (ancient tree tour), tourism recommendations in the countryside targeting the local ecological scenic spots was already initiated and better performance gained. Places such as Thon-pa Village in sNye-mo County (where traditional Tibetan incense is made), Karma Village in Chab-mdo County (famous for craftsmanship of Buddha’s images) and bSam-yas Village (the site of bSam-yas Monastery, Gra-nang County) have conditions to turn themselves into brand villages appealing to tourists, so that folk culture will be enlivened to become a new resource which boosts economic development and breaks into the market. Thus, the existence of towns and villages is not necessarily a burden to social development and urbanization. The point is how to properly treat and explore rural areas, so as to assimilate rural resources into the open society and market economy, construct and enrich rural areas through development and innovation.
It needs to be pointed out that rural management does not mean to operate a small-scale peasant economy. In other words, rural development does not need to treat the rural economy as a closed self-sufficient economic entity. It is inclined to steer rural areas into urban modernization by revitalizing neglected and idle rural resources. In that case, the small-scale economy will be brought into the orbit of the market economy and integrated into the open society, which will alter its production mode in the course of marketing, organization and socialization. Hence, the new orientation of rural development – namely; rural management, suggests that it should consciously acquire a pioneering spirit against the background of the market economy instead of pursuing a self-supporting growth far away from markets, or passively waiting to be marketed. In this sense, rural management is also a way to dissolve the small-scale economy.
IV. Management Strategies for Tibet’s Rural Areas
The concept of management should be intrinsic to rural development while superceding the traditional ways and ideas so as to lead these old and closed towns and villages to open and modernized lifestyles, and a rapid progress will thus be achieved. Development rests on both the level of ideas and practice. Since rural management is a concrete operation, therefore, it is imperative to proceed from the actualities of Tibet’s development and logically follow the steady trend towards the open market.
The concrete operation of Tibet’s rural areas involves management concerns and planning.
What to be managed? A general idea is rural resources, including rural culture, rural ecology and local produce. Rural resources are roughly classified as follows:
Rural cultural resources
Folk culture: costumes, catering, etiquette and festivals.
Religious culture: Mani piles, temples, monasteries and rites, etc.
Village culture: private houses and building etc.
Rural ecological resources
Environment: flowers, orchards and holiday resorts, etc.
Natural scenery: wooded mountains, lakes and pastures, etc.
Rural produce resources
Ecological resources: wild animals and plants and medical plants, etc.
Specialties: Chang (barley wine) and domestic animals, etc.
Folk handicraft: textiles, wooden furniture, ceramics and sculptures, etc.
Tibet’s rural resources display a conspicuous community feature due to its unique most-elevated environment, cultural surroundings and social development. The sense of the holy land (where the World’s Roof-the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau-is located), the feeling of purity in the natural environment without any pollution, and the mysterious atmosphere of Tibetan Buddhist Culture distinguish Tibetan rural areas from the environment and cultural atmosphere in other regions. This renders Tibetan rural areas a distinctive resource full of market vitality with bright prospects. To execute rural management, the primary thing is to learn and discover the characteristics of rural resources as well as their value and market potential under open conditions. Unique rural resources are the basis of rural management.
Tibet’s rural management is in fact a discovery and recommendation of rural resources. On account of the lack of ability for self-expansion, Tibet’s rural areas need external elements to invigorate and push the interflow of their resources and help them “go out”. Therefore, rural management is the driving force to promote the interaction of development elements to face an open market and further boost their flow. The basic stance for Tibet’s rural areas facing an open market is that the concept of management should be shaped to strengthen rural construction. As a result, a platform for the interflow of production elements between rural and urban areas will be achieved. In this case, towns and villages are able to appeal to external elements and turn their resources outwards. The tourist industry becomes the most powerful external element to extend rural markets. So, Tibet’s rural development also constitutes Tibet’s tourist industry. The planning for Tibet’s tourist industry should take a comprehensive assessment of rural markets and give priority to the growth of rural tourism, so that it can give impetus to the exploration and conservation of unique rural resources through the development of the Tibetan tourist industry and market expansion.
On the basis of Tibet’s rural growth, the development of the concept of management should be appropriately advanced as a general requisite request. However, the concrete implementation should follow a step-by-step procedure. Rural management can be categorized as the following three aspects:
Another point involved in Tibet’s rural management is the management body. As far as the management subject is concerned, the organized villagers are best suited to conduct rural management. Only when the local villagers genuinely participate in this activity can rural management really be effective. Compared with rural areas with fewer information resources, governments are better informed in discovering markets and stronger in initiating the markets than villagers. Furthermore, the government’s institutional arrangement factually leads the direction of regional resources distribution, so, it will exert a huge influence on the development patterns of the regional economy. In this sense, it is indispensable for rural management to be aided by the government into the program of regional economic development and be allocated relevant policy and investment. This is also determined by Tibet’s actual conditions. The management framework of government has been playing an active leading role in Tibetan modern economy, and the organization of villagers is still dependent on the help from the government, so is the initiation of rural resources on the government’s guidance and support. Therefore, the government should draft overall plans and take all factors into consideration for rural management so as to implement it and embody the dominant status of villagers to benefit them as well.
Tibetan towns and villages are embarking upon a key developmental stage. The improvement of infrastructure and conditions for opening, especially the decisive policy made by the Central Committee of the CPC on building new villages, the construction of Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the emergence of the tourist industry, provides an unprecedented opportunity for Tibet’s high-speed development. Urbanization will also inevitably spur Tibet’s socio-economic development. Tibet’s towns and villages will be gradually urbanized. However, they will not thus vanish. But in what kind of way will they exist? Whether urbanized towns and villages are able to emerge consciously and positively into the open market decides the fate that they should have in their own hands. Anyway, Tibet’s towns and villages need consolidated development. Rural management, an indispensable component of rural construction, is the new orientation geared to the needs of an open society and Tibet’s tourist market. Under the guidance of the management concept, we should discover and learn about Tibet’s rural resources and prepare them for the open market in the meantime, we should also enhance Tibet’s rural construction in order to further realize the value of rural resources. All of these will open up a road to modernization and the prosperity of Tibet’s rural areas.
This article first appeared in the publication China Tibetology, No.1, March 2008, ISSN 1671-6043, Sponsored by the China Tibetology Research Center. From China Tibetology (Chinese Edition) No. 2, 2006, translated by Tao Geru. Permission has been granted by the Embassy of the PRC to reprint this article here.
 Refer to Urbanization Is A Great Tendency – An Interview of Bai Nansbeng, Reading No.11, 2003. p114
 Calculation based on Chinese Ethnic Population Material s of the 2000 Census co-edited by the Department of Economic Development under the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and the Department of Population, Social Science and Technology Statistics of National Bureau of Statistics Beijing . National Publishing House, 2003; and Tibet Yearbook of Statistics-1998 Beijing: China Statistics Publishing House, 1998.
 With the same tone as note 1, it is held that it will be a mistake for urbanization to fail to find out a solution to the issue of resources allocation in towns and villages. For reference, see note 1.
 Collected Works of Survey on Chinese Autonomous Regions: Survey on Tibet Autonomous Region, Lhasa: Tibet People’s Publishing House, 1984. p55.
 Sources refers to Tibet Yearbook of Statistics-1998. p34.
 The Fifth National Census, the Department of Economic Development under the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and the Department of Population, Social Science and Technology Statistics of National Bureau of Statistics: Chinese Ethnic Population Materials of the 2000 Census (I).
 Huang Wanlun, Survey on Tibet Autonomous Region, Survey on Tibet’s Economy, Lhasa: Tibet People’s Publishing House, 1986; Sun Yong, Tibet: Development and Reform under the Atypical Dual Economic Framework[M], China Tibetology Publishing House, 1991; Tibet: Towards 21st Century, China Tibetology Publishing House ,1997; Liu Jiang, Retrospect and Prospect of China’s Regional Development: Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Volume Beijing, China Price Publishing House, 1999’ Wang Wenchang, Lacan: Tibet’s Economy, Beijing, China Intercontinental Publishing House 2002.
 Tibet Yearbook of Statistics-1998, p130. China Yearbook of Ethnic Work 2001,[A], p481, Yearbook Compilation Committee 2001. Bureau of Statistics of Tibet Autonomous Region: National Economic and Social Development Statistics Gazette in Tibet Autonomous Region 2004, March, 29, 2005.
Based on the 2004 national economic and social development statistics, the per capita net income
 Based on the 2004 national economic and social development statistics, the per capita net income of rural residents is 2606yuan in Inner Mongolia, 2320yuan in Ningxia 2305yuan in Guangxi and 2245yuan in Xinjiang respectively.
 Some scholars make a clarion call that only by putting the large-scale development of China’s West into the arrangement of the national urbanization strategies can these area enjoy the state’s policy resources. Refer to the TV program on the Interview of Professor Yang Jianxin from West Ethnic Studies Center of Lanzhou University, Gansu on Dec 6, 2003—Gansu TV Station.
 Liu Jiang, Retrospect and Prospect of China’s Regional Development: Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Volume, p47, When it comes to the progress of Tibet’s urbanization, Tibet’s city building history prior to 4000-5000 years was directly referred to.
 Here, industrialization includes the improvement of industrial technology on agriculture, animal husbandry and service industry, and the latter was industrialized. Refer to Wang Wenchang: Ways and Means of the Economic Development in Tibetan inhabited Areas Tibetan Studies, No. 1, 2001.
 Wang Wenchang: Critics on Urbanization—Out of the Misleading Area to Shape an Urban-Rural Coordinated Development Pattern in the Western China Study of Ethnics in Guangxi, No. 1, 2005.
 If half of the population were from rural areas, the number was simply about 200,000 based on the base number of the fifth census.
 Materials from Wang Luolin, Zhuling: Marketization and Basic Public Service—Case of Tibet Report “Tibet’s Service Sector Development and Employment”. Beijing: Ethnic Publishing House, 2005.
 This condition is cited as evidence to indicate that the contradiction between the migrant population and local employment does not exist. It is just the migrant population that created new jobs, making great contributions to the development of service industry. Refer to note 16.
 Wang Wenchhang: Rural Reconstruction the Basis of Increasing Tibetan Farmers and Herdsmen’s Income and of Fighting Poverty in Tibet, published in Forum on Tibet’s Social Development in 21st Century edited by Zhouwei, Beijing: China Tibet Publishing House, 2004.
 Actually, the development of rural tourism exerts an exceptionally profound and extensive impact on the aspects as Tibet’s tourist capacity expansion, the dispersion of tourists so as to ease the pressure on certain scenic spots, enhance the sustainable development of Tibet’s tourism and increase the income of rural residents.