A Perilous Growth Rate in Tibet

By Rinzin Ngodup
Rinzin Ngodup
March 15, 2014

"China is not an inclusive economic institution, but an exclusive economic institution.  There is no property right in Tibet and a large number of forced-relocations are taking place every day, most particularly the Tibetan nomads, who are being the sole victim of this relocation policy of China."

There is something wrong with the Chinese state media news  report on economic growth rate in Tibet. Most of the Tibetans living outside Tibet have some or no clue at all what is wrong with surging growth rate that the communist government loves to report and always interpret their version of how Tibetans are happy in Tibet because of high economic growth.

To be honest, indeed Tibet has seen unprecedented economic growth along with China when it first opened their economy to the world in late 1970s. There is no way we can deny that growth is proliferating in Tibet, but at what cost?  Is economic growth only our concern?  Is it true that there is positive correlation between economic growth and happiness?  Why does Chinese communist government think that the economic growth would bring happiness to Tibet, in fact it was also reported last year that Tibet is the happiest region in China?  There are so many questions that come to our mind, but we seem to have no concrete answers for all these questions.  All we can say is that this is utterly rubbish and we should not trust the communist government for whatever they report in media.

 It is true, we should not trust communist government; even statisticians and econometricians think that too.  The National Bureau of Statistic of China (NBSC), which makes the statistics for china, has been under severe criticism from the economists on their interpretation of economic growth[1]. Very few economic students rely on Chinese concocted data and it is widely believed among the economic students that you cannot write a thesis using the data from NBSC because of lack of credibility—this is my personal experience with my fellow Chinese students.

Every time something grievous and unfortunate situation like self-immolation and public demonstration, happen in Tibet;  China’s state media releases a report denying the facts or blaming the Dalai Lama for inciting the immolations. The very next day you get to see the report on performance of economic activity in Tibet, which is unsurprisingly always increasing and claims that Tibetans are happy under the communist regime.  Is economic growth worth replacing human rights? China thinks so. According to china’s state media[2], Tibet’s economy is growing at the rate of 12 %, which is double the rate of current economic growth in India. The 12 percent growth is astonishingly high.

One unusual thing that one would always notice is that of the tourism industry. China’s state media is fond of claiming that the tourism industry makes the highest attribution to economic growth in Tibet, which surprises me the most!  It is not Tibetans who benifit most from the tourism, but the Chinese citizens who have been migrated to Tibet—this is why we see increase in tourism industry. Most of the tourists are from Mainland China and it is very natural that they will use the services provided by Chinese, not Tibetans.

 Tibet at present is in worst situation—neither do Tibetans have social rights nor do economic rights.  There is an ample evidence of illegal mining in Tibet[3], which brings negative externalities to community, most importantly environment, which is shared by all the sentient beings in the world.  What is the use of economic growth, when it does not help the native people (Tibetans)?

Economists Acemoglu and Robinson argue in their book “ Why nations fail: The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” that it is not geography or culture or luck of the country which determines the country’s development, but an inclusive economic institution. Inclusive institutions, according to them (page 68) “are those that allow and encourage participation by the great mass of people in economic activities that make best use of their talents and skills and that enable individuals to make the choice they wish. To be inclusive, economic institutions must feature secure private property, an unbiased system of law, and a provision of public services that provides a level playing fiend in which people can exchange and contract; it also must permit the entry of new businesses and allow people to choose their careers”

From the definition, it clearly speaks that China is not an inclusive economic institution, but an exclusive economic institution.  There is no property right in Tibet and a large number of forced-relocations are taking place every day, most particularly the Tibetan nomads, who are being the sole victim of this relocation-policy. According to Acemoglu and Robinson, high economic growth in country under exclusive economic institutions like China is ephemeral and will collapse when it reaches the utopia.  

I personally think that we should reply with economic answers when the China’s communist government bombard us with the story of high economic growth, rather than arguing that there are no human rights in Tibet, which is also undeniably true.

NOTERinzin Ngodup is a Business School senior student based in Halifax, Canada. 

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