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Subsidizing Tibet: An Interprovincial Comparison of Western China up to the End of the Hu–Wen Administration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2015

Andrew M. Fischer*
Associate professor of development studies at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Email:


This study estimates the extent of subsidization in the ten provinces of western China from 1990 to 2012 with the aim of highlighting the exceptionality of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) leading up to and following the widespread Tibetan protests that swept through four Chinese provinces in 2008. Although the Tibet development model was criticized by many Chinese economists in the 1980s and 1990s for being highly subsidy-dependent and inefficient, these aspects of dependence and inefficiency were exacerbated even further under the Hu–Wen administration, particularly following the 2008 protests. While subsidies and investment also increased in other western provinces, the exceptionality of the TAR stands out in terms of the levels of subsidization attained, the sheer disassociation of these subsidies from changes in the local productive economy, and the degree to which ownership in the local economy has come to be dominated by external interests. The recent phase of intensive subsidization has thereby exacerbated the dependence of local Tibetan livelihoods on these state strategies, while at the same time intensified the state-led economic integration of the region into the rest of China through externalized patterns of ownership and consolidated state control. Arguments that the resultant inefficiencies and social tensions are owing to a marketization of social relations or to cultural insensitivity and lack of adaptation to local circumstances de-emphasize the central role of the state in shaping the deeply structural character of these transformations.


该研究主要分析从 1990 年到 2012 年这一时期, 中国政府对西部10 个省份的补贴状况, 并着重讨论西藏自治区所谓的 “特殊性”, 特别是在2008 年蔓延了中国四个省份的大规模藏人抗议活动时期前后的状况。虽然众多中国经济学家在上世纪80 年代和 90 年代时就对西藏的发展模式提出过批评, 认为西藏高度依赖补贴并且效率低下, 然而这些问题在胡温政府时期, 特别是在2008年藏民抗议活动之后, 变得尤为突出。虽然政府对其他西部省份的补贴和投资亦有增加, 但是西藏的特殊性表现的尤为突出, 政府对其补贴的力度之大, 已完全脱离了本地经济生产能力, 并已导致地方经济的所有权在很大程度上由外部利益主导。最近一个时期的高度补贴, 使西藏地方经济生活更加依赖国家的补贴政策; 同时通过经济所有权外部化的模式, 由国家主导, 加强了西藏地区与中国其他地方的经济整合, 进而强化了国家的控制。效率低下和社会关系紧张的原因, 其主要归结于社会关系的市场化, 对地方文化缺乏敏感度, 以及对当地实际情况缺乏调整造成的, 这些论据表明, 在变革中不应强调国家在改变深层结构特征时的中心作用。

Copyright © The China Quarterly 2015 

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