The revenge of fiscal Maoism in China's Tibet

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In China, central government subsidies to the Tibet Autonomous Region
(TAR) – the archetypal case usually referred to as ‘Tibet’ – have surged to
record-high levels, particularly following the widespread protests that occurred
across all Tibetan areas in 2008. By 2010, direct budgetary subsidies surpassed
one hundred percent of the TAR GDP for the first time ever, exceeding even
the levels reached during the peaks of subsidization during the Maoist period
and amounting to four times the average per capital rural household income in
the TAR. Similarly, investment in fixed assets – most of it also probably
subsidised – reached 91 percent of the TAR GDP in 2010. From this
perspective and despite almost twenty years of intensive development efforts,
the TAR remains locked into the institutional norms guiding the subsidisation
of this politically-sensitive autonomous region since the Maoist period. As a
result, recent development strategies have not altered in any significant way the
long-term trend of very intense and very inefficient subsidisation, with
economic growth largely reflecting the intensification of subsidies. In
particular, the recent phase of intensive subsidisation has completed two
principal tasks first envisaged during the Maoist era. One is the state-led
engineering of a deep integration of the region into China through externalized
patterns of ownership and extreme economic dependence. The second is the
consolidation of the very visible hand of the state in the structuring of most
aspects of the economy, including the rural economies, albeit through a
different mode of governmentality attuned to the current era of ‘market
socialism’ rather than Maoist collectivisation. As a result, the economy of the
TAR can be aptly described in structural terms as having become a peripheral
subsidiary of the central government and related interests. Local development
dynamics (and people) are increasingly captive to the discretion of these central
interests, particularly in the context of their rapid transition away from their
traditional bases of subsistence in the rural economy.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationThe Hague
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

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SeriesISS working papers. General series

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