President of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences Suolin [left] sitting next to Liu Yuwenshi who was interpreting Mandarin to English during the tour of the South African academics and journalists in the Tibet Autonomous Region, in China. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo / ANA

Tibet - The Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences believes that harmony and cooperation amongst a country's different ethnic groups is a key ingredient for the attainment of shared prosperity for all citizens and the achievement of set national goals.

"In China we do not have the problem of racism. There are in total 56 ethnic groups but they all belong to the Chinese nation. The Chinese nation is both a country and a nation where all the 56 ethnic groups live and work together. Relations under the socialist system feature equality, solidarity, mutual assistance and harmony," president of the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences, Suolin, said as he spoke to a contingent of South African journalists and academics touring the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China.

"All ethnic groups - big or small - are equal in China. For areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, there is regional ethnic autonomy. Those regions have greater power in terms of legislation or changing national laws that are not compatible with local conditions. They also have greater power for authority to develop both their oral and written languages."

The Tibetan academic said people in minority ethnic groups, like the mountainous Tibet, are "masters of their destiny".

"The central government [in Beijing] attaches great importance to the economic and social progress of those areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, and aims to achieves common prosperity for all ethnic groups. As General Secretary Xi Jinping [President of China and General Secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party] says 'on the path to achieve a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, no one should be left behind," said Suolin.

"That is why the central government has invested so much in poverty alleviation in the TAR so that everyone here can shake off absolute poverty. Great attention is also being paid to education on these areas."

2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, and the 60th anniversary of the Democratic Reform in Tibet. Characterised by the abolishment is serfdom, the democratic reform ushered in a new era which the liberated the people and giving them equal rights. For centuries the Tibet region was ruled by theocratic feudal elites. More than one million serfs - human beings also referred to as mere "talking tools" - were subjected to cruel exploitation and oppression, until democratic reform was launched in 1959.

Drawing on the shared painful, dark histories of serfdom in Tibet and the apartheid system South Africa, respected South African academic Professor Paul Tembe told the African News Agency (ANA) that to bring the people of South Africa together, under the national flag, Pretoria needs to find and converge around its collective memory, collective goal, collective strategy and a collective implementation.

"South Africa needs to deliberately engage in the process of decentralization and establish multiple centers of knowledge production, dissemination and consumption. Such an undertaking will unleash multiple sources of knowledge systems that are currently dormant and excluded from mainstream practices of converting cultural, political, symbolic, social forms of capital into monetary ones," said Tembe.

"South Africa ought to regard society as a lived space, instead of the current tendency of treating society as solely a market space. In Tibet the notion of inclusive representation in religion, ecology, technology coupled with the distribution of services has resulted in access of public goods which in turn raises productivity, purchasing power and the spirit of innovation."

The picturesque Tibet, a mainly Buddhist territory, is popularly referred to as "the roof of the world" with an average elevation exceeding 4,500 metres (14 800 feet). It is governed as an autonomous region of China.

In 2018, Tibet’s gross domestic product was 147.76 billion yuan - about 192 times the 1959 figure of 174 million yuan, calculated at comparable prices.

African News Agency (ANA)