BEIJING, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- A conference on southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, which ended on Tuesday, is the sixth of its kind, allowing the central leadership to discuss governance of Tibet. It is hard to find a second region garnering more government attention than Tibet.
Boasting a population of three million people and an annual GDP of some 90 billion yuan (14 billion U.S. dollars), only a fraction of south China's Guangdong Province, Tibet is hardly an economic engine of China.
But its stability and development, as well as people's welfare, matter no less than other provinces. In the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping, "the key to governing a country lies in governing border regions; for that, we need Tibet's stability first."
Why is Tibet so important to China?
Before the founding of new China in 1949, Tibet was never the Shangri-la described in the 1933 novel "Lost Horizon." A border region without powerful central government support, Tibet was divorced from inland China. China can not let it happen again.
Tibetans born in modern times may not understand the world decades ago: most people lived in extreme poverty in a society of feudal serfdom, their dignity trampled on by slave owners. Only in 1959 did the one million serfs get liberated after the dissolution of the archaic, aristocratic local government of Tibet.
Over the past six decades, Tibet has witnessed rapid development, thanks to special financial, tax and investment policies, and a helping hand from other interior regions -- thousands of party cadres volunteer to travel to Tibet every year to help locals build modern infrastructure, open new factories and receive better education.
From 1993 to 2014, Tibet's total GDP leaped from 3.7 billion yuan to 92 billion yuan; the average income of farmers and herdsmen registered 7,471 yuan, 10.6 times of that in 1993.
But since the 1950s, Tibet has also seen occasional disturbance, including a large-scale riot in 2008.
Some separatist groups, not forsaking their intention for "Tibet independence," not only threatened China's national security and unity, but also damaged ethnic unity.
Such factors have added to the difficulty to achieve prolonged development in Tibet, whose average income is still below the national standard and which still has a large portion of impoverished people.
At the conference, Xi called for more efforts to promote ethnic unity and a sense of belonging to the same Chinese nationality. Without ethnic unity and stability, without the development of Tibet, such sense of belonging is hard to win from Tibetan people.