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Tibet: Market Profile

Major Economic Indicators

Economic Indicators20112012
(%, y-o-y)
(%, y-o-y)
Gross Domestic Product (RMB bn)60.512.73 170.111.8 1
Per Capita GDP (RMB)20,07711.3 122,93610.4 1
Added Value Output    
- Primary industry (RMB bn)7.43.4 18.03.4 1
- Secondary industry (RMB bn)20.918.3 124.314.4 1
- Tertiary industry (RMB bn)32.311.6 137.812.0 1
Value-added Industrial Output 2 (RMB bn)3.719.0 14.315.1 1
Fixed-assets Investment (RMB bn)54.918.671.029.3
Retail Sales (RMB bn)21.918.225.416.3
Inflation (Consumer Price Index, %)  5.0 3.5
Exports (US$ mn)1,18353.43,355183.6
Imports (US$ mn)176169.969-60.7
  1 In real terms
  2 For all state-owned enterprises and other forms with annual sales over RMB20 million
Sources: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2013, China’s Customs Statistics 12.2011, 12.2012

General Background

With an area of more than 1.2 million square kilometers, Tibet takes up 1/8 of China’s total area, but only has a population at 3.08 million in 2012. It is located in the southwest frontier of China, serving as an important gateway to South Asia.  Tibet is an ethnic minority autonomous region with the largest share of Tibetan.

Thanks to the abundant resources, Tibet has formed an industry structure of the following characteristics: tourism, Tibetan medicine, plateau special biology, handicrafts and mining are the industries with comparative advantages. After the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway and the reopening of Natula trade pass (乃堆拉山口邊貿通道) on China-India border, service industries such as trade and transportation are likely to enjoy further development.


Over the last decade, Tibet’s tertiary industry developed rapidly with its share in GDP increased to 53.9% in 2012. But primary industry still plays an important role.

The share of industry remains relatively small in GDP.  However, industrial products such as mineral products, medicine, Qingke barley wine, carpets and building materials have good reputation. 

Composition of GDP (%)
Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2013


Share of Leading Industry Groups (2012)
 % share of gross
industrial output
Non-ferrous metals mining and dressing20.7
Nonmetal mineral products19.3
Beverage production13.6
Medical and pharmaceutical products11.2
Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2013


With a long history and glorious culture, Tibet is famous for its beautiful natural scenery and unique folk-customs. There are a lot of natural scenic spots such as Namtso Lake (納木措湖), Great Gorges of Yarlung Zangbo River (雅魯藏布江大峽谷), Mount Everest (珠穆朗瑪峰) etc. Cultural sceneries are also abundant, including Potala Palace (布達拉宮), Jokhang (大昭寺), Die Koenigsgraeber (藏王墓) and many ancient temples.

 2012% change
Number of domestic tourist (million)10.423.3
Income generated (RMB bn)12.035.2
Number of overseas tourist (thousand)194.9-28.0
Foreign exchange income (US$ mn)105.7-18.5
Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2013

Foreign Trade

Major exports included light industry products, output of livestock products, grain & oil or fat, traditional Chinese medicine and carpets.  Major imports were motor vehicles and machinery products.

Due to Tibet’s geographic location, border trade plays an important role, especially for the exports. In 2012, 50% of Tibet’s exports were border trade.  

Foreign Investment

According to the guidance for foreign investment in Tibet, priorities will be given to the following areas: infrastructure (such as transportation and communications), education, agriculture (plateau agriculture, water-conservative agriculture, food processing) and Tibetan medicine.

Consumer Market

In 2012, annual per capita disposal income of urban households was RMB18,028 (+11.3%). Major consumer markets are located in Lhasa (拉薩) and Shigatse (日喀則).  The combined retail sales of consumer goods of these two cities accounted for 67% of Tibet’s total.

Composition of Per Capita Expenditure of Urban Household (%)

Household articles5.04.2
Medicine & medical services4.84.2
Transportation & communications8.012.4
Recreation, cultural & education7.54.9
Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2013

Barkhor Street (八廓街) is a famous market for buying small commodities in Lhasa, where one can find various local products such as carpets, ethnic costumes, jewellery etc. Traditional shopping districts are around Jokhang Square (大昭寺廣場), Barkhor Street and Beijing Road.

Economic Indicators of Major Cities (2012)
(RMB bn)
Gross Industrial Output
(RMB mn)
Retail Sales
(RMB mn)
Lhasa 拉薩26.06,46912,455
Shigatse 日喀則地區11.59244,623
Lhoka 山南地區7.31,4302,550
Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2013

Content provided by Picture: Billy Wong