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Tibet: Market Profile

Major Economic Indicators

Economic Indicators20152016
(%, y-o-y)
(%, y-o-y)
Gross Domestic Product (RMB bn)102.611.01115.010.01
Per Capita GDP (RMB)31,9998.9135,1437.81
Added Value Output
   Primary industry (RMB bn)9.83.7110.54.51
   Secondary industry (RMB bn)37.615.7143.112.11
   Tertiary industry (RMB bn)55.28.9161.39.61
Value-added Industrial Output2 (RMB bn)5.614.517.512.71
Fixed-assets Investment (RMB bn)134.219.9 165.623.2
Retail Sales (RMB bn)40.812.1 45.912.5
Inflation (Consumer Price Index, %)2.02.5
Exports (US$ mn)587-72.1472-19.6
Imports (US$ mn)328112.7310-5.1

1 In real terms  
2 For all state-owned enterprises and other forms with annual sales over RMB20 million  
Sources: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2017, China’s Customs Statistics 12.2015, 12.2016

General Background

With an area of more than 1.2 million sq km, Tibet takes up 1/8 of China’s total area, but only has a population at 3.31 million in 2016. 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 53.3% in 2016. But primary industry still plays an important role and the construction sector accounted for 29.8% of the GDP in 2016.

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 2017


Share of Leading Industry Groups (2016)

 % share of gross
industrial output
Nonmetal mineral products22.9
Non-ferrous metals mining and dressing18.6
Liquor and beverage production14.6
Production and supply electricity and thermal power14.6
Medical and pharmaceutical products6.4

Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2017


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.

 2016% change
Number of domestic tourist (million)22.8314.9
Income generated (RMB bn)31.917.6
Number of overseas tourist (thousand)
Foreign exchange income (US$ mn)194.410.0

Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2017

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 2016, 95% 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 2016, annual per capita disposal income of urban households was RMB27,802 (+9.2%). Major consumer market is located in Lhasa (拉薩). The city’s retail sales of consumer goods accounted for 50% of Tibet’s total.

Composition of Per Capita Expenditure of Urban Household (%)

Household articles5.05.1
Medicine & medical services4.83.0
Transportation & communications8.011.3
Recreation, cultural & education7.54.7

Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2017

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 (2016)

(RMB bn)
Gross Industrial Output
(RMB bn)
Retail Sales
(RMB bn)
Lhasa (拉薩) 42.511.2922.9
Xigaze (日喀則) 18.81.588.3
Shannan (山南地區)

Source: Tibet Statistical Yearbook 2017


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