did Tibetan serfs/sharecroppers actually get better off as socialized peasants?

my question is restricted to let’s say the first two decades after Chinese takeover, not to the recent economic growth that must have lifted all boats in China, theirs included.

Well, so these farmers used to be ruled by the Tibetan theocratic / feudal / landlord whatever aristocracy. Then the old aristocracy got the boot and they were all of a sudden ruled by the new Communist Party aristocracy. Do we know how much of an economic change that was for them? Did effective taxes increase or decrease or what? Did they immediately get access to some wonderful new modern goods or echnology that the feudals never bothered to introduce or import for whatever reason? How about more intangible stuff like ability of a landless man to move to another village after having a falling out with the local bigshots, was Communist policy on this better than the feudal policy?

Incidentally, did anybody even bothered asking such questions in the field of Chinese historical studies? Let’s say did anybody hang out with and interview elderly Tibetan peasants about their economic affairs back in the day during the feudalism-to-Communism transition?

The original land redistribution took place in Kham and Amdo, where most people owned their own land, and it sparked riots that ultimately led to rioting that was violently put down and forcing the Dalai Lama to flee the country.

I suppose the problem with this, is how do you separate it from the “rising tide” phenomenon. Even if the PRC had refrained from being fraternalistically helpful, after WWII the modern world would have continued to encroach and alter the landlord-peasant dynamic. At least it appears the highly disruptive collectivisation that most of China endured did not reach Tibet to any great extent.

This does not take into account the noneconomic issues; basic human freedoms, freedom of religion, freedom from terrors such as the Red Guard and their destruction of anything old, including the much-revered temples and monastaries. Even today, the government restricts a lot and there are army posts on the street corners. However, if you go through any of the temples you will find throngs of people, and the sacred figurines there are surrounded by money, donations from the faithful. So decades of freedoms have not dampened their religion.

On the plus side, to prove their franternal love for the Tibetan people, the Beijing government is pouring money recently into restorations of monasteries and historical sites, plus trying to create economic development. They are also increasing the opportunities for fraternal harmonization, by moving large numbers of Han Chinese into the the main Tibetan cities, much as the Russians did in places like Uzbekistan and Lithuania.

In villages, I imagine the biggest change was that you now had to suck up to the party members rather than the religious leaders. Local party officials are typically every bit as prone to corruption, favoritism, injustice and violence as any other tyrant. Even today there are villages that shiver under the harsh rule of minor officials.

Some villages likely got secular schools which offered a select few the opportunity to join wider Chinese society at the price of much of their language and culture. Even today, keeping a distinctly Tibetan identity is considered a serious block to success in business or government. The more connected villages would have felt the same shocks that rocked greater China in the 60s and 70s, and I imagine the harm that came from that was on par or worse than what they had under the older system. Certainly there were material gains- better roads, more electricity, etc. It’s my understanding that lots of this was pretty recent though.

As for the pastoralists and the more remote people, I doubt they felt much change at all, except when their land was restricted.

In my opinion, today people are fairly mixed. It IS nice to have roads, electricity, steady commerce, and social programs. Plenty of Tibetans have joined the gold rush fever of the opening of China, and are opening businesses and getting rich. But they do not have equal access to the fruits of this wealth, and they are keenly aware of that. and issues of culture, language and environment are huge.

well, the modern world cannot change the fact that a peasant can only grow so much of whatever it is that they grow in Tibet and then the landlord or the Communist state demand a share of that. So the level of taxation under the two regimes could be compared, either (ideally) quantitatively or in the worst case qualitatively by listening to old people bitch about how back in the day they were paying taxes and dues uphill both ways through the snow.

E.g. I know that in Russian history there is essentially no question about the peasant rent/tax burden significantly increasing in 1861 after the abolition of serfdom and more recently about de facto massive tax increase associated with collectivization. In fact, I think that a lot of the urbanization and rural mechanization in Stalinist Russia can be thought of as precisely a response to increased taxation of the countryside that left insufficient food for the former level of population there. So the people left for the cities and were replaced by machines and by more intensive work of the remaining peasants - not a bad thing in itself, except for the minor point of the path from point A to point B being littered with corpses in the best Stalinist fashion.

Code Grey, let’s start with some clarification.

First, 2 decades? Does the clock start ticking in 1950 with the “reunification” of Tibet or in 1960 when the subjication was completed?

Second, Kham, Amdo and big parts of Tibet were not part of the nobility/monastary serf thing. The scope that modern China claims about the nobility/monastaries is pretty weak.

Third, the population of Han Chinese until the mass migration started in the 1980’s was a few percent. About the only Chinese the average village living Tibetan ever encountered was military or political. The nomads and Tibetans in the boonies never saw a Han Chinese. Christ, there were no freakin’ roads even in the 1980’s.

Reference in Exile from the Land of the Snows, John Avedon for documentation on the collectivization as well as accompanying deprivation that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s.

I have strong views on this subject based on my travels and research in the 1980’s, but those are best aired after a couple of beers in person rather than on a public message board.

ok, so the answer is “Tibetan peasants did not immediately get better off (quite the opposite, in fact) due to the regime change, contrary to revisionist allegations”. Got it.

Of course too, the third world green revolution has had it’s impact there too. Nowadays those big rear wheel tractors -superseded by huge heavy equipment in the west -are everywhere. The plough, they haul things, and they chug along the roads impeding regular traffic. They haul trailers loaded ten feet high, or whole families riding on them. Like the rest of the world, if you can afford the mechanical upkeep, a few gallons of gas can do more work than an expensive animal and faster. (But there are still yaks and yak products everywhere)

I would hazard a guess that communist anti-entrepreneur and anti-capital policies may have been just as likely to impede progress as traditionalist and religious anti-technology anti-progress might have been. The most entrepreneurial societies seem to have had the most benefit the earliest from the green revolution.

So it’s hard to say what might have happened versus what did happen. The best bet was that things would have changed either way.