Down through the ages, the Tibetan people have created a brilliant history and culture, and contributed to the enrichment and development of Chinese overall history and culture. However, the social system of Tibet remained one of theocratic feudal serfdom until the mid-20th century, with an economy that was extremely underdeveloped, and a society that was conservative, closed and backward.
Tibet's continual progress on its present path of development is one of the objective requirements of modern civilization. It accords with the progressive trend of human society, the prevailing conditions and the current reality in China, and the fundamental interests of all ethnic groups in Tibet. While following this path, the people of the numerous ethnic groups in Tibet have become masters of their country and their society, and critically, masters of their own destiny. Along the way, Tibet has been transformed from a poor and backward society to one that is advanced in both economy and culture. Along the way, the people of Tibet have found harmony and the means of working together with the people of other parts of China to create a better and happier life. And along the way, Tibet has opened to the rest of the world and begun to absorb the outstanding achievements of human civilization.
Tibet is becoming increasingly open to the outside world. Keeping abreast with other parts of China, Tibet has gradually evolved from being a closed type to being one that is open and market-oriented. Tibet has been fully incorporated into the national market system. While products from all over the nation and across the world flow into Tibet, the region's own characteristic products also move in large quantities to other parts of the country and further afield. In 2013, the total value of Tibet's foreign trade reached 3.319 billion U.S. dollars; and the region hosted 12.91 million tourists, including 220,000 from overseas.