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Country Profiles: China


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

Background For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences. But in the 19th and early 20th centuries, China was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under Mao Zedong established a dictatorship that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, his successor Deng Xiaoping gradually introduced market-oriented reforms and decentralized economic decision making, and output quadrupled by 2000. Political controls remain tight even while economic controls continue to be relaxed.
Location Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam

Map of China
Area total: 9,596,960 sq km
land: 9,326,410 sq km
water: 270,550 sq km
Area - comparative slightly smaller than the U.S.
Climate extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north
Terrain mostly mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west; plains, deltas, and hills in east
Elevation extremes lowest point: Turpan Pendi - 154 m
highest point: Mount Everest - 8,850 m (1999 est.)
Natural resources coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, uranium, hydropower potential (world's largest)
Land use arable land: 13%
permanent crops: 1%
other: 86% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards frequent typhoons (about five per year along southern and eastern coasts); damaging floods; tsunamis; earthquakes; droughts; land subsidence
Environment - current issues air pollution (greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide particulates) from reliance on coal, produces acid rain; water shortages, particularly in the north; water pollution from untreated wastes; deforestation; estimated loss of one-fifth of agricultural land since 1949 to soil erosion and economic development; desertification; trade in endangered species
Geography - note world's fourth-largest country (after Russia, Canada, and U.S.); Mount Everest on the border with Nepal, is the world's tallest peak
Population 1,284,303,705 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 24.3% (male 163,821,081; female 148,855,387)
15-64 years: 68.4% (male 452,354,428; female 426,055,713)
65 years and over: 7.3% (male 43,834,528; female 49,382,568) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 0.87% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 27.25 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 71.86 years
female: 73.86 years (2002 est.)
male: 70.02 years
Ethnic groups Han Chinese 91.9%, Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8.1%
Religions Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Muslim 1%-2%, Christian 3%-4%
note: officially atheist (2002 est.)
Languages Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages (see Ethnic groups entry)
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 81.5%
male: 89.9%
female: 72.7% (1995 est.)
Government type Communist state
Capital Beijing
Independence 221 BC (unification under the Qin or Ch'in Dynasty 221 BC; Qing or Ch'ing Dynasty replaced by the Republic on 12 February 1912; People's Republic established 1 October 1949)
Legal system a complex amalgam of custom and statute, largely criminal law; rudimentary civil code in effect since 1 January 1987; new legal codes in effect since 1 January 1980; continuing efforts are being made to improve civil, administrative, criminal, and commercial law
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal
Flag description red with a large yellow five-pointed star and four smaller yellow five-pointed stars (arranged in a vertical arc toward the middle of the flag) in the upper hoist-side corner

Flag of China
Economy - overview In late 1978 the Chinese leadership began moving the economy from a sluggish Soviet-style centrally planned economy to a more market-oriented system. Whereas the system operates within a political framework of strict Communist control, the economic influence of non-state organizations and individual citizens has been steadily increasing. The authorities have switched to a system of household and village responsibility in agriculture in place of the old collectivization, increased the authority of local officials and plant managers in industry, permitted a wide variety of small-scale enterprise in services and light manufacturing, and opened the economy to increased foreign trade and investment. The result has been a quadrupling of GDP since 1978. In 2001, with its 1.27 billion people but a GDP of just $4,300 per capita, China stood as the second largest economy in the world after the U.S. (measured on a purchasing power parity basis). Agriculture and industry have posted major gains, especially in coastal areas near Hong Kong and opposite Taiwan, where foreign investment has helped spur output of both domestic and export goods. On the darker side, the leadership has often experienced in its hybrid system the worst results of socialism (bureaucracy and lassitude) and of capitalism (windfall gains and growing income disparities). Beijing thus has periodically backtracked, retightening central controls at intervals. The government has struggled to (a) collect revenues due from provinces, businesses, and individuals; (b) reduce corruption and other economic crimes; and (c) keep afloat the large state-owned enterprises many of which had been shielded from competition by subsidies and had been losing the ability to pay full wages and pensions. From 80 to 120 million surplus rural workers are adrift between the villages and the cities, many subsisting through part-time low-paying jobs. Popular resistance, changes in central policy, and loss of authority by rural cadres have weakened China's population control program, which is essential to maintaining long-term growth in living standards. Another long-term threat to continued rapid economic growth is the deterioration in the environment, notably air pollution, soil erosion, and the steady fall of the water table especially in the north. China continues to lose arable land because of erosion and economic development. Beijing will intensify efforts to stimulate growth through spending on infrastructure - such as water control and power grids - and poverty relief and through rural tax reform aimed at eliminating arbitrary local levies on farmers. Access to the World Trade Organization strengthens China's ability to maintain sturdy growth rates, and at the same time puts additional pressure on the hybrid system of strong political controls and growing market influences. Although Beijing has claimed 7%-8% annual growth in recent years, many observers believe the rate, while strong, is more like 5%.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $4,300 (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line 10% (2001 est.)
Labor force 706 million (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate urban unemployment roughly 10%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (2001 est.)
Industries iron and steel, coal, machine building, armaments, textiles and apparel, petroleum, cement, chemical fertilizers, footwear, toys, food processing, automobiles, consumer electronics, telecommunications
Agriculture - products rice, wheat, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton, oilseed; pork; fish
Exports - commodities machinery and equipment; textiles and clothing, footwear, toys and sporting goods; mineral fuels
Imports - commodities machinery and equipment, mineral fuels, plastics, iron and steel, chemicals

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