China -- Geography --
Official name: People's Republic of China
Largest city: Shanghai
Official language: Chinese; many local dialects - Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages
Currency: Yuan (CNY)
Religions: Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%-4%, Muslim 1%-2%
note: officially atheist (2002 est.)
Population: 1 321 851 888 (June 2007) - first place in the world
Territory: 9 596 960 sq. km. - fourth place in the world
Location and land boundaries: China is situated in Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam.
border countries: Afghanistan 76 km, Bhutan 470 km, Burma 2,185 km, India 3,380 km, Kazakhstan 1,533 km, North Korea 1,416 km, Kyrgyzstan 858 km, Laos 423 km, Mongolia 4,677 km, Nepal 1,236 km, Pakistan 523 km, Russia (northeast) 3,605 km, Russia (northwest) 40 km, Tajikistan 414 km, Vietnam 1,281 km; regional borders: Hong Kong 30 km, Macau 0.34 km
Relief: Broadly speaking, the relief of China is high in the west and low in the east. Consequently, the direction of flow of the major rivers is generally eastward. The surface may be divided into three steps, or levels. The first level is represented by the Plateau of Tibet, which is located in both the Tibet Autonomous Region and the province of Qinghai and which, with an average elevation of well over 13,000 feet (4,000 metres) above sea level, is the loftiest highland area in the world. The western part of this region, the Qiangtang, has an average height of 16,500 feet (5,000 metres) and is known as the “roof of the world.”
Climate: The climate of China is extremely diverse - it ranges from subtropical in the south to subarctic in the north. Monsoon winds, caused by differences in the heat-absorbing capacity of the continent and the ocean, dominate the climate. Alternating seasonal air-mass movements and accompanying winds are moist in summer and dry in winter. The advance and retreat of the monsoons account in large degree for the timing of the rainy season and the amount of rainfall throughout the country. Tremendous differences in latitude, longitude, and altitude give rise to sharp variations in precipitation and temperature within China. Although most of the country lies in the temperate belt, its climatic patterns are complex.
Rivers and lakes: China abounds in rivers. More than 1,500 rivers each drain 1,000 sq. km. or larger areas. Most of the large rivers have their source on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and drop greatly between source and mouth. As a result, China is rich in water-power resources, leading the world in hydropower potential, with reserves of 680 million kw.
China's rivers can be categorized as exterior and interior systems. The catchment area of the exterior rivers that empty into the oceans accounts for 64 percent of the country's total land area. The Yangtze, Yellow, Heilong, Pearl, Liaohe, Haihe and Huaihe rivers flow east, and empty into the Pacific Ocean. The Yarlungzangbo River in Tibet, which flows first east and then south into the Indian Ocean, boasts the Yarlungzangbo Grand Canyon, the largest canyon in the world, 504.6 km long and 6,009 m deep. The Ertix River flows north from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the Arctic Ocean. The catchment area of the interior rivers that flow into inland lakes or disappear into deserts or salt marshes makes up about 36 percent of China's total land area. The Tarim River, 2,179 km long, in southern Xinjiang is China's longest interior river.
The Yangtze, 6,300 km long, is the largest river in China, and the third largest in the world, next only to the Nile in Africa and the Amazon in South America.
China's territory includes numerous lakes, most of which are found on the Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Freshwater lakes such as Poyang, Dongting, Taihu and Hongze mostly lie in the former area, while in the latter are saltwater lakes, such as Qinghai, Nam Co and Siling Co. Poyang Lake, in the north of Jiangxi Province and with an area of 3,583 sq km, is the largest of its kind. Qinghai Lake, in northeast Qinghai Province and with an area of 4,583 sq km, is the largest one of its kind
Administrative divisions: 23 provinces (sheng, singular and plural), 5 autonomous regions (zizhiqu, singular and plural), and 4 municipalities (shi, singular and plural)
provinces: Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang;
autonomous regions: Guangxi, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Xinjiang Uygur, Xizang (Tibet);
municipalities: Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, Tianjin
note: China considers Taiwan its 23rd province
GDP(PPP): $10,170 trillion (2006 estimate) - second place in the world
China -- History --
Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the Communist Party of China in control of the mainland, and the Kuomintang retreating to Taiwan and some outlying islands of Fujian. On October 1, 1949 Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China, declaring "the Chinese people have stood up". Red China was a frequent appellation for the PRC (generally within the Western bloc) used from the time of Communist ascendance until the mid-late 1970s with the improvement of relations between China and the West.
Following a series of dramatic economic failures (caused by the Great Leap Forward), Mao stepped down from his position as chairman in 1959, with Liu Shaoqi as successor. Mao still had much influence over the Party, but was removed from day-to-day management of economic affairs, which came under the control of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.
In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, which would last until Mao's death a decade later. The Cultural Revolution, motivated by power struggles within the Party and a fear of the Soviet Union, led to a major upheaval in Chinese society. In 1972, at the peak of the Sino-Soviet split, Mao and Zhou Enlai met Richard Nixon in Beijing to establish relations with the United States. In the same year, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was admitted to the United Nations, replacing the Republic of China for China's membership of the United Nations, and permanent membership of the Security Council.
After Mao's death in 1976 and the arrest of the Gang of Four, blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping quickly wrestled power from Mao's apointed successor Hua Guofeng. Although Deng never became the head of the Party or State himself, his influence within the Party led the country to economic reforms of significant magnitude. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the communes were disbanded with many peasants receiving multiple land leases, which greatly increased incentives and agricultural production. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment, a system termed by many "market socialism".
In 1989, the death of pro-reform official, Hu Yaobang, helped to spark the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, during which students and others campaigned for several months for more democratic rights and freedom of expression. However, they were eventually put down on June 4 when PLA troops and vehicles entered and forcibly cleared the square by opening fire on protesters, resulting in numerous casualties. This event was widely reported and famously videotaped, which brought worldwide condemnation and sanctions against the government.
President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, both former mayors of Shanghai, led post-Tiananmen China in the 1990s. Under Jiang Zemin's ten years of administration, China's economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual GDP growth rate of 11.2%. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Although China needs economic growth to spur its development, the government has begun to worry that rapid economic growth has negatively impacted the country's resources and environment. Another concern is that certain sectors of society are not sufficiently benefiting from China's economic development. As a result, under current President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the PRC have initiated policies to address these issues of equitable distribution of resources, but the outcome remains to be seen. For much of China's population, living standards have seen extremely large improvements, and freedom continues to expand, but political controls remain tight.
China -- Economy --
Beginning in late 1978, the Chinese leadership has been reforming the economy from a Soviet-style centrally planned economy to a more market-oriented economy that is still within a rigid political framework under Party control. The reforms replaced collectivization of Chinese agriculture with privatization of farmlands, increased the responsibility of local authorities and industry managers, allowed a wide variety of small-scale enterprises to flourish, and promoted foreign investment. Price controls were also relaxed. These changes resulted in mainland China's shift from a planned economy to a mixed economy.
China became a member of the World Trade Organization in 2001. China’s accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO) was a goal achieved after nearly fifteen years of exhausting negotiations carrying many legal, political and social implications for all parties. China was finally able to convince WTO members that without China, the WTO is only partially a worldwide trade organization. The road to the signature of the final agreement of accession was long, but these difficulties pale in comparison to the problems that have not yet been tackled in terms of achieving real implementation of its provisions throughout the territory of the People’s Republic of China. China’s accession surely presents the world trading system with opportunities, but also poses the challenge of integrating a market with strong structural, behavioural and cultural constraints.
The government emphasizes personal income and consumption by introducing new management systems to help increase productivity. The government also focuses on foreign trade as a major vehicle for economic growth, which led to 5 Special Economic Zones (Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou, Xiamen, Hainan Province) where investment laws are relaxed so as to attract foreign capital. Since the 1990s, similar concepts have been expanded to major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Beijing. The result has been a 6-fold increase of GDP since 1978. Chinese economic development is among the fastest in the world, and has been growing at an average annual GDP rate of 9.4% for the past 25 years. At the end of 2005, the People’s Republic of China became the fourth largest economy in the world by exchange rate, and the second largest in the world after the United States by purchasing power parity. But with its large population this still gives an average GDP per person of only an estimated US$8,000 (2006), about 1/5th that of the United States.
Mainland China has a reputation as being a low-cost manufacturer, which caused notable disputes in global markets. This is largely because Chinese corporations can produce many products far more cheaply than other parts of Asia or Latin America, and because expensive products produced in developed countries like the United States are in large part uncompetitive compared to European or Asian goods. Another factor is the unfavorable exchange rate between the Chinese yuan and the United States dollar to which it was pegged.
On July 21, 2005 the People's Bank of China announced that it would move to a floating peg, allowing its currency to move against the United States dollar by 0.5% (effective 18 May 2007, which was earlier 0.3%) a day, while 3% a day against other currencies. Many high-tech American companies have difficulty exporting to China because of U.S. federal government restrictions, which exacerbated the trade gap between the PRC and the US, widespread software piracy and illegal copying of intellectual property (a major US export), and perceived low quality of US goods. On the other hand, China runs a trade deficit with Taiwan and South Korea, importing more from those nations than exports. China runs a large but diminishing trade surplus with Japan.
There has been a significant rise in the Chinese standard of living in recent years. Today, a rapidly declining 10 percent of the Chinese population is below the poverty line. 90.9% of the population is literate, compared to 20% in 1950. The life expectancy in China is the third highest in East Asia, after Japan and South Korea. There is a large wealth disparity between the coastal regions and the remainder of the country. To counter this potentially destabilizing problem, the government has initiated the China Western Development strategy (2000), the Revitalize Northeast China initiative (2003), and the Rise of Central China policy (2004), which are all aimed at helping the interior of China to catch up.
China is undergoing major reforms in its financial sector, which has been plagued by nonperforming loans made in the 1980s and early 1990s to inefficient state-owned enterprises. The government has spent five years and more than US$400 billion cleaning bad loans off the books of the big four state-owned banks, helping prepare them to become shareholder corporations. By the end of 2006, China had restructured three of its four largest banks and listed them publicly. China's largest bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in October 2006 raised US$21.6 billion in the world's largest initial public offering (IPO) in history. ICBC is now the world's second largest bank in market value, after only Citibank.
China -- Culture --
A large part of the Chinese culture is based on the notion that a spiritual world exists. Countless methods of divination have helped answer questions, even serving as an alternate to medicine. Folklores have helped fill the gap for things that cannot be explained. There is often a blurred line between myth, religion and unexplained phenomenon. While many deities are part of the tradition, some of the most recognized holy figures include Guan Yin, Jade Emperor and Budai. Other concepts have extended to outside of mythology into spiritual symbols such as Door god and the Imperial guardian lions. Along with the belief of the holy, there is also the evil. Practices such as Taoist exorcism fighting mogwai and jiang shi with peachwood swords are just some of the concepts passed down from generations. A few Chinese fortune telling rituals are still in use today after thousands of years of refinement.
Different forms of art have swayed under the influence of great philosophers, teachers, religious figures and even political figures. Chinese art encompasses all facets of fine art, folk art and performance art. Porcelain pottery was one of the first form of art in the Palaeolithic period. Early Chinese music and poetry was influenced by the Book of Songs, Confucius and the Chinese poet and statesman Qu Yuan. Chinese painting became a highly appreciated art in court circles encompassing a wide variety of Shan shui with specialized styles such as Ming Dynasty painting. Early Chinese music was based on percussion instruments, which later gave away to string and reed instruments. By the Han dynasty papercutting became a new art form after the invention of paper. Chinese opera would also be introduced and branched regionally in additional to other performance formats such as variety arts.
China -- Political system, law and government --
While the PRC is regarded as a Communist state by many political scientists, simple characterizations of China's political structure since the 1980s are no longer possible. The PRC government has been variously described as authoritarian, communist, and socialist, with heavy restrictions remaining in many areas, most notably in the Internet and in the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of reproductive rights, and freedom of religion. However, compared to its closed door policies until the mid-1970s, the liberalization of China is such that the administrative climate is much less restrictive than before, though the PRC is still far from the full-fledged democracy as practiced in most of Europe or North America, according to most observers internationally.
The country is ruled under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. Its incumbent President is Hu Jintao and its premier is Wen Jiabao.
The country is run by the Communist Party of China (CPC), who is guaranteed power by the Constitution. There are other political parties in the PRC, referred to in China as "democratic parties", which participate in the People's Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress. There have been some moves toward political liberalisation, in that open contested elections are now held at the village and town levels, and that legislatures have shown some assertiveness from time to time. However, the Party retains effective control over governmental appointments: in the absence of meaningful opposition, the CPC wins by default most of the time. Political concerns in China include lessening the growing gap between rich and poor and fighting corruption within the government leadership. The support level that the Communist Party of China has among the Chinese population in general is unclear since there are no consistently contested national elections.
The legal system in China is based on civil law system. It is derived from Soviet and continental civil code legal principles. Legislature retains power to interpret statutes.The constitution in the country ia ambiguous on judicial review of legislation. China adopted its current constitution on December 4, 1982.
State power within the government of the People's Republic of China is divided among three bodies: the Communist Party of China, the state, and the People's Liberation Army