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The People's Republic of China (PRC) ( ), commonly known as China, is the largest country in East Asia and the most populous in the world with over 1.3 billion people, approximately one-fifth of the world's population. It is a socialist republic (specifically a "people's democratic dictatorship" according to its constitution) ruled by the Communist Party of China under a single-party system, and has jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions (Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Ningxia, and Guangxi), four municipalities (Beijing, Tianjinmarker, Shanghai, and Chongqingmarker), and two highly autonomous Special Administrative Region (Hong Kongmarker and Macaumarker). The PRC's capital is Beijing.

At approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles), the People's Republic of China is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area, and the second largest by land area. Its landscape is diverse with forest steppes and deserts (the Gobi and Taklamakanmarker) in the dry north near Mongoliamarker and Russia's Siberiamarker, and subtropical forests in the wet south close to Vietnammarker, Laosmarker, and Myanmarmarker. The terrain in the west is rugged and high altitude, with the Himalayasmarker and the Tian Shanmarker mountain ranges forming China's natural borders with Indiamarker and Central Asia. In contrast, mainland China's eastern seaboard is low-lying and has a 14,500-kilometre long coastline bounded on the southeast by the South China Seamarker and on the east by the East China Seamarker beyond which lies Taiwanmarker, Koreamarker, and Japanmarker.

The ancient Chinese civilization—one of the world's earliest—flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow Rivermarker which flows through the North China Plain. For over 4,000 years, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies (also known as dynasties). The first of these dynasties was the Xia (approx 2000BC) but it was later the Qin Dynasty who first unified China in 221 BC. The last dynasty, the Qingmarker, ended in 1911 with the founding of the Republic of Chinamarker (ROC) by the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT). The first half of the 20th century saw China plunged into a period of disunity and civil wars that divided the country into two main political camps – the Kuomintang and the Communists. Major hostilities ended in 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established in mainland China by the victorious Communists. The KMT-led Republic of China government retreated to Taipeimarker, its jurisdiction now limited to Taiwanmarker and several outlying islands. As of today, the PRC is still involved in disputes with the ROC over issues of sovereignty and the political status of Taiwan.

China's importance in the world today as a great power is reflected through its role as the world's third largest economy nominally (or second largest by PPP) and a permanent member of the UN Security Council as well as being a member of several other multilateral organizations including the WTO, APEC, East Asia Summit, G-20 and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In addition, it is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army with the second largest defense budget.

Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1978, China has become one of the world's fastest growing economies and the world's second largest exporter and the third largest importer of goods. China is currently the largest producer of most commodities. Rapid industrialization has reduced its poverty rate from 53% in 1981 to 8% in 2001. However, the PRC is now faced with a number of other problems including a rapidly aging population due to the one-child policy, a widening rural-urban income gap, and environmental degradation. Moreover, China has been criticized for its human rights violations, and for having a problematic record of interfering with press freedom.


Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the Communist Party of China in control of mainland China, and the Kuomintang (KMT) retreating to Taiwanmarker. On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China. "Communist China" or "Red China" were two of the names of the PRC.

The economic and social plan known as the Great Leap Forward resulted in an estimated 36 million deaths. 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 Unionmarker, 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 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.

The 1976 Tangshan earthquake, with death toll estimated to be between 240,000 to 655,000, is believed to be the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll. The 2008 Sichuan earthquakemarker that took lives of close to 70,000 was the greatest since 1976.

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 wrested power from Mao's anointed successor Hua Guofeng. Although he never became the head of the Party or State himself, Deng was in fact the Paramount Leader of China at that time, 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 some "market socialism". The PRC adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982.

In 1989, the death of pro-reform official, Hu Yaobang, helped to spark the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989marker, during which students and others campaigned for several months for more democratic rights and freedom of speech. However, they were eventually put down on 4 June when PLA troops and vehicles entered and forcibly cleared the square, 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 PRC in the 1990s. Under Jiang Zemin's ten years of administration, the PRC'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 the PRC 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 the PRC's economic development. As a result, under current President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the PRC has initiated policies to address these issues of equitable distribution of resources, but the outcome remains to be seen. More than 40 million farmers have been displaced from their land, usually for economic development, contributing to the 87,000 demonstrations and riots across China in 2005. For much of the PRC's population in major urban centres, living standards have seen extremely large improvements, and freedom continues to expand, but political controls remain tight and rural areas poor.


The PRC is regarded by several political scientists as one of the last five Communist states (along with Vietnammarker, North Koreamarker, Laosmarker, and Cubamarker), but simple characterizations of PRC's political structure since the 1980s are no longer possible. The PRC government has been variously described as communist and socialist, but also as authoritarian, with heavy restrictions remaining in many areas, most notably on the Internet, the press, freedom of assembly, reproductive rights, and freedom of religion.

Compared to its closed-door policies until the mid-1970s, the liberalization of the PRC is such that the administrative climate is less restrictive than before, however the PRC is still far from the liberal democracy practiced in most of Europe or North America, and the National People's Congress has been described as a "rubber stamp" body. The PRC's incumbent President is Hu Jintao and its Premier is Wen Jiabao.

The country is run by the Communist Party of China (CPC), which 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 liberalization, 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 government appointments: in the absence of meaningful opposition, the CPC wins by default most of the time. Political concerns in the PRC include lessening the growing gap between rich and poor and fighting corruption within the government leadership.

The level of support that the Communist Party of China has among the PRC population in general is unclear since there are no consistently contested national elections. According to a survey titled "Top 10 political figures in Mainland China and Taiwan" conducted in Hong Kong, approximately 1000 participants were given a list of 10 well-known political leaders in Mainland China and Taiwan. Mainland leaders (such as Wen Jiabao, Zhu Rongji and Hu Jintao) have received higher rating than leaders in Taiwan (such as Chen Shui-bian, Ma Ying-jeou and Lien Chan).

Foreign relations

The People's Republic of China maintains diplomatic relations with most major countries in the world. Swedenmarker was the first western country to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic on 9 May 1950. In 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of Chinamarker as the sole representative of China in the United Nations and as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The PRC was also a former member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Under its interpretation of the One-China policy, the PRC has made it a precondition to establishing diplomatic relations that the other country acknowledges its claim to Taiwanmarker and severs official ties with the Republic of Chinamarker government. The government opposes publicized foreign travels by former and present ROC officials promoting Taiwan's independence, such as Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, and other politically controversial figures, such as Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, in an official context .

The PRC has been playing an increasing role in calling for free trade areas and security pacts amongst its Asia-Pacific neighbors. In 2004, the PRC proposed an entirely new East Asia Summit (EAS) framework as a forum for regional security issues that pointedly excluded the United States. The EAS, which includes ASEAN Plus Three, India, Australia and New Zealand, held its inaugural summit in 2005. The PRC is also a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), with Russia and the Central Asian republics.

Sinophobic attitudes often target Chinese minorities and nationals living outside of China. Sometimes the anti-Chinese attitudes turn violent, such as the May 13 Incident in Malaysia in 1969 and the Jakarta riots of May 1998 in Indonesia, in which more than 2,000 people died. In recent years, a number of anti-Chinese riots and incidents have also occurred in Africa and Oceania. Anti-Chinese sentiment is often rooted in socio-economics.

Much of the current foreign policy is based on the concept of China's peaceful rise. Conflicts with foreign countries have occurred at times in its recent history, particularly with the United States; for example, the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrademarker during the Kosovo conflict in May 1999 and the U.S.-China spy plane incident in April 2001. Its foreign relations with many Western nations suffered for a time following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989marker, though they have since recovered.

The relationship between China and Japan has been strained at times by Japan's refusal to acknowledge its wartime past to the satisfaction of the PRC; take for instance revisionist comments made by prominent Japanese officials and in some Japanese history textbooks. Another point of conflict between the two countries is the frequent visits by Japanese government officials to the Yasukuni Shrinemarker. However, Sino-Japanese relations have warmed considerably since Shinzo Abe became the new Japanese Prime Minister in September 2006. A joint historical study to be completed by 2008 of WWII atrocities is being conducted by the PRC and Japan.

Equally bordering the most countries in the world alongside Russia, the PRC was in a number of international territorial disputes. China's territorial disputes have led to localized wars in the last 50 years, including the Sino-Indian War in 1962, the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969, and the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979. In 2001, the PRC and Russia signed the Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship, which paved the way in 2004 for Russia to transfer Yinlong Island as well as one-half of Heixiazimarker to China, ending a long-standing Sino-Russian border dispute. Other territorial disputes include islands in the Eastmarker and South China Seasmarker, and undefined or disputed land borders with India and Bhutanmarker.

While accompanying a rapid economic rise, the PRC since the 1990s seeks to maintain a policy of quiet diplomacy with its neighbors. It does so by keeping economic growth steady and participating in regional organizations and cultivating bi-lateral relations in order to ease suspicion over China's burgeoning military capabilities. The PRC has started a policy of wooing African nations for trade and bilateral co-operation. Xinhua, China's official news agency, states that there are no less than 750,000 Chinese nationals working or living in Africa. There are some discussions about whether China will become a new superpower in the 21st century, with certain commentators pointing out its economic progress, military might, very large population, and increasing international influence but others claiming it is headed for economic collapse.

Human rights

While economic and social controls have been greatly relaxed in China since the 1970s, political freedom is still tightly controlled by both central and local governments. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China states that the "fundamental rights" of citizens include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, universal suffrage, and property rights. However, these provisions do not afford significant protection in practice against criminal prosecution by the State.

Tens of millions who have moved to the cities find themselves treated as second class citizens by China's urban population, who tend to look down on country folk. There is dissatisfaction from peasants as a result of land seizures by the wealthy middle class of the cities. Official discrimination, such as in the hukou system of household registration, between rural and urban is often described as an apartheid system. Today, a farmer has to pay three times more in taxes even though his income is one sixth that of the average urban dweller.

Censorship of political speech and information is openly and routinely used to silence criticism of government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party. In particular, press control is notoriously tight: Reporters Without Borders considers the PRC one of the least free countries in the world for the press. In the Reporters Without Borders' Annual World Press Freedom Index of 2005, the PRC ranked 159 out of 167 places.

Chinese journalist He Qinglian in her 2004 book Media Control in China documents government controls on the Internet and other media in China. The government has a policy of limiting groups, organizations, and beliefs that it considers a potential threat to "social stability" and control, as was the case with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989marker. The Communist Party has had mixed success in controlling information: a very strong media control system faces very strong market forces, an increasingly educated citizenry, and cultural change that are making China more open, especially on environmental issues.

A number of foreign governments and NGO routinely criticize the PRC, alleging widespread civil rights violations including systematic use of lengthy detention without trial, forced confessions, torture, mistreatment of prisoners, restrictions of freedom of speech, assembly, association, religion, the press, and labor rights. China leads the world in capital punishment, accounting for roughly 90% of total executions in 2004. Civil rights issues are one of the factors driving independence movements in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The PRC government has responded by arguing that the notion of human rights should take into account a country's present level of economic development, and focus more on the people's rights to subsistence and development in poorer countries. The rise in the standard of living, literacy, and life expectancy for the average Chinese in the last three decades is seen by the government as tangible progress made in human rights. Efforts in the past decade to combat deadly natural disasters, such as the perennial Yangtze Rivermarker floods, and work-related accidents are also portrayed in China as progress in human rights for a still largely poor country.

Administrative divisions

The People's Republic of China has administrative control over twenty-two provinces and considers Taiwan to be its twenty-third province. There are also five autonomous regions, each with a designated minority group; four municipalities; and two Special Administrative Region that enjoy considerable autonomy. The twenty-two provinces, five autonomous regions, and four municipalities can be collectively referred to as "mainland China", a term which usually excludes Hong Kong and Macau.

Geography and climate

The People's Republic of China is the second largest country in Asia by area after Russia, and is considered the third largest in the world in respect to land and sea area. The uncertainty over size is related to (a) the validity of claims by China on territories such as Aksai Chinmarker and Trans-Karakoram Tract (both territories also claimed by India), and (b) how the total size of the United States is calculated: The World Factbook gives 9,826,630 km², and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 9,522,055 km². China borders 14 nations (counted clockwise from south): Vietnammarker, Laosmarker, Burmamarker, Indiamarker, Bhutanmarker, Nepalmarker, Pakistanmarker, Afghanistanmarker, Tajikistanmarker, Kyrgyzstanmarker, Kazakhstanmarker, Russiamarker, Mongoliamarker and North Koreamarker. Additionally the border between PRC and ROC is located in territorial waters.

The territory of China contains a large variety of landscapes. In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Seamarker and the East China Seamarker, there are extensive and densely populated alluvial plains, while on the edges of the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north, grasslands can be seen. Southern China is dominated by hill country and low mountain ranges. In the central-east are the deltas of China's two major rivers, the Yellow Rivermarker and Yangtze Rivermarker (Chang Jiang). Other major rivers include the Xi, Mekong, Brahmaputramarker and Amurmarker.

To the west, major mountain ranges, notably the Himalayasmarker, with China's highest point at the eastern half of Mount Everestmarker, and high plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes such as the Taklamakanmarker and the Gobi Desert.

A major issue is the continued expansion of deserts, particularly the Gobi Desert. Although barrier tree lines planted since the 1970s have reduced the frequency of sandstorms, prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices result in dust storms plaguing northern China each spring, which then spread to other parts of East Asia, including Koreamarker and Japan. China is losing a million acres per year to desertification. Water, erosion, and pollution control have become important issues in China's relations with other countries.

China has some relevant environmental regulations: the 1979 Environmental Protection Law, which was largely modeled on U.S. legislation. But the environment continues to deteriorate. While the regulations are fairly stringent, they are frequently disregarded by local communities while seeking economic development. Twelve years after the law, only one Chinese city was making an effort to clean up its water discharges. This indicates that China is about twenty years behind the U.S. schedule of environmental regulation.

Part of the price China is paying for increased prosperity is damage to the environment. Leading Chinese environmental campaigner Ma Jun has warned that water pollution is one of the most serious threats facing China. According to the Ministry of Water Resources, roughly 300 million Chinese are drinking unsafe water. This makes the crisis of water shortages more pressing, with 400 out of 600 cities short of water. Melting glaciers in the Himalayasmarker could lead to water shortages for hundreds of millions of people.


With 2.3 million active troops, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest military in the world. The PLA consists of an army, navy, air force, and strategic nuclear force. The official announced budget of the PLA for 2009 was $70 billion. However, the United States claims China does not report its real military spending. The DIA estimates that the real Chinese military budget for 2008 could be anywhere from US$105 to US$150 billion.

The PRC, despite possession of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, is widely seen by military researchers both within and outside of China as having only limited power projection capability; this is, among other things, because of the limited effectiveness of its navy. It is considered a major military regional power and an emerging military superpower. In order to protect its critical supply lines without a power projection capability, China has been establishing foreign military relationships that have been compared to a String of Pearls.

Much progress has been made in the last decade and the PRC continues to make efforts to modernize its military. It has purchased state-of-the-art fighter jets from Russia, such as the Sukhoi Su-30s, and has also produced its own modern fighters, specifically the Chinese J-10 and the J-11. It has also acquired and improved upon the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, which are considered to be among the best aircraft-intercepting systems in the world, albeit Russia has since produced the new generation S-400 Triumf, which has been reported to at least have been semi-developed with China. The PRC's armored and rapid-reaction forces have been updated with enhanced electronics and targeting capabilities. In recent years, much attention has been focused on building a navy with blue-water capability.


From its founding in 1949 to late 1978, the People's Republic of China was a Sovietmarker-style centrally planned economy. Private businesses and capitalism did not exist. To propel the country towards a modern, industrialized communist society, Mao Zedong instituted the Great Leap Forward which is now widely seen – both within the PRC and outside – as a major economic failure and a great humanitarian disaster.

Following Mao's death and the end of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping and the new Chinese leadership began to reform the economy and move to a market-oriented mixed economy under one-party rule. China's economy is mainly characterized as a market economy based on private property ownership. Collectivization of the agriculture was dismantled and farmlands were privatized to increase productivity.

A wide variety of small-scale enterprises were encouraged while the government relaxed price controls and promoted foreign investment. Foreign trade was focused upon as a major vehicle of growth, which led to the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) first in Shenzhenmarker (near Hong Kongmarker) and then in other Chinese cities. Inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were restructured by introducing western-style management system and the unprofitable ones were closed, resulting in massive job losses.

Since economic liberalization began in 1978, the PRC's investment- and export-led economy has grown 70 times bigger and is the fastest growing major economy in the world. It now has the world's third largest nominal GDP at 30 trillion yuan (US$4.4 trillion), although its per capita income of US$3,300 is still low and puts the PRC behind roughly a hundred countries. The primary, secondary, and tertiary industries contributed 11.3%, 48.6%, and 40.1% respectively to the total economy. If PPP is taken into account, the PRC's economy is second only to the US at US$7.9 trillion corresponding to US$6,000 per capita.

The PRC is the fourth most visited country in the world with 49.6 million inbound international visitors in 2006. It is a member of the WTO and is the world's third largest trading power behind the US and Germany with a total international trade of US$2.56 trillion – US$1.43 trillion in exports (#2) and US$1.13 trillion in imports (#3). Its foreign exchange reserves have reached US$2.1 trillion, making it by far the world's largest. The PRC owns an estimated $1.6 trillion of U.S. securities. It is among the world's favorite destination for FDI, attracting more than US$80 billion in 2007 alone.

The PRC's success has been primarily due to manufacturing as a low-cost producer. This is attributed to a combination of cheap labor, good infrastructure, medium level of technology and skill, relatively high productivity, favorable government policy, and some say, an undervalued exchange rate. The latter has been sometimes blamed for the PRC's bulging trade surplus (US$262.7 billion in 2007) and has become a major source of dispute between the PRC and its major trading partners – the US, EU, and Japan – despite the yuan having been de-pegged and risen in value by 20% against the US dollar since 2005.

The PRC, holding US$801.5 billion in Treasury bonds, is the largest foreign holder of U.S. public debt.

The state still dominates in strategic "pillar" industries (such as energy and heavy industries), but private enterprise (30 million private businesses) now accounts for anywhere between 33% (People's Daily Online 2005) to 70% (BusinessWeek, 2005) of GDP in 2005, while the OECD estimate is over 50% of China's national output, up from 1% in 1978. Its stock market in Shanghai (SSE) is raising record amounts of IPO and its benchmark Shanghai Composite index has doubled since 2005. SSE's market capitalization reached US$3 trillion in 2007 and is the world's fifth largest exchange.

China now ranks 29th in the Global Competitiveness Index. Thirty-seven Chinese companies made the list in the 2009 Fortune Global 500 (Beijing alone with 26). Measured using market capitalization, four of the world's top ten most valuable companies are in China including first-ranked PetroChina (world's most valuable oil company), third-ranked Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (world's most valuable bank), fifth-ranked China Mobile (world's most valuable telecommunications company) and seventh-ranked China Construction Bank.

Although still poor by the world's standard, the PRC's rapid growth managed to pull hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty since 1978. Today, about 10% of the Chinese population (down from 64% in 1978) live below the poverty line of US$1 per day (PPP) while life expectancy has dramatically increased to 73 years. More than 90% of the population is literate, compared to 20% in 1950. Urban unemployment declined to 4 percent in China by the end of 2007 (true overall unemployment might be higher at around 10%).

Its middle class population (defined as those with annual income of at least US$5,000) has now reached 80–150 million. China's retail market is worth RMB8921 billion (US$1302 billion) in 2007 and growing at 16.8% annually. It is also now the world's third biggest consumer of luxury goods with 12% of the global share.

The PRC's growth has been uneven when comparing different geographic regions and rural and urban areas. The urban-rural income gap is getting wider in the PRC with a Gini coefficient of 46.9%. Development has also been mainly concentrated in the eastern coastal regions while the remainder of the country are left behind. To counter this, the government has promoted development in the western, northeastern, and central regions of China.

The economy is also highly energy-intensive and inefficient – it uses 20%-100% more energy than OECD countries for many industrial processes. It has now become the world's second largest energy consumer behind the US but relies on coal to supply about 70% of its energy needs. Coupled with a lax environmental regulation, this has led to a massive water and air pollution (China has 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities). Consequently, the government has promised to use more renewable energy with a target of 10% of total energy use by 2010 and 30% by 2050.

Science and technology

After the Sino-Soviet split, China started to develop its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems, successfully detonating its first surface nuclear test in 1964 at Lop Nurmarker. A natural outgrowth of this was a satellite launching program, which culminated in 1970 with the launching of Dong Fang Hong I, the first Chinese satellite. This made the PRC the fifth nation to independently launch a satellite.

In 1992, the Shenzhou manned spaceflight program was authorized. After four unmanned tests, Shenzhou 5 was launched on 15 October 2003, using a Long March 2F launch vehicle and carrying Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei, making the PRC the third country to put a human being into space through its own endeavors. China completed its second manned mission with a crew of two, Shenzhou 6 in October 2005. In 2008, China successfully completed the Shenzhou 7 mission, making it the third country to have the capability to conduct a spacewalk. The country plans to build a Chinese Space Station in the near future and achieve a lunar landing in the next decade.

China has the world's second largest research and development budget, and is expected to invest over $136 billion in 2006 after growing more than 20% in 2005 the past year. The Chinese government continues to place heavy emphasis on research and development by creating greater public awareness of innovation, and reforming financial and tax systems to promote growth in cutting-edge industries.

In 2006, President Hu Jintao called for China to make the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to an innovation-based one and the National People's Congress have approved large increases in research funding. Stem cell research and gene therapy, which some in the Western world see as controversial, face minimal regulation in China. China has an estimated 926,000 researchers, second only to the 1.3 million in the United States.

China is also actively developing its software, semiconductor and energy industries, including renewable energies such as hydro, wind and solar power. In an effort to reduce pollution from coal-burning power plants, China has been pioneering the deployment of pebble bed nuclear reactors, which run cooler and safer, and have potential applications for the hydrogen economy.

China currently has the most cell phone users in the world with over 700 million users in July 2009. It also has the largest number of internet and broadband users in the world.


Transportation in the mainland of the People's Republic of China has improved significantly since the late 1990s as part of a government effort to link the entire nation through a series of expressways known as the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS). The total length of expressway is 61,000 km at the end of 2008, second only to the United States. Most of the expressways, however, require tolls.

Private car ownership is increasing at an annual rate of 15%, although it is still uncommon because of government policies which make car ownership expensive, such as taxes and toll roads. Private highway driving is becoming more common, being almost nonexistent ten years ago.

Domestic air travel has increased significantly, but remains too expensive for most. Long distance transportation is dominated by railways and charter bus systems. Railways are the vital carrier in China; they are monopolized by the state, divided into various railway bureaus in different regions. At the rates of demand it experiences, the system has historically been subject to overcrowding during travel seasons such as Chunyun during the Chinese New Year.

Cities such as Beijing and Shanghai both have a rapidly expanding network of underground or light rail systems, while several other cities also have running rapid transit. Numerous cities are also constructing subways. Hong Kong has one of the most developed transport systems in the world. Shanghai has a Maglevmarker rail line connecting Shanghai's urban area to Pudong International Airportmarker.


A population density map of the People's Republic of China.
The eastern, coastal provinces are much more densely populated than the western interior.
, there are 1,338,612,968 people in the PRC. About 21% (male 145,461,833; female 128,445,739) are 14 years old or younger, 71% (male 482,439,115; female 455,960,489) are between 15 and 64 years old, and 8% (male 48,562,635; female 53,103,902) are over 65 years old. The population growth rate for 2006 is 0.6%.

The PRC officially recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.9% of the total population. Large ethnic minorities include the Zhuang (16 million), Manchu (10 million), Hui (9 million), Miao (8 million), Uyghur (7 million), Yi (7 million), Tujia (5.75 million), Mongols (5 million), Tibetan (5 million), Buyei (3 million), and Koreans (2 million).

In the past decade, China's cities expanded at an average rate of 10% annually. The country's urbanization rate increased from 17.4% to 41.8% between 1978 and 2005, a scale unprecedented in human history. Between 150 and 200 million migrant workers work part-time in the major cities and return home to the countryside periodically with their earnings.

Today, the People's Republic of China has dozens of major cities with one million or more long-term residents, including the three global cities of Beijing, Hong Kongmarker, and Shanghai.Major cities in China play key roles in national and regional identity, culture and economics.

Largest cities

The figures below are from the 2008 census, and are only estimates of the population within administrative city limits; a different ranking exists when considering the total municipal populations (which includes suburban and rural populations). The large floating populations of migrant workers make conducting censuses in urban areas difficult; the figures below do not include the floating population, only long-term residents.

Population policy

Population of China from 1961 to 2006.
With a population of over 1.3 billion, the PRC is very concerned about its population growth and has attempted, with mixed results, to implement a strict family planning policy. The government's goal is one child per family, with exceptions for ethnic minorities and flexibility in rural areas. The government's goal is to stabilize population growth early in the 21st century, though some projections estimate a population of anywhere ranging from 1.4 billion to 1.6 billion by 2025. Hence, the country's family planning minister has indicated that China will maintain its one-child policy until at least the year 2020.

The policy is resisted, particularly in rural areas, because of the need for agricultural labour and a traditional preference for boys (who can later serve as male heirs). Families who breach the policy often lie during the census. Official government policy opposes forced sterilization or abortion, but allegations of coercion continue as local officials, who are faced with penalties for failing to curb population growth, may resort to forced abortion or sterilization, or manipulation of census figures.

The decreasing reliability of PRC population statistics since family planning began in the late 1970s has made evaluating the effectiveness of the policy difficult. Estimates by Chinese demographers of the average number of children for a Chinese woman vary from 1.5 to 2.0. The government is particularly concerned with the large imbalance in the sex ratio at birth, apparently the result of a combination of traditional preference for boys and family planning pressure, which led to the ban of using ultrasound devices for the purpose of preventing sex-selective abortion.

Other factors include under-reporting of female children to circumvent the law and that some areas unofficially allow a second child if the first is not a male but not otherwise. On the basis of a 2005 report by China's National Population and Family Planning Commission, there were 118.6 boys born for every 100 girls, and in some rural areas the boy/girl ratio could be as high as 130/100. As this trend of gender imbalance is on the increase, experts warn of increased social instability should this trend continue.


In 1986, China set the long-term goal of providing compulsory nine-year basic education to every child. , there were 396,567 primary schools, 94,116 secondary schools and 2,236 higher education institutions in the PRC. In February 2006, the government advanced its basic education goal by pledging to provide completely free nine-year education, including textbooks and fees, in the poorer western provinces.

, 90.9% (male: 95.1%; female: 86.5%) of the population over age 15 are literate. China's youth (age 15 to 24) literacy rate was 98.9% (99.2% for males and 98.5% for females) in 2000. In March 2007, China announced the decision of making education a national "strategic priority", the central budget of the national scholarships will be tripled in two years and 223.5 billion Yuan (28.65 billion US dollars) of extra funding will be allocated from the central government in the next 5 years to improve the compulsory education in rural areas.

The quality of Chinese colleges and universities varies considerably across the country. The consistently top-ranked universities in mainland China are:

Many parents are highly committed to their children's education, often investing large portions of the family's income on education. Private lessons and recreational activities, such as in foreign languages or music, are popular among the middle-class families who can afford them.

Public health

The Ministry of Health, together with its counterparts in the provincial health bureaus, oversees the health needs of the Chinese population. An emphasis on public health and preventative treatment characterized health policy since the early 1950s. At that time, the party started the Patriotic Health Campaign, which was aimed at improving sanitation and hygiene, as well as attacking several diseases. This has shown major results as diseases like cholera, typhoid, and scarlet fever were nearly eradicated.

With economic reform after 1978, the health of the Chinese public improved rapidly because of better nutrition despite the disappearance, along with the People's Communes, of much of the free public health services provided in the countryside. Health care in China became largely private fee-for-service. This was widely criticised by the Islamic Hui populations of the North West, who were often unable to obtain medical support in their remote communities. By 2000, when the World Health Organization made a large study of public health systems throughout the world, The World Health Report 2000 Health Systems: Improving Performance the Chinese public health system ranked 144 of the 191 UN member states ranked.

The country's life expectancy at birth jumped from about 35 years in 1949 to 73.18 years in 2008, and infant mortality went down from 300 per thousand in the 1950s to about 23 per thousand in 2006. Malnutrition stood at 12% of the population according to United Nations FAO sources.

Despite significant improvements in health and the introduction of western style medical facilities, China has several emerging public health problems, which include respiratory problems as a result of widespread air pollution and millions of cigarette smokers, a possible future HIV/AIDS epidemic, and an increase in obesity among urban youths. China's large population and close living quarters has led to some serious disease outbreaks in recent years, such as the 2003 outbreak of SARS (a pneumonia-like disease) which has since been largely contained.

Estimates of excess deaths in China from environmental pollution (apart from smoking) are placed at 760,000 people per annum from air and water pollution (including indoor air pollution). In 2007, China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest producer of CO2. Some 90% of China's cities suffer from some degree of water pollution, and nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Reports by the World Bank and the New York Times have claimed industrial pollution, particularly of the air, to be significant health hazards in China.


China does allow a limited degree of religious freedom, however official tolerance is only extended to members of state-approved religious organizations and not to those who worship underground, such as house churches. An accurate number of religious adherents is hard to obtain because of a lack of official data, but there is general consensus that religion has been enjoying a resurgence over the past 20 years. A survey by Phil Zuckerman on found that in 1998, 59% (over 700 million) of the population was irreligious. Meanwhile, another survey in 2007 found that there are 300 million (23% of the population) believers as distinct from an official figure of 100 million.

Despite the surveys' varying results, most agree that China's traditional religions – Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions – are the dominant faiths. According to a number of sources, Buddhism in China accounts for between 660 million (~50%) and over 1 billion (~80%) while Taoists number 400 million (~30%). However, the number of adherents to these religions can be overcounted because one person may subscribe to one or more of these traditional beliefs simultaneously, and the difficulty in clearly differentiating Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions. In addition, subscribing to Buddhism and Taoism is not necessarily considered religious by those who follow the philosophies in principle but stop short of subscribing to any kind of divinity.

Most Chinese Buddhists are nominal adherents because only a small proportion of the population (over 8% or over 100 million) may have taken the formal step of going for refuge. Even then, it is still difficult to estimate accurately the number of Buddhists because they do not have congregational memberships and often do not participate in public ceremonies. Mahayana (大乘, Dacheng) and its subsets Pure Land (Amidism), Tiantai and Zen are the most widely practiced denominations of Buddhism. Other forms, such as Theravada and Tibetan, are practiced largely by ethnic minorities along the geographic fringes of the Chinese mainland.

Christianity in China was first introduced during the Tang period in the 7th century with the arrival of Nestorianism in 635 CE. This was followed by Franciscan missionaries in the 13th century, Jesuits in the 16th century, and finally Protestants in the 19th century, during which time Christianity began to make significant foothold in China. Of the minority religions, Christianity has been particularly noted as one of the fastest growing (especially since the last 200 years) and today may number between 40 million (3%) and 54 million (4%) according to independent surveys, while official estimates suggested that there are only 16 million Christians.

Islam in China dates to a mission in 651, eighteen years after Muhammad's death. Muslims came to China for trade, dominating the import/export industry during the Song Dynasty. They became influential in government circles, including Zheng He, Lan Yu and Yeheidie'erding. Nanjingmarker became an important center of Islamic study. The Qing Dynastymarker waged war and genocide against Muslims in the Dungan revolt and Panthay rebellion. The number of Muslims in China today is estimated between 20 and 100 million by one source while most estimates figures that there are 20 to 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the population).

There are also followers of minority religions including Hinduism, Dongbaism, Bön, and a number of new religions and sects (particularly Xiantianism). In July 1999, the Falun Gong spiritual practice was officially banned by the authorities, and many international organizations have criticized the government's treatment of Falun Gong that has occurred since then.Mary-Anne Toy, Underground existence for Falun Gong faithful, The Age, July 26, 2008.

"The US State Department, US Congress, the United Nations and human rights groups such as Amnesty say persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China is a continuing abuse of human rights." According to official estimates, 50–70 million Chinese practised Falun Gong in 1998. Other estimates have varied, however: Falun Gong itself claims to have as many as 100 million practitioners, while the China's Ministry of Civil Affairs later claimed that there were as few as 2 million. As there is no official membership or lists, current global numbers are unknown.


For centuries, opportunity for economic and social advancement in China could be provided by high performance on Imperial examinations. The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as the belief that calligraphy and literati painting were higher forms of art than dancing or drama. China's traditional values were derived from various versions of Confucianism and conservatism. A number of more authoritarian and rational strains of thought have also been influential, such as Legalism. There was often conflict between the philosophies, such as the individualistic Song Dynasty neo-Confucians, who believed Legalism departed from the original spirit of Confucianism. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today. In recent years, a number of New Confucians have advocated that democratic ideals and human rights are quite compatible with traditional Confucian "Asian values."

Beijing opera is a quintessential aspect of traditional Chinese culture and holds an important position in the world treasure of art.

The first leaders of the People's Republic of China were born in the old society but were influenced by the May Fourth Movement and reformist ideals. They sought to change some traditional aspects of Chinese culture, such as rural land tenure, sexism, and a Confucian education, while preserving others, such as the family structure and obedience to the state. Many observers believe that the period following 1949 is a continuation of traditional Chinese dynastic history, while others say that the CPC's rule has damaged the foundations of Chinese culture, especially through political movements such as the Cultural Revolution, where many aspects of traditional culture were labeled 'regressive and harmful' or 'vestiges of feudalism' by the regime and thus, were destroyed. They further argue that many important aspects of traditional Chinese morals and culture, such as Confucianism, Chinese art, literature, and performing arts like Beijing opera, were altered to conform to government policies and propaganda at the time.

Today, the Chinese government has accepted a great deal of traditional Chinese culture as an integral part of Chinese society, lauding it as an important achievement of the Chinese civilizationmarker and emphasizing it as vital to a Chinese national identity. Since the Cultural Revolution ended, various forms of traditional Chinese art, literature, music, film, fashion and architecture have seen a vigorous revival, and folk and variety art in particular have gained a new found respectability, and sparked interest nationally and even worldwide.

Evening pickup basketball game in a Beijing neighborhood

Chinese culture and the West were linked by the Silk Route. Artifacts from the history of the silk route, as well as from the natural history of the Gobi desert, are displayed in the Silk Route Museum.

Sports and recreation

China has one of the oldest sporting cultures in the world, spanning the course of several millennia. There is, in fact, evidence that a form of football was played in China in ancient times. Besides football, some of the most popular sports in the country include martial arts, table tennis, badminton, swimming, basketball and snooker. Board games such as Go (Weiqi), and Xiangqi (Chinese chess) and recently chess are also commonly played and have organized competitions.

Physical fitness is widely emphasized in Chinese culture. Morning exercises are a common activity and often one can find the elderly practicing qigong and tai chi chuan in parks or students doing stretches on school campuses. Young people are especially keen on basketball, especially in urban centers with limited space and grass areas. The NBA has a huge following among Chinese youths, with Yao Ming being the idol of many. Major sporting events were also held in Beijing such as the 1990 Asian Games and the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Many traditional sports are also played. The popular Chinese dragon boat racing (龙舟) occurs during the Dragon Boat Festival. In Inner Mongolia, sports such as Mongolian-style wrestling and horse racing are popular. In Tibet, archery and equestrianism are a part of traditional festivals.

China finished first in gold medal count at the last Olympic Games which were held in Beijing from 8 August to 24 August 2008.

Other names

See also


Further reading

  • Farah, Paolo, Five Years of China’s WTO Membership. EU and US Perspectives on China’s Compliance with Transparency Commitments and the Transitional Review Mechanism, Legal Issues of Economic Integration, Kluwer Law International, Volume 33, Number 3, pp. 263–304, 2006. Abstract.
  • Heilig, Gerhard K., China Bibliography - Online. 2006, 2007.

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