People's Republic of China

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Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó
Flag of People's Republic of China Coat of Arms of People's Republic of China
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: none
Anthem: March of the Volunteers
Location of People's Republic of China
Capital Beijing
36°55′ N 116°23′ E
Largest city Shanghai
Official languages Chinese1
Government Communist one-party state
Hu Jintao
Wen Jiabao
 - Declared

October 1, 1949
 • Total
 • Water (%)
9,596,960 km² (4th)
 • 2005 est.
 • 2000 census
 • Density
1,306,313,812 (1st)
140/km² (77th)
 • Total
 • Per capita
2005 estimate
$8.091 trillion (2nd)
$6193 (97th)
Currency Renminbi (RMB¥) (CNY)
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
(UTC+8, does not observe)
Internet TLD .cn
Calling code +86
1Standard Mandarin (Putonghua) is the official spoken standard, except in Hong Kong and Macau where Cantonese is usually also used. Chinese is co-official with English in Hong Kong and Portuguese in Macau, respectively. In minority areas, Chinese is co-official to various extents with minority languages such as Uyghur, Mongol, and Tibetan.
2The figures refer to mainland China only. Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are excluded.

The People's Republic of China (PRC; Pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó ; Traditional: 中華人民共和國 Simplified: 中华人民共和国), commonly referred to as China, and sometimes Red China, is a country in East Asia.

China is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1.3 billion people, most of whom are said to be of Han Chinese ethnicity. Geographically, it is the largest country in area in East Asia and the fourth largest in the world after Russia, Canada and the United States. It borders 14 nations (counted clockwise): Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and North Korea. Since its founding in 1949, it has been led by the Communist Party of China (CPC). Although it is often termed a communist state in the West, the PRC has considerably privatized its economy in the past three decades but retains significant political control of the economy especially in the remaining state-owned enterprises and the banking sector. Politically, it remains a one-party authoritarian state.

In an ongoing dispute, the PRC claims sovereignty over Taiwan and some neighboring islands, whose control were never relinquished by the Republic of China. The PRC asserts the Republic of China to be an illegitimate and supplanted entity and administratively categorizes Taiwan as the 23rd province of PRC. (See China and Political status of Taiwan for more information.)

The term "mainland China" is sometimes used to denote the area under the PRC's rule, usually excluding the two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau. The PRC refers to the period of its rule as New China (新中国) whenever it contrasts itself with China before 1949. The PRC is sometimes also referred to as "Red China" for a similar distinction, especially by its political opponents and critics, in reference to the association between the color red and communism.



Main articles: History of China, History of the People's Republic of China, Timeline of Chinese history See also: Chinese imperialism

After World War II, the Chinese Civil War between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang ended in 1949 with the Communists in control of mainland China and the Kuomintang in control of Taiwan and some outlying islands of Fujian. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong emphatically declared the People's Republic of China, establishing a communist state, and proclaiming "the Chinese people have stood up."

Supporters of the Maoist Era claim that under Mao, China's unity and sovereignty was assured for the first time in a century, and there was development of infrastructure, industry, healthcare, and education, which raised standard of living for the average Chinese. They also believe that campaigns such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were essential in jumpstarting China's development and purifying its culture. Supporters may also doubt statistics or accounts given for death tolls or other damages incurred by Mao's campaigns.

Critics of Mao's regime assert that Mao's administration imposed strict controls over everyday life, and believe that campaigns such as the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution contributed to or caused millions of deaths, incurred severe economic costs, and damaged China's cultural heritage. The Great Leap Forward in particular preceded a massive famine in China which, according to numbers guessed by credible Western and Eastern sources, 20–30 million people died; most Western and many Chinese analysts attribute this to the Great Leap Forward, while others, including Mao at the time, attribute this to natural disasters; still others doubt this figure entirely, or claim that many more people died due to famine or other consequences of political chaos during the rule of Chiang Kai-Shek.

Following the dramatic economic failures of the early 1960s, Mao stepped down from his position as chairman of the People's Republic. The National People's Congress elected Liu Shaoqi as Mao's successor. Mao remained head of the Party but was removed from day to day management of economic affairs which came under the control of a more moderate leadership under the dominant influence of Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and others who initiated economic reforms.

In 1966, Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, which is viewed by his opponents (including both Western analysts and many Chinese people who were youth at the time) as a strike back at his rivals by mobilizing the youth of the country in support of his thought and purging the moderate leadership, but is viewed by his supporters as an experiment in direct democracy and a genuine attempt at purging Chinese society of corruption and other negative influences. Disorder followed but gradually under the leadership of Zhou Enlai moderate forces regained influence. After Mao's death, Deng Xiaoping, seen as the leader of the economic reformists, succeeded in winning the power struggle, and Mao's widow, Jiang Qing and her associates, the Gang of Four, who had assumed control of the country, were arrested and put on trial. Since then, the government has gradually and greatly loosened governmental control over people's personal lives, and began transitioning China's planned economy into a mixed economy.

Supporters of the economic reforms point to the rapid development of the consumer and export sectors of the economy, the creation of an urban middle class that now constitutes 15% of the population, higher living standards (which is shown via dramatic increases in GDP per capita, consumer spending, life expectancy, literacy rate, and total grain output) and a much wider range of personal rights and freedoms for average Chinese as evidence of the success of the reforms.

Critics of the economic reforms claim that the reforms have caused wealth disparity, environmental pollution, rampant corruption, widespread unemployment associated with layoffs at inefficient state-owned enterprises, and has introduced often unwelcome cultural influences. Consequently they believe that China's culture has been corrupted, the poor have been reduced to a hopeless abject underclass, and that the social stability is threatened. They are also of the opinion that various political reforms, such as moves towards popular elections, have been unfairly nipped in the bud. Regardless of either view, today, the public perception of Mao has improved dramatically, and images of Mao and Mao related objects have become fashionable.

Despite these concessions to capitalism, the Communist Party of China remains in control and has maintained repressive policies against groups which it feels are threats, such as Falun Gong and the separatist movement in Tibet. Supporters of these policies claim that these policies safeguard stability in a society that is torn apart by class differences and rivalries, has no tradition of civil participation, and limited rule of law. Opponents of these policies claim that these policies severely violate norms of human rights that the international community recognizes, and further claim that this results in a police state, which creates an atmosphere of fear and ignorance.

During the military crack down to crush the student-led peaceful protest campaign demanding more democratic reform and freedom in 1989, referred as the June 4th Democratic Movement, as many as hundreds to thousands of unarmed civilians were killed by the PLA troops. The crack down, generally referred as June 4th Massacre or June 4th Event, brought world-wide condemnation and sanctions against the Communist government.

The People's Republic of China adopted its current constitution on December 4, 1982.


Main article: Politics of the People's Republic of China
This section is on the politics of Mainland China. See also: Chinese nationalism, Propaganda in the People's Republic of China, Imperialism in Asia, Politics of Taiwan, Politics of Hong Kong, and Politics of Macau.
Mao Zedong declares the founding of the PRC in 1949
Mao Zedong declares the founding of the PRC in 1949

In the technical terminology of political science the PRC was a communist state for much of the 20th century, and is still considered a communist state by many, though not all political scientists. Attempts to characterize the nature of the China's political structure into a single, simple category are typically seen as lacking sufficient depth to be satisfactory. A major reason for this is China's political history: for over two thousand years, prior to 1949, the state had been ruled by some form of centralized imperial monarchy with strong Confucian influences, which have left significant traces on subsequent political and social structures. This was followed by a chaotic succession of largely authoritarian Chinese Nationlist governments as well as warlord-held administration since the first Chinese Revolution of 1912.

The PRC regime has variously been described as authoritarian, communist, socialist and various combinations of those terms. It has also been described as a communist government. This may be called state capitalist by more left-leaning communists. It appears China is slowly becoming capitalist in its economic system. China recently released an official statement on its political structure, upholding the notion that the state should be ruled by democratic means.

The government of the PRC is controlled by the Communist Party of China. While there have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that contested elections are now held at the village level and legislatures have shown some assertiveness from time to time, the party retains effective control over governmental appointments. While the state uses authoritarian methods to deal with challenges to its rule, it simultaneously attempts to reduce dissent by improving the economy, allowing expression of personal grievances, and giving lenient treatment to persons expressing dissent whom the regime does not believe are organizers.

Censorship of political speech is routine, and the Communist Party ruthlessly suppresses any protests and organizations that it considers a threat to its power, as was the case after the Tianamen Square protests. However, there are limits to the repression that the Party is willing or able to achieve. The media have become increasingly active in publicizing social problems and exposing corruption and inefficiency at lower levels of government. The Party has also been rather unsuccessful at controlling information, and in some cases has had to change policies in response to public outrage. Although organized opposition against the Party is not tolerated, demonstrations over local issues are frequent and increasingly tolerated. Recently, under increasingly showing himself as conservative Hu Jintao, the PRC has tended to increase crackdowns on reporters, even those working for foreign papers, such as the New York Times.

The support that the Communist Party of China has among the Chinese population is unclear, as there are no national elections, and private conversations and anecdotal information often reveals conflicting views. Many in China appear appreciative of the role that the government plays in maintaining social stability, which has allowed the economy to grow without interruption. Political concerns in China include the growing gap between rich and poor in the PRC, and the growing discontent with widespread corruption within the leadership and officials.

There are some other parties in PRC, though they are often closely associated or subparties within the CPC. The CPC cooperates with these parties through a special conference, called the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) led by the CPC, rather than elections. However, the effect of the other parties on the government remains minimal. As an advisory body of the CPC without real power, the C.P.P.C.C. is quite like an external eye, although there are officers from the CPPCC in almost all government departments.

Human rights issues

Main article: Human rights in the People's Republic of China

The PRC government argues that the notion of human rights should include economic standards of living and measures of health and economic prosperity. In other words, when critiquing its internal situation, it sees the rise in the standard of living of the Chinese people as an indicator of improvement of the human rights situation, and when looking at the situation abroad, often notes the high rate of crime and/or poverty in places reputedly having a high standard of human rights.

However, Western governments and NGOs have argued that arbitrary and lengthy incommunicado detention, forced confessions, torture, and mistreatment of prisoners as well as severe restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, privacy, and worker rights are violations of their definition of human rights. They argue the issues stem from the PRC government's intolerance of dissent and the inadequacy of legal safeguards for individual political rights.

Ethnic issues

The PRC describes itself as a multiethnic state providing ethnic autonomy in the form of autonomous administrative entities. PRC policy gives advantages to ethnic minorities in areas such as high school or college admission and government employment. It also officially condemns Han chauvinism. However, it currently faces independence movements in Tibet, Xinjiang. Independence groups and many foreign observers are critical of the PRC's ethnic policies. They consider practices such as the organization and generous financial encouragement of Han Chinese movement into non-Han Chinese areas, to be chauvinistic and colonial, bent on demographically swamping non-Han Chinese areas and reducing the possibility that any independence movement could succeed. Within China, many people are also critical of the above policies. For example, Han Chinese in Xinjiang tend to be resentful and perceive of themselves as being treated as "second-class citizens" as a result of policies that favour minorities. Many people also consider these policies to have encouraged the formation of separatist movements and to have threatened the territorial integrity of China.

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of the People's Republic of China

The People's Republic of China maintains diplomatic relations with most countries in the world, but makes acknowledging its claim to Taiwan and severing any official ties with the Republic of China (ROC) government a prerequisite for diplomatic exchanges. It also actively opposes foreign travels by current and former political officials of Taiwan, such as Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian. The PRC also opposes travel by the Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama due to his leadership of the Government of Tibet in Exile and Li Hongzhi, the spiritual leader of the Falun Gong, who lives in exile in the US.

In 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China as the sole representative for "China" in the United Nations and as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; it is also considered a founding member although the PRC was not in control at the founding of the UN. (See China and the United Nations)

It was for a time a member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, but now is an observer. Much of the current foreign policy is based on the concept of China's peaceful rise.

Sino-Japanese relations have been strained several times in the past few decades by Japan's refusal to acknowledge its past war crimes and violations to Chinese satisfaction, most notable among which is the Nanjing Massacre. Some NGOs and Western governments have criticized China for alleged human rights abuses and its foreign relations with many Western Nations suffered following the Tiananmen Square Incident in 1989. Human rights is a perennial issue that is brought up in the US Congress, but since the Clinton years, human rights has been decoupled from economic negotiations, such as Most Favored Nation status.

In May 1999, a B-2 stealth bomber dropped three 2000-pound (900 kg) satellite guided bombs on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict, killing three Chinese citizens who presumably worked for the embassy. However, the United States insisted that the incident was an unintentional mistake and that selection of the building as a target resulted from use of an outdated map produced by the U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency (now known as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), which incorrectly identified the building as an arms procurement agency of the Yugoslav government. The Chinese government was unmoved by the explanation, insisting that the action was deliberate. In April 2001, a U.S. EP-3E Aries II spy plane conducting signals reconnaissance near Hainan Island collided with a Chinese jet fighter monitoring its actions. The fighter crashed and its pilot was killed, while the damaged U.S. plane made an emergency landing on Hainan Island. China and US accounts of the incident differ: The US claimed the plane was over international waters, while China claimed the plane was operating in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Additionally, each side blamed the other's plane for causing the collision. The spy plane's 24 crewmembers were detained for 12 days before being released and the incident increased tensions between the two countries. Another source of friction was the 1999 Cox report, which alleged that PRC espionage has compromised U.S. nuclear secrets for several decades.

In addition to Taiwan, China is involved in several other territorial disputes. The PRC makes all of these claims on irredentist grounds, while the opposing claimants tend towards viewing irredentism as a baseless ideology or view the PRC as being motivated by resources, military considerations, or nationalism considerations:

In 2004, Russia agreed to transfer Yinlong Island as well as one half of Heixiazi Island to China, ending a long-standing border dispute between Russia and China. Both islands are found at the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri Rivers, and were until then administered by Russia and claimed by China. The event was meant to foster feelings of reconciliation and cooperation between the two countries by their leaders, but it has also sparked different degrees of discontents on both sides. Russians, especially Cossack farmers of Khabarovsk who would lose their plowlands on the islands, were unhappy about the apparent loss of territory, while news and information regarding the border treaty were censored in Mainland China by PRC government. Some Chinese communities among ROC, oversea Chinese and those few who could manage to bypass the information blockade set by PRC authorities criticized the treaty was in fact an official acknowledgement of the legitimacy of Russian rule over Outer Manchuria, which was ceded by Qing Dynasty to Imperial Russia under a series of Unequal Treaties including Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the Convention of Peking in 1860, in order to exchange exclusive usage of Russia's rich oil resources. The transfer has been ratified by both the Chinese National People's Congress and the Russian State Duma but has yet to be carried out to date.

Outside official opinion, it is popular for nationalists to make irredentist claims to Mongolia, Tuva and Outer Manchuria, as well as (less commonly) the Ryukyu Islands, Bhutan, the Hukawng Valley in northern Myanmar, and Central Asia southeast of Lake Balkhash.

See also: Political status of Taiwan


Main article: People's Liberation Army

PLA soldiers march in Beijing
PLA soldiers march in Beijing

The PRC maintains the largest standing army in the world, a fact that leads many humans rights watch agencies to question any possible suggestion that they might be non belligerent, although there is a general belief both within the PLA and among outside observers that numbers are of limited usefulness in estimating the power of a military. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) includes the PRC's navy and air force. The PLA's official budget for 2005 is $30 billion, but this does not include money used for foreign weapons purchases, military-related R&D, or the paramilitary PAP, and critics label it a deliberately misleading low estimate. A recent RAND study estimates that the total military spending of the PRC is 1.4–1.7 times as large as the official military budget. However, it has been argued that the United States is also deliberately misleading on actual military expenditures, for example excluding Iraq and Afghanistan-related expenses from the official Department of Defense budget report. [1]

By some estimates of true spending, the PRC's military spending, approximately $56 billion, is ranked third after the United States (over $400 billion for the 2005-2006 fiscal year) and Russia. See also: China's military spending.

The PRC, despite possession of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, is widely seen both within and outside of China as having only limited ability to project military power beyond its borders and is not generally considered to be a true superpower, although it is widely seen as a major regional power. This is due to the limited effectiveness of its navy (lack of aircraft carriers) and air force (which is large but has many planes that are considered obsolete by US standards).

The PRC has been intensively rearming its military forces in preparation for a showdown with the U.S. over Taiwan. The PRC has been actively purchasing state of the art fighters such as Su-27, Su-30 and has also been producing its own relatively modern fighters. A comprehensive effort is also been undertaken to modernise the Air defense after the effects of Air superiority in Iraq were observed by the PRC military. The Air defence revolves around the ultra modern S-300 Surface to Air missile which is objectively considered the best system in terms of intercepting aircraft in the world. The PRC is also rapidly improving and upgrading its armoured forces by upgrading their electronics and targeting capabilities. The PLA and other branches of the Chinese military represent a significant conventional threat to the United States and its interests throughout East Asia, and in particular along the Strait of Taiwan, where China has increasingly upped its military presence, amassing significant numbers of troops, weapons, and short range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. [2]

The PLA's image was severely damaged by the fact the army killed from several hundred to seven thousand (depending on the source) peaceful demonstrators in June of 1989 in Beijing (see Tiananmen Square protests of 1989).

Political divisions

Main article: Political divisions of China

The People's Republic of China has administrative control over 22 provinces (省); the government of the People's Republic of China considers Taiwan (台湾), which is actually controlled by the Republic of China, to be its 23rd province. (See Political status of Taiwan for more information.) Apart from provinces there are 5 autonomous regions (自治区) containing concentrations of several minorities; 4 municipalities (直辖市) for China's largest cities and 2 Special Administrative Regions (SAR) (特别行政区) governed by the PRC.

The 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions and 4 municipalities can be collectively referred to as "mainland China", a term which usually excludes Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.

Province-level divisions of the People's Republic of China
Province-level divisions of the People's Republic of China

The following are a list of administrative divisions of areas under the control of the People's Republic of China.


Autonomous regions(自治区)


Special Administrative Regions(特别行政区)

Claimed by the PRC, but governed by Republic of China


Main article: Geography of China

The Geography of China
The Geography of China

The PRC is the fourth largest country in the world and contains a large variety of landscape. In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, are found extensive and densely populated alluvial plains; the shore of the South China Sea is more mountainous and southern China is dominated by hill country and lower mountain ranges. In the central-east are found the deltas of China's two major rivers, the Huang He and Yangtze River (Chang Jiang). Other major rivers include the Xijiang River, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur.

To the west, major mountain ranges, notably the Himalaya with China's highest point Mount Everest, and high plateaus feature among the more arid landscape of deserts such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert.

Due to a prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices dust storms have become usual in the spring in China. According to China's Environmental Protection Agency, the Gobi Desert has been expanding "like a tsunami" and is a major source of dust storms which affect Mainland China and other parts of northeast Asia such as Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Dust from the northern plains has been tracked to the West Coast of the United States. River management (human waste dumping, factory pollution, and water extraction for irrigation and drinking) and dust erosion are problems affecting other countries that have become recent important concerns for relations between China and its neighboring countries.


A Yuan note from 1960
A Yuan note from 1960

Main article: Economy of the People's Republic of China

The CCP reformulates many aspects of its public ideology as "with Chinese characteristics" and this is true of its economy as well, which it calls Socialism with Chinese characteristics. 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 but still within a rigid political framework of Communist Party control. To this end the authorities have switched to a system of household 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. Prices controls were also relaxed. This has resulted in mainland China's shift from a command economy to a mixed economy with both communist and capitalist tendencies.

The government has tended to not emphasize equality as when it first began and instead emphasized raising personal income and consumption and introducing new management systems to help increase productivity. The government also has focused on foreign trade as a major vehicle for economic growth, for which purpose it set up over 2000 Special Economic Zones (SEZ) where investment laws are relaxed in order to attract foreign capital. The result has been a quadrupling of GDP since 1978. In 1999, with its 1.25 billion people and a GDP of just $3,800 per capita, the PRC became the sixth largest economy in the world by exchange rate and third largest in the world after the European Union and the U.S. by purchasing power. The average annual income of a Chinese worker is $1,300. Chinese economic development is believed to be among the fastest in the world, about 7-8% per year according to Chinese government statistics. China is now a member of the World Trade Organization.

Mainland China has a reputation as being a low-cost manufacturer, particularly due to flexible non-unionised abundant cheap labor. An unskilled worker at a Chinese factory in the rural area, costs a company under $1/hour, much lower than minimum wage of $5.15/hour for the U.S.

More important is the Chinese worker preference not to join a trade union. This is a substantive benefit to employers as it adds a level of flexibility to labor relations not enjoyed in most other parts of the world. A possible reason for this could be work ethics, or it is also conceivable it is driven by a fear that unions will be abused by the Communist Party of China to identify dissidents. (See list of Chinese dissidents.)

Another aspect of the Chinese economy that is often overlooked is the low cost of non labor inputs. This is due in part to an overly competitive environment with many producers and a general tendency towards an oversupply and low prices. There is also the continued existence of price controls and supply guarantees left over from the former Soviet style command economy. As State owned enterprises continue to be dismantled and workers shift to higher productivity sectors, this deflationary effect will continue to put pressure on prices in the economy.

Preferential tax incentives are also given as a direct fiscal incentive to manufacture in China, whether for export or for the local market of 1.3 billion. China is attempting to harmonize the system of taxes and duties it imposes on enterprises, domestic and foreign alike. As a result, preferential tax and duty policies that benefit exporters in special economic zones and coastal cities have been targeted for revision. Chinese exports to the United States were $125 billion in 2002; American exports to China were $19 billion. The discrepancy is largely attributable to the fact that the U.S. consumes far more than it produces and that Chinese people paid low wages cannot afford the US's expensive products. Another factor cited by some people was the unfavorable exchange rate between the Chinese yuan and the United States dollar to which it used to be 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 by 0.3% a day. Chinese exports to the United States are rising 20% per annum, much faster than U.S. exports to China. With the elimination of clothing quotas, China stands to take over a large chunk of the worldwide textile industry. [3], [4]

Image:Zhongguo jingji bankuai.png
(The wealthy east coast)
"China Western Development" Strategy
"Revitalize Northeast China" Initiative
"Rise of Central China" Strategy

In 2003, China's GDP in terms of purchasing power parity reached $6.4 trillion, becoming the second-largest in the world. Using conventional measurements it is ranked 6th. With its large population this still gives an average GNP per person of only an estimated $5,000, about 1/7th that of the United States. The officially reported growth rate for 2003 was 9.1%. It was estimated by the CIA that in 2002 agriculture accounted for 14.5% of China's GNP, industry and construction for 51.7% and services for 33.8%. Average rural income is about one third that of urban areas, a gap which has widened in recent decades.

Due to its size and ancient culture, China has a tradition of being a leading economy. In the words of Ming Zeng, professor of management in Shanghai, "By some statistics, for example, even as late as the 16th century, China had one third of global GDP. The powerful US now only has about 20%. So if you make this historical comparison, three or four hundred years ago, China was definitely the superpower in the world. [...] Trying to regain some of that glory is certainly a strong motivation for many Chinese."

The economic regions of Mainland China covered under the strategies promulgated by the central government.

The disparity in wealth between the coastal strip and the remainder of the country remains wide. 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.


Main articles (the demographics of China may exclude or include these areas depending on the point of view): Demographics of Mainland China, Demographics of Hong Kong, Demographics of Macau, Demographics of Taiwan

Officially the PRC views itself as a multi-ethnic nation with 56 recognized ethnicities. The majority Han Chinese ethnicity makes up about 93% of the population and is the majority over about half of the area of the PRC. The Han Chinese itself is relatively racially heterogeneous, and can also be conceived as a large category bringing together many diverse ethnic subgroups sharing common cultural and linguistic characteristics.

The People's Republic of China, in an attempt to limit its population growth, has adopted a policy which limits urban families (ethnic minorities such as Tibetans are an exception) to one child and rural families to two children when the first is female. Because males are considered to be more economically valuable in rural areas, there appears to be a high incidence of sex selective abortion and child abandonment in rural areas to ensure that the second child is male. (See National Geographic's China's Lost Children). This policy only applies to the Han majority. There are numerous orphanages for the children that are abandoned, but approximately 98% of these children are not adopted, and stay in the orphanage until they are an adult. China has instituted a regulated program to permit international adoption, although this only affects a small percentage of the children.

By 2000 this has resulted in a sex ratio at birth of 117 boys being born for every 100 girls which is substantially higher than the natural rate (106 to 100) (but comparable to the ratios in places such as the Caucasus, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea). Although some of this problematic ratio is attributable to sexism, recently, it has been found that it correlates with hepatitis as well. The PRC government is attempting to mitigate this problem by emphasizing the worth of women and has gone so far as to criminalize medical providers from disclosing to parents the sex of an expected baby. The result of the sex ratio bias is that there are now 30–40 million Chinese males who cannot marry Chinese women. Apart from emigration, this may cause an increase in prostitution. In some cases, this has led to kidnappings, where women are abducted from their families, and forcibly sold as wives in distant villages.

The majority Han Chinese speak varieties of spoken Chinese, which can be regarded as either one language or a family of languages. The largest subdivision of spoken Chinese is Mandarin Chinese, with more speakers than any other language on Earth. A standardized version of Mandarin based on the Beijing dialect, known as Putonghua, is taught in schools and used as the official language of the entire country.

Public health

Main articles: Public health in mainland China and Environment of China

Celebrating victory over SARS
Celebrating victory over SARS

The PRC has several emerging public health problems: health problems related to air and water pollution, a progressing HIV-AIDS epidemic and hundreds of millions of cigarette smokers. The HIV epidemic, in addition to the usual routes of infection, was exacerbated in the past by unsanitary practices used in the collection of blood in rural areas. The problem with tobacco is complicated by the concentration of most cigarette sales in a government controlled monopoly. The government, dependent on tobacco revenue, seems hesitant in its response to the tobacco compared with other public health problems.

Hepatitis B is endemic in mainland China, with a large percentage of the population contracting the disease; about 10% of these are seriously affected. Often this causes liver failure or liver cancer, a common form of death in China. Hepatitis has also been recently found to have resulted in fewer females being born (explaining part of China's gender imbalance. See Hepatitis B and the Case of the Missing Women). A program initiated in 2002 will attempt over the next 5 years to vaccinate all newborns in mainland China.

In November 2002, the pneumonia-like SARS surfaced in Guangdong province. However, during the early stages of the epidemic, China suppressed news of the outbreak both internally and abroad, resulting to the spread of the epidemic into neighboring Hong Kong, Vietnam, and other countries via international travelers. Within China, 5327 reported cases and 348 deaths were confirmed, making it the hardest SARS-hit country to date. Cases of SARS failed to emerge through late 2004 and early 2005, however [5], and on 19 May 2004, World Health Organization announced the PRC is free of further cases of SARS.

Another problem China faces is the strains of avian flu outbreaks in recent years among local poultry and birds, along with a number of its citizens. While the virus is currently mainly animal-human transmissible (with only two well documented cases of human-human have been to the present known of to scientists), experts expect an avian flu pandemic that would affect the region, should the virus morph to be human-human transmissible.

Yet another problem China faces is the recent pig-human transmission of Streptococcus suis bacteria, which has led to an unsually high number of deaths in and around Sichuan province.

Space program

Main article: Space program of China

After the Sino-Soviet split, China started to develop its own indigenous nuclear deterrent and delivery systems. A natural outgrowth of this was a satellite launching program. This 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.

The country had plans for a manned space program as early as the 1970s, with "Project 714" and the intended Shuguang manned spacecraft. Because of a series of political and economic setbacks this project was cancelled.

In 1992 the current "Project 921" manned spaceflight program was authorised. On 19 November 1999, the unmanned Shenzhou 1 was launched, the first test flight of the program. After three more tests, Shenzhou 5 was launched on October 15, 2003, using a Long March 2F rocket and carrying Yang Liwei, making the PRC the third country to put a human being into space through its own endeavors. The second mission, Shenzhou 6 launched 12 October 2005.

Launch of the Long March rocket
Launch of the Long March rocket

Some specialists regard the Shenzhou manned spacecraft as based on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, a design several decades old. However the Chinese designers are quick to point out that the Shenzhou spacecraft is not merely a copy of the Soyuz spacecraft. In fact, during the very early design phases for the Project Apollo Command/Service Module a similar design was also investigated.

The PRC's burgeoning program is considered to be cause for unreasonable concern in some quarters. A United States Congressional report following the 2003 launch said, "While one of the strongest immediate motivations for this program appears to be political prestige, China's efforts almost certainly will contribute to improved military space systems in the 2010 to 2020 timeframe." China is the third country capable of sending human beings into space. No country has yet become the fourth. A week after the launch, an editorial in The Times of India called it "'China's Late Creep Forward,' given that Beijing is attempting to showcase a four-decade-old technology". The status of space as a military frontier is complex and uncertain; by way of example, the United States Air Force's primary objective is to move into dominance of space, odd when placed into context against the slow obsolescence and phasing-out of the space shuttle.


Main article: Culture of China

China's traditional values were derived from the orthodox version of Confucianism/conservatism, which was taught in schools and was even part of imperial civil service examinations. However, the term Confucianism is somewhat problematic in that the system of thought which reached it high-water mark in Qing Dynasty imperial China was in fact composed of several strains of thought, including Legalism, which in many ways departed from the original spirit of Confucianism; indeed by the height of imperial China, the right of the individual ethical conscience and the democratic right of criticism bad government and demanding change had largely been prohibited by "orthodox" thinkers. Currently, there are neo-Confucians who believe that contrary to that line of thought, democratic ideals and human rights are quite compatible with traditional Confucian "Asian values". See [6]

The leaders who directed the efforts to change Chinese society after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 were raised in the old society and had been marked with its values. Although they were conscious revolutionaries, they had no intention of transforming Chinese culture totally. As practical administrators, PRC leaders sought to change some traditional aspects, such as rural land tenure and education, while preserving others, such as the family structure. Indeed, many observers believe that the Communist period following 1949 is very much in continuity with traditional Chinese history, rather than revolutionary--much like before, the masses accepted the views of the ruling party without much protest. The new government was seen as having who had assumed the Mandate of Heaven, taking over from the old regime and establishing a new dynasty with the blessing of the gods. Just as in the imperial age, the ruler (such as Mao Zedong) was revered and generally seen as without fault and worthy of praise. Change in Chinese society, therefore, has been less than total and consistent than claimed by official spokesmen.

At various times in the history of the PRC, many aspects of traditional Chinese culture including art, literature, linguistic forms, to name a few, have been sought by the regime or prominent movements (such as during the Cultural Revolution by the Red Guards) as vestiges of feudalism, regressive and harmful. However, China has since moved away from its days of reforming all traditional art forms, such as the "reformation" of Beijing opera to conform to Chinese propaganda. As time passes, much of traditional Chinese culture has been accepted by the people and regime as an integral part of Chinese society; indeed, Chinese national policy often lauds these as important achievements of the Chinese civilization, and emphasizes them as being important in forming a Chinese national identity. The PRC has also promoted feelings of nationalism in recent years, regarded by many observers as an effort to provide legitimacy for its rule.

Miscellaneous topics

Main article: List of China-related topics


Further reading

  • Ross Terrill, The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States, Basic Books, hardcover, 400 pages, ISBN 0465084125
  • Roads Murphey, East Asia: A New History, U. of Michigan Press: 1996.

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2. See also: political status of Taiwan

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