Introduction to China
China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is a unitary sovereign state in East Asia. With a population of over 1.381 billion, it is the world’s most populous country. The state is governed by the Communist Party of China, and its capital is Beijing. It exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two mostly self-governing special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau), and claims sovereignty over Taiwan. The country’s major urban areas include Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Hong Kong. China is a great power and a major regional power within Asia, and has been characterized as a potential superpower.
Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles), China is the world’s second largest state by land area, and either the third or fourth-largest by total area, depending on the method of measurement.[i] China’s landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the wetter south. The Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separate China from much of South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third and sixth longest in the world, respectively, run from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China’s coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometers (9,000 mi) long, and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East China, and South China seas.
China emerged as one of the world’s earliest civilizations in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China’s political system was based on hereditary monarchies known as dynasties, beginning with the Xia dynasty (c. 2070 bce). Since 221 bce, when the Qin dynasty conquered the other largest six states to form the first unified Chinese empire, China has then expanded, fractured and re-unified numerous times in the following millennia. In 1912, The Republic of China (ROC) replaced the last dynasty, and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949, when it was defeated by the communist People’s Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War. The Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in Beijing on 1 October 1949, while the ROC government relocated to Taiwan with its present de facto temporary capital in Taipei. Both the ROC and PRC continue to claim to be the legitimate government of all China, though the latter has more recognition in the world and controls more territory
Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies. As of 2016, it is the world’s second-largest economy by nominal GDP and largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). China is also the world’s largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world’s largest standing army and second-largest defense budget. The PRC is a member of the United Nations, as it replaced the ROC as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in 1971. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BCIM and the G-20.
Chinese Education System
Since 1986, compulsory education in China comprises primary and junior secondary school, which together last for nine years. In 2010, about 82.5 percent of students continued their education at a three-year senior secondary school. The Gaokao, China’s national university entrance exam, is a prerequisite for entrance into most higher education institutions. In 2010, 27 percent of secondary school graduates are enrolled in higher education. Vocational education is available to students at the secondary and tertiary level.
In February 2006, the government pledged to provide completely free nine-year education, including textbooks and fees. Annual education investment went from less than US$50 billion in 2003 to more than US$250 billion in 2011. However, there remains an inequality in education spending. In 2010, the annual education expenditure per secondary school student in Beijing totaled ¥20,023, while in Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in China, only totaled ¥3,204. Free compulsory education in China consists of primary school and junior secondary school between the ages of 6 and 15. In 2011, around 81.4% of Chinese have received secondary education. By 2007, there were 396,567 primary schools, 94,116 secondary schools, and 2,236 higher education institutions in China.
As of 2010, 94% of the population over age 15 are literate, compared to only 20% in 1950. In 2009, Chinese students from Shanghai achieved the world’s best results in mathematics, science and literacy, as tested by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide evaluation of 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance.
You would be hard pressed to find a culture that has experienced as much culture shock in 60 years as has China. Still resembling a feudal kingdom when Mao Tse Tung’s 1949 Communist Revolution assumed control, the nation has become a fascinating mix of old world tradition and new world sophistication. Navigating modern day China can be tricky. However, if you follow cultural cues and observe the behavior of hosts, you will be warmly welcomed into a society with some of the deepest roots on the planet.
Since ancient times, Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by Confucianism and conservative philosophies. For much of the country’s dynastic era, opportunities for social advancement could be provided by high performance in the prestigious imperial examinations, which have their origins in the Han Dynasty. The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as the belief that calligraphy, poetry and painting were higher forms of art than dancing or drama. Chinese culture has long emphasized a sense of deep history and a largely inward-looking national perspective. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today.
The first leaders of the People’s Republic of China were born into the traditional imperial order, 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 the Confucian system of education, while preserving others, such as the family structure and culture of obedience to the state. Some observers see the period following the establishment of the PRC in 1949 as a continuation of traditional Chinese dynastic history, while others claim that the Communist Party’s rule has damaged the foundations of Chinese culture, especially through political movements such as the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, where many aspects of traditional culture were destroyed, having been denounced as “regressive and harmful” or “vestiges of feudalism”. Many important aspects of traditional Chinese morals and culture, such as Confucianism, art, literature, and performing arts like Peking opera, were altered to conform to government policies and propaganda at the time. Access to foreign media remains heavily restricted; only 34 foreign films a year are allowed to be shown in Chinese cinemas.
Economy Of China
As of 2013, China has the world’s second-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, totalling approximately US$8.227 trillion according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). If purchasing power parity (PPP) is taken into account (US$12.405 trillion in 2012), China’s economy is again second only to the United States. In 2012, its PPP GDP per capita was US$9,161, while nominal GDP per capita was US$6,075. Both cases put China behind around ninety countries (out of 183 countries on the IMF list) in global GDP per capita rankings.
ECONOMIC HISTORY AND GROWTH
From its founding in 1949 until late 1978, the People’s Republic of China was a Soviet-style centrally planned economy. Following Mao’s death in 1976 and the consequent end of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping and the new Chinese leadership began to reform the economy and move towards a more market-oriented mixed economy under one-party rule. Agricultural collectivization was dismantled and farmlands privatized, while foreign trade became a major new focus, leading to the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were restructured and unprofitable ones were closed outright, resulting in massive job losses. Modern-day China is mainly characterized as having a market economy based on private property ownership, and is one of the leading examples of state capitalism. The state still dominates in strategic “pillar” sectors such as energy production and heavy industries, but private enterprise has expanded enormously, with around 30 million private businesses recorded in 2008.
Since economic liberalization began in 1978, China has been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, relying largely on investment- and export-led growth. According to the IMF, China’s annual average GDP growth between 2001 and 2010 was 10.5%. Between 2007 and 2011, China’s economic growth rate was equivalent to all of the G7 countries’ growth combined. According to the Global Growth Generators index announced by Citigroup in February 2011, China has a very high 3G growth rating. Its high productivity, low labor costs and relatively good infrastructure have made it a global leader in manufacturing. However, the Chinese economy is highly energy-intensive and inefficient; China became the world’s largest energy consumer in 2010, relies on coal to supply over 70% of its energy needs, and surpassed the US to become the world’s largest oil importer in September 2013. China’s economic growth and industrialization has damaged its environment. In the early 2010s, China’s economic growth rate began to slow amid domestic credit troubles, weakening international demand for Chinese exports, and global economic turmoil.
CHINA IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
China is a member of the WTO and is the world’s largest trading power, with a total international trade value of US$3.87 trillion in 2012. Its foreign exchange reserves reached US$2.85 trillion by the end of 2010, an increase of 18.7% over the previous year, making its reserves by far the world’s largest. As of 2009, China owns an estimated $1.6 trillion of US securities. China, holding over US$1.16 trillion in US Treasury bonds, is the largest foreign holder of US public debt.In 2012, China was the world’s largest recipient of inward foreign direct investment (FDI), attracting $253 billion. China also invests abroad, with a total outward FDI of $62.4 billion in 2012, and a number of major takeovers of foreign firms by Chinese companies. China’s undervalued exchange rate has caused friction with other major economies, and it has also been widely criticized for manufacturing large quantities of counterfeit goods.
China ranked 29th in the Global Competitiveness Index in 2009, although it is only ranked 136th among the 179 countries measured in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom. In 2011, 61 Chinese companies were listed in the Fortune Global 500. Measured by total revenues, three of the world’s top ten most valuable companies in 2011 were Chinese, including fifth-ranked Sinopec Group, sixth-ranked China National Petroleum and seventh-ranked State Grid (the world’s largest electric utilities company.
China has one of the oldest sporting cultures in the world. There is evidence that a form of association football called cuju was played in China during the Han Dynasty. Today, some of the most popular sports in the country include martial arts, basketball, football, table tennis, badminton, swimming and snooker. Board games such as go (known as weiqi in China), xiangqi, and more recently chess, are also played at a professional level.
Physical fitness is widely emphasized in Chinese culture, with morning exercises such as qigong and t’ai chi ch’uan widely practiced, and commercial gyms and fitness clubs gaining popularity in the country. Young people in China are also enjoy soccer and basketball, especially in urban centers with limited space and grass areas. The American National Basketball Association has a huge following among the Chinese youth, with ethnic or native Chinese players such as Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin held in high esteem.In addition, China is home to a huge number of cyclists, with an estimated 470 million bicycles as of 2012. Many more traditional sports, such as dragon boat racing, Mongolian-style wrestling and horse racing are also popular.
China has participated in the Olympic Games since 1932, although it has only participated as the PRC since 1952. China hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where its athletes received 51 gold medals – the highest number of gold medals of any participating nation that year. China also won the most medals of any nation at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, with 231 overall, including 95 gold medals. China hosted the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin and will host the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing.
Facts About China
- The world’s largest national population, more than 1.3 billion people – 20% of the Earth’s entire population
- More than 90% of the population live in the eastern third of the country
- Full official name is the People’s Republic of China
- Capital city is Beijing, largest city is Shanghai
- Main language is Mandarin Chinese, which has more native speakers than any other language
- The world’s fastest growing and second largest economy, after overtaking Japan in 2011
- Fourth-largest country by area (after Russia, Canada and the US)
- The only country other than Russia and US to have launched a manned space flight; government has set target of establishing a space station by 2020
- Under Communist rule since 1949
- The world’s second-largest oil consumer, after the US
- Very diverse climate – from tropical in the south to subarctic in the northeast
- Chinese cities frequently appear in reports on the world’s most polluted places