Background: For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under MAO Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, MAO's successor DENG Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight. China since the early 1990s has increased its global outreach and participation in international organizations.
Location: Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam
Area land: 9,569,901 sq km
Area water: 27,060 sq km
Coastline: 14,500 km
Country name conventional long form: People's Republic of China
Country name conventional short form: China
Country name former: People's Republic of China
Population: 1,336,718,015 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.6% (male 126,634,384/female 108,463,142); 15-64 years: 73.6% (male 505,326,577/female 477,953,883); 65 years and over: 8.9% (male 56,823,028/female 61,517,001) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 0.493% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 12.29 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 7.03 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: -0.33 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.133 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.17 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female; total population: 1.06 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 16.06 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 15.61 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 16.57 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.68 years; male: 72.68 years; female: 76.94 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 1.54 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 740,000 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 26,000 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Chinese (singular and plural); adjective: Chinese;
Ethnic groups: Han Chinese 91.5%, Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uighur, Tujia, Yi, Mongol, Tibetan, Buyi, Dong, Yao, Korean, and other nationalities 8.5% (2000 census);
Religions: Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%-4%, Muslim 1%-2%;
Languages: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect) (official), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages (see Ethnic groups entry);
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 91.6%; male: 95.7%; female: 87.6% (2007);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $9.872 trillion (2010 est.); $8.95 trillion (2009 est.); $8.204 trillion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $5.745 trillion;
GDP - real growth rate: 10.3% (2010 est.); 9.1% (2009 est.); 9% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $7,400 (2010 est.); $6,800 (2009 est.); $6,200 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 9.6%; industry: 46.8%; services: 43.6% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 2.8%;
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.5%; highest 10%: 15%;
Labor force: 780 million (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 38.1%; industry: 27.8%; services: 34.1% (2008 est.);
Unemployment rate: 4.3% (September 2009 est.); 4.2% (December 2008 est.);
Budget: revenues: $1.149 trillion; expenditures: $1.27 trillion (2010 est.);
Industries: world leader in gross value of industrial output; mining and ore processing, iron, steel, aluminum, and other metals, coal; machine building; armaments; textiles and apparel; petroleum; cement; chemicals; fertilizers; consumer products, including footwear, toys, and electronics; food processing; transportation equipment, including automobiles, rail cars and locomotives, ships, and aircraft; telecommunications equipment, commercial space launch vehicles, satellites;
Industrial production growth rate: 11% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 3.451 trillion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 3.438 trillion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - exports: 16.64 billion kWh (2008);
Electricity - imports: 3.842 billion kWh (2008);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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Although Obama may have met with leaders of Southeast Asia as a way to counter China, the economic interests of the United States, China and the rest of Southeast Asia are very much tied up with one another.
Despite the appreciation that China's currency has seen, and despite the American debt it holds, China still had a long way to go if it is to step to the forefront of innovation.
Although the Chinese Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, both Chinese journalists and foreign correspondents are regularly harassed, detained, and intimidated by government officials.
Even in a limited timeframe, a visit to Beijing and Xian can offer a remarkable package of destinations, from Tiananmen Square to the Great Wall.