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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.
note: officially atheist (2002 est.)
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);
note: Mongolian is official in Nei Mongol, Uighur is official in Xinjiang Uygur, and Tibetan is official in Xizang (Tibet)
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.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate): $5.745 trillion;
note: because China's exchange rate is determine by fiat, rather than by market forces, the official exchange rate measure of GDP is not an accurate measure of China's output; GDP at the official exchange rate substantially understates the actual level of China's output vis-a-vis the rest of the world; in China's situation, GDP at purchasing power parity provides the best measure for comparing output across countries (2010 est.)
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.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 9.6%; industry: 46.8%; services: 43.6% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 2.8%;
note: 21.5 million rural population live below the official "absolute poverty" line (approximately $90 per year); an additional 35.5 million rural population live above that level but below the official "low income" line (approximately $125 per year) (2007)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.5%; highest 10%: 15%;
note: data are for urban households only (2008)
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.);
note: official data for urban areas only; including migrants may boost total unemployment to 9%; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas
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.