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People's Republic of China

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The People's Republic of China (PRC) comprises most of the cultural, historic, and geographic area known as China. Since its founding in 1949, it has been led by the Communist Party of China (CPC). It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1,300,000,000, most of whom are classified as the Han Chinese ethnicity. It is the largest country in area in East Asia and the fourth largest in the world, after Russia, Canada, and the United States. The PRC borders 14 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam.

The People's Republic of China claims sovereignty over but does not administer the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy, and Matsu Islands. Taiwan's political status is controversial; it is administered by the Republic of China, which is currently based in Taipei and is the PRC's predecessor government. The term Mainland China is sometimes used to denote the part of China under PRC's rule (usually excluding the two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau), and the country is sometimes also referred to as "Red China," especially by its political opponents and critics.

中华人民共和国
Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó
125px
Image:China_coa.png
(In Detail) (Full size)
National motto: None
image:LocationPRChina.png
Official language Mandarin Chinese1
Capital Beijing
Largest city Shanghai
PresidentHu Jintao
PremierWen Jiabao
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 3rd
9,602,716 km²
2.8%
Population
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 1st
1,286,975,468
134.1/km²
Establishment
 - Date
Chinese Civil War
October 1, 1949
GDP (base PPP)
 - Total (2002)
 - GDP/head
Ranked 2nd
$5.7 trillion
$4,400
Currency Renminbi
Time zone UTC +8
National anthem March of the Volunteers
Internet TLD.CN
Calling code86
(1) Co-official with English in Hong Kong and Portuguese in Macau.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Foreign Relations
4 Military
5 Political divisions
6 Geography
7 Economy
8 Demographics
9 Public Health
10 Culture
11 Miscellaneous topics
12 References
13 Further reading
14 External links

History

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

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 declared the People's Republic of China and established a communist state. While ensuring China's sovereignty, Mao's administration imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people through disastrous policies such as the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.

After the death of Mao, Deng Xiaoping succeeded to power and mainland China remained under Communist rule. Since then, the government has gradually loosened governmental control over people's personal lives and engaged in reforms to transform its planned economy into a market-based one. Nevertheless the government remains intent on maintaining the political control of the Communist Party of China and has maintained repressive policies against groups which it feels are a threat to its political control. (see Falun Gong and Tibet).

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

Politics

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

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 simply characterize the nature of the political structure of China fail. The regime has variously been described as authoritarian, communist, socialist and various combinations of the those terms. It has also been described as a communist government.

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 and takes authoritarian measures against groups and individuals who challenge its rule. 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 rather 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 surpresses any protest and organizations that it considers a threat to its power as was the case after the Tiananmen Square protests. However there are limits to the repression that the Party is willing or able to achieve. The media has become increasingly active at 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.

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.

There are some other parties in PRC. The CPC cooperates with these parties through a special conference, called the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (C.P.P.C.C.) led by the Chinese government, rather than elections. Nevertheless, the effect of the other parties on the government remains minimal. As an advisory body of CPC without real power, the C.P.P.C.C is quite symbolic.

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 Taiwan independence proponents such as Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian as well as Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama.

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 UN Security Council. (See China and the United Nations)

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

See also: Political status of Taiwan

Military

Main article: People's Liberation Army

The PRC maintains the largest standing army in the world, 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. Estimating the PRC's military budget lets to widely different numbers based on what is considered military, how to interpret the limited information available, and how one deals with conversion factors such as currency rates. Estimates range from US$9 billion on the low end to US$60 billion (in purchasing power parity) in 2003 at the high end, and the higher estimates make the PLA second only to the United States of nearly $400 billion. The PRC, despite possession of advanced nuclear weapons and delivery systems, is widely seen both inside of China and on the outside as have only limited ability to project military power beyond its borders and is not generally considered to be superpower although it is widely seen as a major regional power.

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) to be its 23rd province. (See Political status of Taiwan for more information.) The government also claims the disputed South China Sea Islands. 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 following are a list of administrative divisions of areas under the control of the People's Republic of China.

Provinces Autonomous regions
Municipalities
Special Administrative Regions

Geography

Main article: Geography of China

[[Image:Smaller map of China.png | Map of China with most important placenames|framed|

Areas controlled by the PRC (in peach) and ROC (in light yellow)
 (Larger, detailed image with provincial boundaries)
]]

The PRC is the fourth largest country in the world and as such contains a large variety of landscapes. 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 deltass of China's two major rivers, the Huang He and Chang Jiang. Other major rivers include the Xi Jiang, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur.

To the west, major mountain ranges, notably the Himalayas with China's highest point Mount Everest, and high plateaus feature among the more arid landscape of deserts such as the Takla-Makan and the Gobi Desert. Due to a prolonged drought and perhaps 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 and is a major source of dust storms which affect China and other parts of northeast Asia such as Korea and Japan.

Economy

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

Beginning in late 1978 the Chinese leadership has been moving the economy from a sluggish 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. This has resulted in mainland China's shift from a command to a mixed economy.

The government has 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 US 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. Mainland China is now a member of the World Trade Organization.

Mainland China has a reputation as being a low-cost manufacturer, particularly due to abundant cheap labour. A worker at a Chinese factory typically costs a company 50 cents to $1 per hour (average $0.86), compared with $2 to $2.50 per hour in Mexico and $8.50 to more than $20 for the US. By the end of 2001, the average electricity price in Guangdong Province was 0.72 yuan (9 US cents) per kilowatt hour, much higher than the average level on the Chinese mainland of 0.368 yuan (4 US cents). The PRC officially abolished direct budgetary outlays for exports on Jan. 1, 1991. Nonetheless, it is widely believed that many of mainland China's manufactured exports receive other types of export subsidies. Other forms of export subsidies involve guaranteed provision of energy, raw materials or labor supplies. Exports of some agricultural products, such as corn and cotton, still benefit from direct export subsidies. However, the PRC substantially reduced the level of corn export subsidies in 1999 and 2000. Preferential tax incentives are another example of export subsidies. 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. This is believed to be partly due to an unfavorable exchange rate between the Chinese yuan and the United States dollar which is pegged to the dollar. Chinese exports to the United States are rising 20% per annum, much faster than U.S. exports to China. [1], [1]

Demographics

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

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; however it is the majority in only about half of the area of the PRC.

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.

This has resulted in a sex ratio of 115 boys being born for every 100 girls which is considerably different from the natural rate, but which is comparable to the ratios in South Korea. The PRC government is attempting to mitigate this problem by emphasizing the worth of women and has gone so far as to prohibit medical providers from disclosing to parents the sex of an expected baby.

The official language of the PRC is Mandarin Chinese which is taught in schools, thereby making it the native language of more people than any other language on Earth.

Public Health

Main article: Public health in the People's Republic of China

The PRC has several emerging public health problems: the recent development of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), 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, with limited resources, and dependent on tobacco revenue seems sluggish in its response to the tobacco and other public health problems; this characteristic has drawn unfavorable international attention in the case of SARS.

Hepatitis B is endemic in mainland China, the majority of the population eventually contracting the disease, with about 10% being seriously affected. Often this causes liver failure or liver cancer, a common form of death in China. A program initiated in 2002 will attempt over the next 5 years to vaccinate all newborns in mainland China.

Culture

Main article: Culture of China

Miscellaneous topics

Main article:
List of China-related topics

References

Further reading

External links


Countries in East Asia
China (PRC) | Japan | North Korea | South Korea | Taiwan (ROC)

Countries in Central Asia
China | Kazakhstan | Kyrgyzstan | Mongolia | Tajikistan | Turkmenistan | Uzbekistan