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Geography - note: world's fourth-largest country (after Russia, Canada, and US)

total: 9,596,960 sq km
land : 9,326,410 sq km
water: 270,550 sq km

Area - comparative: slightly smaller than the US

Climate: extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north

Terrain: mostly mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west; plains, deltas, and hills in east

Environment - current issues: air pollution from the overwhelming use of high-sulfur coal as a fuel, produces acid rain which is damaging forests; water shortages experienced throughout the country, particularly in urban areas; future growth in water usage threatens to outpace supplies; water pollution from industrial effluents; much of the population does not have access to potable water; less than 10% of sewage receives treatment; deforestation; estimated loss of one-fifth of agricultural land since 1949 to soil erosion and economic development; desertification; trade in endangered species

Population: 1,221,591,778 (July 1997 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years : 26% (male 166,319,939; female 150,125,798)
15-64 years: 68% (male 427,340,489; female 393,914,502)
65 years and over: 6% (male 36,201,623; female 41,689,427) (July 1997 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.93% (1997 est.)

Birth rate: 16.52 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Death rate: 6.87 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 37.9 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.98 years
male: 68.61 years
female: 71.5 years (1997 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.81 children born/woman (1997 est.)

Ethnic groups: Han Chinese 91.9%, Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8.1%

Religions: Daoism (Taoism), Buddhism, Muslim 2%-3%, Christian 1% (est.)
note: officially atheist, but traditionally pragmatic and eclectic

Languages: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages (see Ethnic divisions entry)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population : 81.5%
male: 89.9%
female: 72.7% (1995 est.)

National capital:  Beijing

Independence: 221 BC (unification under the Qin or Ch'in Dynasty 221 BC; Qing or Ch'ing Dynasty replaced by the Republic on 12 February 1912; People's Republic established 1 October 1949)

Constitution: most recent promulgated 4 December 1982

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Political parties and leaders: Chinese Communist Party (CCP), JIANG Zemin, general secretary of the Central Committee; eight registered small parties controlled by CCP

Economy - overview: Beginning in late 1978 the Chinese leadership has been trying to move the economy from a sluggish Soviet-style centrally planned economy to one that is more market-oriented but still within a rigid political framework of Communist Party control. To this end the authorities 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. The result has been a quadrupling of GDP since 1978. Agricultural output doubled in the 1980s, and industry also posted major gains, especially in coastal areas near Hong Kong and opposite Taiwan, where foreign investment helped spur output of both domestic and export goods. On the darker side, the leadership has often experienced in its hybrid system the worst results of socialism (bureaucracy, lassitude, corruption) and of capitalism (windfall gains and stepped-up inflation). Beijing thus has periodically backtracked, retightening central controls at intervals. In 1992-96 annual growth of GDP accelerated, particularly in the coastal areas - averaging more than 10% annually according to official figures. In late 1993 China's leadership approved additional long-term reforms aimed at giving still more play to market-oriented institutions and at strengthening the center's control over the financial system; state enterprises would continue to dominate many key industries in what was now termed "a socialist market economy." In 1995-96 inflation dropped sharply, reflecting tighter monetary policies and stronger measures to control food prices. At the same time, the government struggled to (a) collect revenues due from provinces, businesses, and individuals; (b) reduce corruption and other economic crimes; and (c) keep afloat the large state-owned enterprises, most of which had not participated in the vigorous expansion of the economy and many of which have been losing the ability to pay full wages and pensions. From 60 to 100 million surplus rural workers are adrift between the villages and the cities, many subsisting through part-time low-paying jobs. Popular resistance, changes in central policy, and loss of authority by rural cadres have weakened China's population control program, which is essential to maintaining growth in living standards. Another long-term threat to continued rapid economic growth is the deterioration in the environment, notably air pollution, soil erosion, and the steady fall of the water table especially in the north. China continues to lose arable land because of erosion and economic development; furthermore, the regime gives insufficient priority to agricultural research. The next few years will witness increasing tensions between a highly centralized political system and an increasingly decentralized economic system. Rapid economic growth likely will continue but at a declining rate.

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 20%
industry: 49%
services : 31% (1995 est.)

Agriculture - products: rice, wheat, potatoes, sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton, other fibers, oilseed; pork and other livestock products; fish

total value : $151.07 billion (f.o.b., 1996)
commodities: clothing, miscellaneous consumer goods, fabrics, footwear, toys, electrical machinery and switchgear (1995)
partners: Hong Kong, Japan, US, South Korea, Germany, Singapore (1995)

total value : $138.83 billion (c.i.f., 1996)
commodities: plastics, fabrics, telecommunications equipment, electrical machinery and switchgear, transistors, other industrial machinery (1995) partners: Japan, US, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Germany, Russia (1995)

Debt - external: $92 billion (1994 est.)

Currency:  Yuan

Economic aid:  recipient: ODA, $1.977 billion (1993)

Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49 : 356,848,321 (1997 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:  males: 196,780,527 (1997 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: the officially announced but suspect figure is 70.2 billion yuan (1995 est.); note - conversion of the defense budget into US dollars using the current exchange rate could produce misleading results

Military expenditures—percent of GDP:  NA%

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