|capital = Beijing
|latd=39 |latm=55 |latNS=N |longd=116 |longm=23 |longEW=E
|largest_city = Shanghai
|demonym = Chinese
|government_type = Single-party state, Socialist republic
|leader_title1 = President
|leader_name1 = Hu Jintao
|leader_title2 = Premier
|leader_name2 = Wen Jiabao
|leader_title3 = Chairman of the NPCSC
|leader_name3 = Wu Bangguo
|leader_title4 = Chairman of the CPPCC
|leader_name4 = Jia Qinglin
|sovereignty_type = Establishment
|established_event1 = People's Republic of China proclaimed.
|established_date1 = 1 October 1949
|area_footnote = or 9,671,018 km²
|area_km2 = 9,640,821 |area_sq_mi = 3704427 |area_rank = 3rd |area_magnitude = 1 E12 |percent_water = 2.8 |population_estimate = 1,321,851,888 |population_estimate_year = 2007 |population_estimate_rank = 1st |population_census = 1,242,612,226 |population_census_year = 2000 |pop_den_footnote = |population_density_km2 = 140 |population_density_sq_mi = 363 |population_density_rank = 53rd |GDP_nominal = $3.25 trillion |GDP_nominal_rank = 4th |GDP_nominal_year = 2007 |GDP_nominal_per_capita = $2,800 |GDP_nominal_per_capita_rank = 105th |GDP_PPP_year = 2007 |GDP_PPP = $7.043 trillion |GDP_PPP_rank = 2nd |GDP_PPP_per_capita = $5,300 |GDP_PPP_per_capita_rank = 99th |Gini = 47.0 |Gini_year = 2007 |HDI_year = 2007 |HDI = 0.777 |HDI_rank = 81st |HDI_category = medium |currency = Yuan |currency_code = CNY |time_zone = |utc_offset = +8 |time_zone_DST = not observed |utc_offset_DST = +9 |cctld = .cn |calling_code = 86 |calling_code_note = |footnotes = a. General Information of the People's Republic of China, ChinaToday. Retrieved 21 February 2007. In addition to Standard Mandarin, Cantonese is co-official in both Hong Kong and Macau. English is co-official in Hong Kong (SAR); correspondingly, Portuguese in Macau (SAR). Similarly, several minority languages are also co-official with Chinese (Mandarin) in minority areas, viz. Zhuang in Guangxi, Uyghur in Xinjiang, Mongolian in the classical alphabet in Inner Mongolia, Tibetan in Tibet, etc.
b. The role of the government, China, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved on 21-02-2007.
c. Information for mainland China only. The Special Administrative Regions of the PRC: Hong Kong, Macau are excluded. In addition, the territories under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan, are also excluded.
China Daily website }} The People's Republic of China (), commonly known as China, is the largest country in East Asia and the most populous in the world with over 1.3 billion people, approprimately a fifth of the world's population. It is a socialist republic that is ruled by the Communist Party of China under a single-party system and has jurisdiction over twenty-two provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two Special Administrative Regions. Beijing has been its capital since 1949.
At 9.6 million km2, the People's Republic of China (PRC) is the world's third largest country by area and endowed with a diverse landscape. In the north, near the PRC's borders with Mongolia and Russia's Siberia, the Gobi Desert and forest steppes dominate the dry expanse while lush subtropical forests grow along its southern borders with Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. The terrain in the west is rugged and high altitude with the Himalayas and the Tian Shan mountain ranges forming the PRC's natural borders with India and Central Asia. In contrast, the PRC's eastern seaboard is low-lying and has a 14,500-km long coastline bounded on the southeast by the South China Sea and on the east by the East China Sea beyond which lies Korea and Japan.
Ancient Chinese civilization - one of the world's earliest - flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River that flows through the North China Plain. For the past 4000 years, China had been ruled by hereditary monarchs or dynasties beginning with the Xia until the Qing that finally ended in 1911 with the founding of the Republic of China (ROC). The first half of the 20th century saw China plunged into a period of disunity and civil wars that divided the country into two main political camps - the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) and the Communist Party of China (CPC). Major hostilities ended in 1949 with the establishment of the People's Republic of China in mainland China by the victorious Communists while the Nationalists led Republic of China government retreating to Taipei and its jurisdiction limiting to Taiwan. Even today, the PRC is still involved in potentially bloody disputes with the ROC over issues of sovereignty and the political status of Taiwan.
The PRC is considered to be a major power, holding a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and memberships in APEC, East Asia Summit, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. China is a nuclear state and has the world's largest standing army and fourth largest defense budget. It is a fast-growing economic power having the world's fourth largest GDP in nominal terms or second largest in purchasing power and consuming as much as a third of the world's steel and over a half of its concrete. The PRC is also the world's second largest exporter and the third largest importer. Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1978, the poverty rate in the PRC has gone down from 53% to 8% in 2001. However, the PRC is now faced with a number of other economic problems including a rapidly ageing population, a widening rural-urban income gap, and rapid environmental degradation. Currently the PRC is one of five remaining communist states, along with Vietnam, North Korea, Laos and Cuba.
Following a series of dramatic economic failures caused by the Great Leap Forward, Mao stepped down from his position as chairman in 1959, with Liu Shaoqi as successor. Mao still had much influence over the Party, but was removed from day-to-day management of economic affairs, which came under the control of Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.
In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, which would last until Mao's death a decade later. The Cultural Revolution, motivated by power struggles within the Party and a fear of the Soviet Union, led to a major upheaval in Chinese society. In 1972, at the peak of the Sino-Soviet split, Mao and Zhou Enlai met Richard Nixon in Beijing to establish relations with the United States. In the same year, the PRC was admitted to the United Nations, replacing the Republic of China for China's membership of the United Nations, and permanent membership of the Security Council.
After Mao's death in 1976 and the arrest of the Gang of Four, blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping quickly wrestled power from Mao's anointed successor Hua Guofeng. Although Deng never became the head of the Party or State himself, his influence within the Party led the country to economic reforms of significant magnitude. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the communes were disbanded with many peasants receiving multiple land leases, which greatly increased incentives and agricultural production. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment, a system termed by many "market socialism". The PRC adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982.
In 1989, the death of pro-reform official, Hu Yaobang, helped to spark the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, during which students and others campaigned for several months for more democratic rights and freedom of speech. However, they were eventually put down on 4 June when PLA troops and vehicles entered and forcibly cleared the square, resulting in numerous casualties. This event was widely reported and famously videotaped, which brought worldwide condemnation and sanctions against the government.
President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, both former mayors of Shanghai, led post-Tiananmen PRC in the 1990s. Under Jiang Zemin's ten years of administration, the PRC's economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual GDP growth rate of 11.2%. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
Although the PRC needs economic growth to spur its development, the government has begun to worry that rapid economic growth has negatively impacted the country's resources and environment. Another concern is that certain sectors of society are not sufficiently benefiting from the PRC's economic development. As a result, under current President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the PRC have initiated policies to address these issues of equitable distribution of resources, but the outcome remains to be seen. For much of the PRC's population, living standards have seen extremely large improvements, and freedom continues to expand, but political controls remain tight.
While the PRC is regarded as a Communist state by many political scientists, simple characterizations of PRC's political structure since the 1980s are no longer possible. The PRC government has been variously described as authoritarian, communist, and socialist, with heavy restrictions remaining in many areas, most notably in the Internet and in the press, freedom of assembly, reproductive rights, and freedom of religion. However, compared to its closed door policies until the mid-1970s, the liberalization of the PRC is such that the administrative climate is much less restrictive than before, though the PRC is still far from the full-fledged democracy practiced in most of Europe or North America, according to most observers internationally. The PRC's incumbent President is Hu Jintao and its premier is Wen Jiabao.
The country is run by the Communist Party of China (CPC), which is guaranteed power by the Constitution. There are other political parties in the PRC, referred to in China as "democratic parties", which participate in the People's Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress. There have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that open contested elections are now held at the village and town levels, and that legislatures have shown some assertiveness from time to time. However, the Party retains effective control over governmental appointments: in the absence of meaningful opposition, the CPC wins by default most of the time. Political concerns in the PRC include lessening the growing gap between rich and poor and fighting corruption within the government leadership. The level of support that the Communist Party of China has among the the PRC population in general is unclear since there are no consistently contested national elections. According to a survey conducted in Hong Kong, where a relatively high level of freedom is enjoyed, the current CPC leaders have received substantial votes of support when residents were asked to rank their favorite leaders from mainland China and Taiwan.
The People's Republic of China maintains diplomatic relations with most major countries in the world. Sweden was the first western country to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic on the ninth of May 1950. In 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China as the sole representative of China in the United Nations and as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. It is considered a founding member of the UN, though the PRC was not in control of China at the time. The PRC was also a former member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Under its interpretation of the One-China policy, the PRC has made it a precondition to establishing diplomatic relations that the other country acknowledges its claim to Taiwan and severs official ties with the Republic of China government. The government opposes publicized foreign travels by former and present ROC officials promoting Taiwan's independence, such as Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian, and other politically controversial figures, such as Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, in an official context.
The PRC has been playing an increasing role in calling for free trade areas and security pacts amongst its Asia-Pacific neighbors. In 2004, the PRC proposed an entirely new East Asia Summit (EAS) framework as a forum for regional security issues that pointedly excluded the United States. The EAS, which includes ASEAN Plus Three, India, Australia and New Zealand, held its inaugural summit in 2005. The PRC is also a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), with Russia and the Central Asian republics.
Much of the current foreign policy is based on the concept of China's peaceful rise. Conflicts with foreign countries have occurred at times in its recent history, particularly with the United States; e.g., the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict in May 1999 and the U.S.-China spy plane incident in April 2001. Its foreign relations with many Western nations suffered for a time following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, though they have since recovered. The relationship between China and Japan has been strained at times by Japan's refusal to acknowledge its war-time past to the satisfaction of the PRC, e.g. revisionist comments made by prominent Japanese officials and in some Japanese history textbooks. Another point of conflict between the two countries is the frequent visits by Japanese government officials to the Yasukuni Shrine. However, Sino-Japanese relations have warmed considerably since Shinzo Abe became the new Japanese Prime Minister in September 2006. A joint historical study to be completed by 2008 of WWII atrocities is being conducted by the PRC and Japan.
Equally bordering the most countries in the world alongside Russia, the PRC was in a number of international territorial disputes. China's territorial disputes have led to localized wars in the last 50 years, including the Sino-Indian War in 1962, the Sino-Soviet border conflict in 1969 and the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979. In 2001, the PRC and Russia signed the Sino-Russian Treaty of Friendship, which paved the way in 2004 for Russia to transfer Yinlong Island as well as one-half of Heixiazi to China, ending a long-standing Sino-Russian border dispute. Other territorial disputes include islands in the East and South China Seas, and undefined or disputed borders with India, Tajikistan and North Korea.
While accompanying a rapid economic rise, the PRC since the 1990s seeks to maintain a policy of quiet diplomacy with its neighbors. Steadying its economic growth and participating in regional organizations and cultivating bi-lateral relations will ease suspicion over China's burgeoning military capabilities. The PRC has started a policy of wooing African nations for trade and bilateral co-operations.
With a population of over 1.3 billion, the PRC is very concerned about its population growth and has attempted, with mixed results, to implement a strict family planning policy. The government's goal is one child per family, with exceptions for ethnic minorities and flexibility in rural areas, where a family can have a second child if the first is a girl or physically disabled. The government's goal is to stabilize population growth early in the twenty-first century, though some projections estimate a population of anywhere ranging from 1.4 billion to 1.6 billion by 2025. Hence the country's family planning minister has indicated that China will maintain its one-child policy until at least the year 2018.
The policy is resisted, particularly in rural areas, because of the need for agricultural labor and a traditional preference for boys (who can later serve as male heirs). Families who breach the policy often lie during the census. Official government policy opposes forced sterilization or abortion, but allegations of coercion continue as local officials, who are faced with penalties for failing to curb population growth, may resort to forced abortion or sterilization, or manipulation of census figures.
The decreasing reliability of PRC population statistics since family planning began in the late 1970s has made evaluating the effectiveness of the policy difficult. Estimates by Chinese demographers of the average number of children for a Chinese woman vary from 1.5 to 2.0. The government is particularly concerned with the large imbalance in the sex ratio at birth, apparently the result of a combination of traditional preference for boys, and family planning pressure, which led to the ban of using ultrasound devices for the purpose of preventing sex-selective abortion.
While economic and social controls have been greatly relaxed in China since the 1960s, political freedom is still tightly controlled by both central and local governments. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China states that the "fundamental rights" of citizens include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, universal suffrage, and property rights. However, these provisions do not afford significant protection against criminal prosecution by the State.
Censorship of political speech and information is openly and routinely used to silence criticism of government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party. In particular, press control is notoriously tight: Reporters Without Borders considers the PRC one of the least free countries in the world for the press. The government has a policy of limiting groups, organizations, and beliefs that it considers a potential threat to "social stability" and control, as was the case with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The Communist Party has had mixed success in controlling information: a very strong media control system faces very strong market forces, an increasingly educated citizenry and cultural change that are making China more open, especially on environmental issues.
A number of foreign governments and NGOs routinely criticize the PRC, alleging widespread human rights violations including systematic use of lengthy detention without trial, forced confessions, torture, mistreatment of prisoners, restrictions of freedom of speech, assembly, association, religion, the press, and labor rights. China leads the world in capital punishment, accounting for roughly 90% of total executions in 2004. Human rights issues are one of the factors driving independence movements in Tibet and Xinjiang. In the Reporters Without Borders' Annual World Press Freedom Index of 2005, the PRC ranked 159 out of 167 places. PRC journalist He Qinglian in her 2004 book Media Control in China documents government controls on the Internet and other media in China.
The PRC government has responded by arguing that the notion of human rights should take into account a country's present level of economic development, and focus more on the people's rights to subsistence and development in poorer countries. The rise in the standard of living, literacy and life expectancy for the average Chinese in the last three decades is seen by the government as tangible progress made in human rights. Efforts in the past decade to combat deadly natural disasters, such as the perennial Yangtze River floods, and work-related accidents are also portrayed in China as progress in human rights for a still largely poor country.
The People's Republic of China has administrative control over twenty-two provinces and considers Taiwan to be its twenty-third province. There are also five autonomous regions, each with a designated minority group; four municipalities; and two Special Administrative Regions that enjoy considerable autonomy. The twenty-two provinces, five autonomous regions and four municipalities can be collectively referred to as "mainland China", a term which usually excludes Hong Kong and Macau.
The PRC is the second largest country in Asia by area after Russia, and is considered the third largest in the world in respect to land and sea area. The uncertainty over size is related to (a) the validity of claims by the PRC on territories such as Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract (both territories also claimed by India), and (b) how the total size of the United States is calculated: The World Factbook gives 9,826,630 km², and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 9,522,055 km². A recent change in the method used by the United States to calculate its surface area adds to the confusion as to the actual size of the United States. China borders 14 nations (counted clockwise from south): Vietnam, Laos, Burma, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and North Korea. Additionally the border between PRC and ROC is located in territorial waters.
The territory of the PRC contains a large variety of landscapes. In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, there are extensive and densely populated alluvial plains, while on the edges of the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north, grasslands can be seen. Southern China is dominated by hill country and low mountain ranges. In the central-east are the deltas of China's two major rivers, the Yellow River and Yangtze River (Chang Jiang). Other major rivers include the Xi, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur.
To the west, major mountain ranges, notably the Himalayas, with China's highest point at the eastern half of Mount Everest, and high plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert.
A major issue is the continued expansion of deserts, particularly the Gobi Desert. Although barrier tree lines planted since the 1970s have reduced the frequency of sandstorms, prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices result in dust storms plaguing northern China each spring, which then spread to other parts of East Asia, including Korea and Japan. Water, erosion, and pollution control have become important issues in China's relations with other countries.
The PRC has some relevant environmental regulations: the 1979 Environmental Protection Law, which was largely modeled on U.S. legislation. But the environment continues to deteriorate. While the regulations are fairly stringent, they are frequently disregarded by local communities while seeking economic development. Twelve years after the law, only one Chinese city was making an effort to clean up its water discharges. This indicates that China is about twenty years behind the U.S. schedule of environmental regulation.
Water pollution has increased as an issue along with industrial production. The PRC government has chosen a discharge standard measuring the concentration of a pollutant rather than the total pollutant load (as is done in the U.S. and many Western countries). As a result many industrial dischargers in China simply dilute the effluent with river water taken from the same source as the receiving waters. Consequently the outcome has been to create considerable water pollution in many of the country's rivers.
With regard to carbon emissions, the PRC has ratified the Kyoto Protocol but it is not required to reduce carbon emissions because of its status as a developing country. However, with rapid industrialization, China is fast becoming one of the world's top emitters of carbon gases and possibly a major contributor to global warming.
Part of the price China is paying for increased prosperity is damage to the environment. Leading Chinese environmental campaigner Ma Jun has warned that water pollution is one of the most serious threats facing China. According to Ma the drinking water of 300 million peasants is unsafe and water quality in one fifth of the cities is not up to standard. This makes the crisis of water shortages more pressing, with 400 out of 600 cities short of water.
With 2.3 million active troops, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest military in the world. The PLA consists of an army, navy, air force, and strategic nuclear force. The official announced budget of the PLA for 2007 was $45 billion. However, the United States claims China does not report its real military spending. The DIA estimates that the real Chinese military budget for 2007 could be anywhere from US$85 to US$125 billion.
The PRC, despite possession of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, is widely seen by military researchers both within and outside of China as having only limited power projection capability; this is, among other things, because of the limited effectiveness of its navy. It is considered a major military regional power and an emerging military superpower.
Much progress has been made in the last decade and the PRC continues to make efforts to modernize its military. It has purchased state-of-the-art fighter jets from Russia, such as the Sukhoi Su-30s, and has also produced its own modern fighters, specifically the Chinese J-10s and the J-11s. It has also acquired and improved upon the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, which are considered to be among the best aircraft-intercepting systems in the world, albeit Russia has since produced the new generation S-400 Triumf. The PRC's armored and rapid-reaction forces have been updated with enhanced electronics and targeting capabilities. In recent years, much attention has been focused on building a navy with blue-water capability.
From its founding in 1949 to late 1978, the People's Republic of China was a Soviet-style centrally planned economy. Private businesses and capitalism were suppressed. To propel the country towards a modern, industrialized communist society, Mao Zedong instituted the Great Leap Forward which is now widely seen — both within China and outside - as a major economic failure and a great humanitarian disaster. His death and the end of the Cultural Revolution allowed Deng Xiaoping and the new Chinese leadership to reform the economy and move to a market-oriented mixed economy under one-party rule. Collectivization of the agriculture was dismantled and farmlands were privatized to increase productivity. A wide variety of small-scale enterprises were allowed to flourish while the government relaxed price controls and promoted foreign investment. Foreign trade was focused upon as a major vehicle of growth, which led to the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) first in Shenzhen (near Hong Kong) and then in other Chinese cities. Inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were restructured by introducing western-style management system and the unprofitable ones were closed, resulting in massive job losses.
With an average annual GDP growth rate of 9.6% for the last two decades, the economy is among fastest growing in the world. Its is the world's third largest with nominal GDP at RMB24.953 trillion (US$3.45 trillion) corresponding to US$2650 per capita. The primary, secondary, and tertiary industries contributed 11.3%, 48.6%, and 40.1% respectively to the total economy. If PPP is taken into account, China's economy is second only to the US at US$7 trillion corresponding to US$5300 per capita. China is the fourth most visited countries in the world with 49.6 million inbound international visitors in 2006. It is a member of the WTO and is the world's third largest trading power behind the US and Germany with a total international trade of US$2.18 trillion - US$1.22 trillion in exports (#3) and US$955.8 billion in imports (#3). Its foreign exchange reserves have exceeded US$1.5 trillion, making it the world's largest. It is among the world's favorite destination for FDI, attracting more than US$80 billion in 2007 alone. China's success has been primarily due to manufacturing as a low-cost producer. This is attributed to a combination of cheap labor, good infrastructure, medium level of technology and skill, relatively high productivity, favorable government policy, and some say, an undervalued exchange rate. The latter has been blamed for China's bulging trade surplus (US$262.7 billion in 2007) and has become a major source of dispute between China and its major trading partners - the US, EU, and Japan despite the yuan having been de-pegged and risen in value by 20% against the US dollar since 2005.
The state still dominates in strategic "pillar" industries (such as energy and heavy industries), but private enterprise (30 million private businesses) now accounts for approximately 70% of China's national output, up from 1% in 1978. Its stock market in Shanghai (SSE) is raising record amounts of IPOs and its benchmark Shanghai Composite index has doubled since 2005. SSE's market capitalization reached US$3 trillion in 2007 and is the world's fifth largest exchange. China now ranks 34th in the Global Competitiveness Index. Twenty nine Chinese companies made the list in the 2008 Fortune Global 500. Measured on market capitalization, 3 out of 10 of the world's most valuable companies are in China including #2-PetroChina, #5-China Mobile (world's most valuable telecommunications company), and #6-Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (world's most valuable bank).
China's rapid growth has pulled hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty since 1978. Today, about 10% of the Chinese population remains below the poverty line. 90.9% of the population is relatively literate, compared to 20% in 1950. Urban unemployment declined to 4 percent in China by the end of 2007 (true overall unemployment might be higher at around 10%). Its middle class population has now reached 80-150 million. China's retail market is worth RMB4930 billion (US$700 billion) in 2007 and growing at 15% annually. It is also now the world's third biggest consumer of luxury goods with 12% of the global share.
However, China's growth has been uneven when comparing different geographic regions and rural and urban areas. Urban-rural income gap is getting wider in China with a Gini coefficient of 46.9%. Development has also been mainly concentrated in the eastern coastal regions while the remainder of the country are left behind. To counter this, the government has promoted development in the western, northeastern, and central regions of China. The economy is also highly energy-intensive and inefficient - it uses 20%-100% more energy than OECD countries for many industrial processes. It has now become the world's second largest energy consumer behind the US but relies on coal to supply about 70% of its energy needs. Coupled with a lax environmental regulation, this has led to a massive water and air pollution (China has 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities). Consequently, the government has promised to use more renewable energy with a target of 10% of total energy use by 2010 and 30% by 2050.
After the Sino-Soviet split, China started to develop its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems, successfully detonating its first surface nuclear test in 1964 at Lop Nur. A natural outgrowth of this was a satellite launching program, which culminated in 1970 with the launching of Dong Fang Hong I, the first Chinese satellite. This made the PRC the fifth nation to independently launch a satellite. In 1992, the Shenzhou manned spaceflight program was authorized. After four tests, Shenzhou 5 was launched on 15 October 2003, using a Long March 2F launch vehicle and carrying Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei, making the PRC the third country to put a human being into space through its own endeavors. With the successful completion of the second manned mission, Shenzhou 6 in October 2005, the country plans to build a Chinese Space Station in the near future and achieve a lunar landing in the next decade.
China has the world's second largest research and development budget, and is expected to invest over $136 billion this year after growing more than 20% in the past year. The Chinese government continues to place heavy emphasis on research and development by creating greater public awareness of innovation, and reforming financial and tax systems to promote growth in cutting-edge industries. President Hu Jintao in January 2006 called for China to make the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to an innovation-based one, and this year's National People's Congress has approved large increases in research funding. Stem cell research and gene therapy, which some in the Western world see as controversial, face minimal regulation in China. China has an estimated 926,000 researchers, second only to the United States' 1.3 million.
China is also actively developing its software, semiconductor and energy industries, including renewable energies such as hydro, wind and solar power. In an effort to reduce pollution from coal-burning power plants, China has been pioneering the deployment of pebble bed nuclear reactors, which run cooler and safer, and have potential applications for the hydrogen economy.
Transportation in the mainland of the People's Republic of China has improved remarkably since the late 1990s as part of a government effort to link the entire nation through a series of expressways known as the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS). The total length of expressway is 45,000 km at the end of 2006, second only to the United States. Most of the expressways, however, require tolls.
Private car ownership is increasing at an annual rate of 15%, though it is still uncommon because of government policies that make car ownership expensive, such as taxes and toll roads. Private highway driving is becoming more common, being almost nonexistent ten years ago.
Domestic air travel has increased significantly, but remains too expensive for most. Long distance transportation is dominated by railways and charter bus systems. Railways are the vital carrier in China; they are monopolized by the state, divided into various railway bureaus in different regions. At the rates of demand it experiences, the system has historically been subject to overcrowding during travel seasons such as Chunyun during the Chinese New Year.
Cities such as Beijing and Shanghai both have a rapidly expanding network of subway or light rail systems, while several other cities also have running rapid transit. Numerous cities are also constructing subways. Hong Kong has one of the most developed transport systems in the world. Shanghai has a Maglev rail line connecting Shanghai's urban area to Pudong International Airport.
As of July 2006, there are 1,313,973,713 people in the PRC. About 20.8% (male 145,461,833; female 128,445,739) are 14 years old or younger, 71.4% (male 482,439,115; female 455,960,489) are between 15 and 64 years old, and 7.7% (male 48,562,635; female 53,103,902) are over 65 years old. The population growth rate for 2006 is 0.59%. The PRC officially recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.9% of the total population. Large ethnic minorities include the Zhuang (16 million), Manchu (10 million), Hui (9 million), Miao (8 million), Uyghur (7 million), Yi (7 million), Tujia (5.75 million), Mongols (5 million), Tibetans (5 million), Buyei (3 million), and Koreans (2 million).
In the past decade, China's cities expanded at an average rate of 10% annually. The country's urbanization rate increased from 17.4% to 41.8% between 1978 and 2005, a scale unprecedented in human history. 80 to 120 million migrant workers work part-time in the major cities and return home to the countryside periodically with their earnings.
Today, the People's Republic of China has dozens of major cities with one million or more long-term residents, including the three global cities of Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Major cities in China play key roles in national and regional identity, culture and economics.
In 1986, China set the long-term goal of providing compulsory nine-year basic education to every child. As of 1997, there were 628,840 primary schools, 78,642 secondary schools and 1,020 higher education institutions in the PRC. In February 2006, the government advanced its basic education goal by pledging to provide completely free nine-year education, including textbooks and fees, in the poorer western provinces. As of 2002, 90.9% (male: 95.1%; female: 86.5%) of the population over age 15 are literate. China's youth (age 15 to 24) literacy rate is 98.9% (99.2% for males and 98.5% for females) in 2000. In March 2007, China announced the decision of making education a national "strategic priority", the central budget of the national scholarships will be tripled in two years and 223.5 billion Yuan (28.65 billion US dollars) of extra funding will be allocated from the central government in the next 5 years to improve the compulsory education in rural areas.
The quality of Chinese colleges and universities varies considerably across the country. The consistently top-ranked universities in mainland China are Tsinghua and Peking in Beijing; Fudan, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and East China Normal University in Shanghai; Xi'an Jiaotong University in Xi'an; Nanjing University in Nanjing; the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei; Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and Wuhan University in Wuhan.
Many parents are highly committed to their children's education, often investing large portions of the family's income on education. Private lessons and recreational activities, such as in foreign languages or music, are popular among the middle-class families who can afford them.
The Ministry of Health, together with its counterparts in the provincial health bureaus, oversees the health needs of the Chinese population. An emphasis on public health and preventative treatment characterized health policy since the early 1950s. At that time, the party started the Patriotic Health Campaign, which was aimed at improving sanitation and hygiene, as well as attacking several diseases. This has shown major results as diseases like cholera, typhoid, and scarlet fever were nearly eradicated.
With economic reform after 1978, the health of the Chinese public improved rapidly because of better nutrition despite the disappearance, along with the People's Communes, of much of the free public health services provided in the countryside. Health care in China became largely private fee-for-service. This was widely criticised by the Islamic Hui populations of the North West, who were often unable to obtain medical support in their remote communities. By 2000, when the World Health Organization made a large study of public health systems throughout the world, The World Health Report 2000 Health Systems: Improving Performance the Chinese public health system ranked 144 of the 191 UN member states ranked.
The country's life expectancy at birth jumped from about 35 years in 1949 to 73.18 years in 2008, and infant mortality went down from 300 per thousand in the 1950s to about 23 per thousand in 2006. Malnutrition as of 2002 stood at 12 percent of the population according to United Nations FAO sources.
Despite significant improvements in health and the introduction of western style medical facilities, the PRC has several emerging public health problems, which include respiratory problems as a result of widespread air pollution and millions of cigarette smokers, a possible future HIV/AIDS epidemic, and an increase in obesity among urban youths. Estimates of excess deaths in China from environmental pollution (apart from smoking) are placed at 760,000 people per annum from air and water pollution (including indoor air pollution). China's large population and close living quarters has led to some serious disease outbreaks in recent years, such as the 2003 outbreak of SARS (a pneumonia-like disease) which has since been largely contained.
China does allow a limited degree of religious freedom although the state is officially atheist, in accordance with the doctrines of Marxism. However, official tolerance is only extended to those in state-approved religious organizations and not to those who worship underground, such as house churches. An accurate number of religious adherents is hard to obtain due to a lack of official data, but there is general consensus that religion has been enjoying a resurgence over the past 20 years. A survey by Phil Zuckerman on Adherents.com found that in 1998, 59% (over 700 million) of the population was irreligious. Meanwhile, another survey in 2007 found that there are 300 million (23% of the population) believers as opposed to an official figure of 100 million.
Despite the surveys' varying results, most agree that China's traditional religions - Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions - are the dominant faiths. According to a number of sources, Buddhism in China accounts for between 660 million (~50%) and over 1 billion (~80%) while Taoists number 400 million (~30%). However, the number of adherents to these religions can be overcounted because one can subscribe to one or more of these traditional beliefs simultaneously and the difficulty to clearly differentiate Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions. In addition, subscribing to Buddhism and Taoism is not necessarily considered religious for those who follow the philosophies in principle but stop short at subscribing to any kind of divinity. Most Chinese Buddhists are nominal adherents because only a small proportion of the population (over 8% or over 100 million) may have taken the formal step of going for refuge. Even then, it's still difficult to estimate accurately the number of Buddhists because they did not have congregational memberships and often did not participate in public ceremonies. Mahayana (大乘, Dacheng) and its subsets Pure Land (Amidism), Tiantai and Zen are the most widely practiced denominations of Buddhism. Other forms, such as Theravada and Tibetan, are practiced largely by ethnic minorities along the geographic fringes of the Chinese mainland.
Christianity in China was first introduced during the Tang period in the 7th century with the arrival of Nestorianism in 635 CE. This was followed by Franciscan missionaries in the 13th century, Jesuits in the 16th century, and finally Protestants in the 19th century, during which time Christianity began to make significant foothold in China. Of the minority religions, Christianity has been particularly noted as one of the fastest growing (especially since the last 200 years) and today may number between 40 million (3%) and 54 million (4%) according to independent surveys, while official estimates suggested that there are only 16 million Christians.
Islam in China dates to a mission in 651, eighteen years after Muhammad's death. Muslims came to China for trade, dominating the import/export industry during the Song Dynasty. They became influential in government circles, including Zheng He, Lan Yu and Yeheidie'erding. Nanjing became an important center of Islamic study. The Qing Dynasty waged war and genocide against Muslims in the Dungan revolt and Panthay rebellion. The number of Muslims in China today is estimated between 20 to 100 million while most estimates figures that there are 20 to 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the population).
In July 1999, Falun Gong was officially proscribed and persecuted by the authorities. It had 50-70 million practitioners in 1998 according to official estimates, The New York Times said. However, Falun Gong claims to have 100 million practitioners while the China's Ministry of Civil Affairs claims that there are as few as 2 million. As there are no membership lists, current global numbers are unknown. There are also followers of minority religions including Hinduism, Dongbaism, Bon, and a number of new religions and sects (particularly Xiantianism).
For centuries, opportunity for economic and social advancement in China could be provided by high performance on Imperial examinations. The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as the belief that calligraphy and literati painting were higher forms of art than dancing or drama. China's traditional values were derived from various versions of Confucianism and conservatism. A number of more authoritarian and rational strains of thought have also been influential, such as Legalism. There was often conflict between the philosophies, such as the individualistic Song Dynasty neo-Confucians, who believed Legalism departed from the original spirit of Confucianism. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today. In recent years, a number of New Confucians have advocated that democratic ideals and human rights are quite compatible with traditional Confucian "Asian values.
The first leaders of the People's Republic of China were born in the old society 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 a Confucian education, while preserving others, such as the family structure and obedience to the state. Many observers believe that the period following 1949 is a continuation of traditional Chinese dynastic history, while others say that the CPC's rule has damaged the foundations of Chinese culture, especially through political movements such as the Cultural Revolution, where many aspects of traditional culture were labeled 'regressive and harmful' or 'vestiges of feudalism' by the regime and thus, were destroyed. They further argue that many important aspects of traditional Chinese morals and culture, such as Confucianism, Chinese art, literature, and performing arts like Beijing opera, were altered to conform to government policies and propaganda at the time. One example being Chinese character simplification, since traditional characters were blamed for the country's low literacy rate at the time. However, simplified Chinese characters are not used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
Today, the Chinese government has accepted a great deal of traditional Chinese culture as an integral part of Chinese society, lauding it as an important achievement of the Chinese civilization and emphasizing it as vital to a Chinese national identity. Since the Cultural Revolution ended, various forms of traditional Chinese art, literature, music, film, fashion and architecture have seen a vigorous revival, and folk and variety art in particular have gained a new found respectability, and sparked interest nationally and even worldwide.
China has one of the oldest sporting cultures in the world, spanning the course of several millennia. There is, in fact, evidence that a form of association football was played in China in ancient times. Besides soccer, some of the most popular sports in the country include martial arts, table tennis, badminton, swimming, and basketball. Board games such as Go (Weiqi), and Xiangqi (Chinese chess) and recently Chess are also commonly played and have organized competitions.
Physical fitness is widely emphasized in Chinese culture. Morning exercises are a common activity and often one can find the elderly practicing qigong and tai chi chuan in parks or students doing stretches on school campuses. Young people are especially keen on basketball, especially in urban centers with limited space and grass areas. The NBA has a huge following among Chinese youths, with Yao Ming being the idol of many. The 2008 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, were held in Beijing, and as a result the country has put even more emphasis on sports.
Many traditional sports are also played. The popular Chinese dragon boat racing (龙舟) occurs during the Dragon Boat Festival. In Inner Mongolia, sports such as Mongolian-style wrestling and horse racing are popular. In Tibet, archery and equestrianism are a part of traditional festivals.