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Encyclopedia > People's Republic of China

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People's Republic of China

The People's Republic of China (PRC), which comprises most of the cultural, historic, and geographic area known as China, is the largest country in area in East Asia and the fourth largest in the world. Since its founding in 1949, it has been led by the Communist Party of China (CPC). In 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China (now on Taiwan) as the sole representative for "China" in the United Nations and as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The PRC borders 14 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1,250,000,000, most of whom are classified as as the Han ethnicity.

The official language of the PRC is Mandarin Chinese which is taught in schools, thereby making the language the most widely spoken on Earth.

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China implies, in its preamble, that it does not control the whole of China; this is mainly with respect to the question of Taiwan. The Republic of China, based in Taiwan, still officially claims to be a legal Chinese government and is recognised by some countries around the world. 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).

中华人民共和国
Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official language Mandarin Chinese
Capital Beijing
PresidentHu Jintao
PremierWen Jiabao
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 4th
9,596,960 km²
2.8%
Population
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 1st
1,273,111,290
129/km²
Establishment
 - Established
Chinese Civil War
October 1, 1949
Currency Renminbi
Time zone UTC +8
National anthem March of the Volunteers
Internet TLD.CN
Calling Code86

Table of contents

History Main articles: History of China, history of the PRC

After World War II, the Chinese Civil War between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang ended with the communists in control of mainland China in 1949. The Kuomintang fled to Taiwan, while Mao Zedong established a communist state.

After the death of Mao, mainland China remained under Communist rule, but 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).

See also: Timeline of Chinese history

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 PRC is a republic in that the government has some democratic forms, especially at the local level, but it is controlled by the Communist Party of China. The state uses authoritarian methods to deal with dissent, while at the same time attempting to reduce dissent by improving the economy, allowing expression of personal grievances, and rather lenient treatment for persons expressing dissent whom the regime does not believe are organizers.

Censorship of political speech is routine and opposition forces, such as protests by ununionized urban workers and the Tiananmen Square protests have been suppressed. Any labor, religious, or political organization not controlled by the state may considered subversive and is subject to suppression. Information about social and political conditions in the country are considered state secrets[?] thus criminalizing[?] communication or publication of accurate information. See Media in China. Other methods of control include intense surveilance, false criminal charges [1] (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/12/international/asia/12CHIN?tntemail1), exile, and long prison terms for leaders of the opposition movements, separatist movements, and independent labor and religious leaders.

The support that the Communist Party of China has among the Chinese population is unclear as there are no national elections. 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 include the growing gap between rich and poor in the the PRC, and the growing discontent with widespread corruption within the leadership. Even though people in many democratic countries consider that the PRC is a one-party state, some other parties still exist. The Communist Party of China cooperates with these parties through a special conference, called the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (C.P.P.C.C.) by Chinese government, rather than elections. Nevertheless, the effect of the other parties on the government remains minimal.

Foreign Relations

Main article: Foreign relations of the People's Republic of China

The United Nations recognizes the People's Republic as the sole legitimate government of China with Taiwan as province of of the PRC. The PRC is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

See also: Political status of Taiwan

Military

Main article: People's Liberation Army

The PRC maintains the largest standing army in the world. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) includes the PRC's navy and air force. Like most communist governments and the USA, the PRC spends a disproportionate amount on its military. The cost was estimated to be $60 billion in 2003, second only to the United States. The PRC, despite possession of advanced nuclear weapons and delivery systems, lacks the ability to project military power beyond its borders and is not a superpower.

Provinces & Regions Main article: Provinces of China

Mainland China has 22 provinces (省), though 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).

The following are a list of administrative divisions of areas under control of the People's Republic.

Provinces Autonomous regions
Municipalities
Special Administrative Regions

Geography Main article: Geography of China


Areas controlled by the PRC (in skin colour) and ROC (in rice colour)
(Larger, detailed image with provincial boundaries)

China is the fourth largest country in the world and as such contains a large variety in 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 deltas 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 Himalaya 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 second largest in the world after the US by purchasing power. The average annual income of a Chinese worker is $1,300. Chinese economy development is believed to be one of the fastest region in the world, about 7~8% per year by the statistic of Chinese government. And mainland China is now a member of World Trade Organization.

Mainland China has a reputation as being a low-cost manufacturer, particularly due to abundant cheap labour. The following data supports this reputation. A worker at a Chinese factory typically costs a company 50 cents to $1 per hour (average US$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.

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

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.

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

Holidays
Date English Name Local Name Remarks
January 1 New Year 元旦
May 1 Labor Day 劳动节
May 4 Youth Day 青年节 Comemorating May Fourth Movement
July 1 CPC Founding Day 建党节 Formation of 1st National Congress on July 1, 1921
August 1 Army Day 建军节 Nanchang Uprising (南昌起义)
on August 1, 1927
October 1 National Day 国庆节 Founding of PRC on October 1, 1949
1st day of 1st lunar month Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) 春节 Based on Chinese calendar
15th day of 1th lunar month Lantern Festival[?] 元宵节 Based on Chinese calendar
5th Solar Term. Early April Qingming[?] (Tomb Sweeping Day) 清明节 see Chinese calendar.
About 15 days after Vernal Equinox
Day for paying respect to the deceased
5th day of 5th lunar month Dragon Boat Festival (Dragon Festival) 端午节 Based on Chinese calendar
15th day of 7th lunar month Spirit Festival (Ghost Festival) 中元节 Based on Chinese calendar
15th day of 8th lunar month Mid-autumn Festival[?] (Moon Festival) 中秋节 Based on Chinese calendar
9th day of 9th lunar month Double Ninth Festival[?] 重阳节 Based on Chinese calendar

Miscellaneous topics

References

Further reading

  • Ross Terrill, The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States, Basic Books, hardcover, 400 pages, ISBN 0465084125

External links

  • China.org.cn (http://www.china.org.cn/english/index.htm) - China's Official Gateway
  • China News (http://www.HavenWorks.com/world/china)
  • Chinese politics (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/12/international/asia/12CHIN?tntemail1): New York Time (login is required)
  • Chinese Deserts and Korea (http://query.nytimes.com/search/abstract?res=F6061FF639580C778DDDAD0894DA404482): very brief (useful here?)


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