China's Key Facts

by World Grain Staff
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Capital: Beijing

Population: 1,330,044,544 (July 2008 est.)

Religions: Officially atheist; Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%-4%, Muslim 1%-2% (2002 est.).

Location: Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam.

Government: Communist state. Chief of state: President Hu Jintao (since March 15, 2003); Head of government: Premier Wen Jiabao (since March 16, 2003).

Economy: China’s economy during the last quarter century has changed from a centrally planned system that was largely closed to international trade to a more market-oriented economy that has a rapidly growing private sector and is a major player in the global economy. Reforms started in the late 1970s with the phasing out of collectivized agriculture and with the gradual liberalization of prices, fiscal decentralization, increased autonomy for state enterprises, the foundation of a diversified banking system, the development of stock markets, the rapid growth of the non-state sector, and the opening to foreign trade and investment. China has generally implemented reforms in a gradualist or piecemeal fashion, including the sale of minority shares in four of China’s largest state banks to foreign investors and refinements in foreign exchange and bond markets in 2005. After keeping its currency tightly linked to the U.S. dollar for years, China in July 2005 revalued its currency by 2.1% against the U.S. dollar and moved to an exchange rate system that references a basket of currencies. Cumulative appreciation of the renminbi against the U.S. dollar since the end of the dollar peg reached 15% in January 2008. The restructuring of the economy and resulting efficiency gains have contributed to a more than tenfold increase in GDP since 1978. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China in 2007 stood as the second-largest economy in the world after the U.S., although in per capita terms the country is still lower middle-income. Annual inflows of foreign direct investment in 2007 rose to $75 billion. By the end of 2007, more than 5,000 domestic Chinese enterprises had established direct investments in 172 countries and regions around the world. The Chinese government faces several economic development challenges: (a) to sustain adequate job growth for tens of millions of workers laid off from state-owned enterprises, migrants, and new entrants to the work force; (b) to reduce corruption and other economic crimes; and (c) to contain environmental damage and social strife related to the economy’s rapid transformation. Economic development has been more rapid in coastal provinces than in the interior, and approximately 200 million rural laborers have relocated to urban areas to find work. One demographic consequence of the "one child" policy is that China is now one of the most rapidly aging countries in the world. Deterioration in the environment — notably air pollution, soil erosion, and the steady fall of the water table, especially in the north — is another long-term problem. China continues to lose arable land because of erosion and economic development. In 2007, China intensified government efforts to improve environmental conditions, tying the evaluation of local officials to environmental targets, publishing a national climate change policy, and establishing a high-level leading group on climate change, headed by Premier Wen Jiabao. The Chinese government seeks to add energy production capacity from sources other than coal and oil as its double-digit economic growth increases demand. Chinese energy officials in 2007 agreed to purchase five third-generation nuclear reactors from Western companies. More power generating capacity came on line in 2006 as large-scale investments — including the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze River — were completed.

GDP per capita: $5,400 (2007 est.); inflation: 4.8% (2007 est.); unemployment: 4% unemployment in urban areas; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas (2007 est.)

Currency: Renminbi (also referred to by the unit yuan); 1 U.S. dollar = 6.83 yuan (Oct. 21, 2008).

Exports: $1.22 trillion f.o.b. (2007 est.): machinery, electrical products, data processing equipment, apparel, textile, steel, mobile phones.

Imports: $904.6 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): machinery and equipment, oil and mineral fuels, plastics, LED screens, data processing equipment, optical and medical equipment, organic chemicals, steel, copper.

Major crops/agricultural products: Rice, wheat, potatoes, maize, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, apples, cotton, oilseeds; pork, fish.

Agriculture: 11.3% of GDP and 43% of the labor force.

Internet: Code. .cn; 10.637 million (2007) hosts and 253 million (2008) users.

Source: CIA World Factbook

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