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June 2007



China, officially known as the People's Republic of China, is located in Eastern Asia. It borders the East China Sea, Yellow Sea, South China Sea and shares borders with Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam. China is the world's fourth largest country (after Russia, Canada, and the United States). Covering a land area of nearly 9,400,000 square kilometers; it is slightly larger than the land area of the United States.

China is the oldest continuous major world civilization, with records dating back about 3,500 years. The last dynasty was established in 1644, when the Manchus overthrew the native Ming dynasty and established the Qing (Ch'ing) dynasty with Beijing as its capital. During the 19th century, Qing control weakened, and prosperity diminished. In 1912, the Qing (Ch'ing or Manchu) Dynasty was replaced by a republic; on October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China (PRC) was established. After World War II, the Communists under Mao Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, his successor Deng Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight.

The capital of China is Beijing; administrative divisions are made up of 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, and 4 municipalities. The terrain consists of mountains, deserts, and plateaus in the west; plains, deltas, and hills in the east. The climate is extremely diverse, from tropical in the south to subarctic in the north. Natural resources include coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, uranium, and the world’s largest hydropower potential. China’s natural hazards are frequent typhoons (about five per year along southern and eastern coasts), damaging floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts, and land subsidence.

With a population officially just over 1.3 billion and an estimated growth rate of about 0.6%; , the government's goal is to stabilize the population in the first half of the 21st century, and current projections are that the population will peak at around 1.6 billion by 2050. The majority of people in China are Han Chinese (91.9%), with Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities constituting the rest (8.1%). Though officially atheist, major religions practiced in China are Taoism and Buddhism, others include Islam and Christianity. Ethnic languages include standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, and other minority languages.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. Dept. of State Background Notes, 05/2007, 01/2007