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April 2010



China (formally People's Republic of China) is slightly smaller than the United States, covering an area of 9,596,961 sq. km, with an estimated population of 1,338,612,968 (June 2009). Its capital city is Beijing; other major cities include: Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenyang, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Harbin, and Chengdu. With an extremely diverse climate ranting from tropical in south to subarctic in north, China's terrain consists mostly of mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west; plains, deltas, and hills in east. China is the world's fourth largest country, after Russia, Canada, and the United States; Mount Everest, which lies on the border with Nepal, is the world's tallest peak.

The natural resources of China include: coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, uranium, and hydropower potential (world's largest). China is among the world's largest producers of: rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, peanuts, tea, millet, barley; commercial crops include cotton, other fibers, apples, oilseeds, pork and fish; produces variety of livestock products. China's industrial output includes: mining and ore processing, iron, steel, aluminum, and other metals, coal, and machine building.

The largest ethnic group is the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.5% of the total population. There are seven major Chinese dialects and many subdialects. Mandarin (or Putonghua), the predominant dialect, is spoken by over 70% of the population. It is taught in all schools and is the medium of government. In Beijing, on October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.). Mao's death in September 1976 removed a towering figure from Chinese politics and set off a scramble for succession. There are 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions and 4 municipalities in China. The current chief of state is President Hu Jintao (since March 2003); the next elections will be held in mid-March 2013.

China's natural hazards include frequent typhoons (about five per year along southern and eastern coasts), damaging floods, droughts, land subsidence, tsunamis, and earthquakes. According to the United States Geological Survey, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the southern Qinghai province of China on April 13, 2010. For more information concerning earthquakes, please see the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program site.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 4/2010; 10/2009

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