Official Name: People's Republic of China
Total area: 9,596,960 sq. km. (approximately 3.7 million sq. mi.).
Cities: Capital--Beijing. Other major cities--Shanghai, Tianjin,
Shenyang, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Harbin, Chengdu.
Terrain: Plains, deltas, and hills in east; mountains, high plateaus,
deserts in west.
Climate: Tropical in south to subarctic in north.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Chinese (singular and plural).
Population (1997 est.): 1.22 billion.
Population growth rate (1997 est.): 0.93%.
Health (1997 est.): Infant mortality rate--37.9/1,000. Life
expectancy--70.0 years (overall); 68.6 years for males, 71.5 years for
Literacy rate: 82%.
Ethnic groups: Han Chinese--91.9%; Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uygur,
Yi, Mongolian, Tibetan, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities--8.1%.
Religions: Officially atheist; Taoism, Buddhism, Islam,
Language: Mandarin (Putonghua), plus many local dialects.
Education: Years compulsory-- 9. Literacy--81.5%.
Work force (699 million): Agriculture and forestry--60%. Industry and
Type: Communist party-led state.
Constitution: December 4, 1982.
Independence: Unification under the Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty 221 BC; Qing
(Ch'ing or Manchu) Dynasty replaced by a republic on February 12, 1912;
People's Republic established October 1, 1949.
Branches: Executive--president, vice president, State Council,
Legislative--unicameral National People's Congress. Judicial--Supreme
Administrative divisions: 23 provinces (the PRC considers Taiwan
to be its 23rd province); 5 autonomous regions, including Tibet; 4
municipalities directly under the State Council.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
GDP (1997 est.): $890 billion (exchange rate based).
Per capita GDP (1997 est.): $700 (exchange rate based).
GDP real growth rate: 8.8%.
Natural resources: Coal, iron ore, crude oil, mercury, tin, tungsten,
antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead,
zinc, uranium, hydropower potential (world's largest).
Agriculture: Among the world's largest producers of rice, potatoes,
sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley; commercial crops include cotton,
other fibers, and oilseeds; produces variety of livestock products.
Industry: Types--iron, steel, coal, machinery, light industrial products,
Trade (1997): Exports--$182.7 billion: mainly textiles, garments,
electrical machinery, foodstuffs, chemicals, footwear, minerals.
Main partners-- Japan, U.S., South Korea, Germany, Singapore,
Imports--$142.36 billion: mainly industrial machinery, electrical
equipment, chemicals, textiles, steel.
Main partners--Japan, Taiwan,
U.S., South Korea, Germany, Russia.
The largest ethnic group is the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.9%
of the total population. The remaining 8.1% are Zhuang (16 million),
Manchu (10 million), Hui (9 million), Miao (8 million), Uygur (7
million), Yi (7 million), Mongolian (5 million), Tibetan (5 million),
Buyi (3 million), Korean (2 million), and other ethnic minorities.
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.
Only about two-thirds of the Han ethnic group are native speakers of
Mandarin; the rest, concentrated in southwest and southeast China, speak
one of the six other major Chinese dialects. Non-Chinese languages spoken
widely by ethnic minorities include Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur and other
Turkic languages (in Xinjiang), and Korean (in the Northeast).
Religion plays a significant part in the life of many Chinese. Buddhism
is most widely practiced, with an estimated 100 million adherents.
Traditional Taoism also is practiced. Official figures indicate there are
18 million Muslims, 4 million Catholics, and 10 million Protestants;
unofficial estimates are much higher.
The major organs of state power are the National People's Congress (NPC),
the President, and the State Council. Members of the State Council
include Premier Zhu Rongji, a variable number of vice premiers (now
four), five state councilors (protocol equal of vice premiers but with
narrower portfolios), and 29
ministers and heads of State Council commissions.
Under the Chinese Constitution, the NPC is the highest organ of state
power in China. It meets annually for about 2 weeks to review and approve
major new policy directions, laws, the budget, and major personnel
changes. These initiatives are presented to the NPC for consideration by
the State Council after previous endorsement by the Communist Party's
Central Committee. Although the NPC generally approves State Council
policy and personnel recommendations, various NPC committees hold active
debate in closed sessions, and changes may be made to accommodate
Principal Government and Party Officials
Vice President--Hu Jintao
Premier, State Council--Zhu Rongji
Vice Premiers -- Li Lanqing, Qian Qichen, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao
Politburo Standing Committee -- Jiang Zemin (General Secretary), Li Peng,
Zhu Rongji, Li Ruihuan, Hu Jintao, Wei Jianxing, Li Lanqing
China is the oldest continuous major world civilization, with
records dating back about 3,500 years. Successive dynasties developed a
system of bureaucratic control which gave the agrarian-based Chinese an
advantage over neighboring nomadic and hill cultures. Chinese
civilization was further strengthened by the development of a Confucian
state ideology and a common written language that bridged the gaps among
the country's many local languages and dialects. The last dynasty was
established in 1644, when the nomadic Manchus overthrew the native Ming
dynasty and established the Qing (Ch'ing) dynasty with Beijing as its
Early 20th Century China
A revolutionary military uprising on October 10, 1911, led to the
abdication of the last Qing monarch. Between 1911 and 1916, General Yuan
Shikai served as president of China. Upon his death, and with no natural
successor, China was ruled by shifting coalitions and competing
provincial military leaders. In 1925, Chiang Kai-shek united most of
south and central China under the rule of the Chinese Nationalist
People's Party (KMT). During the 1920's, many leaders of the rival
Communist Chinese Party (CCP) were executed, and those who survived
reorganized under a new leader, Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung). By 1949, the
CCP occupied most of the country. Chiang Kai-shek fled with the remnants
of his KMT government and military forces to Taiwan, where he proclaimed
Taipei to be China's "provisional capital".
The People's Republic of China
In Beijing, on October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the
founding of the People's Republic of China. In the early 1950s, China
undertook a massive economic and social reconstruction. In 1958, Mao
broke with the Soviet model and announced a new economic program, the
"Great Leap Forward," aimed at rapidly raising industrial and
agricultural production. Giant cooperatives (communes) were formed, and
"backyard factories" dotted the Chinese landscape. The results were
disastrous, as normal market mechanisms were disrupted, and agricultural
production fell. In the spring of 1966, a new movement, the "Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution," pitted a section of the Chinese
Communist leadership against another leadership group. China was set on a
course of political and social anarchy which lasted the better part of a
decade. The leadership conflict came to a head in September 1971, when
Party Vice Chairman and Defense Minister Lin Biao reportedly tried to
stage a coup against Mao. In the aftermath of the Lin Biao incident, many
officials criticized and dismissed during 1966-69 were reinstated.
The Post-Mao Era
Mao's death in September 1976 removed a towering figure from
Chinese politics and set off a scramble for succession. After extensive
deliberations, the Chinese Communist Party leadership reinstated Deng
Xiaoping to all of his previous posts at the 11th Party Congress in
August 1977. Deng then led the effort to place government control in the
hands of veteran party officials opposed to the radical excesses of the
previous two decades. The new, pragmatic leadership emphasized economic
development and renounced mass political movements. After 1979, the
Chinese leadership moved toward more pragmatic positions in almost all
fields. The party encouraged artists, writers, and journalists to adopt
more critical approaches, although open attacks on party authority were
1989 Student Movement and Tiananmen Square
The death of Hu Yaobang, a popular reformer, on April 15, 1989,
coupled with growing economic hardship caused by high inflation, provided
the backdrop for a large scale protest movement by students,
intellectuals, and other parts of a disaffected urban population.
University students and other citizens in Beijing camped out at Tiananmen
Square to mourn Hu's death and to protest against those who would slow
reform. Their protests, which grew despite government efforts to contain
them, called for an end to official corruption and for defense of
freedoms guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution. Protests also spread
through many other cities, including Shanghai and Guangzhou. After
failing to persuade the demonstrators to abandon the streets, Zhao's
strategy of reasoning with the demonstrators was overruled, and martial
law was declared on May 20, 1989. Late on June 3 and early on the morning
of June 4, military units were brought into Beijing. They used armed
force to clear demonstrators from the streets. There are no official
estimates of deaths in Beijing, but most observers believe that
casualties numbered in the many hundreds.
After June 4, while foreign governments expressed horror at the
brutal suppression of the demonstrators, the central government
eliminated remaining sources of organized opposition, detained large
numbers of protesters, removed Zhao supporters from office, and required
political reeducation not only for students but also for large numbers of
party cadre and government officials.
Third Generation of Leaders
Deng's health deteriorated in the years prior to his death in
1997. During that time, President Jiang Zemin and other members of his
generation gradually assumed control of the day-to-day functions of
government. This "third generation" leadership governs collectively with
President Jiang at the center.
In March 1998, Jiang was re-elected President during the 9th National
People's Congress. Premier Li Peng was constitutionally required to step
down from that post. China is firmly committed to economic reform and
opening to the outside world. The Chinese leadership has identified
reform of state industries as a government priority. Government
strategies for achieving that goal include large-scale privatization of
unprofitable state-owned enterprises and the layoff of workers. The
leadership has also downsized the government bureaucracy.
After the Cultural Revolution, China's leaders aimed to develop a
legal system to restrain abuses of official authority and revolutionary
excesses. In 1982, the National People's Congress adopted a new state
constitution that emphasized the rule of law under which even party
leaders are theoretically held accountable. In keeping with this emphasis
on predictability and the rule of law, the NPC delegates also passed a
number of new statutes. Some were designed to assure foreigners doing
business with China that agreements and contracts would be honored and
that arbitrary behavior would not be tolerated.
In other legal developments, the first civil procedure law in the
history of the People's Republic of China was promulgated for provisional
use in 1982, filling a major gap in the legal system. Since 1979, when
the drive to establish a functioning legal system began, more than 300
laws and regulations, most of them in the economic area, have been
promulgated. The use of mediation committees--informed groups of citizens
who resolve about 90% of China's civil disputes and some minor criminal
cases at no cost to the parties--is one innovative device. There are more
than 800,000 such committees in both rural and urban areas.
Legal reform became a government priority in the 1990's.
Legislation designed to modernize and professionalize the nation's
lawyers, judges, and prisons was enacted. The 1994 Administrative
Procedure Law allows citizens to sue officials for abuse of authority or
malfeasance. In addition, the criminal law and the criminal procedures
laws were amended to introduce significant reforms. The criminal law
amendments abolished the crime of "counter-revolutionary" activity, while
criminal procedures reforms encouraged establishment of a more
transparent, adversarial trial process. The Chinese Constitution and laws
provide for fundamental human rights, including due process, but theses
are often ignored in practice. However, the government's efforts to
promote rule of law are significant and ongoing.
China has acknowledged in principle the importance of protection
of human rights and has taken steps to bring its human rights practices
into conformity with international norms. Among these steps are signature
in October 1997 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and
Cultural Rights and its announcement in March 1998 that it intends to
sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The latter
document codifies human rights principles embodied in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. China has also expanded dialogue with its
foreign critics. However, its human rights practices remain repressive.
The government restricts freedom of assembly, expression, and the press
and represses dissent.
Although China attempts to control religion through
state-sponsored organizations, unofficial religious practice is
flourishing. Catholics and Protestants have been prosecuted for
maintaining foreign ties, proselytizing, or conducting "illegal"
religious services. China hosted a delegation of distinguished American
religious leaders in February 1998. The religious leaders met with
President Jiang Zemin, conveyed concerns about religious freedom, and
traveled to numerous sites, including Tibet.
Most of China's labor force is engaged in agriculture, even
though only 10% of the land is suitable for cultivation. Virtually all
arable land is used for food crops, and China is among the world's
largest producers of rice, potatoes, sorghum, millet, barley, peanuts,
tea, and pork. Major non-food crops, including cotton, other fibers, and
oil seeds, furnish China with a large proportion of its foreign trade
revenue. Agricultural exports, such as vegetables and fruits, fish and
shellfish, grain and grain products, and meat and meat products, are
exported to Hong Kong. Yields are high because of intensive cultivation,
but China hopes to further increase agricultural production through
improved plant stocks, fertilizers, and technology.
Major state industries are iron, steel, coal, machine building,
light industrial products, armaments, and textiles. These industries
completed a decade of reform (1979-89) with little substantial management
change. The 1996 industrial census revealed that there were 7,342,000
industrial enterprises at the end of 1995; total employment in industrial
enterprises was approximately 147 million. The automobile industry is
expected to grow rapidly, as is electric power generation. Machinery and
electronic products have become China's main exports.
Since 1979, China has been engaged in an effort to reform its
economy. The Chinese leadership has adopted a pragmatic perspective on
many political and socioeconomic problems, and has sharply reduced the
role of ideology in economic policy.
In the 1980s, China tried to combine central planning with
market-oriented reforms to increase productivity, living standards, and
technological quality without exacerbating inflation, unemployment, and
budget deficits. During the 1980s, these reforms led to average annual
rates of growth of 10% in agricultural and industrial output. Rural per
capita real income doubled. China became self-sufficient in grain
production; rural industries accounted for 23% of agricultural output,
helping absorb surplus labor in the countryside. The variety of light
industrial and consumer goods increased. Reforms began in the fiscal,
financial, banking, price setting, and labor systems.
However, by the late 1980s, the economy had become overheated
with increasing rates of inflation. At the end of 1988, in reaction to a
surge of inflation caused by accelerated price reforms, the leadership
introduced an austerity program. China's economy regained momentum in the
early 1990s. During 1993, output and prices were accelerating, investment
outside the state budget was soaring, and economic expansion was fueled
by the introduction of more than 2,000 special economic zones (SEZs) and
the influx of foreign capital that the SEZs facilitated. By early 1997,
the Chinese economy was growing at a rate of 9.5%, accompanied by low
Despite China's impressive economic development during the past
two decades, reforming the state sector remains a major hurdle. Over half
of China's state-owned enterprises are inefficient and reporting losses.
During the 15th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party that met
in September 1997, President Jiang Zemin announced plans to sell, merge,
or close the vast majority of SOEs in his call for increased "public
ownership" (privatization in euphemistic terms). The 9th National
People's Congress endorsed the plans at its March 1998 session.
In February 1972, President Nixon traveled to Beijing, Hangzhou,
and Shanghai. At the conclusion of his trip, the U.S. and Chinese
Governments issued the "Shanghai Communique," a statement of their
foreign policy views). In the Communique, both nations pledged to work
toward the full normalization of diplomatic relations. The U.S.
acknowledged the Chinese position that all Chinese on both sides of the
Taiwan Strait maintain that there is only one China and that Taiwan is
part of China. The statement enabled the U.S. and China to temporarily
set aside the "crucial question obstructing the normalization of
relations"--Taiwan--and to open trade and other contacts.
President Ford visited China in 1975 and reaffirmed the U.S.
interest in normalizing relations with Beijing. Shortly after taking
office in 1977, President Carter again reaffirmed the interest expressed
in the Shanghai Communique. The United States and China announced on
December 15, 1978, that the two governments would establish diplomatic
relations on January 1, 1979. On March 1, 1979, the United States and
China formally established embassies in Beijing and Washington. Vice
President Walter Mondale's visit to China in August 1979 led to
agreements in September 1980 on maritime affairs, civil aviation links,
and textile matters, as well as a bilateral consular convention.
Bilateral Relations After Tiananmen
Following the Chinese authorities' brutal suppression of
demonstrators in June 1989, the U.S. and other governments enacted a
number of measures to express their condemnation of Chinese action that
violated the basic human rights of its citizens. The U.S. suspended
high-level official exchanges with China and weapons exports from the
U.S. to China. The U.S. also imposed a series of economic sanctions. In
the summer of 1990, at the G-7 Houston summit, Western nations called for
renewed political and economic reforms in China, particularly in the
field of human rights.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited the United States in the
fall of 1997, the first state visit to the U.S. by a Chinese president
since 1985. In connection with that visit, the two sides reached
agreement on implementation of their 1985 agreement on the Peaceful Uses
of Nuclear Energy, as well as a number of other issues. President
Clinton will pay a reciprocal visit to China in June 1998.
U.S.-Chinese Economic Relations
U.S. direct investment in China covers a wide range of
manufacturing sectors, several large hotel projects, and a heavy
concentration in offshore oil and gas development in the South China Sea.
U.S. companies have entered agreements establishing more than 20,000
equity joint ventures, contractual joint ventures, and wholly
foreign-owned enterprises in China. Over 100 U.S.-based multinationals
have projects, some with multiple investments.
The increasingly important U.S. economic and trade relations with
China are an important element of the Administration's engagement policy
toward China. In economics and trade, there are two main elements to the
First, the United States seeks to fully integrate China into the
global, market-based economic and trading system. China's participation
in the global economy will nurture the process of economic reform and
increase China's stake in the stability and prosperity of East Asia.
Second, the United States seeks to expand U.S. exporters' and
investors' access to the Chinese market. As China grows and develops, its
needs for imported goods and services will grow even more rapidly.
At the September 1997 Joint Economic Committee meeting in
Beijing, the U.S. continued dialogue with the Chinese on macroeconomic
issues. The Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, hosted in Beijing in
October 1997, discussed expansion of long-term economic and business ties
between China and the United States. Agreements were made to set up
seminars on project finance and export controls, to establish a series of
exchanges on commercial law, and to further explore ways to assist small
and medium-sized U.S. businesses export to China.
At the October 1997 summit, China agreed to purchase 50 Boeing
aircraft valued at approximately $3 billion, participate in the
Information Technology Agreement which cuts to zero tariffs on computers,
semiconductors, and telecommunications, and allow U.S. financial news
services providers to operate on acceptable terms in China.
China's Most Favored Nation (MFN) Status
In 1994, President Clinton decided to delink the annual MFN
process from China's human rights record. At the same time, the President
decided to adopt a new human rights strategy, maintaining human rights
concerns as an essential part of the U.S. engagement with China but in a
broader context. The President also ordered several additional steps to
support those seeking to foster the rule of law and a more open civil
society in China.
Revoking or conditioning Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status
and tariff treatment would remove a beneficial influence for creating a
more open China. It would undermine American leadership in the region and
the confidence of our Asian allies. It would damage our economy, harm
Taiwan and especially Hong Kong, whose economies are closely intertwined
with that of the P.R.C.; and it would damage our ability to work with
China on vital regional security issues such as North Korea and global
security concerns such as nonproliferation. Continuation of MFN status
for China will help further integrate it into the international system
and promote the interests of the American people.
U.S. DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION
Ambassador--James R. Sasser
Deputy Chief of Mission--William C. McCahill
Political Officer--William A. Stanton
Economic Officer--Robert Ludan
Commercial Officer--Alan Turley
There are U.S. Consulates General in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and