China

People's Republic of China

President: Xi Jinping (2013)

Prime Minister: Wen Jiabao (2003)

Land area: 3,600,927 sq mi (9,326,411 sq km); total area: 3,705,407 sq mi (9,596,960 sq km)1

Population (2011 est.): 1,336,718,015 (growth rate: 0.493%); birth rate: 12.29/1000; infant mortality rate: 16.06/1000; life expectancy: 74.68

Capital (2009 est.): Beijing, 12.214 million

Largest cities: Shanghai, 16.575 million; Chungking (Chongquing) 9.401 million; Shenzhen 9.005 million; Guangzhou 8.884 million (2009)

Monetary unit: Yuan/Renminbi

National name: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo

Current government officials

Languages: Standard Chinese (Mandarin/Putonghua), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages note: Mongolian is official in Nei Mongol, Uighur is official in Xinjiang Uygur, and Tibetan is official in Xizang (Tibet)

Ethnicity/race: Han Chinese 91.5%, Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8.5%

National Holiday: Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China, October 1

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

Literacy rate: 92.2% (2011 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $11.29 trillion; per capita $8,400. Real growth rate: 9.2% (official data). Inflation: 5.4%. Unemployment: 6.5% official registered unemployment in urban areas; substantial unemployment and underemployment in rural areas. Arable land: 14.86%. Agriculture: rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, apples, cotton, oilseed; pork; fish. Labor force: 795.5 million (2011); agriculture 10.2%, industry 46.9%, services 43% (2010 est.). Industries: mining and ore processing, iron, steel, aluminum, and other metals, coal; machine building; armaments; textiles and apparel; petroleum; cement; chemicals; fertilizers; consumer products, including footwear, toys, and electronics; food processing; transportation equipment, including automobiles, rail cars and locomotives, ships, and aircraft; telecommunications equipment, commercial space launch vehicles, satellites. Natural resources: coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, uranium, hydropower potential (world's largest). Exports: $1.898 trillion (2011 est.): machinery and equipment, plastics, optical and medical equipment, iron and steel. Imports: $1.743 trillion (2011 est.): machinery and equipment, oil and mineral fuels, plastics, optical and medical equipment, organic chemicals, iron and steel. Major trading partners: U.S., Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Australia (2010).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 294.383 million (2011); mobile cellular: 859 million (2011). Broadcast media: all broadcast media are owned by, or affiliated with, the Communist Party of China or a government agency; no privately-owned television or radio stations with state-run Chinese Central TV, provincial, and municipal stations offering more than 2,000 channels; the Central Propaganda Department lists subjects that are off limits to domestic broadcast media with the government maintaining authority to approve all programming; foreign-made TV programs must be approved prior to broadcast (2008). Internet hosts: 19.772 million (2011). Internet users: 389 million (2011).

Transportation: Railways: total: 86,000 (2011). Highways: total: 3,860,800 km; paved: 3,056,300 km (with at least 65,000 km of expressways) ; unpaved: 804,500 km (2011). Waterways: 110,000 km (2010). Ports and harbors: Dalian, Guangzhou, Ningbo, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin . Airports: 502 (2011 est.).

International disputes: continuing talks and confidence-building measures work toward reducing tensions over Kashmir that nonetheless remains militarized with portions under the de facto administration of China (Aksai Chin), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas); India does not recognize Pakistan's ceding historic Kashmir lands to China in 1964; China and India continue their security and foreign policy dialogue started in 2005 related to the dispute over most of their rugged, militarized boundary, regional nuclear proliferation, and other matters; China claims most of India's Arunachal Pradesh to the base of the Himalayas; lacking any treaty describing the boundary, Bhutan and China continue negotiations to establish a common boundary alignment to resolve territorial disputes arising from substantial cartographic discrepancies, the largest of which lie in Bhutan's northwest and along the Chumbi salient; Bhutan protests Chinese road construction and other activities on Bhutanese soil; Chinese border soldiers frequently intrude deep into Bhutanese territory; Burmese forces attempting to dig in to the largely autonomous Shan State to rout local militias tied to the drug trade, prompts local residents to periodically flee into neighboring Yunnan Province in China; Chinese maps show an international boundary symbol off the coasts of the littoral states of the South China Seas, where China has interrupted Vietnamese hydrocarbon exploration; China asserts sovereignty over Scarborough Reef along with the Philippines and Taiwan, and over the Spratly Islands together with Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Brunei; the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" eased tensions in the Spratlys but is not the legally binding "code of conduct" sought by some parties; Vietnam and China continue to expand construction of facilities in the Spratlys and in March 2005, the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a joint accord on marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands; China occupies some of the Paracel Islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan; China and Taiwan continue to reject both Japan's claims to the uninhabited islands of Senkaku-shoto (Diaoyu Tai) and Japan's unilaterally declared equidistant line in the East China Sea, the site of intensive hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation; certain islands in the Yalu and Tumen rivers are in dispute with North Korea; North Korea and China seek to stem illegal migration to China by North Koreans, fleeing privations and oppression, by building a fence along portions of the border and imprisoning North Koreans deported by China; China and Russia have demarcated the once disputed islands at the Amur and Ussuri confluence and in the Argun River in accordance with their 2004 Agreement; China and Tajikistan have begun demarcating the revised boundary agreed to in the delimitation of 2002; the decade-long demarcation of the China-Vietnam land boundary was completed in 2009; citing environmental, cultural, and social concerns, China has reconsidered construction of 13 dams on the Salween River, but energy-starved Burma, with backing from Thailand, remains intent on building five hydro-electric dams downstream despite regional and international protests; Chinese and Hong Kong authorities met in March 2008 to resolve ownership and use of lands recovered in Shenzhen River channelization, including 96-hectare Lok Ma Chau Loop; Hong Kong developing plans to reduce 2,000 out of 2,800 hectares of its restricted Closed Area by 2010.

1. Including Manchuria and Tibet.

Major sources and definitions

Provinces and Regions of China

Hong Kong

Macao

Flag of China

Geography | Government | History

Geography

The greater part of the country is mountainous. Its principal ranges are the Tien Shan, the Kunlun chain, and the Trans-Himalaya. In the southwest is Tibet, which China annexed in 1950. The Gobi Desert lies to the north. China proper consists of three great river systems: the Yellow River (Huang He), 2,109 mi (5,464 km) long; the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang), the third-longest river in the world at 2,432 mi (6,300 km); and the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang), 848 mi (2,197 km) long.

Government

Communist state.

History

The earliest recorded human settlements in what is today called China were discovered in the Huang He basin and date from about 5000 B.C. During the Shang dynasty (1500–1000 B.C.), the precursor of modern China's ideographic writing system developed, allowing the emerging feudal states of the era to achieve an advanced stage of civilization, rivaling in sophistication any society found at the time in Europe, the Middle East, or the Americas. It was following this initial flourishing of civilization, in a period known as the Chou dynasty (1122–249 B.C.), that Lao-tse, Confucius, Mo Ti, and Mencius laid the foundation of Chinese philosophical thought.

The feudal states, often at war with one another, were first united under Emperor Ch'in Shih Huang Ti, during whose reign (246–210 B.C.) work was begun on the Great Wall of China, a monumental bulwark against invasion from the West. Although the Great Wall symbolized China's desire to protect itself from the outside world, under the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220), the civilization conducted extensive commercial trading with the West.

In the T'ang dynasty (618–907)—often called the golden age of Chinese history—painting, sculpture, and poetry flourished, and woodblock printing, which enabled the mass production of books, made its earliest known appearance. The Mings, last of the native rulers (1368–1644), overthrew the Mongol, or Yuan, dynasty (1271–1368) established by Kublai Khan. The Mings in turn were overthrown in 1644 by invaders from the north, the Manchus.

War Losses Cause China to Sign Away Sovereignty

China remained largely isolated from the rest of the world's civilizations, closely restricting foreign activities. By the end of the 18th century only Canton (location of modern-day Hong Kong) and the Portuguese port of Macao were open to European merchants. But with the first Anglo-Chinese War in 1839–1842, a long period of instability and concessions to Western colonial powers began. Following the war, several ports were opened up for trading, and Hong Kong was ceded to Britain. Treaties signed after further hostilities (1856–1860) weakened Chinese sovereignty and gave foreigners immunity from Chinese jurisdiction. European powers took advantage of the disastrous Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 to gain further trading concessions from China. Peking's response, the Boxer Rebellion (1900), was suppressed by an international force.

The death of Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi in 1908 and the accession of the infant emperor Hsüan T'ung (Pu-Yi) were followed by a nationwide rebellion led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who overthrew the Manchus and became the first president of the Provisional Chinese Republic in 1911. Dr. Sun resigned in favor of Yuan Shih-k'ai, who suppressed the Republicans in a bid to consolidate his power. Yuan's death in June 1916 was followed by years of civil war between rival militarists and Dr. Sun's Republicans. Nationalist forces, led by General Chiang Kai-shek and with the advice of Communist experts, soon occupied most of China, setting up the Kuomintang regime in 1928. Internal strife continued, however, and Chiang eventually broke with the Communists.

On Sept. 18, 1931, Japan launched an invasion of Manchuria, capturing the province. Tokyo set up a puppet state dubbed Manchukuo and installed the last Manchu emperor, Henry Pu-Yi (Hsüan T'ung), as its nominal leader. Japanese troops moved to seize China's northern provinces in July 1937 but were resisted by Chiang, who had been able to use the Japanese invasion to unite most of China behind him. Within two years, however, Japan had seized most of the nation's eastern ports and railways. The Kuomintang government retreated first to Hankow and then to Chungking, while the Japanese set up a puppet government at Nanking, headed by Wang Jingwei.

People's Republic of China Is Established

Japan's surrender to the Western Allies in 1945 touched off civil war between the Kuomintang forces under Chiang and Communists led by Mao Zedong, who had been battling since the 1930s for control of China. Despite U.S. aid, the Kuomintang were overcome by the Soviet-supported Communists, and Chiang and his followers were forced to flee the mainland, establishing a government-in-exile on the island of Formosa (Taiwan). The Mao regime proclaimed the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949, with Beijing as the new capital and Zhou Enlai as premier.

After the Korean War began in June 1950, China led the Communist bloc in supporting North Korea, and on Nov. 26, 1950, the Mao regime sent troops to assist the North in its efforts to capture the South.

In an attempt to restructure China's primarily agrarian economy, Mao undertook the “Great Leap Forward” campaign in 1958, a disastrous program that aimed to combine the establishment of rural communes with a crash program of village industrialization. The Great Leap forced the abandonment of farming activities, leading to widespread famine in which more than 20 million people died of malnutrition.

China Is Condemned for Poor Treatment of Tibetans

In 1959, a failed uprising against China's invasion and occupation of Tibet forced Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and 100,000 of his followers to flee to India. The invasion of Tibet and a perceived rivalry for the leadership of the world Communist movement caused a serious souring of relations between China and the USSR, former allies. In 1965 Tibet was formally made an autonomous region of China. China's harsh religious and cultural persecution of Tibetans, which continues to this day, has spawned growing international protest.

The failure of the Great Leap Forward touched off a power struggle within the Chinese Communist Party between Mao and his supporters and a reformist faction including future premier Deng Xiaoping. Mao moved to Shanghai, and from that base he and his supporters waged what they called the Cultural Revolution. Beginning in the spring of 1966, Mao ordered the closing of schools and the formation of ideologically pure Red Guard units, dominated by youths and students. The Red Guards campaigned against “old ideas, old culture, old habits, and old customs.” Millions died in a series of violent purges. By early 1967, the Cultural Revolution had succeeded in bolstering Mao's position as China's paramount leader.

President Nixon's Visit to China Establishes New Relations

Anxious to exploit the Sino-Soviet rift, the Nixon administration made a dramatic announcement in July 1971 that National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger had secretly visited Beijing and reached an agreement whereby Nixon would visit China. The movement toward reconciliation, which signaled the end of the U.S. containment policy toward China, provided momentum for China's admission to the UN. Despite U.S. opposition to expelling Taiwan (Nationalist China), the world body overwhelmingly voted to oust Taiwan in favor of Beijing's Communist government.

President Nixon went to Beijing for a week early in 1972, meeting Mao as well as Zhou. The summit ended with a historic communiqué on Feb. 28, in which both nations promised to work toward improved relations. Full diplomatic relations were barred by China as long as the U.S. continued to recognize the legitimacy of Nationalist China.

Following Zhou's death on Jan. 8, 1976, his successor, Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, was supplanted within a month by Hua Guofeng, former minister of public security. Hua became permanent premier in April. In Oct. he was named successor to Mao as chairman of the Communist Party. But Mao's death on Sept. 10 unleashed the bitter intraparty rivalries that had been suppressed since the Cultural Revolution. Old opponents of Mao launched a campaign against his widow, Jiang Qing, and three of her “radical” colleagues. The so-called Gang of Four was denounced for having undermined the party, the government, and the economy. They were tried and convicted in 1981. Meanwhile, in 1977, Deng Xiaoping was reinstated as deputy premier, chief of staff of the army, and member of the Central Committee of the Politburo.

Beijing and Washington announced full diplomatic relations on Jan. 1, 1979, and the Carter administration abrogated the Taiwan defense treaty. Deputy Premier Deng sealed the agreement with a visit to the U.S. that coincided with the opening of embassies in both capitals on March 1. On Deng's return from the U.S., Chinese troops invaded and briefly occupied an area along Vietnam's northern border. The action was seen as a response to Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia and ouster of the Khmer Rouge government, which China had supported.

In 1981, Deng protégé Hu Yaobang replaced Hua Guofeng as party chairman. Deng became chairman of the Central Committee's military commission, giving him control over the army. The body's 215 members concluded the session with a statement holding Mao Zedong responsible for the “grave blunder” of the Cultural Revolution.

Under Deng Xiaoping's leadership, meanwhile, China's Communist ideology went through a massive reinterpretation, and sweeping economic changes were set in motion in the early 1980s. The Chinese scrapped the personality cult that idolized Mao Zedong, muted Mao's old call for class struggle and exportation of the Communist revolution, and imported Western technology and management techniques to replace the Marxist tenets that had slowed modernization.

Student Demonstrators Are Killed at Tiananmen Square

The removal of Hu Yaobang as party chairman in Jan. 1987 signaled a hard-line resurgence within the party. Hu—who had become a hero to many reform-minded Chinese—was replaced by former premier Zhao Ziyang. With the death of Hu in April 1989, the ideological struggle spilled into the streets of the capital, as student demonstrators occupied Beijing's Tiananmen Square in May, calling for democratic reforms. Less than a month later, the demonstrations were crushed in a bloody crackdown as troops and tanks moved into the square and fired on protesters, killing several hundred.

In annual sessions of the rubber-stamp National People's Congress in 1992 and 1993, the government called for accelerating the drive for economic reform, but the sessions were widely seen as an effort to maintain China's moves toward a market economy while retaining political authoritarianism. At the session in 1993, Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin was elected president, while hard-liner Li Peng was reelected to another five-year term as prime minister. Since 1993, the Chinese economy has continued to grow rapidly.

China Becomes an Economic Power, but Continues to Suppress Personal Liberties

Deng Xiaoping's death in Feb. 1997 left a younger generation in charge of managing the enormous country. In 1998, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji introduced a sweeping program to privatize state-run businesses and further liberalize the nation's economy, a move lauded by Western economists.

On July 1, 1997, when Britain's lease on the New Territories expired, Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty, and in 1999, the Portuguese colony of Macao also was returned to Chinese rule.

In Aug. 1999, China rounded up thousands of members of the Falun Gong sect, a highly popular religious movement. The government considers the apolitical spiritual group threatening because its numbers exceeded the membership of the Chinese Communist Party. China severely restricts its citizens' civil, religious, and political rights. The use of torture has been widely documented, and for many years it has executed more people than any other country in the world, carrying out more than three-quarters of the world's executions.

China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in Nov. 2001. Its entry ended a 15-year debate over whether China is entitled to the full trading rights of capitalist countries.

In Nov. 2002, Vice President Hu Jintao became general secretary of the Communist Party at the 16th Party Congress, succeeding President Jiang. Hu Jintao also assumed the presidency in March 2003.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a worldwide health threat, hit China in March 2003. After coming under fire by the World Health Organization for underreporting the number of its SARS cases, China finally revealed the alarming extent of its epidemic.

Beijing officials angered democracy advocates in Hong Kong in April 2004, when they banned popular elections for Hong Kong's chief executive, scheduled for 2007.

Tension between China and Taiwan intensified in March 2005, when China passed an antisecession law that said the country could use force if Taiwan moved toward achieving independence. “The state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the legislation said. Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian called the bill a “law of aggression.”

In June 2005, the China National Oil Corporation (Cnoc) bid $18.5 billion to take over the U.S. oil company Unocal. The Chinese firm withdrew the bid in August amid strong resistance from U.S. officials.

After months of pressure from the Bush administration, China announced in July 2005 that it will no longer peg the yuan to the dollar. Instead, the yuan is linked to a fluctuating group of foreign currencies.

The police shot and killed about 20 people who were protesting the construction of a power plant in the southern city of Dongzhou in December. Chinese officials blocked the spread of information about the event.

Government officials announced in December that China's economy had grown by 9% in 2005. China is poised to have the world's fourth-largest economy, after the United States, Japan, and Germany.

In May 2006, China completed construction on the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. More than a million people will be displaced when the area is flooded. In July 2006, China opened a $4.2-billion, 710-mile-long railway from Qinghai Province to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The highest railway in the world, it ascends as high as 16,500 ft, requiring all compartments to have regulated oxygen levels. The railway will increase ethnic Chinese migration into Tibet, which many see as a deliberate attempt to dilute Tibetan culture.

China tested its first antisatellite weapon in January 2007, successfully destroying one of its own weather satellites. Analysts deemed the move a provocative challenge to the United States' supremacy in space-based technology. Others speculated that China is seeking to push the U.S. toward signing a treaty to ban space-based weapons.

In the spring and summer of 2007, dog food and toothpaste products that originated in China were recalled due to the presence of poisonous ingredients, leading many to question the safety of Chinese products and the reliability of its regulatory system. In July, China's former head of the State Food and Drug Administration was executed for accepting bribes from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for favors.

Natural Disasters Ravage China

In January 2008, severe snowstorms in eastern and southern China killed at least 24 people. Half of the country's 31 provinces lost power, about 827,000 people were evacuated from their homes, at least 600,000 train passengers were stranded, and some 20 major airports were closed. The economic cost of the storm is projected to be $3.2 billion.

In March, some 400 Buddhist monks participated in a protest march in Lhasa to commemorate the failed uprising of 1959, that resulted in the Dalai Lama fleeing to India. The protests, the largest in two decades, turned violent, with ethnic Tibetans reportedly attacking Chinese citizens and vandalizing public and private property. Chinese police used force to suppress the demonstrations. Tibetan leaders said that more than 100 Tibetans were killed, but Chinese officials claimed only 16 fatalities occurred and denied that police had used lethal force. China barred many international news organizations from the country and limited the flow of information out of the country. The demonstrations and violence spilled into Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan Provinces in western China. Chinese officials accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding the protests, a charge the spiritual leader denied. Zhang Qingli, Tibet's Communist Party leader, reportedly called the Dalai Lama “a jackal in Buddhist monk’s robes, an evil spirit with a human face and the heart of a beast."

President Hu visited Japan in May and cited an "everlasting warm spring" in relations between the countries. It was the first visit by a Chinese head of state in a decade. While Hu and Japan's prime minister Yasuo Fukuda failed to make progress on resolving a dispute involving a gasfield in the East China Sea, they did agree to regular meetings, signaling a thaw in their cool relationship.

At least 68,000 people were killed and thousands injured when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces in western China on May 12. Nearly 900 students were killed when Juyuan Middle School in the Sichuan Province collapsed. Several other schools also collapsed, killing about 10,000 students. In addition, a well-known panda reserve in Wenchuan was destroyed. The disaster was further complicated by landslides in Sichuan Province that blocked rivers and formed quake lakes that officials feared may cause devastating floods. It was China's worst natural disaster in three decades. In September, the Chinese government acknowledged that poor construction of hastily built schools possibly contributed to their collapse in the earthquake.

China Hosts a Successful Olympics

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games kicked off on Aug. 8, 2008, with a spectacular opening ceremony that many observers called unparalleled. In the lead-up to the games, however, China was dogged by its abysmal human-rights record, crackdown on the Buddhist monks, nearly intolerable air quality, attempts to censor some journalists reporting on the Games, and continued ties to the Sudanese government. In addition, four days before the opening of the Games, two members of the Turkestan Independence Movement, which is also called the Turkestan Islamic Party, a Muslim group based in western China, drove a truck into a group of police officers and then threw explosives and stabbed them. Sixteen police officers died and another 16 were wounded in the attack. Days later, another 12 people were killed in a wave of bombings attributed to the group. As host of the Olympics, China exceeded expectations, despite its moves to stifle protests and dissent, proving that the country is an economic powerhouse. China also won a record 51 gold medals, and a total of 100 medals.

The good will and enthusiasm that followed the Olympic Games was tarnished in September amid reports that three children died and more than 53,000 became sick after drinking milk-based formula that was tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical that's made from coal and used to produce plastic and fertilizer. Officials reportedly knew of the scandal months before it was publicly disclosed.

Space Exploration, Government Reforms, and Military Crackdowns

On Sept. 27, 2008, astronaut Zhai Zhigang stepped out of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft and made the first spacewalk by a Chinese astronaut. The achievement was an important step in China's quest to build a space station by 2020 and someday land on the Moon.

The government announced a land reform policy in Oct. 2008 that will allow farmers to "subcontract, lease, exchange, or swap" rights to the plots of land assigned to them by the government. The government said it hopes the policy change, which coincided with the 30th anniversary of land reforms under Deng Xiaoping, will lead to increased output and greater efficiency.

With countries all over the world facing a financial crisis, China's State Council announced in November that it will spend about $586 billion, or about 7% of China's GDP, on a stimulus package that will include building new airports, subways, low-income housing, and rail systems.

Although China was generally praised for its handling of 2008's earthquake in Sichuan, by the quake's one-year anniversary in 2009, some of the international goodwill had evaporated. China restricted access to the area by journalists and artists; parents of children who where killed in the quake had their complaints ignored and suppressed; and the government's official investigation into the schools and hospitals that collapsed in the quake claimed that none had been improperly constructed. The government did implement new regulations for the construction of schools and hospitals, but that was little comfort to bereaved parents and international organizations demanding accountability.

On the 20th anniversary of the violent military crackdown in Tiananmen Square that left hundreds of democratic activists dead, China tried to deter remembrance of the event. Police officers stood guard around the square, barring foreign journalists from entering. In response, tens of thousands of people held a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong to mark the anniversary of the brutal killings.

Rioting in Urumqi, China between two ethnic groups—Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese—led to the deaths of at least 156 people at the hands of the police on July 6, 2009. Riot police locked down the Uighur portion of the city to try and stop the protests. It was the worst ethnic violence in decades.

Taiwan and China signed a landmark free-trade agreement in June 2010 that lifts or reduces hundreds of tariffs for both sides. Officials from both Taiwan and China described the deal as the most important achievement since the 1949 civil war. Taiwan seems poised to benefit more economically from the deal than China, and China sees a political benefit as the agreement brings the two closer together.

The exiled Dalai Lama, who has lived in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala since 1959, sent a shockwave through Tibet in March 2011 when he stepped down as leader, requested a demotion to elected politician, and proposed amendments to the constitution. While he has made a clear break with politics, the Daliai Lama remains the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

In April 2011, the government-in-exile of Tibet swore in a new prime minister, the first to be elected since the Dalai Lama renounced his position. Lobsang Sangay, a 42-year-old fellow at Harvard Law School, campaigned for an autonomous future for Tibet under Chinese sovereignty. The new prime minister polled 27,051 votes, 55% of the total electorate, to beat two other secular candidates. China has not acknowledged him.

Leaders Propose Strict Limits on Media

Perhaps in reaction to popular uprisings going on around the world, leaders in China proposed new limits on Internet use and media in October 2011. The proposal included some of the strictest measures in years. For example, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television limited 34 major television stations to two 90-minute entertainment shows per week. The same TV stations were also limited to two hours of news every evening. The two hours of news must be approved by the state. Audience ratings were ordered to be ignored.

Leaders said the new limits would go into effect January 1, 2012. The media crackdown coincides with an upcoming switch in leadership within the government and ruling party, a shift that will take place over the next year.

China Sides with Russia to Block U.N. Action in Syria

In February 2012, China joined Russia in making international headlines by blocking an effort by the United Nations Security Council to end the violence in Syria. Both countries vetoed the resolution just hours after the Syrian military launched an assault on the city of Homs. The Security Council voted 13 to 2 for a resolution backing an Arab League peace plan for Syria. Russia and China voted against the resolution, seeing it as a violation of Syria's sovereignty. Syria's 11-month uprising has caused more than 5,000 casualties.

On February 14, 2012, Xi Jinping, vice president of China, arrived in the United States for a visit. China's presumptive next president, Jinping was watched closely on his visit by American leaders, who looked for clues to his future policies on critical issues such as the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran.

On July 19 2012, China sided with Russia again and vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on the Syrian government. The proposed U.N. sanctions were intended to push Syria into putting a peace plan into action and ending its 17-month-old conflict. The resolution was proposed by Britain and backed by ten other council members, including France and the United States.

Blind Dissident Seeks Refuge at American Embassy

In April 2012, Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer and one of China's most well-known dissidents, escaped from his rural home where he had been under house arrest since 2010. Chen went to the American Embassy in Beijing where he asked U.S. officials for help. On May 2, Chen left the embassy to receive medical treatment at a hospital in Beijing for an injured foot. After tense negotiations, the Chinese government agreed to relocate him away from Shandong Province, his hometown, where Chen said his family had been attacked. The government also promised that Chen would be allowed to pursue his law studies at a university. Chen's friends questioned the validity of the government's promises and, while in the hospital, Chen admitted he left the U.S. embassy in part because the Chinese government officials threatened his wife's life if he remained there. Although Chen's friends had said he desired to stay in China, he went on to say, while in the hospital, that he wanted to leave the country because "guaranteeing citizens' rights in China is empty talk."

On May 4, 2012, Chen requested help from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was in China for meetings on economic and security issues. Chen revised his request, asking if he and his family could go to the U.S. temporarily instead of receiving permanent asylum. Clinton and the Obama administration worked quickly to negotiate with Chinese officials to avoid an increase in tensions between the two governments. During her visit, Clinton said that progress was being made "to help him have the future that he wants." On May 5, China agreed to allow Chen to apply to study in the United States, a move which was quickly praised by Clinton.

On May 19, after leaving Beijing with his wife and two children, Chen arrived in New York City where he would live and study at New York University. He spoke at a press conference where he said he was grateful to the American Embassy. He also thanked Chinese officials for "dealing with the situation with restraint and calm." About the Chinese government, he added, "I hope to see that they continue to open discourse and earn the respect and trust of the people."

Tension Increases with Asian Neighbors Over Islands in 2012

Regional tension over claims to islands and resources in the South China Sea flared throughout 2012. For centuries, China has declared sovereignty over the sea and many of its islands, including the Paracel and Spratly islands, which are rich in oil and gas reserves and fish. However, Vietnam has also laid claim to the Paracel and Spratly island chains, and the Philippines say the Spratly Islands are within their territorial claims.

While the issue has been festering for decades, China took a tougher stance in 2012, warning other nations to refrain from oil and gas exploration and placing naval vessels in the South China Sea. At the same time, Vietnam and the Philippines have been more aggressively dispatching ships-both military and civilian-to the sea. There was little hope that the nations could solve the problem diplomatically, with China saying it would only negotiate bilaterally and both Vietnam and the Philippines both insisting that the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) mediate the dispute.

China's Economy Falls to a Three-Year Low in 2012

In a June 2012 quarter ending report, China's economic growth fell to a three-year low. Economists predicted that it would decline even more before rebounding. However, by September 2012, consumer inflation had eased to 1.9 percent from 2.0 percent in August. The drop in inflation gave the government room to cut interest rates and was a positive sign that China's economy would soon be on the upswing again.

Also, while China's growth slowed in 2012, it was still the leader of all the major emerging economies. China's GDP growth was 7.6 percent in the year's second quarter, ahead of India (5.5 percent), Russia (4 percent), and South Africa (3.2 percent). Moreover, while there was a slowdown in China's production and consumption of consumer goods, basic resources, and materials; the country's tourism, education, medical care, and luxury car industries thrived throughout 2012.

The Transfer of Power Begins

On November 8, 2012, the Chinese Communist Party's 18th Congress convened in Beijing, beginning its leadership transition. Having ruled China since 1949, the party faced its biggest transfer of power in years. It was only the second time the party prepared to transfer power from one leader to another without violence or protest. The only previous time was when current President Hu Jintao took over for Jiang Zemin in 2002.

The 18th Congress began with the expectation that changes were coming in every area of the Chinese Communist Party. For example, seven out of nine members of the party's elite Standing Committee were scheduled to retire. The biggest change would obviously be Vice President Xi Jinping taking over as president. When he takes over as president in March 2013, Xi, the son of a revolutionary leader, will face the daunting task of maintaining economic growth and increasing China's role as a global power.

On November 9, 2012, Google confirmed that all of its services including Gmail, maps, and its search engine were not accessible in China. The service interruption came just as the 18th Congress convened. Chinese cyber-police also took further steps to control information ahead of the leadership transition in the Communist Party. Companies in and around Beijing were ordered to use computer hardware to log online traffic and block certain Web sites.

Protests over Newspaper Censorship Grows

Protest began in early January 2013 over censorship of Southern Weekend, a newspaper. Journalists at the paper said local propaganda officials were interfering with their reporting and called for the ouster of Tuo Zhen, a propaganda official in the Guangdong Province. The journalists at Southern Weekend said he was responsible for a change in a recent editorial that called for more respect for constitutional rights. By the time the piece was published it praised the current political system.

On January 7, 2013, hundreds of people gathered outside of the Southern Weekend headquarters to protest against the censorship. Meanwhile celebrities responded with a show of support via the internet. Actress Yao Chen quoted Russian dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn online: One word of truth outweighs the whole world. Hung Huang, an entrepreneur, stated online that Tuo "destroyed, overnight, all the credibility the country's top leadership had labored to re-establish since the 18th Party Congress."

Chinese Hackers Attack The New York Times

For four months in late 2012 and early 2013, hackers in China attacked The New York Times. The hacking included gaining access to the paper's computer systems and getting employee's passwords. The attacks came at the same time that The New York Times reported on an investigation that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's relatives had acquired a several billion dollar fortune through business dealings.

The New York Times hired computer security experts to study the hacker's activity. After gathering evidence, the security experts were able to push the hackers out and block them from returning. According to the security experts, no customer data was stolen. The experts believed that the attack was part of a wider computer espionage mission against U.S. news media outlets that report on Chinese leaders and business dealings. In fact, a day after The New York Times reported the incident; The Wall Street Journal revealed in a statement that hackers had infiltrated it, too, "for the apparent purpose of monitoring the newspaper's China coverage."

On February 19, 2013, a 60-page study was released by Mandiant, a U.S. computer security firm, which showed evidence linking Unit 61398, a Chinese military unit, to the groups responsible for a large portion of the recent hacking in the United States. The study, which included digital forensic evidence, didn't prove that the hackers were inside the military unit's headquarters, but did show evidence that they were either inside or very close to Unit 61398.

The Transfer of Power is Complete

On Thursday, March 14, 2013, Xi Jingping assumed the presidency of China. Of the 2,956 delegates, only one voted against Xi. Three delegates abstained. Li Yuanchao was named vice president.

Assuming the presidency completed the transition of power to Xi. The process began four months ago when he was named chairman of the Central Military Commission and general secretary of the Communist Party. This final step put him in charge of all three centers of power in China.

Powerful Earthquake Kills 186 in Sichuan Province

A strong earthquake struck southwestern China. At least 186 people were killed and around 8,200 people were injured. The earthquake caused mountainsides to collapse into valleys. Available drinking water became a problem following the earthquake.

Reports conflicted on the magnitude of the earthquake. China's Earthquake Networks Center reported that the earthquake was a 7.0 magnitude, while the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put it at 6.6. A series of aftershocks followed. According to the USGS, some of the aftershocks were a magnitude of 5.1.


See also Encyclopedia: China.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: China
National Bureau of Statistics of China: www.stats.gov.cn/english/index.htm


Information Please® Database, © 2013 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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