China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is the most populous state in the world, with over 1.339 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles). It is the world’s second-largest country by land area.
The People’s Republic of China is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party of China (CPC). The PRC exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four directly controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two largely self-governing former European colonies, Hong Kong and Macau, as special administrative regions (SARs). Its capital city is Beijing.
China’s landscape is vast and diverse, with forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in the arid north and northwest near Mongolia and Central Asia, and subtropical forests in the wetter south near Southeast Asia. The terrain of western China is rugged and elevated, with the towering Himalaya, Karakorum, Pamir and Tian Shan Mountain separating China from South and Central Asia. The world’s apex, Mt. Everest (8,848 m) and the second-highest point, K2 (8,611 m) lie on China’s borders, respectively, with Nepal and Pakistan. The country’s lowest and the world’s third-lowest point, Lake Ayding (-154 m), is located in the Turpan Depression. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, flow from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China’s coastline along the Pacific Ocean, 14,500-kilometre (9,000 mi) in length (the 11th-longest in the world), is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East and South China Seas.
Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1978, China has become the world’s fastest-growing major economy and the world’s largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. As of 2011, it is the world’s second-largest economy, after the United States, by both nominal GDP and purchasing power parity (PPP). On per capita terms, however, China ranked only 91st by nominal GDP and 94th by GDP (PPP) in 2010, according to the IMF.
China has the longest land borders in the world, measuring 22,117 km (13,743 mi) from the mouth of the Yalu River to the Gulf of Tonkin. China borders 14 nations, more than any other country except Russia, which also borders 14. China extends across much of the East Asian continent bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Burma in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan, in South Asia; Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; a small section of Russian Altai and Mongolia in Inner Asia; and the Russian Far East and North Korea in Northeast Asia.
From its founding in 1949 until late 1978, the People’s Republic of China was a Soviet-style centrally planned economy, without private businesses or capitalism. Following Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 and the consequent end of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping and the new Chinese leadership began to reform the economy and move towards a more market-oriented mixed economy under one-party rule. Collectivization of the agriculture was dismantled and farmlands were privatized to increase productivity. Modern-day China is mainly characterised as having a market economy based on private property ownership and is one of the leading examples of state capitalism.
Under the post-Mao market reforms, a wide variety of small-scale private enterprises were encouraged, while the government relaxed price controls and promoted foreign investment. Foreign trade was focused upon as a major vehicle of growth, leading to the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), first in Shenzhen and then in other Chinese cities. Inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were restructured by introducing western-style management systems, with unprofitable ones being closed outright, resulting in massive job losses. By the latter part of 2010, China was reversing some of its economic liberalization initiatives, with state-owned companies buying up independent businesses in the steel, auto and energy industries.
The PRC is the fourth-most-visited country in the world, with 50.9 million inbound international visitors in 2009. It is a member of the World Trade Organization and is the world’s second largest trading power behind the US, with a total international trade value of US$2.21 trillion – US$1.20 trillion in exports and US$1.01 trillion in imports.
Government Single-party state
Currency Chinese yuan (renminbi) (¥) (CNY)
Time zone China Standard Time (UTC+8)
Drives on the right, except for Hong Kong & Macau
ISO 3166 code CN
Internet TLD .cn
Calling code +86[c]
Government website http://english.gov.cn/
Gross Domestic Product (10^9 USD) em PPP
Real Growth Rate (%)
Gross National Income per capita (USD) in PPP
Inflation – annual average (%)
Unemployment rate (%)
Imports (10^6 USD)
Exports (10^6 USD)
Exchange rate to the USD
External debt (10^9 USD)
External help per capita (USD)
Sources: World Bank
South China Morning Post
China Radio Internacional
Hong Kong Standard
Ministry of Commerce
China Council for the Promotion of International Trade
Hong Kong Trade Development Council
Fair Exhibitions and Trade Shows
Trade and Foreign Investment
The Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries