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People and Society






For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. 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, MAO's 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. China since the early 1990s has increased its global outreach and participation in international organizations.


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Economy - overview
Since the late 1970s China has moved from a closed, centrally planned system to a more market-oriented one that plays a major global role - in 2010 China became the world's largest exporter. Reforms began with the phasing out of collectivized agriculture, and expanded to include the gradual liberalization of prices, fiscal decentralization, increased autonomy for state enterprises, creation of a diversified banking system, development of stock markets, rapid growth of the private sector, and opening to foreign trade and investment. China has implemented reforms in a gradualist fashion. In recent years, China has renewed its support for state-owned enterprises in sectors it considers important to "economic security," explicitly looking to foster globally competitive national champions. After keeping its currency tightly linked to the US dollar for years, in July 2005 China revalued its currency by 2.1% against the US dollar and moved to an exchange rate system that references a basket of currencies. From mid 2005 to late 2008 cumulative appreciation of the renminbi against the US dollar was more than 20%, but the exchange rate remained virtually pegged to the dollar from the onset of the global financial crisis until June 2010, when Beijing allowed resumption of a gradual appreciation. The restructuring of the economy and resulting efficiency gains have contributed to a more than tenfold increase in GDP since 1978. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis that adjusts for price differences, China in 2010 stood as the second-largest economy in the world after the US, having surpassed Japan in 2001. The dollar values of China's agricultural and industrial output each exceed those of the US; China is second to the US in the value of services it produces. Still, per capita income is below the world average. The Chinese government faces numerous economic challenges, including: (a) reducing its high domestic savings rate and correspondingly low domestic demand; (b) sustaining adequate job growth for tens of millions of migrants and new entrants to the work force; (c) reducing corruption and other economic crimes; and (d) containing environmental damage and social strife related to the economy's rapid transformation. Economic development has progressed further in coastal provinces than in the interior, and by 2011 more than 250 million migrant workers and their dependents had relocated to urban areas to find work. One consequence of population control policy is that China is now one of the most rapidly aging countries in the world. Deterioration in the environment - notably air pollution, soil erosion, and the steady fall of the water table, especially in the North - is another long-term problem. China continues to lose arable land because of erosion and economic development. The Chinese government is seeking to add energy production capacity from sources other than coal and oil, focusing on nuclear and alternative energy development. In 2010-11, China faced high inflation resulting largely from its credit-fueled stimulus program. Some tightening measures appear to have controlled inflation, but GDP growth consequently slowed to near 9% for 2011. An economic slowdown in Europe is expected to further drag Chinese growth in 2012. Debt overhang from the stimulus program, particularly among local governments, and a property price bubble challenge policy makers currently. The government's 12th Five-Year Plan, adopted in March 2011, emphasizes continued economic reforms and the need to increase domestic consumption in order to make the economy less dependent on exports in the future. However, China has made only marginal progress toward these rebalancing goals.

Gdp (purchasing power parity) World Ranking: 3
$11.44 trillion (2011 est.)
$10.48 trillion (2010 est.)
$9.486 trillion (2009 est.)
Note Data are in 2011 US dollars

Gdp (official exchange rate)
$7.298 trillion
Because China's exchange rate is determine by fiat, rather than by market forces, the official exchange rate measure of GDP is not an accurate measure of China's output; GDP at the official exchange rate substantially understates the actual level of China's output vis-a-vis the rest of the world; in China's situation, GDP at purchasing power parity provides the best measure for comparing output across countries (2011 est.)

Gdp - real growth rate World Ranking: 10
9.2% (2011 est.)
10.4% (2010 est.)
9.2% (2009 est.)

Gdp - per capita (ppp) World Ranking: 121
$8,500 (2011 est.)
$7,800 (2010 est.)
$7,100 (2009 est.)
Note Data are in 2011 US dollars

Gdp - composition by sector
Agriculture 10.1%
Industry 46.8%
Services 43.1% (2011 est.)

Labor force World Ranking: 1
795.5 million
By the end of 2011, population at working age (15-64 years) was 1.0024 billion (2011 est.)

Labor force - by occupation
Agriculture 36.7%
Industry 28.7%
Services 34.6% (2008 est.)

Unemployment rate World Ranking: 70
6.5% (2011 est.)
6.1% (2010 est.)
Registered urban unemployment, which excludes private enterprises and migrants was 4.1% in 2010

Population below poverty line
In 2011, China set a new poverty line at RMB 2300 (approximately US $363; this new standard is significantly higher than the line set in 2009, and as a result, 128 million Chinese are now considered below the poverty line (2011)

Household income or consumption by percentage share
Lowest 10% 3.5%
Highest 10% 15%
Data are for urban households only (2008)

Distribution of family income - gini index World Ranking: 27
48 (2009)
41.5 (2007)

Investment (gross fixed) World Ranking: 1
54.2% of GDP (2011 est.)

Revenues $1.646 trillion
Expenditures $1.729 trillion (2011 est.)

Taxes and other revenues World Ranking: 140
22.6% of GDP (2011 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) World Ranking: 62
-1.1% of GDP (2011 est.)

Public debt World Ranking: 72
43.5% of GDP (2011)
43.5% of GDP (2010)
Official data; data cover both central government debt and local government debt, which China's National Audit Office estimated at RMB 10.72 trillion (approximately US$1.66 trillion)in 2011; data exclude policy bank bonds, Ministry of Railway debt, China Asset Management Company debt, and non-performing loans

Inflation rate (consumer prices) World Ranking: 142
5.5% (2011 est.)
3.3% (2010 est.)

Central bank discount rate World Ranking: 100
2.25% (31 December 2010 est.)
3.25% (31 December 2010 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate World Ranking: 144
6.56% (31 December 2011 est.)
5.81% (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of narrow money World Ranking: 3
$4.6 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
$4.046 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of broad money World Ranking: 2
$13.52 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
$11.01 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of domestic credit World Ranking: 4
$10.92 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
$8.868 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares World Ranking: 3
$3.389 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
$4.763 trillion (31 December 2010)
$5.008 trillion (31 December 2009 est.)

Agriculture - products
World leader in gross value of agricultural output; rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, apples, cotton, oilseed; pork; fish

World leader in gross value of industrial output; 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

Industrial production growth rate World Ranking: 6
13.9% (2011 est.)

Electricity - production World Ranking: 1
4.604 trillion kWh (2011)

Electricity - consumption World Ranking: 1
4.693 trillion kWh (2011)

Electricity - exports
19.06 billion kWh (2010)

Electricity - imports
55.45 billion kWh (2010)

Oil - production World Ranking: 5
4.073 million bbl/day (2011)

Oil - consumption World Ranking: 3
9.4 million bbl/day (2011 est.)

Oil - exports World Ranking: 29
506,500 bbl/day (2011 est.)

Oil - imports World Ranking: 3
5.08 million bbl/day (2011 est.)

Oil - proved reserves World Ranking: 14
14.8 billion bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural gas - production World Ranking: 8
102.5 billion cu m (2011)

Natural gas - consumption World Ranking: 5
129 billion cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - exports World Ranking: 33
3.21 billion cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - imports World Ranking: 12
30 billion cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves World Ranking: 29
800 billion cu m (1 January 2011 est.)

Current account balance World Ranking: 1
$201.7 billion (2011 est.)
$305.4 billion (2010 est.)

Exports World Ranking: 1
$1.904 trillion (2011 est.)
$1.581 trillion (2010 est.)

Exports - commodities
Electrical and other machinery, including data processing equipment, apparel, textiles, iron and steel, optical and medical equipment

Exports - partners
US 17.1%, Hong Kong 14.1%, Japan 7.8%, South Korea 4.4%, Germany 4% (2011)

Imports World Ranking: 3
$1.743 trillion (2011 est.)
$1.327 trillion (2010 est.)

Imports - commodities
Electrical and other machinery, oil and mineral fuels, optical and medical equipment, metal ores, plastics, organic chemicals

Imports - partners
Japan 11.2%, South Korea 9.3%, US 6.8%, Germany 5.3%, Australia 4.6% (2011)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold World Ranking: 1
$3.236 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
$2.895 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)

Debt - external World Ranking: 19
$697.2 billion (30 September 2011 est.)
$548.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home World Ranking: 7
$781.8 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$578.8 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad World Ranking: 17
$322 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$297.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Exchange rates
Renminbi yuan (RMB) per US dollar -
6.4615 (2011 est.)
6.7703 (2010 est.)
6.8314 (2009)
6.9385 (2008)
7.61 (2007)

Fiscal year
Calendar year


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