China Essentials


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, his 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.

Fast Facts

Full Name´╝ÜPeople's Republic of China


Short: China

Capital: Beijing


Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam China in Asia

Geographic coordinates
: 35 00 N, 105 00 E

total: 9.6million sq km
land: 9,326,410 sq km
water: 270,550 sq km

Coastline: 14,500 km


extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north
Terrain: mostly mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west; plains, deltas, and hills in east

Elevation extremes

lowest point: Turpan Basin in Xinjiang -154 m
highest point: Mount Everest in Tibet +8,848 m

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)

Natural Disasters

typhoon along south-east coasts; floods; earthquakes; droughts

Environment issues

  • air pollution (greenhouse gases, sulfur dioxide particulates) from reliance on coal, produces acid rain;
  • water shortages, particularly in the north;
  • water pollution from untreated wastes;
  • deforestation;
  • estimated loss of one-fifth of agricultural land since 1949 to soil erosion and economic development;
  • desertification;
  • trade in endangered species
Geography - note
world's fourth-largest country

Ethnic groups
Han Chinese 92%, Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8%,see more at Ethnic Minorities

Taoist, Buddhist, Muslim 2%-3%, Christian 1% (est.)
note: officially atheist

  • Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect),
  • Yue (Cantonese, based on Guangdong dialect)
  • Wu (Shanghaiese)
  • Minbei (Fuzhou)
  • Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese)
  • Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects
  • Minority languages
Administrative divisions
23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities and 2 Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macao).

Chinese Money is called Renminbi (RMB) (means "People's Currency"). The popular unit of RMB is Yuan. The official exchange rate between U.S. Dollar and RMB Yuan currently is about 1 :7.8. 1 Yuan=10 Jiao=100 Fen. Chinese currency is issued in the following denominations: one, two, five, ten, fifty and a hundred Yuan; one, two and five Jiao; and one, two and five Fen.

Civil Electrical Power
AC 220V, 50Hz (bathrooms of many luxury and medium-grade hotels may have 110-volt sockets).

TV System

PAL. In addition to Chinese language TV broadcast, English and Japanese TV programs are available in many hotels via satellite relay. China Central Television Station (CCTV) and some local TV stations also provide English news and other programs in English.

Tel. Area Code
Mainland China 86; Hong Kong 852; Taiwan 886.

Emergency numbers
The following emergency telephone numbers work in all areas of China:

  • Police: 110
  • Fire alarm: 119
  • Emergency aid -112
  • Medical care: 120 (or 999 in some places)
  • Directory inquiries: 114

Calling these from a cell phone is free.

» More Articles in