China as they see themselves: Its people, history and economy

Last month Kaniva News visited China at the invitation of the Chinese Communist Part Centre for International Exchanges.

In the following series of reports, we bring you China as they see themselves.

Based on documents provided by our hosts, this is the official view of China: A rising giant with an enormous population, enormous potential, but serious problems with an acute lack of resources, facing internal problems and often overshadowed  by a strong sense of grievance at the way China has been treated in the past.

As China expands more and more into the Pacific, it is important that people in this region try to understand China and gain some insight into how the Chinese see themselves and their place in the world.

Geography and people

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the most populous country in the world.

Run by the Chinese Communist Party, it has the world’s second largest economy.

It is the third largest country in the world, covering about 9.6 million square kilometres.

It claims 4.73 million square kilometres of territorial waters and 18,000 kilometres of mainland coast.

The country is divided into 34 provincial level regions, four municipalities directly under the central government, two Special Administrative Regions; 334 prefecture-level districts containing 284 prefecture-level cities, 2859 counties including 368 county- level cities and 856 districts directly under prefectures), 40,828 townships, and about 3.6 million villages.

The PRC has limited land suitable for agriculture. According to data from late 2013, the total area of arable land in China is 13.538 million hectares, placing it fourth in the world. However the amount of arable land per capita is only 0.101 hectare, placing China 126th in the world.

Nearly one fifth of the people in the world lived in China. By late 2014 the population of China was 1.36782 billion, made up of 700.79 million men and 647.03 million women.

China’s population is mostly urban, with 749.16 million people living in cities and towns and 618.66 million in rural areas.

At the fifth plenum of the Chinese Communist Party it was announced that the pave of urbanisation of the population would be increased.

There are 56 ethnic groups in China, although 90% are Han.


China is the world’s second largest economy

In 2015, China’s GDP was RMB 67.67 trillion RMB (US$10.38 trillion), a growth of 6.9%

Per capita GDP in 2014 is about US$7400 dollars

It is the largest producer of steel, concrete, TV sets, washing machines, fridges

It is the leading exporter of goods and the second largest importer of goods in the world. In 2014, the total value of import and export was RMB26.43 trillion (US$4.3 trillion)

It was the most popular investment destination (US$119.5 billion dollars in 2014)

It has foreign exchange reserve of US$3.33 trillion.

By late 2015, China had 19,000 kilometres of high speed rail, more than any other country in the world.

At the fifth plenum of the Chinese Communist Party, it was stated that the country’s goal was to become “a moderately prosperous society in all respects.”

Objectives laid out by the plenum were to maintain middle or high level economic growth with GDP and per capita income doubling from 2010 levels by 2020. The plenum declared: “Our industries shall move to a middle end or high end and consumption shall contribute much more to growth.”


China can trace its history back 5000 years, although the written records in China date back the Shang Dynasty, about 3350 years ago. The first unified, centralised state ever founded in what is now known as China was the Qin Dynasty, which was about 2200 years ago.

In the middle of the19th century, western powers forced China to open its closed doors with their warships and canons, and the country gradually became a semi-feudal, semi-colonized state.

The Xinhai Revolution in 1911 overthrew thousands of years of monarchy.

In 1921, the Communist Party of China was founded. Following decades of civil war and a brutal invasion by Japan between 1937-1945, the Communist Party under Chairman Mao Zhe Dong came to power in 1949.

An official statement from the CPC Centre for International Exchanges describes the dramatic transformation this way:  “After 28 years of painstaking struggles, we overthrew the rule of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. Our nation became independent and our people were liberated. The People’s Republic of China, where the people rule, was founded.”

“Between 1949 and1978, China witnessed a socialist revolution and development. We set up a socialist system, and a fairly comprehensive industrial mix and economic system, giving the old civilization a new and robust look.

“From 1978 till now, China adopted the reform and opening up policy and pursued socialist modernisation. We identified a socialist path with Chinese characteristics. We remain committed to economic development as a central task, four basic principles, and the policy of reform and opening up. We established a socialist market economy system. As a result, our comprehensive national strength and living standards have been improved significantly, paving the way for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and achieving socialist modernization.”

Editor’s note: Our next story on this will be : China’s political system

The main points

  • The People’s Republic of China is the most populous country in the world.
  • It is the world’s second largest economy.
  • It is the third largest country in the world, covering about 9.6 million square kilometres.
  • China can trace its history back 5000 years.

For more information

Chinese history

Chinese economy (The Economist)

China geography and people (Columbia University)

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