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China Flag


Full Country Name:
The People's Republic of China
Country Profile: China

China Map


West Palm Animal Removal Area: 9,956,960 sq km (3.7m sq mi)
Population: 1.29 bn
Capital City: Beijing
People: Han Chinese make up around 92 percent of the population. The remaining 8 percent is comprised of 55 minority ethnic groups.
Official Language: Mandarin (Putonghua) with many local dialects.
Religion(s): China is officially atheistic, but there are five State-Registered Religions: Daoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholic and Protestant Christianity.
Currency: Yuan or Renminbi (RMB)
Major political parties: Chinese Communist Party
Government: There are three major hierarchies in China: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the government and the military. The supreme decision-making body in China is the CCP Politburo and its 9-member Standing Committee, which acts as a kind of 'inner cabinet', and is headed by the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The National People's Congress (NPC) is China's legislative body. It has a five-year membership and meets once a year in plenary session. However, in practice it is the CCP who takes all key decisions.
Head of State and General Secretary of the CCP: President Hu Jintao
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC: Wu Bangguo
Premier of the State Council: Wen Jiabao
Foreign Minister: Li Zhaoxing
Membership of international groups/organisations: United Nations (including permanent membership of the UN Security Council), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF); Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC); Asian Development Bank (ADB); Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; World Trade Organisation (WTO).


China is twice the size of Western Europe and the third largest country in the world, after Russia and Canada. China is a highly diverse country and its terrain varies from plains, deltas and hills in the east to mountains, high plateaux and deserts in the west. To the south its climate is tropical, whilst to the north it is sub-arctic. Less than one-sixth of China is suitable for agriculture and the most fertile areas lie in the eastern third of the country, which is economically the most developed region.


Longer Historical Perspective

The Chinese imperial system came to an end in 1911, when the Qing (Manchu) dynasty was overthrown and China was proclaimed a republic, partly through the efforts of revolutionaries such as Sun Yat-sen. The country then entered a period of warlordism until in 1927 the Nationalist Party or 'Kuomintang' (KMT), under its leader Chiang Kai-shek, established a central government in Nanjing. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded in 1921 but broke with the KMT and was forced to flee into the interior in the Long March in 1934/35. Both KMT and CCP forces opposed Japan during World War Two but a civil war broke out from 1945-1949. CCP forces under Mao Zedong routed their KMT opponents and in 1949 Mao announced the establishment of the People's Republic of China. KMT elements fled to the island of Taiwan.

The period between 1949 and Mao's death in 1976 was characterised by an ambitious political and economic restructuring programme which involved the collectivisation of industry, the establishment of communes and the redistribution of land. The Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976 brought enormous upheaval in the political system and Mao had to rely on the armed forces to maintain order and exercise control.

Recent History

In December 1978 the CCP, inspired by Deng Xiaoping, launched a wide-ranging programme of economic and social reform which sought to modernise the economy, develop China's external relations (the 'open door policy') - especially with the West, and implement a gradual and limited liberalisation of Chinese society.

Political opposition to the more liberal reforms forced periods of retrenchment and in June 1989, following the brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing, political control swung firmly into the hands of conservative elements within the CCP. The Chinese government labelled the demonstrations a 'counter-revolutionary rebellion' and clamped down on dissent. Prominent dissidents fled the country or went into hiding. Many activists were arrested. Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang was replaced by Jiang Zemin, former Mayor and later Party Secretary of Shanghai. Jiang was appointed to the additional post of State President in March 1993. Since then, the Party leadership has continued the economic reform programme, while also seeking to improve China's standing in the international community. Jiang retired as President in March 2003 and was replaced by Vice-President Hu Jintao (see below)


Recent Political Developments

At the 16th Communist Party Congress in November 2002 Jiang Zemin stepped down from his position as Party General Secretary to make way for a new 'fourth' generation of leaders. Prior to this, he had pressed ahead with a major political campaign, the 'Three Representatives', which addresses key concerns surrounding the Party's continuing role and relevance at a time of major domestic and international change. Jiang was succeeded as Party General Secretary by Hu Jintao.

The new State leadership positions were announced at the National People's Congress (NPC), which met from 5-18 March 2003. Hu Jintao was named President and Wen Jiabao became Premier. Wu Bangguo replaced Li Peng as NPC Chairman. The new leadership have made it clear that they will continue the current policy main priorities of economic growth, internal stability and opening up to the world.

The leadership transition was completed in September 2004 with Jiang retiring from the Chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (CMC). Hu Jintao assumed the post of CMC Chairman to add to his roles as State President and Party General Secretary.


China is in practice a one party state. The National People's Congress (NPC) is indirectly elected. Direct elections for village leaders have also been conducted since 1988. They take place every three years, although it is unclear how genuine and effective they are. The legislature remains subject to Party leadership. However, since 1987 the NPC has been building its oversight capacity over the actions of the government.


Economic indicators

US$1.4 trillion (2004)
GDP per head: US$1090 (2004)
Annual Growth: 9.5% (2004)
Inflation: 4.1% (2004 Q1-Q3)
Exchange rate: 15 Renminbi = £1

China has been one of the world's economic success stories since reforms began in 1978. In purchasing power parity terms, China is the world's second biggest economy .Official figures show that GDP has grown on average by 9 percent a year over the past 25 years.

A growing share of China's economic growth has been generated in the private sector as the government has opened up industries to domestic and foreign competition, though the role of the state in ownership and planning remains extensive.

China's economic and social development challenges remain huge. These include reforming ailing state-owned industries, overhauling the financial sector and raising the incomes of China's rural population. China's leaders have launched a campaign to develop China's western regions as well as a drive to rejuvenate the old industrial bases in the Northeast. These campaigns are part of an effort to slow down the widening income gaps between China's more developed areas and the interior. China's entry into the World Trade Organisation in December 2001 is further integrating China into the global economy.



The PRC took over the China seat at the United Nations from Taiwan in 1971. Since the launch of its ‘open door policy' in 1978 China has begun to take a more active role in international organisations. The repression of the democracy movement in 1989, however, led to a chill in relations between the West and China. In recent years, China has generally pursued amicable relations with its neighbours and with the West. Diplomatic relations were restored or 'normalised' in the early 1990s with countries in South East Asia such as Indonesia and Vietnam.

China's international political and economic weight continues to grow. It hosted summits of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) and ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) in 2001, and is active within the ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN countries plus China, South Korea and Japan) grouping. It joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, and is increasingly active in the United Nations Security Council, where it holds one of the five Permanent Seats. China supported Security Council Resolution 1441 on Iraq.


The human rights situation in China continues to be a matter of serious concern. The detention and harassment of democracy activists, religious practitioners and Falun Gong adherents runs contrary to international human rights norms. Religious belief, freedoms of association, expression and of media are routinely restricted. Since Falun Gong was declared illegal by the Chinese authorities in 1999 large numbers of its practitioners have been detained and leaders given harsh sentences. Whilst the British Government does not take a view on the nature of Falun Gong, it is concerned by reports of human rights abuses against Falun Gong adherents.

We raise these and other issues, together with certain individual cases, at every appropriate contact with Chinese Ministers, within the EU/China Human Rights Dialogue and through our regular bilateral Human Rights Dialogue with the Chinese. This dialogue process began in September 1997, and formal sessions are held twice a year, alternately in London and Beijing. The most recent meeting took place in Beijing in November 2004.


Successive British Governments have regarded Tibet as autonomous while recognising the special position of the Chinese there. Tibet has never been internationally recognised as an independent state. We welcomed the visit to Beijing and Lhasa in September 2002 by representatives of the Dalai Lama and continue to encourage the Chinese Government to enter into meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama to resolve the Tibetan issue.


The overall health situation in China has improved considerably since 1949. For example, between 1965 and 1995, China's infant mortality rate decreased from 90 to 36 per 1,000 live births, and life expectancy at birth increased from 55 to 69 years. But these improvements have slowed since the 1980s. Economic reforms have inadvertently led to the collapse of rural community financing of health services.


HIV/AIDS was first reported in China in 1985. In September 2002 the Chinese Government estimated that about a million people were infected with the HIV virus in China. The United Nations believes that this is still an underestimate and warns that as many as 1.5 million Chinese have the virus, rising to 20 million by the end of the decade. Although cases have been detected in all provinces, HIV transmission is primarily focused among intravenous drug users in certain provinces (eg Yunnan and Xinjiang). In 1998 the Chinese Government set out policy objectives and strategies to deal with HIV/AIDS and introduced measures such as HIV screening for all blood for clinical use and information campaigns.


Serious crime against foreigners is rare. However, crime does occur in both Chinese cities and in the countryside. You should be aware that the theft of British passports, particularly in the larger cities, is on the increase. Please remember to keep your passport in a safe place at all times. We strongly advise you not to trek alone in isolated or sparsely populated areas, including those that follow parts of the Great Wall. If you do so, you should leave your itinerary and expected time of return at your hotel/hostel or with a third party. Take extra care around street markets and when visiting popular expatriate bar areas after dark. Ensure you keep your belongings firmly with you at all times. Make sure you visit bar areas in company. Major tourist sites also attract thieves and pickpockets. If you resist a robbery attempt it could lead to serious violence; knives are fairly common. There has continued to be a spate of robberies, some including violence against the victim, in Shenzen over the last few months. British nationals have been amongst the victims. Day-trippers from Hong Kong appear to be most targeted.

Areas bordering on Siberia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Laos and Burma are poorly policed. In Yunnan, drug smuggling and related crimes are on the increase. There is also a risk of attack from armed bandits in the more remote areas of China.

Local Travel

You may encounter difficulties accessing southern, particularly coastal, areas of Zhejiang Province where there has been extensive flooding as a result of Typhoon Haitang on 19 July. Travellers to eastern and southern coastal provinces should be aware of the possibility of severe weather conditions during the typhoon season (May-November).

You may face SARS monitoring measures imposed by local and provincial authorities when you travel within China.

For travel to Tibet see below.

Road/Sea/Air/Rail Safety

The poor quality of roads and generally low driving standards leads to many, sometimes serious, accidents.

You should be aware that there have been several incidents of overcrowded ferries sinking, leading to loss of life. There have been attacks of piracy in the South China Sea. We advise mariners to be vigilant and take appropriate precautions.

When flying within Mainland China, you should be aware that there have been air accidents on the routes to the north and east of Beijing.

Trans-Siberian express trains are noted for smuggling. Search your compartment and secure the cabin door before departure. Petty theft from overnight trains and buses is common.


There are severe penalties in China for drug offences, including in some cases the death penalty.

There are restrictions on undertaking certain religious activities, including preaching and distributing religious materials. The Falun Gong movement is banned in China.

Homosexuality is not illegal although there are no laws specifically protecting the rights of homosexuals.

Teaching appointments

An increasing number of British nationals are becoming attracted to opportunities to teach English in China. Most of those who do so have an extremely positive and enjoyable experience. However, some have experienced difficulties. The most common problems encountered arise from being faced with living or working conditions that do not meet expectations and complications over obtaining the correct visas and residence permits. There have also been complaints of breach of contract, confiscation of passports and of payment being withheld.

If you wish to take up teaching appointments in China you should be aware that it is illegal to work on a tourist visa, and we advise you to contact the nearest Chinese Diplomatic Mission for information on obtaining the appropriate documentation. In addition, you should research the educational establishment and the area in which you intend to work as thoroughly as possible. Further information can be found in the consular area of the web-site of the British Embassy Beijing at website:


The Chinese authorities state that foreigners entering Tibet can only do so on a group visa. You should be aware that on re-entering China from Tibet, it is not possible to change or extend a group visa. You should obtain prior permission from the Chinese authorities for travel to Tibet.

At some border crossings local officials have demanded additional travel permit fees from foreigners and have sometimes resorted to violence to secure payment.

You should avoid becoming involved in any demonstrations or calls for Tibetan independence. The authorities would regard videotaping or photographing any such activities as provocative.

The local authorities will react strongly if you are found to be carrying letters or packages from Tibetan nationals to be posted in other countries.

The extreme altitude in Tibet may cause altitude sickness. Elderly travellers or those with heart conditions, pulmonary or bronchial problems should consult a doctor before travelling to this region.

You should normally seek permission to take photographs in Buddhist monasteries. Negotiate fees beforehand.

Last updated - 25 May 2005


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