China Facts


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China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is a unitary sovereign state in East Asia. With a population of over 1.381 billion, it is the world’s most populous country.The state is governed by the Communist Party of China, and its capital is Beijing. It exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two mostly self-governing special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau), and claims sovereignty over Taiwan. The country’s major urban areas include Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Hong Kong. China is a great power and a major regional power within Asia, and has been characterized as a potential superpower.

Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles), China is the world’s second largest state by land area, and either the third or fourth-largest by total area, depending on the method of measurement. China’s landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the wetter south. The Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separate China from much of South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third and sixth longest in the world, respectively, run from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China’s coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometers (9,000 mi) long, and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East China, and South China seas.

China emerged as one of the world’s earliest civilizations in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China’s political system was based on hereditary monarchies known as dynasties, beginning with the Xia dynasty (c. 2070 bce). Since 221 bce, when the Qin dynasty conquered the other largest six states to form the first unified Chinese empire, China has then expanded, fractured and re-unified numerous times in the following millennia. In 1912, The Republic of China (ROC) replaced the last dynasty, and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949, when it was defeated by the communist People’s Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War. The Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in Beijing on 1 October 1949, while the ROC government relocated to Taiwan with its present de facto temporary capital in Taipei. Both the ROC and PRC continue to claim to be the legitimate government of all China, though the latter has more recognition in the world and controls more territory.

China had the largest economy in the world for much of the last two thousand years, during which it has seen cycles of prosperity and decline. Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies. As of 2016, it is the world’s second-largest economy by nominal GDP and largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). China is also the world’s largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world’s largest standing army and second-largest defense budget. The PRC is a member of the United Nations, as it replaced the ROC as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in 1971. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BCIM and the G-20.


China is the most heavily populated country in the world. Over 1.381 billion in fact, over 40{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} urban. Stringent population controls have been in place for several decades, and the government aims to limit the mainland population to 1.37 billion by 2010.  However, the population of great Beijing, for example, is approaching 15 million, and  the cities can be crowded and noisy in parts, as can the buses, trains, tourist sites etc.


There are as many as 292 living languages in China. The languages most commonly spoken belong to the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which contains Mandarin (spoken natively by 70{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} of the population), and other Chinese varieties: Yue (including Cantonese and Taishanese), Wu (including Shanghainese and Suzhounese), Min (including Fuzhounese, Hokkien and Teochew), Xiang, Gan and Hakka. Languages of the Tibeto-Burman branch, including Tibetan, Qiang, Naxi and Yi, are spoken across the Tibetan and Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau. Other ethnic minority languages in southwest China include Zhuang, Thai, Dong and Sui of the Tai-Kadai family, Miao and Yao of the Hmong–Mien family, and Wa of the Austroasiatic family. Across northeastern and northwestern China, minority ethnic groups speak Altaic languages including Manchu, Mongolian and several Turkic languages: Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Salar and Western Yugur. Korean is spoken natively along the border with North Korea. Sarikoli, the language of Tajiks in western Xinjiang, is an Indo-European language. Taiwanese aborigines, including a small population on the mainland, speak Austronesian languages.

Standard Mandarin, a variety of Mandarin based on the Beijing dialect, is the official national language of China and is used as a lingua franca in the country between people of different linguistic backgrounds.


Chinese yuan, also known as Renminbi, is used throughout in mainland China, while in Hong Kong and Macau, Hong Kong dollar and pataca are respectively used. The basic unit of Renminbi is Yuan and the sign of Yuan is ¥.

The legal tender of China is the Renminbi (RMB or CNY). When you plan to travel to China, you’d better have your original currency exchanged to Renminbi before you go or you can make the currency exchange in China. The following Currency Converter will help you know the exchange rate details between two different currencies.

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Political geography

The People’s Republic of China is the second-largest country in the world by land area after Russia, and is either the third- or fourth-largest by total area, after Russia, Canada and, depending on the definition of total area, the United States. China’s total area is generally stated as being approximately 9,600,000 km2 (3,700,000 sq mi). Specific area figures range from 9,572,900 km2 (3,696,100 sq mi) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the UN Demographic Yearbook, to 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the CIA World Factbook.

China has the longest combined land border 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 East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in South Asia; Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; and Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea in Inner Asia and Northeast Asia. Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Landscape and climate

The territory of China lies between latitudes 18° and 54° N, and longitudes 73° and 135° E. China’s landscapes vary significantly across its vast width. In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, there are extensive and densely populated alluvial plains, while on the edges of the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north, broad grasslands predominate. Southern China is dominated by hills and low mountain ranges, while the central-east hosts the deltas of China’s two major rivers, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. Other major rivers include the Xi, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur. To the west sit major mountain ranges, most notably the Himalayas. High plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes of the north, such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert. The world’s highest point, Mount Everest (8,848m), lies on the Sino-Nepalese border. The country’s lowest point, and the world’s third-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154m) in the Turpan Depression.

China’s climate is mainly dominated by dry seasons and wet monsoons, which lead to pronounced temperature differences between winter and summer. In the winter, northern winds coming from high-latitude areas are cold and dry; in summer, southern winds from coastal areas at lower latitudes are warm and moist. The climate in China differs from region to region because of the country’s highly complex topography.

A major environmental issue in China is the continued expansion of its deserts, particularly the Gobi Desert. Although barrier tree lines planted since the 1970s have reduced the frequency of sandstorms, prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices have resulted in dust storms plaguing northern China each spring, which then spread to other parts of east Asia, including Korea and Japan. China’s environmental watchdog, SEPA, stated in 2007 that China is losing a million acres (4,000 km²) per year to desertification.Water quality, erosion, and pollution control have become important issues in China’s relations with other countries. Melting glaciers in the Himalayas could potentially lead to water shortages for hundreds of millions of people.


China had the largest economy in the world for most of the past two thousand years, during which it has seen cycles of prosperity and decline. As of 2014, China has the world’s second-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, totalling approximately US$10.380 trillion according to the International Monetary Fund. If purchasing power parity (PPP) is taken into account, China’s economy is the largest in the world, with a 2014 PPP GDP of US$17.617 trillion. In 2013, its PPP GDP per capita was US$12,880, while its nominal GDP per capita was US$7,589. Both cases put China behind around eighty countries (out of 183 countries on the IMF list) in global GDP per capita rankings.


The National Health and Family Planning Commission, together with its counterparts in the local commissions, oversees the health needs of the Chinese population. An emphasis on public health and preventive medicine has characterized Chinese health policy since the early 1950s. At that time, the Communist Party started the Patriotic Health Campaign, which was aimed at improving sanitation and hygiene, as well as treating and preventing several diseases. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid and scarlet fever, which were previously rife in China, were nearly eradicated by the campaign. After Deng Xiaoping began instituting economic reforms in 1978, the health of the Chinese public improved rapidly because of better nutrition, although many of the free public health services provided in the countryside disappeared along with the People’s Communes. Healthcare in China became mostly privatized, and experienced a significant rise in quality. In 2009, the government began a 3-year large-scale healthcare provision initiative worth US$124 billion. By 2011, the campaign resulted in 95{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} of China’s population having basic health insurance coverage. In 2011, China was estimated to be the world’s third-largest supplier of pharmaceuticals, but its population has suffered from the development and distribution of counterfeit medications.

As of 2012, the average life expectancy at birth in China is 75 years, and the infant mortality rate is 12 per thousand. Both have improved significantly since the 1950s. Rates of stunting, a condition caused by malnutrition, have declined from 33.1{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} in 1990 to 9.9{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} in 2010. Despite significant improvements in health and the construction of advanced medical facilities, China has several emerging public health problems, such as respiratory illnesses caused by widespread air pollution, hundreds of millions of cigarette smokers, and an increase in obesity among urban youths. China’s large population and densely populated cities have led to serious disease outbreaks in recent years, such as the 2003 outbreak of SARS, although this has since been largely contained. In 2010, air pollution caused 1.2 million premature deaths in China.

Chinese characters have been used as the written script for the Sinitic languages for thousands of years. They allow speakers of mutually unintelligible Chinese varieties to communicate with each other through writing. In 1956, the government introduced simplified characters, which have supplanted the older traditional characters in mainland China. Chinese characters are romanized using the Pinyin system. Tibetan uses an alphabet based on an Indic script. Uyghur is most commonly written in a Perseo-Arabic script. The Mongolian script used in China and the Manchu script are both derived from the Old Uyghur alphabet. Modern Zhuang uses the Latin alphabet.


Freedom of religion is guaranteed by China’s constitution, although religious organizations that lack official approval can be subject to state persecution.The government of the People’s Republic of China is officially atheist. Religious affairs and issues in the country are overseen by the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

Over the millennia, Chinese civilization has been influenced by various religious movements. The “three teachings”, including Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism (Chinese Buddhism), historically have a significant role in shaping Chinese culture, Chinese folk religion, which contains elements of the three teachings, consists in allegiance to the shen (神), a character that signifies the “energies of generation”, who can be deities of the natural environment or ancestral principles of human groups, concepts of civility, culture heroes, many of whom feature in Chinese mythology and history. Among the most popular folk cults are those of Mazu (goddess of the seas), Huangdi (one of the two divine patriarchs of the Chinese race),Guandi (god of war and business), Caishen (god of prosperity and richness), Pangu and many others. China is home to many of the world’s tallest religious statues, including the tallest of all, the Spring Temple Buddha in Henan.

Clear data on religious affiliation in China is difficult to gather due to varying definitions on “religion” and the unorganized nature of Chinese religious traditions. Scholars note that in China there is no clear boundary between religions, especially Buddhism, Taoism and local folk religious practice. A 2015 poll conducted by Gallup International found that 61{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} of Chinese people self-identified as “convinced atheist”. According to one study from 2012, about 90{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} of the Chinese population are either nonreligious or practice some form of Chinese folk religions, Taoism and Confucianism. Approximately 6{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} are Buddhists, 2{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} are Christians, and 1{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} are Muslims. In addition to Han people’s local religious practices, there are also various ethnic minority groups in China who maintain their traditional autochthone religions. Various sects of indigenous origin comprise 2—3{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} of the population, while Confucianism as a religious self-designation is popular among intellectuals. Significant faiths specifically connected to certain ethnic groups include Tibetan Buddhism and the Islamic religion of the Hui and Uyghur peoples.


Since ancient times, Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by Confucianism and conservative philosophies. For much of the country’s dynastic era, opportunities for social advancement could be provided by high performance in the prestigious imperial examinations, which have their origins in the Han Dynasty. The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as the belief that calligraphy, poetry and painting were higher forms of art than dancing or drama. Chinese culture has long emphasized a sense of deep history and a largely inward-looking national perspective. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today.

The first leaders of the People’s Republic of China were born into the traditional imperial order, but were influenced by the May Fourth Movement and reformist ideals. They sought to change some traditional aspects of Chinese culture, such as rural land tenure, sexism, and the Confucian system of education, while preserving others, such as the family structure and culture of obedience to the state. Some observers see the period following the establishment of the PRC in 1949 as a continuation of traditional Chinese dynastic history, while others claim that the Communist Party’s rule has damaged the foundations of Chinese culture, especially through political movements such as the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, where many aspects of traditional culture were destroyed, having been denounced as “regressive and harmful” or “vestiges of feudalism”. Many important aspects of traditional Chinese morals and culture, such as Confucianism, art, literature, and performing arts like Peking opera, were altered to conform to government policies and propaganda at the time. Access to foreign media remains heavily restricted.

Today, the Chinese government has accepted numerous elements of traditional Chinese culture as being integral to Chinese society. With the rise of Chinese nationalism and the end of the Cultural Revolution, various forms of traditional Chinese art, literature, music, film, fashion and architecture have seen a vigorous revival, and folk and variety art in particular have sparked interest nationally and even worldwide. China is now the third-most-visited country in the world, with 55.7 million inbound international visitors in 2010. It also experiences an enormous volume of domestic tourism; an estimated 740 million Chinese holidaymakers travelled within the country in October 2012 alone.


Since the late 1990s, China’s national road network has been significantly expanded through the creation of a network of national highways and expressways. In 2011 China’s highways had reached a total length of 85,000 km (53,000 mi), making it the longest highway system in the world.[369] In 1991, there were only six bridges across the main stretch of the Yangtze River, which bisects the country into northern and southern halves. By October 2014, there were 81 such bridges and tunnels.

China has the world’s largest market for automobiles, having surpassed the United States in both auto sales and production. Auto sales in 2009 exceeded 13.6 million and may reach 40 million by 2020. A side-effect of the rapid growth of China’s road network has been a significant rise in traffic accidents, with poorly enforced traffic laws cited as a possible cause—in 2011 alone, around 62,000 Chinese died in road accidents. In urban areas, bicycles remain a common mode of transport, despite the increasing prevalence of automobiles – as of 2012, there are approximately 470 million bicycles in China.

China’s railways, which are state-owned, are among the busiest in the world, handling a quarter of the world’s rail traffic volume on only 6 percent of the world’s tracks in 2006. As of 2013, the country had 103,144 km (64,091 mi) of railways, the third longest network in the world. All provinces and regions are connected to the rail network except Macau. The railways strain to meet enormous demand particularly during the Chinese New Year holiday, when the world’s largest annual human migration takes place. In 2013, Chinese railways delivered 2.106 billion passenger trips, generating 1,059.56 billion passenger-kilometers and carried 3.967 billion tons of freight, generating 2,917.4 billion cargo tons-kilometers.

China’s high-speed rail (HSR) system started construction in the early 2000s. Today it has over 19,000 kilometers (11,806 miles) of dedicated lines alone, a length that exceeds rest of the world’s high-speed rail tracks combined, making it the longest HSR network in the world. With an annual ridership of over 1.1 billion passengers in 2015 it is the world’s busiest.The network includes the Beijing–Guangzhou–Shenzhen High-Speed Railway, the single longest HSR line in the world, and the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway, which has three of longest railroad bridges in the world.The HSR track network is set to reach approximately 16,000 km (9,900 mi) by 2020. The Shanghai Maglev Train, which reaches 431 km/h (268 mph), is the fastest commercial train service in the world.

Since 2000, the growth of rapid transit systems in Chinese cities has accelerated. As of January 2016, 26 Chinese cities have urban mass transit systems in operation and 39 more have metro systems approved with a dozen more to join them by 2020. The Shanghai Metro, Beijing Subway, Guangzhou Metro, Hong Kong MTR and Shenzhen Metro are among the longest and busiest in the world.

There were 182 commercial airports in China in 2012. With 82 new airports planned to open by 2015, more than two-thirds of the airports under construction worldwide in 2013 were in China, and Boeing expects that China’s fleet of active commercial aircraft in China will grow from 1,910 in 2011 to 5,980 in 2031. With rapid expansion in civil aviation, the largest airports in China have also joined the ranks of the busiest in the world. In 2013, Beijing’s Capital Airport ranked second in the world by passenger traffic (it was 26th in 2002). Since 2010, the Hong Kong International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport have ranked first and third in air cargo tonnage.

Some 80{2b7a0d4972768f9fb53c26ad6ac830c338707935494d04fa948ad1c0295a0e91} of China’s airspace remains restricted for military use, and Chinese airlines made up eight of the 10 worst-performing Asian airlines in terms of delays. China has over 2,000 river and seaports, about 130 of which are open to foreign shipping. In 2012, the Ports of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Tianjin, Dalian ranked in the top in the world in container traffic and cargo tonnage.

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