Reference work entry
Part of the The Statesman's Yearbook book series (SYBK)

Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo

(People’s Republic of China)

Capital: Beijing (Peking)

population projection, 2020: 1,424•55m.

GNI per capita, 2015: (PPP$) 13,345

HDI/world rank, 2015: 0•738/90

Internet domain extension: .cn

Key Historical Events

An embryonic Chinese state emerged in the fertile Huang He (Yellow River) basin before 4000 BC. Chinese culture reached the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) basin by 2500 BC and within 500 years the far south was also within the Chinese orbit. Four thousand years ago the Xia dynasty ruled in the Huang He basin. About 1500 BC it was supplanted by the Shang dynasty, the cultural ancestor of modern China.

As Shang civilization spread, in the west the Shang came into conflict with the Zhou, whose rulers replaced the Shang dynasty around 1000 BC. Under the Zhou, a centralized administration developed. In about 500 BC one court official, Kongfuzi (Confucius), outlined his vision of society. Confucianism, which introduced a system of civil service recruitment through examination, remained dominant until the mid-20th century.

The Zhou expanded the Chinese state south beyond the Chang Jiang. In 221 BC the ruler of Qin became the first emperor of China. He built an empire extending from the South China Sea to the edge of Central Asia where work was begun on the Great Wall of China. The Qin dynasty standardized laws, money and administration throughout the empire but it was short-lived. By 206 BC the state had divided into three.

Reunification came gradually under the Han dynasty (202 BC-AD 200) with its efficient, centralized bureaucracy. A nation with boundaries similar to those of modern China was created. But peripheral territories proved too distant to hold and the Han empire fell to rebellion and invasion. It was followed by the Jin (265-316) and Sui (589-612) dynasties, interspersed by internecine war and anarchy. Reunification was achieved by the Tang dynasty which brought prosperity to China from 618-917, before falling to separatism.

Under the Song (960–1127), the balance of power shifted south. The Song state lost control of the area north of the Chang Jiang in 1126 when nomads from Manchuria invaded. A declining Song empire survived in the south until 1279.

Genghis Khan

The northern invaders were overthrown by the Mongols, led by Genghis Khan (c. 1162–1227), who went on to claim the rest of China. In 1280 Kublai Khan (1251–94), who had founded the Yuan dynasty in 1271, swept into southern China. The Mongol Yuan dynasty adopted Chinese ways but was overthrown by a nationalist uprising in 1368, led by Hongwu (1328–98), a former beggar who established the Ming dynasty.

The Ming empire collapsed in a peasants’ revolt in 1644. The capital, Beijing (Peking), was only 64 km from the Great Wall and vulnerable to attack from the north. Within months the peasants’ leader was swept aside by the Manchus, whose Qing dynasty ruled China until 1911. Preoccupied with threats from the north, China neglected its southern coastal frontier. The Portuguese, who landed on the Chinese coast in 1516, were followed by the Dutch in 1622 and the English in 1637.

The Qing empire expanded into Mongolia, Tibet, Vietnam and Kazakhstan. But by the 19th century, under pressure from rural revolts ignited by crippling taxation and poverty, the Qing dynasty was crumbling. Two Opium Wars (1838–42; 1856–58) forced China to allow the import of opium from India into China, while Britain, France, Germany and other European states gained concessions in ‘treaty ports’ that virtually came under foreign rule.

The Taiping Rebellion (1851–64) set up a revolutionary egalitarian state in southern China. The European powers intervened to crush the rebellion and in 1860 British and French forces invaded Beijing and burnt the imperial palace. Further trading concessions were demanded. A weakened China was defeated by Japan in 1895 and lost both Taiwan and Korea.

The xenophobic Boxer Rebellion, led by a secret society called the Fists of Righteous Harmony, broke out in 1900. The Guangxu emperor (1875–1908) attempted modernization in the Hundred Days Reform, but was taken captive by the conservative dowager empress Cixi who harnessed the Boxer Rebellion to her own ends. The rebellion was put down by European troops in 1901. China was then divided into zones of influence between the major European states and Japan.

With imperial authority weakened, much of the country was ripe for rebellion. In 1911 the Kuomintang (Guomintang or Nationalist movement) of Sun Yet-sen (Sun Zhong Shan; 1866–1925) overthrew the imperial system. The authoritarian Yuan Shih-kai ruled as president from 1913 to 1916. Following the overthrow of Yuan, China disintegrated into warlord anarchy.

In 1916 Sun founded a republic in southern China but the north remained beyond his control. Reorganizing the Nationalist party on Soviet lines, Sun co-operated with the Communists to re-establish national unity. But rivalry between the two parties increased, particularly after the death of Sun in 1925.

Nationalism and Communism

After Sun’s death the nationalist movement was taken over by his ally Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jie Shi; 1887-1976). As commander in chief of the Nationalist army from 1925, Chiang’s power grew. In April 1927 his campaign to suppress the Chinese Communist Party saw thousands of Communists slaughtered. The survivors fled to the far western province of Jiangxi. In 1928 Chiang’s army entered Beijing. With the greater part of the country under Chiang’s rule, he made Nanjing the capital. In 1934 the Communists were forced to retreat from Jiangxi province. Led by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung; 1893-1976) they trekked for more than a year on the 5,600-mile Long March, eventually taking refuge in Shaanxi province.

In 1931 the Japanese invaded Manchuria. By 1937 they had seized Beijing and most of coastal China. The Nationalists and Communists finally co-operated against the invader but struggled against the superior Japanese forces.

During the Second World War (1939-45), a Nationalist government ruled unoccupied China ineffectually from a temporary capital in Chongqing. At the end of the war, Nationalist–Communist co-operation was short-lived. The Soviet Union sponsored the Communist Party, which marched into Manchuria in 1946, beginning a civil war that lasted until 1949. Although the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek received support from some western countries, particularly the United States, the Communists were victorious. On 1 Oct. 1949 Mao declared the People’s Republic of China in Beijing.

Chiang fled with the remains of his Nationalist forces to Taiwan, where he established a government that claimed to be a continuation of the Republic of China. At first recognized as the government of China by most Western countries, Taiwan kept China’s Security Council seat at the United Nations until 1971. Chiang’s authoritarian regime was periodically challenged by Red China, which bombed Taiwan’s small offshore islands near the mainland. In the 1960s and 1970s, Taiwan gradually lost recognition as the legitimate government and in 1978 the USA recognized the People’s Republic of China.


In 1950 China invaded Tibet, independent since 1916. Chinese rule quickly alienated the Tibetans who rebelled in 1959. The Tibetan religious leader, the Dalai Lama, was forced to flee to India. Since then, the settlement of large numbers of ethnic Chinese in the main cities of Tibet has threatened to swamp Tibetan culture.

During the 1950s and 1960s China was involved in a number of border disputes and wars in neighbouring states. The Communists posted ‘volunteers’ to fight alongside Communist North Korea during the Korean War (1950–53). There were clashes on the Soviet border in the 1950s and the Indian border in the 1960s, when China occupied some Indian territory.

From the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Communist China and the Soviet Union were allies. Communist China initially depended upon Soviet assistance for economic development. A Soviet-style five-year plan was put into action in 1953, but the relationship with Moscow was already showing signs of strain. By the end of the 1950s the Soviet Union and China were rivals, spurring the Chinese arms race. Chinese research into atomic weapons culminated in the testing of the first Chinese atomic bomb in 1964.

Mao introduced rapid collectivization of farms in 1955. The plan was not met with universal approval in the Communist Party but its implementation demonstrated Mao’s authority over the fortunes of the nation. In 1956 he launched the doctrine of letting a ‘hundred flowers bloom’, encouraging intellectual debate. However, the new freedoms took a turn Mao did not expect and led to the questioning of the role of the party. Strict controls were reimposed and free-thinkers were sent to work in the countryside to be ‘re-educated’.

In May 1958 Mao launched another ill-fated policy, the Great Leap Forward. To promote rapid industrialization and socialism, the collectives were reorganized into larger units. Neither the resources nor trained personnel were available for this huge task. Backyard blast furnaces were set up to increase production of iron and steel. The Great Leap Forward was a disaster. It is believed that 30m. died from famine. Soviet advice against the project was ignored and a breakdown in relations with Moscow came in 1963, when Soviet assistance was withdrawn. A rapprochement with the United States was achieved in the early 1970s.

Cultural Revolution

Having published his ‘Thoughts’ in the ‘Little Red Book’ in 1964, Mao set the Cultural Revolution in motion. Militant students were organized into groups of Red Guards to attack the party hierarchy. Anyone perceived to lack enthusiasm for Mao Zedong Thought was denounced. Thousands died as the students lost control and the army was eventually called in to restore order.

After Mao’s death in 1976 the Gang of Four, led by Mao’s widow Jiang Qing, attempted to seize power. These hard-liners were denounced and arrested. China effectively came under the control of Deng Xiaoping. Deng pursued economic reform. The country was opened to Western investment. Special Economic Zones and ‘open cities’ were designated and private enterprise gradually returned.

Improved standards of living and a thriving economy increased expectations for civil liberties. The demand for political change climaxed in demonstrations by workers and students in April 1989, following the funeral of Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang. In Beijing where demonstrators peacefully occupied Tiananmen Square, they were evicted by the military who opened fire, killing more than 1,500. Hard-liners took control of the government, and martial law was imposed from May 1989 to Jan. 1990.

Since 1989 the leadership has concentrated on economic development. Hong Kong was returned to China from British rule in 1997 (for the background, see page 337) and Macao from Portuguese rule in 1999. The late 1990s saw a cautious extension of civil liberties but Chinese citizens are still denied most basic political rights.

Beijing was chosen for the 2008 Olympic Games. China’s treatment of Tibet came under the international spotlight in the build-up to the games, following violent protests in Tibet’s capital city, Lhasa.

The arrest by Japan of a Chinese trawler in disputed waters in 2010 marked the beginning of heightened tensions between the two nations in the East and South China Seas. In 2011 China became the world’s second largest national economy. In Nov. 2012 the Communist Party congress selected Xi Jinping to succeed Hu Jintao as president from March 2013. In Sept. that year, former leadership hopeful Bo Xilai received a life sentence for corruption in one of China’s highest-profile trials in decades.

In Oct. 2015 the government announced the end of the country’s one-child policy. A month later, the presidents of China and Taiwan met for talks—the first time that leaders from the respective territories had met since 1949. On the economic front, GDP growth in 2015 was at its lowest level for a quarter of a century.

Territory and Population

China is bounded in the north by Russia and Mongolia; east by North Korea, the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, with Hong Kong and Macao as enclaves on the southeast coast; south by Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, India, Bhutan and Nepal; west by India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The total area (including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao) is estimated at 9,572,900 sq. km (3,696,100 sq. miles). A law of Feb. 1992 claimed the Spratly, Paracel and Diaoyutasi Islands. An agreement of 7 Sept. 1993 at prime ministerial level settled Sino-Indian border disputes which had first emerged in the war of 1962.

China’s sixth national census was held on 1 Nov. 2010. The total population of the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and of servicemen on the mainland was 1,339,724,852 (652,872,280 females, representing 48•73%); density, 140 per sq. km. China’s population in 2010 represented 19% of the world’s total population. The population rose by 73,899,804 (or 5•84%) since the census in 2000. There were 665,575,306 urban residents, accounting for 49•68% of the population; compared to the 2000 census, the proportion of urban residents rose by 13•46% (reflecting the increasing migration from the countryside to towns and cities since the economy was opened up in the late 1970s). Population estimate, Dec. 2016: 1,382,710,000. China has a fast-growing ageing population. Whereas in 1980 only 5•2% of the population was aged 65 or over and by 2010 this had increased to 8•2%, by 2030 it is expected to rise to 17•2%. Long-term projections suggest that in 2050 as much as 27•6% of the population will be 65 or older. The population is expected to peak at 1•42m. around 2028 and then begin to decline to such an extent that by around 2050 it will be back to the 2011 level. China is set to lose its status as the world’s most populous country to India in about 2022. The UN gives a projected population for 2020 of 1,424•55m. 1979 regulations restricting married couples to a single child, a policy enforced by compulsory abortions and economic sanctions, were widely ignored, and it was admitted in 1988 that the population target of 1,200m. by 2000 would have to be revised to 1,270m. From 1988 peasant couples were permitted a second child after four years if the first born was a girl, a measure to combat infanticide. In 1999 China started to implement a more widespread gradual relaxation of the one-child policy. In Dec. 2013 the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) approved a resolution allowing couples to have two children if either parent was an only child. The one-child policy was formally abandoned altogether from 1 Jan. 2016. An estimated 50m. persons of Chinese origin lived abroad in 2012. A number of widely divergent varieties of Chinese are spoken. The official ‘Modern Standard Chinese’ is based on the dialect of North China. Mandarin in one form or another is spoken by 885m. people in China, or around 70% of the population of mainland China. The Wu language and its dialects has some 77m. native speakers and Cantonese 66m. Around 400m. people in China cannot speak Mandarin. The ideographic writing system of ‘characters’ is uniform throughout the country, and has undergone systematic simplification. In 1958 a phonetic alphabet (Pinyin) was devised to transcribe the characters, and in 1979 this was officially adopted for use in all texts in the Roman alphabet. The previous transcription scheme (Wade) is still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Mainland China is administratively divided into 22 provinces, five autonomous regions (originally entirely or largely inhabited by ethnic minorities, though in some regions now outnumbered by Han immigrants) and four government-controlled municipalities. These are in turn divided into 332 prefectures, 658 cities (of which 265 are at prefecture level and 393 at county level), 2,053 counties and 808 urban districts.

Government-controlled municipalities

Area (1,000sq. km)

2010 census population(1,000)

Density per sq. km(2010)

































































































































Autonomous regions

Guangxi Zhuang





Inner Mongolia





Ningxia Hui










Xinjiang Uighur





1Also designated minority nationality autonomous area.

2See also Tibet below.

Population of largest cities in 2010: Shanghai, 20•22m.; Beijing (Peking), 16•45m.; Shenzhen, 10•36m.; Guangzhou (Canton), 9•70m.; Tianjin, 9•29m.; Dongguan, 7•27m.; Wuhan, 6•84m.; Foshan, 6•77m.; Chengdu, 6•32m.; Chongqing, 6•26m.; Nanjing, 5•83m.; Shenyang, 5•72m.; Xian, 5•21m.; Hangzhou, 5•16m.; Haerbin, 4•60m.; Suzhou, 4•08m.; Dalian, 3•90m.; Zhengzhou, 3•68m.; Shantou, 3•64m.; Jinan, 3•53m.; Qingdao, 3•52m.; Changchun, 3•41m.; Kunming, 3•28m.; Changsha, 3•19m.; Taiyuan, 3•15m.; Xiamen, 3•12m.; Hefei, 3•10m.; Urumqi (Wulumuqi), 2•85m.; Fuzhou, 2•82m.; Shijiazhuang, 2•77m.; Wuxi, 2•76m.; Zhongshan, 2•74m.; Wenzhou, 2•69m.; Nanning, 2•66m.; Ningbo, 2•58m.; Guiyang, 2•52m.; Lanzhou, 2•44m.; Zibo, 2•26m.; Changzhou, 2•26m.; Nanchang, 2•22m.; Xuzhou, 2•21m.; Tangshan, 2•13m.

China has 56 ethnic groups. According to the 2010 census 1,225,932,641 people (91•51%) were of Han nationality and 113,792,211 (8•49%) were from national minorities (including Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uighur, Yi, Tujia, Mongolian and Tibetan). Compared with the 2000 census, the Han population increased by 66,537,177 (5•74%), while the ethnic minorities increased by 7,362,627 (6•92%). Non-Han populations predominate in the autonomous regions, most notably in Tibet where Tibetans account for around 95% of the population.

Chang, Chiung-Fang, Lee, Che-Fu, McKibben, Sherry L., Poston, Dudley L. and Walther, Carol S. (eds.) Fertility, Family Planning and Population Policy in China. 2009

Li Chengrui, A Study of China’s Population. 1992

Zhao, Zhongwei and Guo, Fei, Transition and Challenge: China’s Population at the Beginning of the 21st Century. 2007


Relations between Tibet and China’s central government have fluctuated over the question of Tibetan independence. The borders were opened for trade with neighbouring countries in 1980. In 1984 a Buddhist seminary opened in Lhasa, the regional capital, with 200 students, and monasteries and shrines have since been renovated and reopened. There were some 46,000 monks and nuns in 2013. In 1988 Tibetan was reinstated as a ‘major official language’, competence in which is required of all administrative officials. In 1998 the then Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, said he was prepared to meet the Dalai Lama provided he acknowledged Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and Taiwan. In Sept. 2002 direct contact between the exiled government and China was re-established after a nine-year gap.

However, in March 2008 anti-Chinese protests in Lhasa ended in violence, with dozens reportedly killed by the Chinese authorities, and in Oct. that year the Dalai Lama stated he had lost hope of reaching agreement with China on Tibet’s status. In April 2011 he announced his retirement from active politics in favour of Lobsang Sangay, who had been elected to lead the Tibetan government-in-exile. In July 2011, shortly after US President Obama had received the Dalai Lama in Washington, China’s soon-to-be president, Xi Jinping, pledged to ‘smash’ attempts to destabilize Tibet. By Feb. 2013 there had been over 100 reported cases of self-immolation by Tibetans protesting against Chinese rule.

The estimated population of Tibet at the end of 2012 had risen to 3•08m. from 3•00m. at the 2010 census. The average population density was 2•26 persons per sq. km in 2008, although the majority of residents live in the southern and eastern parts of the region. Birth rate (per 1,000), 2012, 15•5; death rate, 5•2. Population of Lhasa, the capital, in 2010 was 199,159.

About 80% of the population is engaged in the dominant industries of farming and animal husbandry. In 2009 the total sown area was 240,610 ha. Output in 2011: total grain crops, 937,300 tonnes; vegetables, 600,700 tonnes. In 2011 there were 14•59m. sheep and goats and 6•45m. cattle and yaks.

Tibet has over 2,000 mineral ore fields. Mining, particularly of copper and gold, has expanded rapidly since 2006 when the railway came to Tibet. Cement production, 2011: 2•35m. tonnes. Electricity consumption totalled 2•7bn. kWh in 2012.

In 2011 there were 63,108 km of roads (21,842 km in 1990). There are airports at Lhasa, Bangda and Nyingchi providing external links. In 2011, 270,800 foreign tourists visited Tibet. In July 2006 a 1,142-km railway linking Lhasa with the town of Golmud opened. It is the highest railway in the world. Direct services have subsequently been introduced between Lhasa and a number of major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. An extension from Lhasa to Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city, became operational in Aug. 2014. In 2011 Tibet had 860 primary schools (with 294,725 pupils) and 123 secondary schools of which 22 were senior secondary schools (with 44,676 pupils), 93 junior secondary schools (with 136,371 pupils) and eight whole secondary schools. There were also six vocational secondary schools in 2011 (19,446 pupils). Tibet has six higher education institutes (the largest of which is Tibet University), with 33,198 enrolled students in total in 2011. The illiteracy rate of people aged 15 and above was 32•3% in 2011.

In 2011 there were 10,797 medical personnel (including 4,175 doctors) and 1,378 medical institutions, with a total of 9,462 beds.

Lixiong, Wang and Shakya, Tsering, The Struggle for Tibet. 2009

Margolis, Eric, War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet. 2001

Shakya, Tsering, The Dragon in the Land of Snows: The History of Modern Tibet since 1947. 1999

Smith, W. W., A History of Tibet: Nationalism and Self-Determination. 1996

Van Schaik, Sam, Tibet: A History. 2011

Social Statistics

Births, 2012, 16,350,000; deaths, 9,660,000. 2012 birth rate (per 1,000 population), 12•1; death rate, 7•2. In 2005 the birth rate rose for the first time since 1987. There were 13,235,900 marriages and 3,103,800 divorces in 2012. In 2011 the marriage rate was 9•7 per 1,000 population and the divorce rate a record high 2•1 per 1,000. The divorce rate has doubled since 2003. In April 2001 parliament passed revisions to the marriage law prohibiting bigamy and cohabitation outside marriage. The suicide rate in China in 2012 was 16•2 per 100,000 population. Life expectancy at birth, 2015, was 73•6 years for men and 79•4 years for women. Infant mortality, 2015, 9 per 1,000 live births. China has made some of the best progress in recent years in reducing child mortality. The number of deaths per 1,000 live births among children under five was reduced from 54 in 1990 to 14 in 2012. Fertility rate, 2013, 1•7 births per woman (compared to over 6 in the mid-1960s). Annual population growth rate, 2010–15, 0•5%. According to the World Bank, the number of people living in poverty (less than US$1•25 a day) at purchasing power parity declined from 835m. in 1981 to 156m. in 2010.


Most of China has a temperate climate but, with such a large country, extending far inland and embracing a wide range of latitude as well as containing large areas at high altitude, many parts experience extremes of climate, especially in winter. Most rain falls during the summer, from May to Sept., though amounts decrease inland. Monthly average temperatures and annual rainfall (2012): Beijing (Peking), Jan. 25•5°F (–3•6°C), July 81•3°F (27•4°C). Annual rainfall 28•9" (733 mm). Chongqing, Jan. 45•0°F (7•2°C), July 83•3°F (28•5°C). Annual rainfall 43•5" (1,104 mm). Shanghai, Jan. 40•5°F (4•7°C), July 85•5°F (29•7°C). Annual rainfall 43•5" (1,104 mm). Tianjin, Jan. 25•2°F (–3•8°C), July 81•0°F (27•2°C). Annual rainfall 29•7" (755 mm).

Constitution and Government

On 21 Sept. 1949 the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference met in Beijing, convened by the Chinese Communist Party. The Conference adopted a ‘Common Programme’ of 60 articles and the ‘Organic Law of the Central People’s Government’ (31 articles). Both became the basis of the Constitution adopted on 20 Sept. 1954 by the 1st National People’s Congress, the supreme legislative body. The Consultative Conference continued to exist after 1954 as an advisory body. Three further constitutions have been promulgated under Communist rule—in 1975, 1978 and 1982 (currently in force). The latter was partially amended in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004, endorsing the principles of a socialist market economy and of private ownership.

The unicameral National People’s Congress is the highest organ of state power. Usually meeting for one session a year, it can amend the constitution and nominally elects and has power to remove from office the highest officers of state. There are a maximum of 3,000 members of the Congress, who are elected to serve five-year terms by municipal, regional and provincial people’s congresses. In 2018, 2,980 deputies were elected to the Congress. It elects a Standing Committee (which supervises the State Council) and the President and Vice-President for a five-year term. When not in session, Congress business is carried on by the Standing Committee.

The State Council is the supreme executive organ and comprises the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and State Councillors.

The Central Military Commission is the highest state military organ.

National Anthem

‘March of the Volunteers’; words by Tien Han, tune by Nie Er.

Government Chronology

Leaders of the Communist Party of China since 1935.



Mao Zedong


Hua Guofeng


Hu Yaobang

General Secretaries


Deng Xiaoping


Hu Yaobang


Zhao Ziyang


Jiang Zemin


Hu Jintao


Xi Jinping

De facto ruler


Deng Xiaoping

Heads of State since 1949.

Chairman of the Central People’s Government


Mao Zedong

Chairmen (Presidents)


Mao Zedong


Liu Shaoqi


Dong Biwu

Chairmen of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress


Zhu De


Ye Jianying

Presidents of the Republic


Li Xiannian


Yang Shangkun


Jiang Zemin


Hu Jintao


Xi Jinping

Prime Ministers since 1949.


Zhou Enlai


Hua Guofeng


Zhao Ziyang


Li Peng


Zhu Rongji


Wen Jiabao


Li Keqiang

Recent Elections

Elections of delegates to the 13th National People’s Congress were held between Oct. 2017 and Feb. 2018 by municipal, regional and provincial people’s congresses. At its annual session in March 2013 the Congress elected Xi Jinping as President and Li Yuanchao as Vice-President.

Current Government

President and Chairman of Central Military Commission: Xi Jinping; b. 1953 (Chinese Communist Party; elected 14 March 2013).

Vice-President: Li Yuanchao.

In Feb. 2018 the government comprised:

Premier of the State Council (Prime Minister): Li Keqiang; b. 1955 (Chinese Communist Party; appointed 15 March 2013).

Deputy Prime Ministers: Zhang Gaoli; Liu Yandong; Wang Yang; Ma Kai.

Minister of Agriculture: Han Changfu. Civil Affairs: Huang Shuxian. Commerce: Zhong Shan. Culture: Luo Shugang. Education: Chen Baosheng. Environmental Protection: Li Ganjie. Finance: Xiao Jie. Foreign Affairs: Wang Yi. Housing, and Urban and Rural Development: Wang Menghui. Human Resources and Social Security: Yin Weimin. Industry and Information: Miao Wei. Justice: Zhang Jun. Land and Resources: Jiang Daming. National Defence: Chang Wanquan. Public Security: Guo Shengkun. Science and Technology: Wan Gang. State Security: Chen Wenqing. Supervision: Yang Xiaodu. Transport: Li Xiaopeng. Water Resources: Chen Lei.

Heads of State Commissions: Ethnic Affairs, Bagatur. National Development and Reform, He Lifeng. National Health and Family Planning, Li Bin.

De facto power is in the hands of the Communist Party of China, which had 88•76m. members at the end of 2015. There are eight other parties, all members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

The members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo in March 2018 were: Xi Jinping (General Secretary); Li Keqiang; Li Zhanshu; Wang Yang; Wang Huning; Zhao Leji; Han Zheng.

Chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee: Zhang Dejiang.

Government Website:

Current Leaders

Xi Jinping




Xi Jinping succeeded Hu Jintao as president in March 2013 at the 12th National People’s Congress. Tipped for the role since his appointment as secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and chairman of the Central Military Commission in Nov. 2012, Xi pursued a strong style of authoritarian rule at home and a proactive and muscular foreign policy in his first term. In Oct. 2016 the CCP gave him the title of ‘core’ leader, a significant honorific bracketing him with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping among previous party figures although conferring no absolute powers. Then, at its five-yearly congress in Oct. 2017, the party voted to enshrine his name and ideology in the Chinese state constitution, fuelling speculation that he was seeking to extend his tenure in power beyond a second term in a major shift from precedent.

Early Life

Xi Jinping was born on 15 June 1953 in Beijing, the son of one of the first generation of communist leaders. He joined the CCP in 1974 and, after graduating from Tsinghua University in 1979 with a degree in chemical engineering, he became secretary to the vice-premier and secretary-general of the Central Military Commission.

Xi became the Zhengding County Committee deputy secretary in Hebei province in 1982 and the following year was promoted to secretary. In 1985 he was made deputy mayor of Xiamen City, Fujian province. Having undertaken various party roles in the province, he became deputy governor of Fujian in 1999 and governor a year later.

In 2002 he moved to Zhejiang province and made his first inroads into national politics when he was named a member of the 16th Central Committee. From 2003–07 he was party secretary of Fujian, overseeing economic growth averaging 14% a year and earning a reputation as an opponent of corruption.

In March 2007 Xi transferred to Shanghai to take the role of party secretary following the dismissal of the incumbent on corruption charges. His appointment to such an important regional post was seen as a vote of confidence from the central government and he became a member of the Politburo standing committee at the 17th Party Congress in Oct. 2007. He was also made a high-ranking member of the central secretariat. On 15 March 2008 he was elected vice-president at the 11th National People’s Congress and took on a number of high profile portfolios including the presidency of the Central Party School. He was also Beijing’s senior representative for Hong Kong and Macao and headed up preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

On 18 Oct. 2010 Xi was appointed vice-chairman of the CCP and Central Military Commission, marking him as Hu’s successor. He was elected general-secretary of the CCP and chairman of the Central Military Commission by the 18th Central Committee on 15 Nov. 2012 and was sworn in as president on 14 March 2013.

Career in Office

Ahead of his presidency, Xi said little about his policy ambitions. There was hope abroad and at home that he would champion political and social reform and attempt to deal with corruption and a widening wealth gap between rich and poor and between urban and rural communities. He also faced the conundrum of how to provide adequate healthcare to a rapidly ageing population.

In Jan. 2014 the prospect of greater transparency and accountability under his leadership was undermined when the authorities began criminal proceedings against anti-corruption campaigners calling for public disclosure of officials’ assets. This coincided with a report by a US investigative organization claiming that relatives of some of China’s top political and military figures, including Xi’s brother-in-law, held secret offshore financial holdings.

In other social and political affairs the CCP announced plans in Nov. 2013 to ease China’s one-child policy (which was subsequently abandoned following an announcement in Oct. 2015, with effect from 2016) and to abolish the system of ‘re-education through labour’ camps, while a party plenum called—for the first time—for markets to play a ‘decisive’ role in the allocation of resources. Meanwhile, in 2014 Xi was confronted by domestic political opposition in the form of militant attacks by ethnic Uighur separatists from Xinjiang region and, from Sept. that year, by widespread pro-democracy and autonomy protests in Hong Kong.

On the economic front, China’s previously frenetic annual rate of growth slowed markedly in 2015, reflecting a slump in factory production and concerns over depressed oil prices, and again in 2016 to its lowest since 1990. It also heralded severe stock market turbulence into 2016 despite emergency government measures, which had negative reverberations throughout the world economy. Nevertheless, recognizing China’s rise as a global economic power, the IMF in Nov. 2015 voted to add the yuan as the fifth member of its special drawing rights (SDR) currency basket alongside the US dollar, Japanese yen, British pound and the euro.

In foreign affairs, regional concerns over China’s territorial and military intentions were raised in Nov. 2013 by the government’s declaration of a new ‘air defence identification zone’ over a swathe of the East China Sea including disputed islands claimed by Japan and South Korea. There has also been friction, regionally and with the USA, over China’s sovereignty claims and land reclamation operations on islands in the South China Sea, although in July 2016 an international legal tribunal ruled in favour of a challenge by the Philippines to China’s sovereignty assertions—a verdict Beijing vowed to ignore. Further afield, Xi has meanwhile undertaken numerous official visits abroad, as well as attending multilateral forums, for diplomatic, trading and investment purposes. And, while in Singapore in Nov. 2015, Xi and President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan held the first direct talks between leaders of the two estranged governments since their split in 1949. Most recently, Xi urged greater trade co-operation with the USA during his first encounter with the new US president, Donald Trump, in April 2017, while also increasing economic and military co-operation with Russia.

Li Keqiang


Premier of the State Council


Li Keqiang took office as premier of the State Council, a role equivalent to prime minister, in March 2013. He succeeded Wen Jiabao, with the expectation of serving two five-year terms.

Early Life

Li Keqiang was born on 1 July 1955 in Dingyuan County, Anhui province. Following graduation from high school in 1974, he joined the CCP and in 1982 he graduated in law from Peking University, serving as head of the Students’ Federation from 1978–82. He went on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate in economics and headed the University’s Communist Youth League of China (CYLC) committee. Over the following two decades he rose through the CYLC ranks, joining the secretariat of its central committee in the 1980s and serving as its first secretary in the 1990s. At this time he built up his power base and forged close ties with Hu Jintao, a fellow CYLC committee member and future Chinese president.

In 1998 Li became deputy party secretary for Henan province and a year later was appointed Henan’s governor. In Dec. 2004 he was named party secretary for Liaoning province where he spearheaded a major coastal infrastructure project, the ‘5 Points and One Line’ highway development. In 2009 this template was adopted at the national level to rejuvenate industrial northeast China. He also oversaw the rehousing of 1•5m. shanty-town residents into new apartment blocks over a three-year period.

Li advanced to national level politics when he was elected to the Politburo standing committee in Oct. 2007. He was appointed vice-premier of the State Council in March 2008, leading a medical reform programme aimed at creating an accessible public healthcare service. He also chaired an affordable housing programme and introduced tax reform plans. In Nov. 2012 Li was re-elected as a member of the Politburo standing committee and on 15 March 2013 became premier of the State Council at the 12th National People’s Congress.

Career in Office

Regarded as the steward of the Chinese economy, Li was expected to focus on securing China’s long-term expansion and on the further provision of basic national healthcare, affordable housing, employment growth, regional development and cleaner energy. However, global confidence in China’s economy has been shaken since 2015 as the country’s growth momentum has slowed amid apparent policy differences and blunders, prompting rumours that Li was being increasingly sidelined in the governing hierarchy. He was nevertheless re-elected to the Politburo standing committee following the CCP congress in Oct. 2017.

Lhamo Dhondrub (The Dalai Lama)


Leader of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile


The Dalai Lama was the spiritual leader and both head of state and of government of Tibet from the beginning of the 15th century until 1959. Each succeeding holder of this office was regarded as a reincarnation of the first Dalai Lama and a manifestation of the Buddha of Compassion. In the early 18th century the 8th Dalai Lama was obliged to recognise Chinese overlordship, but the 13th Dalai Lama took advantage of the Chinese revolution that overthrew the Manchu dynasty to re-establish Tibet as a sovereign state in 1912. The title in Tibetan is Dalai Lama Rgyalba Rinpoche, which means Great Precious Conqueror, but he is routinely referred to as Kundun, which means The Presence.

Early Life

Lhamo Dhondrub, the child who was to become the 14th Dalai Lama, was born on 6 July 1935 to a poor peasant family in northeastern Tibet. Some reports state he was born in China to Tibetan parents. Lhamo Dhondrub, also later known as Tenzing Gyatso, was recognised as a reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama, in 1937.

The child was taken to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, where he was enthroned on 22 Feb. 1940. His education began when he was six. The Dalai Lama took examinations at all three monastic universities in Tibet and gained a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy when he was 25. But, by then, he had assumed his role as temporal ruler of his country.

Career in Office

In Nov. 1950 the 14th Dalai Lama assumed full temporal powers when Chinese troops invaded Tibet. This invasion ended the period of sovereignty that Tibet had enjoyed since 1912, although China had never recognised Tibetan independence. In 1954 the Dalai Lama was made a member of the Consultative Conference of the People’s Republic of China and in 1954 he attended the National Congress in Beijing. While there, he had talks with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders in an attempt to resolve the position of Tibet. The talks were inconclusive and in 1956 (a reduced) Tibet was made an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. China’s oppressive rule in Tibet sparked a revolt in the east of the country in March 1959. The uprising spread to Lhasa, but was quickly put down with great loss of life. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India and was followed by some 80,000 refugees.

In exile in India, the Dalai Lama established a Tibetan government-in-exile in 1960 at Dharmsala, in Himachal Pradesh state. He appealed to the United Nations and was influential in securing three resolutions of the General Assembly, in 1959, 1961 and 1965, calling on China to respect Tibet’s rights to self determination. Since then, the Dalai Lama has concentrated his efforts on preserving Tibetan culture and society among the community in exile. In 1973 he granted a constitution under which a Tibetan assembly and government are directly elected by the Tibetan refugee community in India. He stated that, if restored, he would be a spiritual ruler only. He was awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of non-violence in his campaign to end the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

The Dalai Lama remains a Buddhist monk, but has a high international profile, visiting many world leaders. He has regularly voiced a desire for world leaders to take collective action on climate change and to deal with the discord over major religions.

In 2008 the Dalai Lama was accused of orchestrating the violence that broke out in Tibet. Following the riots the Dalai Lama’s representatives met with the government of China. Although no nearer to regaining independence or halting the influx of ethnic Chinese, which could result in a Tibetan minority, this was the first time since 1993 that formal contact was re-established.

In March 2011 the Dalai Lama took the unprecedented step of resigning his role as a temporal leader, delegating his duties to a newly elected prime minister of the government-in-exile. He nonetheless maintained his role as spiritual leader

Since retiring from his political duties the Dalai Lama has questioned the future of the tradition of the Dalai Lama, citing a need for there to be consultations with relevant parties on whether a successor is necessary. The Chinese government responded by stating that only Beijing had the authority to approve any future Dalai Lama.


The Chinese president is chairman of the State and Party’s Military Commissions. China is divided into seven military regions. The military commander also commands the air, naval and civilian militia forces assigned to each region.

China’s armed forces (PLA: ‘People's Liberation Army’), totalling nearly 3•0m. in 2013 including the paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) and 2•3m. excluding the PAP, are the largest of any country. However, active armed personnel numbers have halved since 1980. Moreover, in 2015 President Xi laid out plans to reform the army structure—replacing an organization based on seven regions with one based on five ‘theatre commands’—and reduce the number of military personnel by a further 300,000.

Conscription is compulsory, but for organizational reasons, is selective: only some 10% of potential recruits are called up. Service is for two years. A military academy to train senior officers in modern warfare was established in 1985.

Defence expenditure in 2013 was US$112,173m. (equivalent to US$83 per capita). China’s military spending more than trebled during the 2000s. Defence spending in 2013 represented 1•2% of GDP. Only the USA spent more on defence in 2013, but China’s defence expenditure totalled around a fifth of that of the USA. In March 2014 it was announced that the defence budget would rise by 12•2% to US$132bn. following increases of 10•7%, 11•2% and 12•7% in the previous three years. China is the world’s third largest exporter of arms after the USA and Russia, with 6•2% of the global major weapons total over the period 2012–16. In the period 2004–08 it had only been the eighth largest exporter.

As at 31 May 2016 China had 3,044 personnel serving in UN peacekeeping operations (the largest contingent of any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and more than the other four combined).

Nuclear Weapons

Having carried out its first test in 1964, there have been 45 tests in all at Lop Nur, in Xinjiang (the last in 1996). The nuclear arsenal consisted of approximately 270 operational warheads in Jan. 2017 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. China has been helping Pakistan with its nuclear efforts.


The Army (PLA: ‘People’s Liberation Army’) is divided into main and local forces. Main forces, administered by the seven military regions in which they are stationed, but commanded by the Ministry of Defence, are available for operation anywhere and are better equipped. Local forces concentrate on the defence of their own regions. Ground forces are divided into infantry, armour, artillery, air defence, aviation, engineering, chemical defence and communications service arms. There are also specialized units for electronic counter-measures, reconnaissance and mapping. In 2013 there were 18 group armies covering seven military regions. They included: 17 armoured divisions and brigades; 29 mechanized infantry divisions, brigades and regiments; 30 motorized infantry divisions and brigades; nine special operations units; 19 artillery divisions and brigades; 3 amphibious brigades and divisions; two mountain brigades; 14 aviation brigades and regiments; and two guard divisions. Total strength in 2013 was 1•60m. including some 800,000 conscripts. Reserve forces are undergoing major reorganization on a provincial basis but are estimated to number some 510,000.

There is a paramilitary People’s Armed Police force estimated at 660,000 under PLA command.


In Nov. 2011 the naval arm of the PLA included 71 submarines, of which three were strategic (two Jin-class and one Xia-class) and 68 tactical. By mid-2015 two more Jin-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines had entered service. Surface combatant forces in Nov. 2011 included 13 destroyers and 65 frigates. Sea trials of China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning (a former Soviet warship purchased from Ukraine), began in Aug. 2011. It entered service in Sept. 2012 and was initially only used for training before being declared ‘combat ready’ in Nov. 2016. Work on China’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier began in 2015. It was launched in April 2017 and is expected to be operational by 2020.

There is a land-based naval air force of about 311 combat-capable aircraft, primarily for defensive and anti-submarine service. The force includes H-6 strategic bombers and JH-7 fighters.

The naval arm is split into a North Sea Fleet, an East Sea Fleet and a South Sea Fleet.

In 2013 naval personnel were estimated at 235,000, including 26,000 in the naval air force and 35,000 conscripts.

Air Force

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force organizes its command through seven military region air forces. The Air Force has an estimated 1,700 combat-capable aircraft. Equipment includes J-7 (MiG-21) interceptors (known in the West as ‘Fishbed’), H-6 Chinese-built copies of Tu-16 strategic bombers, Q-5 fighter-bombers (evolved from the MiG-19 and known in the West as ‘Fantan’), Su-27 fighters supplied by Russia (known in the West as ‘Flanker’), J-10 Chinese-designed and produced fighters (known in the West as ‘Firebird’) and J-8 locally-developed fighters (known in the West as ‘Finback’).

Total strength (2013) was 398,000.


In 2014 agriculture accounted for 9•1% of GDP, industry 43•1% and services 47•8%. Industry was the largest contributor until 2011, while services only overtook agriculture as the second largest sector in 1985. In the late 1960s agriculture was the largest contributor towards GDP.


China’s economic performance has been marked by high rates of growth for over three decades. Annual GDP increases in the early 2000s consistently exceeded 10% until the global financial crisis. China also holds the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, at more than US$3•05trn. in April 2017, although they have been falling since 2014 as the central bank strives to boost the currency in the face of large capital outflows. It is among the top recipients of foreign direct investment (FDI) and is the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal. In 2005 China made the transition from net receiver of foreign aid to net donor and has established itself as a key player in Africa’s economic development, becoming the largest export partner of sub-Saharan Africa in 2013. According to the World Bank, China’s cumulative FDI stock in Africa totalled nearly US$34•7bn. in 2015, up from US$14•7bn. in 2011. In Feb. 2011 China overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy after the USA.

The first steps from a centrally-planned towards a more market-oriented economy were taken by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s. He opened the economy to foreign trade and investment, decentralized industrial management and allowed private sector development. In 2001 China became a member of the World Trade Organization, establishing trade relations with many countries. Private entrepreneurs and foreign investors have played an important role in developing the manufacturing sector, China’s principal growth engine. Even before 1978 the economy was heavily skewed towards manufacturing, but following the market-oriented transition output increased significantly. During this period there was a structural shift away from large state-owned enterprises (SOEs), although these still remain an important part of the economy. Between 1997 and 2003 the government oversaw reform of SOEs, with many poorly performing businesses privatized or liquidated. Stronger firms were restructured and often listed on the stock market. Many more recent enterprises are labour-intensive as distinct from the capital-intensive SOEs. Growth has been fuelled by low added value and labour-intensive exports. However, Chinese firms are predicted to become increasingly competitive with higher added value producers, such as South Korea.

Although the global financial crisis reduced the rate of growth and inbound FDI, China’s recovery was among the earliest. GDP growth averaged 7•9% in the second quarter of 2009, up from a two-decade low of 6•1% in the first quarter of that year. FDI also recovered rapidly, averaging 4•1% of GDP annually between 2009 and 2013. Growth was rooted in a stimulus package of 4trn. yuan (US$586bn. or 13% of 2008 GDP), including fiscal spending and interest rate cuts, as well as an expansionary monetary policy. Central government committed 1•18trn. yuan, with the rest coming from local government, banks and SOEs. Although exports declined by around 17% in 2009, other countries fared worse and China’s share of world exports increased to nearly 13•6% in 2016 (up from 3% in 1999), making it the world’s largest merchandise provider.

GDP growth in 2010 stood at more than 10% but moderated between 2011 and 2014, reflecting the global economic slowdown and diminishing dividends from past reforms. In Aug. 2015 a devaluation of the yuan sent the Shanghai stock exchange plummeting by nearly 40%, which was swiftly followed by a surge in capital outflows. The stock market meltdown lasted until Feb. 2016, with trading halted altogether for two days in Jan. that year. Nonetheless, the Shanghai exchange subsequently began a recovery and had stabilized (at around 3,000 points) by Feb. 2017. Despite stock market turbulence, the property market, which constitutes a quarter of China’s GDP and is vital to the banking sector (as it accounts for a substantial amount of its collateral), remained buoyant. GDP growth declined to 6•9% in 2015 (the slowest rate in 25 years) and fell again to 6•7% in 2016 as China attempted to reduce its reliance on exports, increase domestic consumption and develop its service sector. The economy then grew by 6•9% in 2017.

Rapid economic advance has brought with it a number of challenges that threaten future growth. Notably, China’s cost advantage has been undermined in recent years by rising wages and transportation costs, as well as weak global demand. Other concerns include rising property costs, high levels of local government debt, lack of enforcement of intellectual property rights, endemic corruption at government level and credit and investment dependence, while total social financing—a broad measure of total credit—increased by 77% of GDP between 2008 and early 2014. The stimulus package implemented by the government to boost growth increased total debt levels to more than double the value of GDP in 2016.

According to the IMF, an increase in consumer demand and a reduced dependence on exports and investment are keys to achieving stable long-term economic expansion. China’s 13th five-year plan (covering 2016–20) aims to promote domestic consumption and to support innovation and entrepreneurship within a framework of balanced and sustainable development. Efforts to promote domestic consumption have seen exports’ share of GDP falling from 38% in 2007 to 19•6% in 2016 and a lower investment contribution to GDP.

The continued decline in commodity prices coupled with China’s economic slowdown has had knock-on effects for commodity-exporting nations, such as Brazil, Indonesia and Argentina, given that China consumes about half of the world’s steel, aluminium and nickel.

Inefficient production and outmoded equipment have meanwhile led to significant environmental problems, especially in the north of the country. Air pollution, soil erosion and a declining water table are of particular concern. China has become the world’s largest consumer of coal and second largest consumer of oil after the USA. The government aims to diversify its energy sources, relying less on coal and more on nuclear and alternative energy sources. There has been heavy investment in hydro-power, including the Three Gorges Dam.

Since 1980, 600m. people have been lifted out of poverty, yet China still has the second largest number of poor in the world after India. The World Bank estimates that 98•9m. people lived below the national poverty line at the end of 2012 (equivalent to income less than US$1 per day), located mainly in remote and resource-poor regions and particularly in the west and the interior. Nonetheless, some progress has been made, with 7•2% of the rural population living below the poverty line in 2014 compared to 8•5% in 2013. Growing inequality between urban and rural regions, particularly in terms of educational opportunities, needs to be addressed, however.

China also faces the growing burden of an ageing population. Those aged 65 and over accounted for 10•1% of the total population in 2016, up from 6•9% in 2000.


The currency is called Renminbi (i.e. People’s Currency). The unit of currency is the yuan (CNY) which is divided into ten jiao, the jiao being divided into ten fen. The yuan was floated to reflect market forces on 1 Jan. 1994 while remaining state-controlled. For 11 years the People’s Bank of China maintained the yuan at about 8•28 to the US dollar, allowing it to fluctuate but only by a fraction of 1% in closely supervised trading. In July 2005 it was revalued and pegged against a ‘market basket’ of currencies the central parities of which were determined every night. In July 2008, after three years of sharp appreciation, it was repegged at around 6•83 yuan to the dollar, leading to claims from some international observers that it was being kept unfairly low to boost exports. In June 2010 the government announced that the yuan would be allowed to move freely against the dollar as long as a rise or fall does not exceed 0•5% within a single day. In Aug. 2015 the yuan was devalued by a total of 4•65% on three consecutive days. In Aug. 2009 total money supply was 20,039•5bn. yuan, gold reserves were 33•89m. troy oz and foreign exchange reserves US$2,210•8bn. (US$75•4bn. in 1995). China’s reserves are the highest of any country, having overtaken those of Japan in 2006.

Inflation rates (based on IMF statistics):





















China’s economy overheated in the early 1990s, leading to inflation rates of 14•7% in 1993, 24•1% in 1994 and 17•1% in 1995. The 2008 rate was the highest since 1996.


Total revenue and expenditure (in 1bn. yuan):



















Of the total revenues in 2015 central government accounted for 6,926•7bn. yuan and local governments 8,300•2bn. yuan. Tax revenues came to 12,492•2bn. yuan in 2015 (including domestic VAT 3,110•9bn. yuan and corporate income tax 2,713•4bn. yuan) and non-tax revenues 2,734•7bn. yuan. Of the total expenditure in 2015 central government accounted for 2,554•2bn. yuan and local governments 15,033•6bn. yuan. The leading items of expenditure in 2015 were education (2,627•2bn. yuan) and social safety net and employment effort (1,901•9bn. yuan).

The standard rate of VAT is 17%.


GDP totalled US$11,199•1bn. in 2016, the second highest behind the USA. China’s share of world GDP has risen from 4% in 2000 to 15% in 2016. It replaced Japan as the second largest economy in 2010. It is forecast that around 2020 China will overtake the USA to become the world’s largest economy. As recently as 2000 the US economy was around eight times larger than China’s. Real GDP growth rates (based on IMF statistics):





















GDP growth in 2017 was 6•9% according to the National Bureau of Statistics. In spite of high growth in recent years, China’s gross national income (GNI) per capita at purchasing power parity was $12,547 in 2014, compared to the Human Development Report’s ‘very high human development’ average of $41,584.

Banking and Finance

The People’s Bank of China is the central bank and bank of issue (Governor, Zhou Xiaochuan). At the end of 2012 the banking sector included the China Development Bank, two state policy banks (the Export-Import Bank of China and the Agricultural Development Bank of China), five large commercial banks (Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Bank of Communications), 12 joint-stock commercial banks, 144 city commercial banks, 337 rural commercial banks and 147 rural co-operative banks. The Bank of China is responsible for foreign banking operations. In April 2003 the China Banking Regulatory Commission was launched, taking over the role of regulating and supervising the country’s banks and other deposit-taking financial institutions from the central bank. Legislation in 1995 permitted the establishment of commercial banks; credit co-operatives may be transformed into banks, mainly to provide credit to small businesses. There were 1,927 rural credit co-operatives at the end of 2012. Insurance is handled by the People’s Insurance Company. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the world’s largest bank by assets (US$3,743bn. as at 31 Dec. 2016).

Savings deposits in various forms in all banking institutions totalled 40,370•4bn. yuan in 2012; loans amounted to 67,287•5bn. yuan.

There are stock exchanges in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and in Shanghai. A securities trading system linking six cities (Securities Automated Quotations System) was inaugurated in 1990 for trading in government bonds.

China received a record US$135•6bn. worth of foreign direct investment in 2015, up from US$128•5bn. in 2014.

External debt totalled US$548,551m. in 2010 (up from US$145,339m. in 2000) and represented 9•3% of GNI.

Energy and Natural Resources


China’s carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels in 2011 accounted for 25•3% of the world total (making it the biggest emissions producer, having overtaken the USA in 2007) and were equivalent to 6•1 tonnes per capita (up from 4•5 tonnes per capita in 2007). An Environmental Performance Index compiled in 2016 ranked China 109th of 180 countries, with 65•1%. The index examined various factors in nine areas—agriculture, air quality, biodiversity and habitat, climate and energy, fisheries, forests, health impacts, water and sanitation, and water resources. Pollution is estimated to cost China about 10% of GDP annually.


Installed generating capacity in 2011 was an estimated 1,006m. kW, compared with 299m. kW in 2000. In 2014 electricity output was 5,649,580 GWh, up from 1,355,600 GWh in 2000. Consumption per capita was 3,927 kWh in 2014. Rapidly increasing demand has meant that more than half of China’s provinces have had to ration power. Sources of electricity in 2014 as percentage of total production: thermal, 75•6%; hydro-electric power, 18•8%; wind. 2•8% (China is one of the world’s largest producers of wind power); and nuclear, 2•3%. In 2016 there were 35 nuclear reactors in use and 20 under construction. Generating electricity is not centralized; local units range between 30 and 60 MW of output. In Dec. 2002 China formally broke up its state power monopoly, creating instead five generating and two transmission firms. The Three Gorges dam project on the Yangtze river was launched in 1993 and is intended to produce abundant hydro-electricity (as well as helping flood control). The first three 700,000-kW generators in service at the project’s hydro-power station began commercial operation in July 2003. The original specification was completed in Oct. 2008, although six more generators have been added in the meantime (bringing the total to 32). The final two generators become operational in July 2012, giving the dam an overall capacity of 22•5 GW. China surpassed Germany in terms of solar generating capacity in 2015, with 43•5 GW at the end of the year.

Oil and Gas

On-shore oil reserves are found mainly in the northeast (particularly the Daqing and Liaohe fields) and northwest. There are off-shore fields in the continental shelves of east China. Oil production was a record 211•4m. tonnes in 2014. China is the second largest consumer of oil after the USA. Ever-growing demand has meant that increasing amounts of oil are having to be imported. A 964-km pipeline from Skovorodino in Russia to Daqing in the northeast of China was inaugurated in Jan. 2011, allowing China to increase significantly its imports of oil from the world’s second largest producer. The 1,833-km Turkmenistan–China gas pipeline, bringing natural gas to Xinjiang in China via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was inaugurated in Dec. 2009. This connects with China’s Second West–East gas pipeline. Only the USA imports more oil. Domestic production now accounts for only 55% of consumption, compared to nearly 85% in 1998. Proven reserves in 2013 were 18•1bn. bbls.

The largest natural gas reserves are located in the western and north-central regions. Production was a record 138•0bn. cu. metres in 2015—up from 71•6bn. cu. metres in 2007—with proven reserves of 3•3trn. cu. metres in 2013.


China is the second largest producer of wind power after the USA, with 156•1bn. kWh in 2014. In 2015 total installed capacity amounted to 145,362 MW, the highest of any country and 33•6% of the world total.


China is one of the world’s leading mineral producing and consuming countries. Recoverable deposits of coal in 2012 totalled 229•9bn. tonnes, mainly distributed in north China (particularly Shanxi province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region). Coal production was 3,660m. tonnes in 2012. Annual coal production has increased every year since 2000. Growing domestic demand nonetheless meant that China became a net importer of coal in 2009.

Iron ore reserves were 19•5bn. tonnes in 2012. Deposits are abundant in the anthracite field of Shanxi, in Hebei and in Shandong, and are found in conjunction with coal and worked in the northeast. Production in 2012 was 1,310m. tonnes, making China the world’s largest iron ore producer. It is also the largest consumer, at around 55% of the global total in 2012.

Tin ore is plentiful in Yunnan, where the tin-mining industry has long existed. Tin production was 110,000 tonnes in 2012.

China is a major producer of wolfram (tungsten ore). There is mining of wolfram in Hunan, Guangdong and Yunnan.

Output of other minerals (in 1,000 tonnes) in 2012: salt, 69,100; bauxite, 47,000; aluminium, 37,700; zinc, 4,900; lead, 2,800; copper, 1,550. There are also reserves of diamond, nickel, barite, bismuth, graphite, gypsum, mercury, molybdenum, silver, salt, phosphate ore and sylvite. Gold production, 2012: 403 tonnes. China surpassed South Africa as the world’s leading gold producer in 2007, since when its output has increased every year.


Agriculture accounted for approximately 10% of GDP in 2012, compared to over 50% in 1949 at the time of the birth of the People’s Republic of China and over 30% in 1980. In 2015 sown areas for major crops were (in 1m. ha.): corn, 38•12; rice, 30•22; wheat, 24•14; soybeans, 8•87; tubers, 8•84; rapeseed, 7•53. Intensive agriculture and horticulture have been practised for millennia. Present-day policy aims to avert the traditional threats from floods and droughts by soil conservancy, afforestation, irrigation and drainage projects, and to increase the ‘high stable yields’ areas by introducing fertilizers, pesticides and improved crops. In Aug. 1998 more than 21m. ha., notably in the Yangtze valley, were under water as China experienced its worst flooding since the 1950s. The 1998 flood season claimed over 4,100 lives.

‘Township and village enterprises’ in agriculture comprise enterprises previously run by the communes of the Maoist era, co-operatives run by rural labourers and individual firms of a certain size. There were 1,786 state farms in 2012 with 3•18m. employees. Net per capita annual income of rural households, 2012: 7,917 yuan.

In 2014 there were an estimated 106•3m. ha. of arable land and 16•2m. ha. of permanent cropland; 70•4m. ha. were equipped for irrigation.

There were 4•85m. large/medium-sized tractors in 2012 and 17•97m. small tractors.

China is the world’s leading producer of a number of agricultural crops. Production of major products (in 1m. tonnes), 2015 (unless otherwise indicated): corn, 224•63; rice, 208•23; wheat, 130•19; sugarcane, 116•97; potatoes (2014 estimate), 95•57; watermelons (2014 estimate), 75•05; sweet potatoes (2014 estimate), 71•54; cucumbers and gherkins (2014 estimate), 56•90; tomatoes (2014 estimate), 52•72; apples (2014 estimate), 40•92; cabbages, kale, etc. (2014 estimate), 33•95; aubergines (2014 estimate), 29•52; onions (2014 estimate), 22•61; spinach (2014 estimate), 22•11; garlic (2014 estimate), 20•06; seed cotton (2014 estimate), 18•53; pears (2014 estimate), 18•10; carrots and turnips (2014 estimate), 17•44; peanuts, 16•44; tangerines and mandarins (2014 estimate), 16•44. Tea production in 2015 was 2,249,000 tonnes. China ranked sixth for wine production in 2014, with 1•1m. litres, and overtook France in 2013 as the largest consumer of red wine in the world. The gross output value of farming in 2012 was 4,694,050m. yuan; and of animal husbandry, 2,718,940m. yuan.

Livestock, 2015 (unless otherwise indicated): pigs, 451,125,000; sheep, 162,062,000; goats, 148,934,000; cattle and buffaloes, 108,173,000; horses, 5,908,000; chickens (2014 estimate), 4•63bn.; ducks (2014 estimate), 665m. China has more pigs, goats, sheep, horses and chickens than any other country. It is also home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s ducks. Meat production in 2015 was estimated at 86•25m. tonnes; milk, 38•70m. tonnes; eggs, 29•99m. tonnes; honey, 477,000 tonnes. China is the world’s leading producer of meat and eggs.

Gale, Fred, (ed.) China’s Food and Agriculture: Issues for the 21st Century. 2012

Powell, S. G., Agricultural Reform in China: from Communes to Commodity Economy, 1978–1990. 1992


In 2015 the area under forests was 208•32m. ha., or 22% of the total land area. The average annual increase in forest cover of 1,542,000 ha. between 2010 and 2015 was the highest of any country in the world. Total roundwood production in 2011 was 329•47m. cu. metres, making China the world’s third largest timber producer (9•4% of the world total in 2011). It is the highest consumer of roundwood; timber consumption in 2011 totalled 375•71m. cu. metres. It is also the world’s leading importer of roundwood, accounting for 35•9% of world timber imports in 2011.


Total catch, 2012: 16,167,443 tonnes, of which 13,869,604 tonnes were from marine waters. China’s annual catch is the largest in the world, and currently accounts for approximately 18% of the world total. In 1989 the annual catch had been just 5•3m. tonnes. China’s aquaculture production is also the largest in the world, at 45,468,960 tonnes in 2014. Imports of fishery commodities in 2012 were valued at US$7,441m. (the third highest behind Japan and the USA); exports were the most of any country, at US$18,211m. China’s fishery commodities exports in 2012 represented approximately 13% of the global total.


The leading companies by market capitalization in China in May 2017 were Tencent Holdings, an investment holding company (US$277•1bn.); Alibaba, an e-commerce and data company (US$264•9bn.); and ICBC, the world’s largest commercial bank (US$229•8bn.). In Nov. 2007 PetroChina was briefly the world’s largest company after its flotation on the Shanghai stock market, with a market capitalization in excess of US$1trn., although its rank has since fallen considerably.

Industry accounted for 43•1% of GDP in 2015. Cottage industries persist into the 21st century. Industrial output grew by 15•7% in 2010. Modern industrial development began with the manufacture of cotton textiles and the establishment of silk filatures, steel plants, flour mills and match factories. In 2012 there were 343,769 industrial enterprises with an annual revenue of more than 20m. yuan. Of these enterprises, 286,861 were domestically funded, 30,973 were foreign funded and 25,935 were dependent on funds from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. There were 17,851 state-owned industrial enterprises in total.

Output of major products, 2015 unless otherwise indicated (in tonnes): cement, 2,359•2m.; rolled steel, 1,123•5m.; crude steel, 803•8m.; pig iron, 691•4m.; gas oil and diesel oil (2014), 176•4m.; gasoline, 121•0m.; paper and paperboard, 117•4m.; sulphuric acid, 89•8m.; chemical fertilizers, 74•3m.; fuel oil (2014), 35•4m.; yarn, 35•4m.; refined sugar, 14•7m. Also produced in 2015: cloth, 89,260m. metres; beer, 47,156•0m. litres; 1,812•6m. mobile phones; 174•4m. notebook PCs; 144•8m. colour TV sets; 142•0m. air conditioners; 79•9m. home refrigerators; 72•7m. washing machines; 68•8m. bicycles; 28•5m. cameras; 25•0m. motorcycles. China is the world’s leading cement, steel and pig iron manufacturer; since 2000 output of cement has doubled and production of crude steel and pig iron has quadrupled (although in 2015 both crude steel and pig iron production fell for the first time in 34 years). China overtook Japan as the world’s largest producer of motor vehicles in 2009, and in 2013 produced 18•1m. cars and 4•0m. commercial vehicles.


The employed population at the 1990 census was 647•2m. (291•1m. female). By 2012 it had risen to 767•0m. (2•8m. more than in 2011), of whom 396•0m. worked in rural areas (9•0m. fewer than in 2011) and 371•0m. in urban areas (11•9m. more than in 2011). In 2015 China’s registered urban jobless was 4•1%, with 9•66m. registered unemployed in the country’s cities. With China’s fast-growing ageing population, according to the United Nations the working-age population began to decline in 2015.

In 2012 China had 189,289 private industrial enterprises. It was not until the late 1970s that the private sector even came into existence in China.

The average annual wage of people working in urban units in 2012 was 46,769 yuan. China’s Labour Law stipulates a five-day working week with no more than eight hours a day and no more than 44 hours a week. Minimum working age was fixed at 16 in 1991. Strikes over pay have become ever more frequent in China, particularly at foreign-owned facilities.

China had 2•95m. people living in slavery according to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2013 Global Slavery Index, the second highest total of any country.

International Trade

There are five Special Economic Zones at Shenzhen, Xiamen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Hainan in which concessions are made to foreign businessmen. The Pudong New Area in Shanghai is also designated a special development area. Since 1979 joint ventures with foreign firms have been permitted. A law of April 1991 reduced taxation on joint ventures to 33%. There is no maximum limit on the foreign share of the holdings; the minimum limit is 25%.

In May 2000 the USA granted normal trade relations to China, a progression after a number of years when China was accorded ‘most favoured nation’ status. China subsequently joined the World Trade Organization on 11 Dec. 2001.

Saee, John, China and the Global Economy in the 21st Century. 2011

Imports and Exports

Trade in US$1m.:
















China is the second largest trading nation in the world, accounting for 10•3% of global merchandise imports by value in 2014 and 12•3% of global merchandise exports (up from 4•3% when it joined the WTO in 2001). It was the second largest importer in 2014 behind the USA and the largest exporter. As recently as 2004 the USA’s total trade in goods was more than twice that of China. It overtook Germany as the largest exporter of goods in 2009. Its trade surplus in goods is the highest of any country. However, it has the world’s highest trade deficit in services. In 2014 imports of services totalled US$382bn. but exports only US$232bn.

Main imports in 2015 (in US$1bn.): machinery and transport equipment, 682•4; non-edible raw materials, 209•7; mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials, 198•6; chemicals, 171•3. Major exports in 2015 (in US$1bn.): machinery and transport equipment, 1,059•1; miscellaneous manufactured goods, 587•5; light textile industrial products, rubber products, minerals and metallurgical products, 391•0; chemicals, 129•6.

The main trading partners were as follows in 2015 (in US$1m.):


Value of imports

Korea (Republic of)


















Hong Kong




Korea (Republic of)










Customs duties with Taiwan were abolished in 1980. Trade with the European Union is fast expanding, having increased from €259•5bn. in 2006 to €514•6bn. in 2016.



The total road length in 2012 was 4,237,500 km, including 96,200 km of expressways (of which there had not been any as recently as the mid-1980s); 31,885m. tonnes of freight and 35,570m. persons were transported by road that year. The number of civilian motor vehicles was 109•30m. in 2012, including 89•43m. passenger vehicles and 18•95m. trucks (more than double the number in 2008, when there were 51•00m. civilian vehicles overall including 38•39m. passenger vehicles and 11•26m. trucks). China is the world’s fastest-growing car market. There were 204,196 traffic accidents in 2012, with 59,997 fatalities.


In 2013 there were 103,000 km of railway. The high-speed network, at 20,000 km in Sept. 2016, is the longest in the world. The high-speed line linking Beijing and Guangzhou, which opened in Dec. 2012, is the longest in the world at 2,293 km. The railways carried 2•53bn. passengers in 2015 and 3•36bn. tonnes of freight. China’s railways are the busiest in the world, carrying 24% of global rail traffic. There are metro systems in Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Dongguan, Foshan, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Guiyang (where the first line opened in 2017), Haerbin, Hangzhou, Hefei, Kunming, Nanchang, Nanjing, Nanning, Ningbo, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Shijiazhuang (where the first line opened in 2017), Suzhou, Tianjin, Wuhan, Wuxi, Xiamen (where the first line opened in 2017) and Xian.

Civil Aviation

There are major international airports at Beijing (Capital), Guangzhou (Baiyun), Hong Kong (Chek Lap Kok) and Shanghai (Hongqiao and Pudong). In 2012 there were 180 civil airports for regular flights. The national and major airlines are state-owned. The leading Chinese airlines operating scheduled services in 2013 were China Southern Airlines (91•8m. passengers), China Eastern Airlines (79•1m.) and Air China (77•7m.). Other Chinese airlines include Hainan Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen Airlines. In Feb. 2010 Shanghai Airlines merged with China Eastern Airlines but they have both retained their brand and livery.

In 2013 the busiest airport was Beijing (Capital International), with 83•7m. passengers; followed by Hong Kong International (Chek Lap Kok), with 59•9m. passengers; Guangzhou (Baiyun), with 52•4m. passengers; and Shanghai (Pudong), with 47•1m. passengers. Beijing Capital was the second busiest airport in the world in 2013. As recently as 2003 it had not featured among the world’s 20 busiest airports. Hong Kong International was the world’s busiest airport for cargo in 2014, handling 4,411,193 tonnes; Shanghai (Pudong) was the third busiest, with 3,181,365 tonnes. In 2012 China had a total of 2,457 scheduled flight routes, of which 2,076 were domestic air routes and 381 were international air routes. Total passenger traffic in 2012 reached 319•36m.; freight traffic totalled 5•45m. tonnes.

Regular direct flights between mainland China and Taiwan resumed in July 2008 for the first time since 1949.


In Jan. 2014 there were 2,577 ships of 300 GT or over registered, totalling 44•45m. GT. Of the 2,577 vessels registered, 968 were bulk carriers, 583 general cargo ships, 545 oil tankers, 192 container ships, 189 passenger ships and 100 liquid gas tankers.

Mainland China’s busiest port in 2012 was Ningbo-Zhoushan (handling 744•0m. tonnes of cargo), followed by Shanghai (637•4m. tonnes), Tianjin (477•0 tonnes), Guangzhou (Canton) (435•2m. tonnes) and Qingdao (406•9m. tonnes). Shanghai overtook Singapore to become the world’s busiest container port in 2010 and handled 33•6m. TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2013. Shenzhen, mainland China’s second busiest port for container traffic and the world’s fourth busiest in 2012, handled 22•9m. TEUs. Hong Kong handled 23•1m. TEUs in 2012.

In Jan. 2001 the first legal direct shipping links between the Chinese mainland and Taiwanese islands in more than 50 years were inaugurated.

Inland waterways totalled 125,000 km in 2012; 4,587•0m. tonnes of freight and 257•5m. passengers were carried. In June 2003 the Three Gorges Reservoir on the Chang Jiang River, the largest water control project in the world, reached sufficient depth to support the resumption of passenger and cargo shipping.


In 2013 mobile phone subscriptions numbered 1,229,113,000 (887•1 per 1,000 persons), making China the biggest market for mobile phones in the world. The number of subscriptions doubled between 2007 and 2013. The two main mobile operators are China Mobile and China Unicom. The main landline operators are China Telecom and China Netcom. In 2013 there were 226,985,000 main (fixed) telephone lines, down from a peak of 367,786,000 in 2006. In 2002 there were 55,763,000 fixed internet subscriptions, but this had increased to 180,881,000 by 2012. That year the number of wireless broadband subscriptions rose to 232,803,000. In 2012 an estimated 42•3% of the population were internet users. In March 2012 there were only 447,000 Facebook users in mainland China (less than 0•1% of the population).

Social Institutions

Out of 178 countries analysed in the 2017 Fragile States Index—a list published jointly by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine—China was ranked the 85th most vulnerable to conflict or collapse. The index is based on 12 indicators of state vulnerability across social, political and economic categories.


Six new codes of law (including criminal and electoral) came into force in 1980, to regularize the legal unorthodoxy of previous years. There is no provision for habeas corpus. As well as treason and murder the death penalty may be used for rape, embezzlement, smuggling, fraud, theft, drug-dealing, bribery and robbery with violence. Amendments to the Criminal Law in 2011 and 2015 reduced the number of capital crimes—which include both violent and non-violent offences—from 68 to 55 and further to 46. China does not divulge figures on its use of the death penalty, but Amnesty International reported that in 2016 China executed thousands of people and was the world’s top executioner. Nevertheless, western analysts believe that the number of executions now is around a fifth of the yearly total in the 1990s. ‘People’s courts’ are divided into some 30 higher, 200 intermediate and 2,000 basic-level courts, and headed by the Supreme People’s Court. The latter, the highest state judicial organ, tries cases, hears appeals and supervises the people’s courts. It is responsible to the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee. People’s courts are composed of a president, vice-presidents, judges and ‘people’s assessors’ who are the equivalent of jurors. ‘People’s conciliation committees’ are charged with settling minor disputes. There are also special military courts. Procuratorial powers and functions are exercised by the Supreme People’s Procuracy and local procuracies.

In March 2017 the National People’s Congress passed legislation developing aspects of the 1986 General Principles of Civil Law, with effect from Oct. 2017. Among its provisions was the extension of legitimate rights and interests from Chinese citizens only to anyone conducting civil activities in the country. In addition, the statute of limitation was increased from two to three years.

The number of sentenced prisoners in mid-2015 was 1,649,804 (118 per 100,000 of national population). China was ranked 47th of 102 countries for criminal justice and 67th for civil justice in the 2015 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, which provides data on how the rule of law is experienced by the general public across eight categories.


An educational reform of 1985 brought in compulsory nine-year education consisting of six years of primary schooling and three years of secondary schooling, to replace a previous five-year system.

In mainland China the 2010 population census revealed the following levels of educational attainment: 119•63m. people had finished university education; 187•99m. had received senior secondary education; 519•66m. had received junior secondary education; and 358•76m. had had primary education. 54•66m. people over 15 years of age or 4•08% of the population were illiterate, although this compared favourably with a 15•88% rate of illiteracy in the 1990 census and a 6•72% rate in 2000. In 2010 adult literacy was estimated at 95•1%; youth literacy in 2010 was 99•6%.

In 2012 there were 181,251 kindergartens with 36•86m. children and 1•48m. full-time teachers; 228,585 regular primary schools with 96•96m. pupils and 5•59m. full-time teachers; 81,662 secondary schools (including: 14,205 senior secondary; 53,216 junior secondary; 5,245 specialized; 4,517 vocational; and 2,901 technical) with 94•21m. pupils and 5•99m. full-time teachers. There were also 378,751 pupils at 1,853 special education schools. Institutes of higher education, including universities, numbered 2,442 in 2012, with 23•91m. undergraduates and 1•72m. postgraduate level students, and 1•44m. full-time teaching staff. China has more than 600 private universities, almost all of which have been established since the mid-1990s. A national system of student loans was established in 1999. The number of Chinese students studying abroad went up from 3,000 in 1990 to 39,000 in 2000; it rose above 100,000 in 2002 and 200,000 in 20009, and by 2015 exceeded 500,000, making China the largest source of overseas students in the world. Chinese students account for a fifth of all international students in tertiary education in the OECD, but fewer than half return to China after finishing their studies. The number of Chinese undergraduate students in American universities in 2013–14 was 11 times as many as in 2006–07, rising from 10,000 to 110,000 in the space of seven years.

There is an Academy of Sciences with provincial branches. An Academy of Social Sciences was established in 1977.

In 2012 national government expenditure on education came to 2,124,210m. yuan and accounted for 16•9% of national government spending.


Medical treatment is free only for certain groups of employees, but where costs are incurred they are partly borne by the patient’s employing organization.

In 2012 there were 950,297 health institutions throughout China, including 23,170 hospitals, 912,620 local health centres, 3,490 centres for disease control and prevention, and 1,289 specialized prevention and treatment centres.

China’s first AIDS case was reported in 1985. At the end of 2014 there were 501,000 reported cases of people living with HIV/AIDS. The number of deaths of people who had been living with HIV/AIDS in 2014 was 21,000.

In the first half of 2003 China was struck by an epidemic of a pneumonia-type virus identified as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The virus was first detected in southern China and was subsequently reported in over 30 other countries. According to the Ministry of Health, by the time the outbreak had been contained a total of 5,327 cases had been reported on the Chinese mainland; 4,959 patients were cured and discharged from hospital, and 349 died.

In Water: At What Cost? The State of the World’s Water 2016, WaterAid reported that 4•5% of the population does not have access to safe water. China ranked as the country with the second largest number of people living without access to safe water (63•2m. in 2015).

In 2015 an estimated 47•6% of adult males and 1•8% of adult females smoked in China. A study from the same year estimated that Chinese males smoke one-third of all the world’s cigarettes.


In 2012 there were 48,078 social welfare enterprises with 4•49m. beds. Numbers (in 1,000) of beneficiaries of relief funds in 2012: urban residents receiving minimum living allowance, 21,435; rural residents receiving minimum living allowance, 53,445; persons receiving traditional relief, 796; persons in rural households entitled to the ‘five guarantees’ (food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses), 5,456. The official retirement age for men is 60 and for women 50 (or 55 in the case of civil servants and professionals).


The government accords legality to five religions only: Buddhism, Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Taoism. Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism have long been practised. Confucianism has no ecclesiastical organization and appears rather as a philosophy of ethics and government. Taoism—of Chinese origin—copied Buddhist ceremonial soon after the arrival of Buddhism two millennia ago. Buddhism in return adopted many Taoist beliefs and practices. A more tolerant attitude towards religion had emerged by 1979, and the government’s Bureau of Religious Affairs (since renamed the State Administration for Religious Affairs) was reactivated.

Ceremonies of reverence to ancestors have been observed by the whole population regardless of philosophical or religious beliefs.

A new quasi-religious movement, Falun Gong, was founded in 1992, but has since been banned by the authorities. The movement has claimed some 100m. adherents, although the Chinese government has disputed this.

Muslims are found in every province of China, being most numerous in the Ningxia-Hui Autonomous Region, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Shandong, Sichuan, Xinjiang and Shanxi.

Roman Catholicism has had a footing in China for more than three centuries. Two Christian organizations—the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which declared its independence from Rome in 1958, and the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement—are sanctioned by the Chinese government.

According to estimates (by the state-approved Xinhua news agency, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the State Administration for Religious Affairs) there were 100m. Buddhists (more than in any other country), 23m. Christians and more than 21m. Muslims in the country in 2009. Other official figures indicate that there are 5•3m. Catholics, although unofficial estimates are much higher. The number of Christians in China is generally thought to be far higher than official numbers indicate, with so-called ‘house churches’ becoming ever more popular. Some analysts estimate that there are as many as 100m. Christians overall.

Legislation of 1994 prohibits foreign nationals from setting up religious organizations.

Johnson, Ian, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion after Mao. 2017


World Heritage Sites

There are 52 sites in the People’s Republic of China that appear on the UNESCO World Heritage List. They are (with year entered on list): the Great Wall of China (1987), Zhoukoudian, the Peking Man site (1987), Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang (1987 and 2004), mausoleum of first Qing dynasty emperor, Beijing (1987), Taishan mountain (1987), Mogao Caves (1987), Mount Huangshan (1990), Huanglong Scenic Reserve (1992), Jiuzhaigou National Reserve (1992), Wulingyuan Scenic Reserve (1992), Chengde mountain resort and temples (1994), Potala palace, Lhasa (1994, 2000 and 2001), ancient building complex in the Wudang Mountains (1994), Qufu temple, cemetery and mansion of Confucius (1994), Mount Emei Scenic Reserve, including the Leshan Buddha (1996), Lushan National Park (1996), Lijiang old town (1997), Ping Yao old town (1997), Suzhou classical gardens (1997 and 2000), Summer Palace, Beijing (1998), Temple of Heaven, Beijing (1998), Mount Wuyi (1999), Dazu rock carvings (1999), Mount Qincheng and Dujiangyan irrigation system (2000), Xidi and Hongcun ancient villages, Anhui (2000), Longmen grottoes (2000), Ming and Qing dynasty tombs (2000, 2003 and 2004), the Yungang Grottoes (2001), the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (2003), the Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (2004), the historic centre of Macao (2005), the Sichuan Giant Panda sanctuaries (2006), Yin Xu (2006), Kaiping Diaolou and villages (2007), South China Karst (2007), Fuijan Tulou (2008), Mount Sanqingshan National Park (2008), Mount Wutai (2009), China Danxia, six sub-tropical areas of erosional landforms (2010), the Historic Monuments of Dengfeng (2010), the West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou (2011), Chengjiang Fossil Site, one of the earliest records of a complex marine ecosystem (2012), Xanadu, the remains of the summer capital of the Yuan Dynasty (2012), the cultural landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (2013), Xinjiang Tianshan (2013), a mountainous site comprising four components covering 606,833 ha. and an important habitat for endemic and relic flora species, the Grand Canal (2014), a vast waterway system running from Beijing to Zhejiang, Tusi Sites (2015), the remains of tribal domains whose leaders were appointed by the central government as ‘Tusi’, hereditary rulers of their regions from the 13th to the early 20th century, located in southwest China, Zuojiang Huashan Rock Art Cultural Landscape (2016), 38 sites of rock art that illustrate the life and rituals of the Luoyue people, Hubei Shennongjia (2016), a site that protects the largest primary forests in central China and provides habitat for a number of rare animal species, Kulangsu, a Historic International Settlement (2017), a tiny island located on the estuary of the Chiu-lung River, and Qinghai Hoh Xil (2017), the largest and highest plateau in the world. Shared with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an–Tianshan Corridor (2014) is a 5,000-km section of the extensive Silk Roads network stretching from Chang’an/Luoyang to the Zhetysu region in present-day Kazakhstan.


China has two news agencies: Xinhua (New China) News Agency (the nation’s official agency) and China News Service. In 2012 there were 1,918 newspapers and 9,867 magazines; 48,230m. copies of newspapers and 3,350m. copies of magazines were published. In 1980 there were fewer than 200 newspapers. The Communist Party newspaper, Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily), had an average daily circulation of 2•6m. in 2012. The most widely read newspaper is Cankao Xiaoxi, with an average daily circulation of 3•1m. in 2012. China has the second highest circulation of daily newspapers after India, with an estimated average daily total of 137•8m. in 2014. As of Sept. 2014 it was also home to the world’s two most visited online news sites: Xinhua News Agency (90•2m. unique desktop users per month) and People’s Daily Online (89•1m.). In the 2013 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, China ranked 173rd out of 179 countries.

In 2012, 7,920m. volumes of books were produced.


In 2012 tourist numbers totalled 57•7m. The World Tourism Organization predicts that China will overtake France as the world’s most visited destination by 2020. It was the third most visited destination in 2012 after France and the USA. Income from tourists in 2012 was US$50•0bn., ranking it fourth behind the USA, Spain and France. Expenditure by Chinese travellers outside of mainland China for 2013 was US$128•6bn., the most of any country. In 2011 both German and US travellers abroad had spent more than those from China.


The lunar New Year, also known as the ‘Spring Festival’, is a time of great excitement for the Chinese people. The festivities get under way 22 days prior to the New Year date and continue for 15 days afterwards. Dates of the lunar New Year: Year of the Dog, 16 Feb. 2018; Year of the Pig, 5 Feb. 2019. Lantern Festival, or Yuanxiao Jie, is an important, traditional Chinese festival, which is on the 15th of the first month of the Chinese New Year. Guanyin’s Birthday is on the 19th day of the second month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Guanyin is the Chinese goddess of mercy. Tomb Sweeping Day, as the name implies, is a day for visiting and cleaning the ancestral tomb and usually falls on 5 April. Dragon Boat Festival is called Duan Wu Jie in Chinese. The festival is celebrated on the 5th of the 5th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The Moon Festival is on the 15th of the 8th lunar month. It is sometimes called Mid-Autumn Festival. The Moon Festival is an occasion for family reunion. China’s largest rock festivals include the Midi Modern Music Festival in Beijing (May), Beijing Pop Festival (Sept.) and Modern Sky Festival, also in Beijing (Oct.).

Diplomatic Representatives

Of China in the United Kingdom (49–51 Portland Pl., London, W1B 1JL)

Ambassador: Liu Xiaoming.

Of the United Kingdom in China (11 Guang Hua Lu, Jian Guo Men Wai, Beijing 100600)

Ambassador: Barbara Woodward, DCMG, OBE.

Of China in the USA (3505 International Pl., NW, Washington, D.C., 20008)

Ambassador: Cui Tiankai.

Of the USA in China (55 An Jia Lou Rd, 100600 Beijing)

Ambassador: Terry Branstad.

Of China to the United Nations

Ambassador: Vacant.

Chargé d’Affaires a.i.: Wu Haitao.

Of China to the European Union

Ambassador: Zhang Ming.

Further Reading

State Statistical Bureau. China Statistical Yearbook

China Directory [in Pinyin and Chinese]. Annual

Adshead, S. A. M., China in World History. 1999

Baum, R., Burying Mao: Chinese Politics in the Age of Deng Xiaoping. 1994

Becker, Jasper, The Chinese. 2000

Breslin, Shaun, China and the Global Political Economy. 2007

Brown, Kerry, Contemporary China. 2nd ed. 2015.—CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping. 2016

The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of China. 2nd ed. 1991

The Cambridge History of China. 14 vols. 1978 ff.

Chang, David Wen-Wei and Chuang, Richard Y., The Politics of Hong Kong’s Reversion to China. 1999

Chang, Jung and Halliday, Jon, Mao: The Unknown Story. 2005

Cook, Sarah, Yao, Shujie and Zhuang, Juzhong, (eds.) The Chinese Economy Under Transition. 1999

De Crespigny, R., China This Century. 2nd ed. 1993

Dikötter, Frank, Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–1962. 2010.—The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945–1957. 2013.—The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962–1976. 2016

Dillon, Michael, China: A Modern History. 2006

Dittmer, Lowell, China’s Deep Reform: Domestic Politics in Transition. 2006

Dixin, Xu and Chengming, Wu, (eds.) Chinese Capitalism, 1522–1840. 1999

Evans, R., Deng Xiaoping and the Making of Modern China. 1993

Fairbank, J. K., The Great Chinese Revolution 1800–1985. 1987.—China: a New History. 1992

Farnell, John and Irwin Crookes, Paul, The Politics of EU-China Economic Relations. 2016

French, Howard W., China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa. 2014

Glassman, R. M., China in Transition: Communism, Capitalism and Democracy. 1991

Goldman, M., Sowing the Seeds of Democracy in China: Political Reform in the Deng Xiaoping Era. 1994

Guo, Jian, Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. 2006

Hsü, Immanuel C. Y., The Rise of Modern China. 6th ed. 2000

Huang, R., China: a Macro History. 2nd ed. 1997

Jisheng, Yang, Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao’s Great Famine. 2012

Kissinger, Henry, On China. 2011

Kroeber, Arthur R., China’s Economy: What Everyone Needs to Know. 2016

Kruger, Rayne, All Under Heaven: A Complete History of China. 2004

Lam, Willy Wo-Lap, Chinese Politics in the Hu Jintao Era: New Leaders, New Challenges. 2006

Lim, Louisa, The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. 2014

Liu, Guoli, China Rising: Chinese Foreign Policy in a Changing World. 2016

Lynch, Michael, Modern China. 2006

Ma, Jun, Chinese Economy in the 1990s. 1999

MacFarquhar, Roderick, (ed.) The Politics of China: Sixty Years of the People’s Republic of China. 3rd ed. 2011.—The Origins of the Cultural Revolution. 3 vols. 1998

McGregor, Richard, The Party: the Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers. 2010.—Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan and the Fate of US Power in the Pacific Century. 2017

Mitter, Rana, China’s War with Japan, 1937–1945: The Struggle for Survival. 2013

Mok, Ka-Ho, Social and Political Development in Post-Reform China. 1999

Osnos, Evan, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China. 2014

Pantsov, Alexander and Levine, Steven, Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life. 2015

Pursiainen, Christer, (ed.) At the Crossroads of Post-Communist Modernisation: Russia and China in Comparative Perspective. 2012

Roberts, J. A. G., A History of China. 3rd ed. 2011

Saich, Tony, Governance and Politics of China. 4th ed. 2015

Schell, Orville and Delury, John, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century. 2013

Schram, S. (ed.) Mao’s Road to Power: Revolutionary Writings 1912–1949. 7 vols. 2005

Shambaugh, David, China Goes Global: The Partial Power. 2013

Shenkar, Oded, The Chinese Century: The Rising Chinese Economy and Its Impact on the Global Economy, the Balance of Power, and Your Job. 2004

Short, Philip, Mao: A Life. 2000

Small, Andrew, The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics. 2015

Spence, Jonathan, D., The Chan’s Great Continent: China in Western Minds. 1998.—Mao Zedong. 2000

Suyin, H., Eldest Son, Zhou Enlai and The Making of Modern China. 1995

Tseng, Wanda and Cowen, David, India’s and China’s Recent Experience with Reform and Growth. 2007

Tubilewicz, Czeslaw, Critical Issues in Contemporary China. 2006

Weatherley, Robert, Making China Strong. 2014

Zha, Jianying, Tide Players: The Movers and Shakers of a Rising China. 2011


National Statistical Office: National Bureau of Statistics, 57 Yuetan Nanjie, Sanlihe, Xicheng District, Beijing 100826. Commissioner: Ning Jizhe.


Hong Kong


population projection, 2020: 7•55m.

GNI per capita, 2015: (PPP$) 54,265

HDI/world rank, 2015: 0•917/12

Key Historical Events

Hong Kong island and the southern tip of the Kowloon peninsula were ceded in perpetuity to the British Crown in 1841 and 1860 respectively. The area lying immediately to the north of Kowloon known as the New Territories was leased to Britain for 99 years in 1898. Talks began in Sept. 1982 between Britain and China over the future of Hong Kong after the lease expiry in 1997. On 19 Dec. 1984 the two countries signed a Joint Declaration by which Hong Kong became, with effect from 1 July 1997, a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, enjoying a high degree of autonomy and vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. The existing social and economic systems were to remain unchanged for another 50 years. This ‘one country, two systems’ principle, embodied in the Basic Law, became the constitution for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. In 2014 the island saw large-scale pro-democracy protests after Beijing announced that only approved candidates would be allowed to run for the post of Chief Executive at the March 2017 elections.

Territory and Population

Hong Kong (‘Xianggang’ in Mandarin Pinyin) island is situated off the southern coast of the Chinese mainland 32 km east of the mouth of the Pearl River. The area of the island is 81 sq. km. It is separated from the mainland by a fine natural harbour. On the opposite side is the peninsula of Kowloon (47 sq. km). The ‘New Territories’ include the mainland area lying to the north of Kowloon together with over 200 offshore islands (976 sq. km). Total area of the Territory is 1,106 sq. km, a large part of it being steep and unproductive hillside. Country parks and special areas cover over 40% of the land area. Since 1945 the government has reclaimed over 6,700 ha. from the sea, principally from the seafronts of Hong Kong and Kowloon, facing the harbour.

Based on the results of the 2016 population census Hong Kong’s resident population in June 2016 was 7,336,585 and the population density 6,633 per sq. km. In 2011, 60•5% of the population were born in Hong Kong, 32•1% in other parts of China and 7•4% in the rest of the world.

In 2011, 100% of the population lived in urban areas.

The UN gives a projected population for 2020 of 7•55m.

The official languages are Chinese and English.

Social Statistics

Annual population growth rate, 2006–11, 0•7%. Vital statistics, 2010: known births, 88,600; known deaths, 42,200; registered marriages, 52,600. Rates (per 1,000): birth, 12•5; death, 6•0; marriage, 7•4; infant mortality, 2010, 1•7 per 1 000 live births (one of the lowest rates in the world). Expectation of life at birth, 2010: males, 80•0 years; females, 85•9. The median age for marrying in 2010 was 33•2 years for males and 29•8 for females. Total fertility rate, 2010, 1•1 children per woman.


The climate is sub-tropical, tending towards temperate for nearly half the year, the winter being cool and dry and the summer hot and humid, May to Sept. being the wettest months. Normal temperatures are Jan. 60°F (15•8°C), July 84°F (28•8°C). Annual rainfall 87" (2,214•3 mm).


Hong Kong used to be administered by the Hong Kong government. The Governor was the head of government and presided over the Executive Council, which advised the Governor on all important matters. The last British Governor was Chris Patten. In Oct. 1996 the Executive Council consisted of three ex officio members and ten appointed members, of whom one was an official member. The chief functions of the Legislative Council were to enact laws, control public expenditure and put questions to the administration on matters of public interest. The Legislative Council elected in Sept. 1995 was, for the first time, constituted solely by election. It comprised 60 members, of whom 20 were elected from geographical constituencies, 30 from functional constituencies encompassing all eligible persons in a workforce of 2•9m., and ten from an election committee formed by members of 18 district boards. A president was elected from and by the members.

At the elections on 17 Sept. 1995 turnout for the geographical seats was 35•79%, and for the functional seats (21 of which were contested), 40•42%. The Democratic Party and its allies gained 29 seats, the Liberal Party 10 and the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance 6. The remaining seats went to independents.

Constitution and Government

In Dec. 1995 the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress set up a Preparatory Committee of 150 members (including 94 from Hong Kong) to oversee the retrocession of Hong Kong to China on 1 July 1997. In Nov. 1996 the Preparatory Committee nominated a 400-member Selection Committee to select the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and a provisional legislature to replace the Legislative Council. The Selection Committee was composed of Hong Kong residents, with 60 seats reserved for delegates to the National People’s Congress and appointees of the People’s Political Consultative Conference. On 11 Dec. 1996 Tung Chee Hwa was elected Chief Executive by 80% of the Selection Committee’s votes.

On 21 Dec. 1996 the Selection Committee selected a provisional legislature which began its activities in Jan. 1997 while the Legislative Council was still functioning. In Jan. 1997 the provisional legislature started its work by enacting legislation which would be applicable to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and compatible with the Basic Law.

Constitutionally Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The Basic Law enables Hong Kong to retain a high degree of autonomy. It provides that the legislative, judicial and administrative systems which were previously in operation are to remain in place. The Special Administrative Region Government is also empowered to decide on Hong Kong’s monetary and economic policies independent of China.

In July 1997 the first-past-the-post system of returning members from geographical constituencies to the Legislative Council was replaced by proportional representation. There were 20 directly elected seats out of 60 for the first elections to the Legislative Council following Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty, increasing in accordance with the Basic Law to 24 for the 2000 election with 36 indirectly elected. In the Sept. 2004 Legislative Council election (and that of Sept. 2008) 30 of the 60 seats were directly elected. For the election in Sept. 2012 the number of seats was increased to 70, with 35 directly elected and 30 indirectly elected by functional constituencies. There were also five new functional constituency seats nominated by elected District Council members. The Chief Executive is chosen by a Beijing-backed 1,200-member election committee (800 prior to the March 2012 election), although it has been stated that universal suffrage is the ultimate aim. In 2007 a timetable was announced for Hong Kong to directly elect its Chief Executive in 2017 and its Legislative Council in 2020. However, Beijing insisted that only approved candidates would be allowed to stand in 2017, prompting mass pro-democracy rallies in the territory in 2014 and formal rejection of the plan by the Legislative Council in June 2015. Beijing nevertheless refused to countenance amendments.

In July 2002 a new accountability or ‘ministerial’ system was introduced, under which the Chief Executive nominates for appointment 14 policy secretaries, who report directly to the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive is aided by the Executive Council, consisting of the three senior Secretaries of Department (the Chief Secretary, the Financial Secretary and the Secretary for Justice) and eleven other secretaries plus five non-officials.

The British Administration

Hong Kong used to be administered by the Hong Kong government. The Governor was the head of government and presided over the Executive Council, which advised the Governor on all important matters. The last British Governor was Chris Patten. In Oct. 1996 the Executive Council consisted of three ex officio members and ten appointed members, of whom one was an official member. The chief functions of the Legislative Council were to enact laws, control public expenditure and put questions to the administration on matters of public interest. The Legislative Council elected in Sept. 1995 was, for the first time, constituted solely by election. It comprised 60 members, of whom 20 were elected from geographical constituencies, 30 from functional constituencies encompassing all eligible persons in a workforce of 2•9m., and ten from an election committee formed by members of 18 district boards. A president was elected from and by the members.

At the elections on 17 Sept. 1995 turnout for the geographical seats was 35•79%, and for the functional seats (21 of which were contested), 40•42%. The Democratic Party and its allies gained 29 seats, the Liberal Party 10 and the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance 6. The remaining seats went to independents.

Recent Elections

In the Legislative Council election held on 4 Sept. 2016 turnout was 58•3%, up from 53•0% at the 2012 vote. 35 of the 70 seats were directly elected, the other 35 being returned by committees and professional associations in ‘functional constituencies’. Pro-Beijing parties won 40 of the 70 seats (43 of 70 in 2012); pro-democracy parties won 23 (27 of 70 in 2012); localists won 6; non-aligned won 1.

Carrie Lam was elected chief executive on 26 March 2017, receiving 777 of 1,194 votes in the Election Committee.

Current Government

In Feb. 2018 the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region comprised:

Chief Executive: Carrie Lam; b. 1957 (since 1 July 2017).

Chief Secretary for Administration: Matthew Cheung Kin-chung. Financial Secretary: Paul Chan Mo-po. Secretary for Justice: Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah. Environment: Wong Kam-sing. Innovation and Technology: Nicholas W. Yang. Home Affairs: Lau Kong-wah. Financial Services and the Treasury: James Henry Lau, Jr. Labour and Welfare: Law Chi-kwong. Civil Service: Joshua Law Chi-kong. Security: John Lee Ka-chiu. Transport and Housing: Frank Chan Fan. Food and Health: Sophia Chan Siu-chee. Commerce and Economic Development: Edward Yau Tang-wah. Development: Michael Wong Wai-lun. Education: Kevin Yueng Yun-hung. Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Patrick Nip Tak-kuen.

Government Website:


Services accounted for 92% of GDP in 2016 and industry 8%.

According to the anti-corruption organization Transparency International, Hong Kong ranked equal 13th in the world in a 2017 survey of the countries and regions with the least corruption in business and government. It received 77 out of 100 in the annual index.


Hong Kong has one of the world’s most open economies and is an internationally important financial centre. The territory’s economic rise was founded on its role as an international trade emporium, acting as a conduit for China’s burgeoning exports. Mainland China, the USA and Japan are Hong Kong’s major export partners, accounting for 51•2%, 7•2% and 5•0% of exports respectively in 2015. The island is dependent on imports of food and other resources. In 2015 it imported 49% of goods from mainland China, 7% from Taiwan and 6% from Japan.

In 2004 and 2005 the economy grew strongly on the back of a rise in Chinese tourism, healthy global demand for exports and improving domestic consumer confidence. However, the global financial crisis saw the economy shrink by 2•5% in 2009 before rebounding with a 6•8% increase the following year. Between 2010 and 2015 annual growth averaged 3•5%, supported by strong external demand. Student-led pro-democracy protests in the latter months of 2014 caused major disruption in several key business districts and threatened to weaken the local economy in the short term.

Foreign direct investment levels have been high, averaging 39% of GDP between 2010 and 2015 according to World Bank data, and the World Economic Forum ranked Hong Kong as the ninth most competitive economy in the world in its 2016 report. The government aims to tackle a housing shortage by providing 280,000 new housing units by the mid-2020s.


The unit of currency is the Hong Kong dollar (HKD) of 100 cents. It has been pegged since 1983 at a rate of HK$7•8 to the US dollar. Banknotes are issued by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Standard Chartered Bank, and, from May 1994, the Bank of China. Total money supply was HK$529,161m. in July 2009. In Aug. 2009 gold reserves were 67,000 troy oz and foreign exchange reserves were US$223,211m.

Inflation rates (based on IMF statistics):






















In 2010–11 revenue totalled HK$376•5bn. and expenditure HK$323•8bn. Earnings and profits taxes accounted for 38•0% of revenues in 2010–11 and indirect taxes 26•1%; education accounted for 19•1% of expenditures and social welfare 12•6%.


US$320•9bn. in 2016. Real GDP growth rates (based on IMF statistics):





















In the 2016 World Competitiveness Yearbook, compiled by the International Institute for Management Development, Hong Kong came first in the world ranking. The annual publication ranks and analyses how a nation’s business environment creates and sustains the competitiveness of enterprises.

Banking and Finance

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority acts as a central bank. The Chief Executive is Norman Chan. As at Dec. 2009 there were 145 banks licensed under the Banking Ordinance, of which 23 were locally incorporated. There were also 26 restricted licence banks, 28 deposit-taking companies and 71 representative offices of foreign banks. Licensed bank deposits were HK$5,193,003m. in July 2007; restricted licence bank deposits were HK$22,065m. There are three banks of issue: Bank of China (Hong Kong); The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation; and Standard Chartered Bank.

Gross external debt amounted to US$1,029,927m. in June 2012.

Total foreign direct investment in 2015 was a record US$174•9bn.

The principal regulator of Hong Kong’s securities and futures markets is the Securities and Futures Commission. Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEx), which was created in March 2000, owns and operates the only stock and futures exchange in Hong and their related clearing houses.

Energy and Natural Resources


Hong Kong’s carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of energy in 2011 were the equivalent of 13•2 tonnes per capita.


Installed capacity was 12•6m. kW in 2011. Production in 2011 was 39•03bn. kWh. Hong Kong is a net importer of electricity. Consumption in 2011 was 47•41bn. kWh.


The local agricultural industry is directed towards the production of high quality fresh food through intensive land use and modern farming techniques. Out of the territory’s total land area of 1,103 sq. km, only 60 sq. km is currently farmed. In 2006 local production accounted for 55% of live poultry consumed, 23% of live pigs and 4% of fresh vegetables. The gross value of local agricultural production totalled HK$1,184m. in 2006, with pig production valued at HK$585m., poultry production (including eggs) at HK$340m., and vegetable and flower production at HK$254m.


In 2015 the total catch was 145,193 tonnes, exclusively from marine waters.


The leading companies by market capitalization in Hong Kong in May 2017 were: China Mobile, a telecommunications company (US$225•3bn.); AIA Group, a life insurance company (US$77•1bn.); and CNOOC, an integrated oil company (US$54•8bn.).

Industry is mainly service-oriented. In June 2013 there were 343,006 establishments employing 2,505,081 persons in service industries and 11,609 establishments employing 103,350 persons in manufacturing industries. Establishment statistics by service type (and persons engaged) were mainly: import/export trade and wholesale, 116,335 (554,372); retail, 65,046 (264,805); social and personal services, 44,194 (460,973); professional and business services, 42,017 (344,544); financing and insurance, 21,683 (207,346); accommodation and food services, 17,201 (276,207); real estate, 15,071 (126,415).


In 2011 the size of the labour force (synonymous with the economically active population) was 3,703,100 (1,760,400 females). The persons engaged in June 2012 included 1,090,059 people in wholesale, retail and import/export trades, accommodation and food services, 664,652 in finance, insurance, real estate, professional and business services, 159,217 in the civil service, 107,637 in manufacturing and 71,721 in construction sites (manual workers only). A minimum wage of HK$28 per hour was introduced for the first time on 1 May 2011.

Unemployment stood at 3•1% in the period Sept.–Dec. 2011.

International Trade


Imports and Exports

In 2009 the total value of imports was HK$2,692,356m. and total exports HK$2,469,089m. The main suppliers of imports in 2009 were mainland China (46•4%), Japan (8•8%), Taiwan (6•5%), Singapore (6•5%) and USA (5•3%). In 2009, 51•2% of total exports went to mainland China, 11•6% to the USA, 4•4% to Japan, 3•2% to Germany and 2•4% to the United Kingdom.

The chief import items in 2009 were: electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances, etc. (26•8%); telecommunications, sound recording and reproducing equipment (13•7%); office machines and automatic data processing machines (9•2%); articles of apparel and clothing accessories (4•5%). The main exports in 2009 were: electrical machinery, apparatus and appliances, etc. (26•4%); telecommunications, sound recording and reproducing equipment (16•8%); office machines and automatic data processing machines (10•1%); articles of apparel and clothing accessories (7•2%).



In 2011 there were 2,086 km of roads, over 50% of which were in the New Territories. There are 16 road tunnels, including three under Victoria Harbour. In 2011 there were 435,000 private cars, 111,000 goods vehicles, 20,000 buses and coaches, and 39,000 motorcycles and mopeds. There were 15,541 road accidents in 2011, of which 128 were fatal. A total of 26•7m. tonnes of cargo were transported by road in 2011.

A 50-km bridge linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai in Guangdong Province in mainland China and Macao has been built and was scheduled to open in July 2018 following a number of delays.

Hong Kong was ranked fourth for its road infrastructure in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018.


Hong Kong’s railways are run by the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), a public listed company of which the government is the majority shareholder. The MTR system comprises nine railway lines serving Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. Its 175-km network has 82 stations and carries an average of 4•8m. passengers each day. MTR lines carried 1,545m. passengers in 2012. In addition, a Light Rail network (36•2 km and 68 stops) serves the local communities of Tuen Mun, Yuen Long and Tin Shui Wai in the New Territories; 464,000 passengers travel daily on the system. A high speed rail service between Hong Kong and Guangzhou on the mainland is scheduled to open in late 2018.

The electric tramway on the northern state of Hong Kong Island commenced operating in 1904 and has a total track length of 16 km. The Peak Tram, a funicular railway connecting the Peak district with the lower levels in Victoria, has a track length of 1•4 km and two tramcars (each with a capacity of 120 passengers per trip). It carries an average of 16,200 passengers daily.

The Airport Express Line (35•2 km) opened in 1998 and is also operated by the MTRCL. It carried 12•7m. passengers in 2012.

In June 2013 it was estimated that 12•2m. passenger journeys were made daily on public transport (including local railways, buses, etc.).

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018 Hong Kong ranked third for quality of rail infrastructure.

Civil Aviation

The new Hong Kong International Airport (generally known as Chek Lap Kok), built on reclaimed land off Lantau Island to the west of Hong Kong, was opened on 6 July 1998 to replace the old Hong Kong International Airport at Kai Tak, which was situated on the north shore of Kowloon Bay. More than 100 airlines now operate scheduled services to and from Hong Kong. In 2012 Cathay Pacific Airways, the largest Hong Kong-based airline, operated approximately 105,000 passenger and cargo services to 172 destinations in 41 countries and territories around the world. Cathay Pacific carried 21,146,492 passengers and 1•4m. tonnes of cargo in 2012. Dragonair, a Cathay Pacific subsidiary, provided scheduled services to 41 cities in mainland China and Asia in 2012. In 2012 Air Hong Kong, an all-cargo operator, provided scheduled services to Bangkok, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, Nagoya, Osaka, Penang (via Bangkok), Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo. Hong Kong International Airport handled more international freight in 2011 than any other airport. In 2011, 334,000 aircraft arrived and departed and 54m. passengers and 3•94m. tonnes of freight were carried on aircraft.

Hong Kong was second, behind only Singapore, in the rankings for air transport infrastructure in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018.


The port of Hong Kong handled 23•1m. TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2012, making it the world’s third busiest container port after Shanghai and Singapore. The Kwai Chung Container Port has 24 berths with 7,694 metres of quay backed by 275 ha. of cargo handling area. At the end of 2016 there were 2,513 ships (2,228 ocean-going) of 107,573,898 GT registered in Hong Kong. In 2016, 27,642 ocean-going vessels, 72,810 river cargo vessels and 84,559 river passenger vessels arrived at the port of Hong Kong. A total of 257m. tonnes of freight were handled in 2015.

Hong Kong was ranked third in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018 for the quality of its port facilities.


In 2013 there were 4,546,000 main (fixed) telephone lines (equivalent to 631•1 per 1,000 population). The local fixed telecommunications network services (FTNS) market in Hong Kong was liberalized in 1995. There were 17,098,000 mobile phone subscriptions in 2013 (equivalent to 2,373•5 per 1,000 population), up from 11,580,000 in 2008 (1,661•9 per 1,000 population). The number of subscriptions doubled between 2006 and 2013. The internet market has also seen huge growth. In 2013 there were 6,892,000 wireless broadband subscriptions (956•7 per 1,000 population) and 2,220,000 fixed broadband subscriptions (308•2 per 1,000 population). The number of fixed broadband subscriptions has been declining since 2011 as more people have wireless subscriptions instead. In March 2012 there were 3•8m. Facebook users.

The external telecommunications services market has been fully liberalized since 1 Jan. 1999, and the external telecommunications facilities market was also liberalized starting from 1 Jan. 2000.

Social Institutions


The Hong Kong Act of 1985 provided for Hong Kong ordinances to replace English laws in specified fields.

The courts of justice comprise the Court of Final Appeal (inaugurated 1 July 1997), which hears appeals on civil and criminal matters from the High Court; the High Court (consisting of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance); the Lands Tribunal, which determines on statutory claims for compensation over land and certain landlord and tenant matters; the District Court (which includes the Family Court); the Magistracies (including the Juvenile Court); the Coroner’s Court; the Labour Tribunal, which provides a quick and inexpensive method of settling disputes between employers and employees; the Small Claims Tribunal, which deals with monetary claims involving amounts not exceeding HK$50,000; and the Obscene Articles Tribunal.

While the High Court has unlimited jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters, the District Court has limited jurisdiction. The maximum term of imprisonment it may impose is seven years. Magistracies exercise criminal jurisdiction over a wide range of offences, and the powers of punishment are generally restricted to a maximum of two years’ imprisonment or a fine of HK$100,000.

After being in abeyance for 25 years, the death penalty was abolished in 1992.

75,936 crimes were reported in 2011, of which 13,100 were violent crimes. 38,327 people were arrested in 2011, of whom 8,962 were for violent crimes. The population in penal institutions was 9,067 at 31 Dec. 2011 (127 per 100,000 population).


In 2010 the adult literacy rate was 94•6% (92•4% in 2000). Universal basic education is available to all children aged from six to 15 years. In around three-quarters of the ordinary secondary day schools teaching has been in Cantonese since 1998–99, with about a quarter of ordinary secondary day schools still using English. In 2010 there were 148,940 pupils in 951 kindergartens, 331,112 in 572 primary schools (including 40 international schools) and 458,131 in 565 secondary schools (including 27 international schools).

The University of Hong Kong (founded 1911) had 12,916 full-time and 736 part-time students in 2010–11; the Chinese University of Hong Kong (founded 1963), 13,260 full-time and 654 part-time students; the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (founded 1991), 7,208 full-time and 26 part-time students; the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (founded 1972 as the Hong Kong Polytechnic), 13,925 full-time and 807 part-time students; the City University of Hong Kong (founded 1984 as the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong), 10,221 full-time and 11 part-time students; the Hong Kong Baptist University (founded 1956 as the Hong Kong Baptist College), 5,050 full-time and 506 part-time students; the Lingnan University (founded 1967 as the Lingnan College), 2,287 full-time and five part-time students; and the Hong Kong Institute of Education (founded 1994), 3,270 full-time and 3,706 part-time students.

Estimated total government expenditure on education in 2011–12 was HK$68•3bn. (18•6% of total government spending and 3•6% of GDP). In 2010–11: 20•1% of total government spending and 3•4% of GDP.

According to the OECD’s 2015 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) study, 15-year-olds in Hong Kong rank second among OECD and other major countries and cities in mathematics and reading, and ninth in science. The three-yearly study compares educational achievement of pupils in over 70 countries.


The Department of Health (DH) is the Government’s health adviser and regulatory authority. The Hospital Authority (HA) is an independent body responsible for the management of all public hospitals. In 2009 there were 12,424 registered doctors, equivalent to 1•8 doctors per 1,000 population. In 2009 there were 2,126 dentists, 38,641 nurses and 4,525 midwives. The total number of hospital beds in 2009 was 35,062, including 26,872 beds in 38 public hospitals under the HA and 3,818 beds in 13 private hospitals. The bed-population ratio was 5•0 beds per thousand population.

The Chinese Medicine Ordinance was passed by the Legislative Council in July 1999 to establish a statutory framework to accord a professional status for Chinese medicine practitioners and ensure safety, quality and efficacy of Chinese medicine. In 2009 there were 6,048 registered Chinese medicine practitioners.

Total expenditure on health in 2009–10 amounted to HK$88,069m., an increase of 5•2% over that in 2008–09.


Social welfare programmes include social security, family services, child care, services for the elderly, medical social services, youth and community work, probation, and corrections and rehabilitation. 171 non-governmental organizations are subsidized by public funds.

The government gives non-contributory cash assistance to needy families, unemployed able-bodied adults, the severely disabled and the elderly. Caseload as at Aug. 2011 totalled 280,358. Victims of natural disasters, crimes of violence and traffic accidents are financially assisted. Estimated recurrent government expenditure on social welfare for 2011–12 was HK$42•2bn.


According to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, an estimated 56•1% of the population in 2010 had no religious affiliation, 14•3% were Christians (four-fifths Protestants and a fifth Catholics), 13•2% were Buddhists and 12•8% folk religionists. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun became Hong Kong’s first cardinal in 2006. In Feb. 2018 the Roman Catholic church had two cardinals.



In 2008 there were 54 daily newspapers, of which 50 were paid-for and four free. The newspapers with the highest circulation figures are all Chinese-language papers—Oriental Daily News, Apple Daily and The Sun. The English-language paper with the highest circulation is the South China Morning Post. Circulation of dailies (including free papers) in 2008 was 3•6m. (2•0m. paid-for and 1•6m. free). A number of news agency bulletins are registered as newspapers.


There were a record 36,030,300 visitor arrivals in 2010. Expenditure associated to inbound tourism totalled HK$209,983•0m. in 2010.


The Hong Kong Arts Festival takes place in Feb.–March and features music, theatre, dance and opera. The Hong Kong International Film Festival (Aug.–Sept.) has been running annually since 1977.

Further Reading

Statistical Information: The Census and Statistics Department is responsible for the preparation and collation of government statistics. These statistics are published mainly in the Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics. The Department also publishes monthly trade statistics, economic indicators and an annual review of overseas trade, etc. Website:

Hong Kong [various years] Hong Kong Government Press

Brown, J. M. (ed.) Hong Kong’s Transitions, 1842–1997. 1997

Buckley, R., Hong Kong: the Road to 1997. 1997

Chang, David Wen-Wei and Chuang, Richard Y., The Politics of Hong Kong’s Reversion to China. 1999

Cottrell, R., The End of Hong Kong: the Secret Diplomacy of Imperial Retreat. 1993

Courtauld, C. and Holdsworth, M., The Hong Kong Story. 1997

Flowerdew, J., The Final Years of British Hong Kong: the Discourse of Colonial Withdrawal. 1997

Keay, J., Last Post: the End of Empire in the Far East. 1997

Lo, S.-H., The Politics of Democratization in Hong Kong. 1997

Lok, Sang Ho and Ash, Robert, China, Hong Kong and the World Economy. 2006

Roberts, E. V., et al., Historical Dictionary of Hong Kong and Macau. 1993

Shipp, S., Hong Kong, China: a Political History of the British Crown Colony’s Transfer to Chinese Rule. 1995

Tok, Sow Keat, Managing China’s Sovereignty in Hong Kong and Taiwan. 2013

Welsh, Frank, A History of Hong Kong. 2nd ed. revised. 2010


Região Administrativa Especial de Macau

(Macao Special Administrative Region)

population projection, 2020: 652,000

GDP per capita, 2015: US$75,574

Key Historical Events

Macao was visited by Portuguese traders from 1513 and became a Portuguese colony in 1557. Initially sovereignty remained vested in China, with the Portuguese paying an annual rent. In 1848–49 the Portuguese declared Macao a free port and established jurisdiction over the territory. On 6 Jan. 1987 Portugal agreed to return Macao to China on 20 Dec. 1999 when it would become a special administrative zone of China, with considerable autonomy.

Territory and Population

The Macao Special Administrative Region, which lies at the mouth of the Pearl River, comprises a peninsula (9•3 sq. km) connected by a narrow isthmus to the People’s Republic of China, on which is built the city of Santa Nome de Deus de Macao, the islands of Taipa (7•6 sq. km), linked to Macao by three bridges, Colôane (7•6 sq. km) linked to Taipa by a 2-km causeway, and Cotai, a strip of reclaimed land between Colôane and Taipa (6•0 km). The total area of Macao in 2016 was 30•5 sq. km. Additional land continues to be reclaimed from the sea. The population at the 2016 census was 650,834 (336,816 females); density, 21,339 people per sq. km. According to UN estimates, the entire population lived in urban areas in 2011. The official languages are Chinese and Portuguese, with the majority speaking the Cantonese dialect. Only about 4,000 people speak Portuguese as their first language.

The UN gives a projected population for 2020 of 652,000.

In 2015, 1,784 foreigners were legally registered for residency in Macao. There were 8,468 legal immigrants from mainland China.

Social Statistics

2014: births, 7,360 (11•8 per 1,000 population); deaths, 1,939 (3•1); marriages, 4,085 (6•6); divorces, 1,308 (2•1). Infant mortality, 2014, 2•0 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy at birth (2011–14), 82•9 years.


Sub-tropical tending towards temperate, with an average temperature of 23•0°C. The number of rainy days is around a third of the year. Average annual rainfall varies from 47–87" (1,200–2,200 mm). It is very humid from May to Sept.

Constitution and Government

Macao’s constitution is the ‘Basic Law’, promulgated by China’s National People’s Congress on 31 March 1993 and in effect since 20 Dec. 1999. It is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, and is directly under the Central People’s Government while enjoying a high degree of autonomy. The Legislative Assembly has 33 seats of which 14 are directly elected, 12 indirectly elected by functional constituencies and seven appointed by the chief executive.

Recent Elections

At the elections held on 17 Sept. 2017 the Macau-Guangdong Union won two of 14 elected seats with 10•0% of votes cast and the Union for Development two with 9•7%. Ten other parties won a single seat each. Turnout was 57•2%.

Fernando Chui Sai-on was re-elected chief executive for a second term on 31 Aug. 2014, receiving 380 out of 396 votes in the Election Committee.

Current Government

Chief Executive: Fernando Chui Sai-on; b. 1957 (sworn in 20 Dec. 2009 and re-elected in Aug. 2014).

Government Website:


The gaming sector is of major importance to the economy of Macao. It accounted for 46•1% of total GDP in 2013 and provides billions of dollars in taxes. In 2014, 21•5% of the workforce was employed in gaming. In 2014 gross gaming revenue totalled US$43,307m. (nearly double the 2010 figure). However, 2014 revenues were down slightly on the 2013 total. Macao overtook Nevada as the world’s largest gaming market in 2008.


After its transfer of sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China in 1999, Macao achieved high growth based on tourism and gambling. China’s relaxation of travel restrictions in 1999 resulted in an increase in mainland visitors to more than 20m. by 2015 out of a total of 30m. visitors. The cessation of business magnate Stanley Ho’s monopoly of the local gaming industry in 2001 and its opening up to foreign competition led to an influx of foreign investment that made Macao the world’s biggest gaming centre in 2008. Gambling revenues exceeded US$28bn. in 2015, having grown by more than 20% per year on average from 2008.

The economy grew by an average 7•7% per year from 2005–13, driven mainly by the gaming sector and the ongoing construction of a number of casino resorts. However, it went into recession from 2014 following China’s crackdown on government corruption.

Macao’s traditional manufacturing industries virtually disappeared following the transfer of much of the textile industry to the Chinese mainland and, in 2005, the termination of the Multifibre Arrangement, which had governed international textile trade flows for three decades.


The unit of currency is the pataca (MOP) of 100 avos, which is tied to the Hong Kong dollar at parity. Inflation was 8•6% in 2008 and 1•2% in 2009. Foreign exchange reserves were US$18,350m. in 2009. Total money supply was 30,608m. patacas in 2009.


In 2014 revenues totalled 161,861m. patacas; expenditures, 67,078m. patacas. Revenues from gaming tax accounted for 84•5% of total revenue in 2014; current expenditure accounted for 86•4% of expenditure.


Real GDP growth was just 1•7% in 2009 but then rose to 25•3% in 2010 and 21•7% in 2011. More recently the economy contracted by 0•9% in 2014 and then by 20•3% in 2015—the lowest rates for any advanced economy that year—owing to a decline in tourism and gaming revenues. Total GDP in 2016 was US$44•8bn.

Banking and Finance

There are two note-issuing banks in Macao—the Macao branch of the Bank of China and the Macao branch of the Banco Nacional Ultramarino. The Monetary Authority of Macao functions as a central bank (Chairman, Teng Lin Seng). Commercial business is handled (2015) by 28 banks, nine of which are local and 19 foreign. Total deposits, 2015 (including non-resident deposits), 728,785•9m. patacas. There are no foreign exchange controls within Macao.

Energy and Natural Resources


Macao’s carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of energy in 2011 were the equivalent of 2•8 tonnes per capita.


Installed capacity was 0•47m. kW in 2013; production, 0•41bn. kWh. Macao imported 4,059m. kWh of electricity in 2013.

Oil and Gas

202,688,000 litres of fuel oil were imported in 2009.


The catch in 2015 was estimated at 1,500 tonnes.


Although the economy is based on gaming and tourism there is a light industrial base of textiles and garments. In 2014 the number of manufacturing establishments was 864 (food products and beverages, 284; textiles and wearing apparel, 160; publishing, printing and reproduction of recorded media, 153).


In 2015 a total of 396,500 people were in employment, including 83,500 (21•1%) in gaming and junket activities (up from 12,500 in 1999); 55,000 (13•9%), hotels, restaurants and similar activities; 54,800 (13•8%), construction; 45,000 (11•4%), wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and household goods; 29,800 (7•5%), real estate and business activities; 29,400 (7•4%), public administration and social security. Employment in 2015 was 98•2% of the labour force; unemployment rate stood at 1•8%.

International Trade

Imports and Exports

In 2009 imports (c.i.f.) were valued at US$4,750•9m., of which the main products were telecommunications, sound recording and reproducing equipment; petroleum and petroleum products; and gold, silverware, jewellery and articles of precious materials. In 2009 the chief import sources (in US$1m.) were: mainland China (1,451•6); Hong Kong (505•4); Japan (381•9).

2009 exports (f.o.b.) were valued at US$960•7m., of which the leading products were articles of apparel and clothing accessories; gold, silverware, jewellery and articles of precious materials; and petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals. In 2009 the main export markets (in US$1m.) were: Hong Kong (377•5); USA (163•8); mainland China (139•9).



In 2013 there were 421 km of roads. In 2013 there were 97,721 passenger cars in use (179 cars per 1,000 inhabitants), 3,723 buses and coaches, 5,114 trucks and 119,453 motorcycles. There were 19 fatalities in road accidents in 2013.

A 50-km bridge linking Macao, Zhuhai in Guangdong Province in mainland China and Hong Kong has been built and was scheduled to open in July 2018 following a number of delays.

Civil Aviation

An international airport opened in Dec. 1995. In 2009 Macau International Airport handled 3,643,970 passengers and 52,464 tonnes of freight (including transit cargo). In 2013 Air Macau flew to Bangkok, Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Da Nang, Hangzhou, Hefei, Kaohsiung, Nanjing, Nanning, Ningbo, Osaka, Quanzhou, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenyang, Taipei, Taiyuan, Tokyo, Wenzhou, Xiamen and Zhengzhou.


Regular services connect Macao with Hong Kong, 65 km to the northeast.


In 2011 there were 165,500 landline telephone subscriptions (equivalent to 297•9 per 1,000 inhabitants) and 1,353,200 mobile phone subscriptions (or 2,435•0 per 1,000 inhabitants). In 2012, 82•5% of households had internet access. In March 2012 there were 205,000 Facebook users.

Social Institutions


There are a judicial district court, a criminal court and an administrative court with 24 magistrates in all.

In 2009 there were 12,406 crimes, of which 6,462 were against property. There were 930 persons in prison in Dec. 2009.


There are both public and private schools. In 2014–15 there were 95 schools and colleges. Number of students in the 2014–15 academic year (with number of teachers): pre-primary, 14,552 (916); primary, 24,252 (1,722); secondary, 30,088 (2,629). In 2014–15 there were four special education schools with 624 pupils and 112 teachers. There were ten higher education institutions with student enrolment of 30,771. In 2014 there were 31 institutions offering vocational training courses, in which participants totalled 52,636.

Expenditure on education came to 1•8% of GDP in 2013 and 14•9% of total government spending in 2014.


In 2009 there were 723 doctors, 108 dentists and 450 nurses working in primary health care, and 560 doctors, 14 dentists and 1,169 nurses working in hospitals. In 2009 there were 1,294 hospital beds; there were 2•4 doctors per 1,000 population.


In 2010 there were an estimated 320,000 folk religionists and 90,000 Buddhists according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. A further 80,000 people were religiously unaffiliated. There are also small numbers of Catholics.


World Heritage Sites

The historic centre of Macao was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005.


In 2009 there were 14 daily newspapers (nine in Chinese, three in Portuguese and two in English) and 11 weekly newspapers (ten in Chinese and one in Portuguese).


Tourism is one of the mainstays of the economy. In 2014 there were 31•5m. tourists (of which 21•3m. were from mainland China, 6•4m. from Hong Kong and 1•0m. from Taiwan), up from 29•3m. in 2013 and 28•1m. in 2012. Visitor spending in 2014 totalled 61,749m. patacas.


The government-run Macao International Music Festival featuring a wide range of Chinese and Western music takes place in Oct.–Nov.

Further Reading

Direcção dos Serviços de Estatística e Censos. Anuário Estatístico/Yearbook of Statistics Macau in Figures. Annual

Porter, J., Macau, the Imaginary City: Culture and Society, 1557 to the Present. 1996

Roberts, E. V., Historical Dictionary of Hong Kong and Macau. 1993

Statistics and Census Service Website:


Zhonghua Minguo

(‘Republic of China’)

Capital: Taipei

population projection, 2020: 23•82m.

GDP per capita, 2013: US$20,925

Key Historical Events


Taiwan, christened Ilha Formosa (‘beautiful island’) by the Portuguese, was ceded to Japan by China by the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. After the Second World War the island was surrendered to Gen. Chiang Kai-shek who made it the headquarters for his crumbling Nationalist Government. Until 1970 the USA supported Taiwan’s claims to represent all of China. Only in 1971 did the government of the People’s Republic of China manage to replace that of Chiang Kai-shek at the UN. In Jan. 1979 the USA established formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, breaking off formal ties with Taiwan. Taiwan itself has continued to reject attempts at reunification, and although there have been frequent threats of direct action from mainland China (including military manoeuvres off the Taiwanese coast) the prospect of confrontation with the USA supports the status quo.

In July 1999 President Lee Teng-hui repudiated Taiwan’s 50-year-old ‘One China’ policy—the pretence of a common goal of unification—arguing that Taiwan and China should maintain equal ‘state to state’ relations. This was a rejection of Beijing’s view that Taiwan is no more than a renegade Chinese province which must be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. In the presidential election of 18 March 2000 Chen Shui-bian, leader of the Democratic Progressive Party, was elected, together with Annette Lu Hsiu-lien as his Vice President. Both supported independence although Chen Shui-bian made friendly gestures towards China and distanced himself from colleagues who wanted an immediate declaration of independence. Following his wife’s indictment on embezzlement charges in Nov. 2006, President Chen survived three parliamentary attempts to impeach him. He was succeeded as president in 2008 by Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist Party.

In Sept. 2009 Chen Shui-bian received a life sentence (later reduced to a 19-year term) after being found guilty of multiple counts of corruption. China and Taiwan signed a free trade agreement in June 2010, which was considered a significant thawing of relations. Nonetheless, tensions remained, particularly in relation to disputed sovereignty over several islands in the East China Sea. In Jan. 2012 Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected to the presidency but the election in Jan. 2016 was won by Tsai Ing-wen, whose Democratic Progressive Party won the most seats in legislative polls at the same time—the first occasion that the Nationalist Party has not been the largest party in government since 2004.

Territory and Population

Taiwan lies between the East and South China Seas about 160 km from the coast of Fujian. The territories currently under the control of the Republic of China include Taiwan, Penghu (the Pescadores), Kinmen (Quemoy) and Lienchiang (the Matsu Islands), as well as the archipelagos in the South China Sea. Off the Pacific coast of Taiwan are Green Island and Orchid Island. To the northeast of Taiwan are the Tiaoyutai Islets. The total area of Taiwan Island, the Penghu Archipelago and the Kinmen area (including the fortified offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu) is 36,193 sq. km (13,974 sq. miles). Population (2015), 23,492,074. The ethnic composition is 84% native Taiwanese (including 15% of Hakka), 14% of Mainland Chinese and 2% aborigine of Malayo-Polynesian origin. There were also 519,984 aboriginals of Malay origin in Dec. 2011. In 2009 Taiwan adopted hanyu pinyin, developed in the 1950s on mainland China, as the standard system for romanizing Chinese characters. However, by 2014 several cities, including Kaohsiung—the second largest—refused to use hanyu pinyin in what was widely seen as a political statement against perceived closer ties with Beijing. Population density: 642 per sq. km.

Taiwan’s administrative units comprise (with 2013 populations): five special municipalities: Kaohsiung (2,779,877), New Taipei (3,954,929), Taichung (2,701,661), Tainan (1,883,208), Taipei, the capital (2,686,516); three provincial cities: Chiayi (270,872), Hsinchu (428,483), Keelung (374,914); 12 counties (hsien) in Taiwan Province: Changhwa (1,296,013), Chiayi (529,229), Hsinchu (530,486), Hualien (333,897), Ilan (458,456), Miaoli (565,554), Nantou (517,222), Penghu (100,400), Pingtung (852,286), Taitung (224,821), Taoyuan (2,044,023), Yunlin (707,792); two counties in Fujian Province: Kinmen (120,713), Lienchiang (12,165).

Social Statistics

In 2006 the birth rate was 9•0 per 1,000 population; death rate, 6•0 per 1,000. Population growth rate, 2006, 0•5%. Life expectancy, 2006: males, 74•1 years; females, 80•2 years. Infant mortality, 2006, 5•8 per 1,000 live births.


The climate is subtropical in the north and tropical in the south. The typhoon season extends from July to Sept. The average monthly temperatures of Jan. and July in Taipei are 59•5°F (15•3°C) and 83•3°F (28•5°C) respectively, and average annual rainfall is 84•99" (2,158•8 mm). Kaohsiung’s average monthly temperatures of Jan. and July are 65•66°F (18•9°C) and 83•3°F (28•5°C) respectively, and average annual rainfall is 69•65" (1,769•2 mm).

Constitution and Government

The ROC Constitution is based on the Principles of Nationalism, Democracy and Social Wellbeing formulated by Dr Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. The ROC government is divided into three main levels: central, provincial/municipal and county/city, each of which has well-defined powers.

The central government consists of the Office of the President, the National Assembly, which is specially elected only for constitutional amendment, and five governing branches called ‘yuan’, namely the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan, the Judicial Yuan, the Examination Yuan and the Control Yuan. Beginning with the elections to the seventh Legislative Yuan held on 12 Jan. 2008 the Legislative Yuan has 113 members (formerly 225). Of the 113 members 73 are elected under the first-past-the-post system in single-member constituencies, 34 are filled by proportional representation in accordance with a nationwide party vote and six are reserved for aboriginal candidates.

Since 1996 the president has been directly elected. Since 1997 a resolution on the impeachment of the president or vice president is no longer to be instituted by the Control Yuan but rather by the Legislative Yuan. The Legislative Yuan has the power to pass a no-confidence vote against the premier of the Executive Yuan, while the president of the Republic has the power to dissolve the Legislative Yuan. The premier of the Executive Yuan is directly appointed by the president of the Republic.

In Dec. 2003 a law came into effect allowing for referendums to be held.

National Anthem

‘San Min Chu I’ (‘The Three Principles of the People’); words by Dr Sun Yat-sen, tune by Cheng Mao-yun.

Recent Elections

Presidential elections took place on 16 Jan. 2016. Tsai Ing-wen (Democratic Progressive Party) won 56•1% of the vote, Eric Chu Li-luan (Nationalist Party/Kuomintang) 31•0% and James Soong Chu-yu (People First Party) 12•8%.

Elections to the Legislative Yuan were also held on 16 Jan. 2016. The Democratic Progressive Party won 68 seats (50 constituency and 18 proportional); the Nationalist Party, 35 (24 constituency and 11 proportional); the New Power Party, 5; the People First Party, 3; the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union, 1; ind., 1.

Current Government

President: Tsai Ing-wen; b. 1956 (Nationalist Party/Kuomintang; sworn in 20 May 2016).

Vice President: Chen Chien-jen.

Prime Minister and President of the Executive Yuan: Lai Ching-te; b. 1959 (Democratic Progressive Party; sworn in 8 Sept. 2017). Vice Premier: Shih Jun-ji. There are 12 ministries under the Executive Yuan: Culture; Economic Affairs; Education; Finance; Foreign Affairs; Health and Welfare; Interior; Justice; Labour; National Defence; Science and Technology; Transportation and Communications.

President, Control Yuan: Chang Po-ya. President, Examination Yuan: Wu Jin-lin. President, Judicial Yuan: Hsu Tzong-li. President, Legislative Yuan: Su Jia-chyuan. Secretary General, Executive Yuan: Cho Jung-tai. Minister of Culture: Cheng Li-chiun. Economic Affairs: Shen Jong-chin. Education: Pan Wen-chung. Finance: Sheu Yu-jer. Foreign Affairs: Joseph Wu. Health and Welfare: Chen Shih-chung. Interior: Yeh Jiunn-rong. Justice: Chiu Tai-san. Labour: Lin Mei-chu. National Defence: Yen De-fa. Science and Technology: Chen Liang-gee. Transportation and Communications: Ho Chen-tan. Ministers without Portfolio: Lin Wan-i; Chang Jing-sen; Wu Tsung-tsong; Chen Mei-ling (also Minister of the National Development Council); Deng Chen-chung; Tang Feng; Lo Ping-cheng; Wu Tse-cheng (also Minister of the Public Construction Commission); Hsu Kuo-yung (also Spokesperson, Executive Yuan).

A number of commissions and subordinate organizations have been formed with the resolution of the Executive Yuan Council and the Legislature to meet new demands and handle new affairs. Examples include the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission; the Mainland Affairs Council; the Fair Trade Commission; the Public Construction Commission; and the Financial Supervisory Commission. Some of these are headed by ministers without portfolio (see above). Other commissions, councils and agencies are headed by:

Council of Agriculture: Lin Tsung-hsien. Atomic Energy Council: Hsieh Shou-shing. Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics: Chu Tzer-ming. Central Election Commission: Chen In-chin. Coast Guard Administration: Lee Chung-wei. Environmental Protection Administration: Lee Ying-yuan. Fair Trade Commission: Huang Mei-ying. Financial Supervisory Commission: Koo Li-hsiung. Hakka Affairs Council: Lee Yung-te. Council of Indigenous Peoples: Icyang Parod. Mainland Affairs Council: Chen Ming-tong. National Communications Commission: Chan Ting-i. Overseas Community Affairs Council: Wu Hsin-hsing. Directorate General of Personnel Administration: Shih Ning-jye. Veterans’ Affairs Council: Lee Shying-jow.

Government Website:


Conscription was reduced from 14 months to 12 months in 2009. The government has announced its intention to move towards a volunteer professional force—a process that was originally scheduled to start in 2011 and end in 2014 but was delayed owing to low recruitment levels. In Dec. 2016 the defence minister announced that conscription would officially cease in 2018. Defence expenditure in 2013 totalled US$10,316m. (US$443 per capita), representing 2•1% of GDP.


The Republic of China Army conducts ground combat missions as well as air support and airborne special operations. It was estimated to number about 200,000 personnel in 2011, with reserves numbering 1•5m. Its principal role is to defend against a possible amphibious assault from the Chinese mainland by the People’s Liberation Army. In addition there are paramilitary forces totalling 17,000 personnel.


Navy personnel in 2011 totalled 45,000, with 67,000 reservists. The forces consist of four submarines, four cruisers and 22 frigates. There are also 61 missile craft for patrol and coastal defence, 12 mine-laying vehicles and 290 amphibious landing craft.

Air Force

In 2011 the air force numbered 55,000 personnel with 90,000 reservists. There were 477 combat-capable aircraft in the same year including F-5Es, F-16s and Mirage 2000-5s.

International Relations

By a treaty of 2 Dec. 1954 the USA pledged to defend Taiwan, but this treaty lapsed one year after the USA established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China on 1 Jan. 1979. In April 1979 the Taiwan Relations Act was passed by the US Congress to maintain commercial, cultural and other relations between USA and Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan and its Taiwan counterpart, the Co-ordination Council for North American Affairs in the USA, which were accorded quasi-diplomatic status in 1980. The People’s Republic took over the China seat in the UN from Taiwan on 25 Oct. 1971. In May 1991 Taiwan ended its formal state of war with the People’s Republic. Taiwan became a member of the World Trade Organization on 1 Jan. 2002.

In Feb. 2018 Taiwan had formal diplomatic ties with 20 countries. In Aug. 2007, 15 of the diplomatic allies sponsored an unsuccessful proposal for Taiwan to join the UN.



Taiwan has made a successful transition from an agricultural economy to one based on high-tech electronics. Economic growth averaged 8% per year over three decades from the 1970s, driven primarily by high value-added manufacturing and exports, especially in electronics and computers.

Government-owned enterprises, including banks, have been privatized. Though largely escaping the impact of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the economy went into recession in 2001 with the first year of negative growth ever recorded and unemployment reaching record highs. Strong export performance stimulated a recovery, with annual GDP growth above 4% from 2002–08. Inflation has been consistently low and unemployment, which fell below 3% in 1999, has averaged between 4 and 6% since the turn of the century.

Owing to its heavy dependence on exports, Taiwan suffered a severe downturn as a result of the global financial crisis in 2008. Major export industries such as semiconductors and memory chips declined, unemployment reached its highest levels since 2003 and, in 2009, the economy again went into recession. A US$5•6bn. stimulus package boosted recovery and in 2010 the economy recorded its highest growth rate for nearly three decades, at 10•7%. However, growth subsequently cooled owing to lower demand from developed nations, averaging 1•9% per year between 2013 and 2016.

Tourism has grown in importance, with over 10•5m. visitors in 2016 constituting Taiwan’s highest annual number to date. An ageing population and high savings rates threaten to constrain domestic demand in the future.


The unit of currency is the New Taiwan dollar (TWD) of 100 cents. Gold reserves were 13•62m. oz in Dec. 2010. There was inflation of 1•2% in 2014 but deflation of 0•3% in 2015. Foreign exchange reserves were US$382•0bn. in Dec. 2010.


In 2006 general government revenues totalled NT$2,172,436m. and expenditures NT$2,261,958m. Tax revenue accounted for 71•7% of revenues in 2006; education, science and culture accounted for 21•6% of expenditures, economic development 17•0% and general administration 15•3%.


Taiwan sustained rapid economic growth at an annual rate of 9•2% from 1960 up to 1990. The rate slipped to 6•4% in the 1990s and 5•9% in 2000; Taiwan suffered from the Asian financial crisis, though less than its neighbours. In 2001 global economic sluggishness and the events of 11 Sept. in the USA severely affected Taiwan’s economy, which contracted by 2•2%. Subsequent economic recovery led to growth of 5•4% in 2006 and 6•0% in 2007. There was negative growth of 1•6% in 2009 but again the economy bounced back, and grew by 2•2% in 2013, 3•9% in 2014 and 2•1% in 2015.

Banking and Finance

The Central Bank of The Republic of China (Taiwan), reactivated in 1961, regulates the money supply, manages foreign exchange and issues currency. The Governor is Perng Fai-nan. The Bank of Taiwan is the largest commercial bank and the fiscal agent of the government. There are seven domestic banks, 38 commercial banks and 36 foreign banks.

There are two stock exchanges in Taipei.

Energy and Natural Resources


Taiwan’s carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of energy in 2011 were the equivalent of 13•4 tonnes per capita.


Output of electricity in 2011 was 238•6m. MWh; total installed capacity was 41,401 MW. There were six units in three nuclear power stations in 2010.

Oil and Gas

Crude oil production in 2010 was 91,000 bbls; natural gas, 290m. cu. metres. Taiwan imports most of the oil and natural gas that it consumes.


In 2010 the cultivated area was 813,126 ha., of which 410,832 ha. were paddy fields. Rice production totalled 1,451,011 tonnes. Livestock production was valued at NT$144,614m., accounting for 34% of Taiwan’s total agricultural production value.


Forest area, 2010: 2,102,000 ha. Forest reserves: trees, 357,492,000 cu. metres; bamboo, 1,109m. poles. Timber production, 19,468 cu. metres.


The catch in 2015 was 987,873 tonnes, almost exclusively from sea fishing.


The largest companies in Taiwan by market capitalization in March 2015 were: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (US$120•6bn.); Hon Hai Precision Industry, an electronics manufacturer (US$43•0bn.); and Chunghwa Telecom (US$24•7bn.).

Output (in tonnes) in 2010: crude steel; 20•5m.; cement, 16•3m.; cotton fabrics, 270•5m. sq. metres; integrated circuit packages, 50•5trn. units; Global Positioning System (GPS) sets, 20•9bn. units.


In 2010 the average total labour force was 11•07m., of whom 10•49m. were employed. Of the employed population, 27•3% worked in manufacturing; 16•6% in wholesale and retail trade; 7•6% in construction; 6•9% in accommodation and food services; 5•9% in education; 5•2% in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The unemployment rate was 5•2%.



In 2006 there were 39,286 km of roads. In 2007, 5•7m. passenger cars, 117,100 buses and coaches, 1•0m. lorries and vans, and 13•9m. motorcycles and mopeds were in use. 1,007m. passengers and 594m. tonnes of freight were transported in 2006. There were 3,140 fatalities in road accidents in 2006.


In 2010 freight traffic amounted to 14•5m. tonnes and passenger traffic to 864m. Total route length was 1,741 km. There are metro systems in Taipei (opened in 1996), Kaohsiung (opened in 2008) and Taoyuan (opened in 2017).

Civil Aviation

There are currently two international airports: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at Taoyuan near Taipei, and Kaohsiung International in the south. In addition there are 14 domestic airports: Taipei, Hualien, Taitung, Taichung, Tainan, Chiayi, Pingtung, Makung, Chimei, Orchid Island, Green Island, Wangan, Kinmen and Matsu (Peikan). In 2010 Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport handled 25,114,418 passengers, up from 18,681,462 in 2000.

The top airlines serving Taiwan (by capacity) as of Sept. 2011 were China Airlines (CAL), EVA Air, Cathay Pacific Airways, UNI Airways, TransAsia Airways (TNA) and Mandarin Airlines (MDA; CAL’s subsidiary). In 2010, 37•5m. passengers and 1•2m. tonnes of freight were flown.

Regular direct flights between Taiwan and mainland China resumed in July 2008 for the first time since 1949.


Maritime transportation is vital to the trade-oriented economy of Taiwan. In Jan. 2014 there were 140 ships of 300 GT or over registered, totalling 2•63m. GT. Of the 140 vessels registered, 40 were general cargo ships, 38 bulk carriers, 27 container ships, 26 oil tankers and nine passenger ships. There are six international ports: Kaohsiung, Keelung, Taichung, Hualien, Anping and Suao. The first three are container centres, Kaohsiung handling 9•98m. 20-ft equivalent units in 2013, making it the world’s 13th busiest container port in terms of number of containers handled. Suao port is an auxiliary port to Keelung. In Jan. 2001 the first legal direct shipping links between Taiwanese islands and the Chinese mainland in more than 50 years were inaugurated.


In 2011 there were 16,907,300 landline telephone subscribers (726•8 per 1,000 inhabitants). Taiwan’s biggest telecommunications firm, the state-owned Chunghwa Telecom, lost its fixed-line monopoly in Aug. 2001. In 2011 there were 28,861,800 mobile phone subscriptions, equivalent to 1,240•7 per 1,000 persons. In 2013 there were 57•1 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants and 24•2 fixed broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. In March 2012 there were 11•9m. Facebook users.

Social Institutions


The Judicial Yuan is the supreme judicial organ of state. Comprising 15 grand justices, since 2003 these have been nominated and, with the consent of the Legislative Yuan, appointed by the President of the Republic. The grand justices hold meetings to interpret the Constitution and unify the interpretation of laws and orders. There are three levels of judiciary: district courts and their branches deal with civil and criminal cases in the first instance; high courts and their branches deal with appeals against judgments of district courts; the Supreme Court reviews judgments by the lower courts. There is also the Supreme Administrative Court, high administrative courts and a Commission on the Disciplinary Sanctions of Public Functionaries. Criminal cases relating to rebellion, treason and offences against friendly relations with foreign states are handled by high courts as the courts of first instance.

The death penalty is still in force. There was one execution in 2016 but none in 2017. The population in penal institutions in April 2013 was 65,288 (280 per 100,000 of national population).


Since 1968 there has been compulsory education for six to 15-year-olds with free tuition. The illiteracy rate dropped from 7•1% in 1989 to 2•5% by 2006. There were 2,654 primary schools, 1,061 secondary schools and 156 vocational schools in 2008; and 102 universities, 45 colleges and 15 junior colleges. In 2005–06 there were 1,831,913 pupils with 101,682 teaching staff at elementary schools; 951,236 pupils and 48,816 teaching staff at junior high schools; 420,608 pupils and 34,112 teaching staff at senior high schools; and 331,604 students and 15,590 teaching staff at senior vocational schools. There were 1,259,490 students in universities and colleges in 2005–06 with 48,047 academic staff.


In 2011 there were 40,002 physicians (one for every 510 persons), 5,570 doctors of Chinese medicine, 133,336 nurses, 12,032 dentists and assistants, and 31,300 pharmacists and assistants.

In 2010 there were 20,691 medical facilities serving 1,119 persons per facility; there were 158,922 beds and 68•6 beds per 10,000 persons.

In 2010 cancers, heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes and accidents were the first five leading causes of death.


A universal health insurance scheme came into force in 1995 as an extension to 13 social insurance plans that cover only 59% of Taiwan’s population. Premium shares among the government, employer and insured are varied according to the insured statuses. By the end of 2010, 23•07m. people or 99% of the population were covered by the National Health Insurance programme.


According to estimates by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, 44•2% of the population in 2010 were folk religionists, 21•3% were Buddhists and 5•5% Christians. The remainder of the population was either religiously unaffiliated or followed other religions, including Taoism.



There were 23 daily newspapers in 2008 with a circulation of 4•2m. and 21 non-dailies with a circulation of 3•8m. The biggest circulation dailies are The Liberty Times and Apple Daily.


In 2011 there were 6,087,000 international visitors. Receipts totalled US$11,065m.


The pop festival, Spring Scream, is held in April in Kenting.

Further Reading

Statistical Yearbook of the Republic of China. Annual. The Republic of China Yearbook. Annual. Taiwan Statistical Data Book. Annual. Annual Review of Government Administration, Republic of China. Annual.

Arrigo, L. G., et al., The Other Taiwan: 1945 to the Present Day. 1994

Cooper, J. F., Historical Dictionary of Taiwan. 1993

Hughes, C., Taiwan and Chinese Nationalism: National Identity and Status in International Society. 1997

Lary, Diana, China’s Republic. 2006

Tok, Sow Keat, Managing China’s Sovereignty in Hong Kong and Taiwan. 2013

Tsang, S. (ed.) In the Shadow of China: Political Developments in Taiwan since 1949. 1994

National library: National Central Library, Taipei (established 1986).

National Statistics Website:


  1. 1.

    1See note on transcription of names in CHINA: Territory and Population.

Copyright information

© The Author 2019

Personalised recommendations