China is a very large country, one of the largest on the planet. The terrain is mostly mountainous with plateaus in the west with lower lands in the east. The principal rivers flow from west to east and discharge into the Pacific Ocean.
There is a vast range in climate in China. The mountainous western areas experiences high desert conditions with extreme swings in temperature ranging from bitter cold in the winter to very hot in the summer. The populous eastern areas are more moderate with temperature that dip to -10C in the winter and peak in the low 30C range in the summer. The southern coastal climate is even more moderate with similar summer highs but more comfortable winter lows.
China is governed by the Communist Party of China in a single-party system. Along with 22 provinces, there are various autonomous regions and two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macao. These two were previously remote territories of Britain and Portugal but have had their governance transfered to China. Each have been accorded localized control over a range of affairs such as the legal system, immigration and policing.
China is the most populous country on the planet at about 1.3 billion people. The population is not evenly distributed in China as the rugged western mountains are virtually uninhabited. Most of the people live in the fertile river valleys or along the Pacific coast. There are over 20 cities with a urban population of 1.5 million or more. Most of these cities have two times as many people, (or more), in the immediate area. In the case of Chongqing, the metro population of 3.9 million is dwarfed by the surrounding population of almost 31.5 million people. The country is very concerned with the sustainability of it's population and has implemented a strict family planning policy that attempts to limit each family to only one child. This policy is only partially successful thus far. The government hopes it will allow the population to stabilize at between 1.4 and 1.6 billion by 2025.
China has the longest-lived civilization in the world. The country is the dominant society of eastern Asia. The Chinese language, architecture, writing and business has greatly influenced many neighboring countries such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam. The country was generally closed to foreign contact until western colonies were established at Hong Kong and Macao. These former colonies have now had their administrative control transfered to China but they remain highly autonomous in 2010.
The vast majority of people in China are ethnic Chinese, or Han Chinese. Some 1.2 billion people constitute this group. 55 other ethnic groups are recognized with a total population of about 150 million.
The Communist Party gained power in 1949 during the Chinese Civil War and instituted a single-party political system that stymied political opposition to the government. The economy was rigidly controlled which caused severe hardships, and even death, for many of the citizens. With aggressive economic reforms implemented since about 1978, the country has experienced unprecedented growth. This has resulted in the emergence of a large middle class of people which has never been prominent in Chinese history.
Since the economic reforms of 1978, growth has been a constant feature of China. Growth has averaged more than 11% for an entire decade. This has brought great wealth to many in the country but the government has identified certain sectors of the society that have not seen the benefit of growth. As a result, policies to distribute the countries resources more equitably have been developed. Growth has resulted in the Chinese economy growing to a size larger than that of Japan. If trends continue, China will have the world's largest economy by 2025.
Agriculture is an important sector in China that has seen the country emerge as the largest producer of rice, wheat, tea and many other crops. There has always been a shortage of arable land resulting in the use of extensive labor to enhance production. While production has increased dramatically, the population has as well which has made China both the world's largest producer and consumer of agricultural products.
China has become an important producer of many metals and other mining products. Many vital industrial metals, such as lithium and other rare earth elements, are produced in China. China is the largest producer of many of these metals. Aluminum production has been greatly increased from 2005 to 2010. Despite worries of an oversupply of aluminum due to Chinese production, China has used almost all of it's aluminum for domestic consumption. A feared drop in the aluminum price has not occurred.
Tourism has become a major enterprise in China. From a base of only 230,000 visitors in 1978, tourism has expanded to 49.5 million visitors in 2006. This ranks China as the fourth most visited country in the world. Visitors to the country seek the historical cultural marvels such as the Great Wall of China, the palace at the Forbidden City and the ancient Terracotta Army. Natural sights are also plentiful such as the Changbai Mountain nature reserve, (home of the Siberian Tiger), the Three Gorges and the Himalayan mountains. With reforms implemented by the government, the Chinese citizens are now able to enjoy tourist trips abroad. They have begun to travel in large numbers, making them a highly desired market for many destination countries.
Everywhere you go in China, there is a tremendous sense of history. Ancient structures can be found in every village, town or city. With economic growth, the city core tends to contain these attractions. The environs are a mass of modern structures. The cities of the eastern plains are vibrant with a multitude of people. The interior of China is very less populated while the western mountains are nearly devoid of habitation. There are many areas in the country where there are no signs of human influence and yet this country contains 1.3 billion people.
The country is steeped in a proud history but the people are embracing the future. There is a rush to improve all aspects of the economy which results in great advances in the country. The past 30+ years have seen growth not rivaled by other countries in the world. With a sophisticated manufacturing base and a large, intelligent work force, China is poised to possibly become the dominant world power of the next 50 or more years.