China has a diversity of land formations including mountains, hills, highlands, plains and basins. The highlands and hill regions account for 65 percent of the country's land mass. The highest mountain peak is Qomolangma (Everest), 8,848 metres above sea level; the lowest point is the Turpan Basin, 154 metres below sea level
China's geography causes an uneven population distribution; 94 percent live in the eastern third of the country. Shandong province, with its mild coastal climate, has more than 90 million people, but Tibet, with its harsh mountain plateau climate, has less than 3 million. The coastal regions are the most economically developed— acting as a magnet for an estimated 150 million Chinese migrants from the poor rural interior. This figure, from 2008, grows by an estimated 10 million Chinese each year.
China has perhaps the world's longest continuous civilization; for more than 40 centuries its people created a culture with strong philosophies, traditions, and values. The start of the Han dynasty 2,200 years ago marked the rise of military power that created an empire—one that provided a golden age in art, politics, and technology. Ethnic Chinese still refer to themselves as the "People of Han," and Han Chinese constitute 92 percent of the country's population.
China is a one-party state, with real power lying with the Chinese Communist party. The country is governed under the constitution of 1982 as amended in 1993, the fifth since the accession of the Communists in 1949. The unicameral legislature is the National People's Congress (NPC), consisting of deputies elected to terms of five years. The NPC decides on national economic strategy, elects or removes high officeholders, and can change China's constitution; it normally follows the directives of the Communist party's politburo. In the executive branch are a premier, who is head of government, and a president, who is head of state. Despite the concentration of power in the Communist party, the central government's control over the provinces and local governments is limited, and they are often able to act with relative impunity in many areas.
Although China is still a developing country with a relatively low per capita income, it has experienced tremendous economic growth since the late 1970s. In large part as a result of economic liberalization policies, the GDP quadrupled between 1978 and 1998, and foreign investment soared during the 1990s. China's challenge in the early 21st cent. will be to balance its highly centralized political system with an increasingly decentralized economic system.
The view in most of the world is that China is indestructible. Shrugging off the crises multiplying elsewhere, China seems to surge from strength to strength, its spectacular growth marching on no matter what headwinds may come. It appears inevitable that China will overtake a U.S. mired in debt and division to become the world’s indispensable economy. Those businessmen and policymakers looking to the future believe China’s “state capitalism” may be a superior form of economic organization in dealing with the challenges of the modern global economy. My answer to all of this is: think again.
Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of China and its long and vivid history, the Great Wall of China actually consists of numerous walls and fortifications, many running parallel to each other. Originally conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang (c. 259-210 B.C.) in the third century B.C. as a means of preventing incursions from barbarian nomads into the Chinese Empire, the wall is one of the most extensive construction projects ever completed.
Tiananmen Square will forever be remembered as a political rally that turned into a bloody massacre viewed on live television. The square in Beijing, China was the site of a pro-democracy student demonstration in the Spring of 1989, a demonstration violently crushed by the Chinese military. Scenes of the brutal crackdown were broadcast throughout the world. These images embittered the international public toward the Chinese government and had profound impact on subsequent foreign policy decisions.
Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water. Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union.
Two young Tibetans, a herder and a migrant carpenter, set themselves on fire and hold up Tibetan flags as the flames engulf them before they stumble and fall on a street in western China, in a graphic video of their immolations released Thursday.
Internet censorship in China is among the most stringent in the world. The government blocks Web sites that discuss the Dalai Lama, the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters, Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement, and other Internet sites.