China is a country rich in culture, people, and natural resources. Throughout its long history, China has seen many transformations in its territory, leadership, religion, and philosophy. Over the last half century, many changes have affected China for the better when considered in aggregate. These changes have strengthened its foreign relations, economy, and outlook for the next century although China remains a poor country by world standards.
When reviewing China's recent history there are three periods of significance that should be considered: the rise of communism and the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the modernization movement led by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, and in 2001 China's accession into the WTO. The rise of communism brought forth stability and moderate growth to the country, thereby fulfilling the Chinese people's basic needs. Under Deng Xiaoping, the country's economy began to grow by opening up its doors to foreign investment and trade. By the late 1990's China's economy had become much more liberal through the passage of reforms that changed China from a centrally planned to a socialist market economy. China's accession into the WTO in 2001 marked the next great step for China towards becoming further integrated into the world economy, which should ultimately lead to a better lifestyle for the Chinese people.
Today 1 out of every 5 persons on Earth is Chinese and this number is growing. Given China's immense population, it will be difficult for the state to ensure equal growth among its entire people. Another challenge the state will face in the next century is social unrest. As China's economy becomes more open, its people will also seek greater freedoms which will be compounded by foreign influences. Therefore, it will only become increasingly difficult for the socialist party to maintain its tight control over China in the ensuing years.
China is located in eastern Asia and covers 3.69 million square miles of the Earth's surface compared to the United States at 3.67 million square miles. Given China's size, it shares borders with many other countries. To the north, common borders include: Russia, Mongolia, North Korea; and to the west: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan; and to the south: India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam; and to the east the Pacific Ocean. The Chinese territory is commonly divided into seven vast regions consisting of Northeast China, North China, Subtropical East Central China, Tropical South China, Inner Mongolian Grassland, Northwest China and the Tibetan Plateau. The regions are defined by each one's unique terrain and climate, which in turn has an effect on the commerce and businesses that can be supported.
The Northeast, for example, has forested mountains that are surrounded by extensive plains of lush land. The provinces in this region include Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning. Timber is a large industry within these provinces as a result of the heavily wooded mountains. In addition, the "black soils" that cover a vast majority of the central plains in this region, is said to be the most fertile in all of China thereby sustaining a healthy agricultural industry.
Significant mineral deposits also play a large role in Northeast China's economy, with petroleum, coal and iron being noteworthy. In 1984, Dalian was the first state approved economic and technical development zone in China. Since then it has become the regions principal seaport due to its numerous berths and booming industrial structure. Today, Dalian's business structure is comprised of relatively well-developed electronic, machinery, textile, chemical, and medical instrument industries. The following figure shows the climate for all of China's regions.
North China includes the Shandong and Shanxi provinces; most of Hebei, Henan, and Shaanxi provinces; and portions of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Gansu provinces plus part of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Of most importance to this region would be the Beijing & Tianjin municipalities. Beijing, otherwise known as Peking, is China's capital and second largest city after Shanghai; plus, it's the cultural, political, and intellectual center of the country, as well as a major industrial and commercial metropolis.
Tianjin, the gateway to Beijing, has an abundance of natural resources, vigorous industry and commerce with exceptional communication and transport services. Thousands of years of cultivation in this region have created a land ripe with agricultural development due to the wind blown silt that has built up over the years creating fertile soil. Also of importance in the North region are the immense coal supplies that are the largest in all of China.
The largest and most heavily populated natural region of the country is contained within Subtropical East Central China. Due to the regions size, many provinces are enclosed within its boundaries including: Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Sichuan, and Guizhou; plus parts of the Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Fujian, Guangdong, and Yunnan provinces. This region is host to the Shanghai and Chongqing municipalities; Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions (SAR) and a majority of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region as well.
Hong Kong, classified as the freest economy in the world, has an extremely busy seaport in addition to a vibrant stock exchange. Macau is well known for the bustling service and tourism sectors with some indicators that the banking and insurance sectors will be the next to boom for this SAR. Shanghai is home to China's largest foreign trade port due to its geographic location. It also has a multitude of supporting industries with a rapidly expanding financial market. Chongqing has an abundant supply of natural resources and is recognized as an integrated industrial city. The municipalities and SAR's of Subtropical East Central China region are peppered with a multitude of lakes, natural and artificial waterways, and a series of lowland basins and terraced hills for farming.
Tropical South China is the smallest of all the natural regions. This region includes Hainan Province, Hainan Island and the southernmost parts of Guangdong and Yunnan Province, as well as the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Hainan, a special economic zone, is on track to be the national center for pharmacy and is currently expanding into the tourism and tropical research markets. Mountains, hills and flourishing tropical vegetation due to its warm humid climate, cover the South China region.
The Inner Mongolian Grassland includes a majority of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and northern sections of the Hebei Province. Virtually no vegetation exists in this area due to the desert terrain that is marked with sand and rocks; thus the Chinese term for this land is gobi, or stony desert. There are considerable supplies of coal reserves in this region, not to mention its reserves of rare-earth elements, which account for 80 percent of the world's total resources.
Northwest China includes, administratively, a significant portion of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, small sections of the Gansu Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Xinjiang is quickly becoming China's main source of cotton and hops, of which 33 percent and 80 percent of the country's supply was respectively reported for in 2001. Similar to the Inner Mongolian Grassland region, there are areas of stony and sandy desert although the region is primarily landscaped with fertile steppe soils that support an array of irrigated agriculture.