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November 2006



China, formally known as the People's Republic of China, is located in Eastern Asia. It borders the East China Sea, Yellow Sea, South China Sea and shares borders with Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam. China is the world's fourth largest country (after Russia, Canada, and the United States). Covering a land area of nearly 9,400,000 square kilometers, slightly larger than the 9,200,000 square kilometers land area of the United States, China supports an estimated population of 1.3 billion, four times greater than the estimated current popluation (298,444,215) of the United States.

The capital of China is Beijing; administrative divisions are made up of 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, and 4 municipalities. The terrain consists of mountains, deserts, and plateaus in the west; plains, deltas, and hills in the east. The climate is extremely diverse, from tropical in the south to subarctic in the north. Natural resources include coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, uranium, and the world’s largest hydropower potential. China’s natural hazards are frequent typhoons (about five per year along southern and eastern coasts), damaging floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts, and land subsidence.

The majority of people in China are Han Chinese (91.9%), with Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities constituting the rest (8.1%). Though officially atheist, major religions practiced in China are Taoism and Buddhism, others include Islam and Christianity. Ethnic languages include standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, and other minority languages.

China is a Communist party-led state; the country’s constitution is dated December 4, 1982. China was unified under the Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty in 221 BC, later the Qing (Ch'ing or Manchu) Dynasty was replaced by a republic on February 12, 1912, and on October 1, 1949, the People's Republic of China (PRC) was established.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. Dept. of State Background Notes, 08/2006, 04/2006