Population: 1.3 billion, of which 43 per cent are estimated to live in urban areas.
Political structure: A communist state with 22 provinces (China considers Taiwan its 23rd province), five autonomous regions and four municipalities covering major cities. Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions of China. Mandarin/Putonghua can be considered the national language as it is taught throughout the country but other Chinese languages, such as Cantonese in Southern China, are widely spoken. China has a president and premier.
The capital is Beijing and the currency is the yuan, also known as the renminbi, which is tied to the US dollar.
Economy: China has become a major economic power as it has opened up its economy to world trade. However, a large slice of the economy comes under the control of state-owned enterprises and areas such as telecommunications are off-limits to foreign ownership. The economy has been subject to booms and busts because it has been developing so rapidly and although there is strong domestic demand, the downturn worldwide has affected demand for Chinese exports.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) calculated that in 2008 industry accounted for 60 per cent of gross domestic product, services 32 per cent and agriculture less than 10 per cent, although many people still lived off the land. China’s major exports by value are steel, ships and manufactured goods such as machinery and textiles.