Country of the World China

About the country China, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.

NATIONS AND THEIR RULER

CHINA

NITTY-GRITTY

Lay of the Land: In eastern Asia, China stretches from the Pacific Ocean west to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Larger than the U.S., China's terrain is as varied. Four great east-west mountain ranges divide western China and provide the main watershed for China's rivers. The Himalayas form the southwestern border with Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bhutan. The Kunlun mountain system separates the 12,000-ft. plateau of Tibet from the 3,000-ft. Tarim Basin in Sinkiang Uighur. The Tien Shan range divides the Tarim from the lower (1,000-ft.) plain of Dzungaria, and the Altai Mountains form the northern border with Soviet central Asia. Within the Tarim Basin lies the smaller Turfan basin, which dips to 940 ft. below sea level. The northern basins are arid, supporting only nomadic pastoral cultures and oasis agriculture. The Himalayas and smaller but rugged mountains to the east are the sources of the major rivers of Southeast Asia--the Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy, Slaween, Mekong, and Red--which flow into the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

The rich agricultural valleys of eastern China have historically been the home of the bulk of the population. The major two rivers are the Huang Ho ("Yellow River"), in northern China. and the Yangtze, in central China. The Hsi Chiang, part of which empties into the Pearl River estuary near Hong Kong, flows through southern China, and the Amur, which forms the border with eastern Siberia (U.S.S.R.), collects water from the far northeastern region of Manchuria.

Size: 3,705,401 sq. mi. (9,597,000 sq. km.).

Population: 875 million.

Who Rules: Nationally, China is governed by a state council and the elective National People's Congress. The last Congress was held in 1975. Locally, most of the institutions in the country--factories, hospitals, communes, etc.--are governed by "revolutionary committees." Generally, the revolutionary committees consist of representatives of citizens or workers, members of local Communist party committees, and members of the People's Liberation Army.

Who REALLY Rules: China is officially a one-party political system, run by the Chinese Communist party. The party is led by a 26-member Politburo, whose members (average age approaching 70) engage in continuous infighting.

Neither the Politburo nor the other institutions of the Chinese Communist party are monolithic. There have been several important changes in top leadership in the past dozen years, most of which have been accompanied or followed by public controversy. Because Chinese leaders shroud their inner political workings, it is difficult to know if factional victories represent the will of the Chinese people, or if the leadership merely orchestrates public opinion after the fact. Within national policy guidelines, local party and revolutionary committees have a great deal of autonomy.

The People's Liberation Army plays an important part in both local and national government, but it differs from most military organizations in other countries in that it is closely integrated into Chinese political and economic life. For example, a major responsibility of the PLA is to help harvest crops. It is impossible to estimate how many Chinese live "outside the system," although capitalist black markets exist in almost every major city. Factory collectives, unable to acquire needed supplies through official channels, have been known to purchase small parts on the black market in order to avoid falling behind production schedules.

China eliminated insect pests, including flies and mosquitoes, by issuing flyswatters to the entire population. Venereal disease was virtually eradicated through public education. However, smoking has never been discouraged on a wide scale. Most Party leaders are heavy smokers.

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