China Introduction

Photograph by: Lynn Johnson, National Geographic May 2008

Everything about China is big. Its population, 1.3 billion, is the largest in the world. Its area--3,705,405 square miles (9,596,960 square kilometers)--is the fourth largest, after that of Russia, Canada, and the U.S. And its labor force, with 803,300,000 workers, is the world's largest.

China also has age on its side, with a rich culture, traditions, and technological advances dating back more than 40 centuries. An early producer of paper, gunpowder, and silk, China is today a leader in the manufacture of the world's retail goods. The move that began in the 1970s from a centrally planned economy toward a market-oriented one resulted in more private, entrepreneurial businesses and foreign investment—and propelled the rise of a vibrant middle class. Urbanization also followed, as 90 to 300 million people left rural areas for a new life working in manufacturing plants or the booming construction industry. With this development came pollution: China is now the world's largest producer and consumer of coal, on which it relies for energy. And extensive dam building to produce hydroelectricity has displaced whole villages and towns.

Not everything in China is in flux, however. Despite the country's tremendous economic growth, the government still maintains strict control over dissidents.

Hessler, Peter. "China's Instant Cities." National Geographic (June 2007), 88-117

Larmer, Brook. "The Manchurian Mandate." National Geographic (September 2006), 42-73

Becker, Jasper. "China's Growing Pains." National Geographic (March 2004), 68-95

Edwards, Mike. "Han Dynasty." National Geographic (February 2004), 2-29

Hessler, Peter. "Chasing the Wall." National Geographic (January 2003), 2-33

Carrel, Todd. "Beijing: New Face for the Ancient Capital." National Geographic (March 2000), 116-137.

National Geographic Atlas of China, National Geographic Society, 2008.

Other Resources
The Chinese central government's official Web portal

An authorized Chinese government website

China Daily (the state-run, English-language newspaper)

China From the Inside. PBS

Background Note: China. U.S. State Department, October 2007.

Country Analysis Brief of China, U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration.

China Country Profile August 2006. Library of Congress, Federal Research Division.

The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.

Last updated: March 26, 2008

Where are the Hengduan Moutains?
The Hengduan Mountains, or Hengduan Shan, are in the highlands of Sichuan and Hunan Provinces, adjacent to Tibet. Here's a spectacular image from space:
Is Taiwan really part of China? If that is the case, why are people required to have different visas while visiting these two countries? I have been one of the constant readers of NGM; however, its latest coverage made me believe that NGM not only damaged its credibility but harmed many supporters from Taiwan.
The issue of the sovereignty of Taiwan as distinct from mainland China is complex. The People's Republic of China claims sovereignty over Taiwan. While Taiwan functions independently, its government has never formalized independence, and Taiwan is not recognized as independent by the United Nations or most countries, including the United States.
China's Ethnic Groups

The People's Republic of China is the most populous country in the world, with about 1.3 billion people—a fifth of Earth’s population. The country is also distinguished by its age. According to the National Geographic Atlas of the World: "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.'"

Although the Han Chinese make up over 90 percent of the country's population, China is a multiethnic society. The government officially recognizes 55 minority "nationalities," or ethnic groups, who live in nearly two-thirds of the country. Some minorities have been so thoroughly absorbed into the mainstream that their status as separate peoples has nearly been lost; others strive to maintain their own distinctive customs, costumes, and languages. The strong presence of minorities in places such as Inner Mongolia and Tibet has led the government to designate several autonomous regions, conferring on them some small measure of political and cultural rights.

Riley, Nancy E. "China's Population: New Trends and Challenges" Population Bulletin 59, no. 7 (2004), 1-36.

National Geographic Atlas of the World, 8th ed. National Geographic Society, 2005.

Donald, Stephanie Hemelryk, and Robert Benewick. The State of China Atlas. University of California Press, 2005.

Other Resources
China's Ethnic Minorities. People's Daily Online.

"Regional Autonomy for Ethnic Minorities in China (2005)." Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

Gunde, Richard. Culture and Customs of China. Greenwood Press, 2001.

Olson, James S. An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of China. Greenwood Press, 1998.

Other National Geographic Resources
China Video

National Geographic Atlas of China. National Geographic Society, 2008.

The Dong People

Nestled in the remote mountains where Guizhou and Hunan Provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region meet are the villages of the Dong people, one of China's 55 officially recognized minority groups. With a population of three million, they're a relatively small group (the largest minority, the Zhuang, number 16 million), but their rich architectural and musical traditions are among the most distinctive in China.

Dong architecture features multistoried homes, drum towers, and spectacular covered bridges—all traditionally constructed without nails. Writer Amy Tan describes one bridge as "formidable as a dragon, with a scaly roof for its body and cupolas for its head and spine." Benches run along both sides of this "wind-rain bridge," making it a handy shelter in stormy weather.

The drum tower, Gail Rossi writes in The Dong People of China, "is the highest and most revered structure in the village. A giant drum within the tower served in the past as a warning device against invasions. In ancient times, villagers assembled at the tower with their weapons to await orders from the head of their clan." Each tower was also a community center—the site of festivals and special meetings—and villagers today continue to use it that way. This village landmark is held in such high esteem that whenever there's a flood or fire, which tends to happen every few years, it's usually the first building in the village to be reconstructed.

Music and song are other hallmarks of Dong life. Without a traditional written language (an orthography based on the Latin alphabet was developed in 1958 by government researchers but has never been widely used), the Dong have passed down their history and culture from one generation to the next in story and song. The Dong are especially noted for chorus singing, with men and women singing in turn. As Rossi observes: "People often sing while working the fields and as they do housework; at funerals they sing in grief, while at birthdays and weddings they sing for fun."

Tan, Amy. "Village on the Edge of Time" National Geographic (May 2008), 102-125.

Rossi, Gail. The Dong People of China: A Hidden Civilization. Hagley and Hoyle, 1991.

Swerger, Klaus. Vanishing Tradition: Architecture and Carpentry of the Dong Minority in China. Orchid Press, 2006.

National Bureau of Statistics in China. China Statistical Yearbook. China Statistics Press, 2007.

Other Resources
The Dong People of China.

The Dong Ethnic Minority. People's Daily Online.

The Dong People. ChinaSource.

Dong Folk Music. Western China Cultural Ecology Research Workshop

Long Yaohong and Zheng Guoqiao. The Dong Language in Guizhou Province, China, trans. D. Norman Geary. Summer Institute of Linguistics and University of Texas at Arlington, 1998.

Geary, D. Norman. The Kam People of China: Turning Nineteen? RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

"Kid Chorus: Guizhou Province," National Geographic Traveler (January/February 2008), 67.

"Amy Tan Reveals Stories of Dong Folk Songs"

Dimen Dong Cultural Eco-museum

The ancient traditions of the Dong are still practiced in villages such as Dimen in China's Guizhou Province—but for how long? With many of the younger generation leaving to find work elsewhere, the traditional culture has been disappearing fast. In 2002 the privately funded Western China Cultural Ecology Research Workshop was set up to preserve and record the ethnic music of the area. As the project progressed, workshop founders Wai Kit Lee and Isa Chu say they saw the importance of balancing "the needs of development and preservation." Three years later the Dimen Dong Cultural Eco-museum, the first such Chinese museum administered by the private sector, opened in the village. Museum staff hope to help the local people recognize the beauty and importance of their culture as well as preserve their ancient arts: folk song, papermaking, cooking, textile weaving, dying, and embroidering. Local residents are encouraged to participate in managing workshop projects, from planning to the development of a community cultural center that will help researchers explore Dong culture. More information can be found at the workshop's website.

The Dimen Dong Cultural Eco-museum. Western China Cultural Ecology Research Workshop.

Ecomuseums in Guizhou—Preserving a Unique Lifestyle. Royal Norwegian Embassy, March 15, 2004.

China's Manufacturing Industry

By Ben Block
"Made in China" may be the most common phrase found on manufactured products around the globe. A powerful combination of efficient factories, cheap labor, and massive international investment has enabled Chinese companies to become major producers of everything from shoes to computers to musical instruments. China makes more crude steel, cement, fertilizer, and woven cotton fabrics than any other country. And based on revenue growth between 2006 and 2007, China (including Hong Kong) is home to five of the world’s ten fastest growing publicly held manufacturers.

The growth spurt began in 1979, when China offered tax breaks to foreign investors willing to put capital into four designated coastal cities. Now more than 40 Chinese cities have become "special economic zones," and the cities and foreign trade have boomed. China became the world’s number one recipient of foreign direct investment in 2003, though it has since fallen behind the United States. Most of the country’s trade involves imported cheap materials that are transformed into new products. Manufactured goods, which made up less than half the country's exports in 1978, now account for 94.5 percent of exports.

The key to China's success goes beyond trade incentives—it lies in the nation's access to human capital. Many foreign companies prefer to manufacture their products in China because cheap labor is abundant. Since the markets were liberalized in the 1970s, an estimated 90 to 300 million rural workers have moved to industrialized cities as part of what some consider the largest migration in human history. The members of this vast employment pool work on assembly lines, sleep in factory dorms, and eat in factory cafeterias.

China's manufacturers are often criticized for having poor working conditions. Although the country's labor code mandates that the workweek be capped at an average of 44 hours, employees often work a 12-hour shift each day. In 2006 workers in publicly owned manufacturing plants averaged a salary of just $188 per month. Yet as the yuan's value increases, more and more factories are moving inland or to Southeast Asia, where land and labor cost even less.

Hessler, Peter. "China's Boomtowns." National Geographic (June 2007), 88-117.

Fallows, James. "China Makes, The World Takes." Atlantic Monthly (July/August 2007), 48-63.

National Bureau of Statistics of China. China Statistical Year Book. China Statistics Press, 2007.

"IW 1000: The World's Biggest Manufacturers." Industry Week.

Fishman, Ted. China, Inc: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World. Scribner, 2005.

Other Resources
Barboza, David. "Big Recalls Don't Slow Exports From China."
New York Times, October 13, 2007.

Marquand, Robert. "Booming China Raises Workers Hopes—and Discontent." Christian Science Monitor, September 30, 2004.

Adam, Jonathan. "Chinese Union." Newsweek (February 14, 2008).

Ren, Ruoen and Haitao Zheng. "Multilateral Comparison on Chinese Manufacturing's International Competitiveness." Journal of Systems Science and Systems Engineering (December 30, 2005), 400-416.

Photos of Yiwu's International Trade City Credit: Photographs by Mark Leong

Last updated: March 26, 2008

China’s Middle Class

In the past decade an urban middle class has emerged in China, bringing with it grand aspirations for freedom and luxury. It's difficult to define this rising class precisely, but in general the families earn at least $10,000 a year, own their own apartment and car, buy high-end foreign brands, eat out regularly, take vacations, and are familiar with foreign ideas. Perhaps 100 to 150 million people—out of a population of 1.3 billion—are considered part of China's soaring middle class.

Yet these newfound freedoms have created anxiety, as people who grew up in a socialistic society feel compelled to get ahead and acquire more. The pressure is especially hard on the children of the middle class, who are pushed by their parents to excel in school so that eventually they’ll make more money and gain higher social status.

Chang, Leslie T. "Gilded Age, Gilded Cage." National Geographic (May 2008), 78-97.

Crab-stick Pizza, Anyone?

Restaurant chains long familiar to diners in the U.S. are now proliferating in China. KFC, which arrived in 1987, has become the favorite quick-service eatery on the mainland, with some 2,000 restaurants in 420 cities. Pizza Hut has opened 300 restaurants that cater to a casual dine-in crowd. The menu reflects the chain’s adopted culture: One of the most popular pies comes topped with seafood, crab stick, pineapple, and green peppers.

Patrons are often young adults socializing in small groups—away from multigenerational family meals in crowded and noisy Chinese restaurants. To the members of this more affluent generation, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and KFC are places to see and be seen. And in yet another sign of change, both McDonald's and KFC are capitalizing on the growing trend toward car ownership, adding drive-through lanes to meet the urban rush.

In a land where teahouses have proliferated for thousands of years, coffee is now the trendy choice. Students often carry packets of instant coffee to tide them over during the day, but relaxing at Starbucks over a pricey $3.50 latte is the latest after-hours pastime. The Seattle-based chain, which expanded into major Chinese cities beginning in 1999, now has hundreds of stores where the patrons often linger for hours. Not everyone has taken a liking to the U.S. coffee icon, however, and a blog campaign to remove Starbucks from its Forbidden City location is under way.

High-quality wine is another newcomer to China's burgeoning culinary scene. The preference has long been for beer and hard liquor, but wine, domestic and imported, has been making inroads over the past decade. Touted for its health benefits and cachet, imported wine, once too expensive for most people, is finding favor with newly affluent drinkers. Spotting this huge market potential, exporters in the United States, France, Spain, South Africa, Argentina, and Chile are vying with long-established and ever-competitive domestic brands—Great Wall, Zhangyu, Dynasty—to capture the palates and wallets of China's emerging middle class.

Yum! brands

Yum! China Division

Mei, Yang. China's Food Service Sector Continues Sustained Growth. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, July 2006.

"First McDonald's Drive-Thru Opens in China." McDonald's Press Release, December 10, 2005.

Ford, Peter. "China’s Growing Blogosphere Turns on U.S. Coffee Icon." Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2007.

China Wines Information Website.

Wei, Tan. "Fruit of the Vine.", November 1, 2007.

Other Resources
Roberts, Dexter. "China Caffeinates Its China Growth Plan." Business Week, October 25, 2006.

"Wine: Is China the New Chile When It Comes to Wine?" China Wines Information Website, January 18, 2008.

"Napa Valley Wines Sold in Shanghai.", February 2, 2008.

Last updated: March 26, 2008

Contemporary Architecture in China

China is experiencing an immense building boom, fueled by a robust economy that's been expanding since economic reforms began nearly 30 years ago. Beijing, host to the 2008 Summer Olympics, has committed some 40 billion dollars to build a "New Beijing"—upgrading the city's facilities and infrastructure in time for the games. With tens of thousands of projects under way, the country has become an architect's playground.

Most of the high-profile projects—especially in the skyscraper towns of Beijing and Shanghai—have been designed by foreign architects. They're attracted to China's broad canvas, vast low-wage workforce, and 24/7 construction schedule. Moreover, Chinese architects have had to play catch-up since Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when architects were denounced as part of the intellectual elite. Under Chairman Mao, functionality reigned over design, and architects had to go by the title of engineer. But now a generation of Chinese architects who began their education after the death of Mao is coming into its own. Many studied abroad, in Europe and North America, and those who remained in China took advantage of a growing number of architecture schools there. While many Chinese architects still work in engineering and architectural institutes associated with universities or the government, more and more are working in and even running local offices of foreign architects or starting their own independent businesses modeled on international studios.

Fishman, Ted. "The New Great Walls." National Geographic (May 2008), 130-41.

Other Resources
Ruan, Xing. New China Architecture. Periplus, 2006.

Dawson, Layla. China's New Dawn: An Architectural Transformation. Prestel, 2005.

Rowe, Peter, and Seng Kuan. Architectural Encounters With Essence and Form in Modern China. MIT Press, 2002.

Jodidio, Philip. Architecture in China. Taschen, 2007.

Architectural Record China.

Lubow, Arthur. "The China Syndrome."
New York Times Magazine, May 21, 2006.

Yang, Andrew. "Studio Pei-Zhu Commits to an Energetic Urbanism in Modern China."
Architectural Record (December 2007).

Allen, Daniel. "Creativity Made in China—MAD Architects." January 21, 2008.

Len-Lin, Jen. "Several Art Schools in China Starting New Architecture Programs." Architectural Record (November 2004).

Profiles of Selected Architects—Chinese Architects

Studio Pei-Zhu.

Atelier FCJZ (Yung Ho Chang).

Fong, Mei. "CCTV Tower Mirrors Beijing's Rising Ambitions." Wall Street Journal Online, November 7, 2007.

Fong, Mei. ""Beijing Olympics 2008: Stadiums May Leave Costly Legacy—Transformed Host City Ponders Post-Games Facilities Management."" Wall Street Journal Asia, March 15, 2007.

Woodman, Ellis. ""New Towers for a New Superpower."" London Daily Telegraph, December 29, 2007.

Needham, Kirsty. ""Extreme Makeover: Asia Special Report—Destination Beijing."" Sydney Morning Herald, October 6, 2007.

Gluckman, Ron. "Beijing: Bold? Brazen?" Wall Street Journal Asia, April 2004.

Yellow River

The Yellow River is the second longest river in China and one of the ten longest in the world. The roiling river begins modestly in the springs and glaciers of the high western province of Qinghai, on the cold, vast, mountainous Plateau of Tibet. Snaking across the North China Plain, it eventually reaches the Bo Hai sea, 3,400 miles away, where it deposits its sediment load in the delta’s unique wetland ecosystem.

Known in Mandarin as Huang He, the river takes its name from the yellowish silt and sediment that clouds its waters. As it makes its way east, it passes through the enormous Loess Plateau, picking up loess, a loamy soil, and carrying it downstream. Historically the Yellow has discharged as much as 1.6 billion metric tons of sediment a year in the delta; today dams and lower water flow have shrunk that to around 680 million tons.

A Ferocious Dragon
To the Chinese people, the river is a living being, a ferocious dragon that has proved untamable. As early as 3000 B.C. people settled along its shifting banks, where they fished, farmed, and raised livestock, and for centuries the region around the middle stretch of the river formed the country's economic, social, and political backbone—it's considered the birthplace of Chinese civilization. But the Yellow, revered as the Mother River, provider of fertile soil and bountiful fish, was also a tormentor known as China's Sorrow and the Ungovernable: It breached its banks, repeatedly changed course, nearly dried up, then became a raging flood.

People tried countless times to control the river. Four thousand years ago the legendary Yu the Great, a minister in the court of Emperor Yao, tried to prevent floods by building dikes along the waterway and dividing its lower reaches into nine separate channels.

China's love affair with engineering and river control has endured. After the communists took power in 1949, Chairman Mao became obsessed with conquering nature and beating the twisting Yellow into submission. Massive dams were built, tributaries rerouted, and forests felled, but the river was not contained. Today it runs muddier than ever and still floods. Rapid economic development over the past 30 years has contaminated the river almost irreversibly, and high water usage and numerous dams reduce this mighty giant to a trickle where it meets the sea. See the BBC News report China's Famous Yellow River Is Fading.

Larmer, Brook. "Bitter Waters." National Geographic (May 2008), 146-168.

Pavan, Aldo. Yellow River: The Spirit and Strength of China. Thames & Hudson, 2007.

Shapiro, Judith. Mao's War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Sinclair, Kevin. The Yellow River: A 5000 Year Journey Through China. Knapp Press, 1987.

"Yellow River (Huang He) Delta." Louisiana State University, Department of Geology and Geophysics.

Other Resources
China Air Pollution Map. Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

China Water Pollution Map. Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

China Environment Forum. Woodrow Wilson Center.

Reign of Sand: Inner Mongolia. Circle of Blue.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. China Program.

Yellow River Conservancy Commission.

Gifford, Rob. "Yellow River: A Journey Through China." NPR, December 10, 2007.

"Yellow River at Risk." Greenpeace, 2005.

Green Camel Bell.

Larson, Christina. "The Green Leap Forward." Washington Monthly, July 2007.

Economy, Elizabeth. "The Great Leap Backward?" Foreign Affairs, September/October 2007.

The Cost of Environmental Degradation in China. U.S. Embassy in Beijing, 2000.

Ma Jun. Ecological Civilisation Is the Way Forward.
October 31, 2007.

China From the Inside: Shifting Nature. PBS, 2006.

Brown, Lester R. Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. Earth Policy Institute, 2008.

Economy, Elizabeth. "The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future." Cornell University Press, 2004.

Jun, Ma. China's Water Crisis. Eastbridge, 2004.

Tibet Is Melting and Turning Into Desert.

China's Pollution

By Linden J. Ellis and Jennifer L. Turner, China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Every country in the industrialized world faces pollution problems, but the scale and speed of the environmental degradation in China has no parallel. Over the past 30 years China's transition to its new role as the world's manufacturing hub has brought millions of Chinese out of poverty—but at the cost of massive water, air, and soil pollution that threaten human health. The central government has committed considerable resources to solving this socially and economically expensive problem, but the lack of strong environmental governance structure continues to hinder progress.

Private cars in urban centers have become major polluters, but the biggest sources of air pollution are heavy industry, particularly construction, and coal-fired power plants—a new plant comes on line every week. About 70 percent of China's energy comes from domestic coal supplies, much of which is high in sulfur and contains mercury. Recent regulations require new plants to have scrubbers, but enforcement at the local level is inconsistent.

The construction sector is a major source of particulates and other dirty emissions. China produces half the world's cement, and in the process its often antiquated and inefficient factories can release high levels of mercury and CO2. The country is responsible for approximately 14 percent of global CO2 emissions, of which 6 to 8 percent can be attributed to its cement industry.

While air pollution problems are severe in China, water pollution is perhaps the greater threat, due to the nation’s chronically low water supply: One-third of cities report water shortages. In addition, one-third of China's waterways are categorized as Grade V—unsuitable for industry, much less agriculture or drinking. On average, only 40 percent of municipal wastewater is treated, making it a leading source of this severe water pollution. All cities with populations above one million are required to have wastewater treatment plants, but they have little incentive to operate them given high energy costs and low fines for noncompliance.

Water pollution isn't just an urban issue. More than 300 million rural Chinese—about a quarter of the country's population—lack access to clean drinking water, thanks to untreated industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste that flows directly into waterways. In 2006 in Guangdong Province, pig farms alone contributed 72 percent of the nitrogen and 94 percent of the phosphorus emissions in the water systems. Each year, water-related illnesses affect 190 million Chinese, mainly in rural areas.

Pesticides, fertilizer, and animal waste also pollute the land. Official statistics indicate that 7 percent of China's arable land has been contaminated by the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The Cost to China
Government figures put the economic cost of pollution to China at $200 billion in 2005 alone, but the cost to the health of people and the environment is hard to measure. Estimates on premature deaths caused by air pollution range from 450,000 to 750,000 annually, and fatal illnesses resulting from water pollution have reached 60,000. Half of these deaths are among rural children who develop diarrhea from drinking contaminated water.

Not surprisingly, the impact of pollution does not fall evenly across the population. Pan Yue—a top official in China's State Environmental Protection Administration (now the Ministry of Environmental Protection)—told Der Spiegel in November 2007: "Environmental problems have become the main factors endangering the health and property security of rural Chinese, thwarting sustainable economic and social development in the countryside." Anecdotal evidence suggests that people living along major rivers and large lakes suffer higher than normal rates of cancer, tumors, spontaneous abortion, and diminished IQs, and the cause is believed to be high levels of contaminants in the soil and water. In 2007 China's Ministry of Health reported that between 2005 and 2007 cancer rates from pollution rose 19 percent in urban areas and 23 percent in rural areas. Urban NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) protests have exacerbated the problem by pushing factories, including a chemical plant scheduled to be built in Xiamen, into the countryside, where the residents are often too poor or too uninformed to stop them.

Nonetheless, increasing pollution problems have sparked a growing number of protests, mainly in rural areas. One reason is that farmers have suffered increasing losses because they can't sell their "toxic" harvests. The number of class action suits against polluters is also growing, and with the help of Chinese environmental groups and lawyers, some pollution victims are winning their cases.

The Broader Implications
China's pollution reaches far beyond its borders. Annual sandstorms caused by desertification in the country's northeast close schools and airports in South Korea and Japan, and Chinese sand has even been found in the Grand Canyon. California and other west coast states claim that particulates from Chinese coal-fired power plants are nullifying progress they’ve made under the Clean Air Act. To some extent, these consequences are a hidden cost we pay for being able to buy cheap manufactured goods from China, but this transboundary pollution also provides an opportunity for international collaboration—the state of California and Jiangsu Province are now working with the Natural Resources Defense Council to promote energy efficiency in the province.

The Olympics have highlighted China's struggle with pollution. Although the government has spent close to $12 billion to clean up Beijing's air, world-record marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie pulled out of the Beijing Olympics, explaining that he was concerned about the air quality. Some countries’ teams will stay offshore and fly in only for their events. Team USA plans to bring its own food, citing recent scares about Chinese food safety.

Initiatives to Alleviate the Problem
China’s central government is taking pollution seriously. In the past two years it has amended, revised, and added teeth to its car emission standards, energy conservation law, environmental impact assessment law, and water pollution control law. The main constraint in implementing these laws is the inherent decentralized structure of the government: Local governments have both the power and the incentive to favor economic growth over pollution control. One attempt to rectify this imbalance was a pilot Green GDP program that rewarded officials for their environmental performance; though widely supported by Chinese citizens, the program ended in 2007 because of opposition from local governments, which claimed the process wasn’t scientific. The state's environmental protection agency has also partnered with more powerful financial agencies to put polluting industries on blacklists so they won't receive loans or export permits.

One promising sign that environmental protection has been given higher priority came in March 2008, when the environmental protection agency was promoted to a ministry and given more funding and six new regional offices—all of which could increase its capacity to enforce environmental laws. Over the past dozen years nongovernmental environmental organizations have also been given more political space in which to operate, though so far few have used that space to fight more aggressively against pollution.

Since 1997 the China Environment Forum (CEF) has been creating programming and publications to encourage dialogue among U.S., Chinese, and Asian policymakers, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and researchers on environmental and energy challenges in China. With generous support from USAID, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Waters Corporation, CEF is focusing on the impact of polluted air, water, and land on human health and food safety as well as on the policies and activism that offer solutions.

Cho, Jung-Myung and Suzanne Giannini-Spohn. "Environmental and Health Threats From Cement Production in China."
China Environmental Health Brief (2007).

Ellis, Linden and Jennifer Turner. "Surf and Turf: Environmental and Food Safety Concerns of China's Aquaculture and Animal Husbandry." China Environment Series (Issue 9, 2008).

Economy, Elizabeth. "The Great Leap Backwards."
Foreign Affairs (September/October 2007).

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: China. OECD, 2007.

"Survey of Rural Pollution to Start Next Year." China Daily, December 14, 2007.

Taylor, Jerome. "Air Pollution Forces Star to Pull Out of Olympic Marathon."
Independent, March 11, 2008.

Turner, Jennifer and Juli Kim. "China's Filthiest Export." Foreign Policy in Focus (February 2007).

Other Resources
"1m [million] People Short of Drinking Water in Guangxi."
Xinhua, December 17, 2007.

Blanchard, David Jorge Perez Izquierdo. "Taming the Dragon." Industry Week (November 2007), 28.

"China to Set Resource-Based Cities on Path of Sustainable Development." Xinhua, November 28, 2007.

"China's Environmental Chief Reiterates Measures to Combat Water Pollution." Xinhua, November 20, 2007.

Country Profile: China. BBC News Online.

Economy, Elizabeth. "Scorched Earth: Will Environmental Risks in China Overwhelm Its Opportunities?"
Harvard Business Review (June 2007). (Summary.)

Economy, Elizabeth. "The Great Leap Backward?"
Foreign Affairs (September/October 2007).

Bolin, He and Wu Jiao. "Survey of Rural Pollution to Start Next Year." China Daily, December 14, 2007.

Liu, Jiangou and Jared Diamond. "Science and Government: Revolutionizing China's Environmental Protection." Science (January 4, 2008), 37-38.

Xiaohua, Sun. "Public Yet to Read the Green of Environment." China Daily, January 8, 2008.

"Survey Finds Chinese Concerned With Pollution-Related Food Safety." Xinhua, January 8, 2008.

China's Famous Yellow River Is Fading. BBC.

Gifford, Rob. "Yellow River: A Journey Through China." NPR audio slideshow, December 10, 2007.

China by the Numbers

The following is a list of sources used for the "China by the Numbers" pages in the May 2008 issue of National Geographic magazine.

China's one-child policy created a generation of only children that numbers 90 million.

"According to three surveys carried out by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 1982, 1993 and 1997, more than half of urban families in China are 'core families' consisting of a father, a mother and a child." "Changes in Chinese Family." National Population and Family Planning Commission of China.

"In the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities of the mainland of China, there were 348.37 million family households with a population of 1,198.39 million persons. The average size of family household was 3.44 persons, or 0.52 persons less as compared with the 3.96 persons of the 1990 population census." "Major Figures of the 2000 Population Census (No. 1), National Bureau of Statistics, People's Republic of China."
National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, March 28, 2001.

Feinian Chen, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, North Carolina State University

"90m Chinese Grow Up as 'Only' Children." China Daily, January 20, 2007.

119 baby boys are born for every 100 girls.

"Number of Young Unmarrieds in China Increases." National Population and Family Planning Commission, December 11, 2007.

Hudson, Valerie M., and Andrea M. Den Boer. "Bare Branches and Security in Asia." Harvard Asia Pacific Review (Winter 2007), 18-20.

Hudson, Valerie M., and Andrea M. Den Boer. "Missing Women and Bare Branches: Gender Balance and Conflict." Environmental Change and Security Program Report (Issue 11, 2005).

The number of unmarried young men–called bare branches–is predicted to be 30 million by 2020.

Hudson, Valerie M., and Andrea M. Den Boer. "Missing Women and Bare Branches: Gender Balance and Conflict." Environmental Change and Security Program Report (Issue 11, 2005).

Hudson, Valerie M., and Andrea M. Den Boer. "Missing Women and Bare Branches: Gender Balance and Conflict." Environmental Change and Security Program Report (Issue 11, 2005).

Valerie Hudson, Department of Political Science, Brigham Young University

Laurel Bossen, Department of Anthropology, McGill University

45 percent of Chinese women surveyed say they do not want to give up their careers to get married.

The survey was done in 2004 by the Women's Study Center at Peking University.

Mullen, Mark, and Alex Johnson. "On-the-go Chinese Women in No Hurry to Wed: Younger Generation, Outnumbered by Men, Can Build Careers and Wait." NBC News, October 16, 2007.

Three in ten Chinese families have grandparents living in the same household.

Chen, Feinian. "Patterns of Grandparents Caring for Grandchildren." In The Family and Social Change in Chinese Societies, ed. Dudley L. Poston, Jr., and Wen Shan Yang. Springer Publishers (forthcoming). Also presented as a paper at the 2005 annual meeting of the Population Association of America.

Feinian Chen, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, North Carolina State University

Beijing enforces a one-dog policy that prohibits pets more than 14 inches high.

Kerry Branon, International Fund for Animal Welfare. According to Branon, Beijing’s "Dog Keeping Regulation" was adopted at the sixth session of the 12th Municipal People's Congress Standing Committee, on September 5, 2003; it went into effect on October 15, 2003.

Cody, Edward. "Dog Owner Takes on China's Web Censors."
Washington Post, December 26, 2007.

China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world's largest economy in ten years.

World Bank. China Data Profile.

"Recalculating China's GDP: Clipping the Dragon's Wings." Economist (December 19, 2007).

Elwell, Craig K., and others. "Is China a Threat to the U.S. Economy?" Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, January 23, 2007.

"China Set to Be the Largest Economy." BBC News, May 22, 2006.

China has the world's highest number of annual deaths triggered by air pollution.

Anthony J. Hedley, Department of Community Medicine, University of Hong Kong. Hedley says that China and India may have a similar rate of premature deaths due to air pollution, but China has a larger population, so it has more deaths triggered by pollution.

"Estimated Deaths and DALYs Attributable to Selected Environmental Risk Factors, by WHO Member State, 2002." World Health Organization, January 2007.

"Methods for Quantifying Environmental Health Impacts." World Health Organization, 2007.

"Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments: Towards an Estimate of the Environmental Burden of Disease."
World Health Organization, 2007.

"China: Country Profiles of Environmental Burden of Disease." World Health Organization, 2007.

"Environment Health Country Profile—China."
World Health Organization, June 9, 2005.

Platt, Kevin Holden. "Chinese Air Pollution Deadliest in World, Report Says," National Geographic News, July 9, 2007.

Hotz, Robert Lee. "Huge Dust Plumes
From China Cause
 Changes in Climate."
Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2007.

Urban Chinese earn more than three times as much as those in rural areas, the highest income gap since the start of reforms in 1978.

"China Population Data Sheet 1." National Population and Family Planning
Commission of China, 2002. In 2001 rural Chinese earned an average of 2,366 RMB, while urban Chinese earned 6,860 RMB, or 2.86 times the rural figure.

"Rural-Urban Income Gap Still Widening." National Population and Family Planning
Commission of China, December 27, 2007.

Mi Diao and others. "Urban-Rural Disparity in Post-reform China." China Rural Development Center, September 9, 2004.

Dobson, Wendy, and others. "The Contradiction in China's Gradualist Banking Reforms, Comments and Discussion." Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, September 2006.

Public protests rose by 50 percent in 2006.

According to Joshua Rosenzweig of the Dui Hua Foundation, arrests for state security crimes, including public protests, doubled in 2006.

According to Reporters Without Borders's "China Annual Report 2008," in 2007 China arrested and imprisoned more than 100 of its own journalists and Internet users on charges related to covering banned subjects, and it arrested or harassed 180 foreign correspondents.

Fan, Maureen. "State Security Arrests in China Doubled in '06, Group Reports."
Washington Post, November 29, 2007.

One in four residents of Beijing is a migrant from the country.

Zai Liang, Department of Sociology, SUNY Albany

Statements by Yu Xiuqin, deputy director and spokeswoman of the Beijing Municipal Statistics Bureau.

"Beijing Sees Annual Growth of 520,000 in Population." Xinhua News Agency, January 21, 2008.

67 percent of millionaires surveyed say they are sacrificing health for money.

This figure is based on health checks of and interviews with 123 men and 60 women from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou by the Ciming Health Checkup Company of Beijing.

"China's New Rich Not Healthy." Xinhua News Agency, September 3, 2007.

China has the world's largest number of Internet users–220 million--surpassing Web surfers in the U.S.

"The 21st Statistical Survey Report on the Internet Development in China." China Internet Network Information Center, February 29, 2008.

"China Surpasses the US to Become the World's Largest Internet Population—BDA." Technewsreview, March 13, 2008.

Authorities have added 171 new pop culture phrases to China's national language registry.

Li Yuming, the Ministry of Education senior official in charge of standardizing the use of the modern Chinese language, also a professor of linguistics at Communication University of China.

"Modern Marriage, Mortgages Enter Chinese Lexicon." Reuters, August 21, 2007.

"New Words for New World." Xinhua News Agency, September 17, 2007.

31 percent of Chinese 16 or older say they are religious, four times the official estimate a decade ago.

This finding was based on "a poll of 4,500 people conducted by professors at East China Normal University in Shanghai," including Liu Zhongyu , a philosophy professor. Cody, Edward. "Poll Finds Surge of Religion Among Chinese."
Washington Post, February 8, 2007.

Raman, B. "China in Hu's Colours, Part IV."
Chenai Center for China Studies, C3S Paper No. 66, October 27, 2007.

Saiget, Robert J. "China's Rising Number of Young Christians Gear Up for Easter." China Post, April 7, 2007.

French, Howard W. "Religious Surge in Once-Atheist China Surprises Leaders." New York Times, March 4, 2007.

Cell phones in China have grown from 87 million in 2000 to 432 million today.

In 2008 the number was updated to 600 million cell phones.

Morrison, Wayne M. "China-U.S. Trade Issues." Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, March 7, 2008.

Elwell, Craig K., and others. "Is China a Threat to the U.S. Economy?" Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, January 23, 2007.

32 percent of Chinese say the Internet broadens their sex life, compared with 11 percent in the U.S.

"America's Emobyte Deficit: China's Youth Surpass Their American Rivals Online."
Economist (November 27, 2007).

Last updated: May 13, 2008