U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: China, November 1996
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Official Name:  People's Republic of China



Total area: 9.6 million sq. km.  Slightly larger than U.S.; world's third-
largest country (after Russia and Canada).
Cities: Capital--Beijing. Other major cities--Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, 
Shenyang, Wuhan, Chengdu.
Terrain: Mostly mountainous, high plateaus, deserts in west; plains, deltas, and 
hills in east.
Climate: Tropical in south to subarctic in north.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Chinese (sing. and pl.).
Population (1995): About 1.2 billion
Growth rate (1995): 1.05%. 
Health (1993): Infant mortality rate--52/1,000. Life expectancy--68 yrs. male, 
72 yrs. female.
Ethnic groups: Han Chinese 93%; Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, 
Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 6.7%.
Religion: Officially atheist; most important elements of religion are 
Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism; Muslim 2%-3%, Christian 1%.
Language: Standard Chinese (Putonghua, or Mandarin) plus many local dialects.
Education: Years compulsory-- nine.  Literacy--78%. Attendance (est.)--80%.
Work force (630 million): Agriculture and forestry--52%. Industry--23%. 
Services, including commerce--14.6%.


Type: Communist party-led state.
Constitution: December 4, 1982.
Independence: Unification under the Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty 221 BC; Qing (Ch'ing or 
Manchu) Dynasty replaced by  a republic on February 12, 1912; People's Republic 
established October 1, 1949.
Branches: Executive--president, vice president, State Council, premier. 
Legislative--unicameral National People's Congress. Judicial--Supreme People's 


GNP (1995): $664 billion.
Per capita GDP: $554.
Annual real growth rate (1995): 9.8%.
Natural resources: Coal, iron ore, crude oil, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, 
manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, uranium, 
world's largest hydroelectric potential.
Agriculture: among the world's largest producers of rice, potatoes, sorghum, 
peanuts, tea, millet, barley, and pork; commercial crops include cotton, other 
fibers, and oilseeds; produces variety of livestock products; basically self-
sufficient in food.
Trade (1995): Exports--$148.7 billion:  textiles; garments; telecommunications 
and recording equipment; petroleum; minerals. Partners--Hong Kong, Japan, EU, 
U.S., ASEAN. Imports--$132.0 billion: specialized industrial machinery; 
chemicals; manufactured goods; steel; textile; yarn; fertilizer. Partners--Hong 
Kong, Japan, EU, U.S., ASEAN.


The United States seeks constructive relations with a strong, stable, open, and 
prosperous China that is integrated into the international community and acts as 
responsible member of that community. The U.S. needs a constructive working 
relationship with China because:

--  The People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) plays a major role in the post-Cold 
War world;
-- It is the world's most populous nation (about 1.2 billion people) and the 
third-largest in land mass (after Russia and Canada);
-- It has nuclear weapons, is a growing military power, and plays a key role in 
regional stability;
-- As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China has 
veto power over Security Council resolutions dealing with key multilateral 
issues, including international peacekeeping and the resolution of regional 
conflicts; and
-- China is undergoing extraordinary economic growth and promises to be a 
preeminent economic power early in the next century.

In the 1972 Shanghai Communique signed during President Nixon's historic trip to 
China, the United States adopted a "one China policy." This policy acknowledges 
that Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain that there is only one 
China and that Taiwan is part of China. In 1979, the United States established 
relations with the P.R.C. and transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to 
Beijing. A 1979 Joint Communique reflected this change, and Beijing agreed that 
the American people would continue to carry on commercial, cultural, and other 
unofficial contacts with the people of Taiwan. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, 
and a third Joint Communique signed in 1982, further defined the U.S.-China 
relationship as well as unofficial U.S. relations with the people of Taiwan. 

In September 1993, President Clinton launched a policy of comprehensive 
engagement with China to pursue U.S. interests through intensive, high-level 
dialogue with the Chinese. This policy seeks:

-- Constructive Chinese participation in the UN Security Council and in the 
resolution of regional conflicts to enhance global peace and security;
-- Active participation by China in multilateral nonproliferation regimes, which 
is necessary to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their 
delivery systems;
--  Economic and trade relations with China that meet U.S. economic interests;
--  Respect for internationally recognized standards of human rights and the 
rule of law in China; and
--  Chinese cooperation on global issues, particularly to combat alien smuggling 
and narcotics trafficking and to improve protection of the environment.

Regional security remains a key issue in the U.S.-China relations. The United 
States has a long-term interest in peace and stability in Asia; there are 
approximately 100,000 American soldiers stationed in the Asia-Pacific region. 
China plays a key role in regional security issues, including resolving the 
North Korean nuclear issue, reaching a peaceful settlement of the territorial 
dispute over the South China Sea and Spratly Islands, and building democracy and 
peace in Cambodia. The United States supports China's active participation in 
evolving regional security institutions, most prominently the ASEAN (Association 
of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum and the Northeast Asia Security 

With regard to other nuclear and security issues, the United States and China 
have agreed to work together to try to achieve an international convention 
banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons or other nuclear 
explosive devices. China is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 
(NPT), signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996, and has banned the 
exports of intermediate and long-range missiles. In May 1995, China voted in 
favor of indefinite extension of the NPT, a top priority in U.S. foreign policy.  
The United States continues to urge China to  stop all nuclear cooperation with 
Iran's nuclear power generation program; become a member of the Missile 
Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to further restrict transfers of missile 
components and technology; and control strictly exports of chemical and 
biological weapon precursors.

Trade and Investment

China's economy will soon be among the world's largest. The country has a 
quarter of the world's population--a vast pool of potential consumers for U.S. 
products and services--and market-oriented reforms have recently helped generate 
very rapid economic growth. The World Bank has predicted that China's economy 
will grow 8%-10% per year until the year 2000 and has estimated that China's 
economic output will reach $10 trillion by the middle of the next century.

With this rapid economic expansion, China's market will be increasingly 
important for United Sates commercial interests. The U.S. currently grants China 
most-favored-nation trading status (see Government and Political Conditions). In 
some sectors, access to the Chinese market has become a critical element of U.S. 
producers' growth strategies. U.S.-China trade has continued to climb, reaching 
$57.3 billion in 1995--up from $48.1 billion the previous year. Recently, 
however, China's exports to the U.S. have accounted for most of the growth in 
bilateral trade. The U.S. merchandise trade deficit with China was about $33.8 
billion in 1995, exceeded only by the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with Japan. 
In order to build a balanced and sustainable bilateral trading relationship, it 
will be essential to obtain greater market access for U.S. products and services 
in China

Seeking to participate in China's rapid economic growth, major multinational 
corporations from around the world have shown great interest in investing in 
China. The United States is the third-largest source of such investment, after 
Hong Kong and Taiwan. Globally, China is second only to the United States as 
recipient of foreign direct investment.

The increasingly important U.S. economic and trade relations with China are an 
important element of the Administration's "comprehensive engagement" strategy.  
In economics and trade, there are two main elements to the U.S. approach.

First, the United States seeks to fully integrate China into the global, market-
based economic and trading system. China's participation in the global economy 
will nurture the process of economic reform and increase China's stake in the 
stability and prosperity of East Asia.

Second, the United States seeks to expand U.S. exporters' and investors' access 
to the Chinese market. As China grows and develops, its needs for imported goods 
and services will grow even more rapidly.

China is now in its 10th year of negotiations for accession to the World Trade 
Organization (WTO)--formerly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).  
To gain WTO entry, all prospective WTO members are required to comply with 
certain fundamental trading disciplines and offer substantially expanded market 
access to other members of the organization.

Securing China's accession to the WTO on these terms will contribute to China's 
economic transformation, spur economic growth in the U.S. and other WTO-member 
economies, and support the integrity of the international trading system. The 
United States continues to work with China and other WTO members toward a 
commercially viable accession protocol.

Many major trading entities--among them the United States, the European Union, 
and Japan--have shared concerns with respect to China's accession. These 
concerns include efforts to obtain satisfactory market access offers for both 
goods and services, full trading rights for all potential Chinese consumers and 
end-users, nondiscrimination between foreign and local commercial operations in 
China, the reduction of monopolistic state trading practices, and the 
elimination of arbitrary or non-scientific technical standards.

The United States and China also maintain a very active dialogue on bilateral 
trade issues. In the past year, the two sides have concluded agreements on the 
protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), textiles, and satellite 

U.S. and Chinese negotiators meet regularly to review progress in implementing 
these and other important commercial agreements, such as the bilateral agreement 
on enforcement of intellectual property rights. In areas where China has failed 
to comply with its international commitments, the Administration has exercised 
its legislative authority to conduct investigations and, when necessary, propose 
appropriate trade sanctions. These efforts will not only expand the commercial 
opportunities open to U.S. exporters in China but also contribute to China's 
efforts to bring its trade regime into compliance with the WTO and with other 
international commercial standards.

The United States continues to expand its export promotion efforts and its 
scientific and technical exchange programs in China.  The U.S. and China 
recently renewed their Bilateral Science and Technology Agreement for another 
five years.  Last April, the two countries held their first Sustainable 
Development Forum which is intended to expand cooperation in the environmental 
field.  The Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, hosted by the Commerce 
Department in September, discussed expansion of long-term economic and business 
ties between China and the United States.

The U.S. economic relationship with Hong Kong is closely tied to U.S.-China 
relations. Under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong will become 
a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the P.R.C. on July 1, 1997. U.S. 
concerns over this transition include economic and investment issues. The United 
States has substantial economic and social ties with Hong Kong, with an 
estimated $8 billion to $10 billion invested there. There are 900,000 U.S. firms 
and 30,000 Americans resident in Hong Kong. The United States is Hong Kong's 
second largest market--importing $10.2 billion in 1995--and Hong Kong is 
America's 14th-largest trading partner--$14.2 billion in U.S. exports in 1995.

The United States and China both are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic 
Cooperation forum (APEC). At the November 1994 APEC summit in Bogor, Indonesia, 
President Clinton, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, and the other APEC leaders 
pledged to meet the goal of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-
Pacific region by the year 2020.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--James R. Sasser
Deputy Chief of Mission--William C. McCahill
Political Officer--William A. Stanton
Economic Officer--Robert Ludan, Acting
Commercial Officer--Ying Lam

The U.S. embassy in China is located at Xiu Shui Bei Jie 3, 100600, Beijing; 
tel. [86] (10) 6532-3831; fax [86] (10) 6532-6422.


China has been a one-party state controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) 
since 1949. The P.R.C. was founded that year following the communist victory in 
a civil war with the ruling Nationalist Chinese; the Nationalists fled to 

China is ruled by a CCP Politburo and a shrinking circle of retired but still 
powerful senior leaders such as Deng Xiaoping. Despite continued official 
adherence to Marxism-Leninism, in recent years economic decision-making has 
become less ideological, more decentralized, and increasingly market-oriented. 
The P.R.C. Government position is that China is developing a "socialist market 
economy with Chinese characteristics."

The Chinese Government has always been subordinate to the CCP; its role is to 
implement party policies.  The primary instruments of state power are the State 
Council, an executive body corresponding to a cabinet; and the National People's 
Congress (NPC), a legislative body.  Members of the State Council include the 
premier, a variable number of vice premiers, nine state councilors, the heads of 
ministries, and the heads of other commissions and agencies attached to the 
State Council.

Under the Chinese constitution, the NPC theoretically is the state's leading 
government body.  Members are elected by secret ballot for a five-year term by 
provincial-level people's congresses. It meets annually for about two weeks to 
review major new policy initiatives presented to it by the State Council after 
endorsement by the Communist Party's Central Committee. Although the NPC 
generally approves these initiatives, NPC committees debate in closed sessions, 
and changes may be made to accommodate alternative views.

Although traditionally not considered independent of the party and government, 
China's judiciary continues to undergo rapid reform. The drive to establish a 
functioning legal system first began in 1979. China's 1982 constitution--adopted 
by the NPC--emphasizes the rule of law under which even party leaders are held 
accountable. A mainstay of China's legal system is the use of mediation 
committees, groups of citizens who resolve about 90% of civil disputes and some 
minor criminal cases at no cost to the parties. Trained lawyers and legal aides 
remain scarce, complicating delivery of legal services in the courts. An 
Administrative Procedure Law allows citizens to sue officials for abuse of 
authority or malfeasance. The highest court of appeal for civil or criminal 
cases is the Supreme People's Court.

Fundamental human rights provided for in China's 1982 constitution are 
frequently ignored in practice, particularly when the citizens challenge the 
CCP's political authority. Those charged with political offenses--as opposed to 
common crimes--are frequently treated harshly and arbitrarily. Freedom of 
association, religion, speech, and the press are severely restricted in 

Following the P.R.C. Government's suppression of the democracy movement at 
Tiananmen Square in June 1989, the U.S. and other nations imposed a number of 
sanctions against China. Some of these Tiananmen-era U.S. sanctions remain in 
place. The Trade Act of 1974--specifically, the Jackson-Vanik amendment--
requires an annual review of China's emigration record for China to retain its 
most-favored-nation trading status (MFN). This annual review remains in effect 
and, since 1990, has been the focus of efforts in both the executive and 
legislative branches to assess our overall relationship with China, including 
China's performance on human rights issues.

In May 1993, President Clinton signed an Executive Order tying renewal of 
China's MFN in 1994 to progress in several human rights areas. Although China 
did not achieve "overall significant progress" in certain areas identified in 
the Executive Order, the President decided to renew China's MFN status on May 
26, 1994. He noted that China met the two mandatory requirements on immigration 
and prison labor.

Taking into account these results and other vital U.S. interests, and convinced 
that the time had come for a new approach, the President decided to de-link the 
annual MFN process from China's human rights performance. At the same time, the 
President decided to adopt a new human rights strategy, maintaining human rights 
concerns as an essential part of our engagement with China but in a broader 
context. The President also ordered a several additional steps to support those 
seeking to foster the rule of law and a more open civil society in China.

The United States and China have conducted seven rounds of bilateral dialogue on 
human rights issues since October 1993. The United States continues to press 
China on core human rights concerns: release of prisoners of conscience and 
medical parole cases; resumption of negotiations with the Dalai Lama on 
protecting the distinctive heritage and culture of Tibet; and concluding an 
agreement with international humanitarian organizations to permit visits to 
Chinese prisons and prisoners. In addition, U.S. concerns over Hong Kong's 
transition to Chinese rule in 1997 include ensuring continued respect for human 
rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong.

The United States has been disappointed with China's progress on human rights 
since MFN renewal in May 1994. The United States continues to urge China to 
adhere to internationally recognized human rights standards.

Principal Officials

President and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary--Jiang Zemin
Vice President--Rong Yiren
Premier of the State Council--Li Peng
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Qian Qichen
Ambassador to the U.S.--Li Daoyu
Ambassador to the UN--Qin Huasun

China maintains an embassy in the United States at 2300 Connecticut Ave. NW, 
Washington, DC  20008; tel. 202-328-2500/2501/2502.


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