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
-- 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
-- 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
-- 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
-- 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
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.  (10) 6532-3831; fax  (10) 6532-6422.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
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
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.
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.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides Travel
Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the
State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country.
Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on
immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of
instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of
the U.S. posts in the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at
(202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular Affairs
Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem with standard
settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on obtaining passports and
planning a safe trip abroad are available from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from
the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559
gives the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or
requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and
countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280, price $14.00) is available from the U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs
regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may
be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in
the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the
U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this
publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB provides
Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful information for
travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to anyone with a personal
computer, modem, telecommunications software, and a telephone line.
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN
provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information.
Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly
magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; directories of key
officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at
http://www.state.gov; this site has a link to the DOSFAN Gopher Research
Collection, which also is accessible at gopher://gopher.state.gov or
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis by the
U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of State
Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy
information from 1990 to the present. Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year
subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are
available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy information also
is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce,
the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, including Country
Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
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