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Economy of CHINA

The People's Republic of China is the world's second largest economy after the United States. It is the world's fastest-growing major economy, with average growth rates of 10%for the past 30 years. China is also the largest exporter and second largest importer of goods in the world. China became the world's top manufacturer in 2011, surpassing the United States. The country's per capita GDP (PPP) is $7,518 (IMF, 93rd in the world) in 2010. The provinces in the coastal regions of China tend to be more industrialized, while regions in the hinterland are less developed. As China's economic importance has grown, so has attention to the structure and health of that economy.


In the modern era, China's influence in the world economy was minimal until the late 1980s. At that time, economic reforms initiated after 1978 began to generate significant and steady growth in investment, consumption and standards of living. China now participates extensively in the world market and private sector companies play a major role in the economy. Since 1978 hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty: According to China's official statistics, the poverty rate fell from 53% in 1981 to 2.5% in 2005. However, in 2006, 10.8% of people still lived on less than $1 a day (purchasing power parity-adjusted). The infant mortality rate fell by 39.5% between 1990 and 2005, and maternal mortality by 41.1%. Access to telephones during the period rose more than 94-fold, to 57.1%.

In the 1949 revolution, China's economic system was officially made into a communist system. Since the wide-ranging reforms of the 1980s and afterwards, many scholars assert that China can be defined as one of the leading examples of state capitalism today. 

China has generally implemented reforms in a gradualist fashion. As its role in world trade has steadily grown, its importance to the international economy has also increased apace. China's foreign trade has grown faster than its GDP for the past 25 years. China's growth comes both from huge state investment in infrastructure and heavy industry and from private sector expansion in light industry instead of just exports, whose role in the economy appears to have been significantly overestimated. The smaller but highly concentrated public sector, dominated by 159 large SOEs, provided key inputs from utilities, heavy industries, and energy resources that facilitated private sector growth and drove investment, the foundation of national growth. In 2008 thousands of private companies closed down and the government announced plans to expand the public sector to take up the slack caused by the global financial crisis. In 2010, there were approximately 10 million small businesses in China. 

The PRC government's decision to permit China to be used by multinational corporations as an export platform has made the country a major competitor to other Asian export-led economies, such as South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia. China has emphasized raising personal income and consumption and introducing new management systems to help increase productivity. The government has also focused on foreign trade as a major vehicle for economic growth. The restructuring of the economy and resulting efficiency gains have contributed to a more than tenfold increase in GDP since 1978. Some economists believe that Chinese economic growth has been in fact understated during much of the 1990s and early 2000s, failing to fully factor in the growth driven by the private sector and that the extent at which China is dependent on exports is exaggerated. Nevertheless, key bottlenecks continue to constrain growth. Available energy is insufficient to run at fully installed industrial capacity, and the transport system is inadequate to move sufficient quantities of such critical items as coal.

The two most important sectors of the economy have traditionally been agriculture and industry, which together employ more than 70 percent of the labor force and produce more than 60 percent of GDP. The two sectors have differed in many respects. Technology, labor productivity, and incomes have advanced much more rapidly in industry than in agriculture. Agricultural output has been vulnerable to the effects of weather, while industry has been more directly influenced by the government. The disparities between the two sectors have combined to form an economic-cultural-social gap between the rural and urban areas, which is a major division in Chinese society. China is the world's largest producer of rice and is among the principal sources of wheat, corn (maize), tobacco, soybeans, peanuts (groundnuts), and cotton. The country is one of the world's largest producers of a number of industrial and mineral products, including cotton cloth, tungsten, and antimony, and is an important producer of cotton yarn, coal, crude oil, and a number of other products. Its mineral resources are probably among the richest in the world but are only partially developed.

China has acquired some highly sophisticated production facilities through trade and also has built a number of advanced engineering plants capable of manufacturing an increasing range of sophisticated equipment, including nuclear weapons and satellites, but most of its industrial output still comes from relatively ill-equipped factories. The technological level and quality standards of its industry as a whole are still fairly low, notwithstanding a marked change since 2000, spurred in part by foreign investment. A report by UBS in 2009 concluded that China has experienced total factor productivity growth of 4 per cent per year since 1990, one of the fastest improvements in world economic history.

China's increasing integration with the international economy and its growing efforts to use market forces to govern the domestic allocation of goods has exacerbated this problem. Over the years, large subsidies were built into the price structure, and these subsidies grew substantially in the late 1970s and 1980s. By the early 1990s these subsidies began to be eliminated, in large part due to China's admission into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, which carried with it requirements for further economic liberalization and deregulation. China's ongoing economic transformation has had a profound impact not only on China but on the world. The market-oriented reforms China has implemented over the past two decades have unleashed individual initiative and entrepreneurship, whilst retaining state domination of the economy.

Wayne M. Morrison of the Congressional Research Service wrote in 2009 that "Despite the relatively positive outlook for its economy, China faces a number of difficult challenges that, if not addressed, could undermine its future economic growth and stability. These include pervasive government corruption, an inefficient banking system, over-dependence on exports and fixed investment for growth, the lack of rule of law, severe pollution, and widening income disparities."] Economic consultant David Smick adds that the recent actions by the Chinese government to stimulate their economy have only added to a huge industrial overcapacity and commercial real estate vacancy problems.

Already, China was the fastest-growing country in the world, a position it had held, with only a few breaks, for nearly 30 years. Although a handful of other countries (Japan, Singapore, Botswana) had also sustained average growth rates of over 9% per annum for more than a decade, China's rapid-fire growth was longer-lived than its counterparts and showed no signs of slowing. In China, moreover, growth was occurring across a population of nearly 1.3 billion, liberating millions of people from poverty and unlocking massive segments of demand. In 2004, China accounted for 12% of the world's total energy consumption and 15% of total fresh water consumption. It consumed 50% of the world's production of cement.
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