China defines and shapes our world and the course of international development. With more than 1.35 billion people, China accounts for roughly 20 percent of the total world population. After decades of rapid economic growth, China became the world’s second largest economy in 2010. China’s business, politics and culture play an influential, growing role in the global economy, international development and foreign relations.
China’s Economy and Development
China heads the economic class of the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. After sustaining decades of annual GDP growth exceeding 10 percent, China overtook Japan in 2010 to become the world’s second largest economy behind the U.S. As long as China maintains its torrid pace of GDP growth relative to the world’s leading developed country economies, it will quickly close in on the top spot. China’s considerable raw material requirements, status as the world’s factory, growing domestic market and related environmental issues have great implications for people and development around the world.
Economic Growth, Urbanization and Mega-Cities
China’s rapid economic growth and development is accompanied by the dramatic rise and growth of so-called mega-cities. People across China and other developing countries flock to cities in search of greater opportunity and higher living standards. The fruits of their labors and the economic advantages of cities’ financial, human and social capital help fuel China’s development and urbanization.
China will have more than 221 cities with populations of more than one million people by 2030, and more than 70 percent of Chinese will live in cities of greater than one million people by 2025 according to the McKinsey Global Institute.
China and World History
China’s history is the world’s history in many respects. With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history and culture, China is one of the world’s oldest civilizations. China has been the world’s greatest power for all but several hundred of the last two thousand years. Ancient China is credited with four of the world’s great inventions: paper, printing, gunpowder and the compass.
Chinese Culture and Society
Chinese society and culture is at once homogenous and incredibly diverse. Han Chinese make up the world’s largest ethnic group and about 92 percent of China’s population. While Mandarin Chinese, China’s main language, is spoken by more than 70 percent of China’s population, China has anywhere from seven to thirteen main regional language groups and many other provincial dialects, many of which are mutually unintelligible.
Politics and Power in China
China’s powerful, centrally controlled government and the Communist Party of China (CPC) hold defining influences over the country’s people, politics, development and foreign relations. Still, China’s massive land area of 3.7 million sq. miles (9.6 million sq. km), many distant, locally governed provinces, and rapid economic growth create constant challenges for power and influence.