Cruising to China
For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under MAO Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people.
After 1978, his successor DENG Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight.
Location: Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay,
Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam
Territorial sea: 12 nm
Extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north
Mostly mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west; plains, deltas, and hills in east
Lowest point: Turpan Pendi -154 m
China's economy during the last quarter century has changed from a centrally planned system that was largely closed to international trade to a more market-oriented economy that has a rapidly growing private sector and is a major player in the global economy. Reforms started in the late 1970s with the phasing out of collectivized agriculture, and expanded to include the gradual liberalization of prices, fiscal decentralization, increased autonomy for state enterprises, the foundation of a diversified banking system, the development of stock markets, the rapid growth of the non-state sector, and the opening to foreign trade and investment. China has generally implemented reforms in a gradualist or piecemeal fashion.
The process continues with key moves in 2005 including the sale of equity in China's largest state banks to foreign investors and refinements in foreign exchange and bond markets. The restructuring of the economy and resulting efficiency gains have contributed to a more than tenfold increase in GDP since 1978. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China in 2005 stood as the second-largest economy in the world after the US, although in per capita terms the country is still lower middle-income and 150 million Chinese fall below international poverty lines.
Economic development has generally been more rapid in coastal provinces than in the interior, and there are large disparities in per capita income between regions. The government has struggled to: (a) sustain adequate job growth for tens of millions of workers laid off from state-owned enterprises, migrants, and new entrants to the work force; (b) reduce corruption and other economic crimes; and (c) contain environmental damage and social strife related to the economy's rapid transformation. From 100 to 150 million surplus rural workers are adrift between the villages and the cities, many subsisting through part-time, low-paying jobs.
One demographic consequence of the "one child" policy is that China is now one of the most rapidly aging countries in the world. Another long-term threat to growth is the deterioration in the environment - notably air pollution, soil erosion, and the steady fall of the water table, especially in the north. China continues to lose arable land because of erosion and economic development. China has benefited from a huge expansion in computer Internet use, with more than 100 million users at the end of 2005.
Foreign investment remains a strong element in China's remarkable expansion in world trade and has been an important factor in the growth of urban jobs. In July 2005, China revalued its currency by 2.1% against the US dollar and moved to an exchange rate system that references a basket of currencies. Reports of shortages of electric power in the summer of 2005 in southern China receded by September-October and did not have a substantial impact on China's economy.
More power generating capacity is scheduled to come on line in 2006 as large scale investments are completed. The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in October 2005 approved the draft 11th Five-Year Plan and the National People's Congress is expected to give final approval in March 2006. The plan calls for a 20% reduction in energy consumption per unit of GDP by 2010 and an estimated 45% increase in GDP by 2010. The plan states that conserving resources and protecting the environment are basic goals, but it lacks details on the policies and reforms necessary to achieve these goals.
Airports: 489 (2005)
123,964 km (2003)
Total: 1,700 ships (1000 GRT or over) 20,441,123 GRT/30,808,417 DWT
Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals
Dalian, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai
In 2005, China and India initiated drafting principles to resolve all aspects of their extensive boundary and territorial disputes together with a security and foreign policy dialogue to consolidate discussions related to the boundary, regional nuclear proliferation, and other matters; recent talks and confidence-building measures have begun to defuse tensions over Kashmir, site of the world's largest and most militarized territorial dispute with portions under the de facto administration of China (Aksai Chin), India (Jammu and Kashmir), and Pakistan (Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas).
India does not recognize Pakistan's ceding historic Kashmir lands to China in 1964; about 90,000 ethnic Tibetan exiles reside primarily in India as well as Nepal and Bhutan; China asserts sovereignty over the Spratly Islands together with Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei; the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" has eased tensions in the Spratlys but is not the legally binding "code of conduct" sought by some parties; Vietnam and China continue to expand construction of facilities in the Spratlys and in March 2005, the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a joint accord on marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands.
China occupies some of the Paracel Islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan; China and Taiwan have become more vocal in rejecting both Japan's claims to the uninhabited islands of Senkaku-shoto (Diaoyu Tai) and Japan's unilaterally declared equidistance line in the East China Sea, the site of intensive hydrocarbon prospecting; certain islands in the Yalu and Tumen rivers are in an uncontested dispute with North Korea and a section of boundary around Mount Paektu is considered indefinite; China seeks to stem illegal migration of tens of thousands of North Koreans.
China and Russia prepare to demarcate the boundary agreed to in October 2004 between the long-disputed islands at the Amur and Ussuri; demarcation of the China-Vietnam boundary proceeds slowly and although the maritime boundary delimitation and fisheries agreements were ratified in June 2004, implementation has been delayed; environmentalists in Burma and Thailand remain concerned about China's construction of hydroelectric dams upstream on the Nujiang/Salween River in Yunnan Province
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