About China

The Qinling Mountains. rel=
The Qinling Mountains. Shaanxi, China.
© WWF Canon / Michel GUNTHER

Superpower on the horizon

Which country produced 850 million tonnes of cement in 2004, is the world’s most populous nation (1.3 billion people) and has one of the oldest civilizations on Earth? The panda’s homeland of course - China.
Covering most of East Asia, the fourth largest country in the world has been experiencing considerable economic growth over the last 2 decades.

While development has improved the lives of many, this is negatively affecting the country's resources and environment, and has created an income gap between rich and poor.

Geography and Climate

China's geography is considerably varied, with hills, plains, and river deltas in the east (the Huang He and Yangtze River) and deserts and mountains in the west, including the Himalayas and high plateaus such as the Gobi Desert.

The climate also ranges between extremes - from tropical in the south to subarctic in northeastern China.

The country’s geography and climate play major roles in the population distribution, with 94% of Chinese living in an area one-third of the country’s size.

Nature

China’s geographic range and size afford the country a huge diversity of natural habitats.

These characteristics also make it one of the world’s major centres of biodiversity. Blooming coral reefs, arid deserts, wind-swept glaciers and tropical rainforests are all found here. Despite extensive reclamation, China also has the largest area of wetlands in Asia.

Some of the famous and threatened species that are found in China include pandas, tigers, lynx, snow leopards, wolves, brown bears and Tibetan gazelles.
Giant panda (<i>Ailuropoda melanoleuca</i>). / ©: WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER
Giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca).
© WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER

Population and Religion

Although most Chinese officially identify themselves as non-religious, many still practice rituals, especially those relating to Confucianism and Taoism. About 6% of the Chinese population are Buddhists.

Official figures show that there are about 20 million Muslims, more than 15 million Protestants, and 5 million Catholics in China.

Economy and Development

China’s economic boom has fuelled several industrial sectors, including iron and steel, coal, machinery, armaments, textiles and clothing, petroleum and cement. Other exports include footwear, toys and sporting goods, and mineral fuels.

The rapid pace of China’s development has contributed to a significant rise in standards of living. Today, less than 10% of the population is below the poverty line. Most youths are literate and the life expectancy is the third highest in East Asia, after Japan and South Korea.
 / ©: WWF
What are the problems?
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 / ©: WWF
What is WWF doing about the problems?
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Sources
Wikipedia. China. Accessed 5 February, 2007.
National Geographic (online). China. Accessed 5 February, 2007.

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