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Statistics Show China's 50-Year Economic Development
2004-05-12

THE 20th century is one of earth-shaking changes for China. Thanks to the pioneering work and arduous efforts by the People's Republic of China over the past 50 years, especially over the last 20 years or so since the beginning of reform and opening-up, the overall national strength and the living standards of the people have been improved in no small ways. Now, the Chinese people are advancing with big strides along the path of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. It is our strategic objective to basically realize modernization and build China into a prosperous and strong socialist country with a high degree of democracy and civilization by the middle of the 21st century.

On the occasion of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, we are proud of our achievements. The following facts and figures show that we have a lot to celebrate.

A Substantially Stronger Nation

Over the last 50 years China has become a substantially stronger nation with its people enjoying higher standards of living.

China's GDP reached 7.9553 trillion yuan (about 964 billion U.S. dollars) in 1998, 50 times that of 1949 (Industry has increased by 381 times, and agriculture, by 20.6 times). Taking into account price changes, China's economy has been growing at an annual rate of 7.7 percent, more than doubling the world's average of 3.3 percent. Reports from the World Bank show that China ranked 7th in the world in terms of economic growth and development in 1997.

The improved national strength enabled China to withstand the sweeping Asian financial crisis, helping it keep its renminbi stable, which has been conducive to the recovery of the Asian economy and to the stability of the world economy.

Rising World Trade Power

In the early 1950s, China had trade relations with only about 60 countries and regions. Its trade partners were mainly the former Soviet Union and other socialist countries, because of the economic blockade by the West. At present, the country's trade partners have increased to 227.

In the early 1950s, China's annual import and export values stood at only several hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars. By 1998, the figure had risen by more than 300 times to hit 323. 9 billion dollars.

China is the world's 11th largest trade power in 1998, compared to the 32nd in 1978.

The country's foreign exchange reserve, which was a mere 840 million dollars in 1979, soared to 150 billion dollars by August 1999.

By July 1999, China had approved 334,000 overseas-invested enterprises with contractual investment of 594.81 billion and actual investment of 288.94 billion dollars. From 1993 to 1998, China ranked second in the world and first among developing countries in attracting foreign investment for six consecutive years. Nearly 400 of the world's top 500 transnational companies have opened business or invested in China.

Successfully Feeding One-Fifth World Population The 1.25 billion Chinese (about one-fifth of the world's total) have basically solved the problem of food and clothing with only about 7 percent of the world's arable land.

The per capita share of grain, meat, eggs and milk for the Chinese people has exceeded or neared the world average, meaning that China has basically solved the food problem which has affected it for hundreds of years.

The per capita share of grain, meat, eggs and milk for the Chinese people is, respectively, over 400 kilograms, 50 kilograms, 17 kilograms and 6.6 kilograms.

People Living Better and Longer

The rapid economic growth has brought about a much more comfortable life for the Chinese people.

In China, the number of people living below the poverty line dropped from 250 million in 1978 to 42 million in 1998. Most of those in poverty live in remote areas with poor resources and a bad environment that pose a serious challenge to any poverty-relief efforts. Another 20 million people will be out of poverty by the end of 2000.

In the 1950s, the annual per capita consumption stood at only 80 yuan on average, while the current figure is 3,000 yuan. The most popular commodities for the ordinary people have shifted from bicycles and watches to personal computers and automobiles. For every 100 families, there were 100.48 color television sets, 72.98 refrigerators, 165.74 electronic fans and 89.12 washing machines, according to 1997 statistics.

Living space per capita in urban areas soared from 3.6 square metres to 8.8 square metres between 1978 and 1997. Rural residents' living space per capita rose from 8.1 square metres to 22.46 square metres during the past two decades.

The life-span of the Chinese people has lengthened and their health improved considerably. The population's average life expectancy has increased from 35 years before 1949 to 71 today, higher than the world average of 64 years, while the death rate dropped from 33 per thousand before 1949 to 6.5 per thousand at present.

Urbanization Speeding Up

China's urbanization has progressed quickly in the past two decades, due to the reform and opening up policy. Cities have become the backbone of the national economy.

The number of cities grew from 193 in 1979 to 668 in 1997. The proportion of city inhabitants in the total population grew from 12 percent in 1978 to 43.8 percent in 1997.

More Opportunities to Achieve Individual Value

Today the Chinese people have large latitude in choosing jobs - in different units, different cities, or even different countries.

Fewer barriers to the flow of labor has alleviated the pressure from large numbers of surplus laborers in rural areas and accelerated urbanization. The government is preparing to adjust its rigid residence registration system to further encourage the flow of labor and talent to benefit economic and social development.

Floating rural laborers have also helped to spread technology and information, stimulate demand for consumer commodities, and increased the flow of funds between city and country and the exchange of modern management experience. The most significant result of such mobility is the change of farmers' outlooks.

For urban workers, in large cities and coastal regions, switching jobs has become an easy and popular way to give full rein to talent through fair competition.

The development of private economy has also created more jobs. By late 1998, there were 1.2 million private enterprises employing 17 million people. And there were 31.2 million small businesses by 1998 with 61.1 million employees.

Constantly Improved Education and Health Care

Before 1949, more than 80 percent of Chinese adults were illiterate. Now the illiteracy rate among the young and middle aged is 6 percent. The enrollment rate of school-age children was only 20 percent before 1949. The rate jumped to 98.9 percent in 1998.

At present, among every 10,000 people, there are 25.7 college students, 566 middle school students and 1,132 pupils, as compared with the numbers of 2.2, 23.4 and 450 in 1949. These figures exclude the 2.82 million students in institutions of higher learning for adults, 2.51 million students in adult vocational schools, and 86.82 million students in technical training schools.

In 1949, China, with a population of more than 500 million, had only 3,000 medical organizations with a total of 80,000 hospital beds and 500,000 medical workers, averaging 1.5 hospital beds per 10,000 people and less than one doctor per 1,000 people. By the end of 1998, the country had registered 310,000 medical institutions, with a total of 3.14 million hospital beds and 4.42 million medical workers, including 1.41 million doctors.

Opening Wider to the Outside World

China will, as always, actively participate in international economic cooperation and improve the all-direction, multi-dimension, wide-range opening-up pattern. On the basis of lowering import tariffs for 9 times, China will further reduce its import tariffs for industrial products to 15% next year, and to 10% before the year 2005.

China has opened more areas for foreign-funded banks to deal in Chinese currency RMB business and for pilot projects of Sino-foreign joint ventures in foreign trade. In future, it will provide opportunities for trade in services such as foreign investments in banking, insurance, tourism, retail, foreign trade and legal service while stepping up the opening-up efforts in energy, transportation, communications and other infrastructure industries. It will further improve the system of laws and regulations on foreign investment, protect the rights and interests of foreign-funded enterprises in strict compliance with law, protect intellectual property rights and improve service for foreign-investment enterprises, so as to create a better environment for foreign businessmen in China.

With a population of over 1.25 billion, China offers a huge market to foreign businesses. With the steady progress in economic and social development, the enormous potentialities of the Chinese market will be further tapped. The total import volume for the coming 7 years is expected to reach US$1.5 trillion.




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