The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949.
In the past 60 years, under the leadership of the Central Government, China made much headway in socio-economic development. A historic jump has been made from a society of having only adequate food and clothing to a well-off society. With improved socio-economic situation, China now plays a better role in the international community.
At the time of it’s founding, the People’s Republic of China was poor and weak. Thanks to unremitting efforts made in the past 60 years, however, China’s comprehensive national strength has grown noticeably.
From it’s founding in 1949 to late 1978, China followed the socialist planned economy. In the 30 years, China has moved from an agricultural country to an initially industrialized country. During the period, the Chinese leaders unswervingly followed the strategy featuring high-speed development. Without borrowing any foreign loans, China successfully undertook 156 large industrial projects, and succeeded in producing atomic bomb, hydrogen bomb and artificial satellite. All of these had provided a foundation for sustainable development of the Chinese economy. In 1972, US President Richard Nixon visited China, and this shows China’s “opening up” politically, a move that laid a good foundation for the reform and opening up program China introduced in late 1978.
Thanks to the implementation of the reform and opening up policy, China’s economic and social development has ranked among the highest in the world. China’s GDP rose from 67.9 billion Yuan in 1952 to 30,067 billion Yuan in 2008 (about US$4,397.7 billion). China’s ranking in the world in the field of the national economic might rose from the 40th place in the pre-1949 period to the third place in 2008. According to incomplete statistics, the contribution China’s economic development made to the world economic growth exceeded 20 percent in 2008.
During this period, China’s per-capita gross national income has achieved rapid growth. At the time of New China’s founding in 1949, most of the Chinese people led a poor life. According to statistics, the per-capita annual income was less than 100 Yuan. In 2008, the per-capita net income reached 4,761 Yuan in the rural areas and 15,781 Yuan in the urban areas. According to the World Bank standard, China has made a leap from a low-income country to a middle-income one. Such a progress can be seen as tremendous achievements for China, with weak economic foundation and a large population.
During this period, China’s foreign exchange reserves have made a historic change from shortage to abundance. From its founding in 1949 to 1978, the foreign exchange reserves were only US$1.557 billion. With China’s foreign economy growing with each passing day, by the end of 2008, the country’s foreign exchange reserves reached US$1,950 billion, ranking first in the world.
Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China’s agricultural economic system featured private feudal land ownership. Landlords and rich peasants, who accounted for less than 10 percent of the agricultural population, owned more than 70 percent of the arable land, while the poor and lower and middle peasants, who accounted for 90 percent of the agricultural population, possessed less than 30 percent of the cultivated land.
Under the system, the agricultural production was at a very low level, resulting in an acute shortage of the main farm produce. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the agrarian reform was undertaken throughout the country from 1950 to 1952 and the feudal land ownership was abolished. This fired the enthusiasm of the peasants for production, and agricultural production developed rapidly. In a short span of three years, the annual output of grain and cotton had surpassed the highest level registered before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. A case in point was that in 1952, the annual grain output reached 164 million tons, 1.09 fold of the highest record in history before 1949 and up 45 percent over that year; the cotton output was 1.3 million tons, 1.54 fold of the highest level registered before 1949 and an increase of 860,000 tons over that year, nearly two folds increase.
After several decades of development, the grain and cotton output had reached 529 million tons and 7.5 million tons respectively in 2008. Output of the main agricultural products such as cereals, meat, seed cotton, peanuts, rapeseed and fruits all ranked first in the world.
In the early days of the People’s Republic of China, the output of steel, crude oil and electric power generation ranked only 26th, 27th and 25th respectively in the world. From 1949 to 2008, however, the output of cotton yarn increased from 327,000 tons to 21.489 million tons, sugar from 200,000 tons to 14.495 million tons, crude oil from 120,000 tons to 190 million tons, and raw coal from 32 million tons to 2.793 billion tons respectively. Nowadays, the output of China’s manufacturing industry as a percentage of the world total had surpassed 9 percent to become the third largest. In 2006, the output of 172 categories of Chinese products ranked first in the world. About 70 percent of DVD and toys, 50 percent of telephone sets and shoes, one-third or more of color TVs and bags and suitcases are made in China.
There are no more than 50,000 scientific and technical workers across the nation when New China was founded in 1949. Of these, people who were engaged in scientific and technological research accounted for a mere 500. And only some 30 research institutions existed then. In November 1949, the Chinese Academy of Sciences was established in Beijing and this was followed by establishment of a batch of research institutions in various departments and regions. Over the past 60 years, a series of breakthroughs have been made in such fields as space technology, nuclear generation technology, high performance computing technology, and manufacture technology of complete set of equipment in heavy machinery, numerical control machine tool and third generation mobile communications technology as well. In the last five years, the added value of hi-tech industry increased at a rate twice as faster as that of the GDP growth. From 2000 to 2007, the export volume of hi-tech products increased at an annual average rate of 38 percent, which account for some 20 percent of international market share. The output of mobile telephone, antibiotics and bacteria rank first in the world.
In the past 60 years since the foundation of New China, especially during the period of 30 years of the reform and opening up, China’s economy developed healthily. This has greatly boosted China’s ability in respect of commodity supply and service.
Firstly, steadily enhanced ability in the supply of farm products. The Central Government has always attached great importance to ensuring the supply of cereals and other farm products. Thanks to efforts made in this regard, China’s grain production rose to 520 million tons in 2008 from some 100 million tons in 1949, or an increase of some 400 million tons. China has succeeded in supporting 22 percent of the world’s population with a mere of 10 percent of the world’s cultivatable land, which is a great contribution to human kind.
Secondly, the Sate effort to raise the purchase price of farm and sideline products has greatly fired the enthusiasm of farmers for production. When the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the total output of pork, beef and mutton in China was only 2.2 million tons, which was much lower than other countries in the world. The per-capita share was a mere 4.1 kg. Today, the State has relaxed control over the pricing animal products and the animal husbandry grows so quickly that the total output of meat added up to 72.69 million tons in 2008. The per capita share of vegetables in China amounts to 311 kg, compared to the world average of 105 kg. To ensure that the urban residents enjoy adequate supply of farm and sideline products, the Central Government has been undertaking the shopping basket program for years.
Thirdly, the light industry developed apace in the past 60 years. Alongside with the increased output of the main light industrial products, the optimized product mix, and the increase in the amount of imported consumer goods, there is a flourishing market supply, with a dazzling variety of food, clothes, and other merchandise for the choice of the consumers. The same period also saw sharp increase in the output of such electronic products as televisions, refrigerators, cameras, washing machines, computers, and air-conditioners. In 1958, China could produce only 2 million black-and-white TV sets and was not in a position to produce color ones. In 2008, however, the output of color TV sets reached 90.33 million. The output of refrigerators increased from 1,600 in 1957 to 47.57 million in 2008 and that of air-conditioner rose from 200 in 1978 to 82.31 million in 2008.
As far as development of infrastructure and basic industries go, over the past 60 years, China has increased investment in construction of base industries and infrastructure, such as energy, transportation and telecommunication, and remarkable achievement has been made in this regard.
The Chinese Government has long attached high importance to increasing energy supply. In 1994, the year the PRC was founded, the national primary energy output was merely 23 million tons of standard coal and the total output of electricity generated was only 4.3 billion kWh. In 2008, these figures increased to 2.6 billion tons of standard coal and 3466.9 billion kWh respectively. As a result of the increased investment, energy production capacity in China has been greatly enhanced. Nowadays, China has become the second largest energy producer in the world, next only to the United States of America. The total self-sufficient rate of energy is 90 percent in China.
China has over the past 60 years greatly enhanced its transportation capacity, with railways, highways, airports and ports built one after another. The length of railway lines in service increased from 21,800 km in 1949 to 80,000 km in 2008.Expressways developed from scratch and the length of expressway opening to service reached 603,000 km, ranking second in the world. The cargo handling capacity of major coastal ports was the highest in the world for 5 years running.
Postal and telecommunication facilities were one of the most rapid developing base industries in China. In the early 1950s, China’s postal communication network was poor in foundation and weak in terms of equipment. There were only 1,000 long distance manual switchboards with a combined volume of 312,000 gates at that time. The telephone switchboards had a total volume of 312,000 lines, averaging 0.05 for every 100 persons. Today, China’s postal communication network has been initially built, with Beijing and major cities as the center, which covers other cities and towns. In addition, China has primarily built the national information and telecommunication network, which covers all parts of the country and links up with the rest of the world; the network features advanced technology and comprehensive business. The telephone penetration in 2008 reached 74.3 per 100 persons. The number of Internet users in China reached 210 million, ranking second in the world.
In the past China conducted economic and cultural exchanges only with the former Soviet Union and socialist countries in Eastern Europe. Today, however, China is doing so with over 220 countries and regions in the world. China today opens wider to the outside world.
China has become a major trading power in the world today. The total volume of trade with other countries reached US$2,561 billion in 2008 (7.7 percent of the world total), as against US$1.13 billion in 1950. In terms of the trade volume, China ranks third in the world, next only to the United States and Germany. Thanks to fast increase in exports, China has accumulated more foreign exchange reserve than any other countries in the world.
China had not much foreign exchange reserves to support economic construction in the early days of its founding. In 1978, China introduced the reform and opening up program, and in the first four years of the reform program, China’s foreign exchange reserves were a mere US$12.46 billion. After 1990 foreign investment China absorbed kept increasing and China became one of those which succeeded in introducing more foreign investment than others in the world. In recent years, China ranks first among developing countries and second in the world (next only to the United States) in this regard. By the end of end of 2007, the total foreign direct investment has surpasses US$770 billion. In 2008, China made use of US$92.4 billion of foreign direct investment, being 1,443 times more than that in 1983 or an annual average increase of 22 percent, a rate which is much faster than that of GNP in the same period. At present, more than 30 percent of the total output value of above-scale industrial enterprises and half of the foreign investment China made from the export business were created by foreign-invested enterprises.
In the past 60 years, especially in the past 30 years since the introduction of the reform and opening-up in late 1978, China has been actively participating in the international competition and economic cooperation, increasing investment in overseas projects. Foreign contracted projects and cooperation of labor service trade started from scratch, and expanded gradually. The international tourist business flourished with each passing day and today China has become one of the Top 10 Tourist Destinations in the world.
In the past 60 years of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, especially in the past 30 years of the introduction of the reform and opening-up policy, China’s national economy developed rapidly. And with the constantly improved living standards of the people in the urban and rural areas, remarkable changes have happened in the respect of the consumption level, pattern and environment.
At the beginning of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the expenditure on food and clothing of urban households accounted for 80 percent of the total living cost, meanwhile, in the rural areas this figure was as high as over 90 percent. In 1957, the per-capita consumption expenditure of the urban residents was 222 Yuan, including 130 Yuan spent on food and 27 Yuan on clothing, both figures making up more than 70 percent of the total. In the 1990s, the Engel’s coefficient of the urban residents dropped year on year. In 1994, it was the first time to fall to 50 percent and continued to decline in the ensuing years. Nowadays, the urban residents in China are leading a fairly comfortable life on the whole.
From the 1950s to the 1970s, the urban residents took pride in owning bicycles, wrist watches, sewing machines and radios, all of which cost some 100 Yuan apiece. In the 1980s, the four durables made way for six new ones, each costing some 1,000 Yuan, including TV sets, washing machines, radio cassette recorders, refrigerators, electric fans and cameras. In the 1990s, computers, cars, commodity housing and others began finding their way into ordinary families.
China has made great progress in wiping out poverty; this pushed forward the global endeavor of lifting the poor out of poverty. From 1990 to 2007, the proportion of the people who have been lifted out of poverty in the number of people who have been lifted out of poverty in the world reached more than 70 percent. China has thus become one of the countries who met the UN goal of cutting the poverty-stricken population by 50 percent at the turn of the century. While the population continues to grow, the number of people in absolute poverty reduced from 250 million to well below 15 million in 30 years.
China has over the past 60 years greatly built up its economic might. In the 21st century, the pace of socio-economic development quickens pace in China.
Great progress has been made in educational undertakings, with the educational popularization rate and the level of education approaching the average of medium-income countries. In the early 1950s, illiterates and semi-illiterates made up over 60 percent o the total population of China, and the attendance rate of school-age children was 20 percent in the country. In 2007, the gross attendance rate of schools of higher learning, high schools, middle schools and primary schools reached 23 percent, 66 percent, 98 percent and 99.5 percent respectively. In addition, polytechnic and vocational schools develop apace, churning out close to 5 million graduates each year.
Science and technology develops by leaps and bounds, and medicare system reform moves ahead smoothly. China succeeded in developing the atomic bomb and hydrogen bomb and bovine insulin in the 1960s; launching the artificial satellite in the 1070s; developing the Beijing electron-positron collider, cultivating hybrid rice, launching underwater guided missile, and developing the 100m time Milky Way Computer in the 1980s; and developing the billion time Milky Way-III, making breakthrough in developing the ultra-high density data storage and application of monoclonal antibody technology to clinic treatment in the 1990s. All these show China has marched into the forefront in the advanced field of science and technology in the world. China also succeeded in developing and launching the Chang’e-I lunar satellite and the Shengzhou-VII spacecraft, making China the world’s third country to independently master the space exits technology. This is a milestone breakthrough in China’s space technological development.
Great progress has been made in public health undertakings, with medicare system reform progressing smoothly. Infant mortality rate reduced from 50 per 1000 in 1991 to 15.3 per 1000 in 2008, while the live expectancy rose from 35 years to 73 years in the period. By 2008, there were some 300,000 medical institutions in China, with 3.69 million hospital beds (compared to 80,000 beds in 1949), and 4.92 million medical workers, compared to 505,000 in 1949. The Chinese find it not difficult to visit doctors.
There has been remarkable progress in cultural undertakings. By 2008, China had 2,575 performance troupes, 3,171 cultural palaces, 2,825 libraries and 1,798 museums. Some 96 percent of the people are covered by broadcasting and 97 percent by TV.
Competitive sports see breakthrough and develop apace. The International Olympic Committee restored China’s legal status in the international Olympic family in Nagoya in November 1979. In 1984 China attended for the first time the LA Olympic Games, wining its first gold medals. In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China was number one in terms of gold medals won, and ranked second in terms of total medals won. At the Beijing Paralympic Games, China emerged as number one in terms of gold medals won and total number of medals won.