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          The vast territory of China stretches from north to south for approximately 5,500 km from the central line of the Heilongjiang River at MoheTown in Heilongjiang Province to the southernmost part of the South China Sea Islands, and from east to west for 5,000 km from the confluence of the Heilongjiang and Wusulijiang rivers to the Pamirs in Xinjiang. It covers an area of 9.6 million square km, approximately one fifteenth of the earth's land area.
          The physical relief of China drops off in a series of escarpments eastward to the sea, letting in humid air currents from the sea and causing many rivers to flow east. China's rivers totaled 22,000 km in length. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers are among the world's mightiest. Other renowned rivers include the Heilongjiang, Songhuajiang and Pearl River.
          The splendid landscape of China is glorified by far-reaching mountain chains, magnificent highlands and boundless plains, mountain-rimmed basins and gentle rolling hills. Mountains and highlands made up 65% of the Chinese landmass, which is studded with 2,000-odd natural lakes. The 8,848 meter-high Mt. Qomolangma is one of the highest peaks in the world; the lowest part of the Turpan Basin is 154 meters below sea level.
          Generally speaking, China has three major geographical frameworks:
  1. Four major highlands: Qinghai-Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Loess and Yunnan-Guizhou plateaus.
  2. Four major basins: Tarim, Junggar, Qaidam and Sichuan.
  3. Three major Plains: Northeast China, North China and the Middle and Lower Yangtze River.
           China's vast territory spans nearly 50 latitudinal degrees, and most of it is in the temperate zone, with a small part extending south into the tropical and subtropical zones and the northernmost tip close to the frigid zone. There are perennial icy and snowy zones in some alpine regions. China is a world-renowned monsoon region; most parts are cold and dry in winter and humid areas have formed the country's complex climate, a complexity that is enhanced by the country's variegated landform. The northern part of Heilongjiang Province has long winter but no summer, while Hainan Island has long summer but no winter. The Huai River valley is marked by distinct seasonal changes, but it is spring all year round in the South Yunnan-Guizhou plateau. In the northwest hinterland, the temperature changes strikingly. China's high tundra zone is in the southwest of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where the temperature is low all year round.
           China, as the world's most populous nation, has a population of over 1.2 billion or 22 percent of the world's total. East China has the highest population density, especially in coastal plains, where there are 500-600 residents per square km. West China has the lowest population density, averaging no more than 50 residents per square km. More than 300 million live in urban and more than 800 million in rural areas.
           China is a multi-racial country and is home to 56 ethnic peoples, Han, Manchu, Monglol, Hui, Tibetan and Uygar etc. The Hans account for 92 percent of the total population. Freedom of religious belief is a government policy, and the constitution protects other religious activities; Taoism, Buddhism, Islamism, Christianity and Catholicism have all developed quite a following.
           Chinese is the universal language in this country with Mandarin as the standard spoken language with quite a few local dialects, such as Cantonese and Fukienese. The Chinese characters had their origin in oracle inscriptions more than 6,000 years ago. Ethnic peoples in China enjoy the freedom to use and develop their own languages.
  Economic Development
           Over past five decades, China's economy has advanced greatly, and has increasingly been the important part of the world's economic system. Since 1980s, by means of reform and door-opening policy, China has entered into a fast industrialization era with the rapid growth of the national economy. From 1980 to 2000, the national economy increased by 8-12% annually, and Gross National Production (GNP) grew from 0.06 trillion US dollars in 1980 to 1.07 trillion US dollars in 2000. By the end of 2001, China's GNP has already reached 1.15 trillion US dollars, which ranked 7th in the world. As forecasted by State Development Planning Commission of China (SDPC), in the next decade, the national economy will keep growing by over 7.0% annually. GNP in 2010 will reach 2.17 trillion US dollars, about two times higher than 2000.
           There are 1.18 million km of highways in China, including 68 national highways and more than 1,600 provincial highways. The total mileage of railways in China is 100,000 km, which form an extensive network with Beijing as the hub. China's vast maritime territory encompasses the Bohai, Yellow and East China seas in the east and the South China Sea in the south. The country's long and winding coastline is clustered with harbours, such as Shanghai, Tianjin, and Guangzhou etc.
  Energy Consumption and Import
           The rapidly growing economy in China has led to sharp increase in energy demand. The total energy consumption has grown from 14.4 quadrillion British thermal units (Btus) in 1980 to 33.2 quadrillion Btus in 1997, ranking third after USA and Japan in the world. The main sources of energy in China include oil, gas and electricity. Coal is major energy resource followed by oil and gas in the country's primary energy consumption. However, with rising environment protection standards, coal demand is decreasing corresponding to an increasing oil demand. In 1949, the coal share of total energy consumption was 96.3% and the oil share less than 1.0%, but in 2000, coal's share decreased to about 63% and oil increase to 23.6%. The gas share has grown slowly; it only reached less than 3.0% in 2000.
           Apparently, the oil consumption has grown faster than gas. In 1957, China's oil consumption was about 22.63 million barrels. In the last ten years, oil consumption has increased by over 5% annually. Before 1963, there had been a shortage of oil less than 14.6 million barrels. From 1963 to 1992, there was a period of oversupply of oil. But since 1993, China's economy has advanced faster than ever and the oil demand had grown sharply to 1.70 billion barrels in 2000. On the other hand, oil production has grown slowly by less than 2% annually reaching 1.04 billion barrels in 2001.
           There has been a fundamental imbalance of oil supply and consumption, which probably leads to China's energy crisis. For the stable and fast economic development, Chinese government has to import a vast amount of oil. China has become a net oil importer again as in the years before 1963. Import has risen continuously from 72.5 million barrels in 1993 to 511 million barrels in 2000 (440 million barrels in 2001). This shows that about 30% of the total oil consumption is dependent on import in recent years.
           According to evaluation and studies from various Chinese government departments, in the next decade, if oil production increases at the same rate as in the last decade China's projected oil needs will far outpace the expected levels of production. In line with prediction by SDPC, in order to ensure the GNP's average growth of over 7.0% annually, total energy consumption, especially for oil and gas, will continue to grow in the next decade. Oil consumption will reach about 1.85-2.16 billion barrels; gas consumption will reach about 2.83 tcf (trillion cubic feet). Crude oil import will keep growing to reach 584 million barrels in 2005 and 730-876 million barrels in 2010. Undoubtedly China's oil consumption will be more reliant on the foreign suppliers. The imbalance between oil supply and production will widen greatly. Obviously, the imbalance, if allowed to continue, will inevitably threaten China's economy and national security.

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Last Update: 8 August 2002