1. Overview
  2. Development Through Time
  3. Human Setting
  4. Modern China


The population of China is about 1.2 billion. Most of this population lives in the eastern part of the country. China's population represents over one-fifth of the entire world's population. The reason for China's population is the need for people to work in the fields. Compared to China's high population, the land area is not very large. It is almost the same size as the United States, including Alaska. Both countries have about 3.7 million square miles. The Chinese people are living heirs to the oldest civilization known to man.

The Eastern side of China is made up by flat land and dominated by three major rivers. The Huang He, Chang Jiang and Xi Jiang. The Huang He, meaning Yellow River, is located in the cooler part of China. This river flows into the Bohai Gulf of the Yellow Sea. The Chang Jiang meets with the East China Sea, which is near the city of Shanghai. Both of these rivers can be compared to the Mississippi River. The last river mentioned, the Xi Jiang, is located near the famous city of Hong Kong.

The climate in China varies throughout the country. China is development controlled by rainfall. Most of the country lives where there is more than twenty inches of rain per year. The Southeastern part of China is fairly humid and warm. In the South, the weather is warm throughout the year. This area is suitable for double cropping, the growing of two different crops in the same field during the same year-mainly rice. In China, the distances and climates are very similar to the United States.

Development Through Time

China's history and geography have been created through what is known as dynasties. A dynasty is characterized by families who succeed one another. Once one family line ends and another begins, a new dynasty also begins. There were over twenty-five dynasties, beginning about four thousand years ago and just ending about one hundred years ago. The oldest dynasty is known as the Shang. During this time period, 1770 B.C.-1120 B.C., the area around the Huang and Wei rivers were created.

The most famous dynasty is known as the Han. This dynasty lasted from 207 B.C. to A.D. 220. It was during this period of time that China first experienced stability. Also, during this dynasty, China's military was stronger than it had ever been before. For the first time, the Chinese began to export their silk. Han China was very similar to the Roman Empire as far as development was concerned. They made great advances in art, architecture and science. Much of what China is today was developed during the Han dynasty.

As mentioned, there were many dynasties throughout China's history. Another is known as the Manchu (Qing) dynasty. This was the last dynasty in China. It lasted from 1644-1911. It was during this time in Chinese history that China had to contend with Western and Russian intrusions.

Another dynastic period was known as the Zhou (approx 200 B.C.). It was during this period of time that the famous philosopher and teacher, Confucius lived. This man believed in three important issues. These issues should make-up the moralistic behaviors of a person. The first issue was that the head of the dynasty is the one person who is accountable for all human and environmental conditions. Whenever some type of disaster occurred, for example, floods or famines, it was the rulerís fault. Since the disaster was his fault, it was then time for him to step down from power. It was this belief that lead to the different dynasties. The second Confucian rule is known as the System of Imperial Administrators. In this rule, Confucius said that people should be chosen to rule based on their level of competence. Their competence was based on their knowledge of Confucius sayings. Thirdly and most important, is the belief that one should worry more about society than one's self. This issue still has relevance in Chinese society today. These teachings, along with many others were taught for over twenty centuries. It was not until 1949, when Mao decided that Confucianism could not coexist with the ideas of Communism.

For centuries, China prided herself in being a stable country. In the 1800's, China saw the Europeans as uncultured people. China did not react well to the Western invasions. The majority of the invasions were led by the British. The British saw China as an important opium market. The outlawing of opium by the Chinese led to war. There were two opium wars. The first occurred in the 1840's. This war happened at port cities that were involved in some trade, but the British wanted these ports to be involved in all trade. During this war, the Chinese gave up Hong Kong and some southern port cities to open trade. During the second opium war (1848- 1865), the Chinese lost more ports to open trade. These ports brought more western intrusions into the interior. It was during this war that twenty million people died. This is twice the number of deaths that occurred in WWII.

In the 1900's, there were two major movements that occurred. The first was the Nationalist movement. This movement began in the 1920's. It was led by Chiang Kai-Shek. The leader and his people battled the Japanese and Communism. But, even with the help of the United States, the Nationalists could not hold back the Communists. When it became clear that Chiang could not defeat the Communists, he decided to keep moving the capital of China. He moved it back to Guangzhou, then to Changqing.

By late 1949, China was involved in the second movement, the Communist movement. The Communist ruler was named Mao Zedung. Once China was under strict Communist rule, Chiang and his followers gathered their valuables and moved to Taiwan. Taiwan was recognized by the United States as the "formal" China until 1971. Mainland China was known as the People's Republic of China.

Today, China and the United States have a much better relationship. China gets much of her income from U.S. imports and exports. The Republic of China (Taiwan) is also an important trading partner of the United States.

Human Setting

In China there are many different areas. The first is known as Xizang or Tibet. This area of China is fairly inaccessible. The population is fewer than two-and-a-quarter million people and lies between the Himalayas to the south and the Trans-Himalayas to the north. The capital is Lhasa. The Chinese government has made huge investments in this area. The valleys serve as an excellent site for hydroelectric power projects. The Tibetan Buddhist monks paid patronage to their leader, Dalai Lama. In 1958, the Chinese decided that the Tibetans needed to be modernized. They forced the Dalai Lama to flee Tibet. He now lives in Nepal but remains a spiritual leader for most people in this region.

Xinjiang borders Inner Mongolia to the west and south. It is a dry area with some agriculture. In 1949, the people decided to build qanats and enlarge the oasis. Now agriculture has more than quadrupled from what it was forty-five years ago. Xinjiang's population is now one-third Chinese. The main religion is Muslim. China's space program and nuclear weapons project has been based here for many years.

Inner Mongolia is the link between China Proper and Mongolia. This region has a population of about twenty-two million people. The majority of the people are Han Chinese. There are less than five million Mongols that live in this area. The capital city is Hohhot. The people are either Mongol nomads or Chinese farmers. The land in Inner Mongolia is very dry with a few rivers. The majority of the people reside by these rivers.

The North China Plain has a total population of 220 million people. The major city is Peking, with a population of ten million. The major river in this area is the Huang He. The North China Plain is a flat plain area where agriculture dominates. Most of the agriculture is along the Huang He because of its high deposits of silt. The temperature in this area is fairly cool. Therefore, rice is not grown here. The main crops grown are wheat and barley.

The Chang Jiang Basin contains the Chang Jiang river. This river is China's most navigable waterway. China's largest city, Shanghai, is located near the terminus of this river. Shanghai is a very densely populated area. This city alone has a population of fifty million. Shanghai is a more business-oriented city. Shanghai was one of the port cities that was opened by the Europeans. The Chang Jiang Basin is the most agriculturally productive area in all of China. The area mostly produces rice, and most of the country's pork. The fields can produce rice in the summer and wheat in the winter. The Chang Jiang Basins produce over sixty percent of China's food and is known as China's breadbasket. The area helps make China self-sufficient in food supply.

The Xi Jiang Basin is the smallest of the three most populous areas. It has a population of about 160 million. The major river in this area is Xi Jiang River. The weather in this area is quite warm. Therefore, the fields are capable of double cropping rice. The Chinese have built canals and terraces to help water the rice. A major city in this basin is Guangzhou. This city is formerly known as Canton. Guangzhou is the center for the Cantonese people. Cantonese is a true Chinese language, but it has a stronger dialect than the traditional Mandarin. Canton was formerly British controlled.

The Northeast Uplands has a total population of about 100 million people. This area of China is sometimes known as Manchuria. There is not much agriculture because of the fairly cool temperatures. Instead, with the aide of Russia, this area developed in industry. Its main industrial sources are mainly coal and steel. Most of the industrial activity is centered around the city of Shenyang. In conjunction with coal and steel, oil and iron are also found.

Modern China

In 1949, Mao and his people turned to Communism. China started out by using the ideas of Marxism, but also added a few ideas of their own. In order to remove the capitalistic views in people, the government took a three-tiered approach.

1) Restructure the relationship between the Chinese people and the earth.

2) Build industrial bases for a modern China.

3) Destroy the hold of Confucian order. There was a great struggle between Confucianism and Communism. The beliefs that the Chinese had held for centuries went against many ideas of Communism.

One idea of Confucianism was to each according to his labor. A person will get in life according to how hard he works.

The Marxist idea was to each according to his needs. In other words, people will get in life only what they need. Absolute needs are minimal (food, shelter, etc.). All of the Communist ideas are explained in what is known as the "Red Book."

China tried to achieve Communism by doing two things.

1) Rely on agriculture to provide the capital to make the move towards Communism. Basically, the idea was to take the money from the countryside and put it towards improving the city. By doing this, the country became poorer, while the city became richer.

2) Break the power of the landowners. This was done in a very confrontational approach. The Chinese used what is known as "forced collectivization." In 1954, there were about ten million collectives formed. There were between six and fifteen households per collective. These collectives are known as mutual aide teams. The results of forced collectivization were quite disappointing to the Chinese government. Agricultural production did not increase. Also, in 1956 and 1960, a terrible drought occurred, which in turn eventually killed about 100 million people.

In the late 1950's when forced collectivization did not work, the government came up with a new program. This program was called the Great Leap Forward. With this approach, the government would begin to build industries in the rural areas. This was done so the peasants could work in the fields during the day. At night they could work in the factories. The steel produced in these factories was not of very good quality. By the late 1960,s the idea of Communism was still not working very well. Under the Marxist theory, a country cannot achieve true Communism unless there is a continual revolution. A revolution was begun known as the Cultural Revolution. This revolution lasted until the mid-1970s. During this revolution, China used their youth to either take away or destroy all capitalistic possessions of the citizens.

After the Cultural Revolution ended, a new civil war broke out. This revolution was over who should take power. The new group that took control were the Pragmatists. In order to emphasize the basic needs for China the Pragmatists did four things.

1) Improve agriculture. They did this so more people could move to the cities.

2) Improve the army. They achieved this by investing heavily in technology and manpower.

3) Emphasized on light industry and consumer goods. These goods were exported.

4) Import foreign science. The new government did this in order to rapidly make-up in the technology gap.

The Pragmatists loosened the grip on Communism. They allowed the people to have more money. The government also let businesses make more of their own decisions.

The result of Chinese Pragmatism was very positive. It essentially reawakened China. This country has now become more of a regional power. Today the United States has a thirty-four billion dollar trade deficit with China. Japan's trade deficit is sixty-nine billion dollars. As the trade deficit increases, China now has the money to buy more technologically oriented products. These products include planes and medical equipment. It is hoped that the sales of these items will close the trade gap.

Review Questions

1) The teachings of Confucius stressed: A. independence of rule of the emperor from the will of Heaven; B. the necessity for the dynastic cycle; C. accountability of the Emperor for human conditions; selection of administrators on the basis of competence; and order, continuity, and social cohesion above personal gain; D. ideals that linked families together into extended families, or clans, which were the heart of village life.

2) The origins of Chinese civilization can be traced to the North China Plain. This area can be located: A. in the Xi Jiang lowlands; B. along the Huang He (Yellow River); C. in the middle basin of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze); D. in what is today identified as Outer China.

3) The ecological basis of Chinese civilization is found in the cultivation of rice. As cultivated in China, rice farming is an example of: A. labor-intensive peasant agriculture; B. land-extensive machine agriculture; C. a society with a high percentage urban population; D. a thinly populated Third World landscape.

4) A basic regionalization of China into Outer and Agricultural China can be made on the basis of: A. effective administration; B. rainfall. It is the 20-inch rainfall line that separates the two regions; C. wheat cultivation versus rice cultivation; D. industrialization.

5) The acculturation of minority peoples in western China is carried out by policies: A. of officially sponsored migration and resettlement of Chinese from the east to western and northern provinces; B. idealizing the traditional Tibetan theocracy; C. favoring the resettlement of the Turkish-speaking Muslims as rice farmers in the developing areas of the Chang Jiang river basins; D. consolidating populations near railroad and pipeline centers.

6) During the 1930's and 1940's, the Chinese Communists found their basic strength to lie: A. with the sophisticated merchant class; B. in China's industrializing port cities; C. among the peasantry; D. among their allies in Eastern Europe and the strong Communist governments already established in North; Korea and Vietnam.

7) Chinese heavy industry is: A. hampered by a lack of coal and hydroelectric potential; B. not yet important in the west of the country; C. likely to remain concentrated in the northeast, where large coal reserves are found; D. retarded largely due to the absence of proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

8) Chinese population growth has occurred mostly: A. in the largest cities; B. in the countryside; C. in the Chinese community exiled from the mainland on Taiwan; D. in the new areas of settlement in the North and West.

9) Policies aimed at regulating the Chinese birth rate: A. have consistently called for fewer births; B. have been directed toward eliminating the human miseries caused by industrialization; C. have considerably varied in aims and importance over the last 25 years, but today are among the most stringent in the world. More than one child per couple is becoming a rarity; D. has taken aim at the very high birth rate among Chinese women in the former foreign treaty ports.

10) The People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) are two different countries: A. with capitals in Taipei and Seoul, respectively; B. ever since the penetration of the Chinese economy by Western powers in the 1800's; C. with no economic or diplomatic relations with the U.S.A.; D. with important economic ties to the U.S. A.

11) The Huang He river is characterized by all of the following except: A. great variation in seasonal discharge rate; B. great variation in gradient and stream velocity; C. no variation in gradient and stream velocity; D. high silt load.

12) Society in traditional China focused on: A. family relationships at the village level; B. clan relationships; C. village elders; D. the role of women.

13) Employment in Chinese economy is mainly dependent on: A. agriculture; B. industry; C. oil extraction; D. consumer goods; E. service activities.

14) A major problem facing Chinese agriculture is: A. not enough farm laborers; B. lack of good land for agricultural expansion; C. too much moisture; D. too cold.

15) The most striking pattern of Chinese agriculture is the: A. transition from rice in the north to cereals in the south; B. oasis agriculture in the dry west; C. specialized farming in Manchuria; D. transition from rice in the south to cereals in the north; E. none of the above.

16) According to the 1984 treaty between Britain and China, which colony will revert to China in 1997 and have 50 years of special autonomy? A. Macau; B. Taiwan; C. Hong Kong; D. Mongolia; E. Shanghai.

17) The Red Basin of Sichuan, one of China's largest population clusters, is located in which of the following major river valleys: A. Xi Jiang; B. Huang He; C. Chang Jiang; D. Wei; E. Shanghai.

18) The Chinese city known for its steel production: A. Beijing; B. Lhasa; C. Shenyang; D. Shanghai; E. Guangzhou.

19) The Great Leap Forward was: A. a development program introduced by Mao's successors; B. the pragmatists solution to China's ills; C. an attempt to modernize the country quickly by locating industry in rural areas; D. an increase in agricultural production within China.

20) The Republic of China: A. was formed in 1949 on the island of Taiwan and was recognized as representing China until the early 1970's; B. is relatively rich compared to the People's Republic of China; C. has a large export market, including electronic goods; D. is an important trading partner of the United States; E. all of the above.

21) The eastern, populated part of China that includes 95% of the Chinese population can be regionalized into all of the following, except: A. the North China plain, dominated by the Huang He (Yellow) river and the capital city of Beijing; B. the Chang Jiang Basins in the center, dominated the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) river, the city of Shanghai; and including the populated, interiorly located province of Sichuan; C. the Xi Jiang Delta in the south, including the Xi river and the city of Guangzhou (Canton); D. the Northeast industrial region, including the steel city of Shenyang; E. the Xizang plateau that is characterized by the Tibetan organized theocracy headed by the exiled Dalai Lama.

22) After the death of Mao, the communist leader that had guided china from 1949 to the mid-1970's, pragmatists gained control of China. While still retaining a totalitarian regime, the pragmatist set out to do all of the following except: A. improve agriculture to feed people and allow people to migrate to cities; B. improve the Army; C. emphasize light-industry and consumer goods; D. place decision -making ability in the hands of enterprises; E. expand the population base to provide cheaper labor.

23) The Chinese were, historically, A. isolated from much of the rest of the world; B. anxious to play a major role in world affairs; C. conquerors of much of SW Asia; D. rulers of Japan; E. rulers over much of South Asia.

24) Northern agricultural China is dominated by the: A. Huang He or Yellow river; B. Himalayas; C. Chang Jiang; D. Qinghai-Xizang Plateau; E. Ordos Desert.

25) The urban focus of much of South China on the Xi Jiang Delta and located near Hong Kong is: A. Tangshan; B. Guangzhou; C. Shanghai; D. Tianjin; E. Beijing.

26) In the first Opium War in China (1839-1942) China's opponent was: A. Great Britain; B. Russia; C. Netherlands; D. Portugal; E. Japan.

27) The Portuguese possession near the mouth of the Xi Jiang is: A. Hong Kong; B. Macao; C. Timor; D. Shandong; E Hainan Island.

28) Which of the following statements about China is incorrect? A. China's land area is approximately equal to that of the United States; B. China is one of the two oldest continuous civilizations; C. China's population remains concentrated in the country's western half; D.; China remains a dominantly rural society; E. China contains subtropical climates in its south.

29) The river that acts as the major transportation corridor for central China and serves the hinterland of Shanghai is the: A. Huang; B. Chang Jiang; C. Xi Jiang; D. Liao; E. Indus.

30) The attempt to rekindle the revolutionary spirit in China in the late 1960's and early 1970's was known as A. the Great Leap Forward; B the Sepoy Rebellion; C. The Cultural Revolution; D. the Extraterritoriality Debate; E. the Long March.

31) Which; of the following areas in China, also known as Manchuria, was conquered by the Japanese, industrialized by the Communist China with the help of the Soviet Union in the 1950's, and is now known for its industrial decline: A. Northeast China; B. Taiwan; C. North China Plain; D. Xizang; E. Red Basin of Sichuan.

32) Major iron and steel production occurs in Northeast China near the city of: A. Beijing; B. Lahaska; C. Shenyang; D. Shanghai; E. Hong Kong.

33) Xizang: A. is the Chinese name for Tibet; B. is Buddhist; C. has suffered from the destruction of its culture by the Chinese; D. has its capital at Lhasa; E. all of the above.

Originally submitted by Billie Renelt on 4/14/1996. Submitted by Dwight Shepherd on 6/16/1997