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1. A communist nation in eastern Asia; the most populous country in the world; Also called: mainland China, Communist China, Red China, PRC, People's Republic of China.
2. City in Texas (USA).
The largest country in E Asia, bounded N by Mongolia; NW by Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan; SW by India, Nepal, and Bhutan; S by Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and Vietnam; SE by the South China Sea; E by the East China Sea, North Korea, and Yellow Sea; NE by Russia.
China is divided into 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, and three municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin), each with an elected local people’s government with policy-making power in defined areas. Ultimate authority resides in the single-chamber National People’s Congress (NPC), composed of 2,970 deputies indirectly elected every five years through local people’s congresses. Deputies to local people’s congresses are directly elected through universal suffrage in constituency contests. The NPC, the “highest organ of state power”, meets annually and elects a permanent, 133-member committee to assume its functions between sittings. The committee has an inner body comprising a chair and 19 vice chairs. The NPC also elects for a five-year term a State Central Military Commission (SCMC), leading members of the judiciary, the vice president, and the state president, who must be at least 45 years old. The president is restricted to two terms in office and performs primarily ceremonial functions. Executiv.
e administration is effected by a prime minister and a cabinet (state council) that includes three vice premiers, 31 departmental ministers, eight commission chiefs, an auditor general, and a secretary-general, and is appointed by the NPC.
China's controlling force is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It has a parallel hierarchy comprising elected congresses and committees functioning from village level upward and taking orders from above. A national party congress every five years elects a 285-member central committee (175 of whom have full voting powers) that meets twice a year and elects an 18-member Politburo and 5-member secretariat to exercise day-to-day control over the party and to frame state and party policy goals. The Politburo meets weekly and is China's most significant political body.
For early history see China: history. In 1949, after their elimination of nationalist resistance on the mainland, the communists inaugurated the People's Republic of China, the nationalists having retired to Taiwan.
To begin with, the communist regime concentrated on economic reconstruction. A centralized Soviet-style constitution was adopted 1954, industries were nationalized, and central planning and moderate land reform introduced. The USSR provided economic aid while China intervened in the Korean War. Development during this period was based on material incentives and industrialization. There was a brief intellectual thaw 1956–57, the Hundred Flowers movement.
Great Leap Forward.
From 1958, under state president and CCP chair Mao Zedong, China embarked on a major new policy, the Great Leap Forward. This created large self-sufficient agricultural and industrial communes in an effort to achieve classless “true communism”. The experiment proved unpopular and impossible to coordinate, and over 20 million people died in the floods and famines of 1959–61. The failure of the Great Leap reduced Mao’s influence 1962–65, and a successful “recovery program” was begun under President Liu Shaoqi. Private farming plots and markets were reintroduced, communes reduced in size, and income differentials and material incentives restored.
Mao struck back against what he saw as a return to capitalism by launching the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–69), a “rectification campaign” directed against “rightists” in the CCP and seeking to reestablish the supremacy of (Maoist) ideology over economics. During the chaotic campaign, Mao, supported by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) chief Lin Biao and the Shanghai-based Gang of Four (led by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing) encouraged student (Red Guard) demonstrations against party and government leaders. The chief targets were Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping (head of the CCP secretariat), and Peng Zhen (mayor of Beijing). All were forced out of office. Government institutions fell into abeyance and new “Three-Part Revolutionary Committees”, comprising Maoist party officials, labor unionists, and PLA commanders, took over administration.
By 1970, Mao had sided with pragmatic prime minister Zhou Enlai and began restoring order and a more balanced system. In 1972–73 Deng Xiaoping, finance minister Li Xiannian, and others were rehabilitated, and a policy of détente toward the US began. This reconstruction movement climaxed in the summoning of the NPC in 1975 for the first time in 11 years to ratify a new constitution and approve an economic plan termed the “Four Modernizations”—agriculture, industry, armed forces, and science and technology—that aimed at placing China on a par with the West by the year 2000.
The deaths of Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong 1976 unleashed a violent succession struggle between the leftist Gang of Four, led by Jiang Qing, and moderate “rightists”, grouped around Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping. Deng was forced into hiding by the Gang; and Mao’s moderate protégé Hua Guofeng became CCP chair and head of government 1976. Hua arrested the Gang on charges of treason and held power 1976–78 as a stop-gap leader, continuing Zhou Enlai’s modernization program. His authority was progressively challenged, however, by Deng Xiaoping, who returned to office 1977 after campaigns in Beijing.
Deng in power.
By 1979, after further popular campaigns, Deng had gained effective charge of the government, controlling a majority in the Politburo. State and judicial bodies began to meet again, the late Liu Shaoqi was rehabilitated as a party hero, and economic reforms were introduced. These involved the dismantling of the commune system, the introduction of direct farm incentives under a new “responsibility system”, and the encouragement of foreign investment in “Special Economic Zones” in coastal enclaves. By June 1981 Deng’s supremacy was assured when his protégés Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang had become party chair and prime minister and the Gang of Four were sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1982, Hua Guofeng and a number of senior colleagues were ousted from the Politburo, and the NPC adopted a definitive constitution, restoring the post of state president (abolished since 1975) and establishing a new civil rights code.
The new administration was a collective leadership, with Hu Yaobang in control of party affairs, Zhao Ziyang overseeing state administration, and Deng Xiaoping (a party vice chair and SCMC chair) formulating long-term strategy and supervising the PLA. The triumvirate streamlined the party and state bureaucracies and promoted to power new, younger, and better-educated technocrats. They sought to curb PLA influence by retiring senior commanders and reducing personnel numbers from 4.2 million to 3 million. The economy was modernized by extending market incentives and local autonomy and encouraging foreign trade and investment.
These economic reforms met with substantial success in the agricultural sector (output more than doubled 1978–85) but had adverse side effects, widening regional and social income differentials and fueling mass consumerism that created balance-of-payments problems. Contact with the West brought demands for full-scale democratization in China. These calls led in 1986 to widespread student demonstrations, and party chief Hu Yaobang was dismissed 1987 for failing to check the disturbances. Hu's departure imperilled the post-Dengist reform program, as conservative forces, grouped around the veteran Politburo members Chen Yun and Peng Zhen, sought to halt the changes and reestablish central party control. Chen Yun, Peng Zhen, and Deng Xiaoping all retired from the Politburo Oct 1987, and soon after Li Peng took over as prime minister, Zhao Ziyang having become CCP chair.
Tiananmen Square massacre.
With inflation spiraling, an austerity budget was introduced 1989. This provoked urban unrest and a student-led prodemocracy movement, launched in Beijing, rapidly spread to provincial cities. There were mass demonstrations during Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to China May 1989. Soon after Gorbachev's departure, a brutal crackdown was launched against the demonstrators by Li Peng and President Yang Shangkun, with Deng Xiaoping's support. Martial law was proclaimed and in June 1989 more than 2,000 unarmed protesters were massacred by army troops in the capital's Tiananmen Square. Arrests, executions, martial law, and expulsion of foreign correspondents brought international condemnation and economic sanctions.
In foreign affairs, China’s 1960 rift with Khrushchev’s Soviet Union over policy differences became irrevocable 1962 when the USSR sided with India during a brief Sino-Indian border war. Relations with the USSR deteriorated further 1969 after border clashes in the disputed Ussuri River region. China pursued a nonaligned strategy, projecting itself as the voice of Third World nations, although it achieved nuclear capability by 1964. During the early 1970s, concern with Soviet expansionism brought rapprochement with the US, bringing about China’s entry to the United Nations (UN) 1971 (at Taiwan’s expense), and culminating in the establishment of full Sino-American diplomatic relations 1979. In the 1980s there was a partial rapprochement with the USSR, culminating in Gorbachev’s visit May 1989. However, a new rift became evident 1990, when the Chinese government denounced the Soviet leader’s “revisionism”.
During the Deng administration, relations with the West were warm, with economic contacts widening. China used its UN Security Council vote to back much of the policy of the US-led anti-Iraq alliance during the Persian Gulf crisis of 1980–81, although it abstained in the vote authorizing the war; and in 1991 Japan and the European Community dropped most of the sanctions imposed in the wake of the Tiananmen massacre. Jiang Zemin visited the USSR in May for talks with Gorbachev, the first visit to the USSR of a CCP leader since 1957, and an agreement on the demarcation of the Sino-Soviet border was signed. In Sept 1991 British prime minister John Major was the first Western leader to pay an official visit to China since 1989. Vietnam's Communist Party leader and prime minister visited Beijing Nov 1991, after which relations were normalized and a trade agreement was signed. In contrast, relations with the US remained strained, officially because of China's poor human-rights record and its indiscriminate sale of.
weapons technologies around the world. In Jan 1992 China established full diplomatic relations with Israel, and in Oct 1992 Beijing received the first ever state visit by a Japanese emperor.
return to conservatism.
In 1989 Communist Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang was ousted and replaced by Jiang Zemin (the Shanghai party chief and new protégé of Deng Xiaoping), a move that consolidated the power of the hard-line faction of President Yang Shangkun and Premier Li Peng. Deng officially retired from the last of his party and army posts but remained a dominant figure. A crackdown on dissidents was launched as the pendulum swung sharply away from reform toward conservatism. In 1993 Jiang Zemin replaced Yang Shangkun as state president. Deng Xiaoping's health was reported to be failing 1994 and there was debate over a likely behind-the-scenes successor.
signs of economic growth.
By 1992 China's economy, after stalling 1989–90, began to expand again, with a significant increase in industrial output, as the country entered a new phase of economic reform. In 1993 it grew by 13% and in 1994 by a further 9%.