China is situated in the eastern part of Asia, on the west of coast of the Pacific Ocean. It has a total land area of 9,596,960 square kilometers (about 3.7 million square. miles), next only to Russia and Canada. It stretches east to west about 5,200 kilometers, from the Heilong Jiang and Wusuli river to Pamirs Mountains in Central Asia and extends north to south approximately 4,050 kilometers, from the center of the Heilongjiang river to Hainan Island in south, and another 1,450 kilometers further south to Zengmu Reef, territorial claim off north coast of Malaysia.
Terrain and vegetation vary greatly in China ranging from plains, deltas, and hills in east; mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west. The eastern half of the country, its seacoast fringed with offshore islands, is a region of fertile lowlands, foothills and mountains, desert, steppes, and subtropical areas. The western half of China is a region of sunken basins, rolling plateaus, and towering massifs, including a portion of the highest tableland on earth. Mountains, hills, and highlands cover about 66 percent of the nation's territory, impeding communication and leaving limited level land for agriculture. Most ranges, including all the major ones, trend east west. In the southwest, the Himalayas and the Kunlun Mountains enclose the Qing Zang Plateau, which encompasses most of Xizang Autonomous Region (also known as Tibet) and part of Qinghai Province. It is the most extensive plateau in the world, where elevations average more than 4,000 meters above sea level and the loftiest summits rise to more than 7,200 meters.
Most of China is situated in the temperate zone. Some parts of southern China are located in tropical and subtropical zone while northeastern part is near the Frigid Zone. Therefore, there are complex climatic patterns ranging from cold-temperate north to tropical south. In north China, summers are warm and short while winters are long and cold. In the tropical and subtropical south, trees and other vegetation remain green all year round. The eastern coastal regions of China are warm and humid, have four distinct seasons. But the temperature in the interior areas of northwest China change greatly during the daytime. There is a saying: “People wear fur coats in the morning but silk at noon.” Because of its high elevation, the Qing Zang Plateau area, s special alpine-cold zone, has low temperature all year round. Generally, temperatures range from minus 30°C in north in January to 28°C in south in July. Precipitation varies regionally. Alternating wet monsoon in summer, dry monsoon in winter.
The largest city: Shanghai
Other major cities: Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Harbin, Shenyang, Dalian, Qingdao, Xi ‘an, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and etc.
China has more people than any other country. By the end of 2000, China had a population of about 1.3 billion. China population is distributed unevenly with more in the east (more than 300 persons per square kilometer) and fewer in the west (about 40 persons per square kilometer). The national average density of population is 119 per square kilometer. The average size of household is 3.7 persons. The proportion of population aged 0-14 is 26.4 percent, those aged 15-64 is 67.2 percent, and that of the people aged 65 and over is 6.4 percent.
Facing the serious problem of over population, China has implemented family planning to control the population growth. Since it was initiated in the 1970s, the birth rate has declined each year. By the end of 1994 the birth rate dropped to 17.7 per thousand from 34.11 per thousand in 1969, and the natural growth rate declined to 11.21 to 11.21 per thousand from 26.08 per thousand simultaneously.
There are 56 ethnic groups in China. The Han people form the largest, numbering 1.1 billion and making up 93.3 percent of the country's population. The other ethnic groups, the minority nationalities, total 160 million, make up only 6.7 percent of the Chinese nation. Of the minority nationalities, 15 have over a million people each; 13 over 100,000 each; 7 over 50,000 each; and 20 have fewer than 50,000 people each.
China is a country with many religious beliefs. There are a hundred million religious followers of Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism in China. Ethnic groups have their own religious preferences.