By  on March 22, 2005

NEW YORK — Any discussion of China’s scale involves huge numbers. The country is home to 1.3 billion people, has an adjusted gross domestic product of $6.45 trillion and includes 22 provinces — with as much landmass as the U.S.

But China is also a land of great diversity and many contrasts that can get lost in those figures. The small pockets of wealthy people in its major cities are miniscule in comparison with the vast numbers of poor rural residents.

China is also a country of great contradictions. The ruling Communist Party controls every aspect of government and the legal system, yet those outsiders who still think of the country as communist would do well to listen to Western executives praise the competitiveness of Chinese businesses.

The leading party is also counting on private employers to continue to create millions of new jobs a year to absorb workers who are losing their former posts at the country’s massive state-run enterprises that are privatizing as China adjusts to its World Trade Organization commitments.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the country’s GDP last year came to $1.65 trillion, up 9.5 percent from the prior year. That growth rate is so high that Beijing authorities are trying to put the brakes on the country’s economic expansion, for fear of it overheating. When adjusted to account for local purchasing power — a common technique in comparing economies — China’s GDP comes to $6.45 trillion, second only to the U.S.’s $10.99 trillion economy.

In the U.S., China has recently been the subject of growing criticism for the way it manages its exchange rate, pegging the yuan at a rate of about 8.28 to the dollar. China last year invested $206.7 billion in U.S. dollars and U.S. debt to keep the currency, sometimes also called the renminbi, trading at that level. That brought its total foreign currency holdings to $609.9 billion. Advocates of U.S. exporters complain the peg undervalues the yuan by as much as 40 percent, which they assert gives Chinese exports an unfair competitive advantage. Economists counter that China’s dollar holdings have made it possible for the U.S. to continue its economic growth, despite a growing trade deficit.While China is often perceived as an exporting powerhouse, Chinese statistics show that its exports last year of $593.4 billion were just 5.7 percent higher than its $561.4 billion in imports the previous year, leaving a modest $32 billion surplus.

Its balance of trade with the U.S. is more lopsided, though Beijing and Washington disagree just how lopsided it is. Chinese figures show the country running an $80.2 billion trade surplus with the U.S. last year, while numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau put the imbalance at $161.98 billion.

The overall poverty of the Chinese populace is illustrated in Chinese government statistics that show all retail sales in China last year came to $652.6 billion. That’s a 13.3 percent increase from 2003, but still works out to less than $500 a person.

A Mixed Picture
Economic Differences Between Rural and Urban Chinese Households
Rural
Urban
Percentage of Overall Population
58.2 percent
41.8 percent
Per Capita Income
$355
$1,140
Change from 2003
6.8 percent
7.7 percent
Portion of Income Spent on Food
47.2 percent
37.7 percent
ALL FIGURES FOR 2004 SOURCE: NATIONAL BUREAU OF STATISTICS OF CHINA
Growth In Retail Spending
By Sector
Telecommunications equipment
41.7 percent
Building and decoration materials
27.1 percent
Motor vehicles
23.4 percent
Cultural and office goods
22.7 percent
Furniture
21.8 percent
Apparel, textiles and accessories
18.7 percent
Food, beverages, tobacco and liquor
17.9 percent
Consumer electronics
13.7 percent
ALL FIGURES FOR 2004 SOURCE: NATIONAL BUREAU OF STATISTICS OF CHINA
Textile Industrial Output
2004
Output
Growth
Synthetic fibers
14.3 million tons
20.6 percent
Yarn
11.2 million tons
13.9 percent
Fabric
45.9 billion yards
18.8 percent
ALL FIGURES FOR 2004 SOURCE: NATIONAL BUREAU OF STATISTICS OF CHINA


Trading Relations
China’s Balance of Trade With Major Partners
 
Exports
Imports
Balance of Trade
U.S.
$124.9 billion
$44.7 billion
$80.2 billion surplus*
European Union
$107.2 billion
$70.1 billion
$37.1 billion surplus
Hong Kong

$100.9 billion

$11.8 billion
$89.1 billion surplus
Japan
$73.5 billion
$94.4 billion
$20.9 billion deficit
ASEAN Nations*
$42.9 billion
$63.0 billion
$20.1 billion deficit
South Korea
$27.8 billion
$62.2 billion
$34.4 billion deficit
Russia
$9.1 billion
$12.1 billion
$3.0 billion deficit
* NOTE: CHINA’S FIGURES ON U.S. TRADE BALANCE CONFLICT WITH U.S. NUMBERS. THE MEMBERS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS: BRUNEI DARUSSALAM, CAMBODIA, INDONESIA, LAOS, MALAYSIA, MYANMAR, THE PHILIPPINES, SINGAPORE, THAILAND AND VIETNAM.
SOURCE: NATIONAL BUREAU OF STATISTICS OF CHINA

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