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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Chinese (singular and plural).
Population (2002 est.): 1.3 billion.
Population growth rate (2002 est.): About 1%.
Health (2002 est.): Infant mortality rate--27.25/1,000. Life expectancy--71.86 years (overall); 70.02 years for males, 73.86 years for females.
Ethnic groups: Han Chinese--91.9%; Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uygur, Yi, Mongolian, Tibetan, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities--8.1%.
Religions: Officially atheist; Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity.
Language: Mandarin (Putonghua), plus many local dialects.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Literacy--81.5%.
Work force (2001 est., 711 million): Agriculture and forestry--50%; industry and commerce--23%; other--27%.
The largest ethnic group is the Han Chinese, who constitutes about 91.9% of the total population. The remaining 8.1% are Zhuang (16 million), Manchu (10 million), Hui (9 million), Miao (8 million), Uygur (7 million), Yi (7 million), Mongolian (5 million), Tibetan (5 million), Buyi (3 million), Korean (2 million), and other ethnic minorities.
There are seven major Chinese dialects and many sub dialects. Mandarin (or Putonghua), the predominant dialect, is spoken by over 70% of the population. It is taught in all schools and is the medium of government. About two-thirds of the Han ethnic group are native speakers of Mandarin; the rest, concentrated in southwest and southeast China, speak one of the six other major Chinese dialects. Non-Chinese languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Mongolian, Tibetan, Uygur and other Turkic languages (in Xinjiang), and Korean (in the northeast).
The Pinyin System of Romanization
On January 1, 1979, the Chinese Government officially adopted the pinyin system for spelling Chinese names and places in Roman letters. A system of Romanization invented by the Chinese, pinyin has long been widely used in China on street and commercial signs as well as in elementary Chinese textbooks as an aid in learning Chinese characters. Variations of pinyin also are used as the written forms of several minority languages.
Pinyin has now replaced other conventional spellings in China's English-language publications. The U.S. Government also has adopted the pinyin system for all names and places in China. For example, the capital of China is now spelled "Beijing" rather than "Peking."
Religion plays a significant part in the life of many Chinese. Buddhism is most widely practiced, with an estimated 100 million adherents. Traditional Taoism also is practiced. Official figures indicate there are 18 million Muslims, 4 million Catholics, and 10 million Protestants; unofficial estimates are much higher.
While the Chinese constitution affirms religious toleration, the Chinese Government places restrictions on religious practice outside officially recognized organizations. Only two Christian organizations -- a Catholic church without official ties to Rome and the "Three-Self-Patriotic" Protestant church -- are sanctioned by the Chinese Government. Unauthorized churches have sprung up in many parts of the country and unofficial religious practice is flourishing. In some regions authorities have tried to control activities of these unregistered churches. In other regions, registered and unregistered groups are treated similarly by authorities and congregations worship in both types of churches. Most Chinese Catholic bishops are recognized by the Pope, and official priests have Vatican approval to administer all the sacraments.
With a population officially just under 1.3 billion and an estimated growth rate of about 1%, China is very concerned about its population growth and has attempted with mixed results to implement a strict family planning policy. The government's goal is one child per urban family, and two children per rural family, with guidelines looser for ethnic minorities with small populations. Enforcement varies widely, and relies upon "social compensation fees" for extra children as a means of keeping families small. Official government policy opposes forced abortion or sterilization, but occasional allegations of coercion persist in localities that take their population growth targets most seriously. Recent international efforts, including those funded by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), are demonstrating to government officials that a voluntary, non-coercive approach to family planning can be effective in promoting sustainable population growth. The government's goal is to stabilize the population in the first half of the 21st century, and current projections are that the population will peak at around 1.6 billion by 2050.