The PRC has the largest population in the world, which is estimated to reach over 1.4 billion in 2019. In an attempt to curb population growth, the country’s family planning policy of the late 1970s restricted urban families from having more than one child. Due to the one-child policy, China’s population growth rate has decreased significantly to only 0.51 percent in 2015. Despite the population increase, China’s fertility rate remains below the replacement level at which a population naturally replenishes itself from one generation to the next. To avoid significant demographic challenges, the one-child policy was relaxed in early 2016 to allow all Chinese families to have two children.
China is the world’s second-largest economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), amounting to approximately 10.93 trillion U.S. dollars in 2015, while China’s GDP per capita was about 7,990 U.S. dollars, equivalent to about 14 percent of the GDP per capita of the United States in that year. Since economic reform began in 1978, China has been among the world’s fastest-growing economies, relying largely on investment- and export-oriented growth. However, China’s GDP growth rate had slowed down since 2010, and decreased to 6.9 percent in 2015, which was the lowest growth rate since 1991. When compared to most developed nations, economic emphasis on the industrial sector is rather strong in China. Its high productivity, low labor costs and relatively good infrastructure have made it a global leader in manufacturing.
China has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since December 2001 and is the world’s largest trading power, with a trade surplus of 593 billion U.S. dollars in 2015. It has established itself as the primary trade partner of many countries worldwide. Consumer goods made in China represent a large share of the country’s exports. However, the PRC intends to reduce heavy reliance on merchandise exports and focus on domestic consumption of its manufactured goods facing the lack of demands on the global market.
China’s national debt has risen dramatically in the past decade and is estimated to reach over 8,400 billion U.S. dollars. The increasing national debt is largely the result of non-performing loans to state-owned enterprises in the wake of the global crisis in 2008/09. Faced with rising labor costs and unstable domestic financial environment, many Chinese firms began to seek new opportunities overseas. During the period from 2005 to 2016, Chinese companies invested a total of 153.77 billion U.S. dollars in the United States.
China is one of the largest producers and consumers of agricultural goods in the world. However, it lacks arable land despite being one of the largest countries in the world. As China continues to industrialize, vast swaths of agricultural land are being converted into industrial land. Fast industrialization and urbanization have led to an increase of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, China was the largest producer of CO2 emissions in the world, with share of 28.21 percent of global CO2 emissions.
The mining and energy sector in China is growing parallel to the country's energy demand. The vast country contains large reserves of many energy and mineral resources, although many of these reserves are found in areas away from the industrial centers of the country. The PRC has been placed under scrutiny due to its high levels of development and its heavy impact on the environment. It is a huge challenge for PRC government to balance its economic development and environment maintenance under 21st conditions of dwindling resources, greater social inequality, and climate uncertainty.