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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Learning about China (part 1)

atlas_s Since we seem to have nothing but time on our hands (still patiently waiting for a certain little paper from the INS that is worth 68 times its weight in gold) we've all been learning as much as we can about China. Now I have to tell you that I'm pretty much starting from scratch here. If you ask my family they will (loudly and gleefully) attest to the fact that I would flunk grammar school geography and I am the last person you want on your team in Trivial Pursuit or any other game that has (sigh) history or political questions. (My dad, on the other hand, is world-class. So pick him for your team. If you're playing for money, fly him in. You'll see.) Anyhow, so if you're one of those people who already knows that the most remote city from the sea is Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, then you'll probably want to skip this series. OK, here goes. The basics: Population: China is the most populated and third-largest country in the world. It has 1.3 billion people (this is according to the CIA, and they should know) and contains one-fifth of the world's population. In landmass, only Russia and Canada are larger, and China is slightly larger than the United States. History: With its first recorded history dating back to 1500 BC, China claims the world's oldest existing civilization. Bonus trivia question #1: China is now the world's largest producer of which fruit? (don't google this to find the answer, just write your first guess in the comments section!) Demographics (note the skew towards male, until you get into the older years): 21.4% are 0-14 years (male 148,134,928 / female 131,045,415) 71% are 15-64 years (male 477,182,072 / female 450,664,933) 7.6% are 65 years+ (male 47,400,282 / female 51,886,182) Country name (No need to roll your eyeballs, did you know all of these? Come on, every single one, even the local ones?): conventional long form: People's Republic of China conventional short form: China local long form: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo local short form: Zhong Guo abbreviation: PRC Government type: Communist state. (Everyone knows this, but I put it in because I don't give it enough thought, and it deserves serious contemplation. No joke.) Currency: yuan (CNY). Yuan per US dollar is 8.28. The yuan is fixed (tied) directly to the US dollar, so the ratio never changes. (Fiscal-type people say this creates an artificially low value for the yuan, which makes Chinese exports to the US and other countries cheaper.) Bonus trivia question #2: What is a "Rawap" and where does it come from? That's all for now. I'm off to read through the cool magazines that Linda sent with features about China. I need to clean up the house, but the titles are enticing me: "The Zing of Ming" and "35 cool new night spots from Anguilla to Shanghai" from Conde Nast, "Salad Barchitecture: Pizza Hut customers in China build a better salad" from Frommer's Budget Travel, and many more! I'll report back soon.