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One in every five people in the world live in just one country - China. This vast nation is almost the same size as Europe. It is the third largest country in the world after Russia and Canada. It also has one of the world's oldest civilizations, with a history stretching back more than 7,000 years. Ruled by a succession of emperors, China became a republic in 1911 and a communist state in 1949. Under the communists, every aspect of life was controlled by the state and China became a major industrial and military power. In recent years it has begun to move toward a more competitive economy that encourages investment from other countries.


The Communist Party took control of China in 1949. Led by Mao Zedong, the party believed in a society in which everyone would be equal and property would be owned by the whole community. Land was taken from wealthy landowners and given to groups of peasant farmers who worked on large, collective farms. Industry was put under state control. These attempts to transform China met with mixed success. Since Mao's death in 1976, private ownership has begun to develop again.


The Chinese population is growing by about 15 million people a year, wich is almost the total population of Australia. In ordre to reduce this rapid growth, the government introduced a policy in 1979 to limit each family to one child only. The single children are known as '' Little emperors'' because they are often spoiled. The one-child policy has succeded in the towns, but not in the country, where large families are needed to prpvide labor in the fields.


Two-thirds of China's large population lives and works on the land. The most fertile areas are found in the south. The main crop is rice, though tea, cotton, fruit, and vegetables are also grown. The rice is planted in flooded paddy fields. Two crops of rice and one of vegetables or cereal grains are harvested in a good year. In the north and west of the country, which is drier and hillier, farmers grow a single crop of cereal grains and tend sheep and cattle.







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