Mineral and energy resources
No less conspicuous is the richness of China in useful minerals, after the decades between the two centuries saw the multiplication of mineral discoveries. First, China is by far the largest coal producer in the world (nearly 2 billion tonnes in 2006) and probably holds the largest unused reserves. The industrialization of the second half of the last century was based almost exclusively on coal, which entailed very high environmental and health costs, especially in industrialized urban areas; since the last years of the twentieth century, a greater availability of hydrocarbons and above all electricity has allowed a growing diversification of energy sources; the problems deriving from the use of coal, however, remain very serious, as serious, in general,
Chinese oil production, which began in the second half of the 20th century, is far from irrelevant, even if it does not seem able to cope with the very rapid growth of domestic demand. Natural gas production is more modest. As mentioned above, electricity production is rapidly increasing, for which China is the second largest producer in the world (over 3000 billion kWh in 2007); more than 80% of this is thermoelectric energy, but that of water origin has grown greatly after the entry into operation of the Three Gorges on the Chang Jiang dam, the largest in the world, and of the many dams (the main one is of Xiaolangdi) on Huang He. Currently, Chinese hydroelectric production is only slightly lower than that of Canada, which has long been the world’s largest producer. As a whole, the energy production of China would even turn out to be exuberant compared to the demands of the internal market; the downward trend in the use of coal, however, and the increase in hydrocarbon consumption are changing the sectoral composition of demand in such a way that it could be problematic to cope with domestic resources.
Among the minerals for which the Chinese contribution is noteworthy are iron, whose production has increased extraordinarily in the last two decades, tin, lead, zinc, aluminum, tungsten (of which it is the first world producer), silver (second producer), phosphates, gold, sulfur, uranium, manganese.
Industrial and craft activities
This set of mineral resources was substantially unknown or in any case little exploited (with the exception of coal and, to some extent, iron) before 1949. It was the decisive push for industrialization in the country that prompted mineral research and the consequent availability of internal raw materials, starting with energy ones. For decades, moreover, China has made very little use of the import of mineral raw materials. The steel and chemical sectors were the first to be encouraged, initially in the context of large integrated complexes concentrated in the north-eastern regions. Starting from the 1960s, there was a dispersion of industries throughout the country; the size decreased, the production increased,
According to RECIPESINTHEBOX, the steel industry is still of fundamental importance (and China is the world’s largest producer of steel and cast iron). The industry has diversified greatly, but in the engineering industry it retains one of its strengths: the machine tool sector stands out, but the car sector is also important, as well as that of commercial vehicles and railway equipment for some time. Alongside these productions, the traditional one of bicycles still stands (40 million pieces per year). Since the 1980s, a variety of production of goods with a more or less high technological rate has developed from metalworking, always mainly based on a vast use of labor: precision mechanics, household appliances, telephony and communications, optics, electrotechnics, electronics, up to aerospace (C. launched a large number of artificial satellites and in 2003 there was the first flight of a Chinese astronaut). Alongside these productions, those linked to the agri-food chain (including textiles) have experienced an extraordinary and widespread development throughout the country. The light industry, however, and especially the more technologically advanced or more decidedly export-oriented (electronics, textiles, communications, chemicals) is mainly located in the central-southern regions and, in general, in the coastal areas.
Finally, the contribution of craftsmanship, widespread throughout the country and known for high-quality products (porcelain, silks, glass), cannot be overlooked; in the same way, particular productions, such as book publishing (with over 100,000 titles published every year, China is the first country in the world for book publishing) and film and television have a far from negligible importance.
Only from the last two decades of the twentieth century (and above all from the last) did the growth of a real tertiary sector begin; previously limited to administration, the sector has seen a multiplication of private initiatives, from commercial ones (often affiliated or promoted by companies belonging to Chinese emigrants abroad) to banking and financial ones, with a spectacular surge in turnover the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges; the sector absorbs over a quarter of the workforce and guarantees just under half of the GDP.