Taming the Nation's Unruly Rivers
In Old China, flooding frequently hit the Yellow and Huaihe rivers valleys. The Yellow River overflowed its banks every ten years and the Huaihe River inundated surrounding lands 935 times in 650 years between the 14th to 20th centuries. In the face of constant floods, the labouring people could do nothing. Moreover, they had to suffer from the extortion and exploitation by rulers in the name of "disaster relief." In June 1938, the Kuomintang regime even deliberately destroyed the Yellow River dyke at Huayuankou in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, inundating some 40 counties and destroying 1.4 million houses in the province. The resulting flood turned 530,000 hectares of cultivated land in Henan and 730,000 hectares in Anhui and Jiangsu provinces into lakes. Altogether, 4.8 million people were made homeless and reduced to refugees and beggars, struggling against cold and hunger.
After the founding of New China, the Communist Party organized the building of banks along the Yellow River, reservoirs and power stations. The efforts to harness the Yellow River in a comprehensive way over the last 40-odd years successfully brought the river under control. The Huaihe River project which freed 60 million people in the Huaihe River valley from the threat of floods for the first time in several centuries took only five years. In the river valley, the irrigated area is 5.33 million hectares, and the installed generating capacity reaches 3.5 million kw, with the volume or electricity generated annually totalling 18 billion kwh. In the last 40-odd years after the founding of New China, although natural disasters are unavoidable, people of the stricken areas no longer have to wander about as refugees. The Communist Party and government, besides mobilizing the nation to aid the people there, has also organized them to be self-reliant in crop production and home construction.
After the 1976 devastating earthquake in Tangshan City, Hebei Province, the central people's government allocated 2.5 billion yuan to the city for reconstruction.
From a Nail Buyer to No.4 Steel Producer
Old China's industrial production was so extremely backward that even foreign-made nails had to be imported. In 1949, the output of China's steel (158,000 tons) ranked 26th in the world; China had to depend on foreign steel products and crude oil for a long period of time.
After the founding of New China, however, China has built an independent and fairly comprehensive industrial system and now boasts a formidable industrial basis. Between 1950 and 1988, the state investment in fixed industrial assets owned by the people totalled 1,000 billion yuan. The proportion of industrial output value in total social output value reached 61 percent in 1988. When judged on the basis of internationally acknowledged classification, China has all of the 500 basic industries in place with the exception of the nuclear power industry which is still under construction. In 1990, the output of China's major industrial products was as the follows: 66.04 million tons for steel, fourth worldwide; 1.08 billion tons for coal, first; 138 million tons for crude oil, fifth; and 618 billion kwh for electricity, fourth. Of these, rolled steel and crude oil not only satisfy domestic construction needs but can also be exported.
From 'Car on Yaks' to Railways, Highways
In Old China, communications and transportation developed at a snail's pace. From 1874, when the Wusong Railway was constructed, to 1948, China built only 21,036.14 km of railroads. Sichuan Province, known as "the land of plenty," had no railroad at all. The Tibetan Plateau was not accessible by highway, with the result that a car sent to the Dalai Lama by a British, had to be transported to Lhasa, with yaks part by part. By 1949, China had only 21,800 km of railroads, 80,700 km of highways, and 706,000 km of postal and delivery routes.
After 40 years of construction, by 1988, New China's railroads had reached 52,800 km in total length; highway mileage totalled 999,600 km, inland river navigation routes 109,400 km, civil air routes 373,800 km and international air routes 128,300 km, postal and delivery routes 5 million km. All the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in China, except for Tibet, are accessible by railway, each county is accessible by highway and each provincial capital city is accessible by air and has telecommunication services to major cities throughout the world.
School Attendance: From 20% to 97.9%
Old China's educational system was backward; some 80 percent of the population was illiterate. Only about 20 percent of the school-age children went to schools and most labouring people were denied the opportunity to receive education. In the 36 years of the Kuomintang regime between 1912 and 1948, students graduating from schools of higher learning numbered only 210,800.
In the 40 years from 1949 when New China was founded to 1988, China's universities and collegs churned out 6.192 million students and 154,000 graduate students. The special technical secondary schools trained 9.698 million students, adult college and adult technical secondary schools 13.795 million students, and high schools 29.684 million students. In 1988, China had 1,075 universities and colleges, with an enrollment of 2.066 million; 4,022 special technical secondary schools, with an enrollment of 2.052 million; 91,492 middle schools, with an enrolment of 47.615 million; and 793,261 primary schools, with an enrolment of 125.358 million.
The attendance rate of school-age children was 97.9 percent in 1990, primary school education has basically become universal.
From Import of Balls To Launch of Satellites
In contemporary China, the country's scientific and technological level lagged far behind that of the advanced countries worldwide. Before liberation, China had to purchase even pingpong balls from abroad. The Central Research Institute, the largest comprehensive national scientific research institution in old China, had a staff of only 129 people in 1931, and the number increased to 197 people in 1948.
Since the founding of New China in 1949, the scientific and technological contingent has continued to expand. By the end of 1990, China boasted 5,820 state-owned independent scientific research and technological development institutions at or above the county level and a total of 24.32 million technicians in various fields. In October 1964, China successfully exploded its first atom bomb and, in September 1965, the nation's scientists succeeded in producing the world's first synthetic bovine insulin imbued with biologos. In November 1981, China was the first to transfer synthetic yeast insulin to ribose and nucleic acid. Between 1970 and 1990, the country successfully launched 30 different types of earth satellites. In 1981 China successfully launched three satellites with one carrier rocket, becoming the fourth country after the Soviet Union, the United States and France to master the technology of launching several satellites with one rocket. It successfully tested the world-famous Beijing electron-position collider, designed and manufactured with domestic materials a giant Galaxy computer capable of 100 million vector calculations per second. Since April 1990, China has begun to launch satellites for foreign clients and become one of the five countries in the world with the capacity to independently master nuclear and space technologies.
Life Expectancy: From 35 to Over 69
In old China, public health organizations and health workers were few. In 1949, the country had only 3,670 health organizations with a combined total of 85,000 hospital beds and 505,000 health and medical workers. Because of the shortage of medical workers and medicine, the health of the average Chinese people was not guaranteed. The death rate of the population was 25 per thousand, and the average life expectancy only 35 years in 1949, making old China one of the countries with the lowest life span in the world.
After the founding of New China, medical and health work developed rapidly. In 1988, the number of health organizations increased to 205,988; hospital beds to 2.795 million and health and medical workers to 3.724 million; the death rate of the population to 6.7 per thousand and the average life span rose to 69 years. Formerly rampant virulent infectious diseases such as cholera, plague, small pox, relapsing fever, typhus and kala-azar have been basically eliminated while the spread of such diseases as snail fever, malaria, local goitre, Kes-han disease and Kaschin-Beck disease has been brought under control. As immunization programmes have been popularized step by step, the health of the Chinese people has notably improved.
'Sick Man of the East' Now Awakened Giant
Old China did not have a physical culture research establishment or a physical culture institute. It had only a few physical culture training schools, no athletic hierarchy and no standard for physical culture training. In 1949 it had only 4,000 sports grounds. Old China had very few international sports exchanges and never won a world championship in international competitions or broke a world record. Between 1928 and 1948, although old China sent its athletes to take part in the Olympic Games four times, its largest sports delegation consisted of only 80 people whose score each time was zero and who were eliminated in the preliminary. Foreign media began to call'China "the Sick Man of the East."
Between 1949 and 19881, New China established 35 sports scientific research institutions with a staff of more than 1,500 people and 15 physical culture institutes. It sent 126,810 people to participate in various international sport activities, these athletes won 392 championships and broke 385 world records. In 1984, when the 353-member Chinese delegation won 15 gold medals at the 23rd Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, the people of the world were amazed at the progress which China had made and praised the country as an "awakened giant."