China is still the most populous country in the world: the 2000 census recorded 1.242 billion residents, estimated at 1,315,844,000 in 2005. The drastic demographic policies, undertaken as early as the 1970s, have achieved undoubted success, significantly lowering the growth rate: the level of fertility has now settled below 1.7 children per woman, and the average annual increase in the population is less than 1 %. It can be said that this contraction in births, by reducing the commitments for raising offspring, has freed up working energy and resources for savings and investments, constituting a real ‘ bonus. demographic ‘for development. But, beyond the psychological and social costs of this forcing, not all the implications are expected to be positive for the future: also thanks to the conspicuous improvement of the health system, China tends to host an increasingly high number of elderly people. By now, the average life expectancy has already risen to 70 years (73 for women), and 13 out of 100 Chinese are over the age of 65, but it is expected to be 20 out of 100 in 2030 and 50 in 2050.: and in the meantime the social security system is just taking its first steps, while the rural tradition takes over the support of parents to their sons. In a country where the displacement of young forces towards the cities takes on impressive dimensions, the generational imbalance that is announced could be a serious factor of social and territorial unease.
In recent decades, according to Microedu, the Chinese population has made significant progress in the level of education: illiterate people have fallen below 10 %, even if the gender difference remains very marked in this field (7.5 % illiteracy among men, double among women). Especially continuously raised spending on higher education and research, with positive effects on industries and leading service industry: the C, among other things, it has come to put into orbit in 2003, with its own vector, its first astronaut. The most incisive transformations in the quality of life have characterized the supply of individual consumer goods, connected with the explosion of private enterprise and with the penetration of Western models and companies. The largest Chinese cities, in particular, have become dynamic mirrors of the opening towards the market economy, in which the ways of dressing, living and having fun are placed in harmony with those of the most modern metropolises of the advanced world. Here, if the immense population of bicycles remains the norm, the universe of car owners has also conquered a significant space, soon becoming over 10 millions. In any case, there remains a very clear contrast between the coastal strip, densely populated and increasingly solid in terms of productivity and consumption, and the vast interior spaces, mainly devoted to agriculture and once the temple of rural municipalities, where income are depressed, innovation hardly penetrates and traditional models of life, like political and social hierarchies, crumble very slowly. This contrast is at the basis of intense internal population movements, which further increase the human load in the regions of the eastern selvedge, from the Gulf of Tonkin to the Yellow Sea and Manchuria. In a country that still counts less than 40% of urban population, this selvedge welcomes most of the millionaire cities, which are now about fifty; but the most populous metropolitan region, that of Chongqing, which counts as many as 30 million residents, is located inland, in the middle basin of the Yangtze River (the Yang-tze Kiang).
It is above all from the southern coastal areas burdened by an enormous excess of labor (Guandong and Fujian in the lead) that an intense migratory flow towards foreign countries has started, facilitated by the end of restrictions on freedom of movement: thus, it is estimated that the overseas Chinese have exceeded the figure of 50 million. The wave of emigrants tends to turn towards already consolidated cornerstones (in the rest of Southeast Asia, on the west coast of the United States, in Australia, in some European metropolises), but also towards new immigration countries, including Italy. On our territory it is estimated that the Chinese community now has a consistency of almost 100,000 individuals, many of whom tend to consolidate their migratory project. Authentic Chinese enclaves have emerged, starting from the 1980s, in some production districts dedicated above all to textiles (such as, to give a few examples, in Prato and its surroundings, or in Ottaviano and the neighboring Vesuvian centers) or in some large cities, where these immigrants work mainly in restaurants and businesses (Rome, Milan, Naples); they have at times been very well organized, in official form or not, even with their own telephone directories, their own clinics and their own industrial representatives. One of the problems that cloud the successes achieved by China in the eyes of the international community is the delay in the field of human rights: ethnic minorities have been affected in particular, which would form little more than
Among the non-Han ethnic populations, those who manage to give the most prominence to their cause are the Tibetans: although they are (at least officially) only 6 million, the international spread of Buddhism and the action of the Dalai Lama in exile place under the eyes of the world their aspiration for greater independence from Beijing. At the end of the era of the destruction of the monasteries and the expulsion and persecution of the monks, the dangers for the local culture come from the substantial immigration of Han elements and from the strong pushes towards economic integration. Thus, in 2005, the railway isolation of Lhasa ceased thanks to a line of almost 1500 km that branches off from Golmud, in Qinghai, going to altitudes above 4000.meters. And the monuments of ancient Buddhism, including the restored ancient home of the Dalai Lama (the Po-ta-la), are experiencing a new life, emptied of their religious essence, as the backdrop to an increasingly lucrative tourist circuit. Problem is also the situation of the Turkic people, much more prolific than the Han, settled on the western edge of China, in the vast and semi-desert region of Xinjiang Uyghur. Here, having settled the border disputes with the neighboring ex-Soviet republics since the first half of the nineties, the attention is turned to two problems that have accentuated the already considerable strategic importance of the area. On the one hand, the fear has emerged that the religious ties of these Muslim populations allow the penetration of fundamentalist ideas capable of destabilizing the political and social order. On the other hand, the growing energy needs of China have led to re-evaluate the ancient ‘silk road’ as a possible route for oil and gas supplies from the Caspian Sea area and Central Asia. Both perspectives, together with the presence of US military bases on the former Soviet side, led Beijing to increase the militarization of the territory.