The People's Republic of China was established in 1949 under the chairmanship of Mao Zedong (1893-1976). The country's emergence as a modern nation took off with reforms by former Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) to decentralize the economy and open the market to foreign participation in the late 1970s. Since then, the country's dramatic transition has continued at a rapid clip. Annual GDP growth of about 10 percent over the past decade has been accompanied by landmarks – including the establishment of the Shenzhen and Shanghai Stock Exchanges in 1990, the reclaiming of Hong Kong and Macau in the late 90s, and accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 – making China a hotspot for international business. Economists rank the country as the world's fourth largest economy and some expect it to surpass the U.S. to become No. 1 by 2035.
While the income of Chinese citizens has risen with the economy, China still remains below 100 in world rankings for per capita GDP. The CIA World Factbook estimates per capita GDP among China’s 1.3 billion-large population as US$6,200 in 2005, compared to US$62,700 in Luxembourg (No. 1) and US$41,800 in the U.S. (No. 4). Chinese state sources report average per capita salary in 2005 to be US$2,250 (RMB18,000), up by 12 percent from 2004. In the 11th Five Year Plan (2006-2010), increasing rural incomes and improving quality of life were listed as high priorities by the central government. Emergence on the international stage has presented the Chinese government with complex challenges – such as improving human rights, sustaining market liberalization and maintaining balanced trade. However, the nation's vital role in the global economy is firmly cemented.
China through the years