A quick look at 60 years of China's development


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Last week’s 60th anniversary celebrations marking the founding of the People’s Republic of China seemed to generate a lot of coverage and interest on news and social media websites. Business magazine Fast Company used the occasion to consider 15 different development-related statistics – comparing then to now.

Most of the figures are striking, and the graphic’s triangles illustrate how rapid and staggering the changes have been in China in just six decades. Interesting data (although the magazine doesn't specify its sources) in the infographic include:

  • The average life expectancy has increased from 35 to 73 years old.
  • The rate of illiteracy was 80 percent in 1949 and is 9.1 percent now.
  • The enrollment rate for primary-school children went from 20 percent to 99.3 percent.

Take a closer look at the chart here. (Hat tip to Cool Infographics.)

Join the Conversation

October 09, 2009

Great find James, quite a contrast and quite worthy of pride and celebrations.

October 12, 2009

I would venture a guess that the world has never seen such an example of economic development leading to large increases in human development over such a small time period. I'm wondering if this somehow vindicates the concept of authoritarian rule. For all China's flaws (human rights abuses, environmental concerns), it is clear that their unique style of governance has stewarded a major transformation. The claim could even be made that the most successful Asian countries in recent years (in terms of economic triumphs)--have been countries that maintain tight control over their populations, i.e. South Korea, China. I'm not necessarily advocating this style as a means to development elsewhere, but I feel it's worth noting.

November 10, 2009

Is it really the last 60 years? Or is it the last 30 years?

It seems likely that most of these changes have occurred since China's relative opening and liberalization and adoption of market mechanisms.

May 28, 2010

You have fixed the table to show that Chinese GDP is now three times what it was in 1952. I don't think that was really a fix. I'm sure the figure is closer to thirty times. i think what happened was that the GDP numbers were given in Yuan but incorrectly shown as dollar figures, and you corrected only the current number to the dollar figure.

Claudia Gabarain
May 28, 2010

Hey, good catch. But first of all, let me clarify we haven't fixed anything, this is not even our table or graphic: as the post explains, this is a graphic published by the magazine Fast Company (notice we send you to the full-size version in their site when you click on our thumbnail).

You're right in that the difference in GDP appears like it should be much, much larger: checking the World Bank's World Development Indicators database (http://databank.worldbank.org/ddp/home.do) I can't go as far back as 1952, but I can look up 1960 and 2008. What I get if I search GDP figures in current US$ is 61 billion in 1960 and 4,327 billion in 2008.

Interestingly, Fast Company doesn't indicate the source of data for their GDP graph, but at the bottom they say they have corrected the 2008 GDP figure and as you see it does indeed match that of the World Development Indicators. It looks like it's the 1952 figure what would be incorrect --as I say, I can't check that since I don't have that year's data at hand. I'd suggest contacting them through their site.

-- Claudia (blog administrator)