(From South China Morning Post)
It is home to 21 per cent of the world's population and produces 16 new citizens a minute - despite a rigid one-child policy. Its armed forces account for 11 per cent of the world's total and nearly equal all the regular armies of Africa and Central and South America combined.
Its population is on the move. Between 1997 and 2002 the rural population dipped by 7 per cent as workers left for the cities. Road and rail journeys increased from about 8 billion in 1992 to some 16 billion in 2002. The percentage taken by road jumped from 85 per cent to 95 per cent as the number of cars boomed.
There are now more than twice as many civilian aircraft as there were in the early 1990s.
It is a mobile population in more ways than one. Eight years ago there were 13.2 million mobile-phone subscribers. By 2003 there were 269 million and by 2008 it is expected to reach almost 500 million.
In many respects it is already the world's biggest consumer nation. It accounts for one in every three cigarettes smoked in the world and puffs its way through 1.7 trillion cigarettes a year.
Diets are …