Gleaming office towers coexist with widespread poverty in the world's most populous nation. A booming economy has lifted China's living...

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Big opportunities, rising standards

Gleaming office towers coexist with widespread poverty in the world’s most populous nation. A booming economy has lifted China’s living standards and created a growing middle class, but incomes remain far below U.S. levels.

Population: 1.3 billion: 500 million urban, 800 million rural.

Poverty: China is still home to 18 percent of the world’s poor, with about 150 million living on less than $1 a day. But more than 400 million moved above the $1 per day level in the past 20 years.

Per capita income: $1,296. In Washington state the per capita income is $35,299.

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Minimum wage: In central China, the minimum wage is 420 yuan per month — $52.

Sizzling economic growth:

China’s gross domestic product is projected to grow 9.3 percent this year and 8.7 percent in 2006. By contrast, worldwide GDP growth this year and next is projected at 3.1 percent. China has been Asia’s fastest-growing economy over the past 20 years.

The trading partners

China’s moves toward a market-based economy since the late 1970s have propelled a surge in manufacturing for export. China is now an important growth market for some U.S. products, too.

What China sells: China’s worldwide exports have risen almost fivefold in each of the past two decades. The U.S. now buys about 40 percent of China’s exports. After Japan, China is the second-biggest source of imports coming through Washington.

What China buys from Washington: Airplane sales from Boeing to China fluctuate widely. Last year they topped $1.4 billion.

Trade issues with the U.S.

Piracy of intellectual property: Estimates are that 90 percent of software in China is unlicensed.

A wide range of other businesses — both U.S. and Chinese — also suffer from counterfeiting.

Trade deficit: The U.S. trade deficit with China reached a record $20.1 billion for September.

Internal challenges in China

A wave of rural migration: More than 100 million workers, mostly unskilled laborers, have left China’s countryside for urban areas.

A thirst for raw materials: Once self-sufficient in oil, China now imports almost 40 percent of its oil and is responsible for more than one-third of the annual increase in global demand. It uses 20 to 100 percent more energy than more-developed countries for many industrial processes.

Environment: China has 20 of the world’s 30 most-polluted cities.

Social unrest: More than 50,000 protests over land appropriation, unpaid wages, corruption and other issues occurred in each of the past three years.

Sources: World Bank;; American Chamber of Commerce in China; U.S. Commerce Department; UNESCO; RAND Corp.; U.S.-China Business Council

Reporting by Rami Grunbaum, deputy business editor.

Graphics by Aldo Chan, Seattle Times artist