Ronald David HILL

Guizhou is a province about the size of Uruguay in the southwestern part of the country. It is surrounded by the provinces of Sichuan (to the north), Hunan (to the east), and Yunnan (to the west), as well as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (to the south). Guizhou is a relatively undeveloped and poor province.

A traditional saying sums up conditions in Guizhou, a relatively undeveloped province in southwestern China: “Not three days of weather the same, not three mu [about half an acre] of flat land, not three fen [about half a U.S. cent] in the pocket.”

Here some 38 million people are crowded into 176,100 square kilometers (68,000 square miles, about the size of Uruguay), of which only 4,900 square kilometers (1,982 square miles) are under cultivation. Much land is habitable only at low densities or not at all. About 75 percent of the land is hills and mountains, mostly limestone. About 3 percent is bare rock. So limited is agricultural land that each acre must support twenty farm people. Each acre, even on slopes, must be cropped, on average, 1.8 times a year. Population pressure results in 40 percent of the total land being seriously eroded.

About 63 percent of Guizhou’s workers are employed in the primary sector, mainly in coal mining and agriculture. Coal mining is important with an annual production of about 100 million tons. The main crops are summer rice, maize, winter wheat, and rapeseed (canola). Other crops include potatoes, a major subsistence crop at high elevations, and apples. Overall, the primary sector accounts for only 22 percent of production.

Secondary industries produce 43 percent of the wealth from just under 10 percent of the workers. These are concentrated mainly around the provincial capital, Guiyang, a city of a little over a million people (the associated administrative region has a population of 3.2 million). Industrial plants are also located in smaller towns, such as the large steel works at Anshun in the west, built at the height of the Cold War.

Provincial gross domestic product per person is amongst the lowest in China. Poverty is widespread, compounded by relatively high levels of dependency and, for China, high birthrates. Some 27 percent of the population is not ethnic Han and thus not subject to the one-child policy. In addition, most Han in the province are rural and are thus allowed two children. Life expectancy at birth averages five years less than the seventy-three years that is the norm for China as a whole (2008 estimate).

Although Guizhou was considered part of the Chinese empire by the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), the ethnic Han population, even in the sixteenth century, probably did not exceed a few hundred thousand. The provincial administration began in the seventeenth century under the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) although the native Miao peoples were not brought fully under government control until 1870, under the Qing (1644–1912).

While the province is rich in coal and limestone resources, it will take very large investments to exploit them fully. Although annual rainfall ranges from 800 to 1,500 millimeters (31 to 59 inches), surface water is scarce. Limestone landscapes and China’s largest waterfall, Huangguoshu, attract tourists mainly from within China, but infrastructure in the province is weak. Levels of literacy are low, with 12 percent of men and 28 percent of women being unable to read or write simple Chinese.

The central government tends to obtain better returns from development expenditure in the coastal provinces, so growth in Guizhou is likely to remain relatively slow in the near future, especially as the province’s transportation infrastructure lags behind that of the rest of the country.

Further Reading

Corriga, G. (2002). Guizhou Province (Second Ed.). Hong Kong: Odyssey Illustrated Guides.

Guizhou Province. (2008). Retrieved December 29, 2008 from

Kirk, M. (Ed.). (2009). China by numbers 2009. Hong Kong: China Economic Review Publishing.

Source: Hill, Ronald David. (2009). Guizhou Province. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 962–963. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Guizhou Province (Guìzh?u Sh?ng ???)|Guìzh?u Sh?ng ??? (Guizhou Province)

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