Prior to the Communist takeover, manufacturing activity in China was very limited, consisting in the manufacture of textiles, metal goods, and of goods produced by its handicraft (cottage) industry. Since 1950 the Communist government has paid particular attention to the development of modernized industry, with the result that the overall industrial output has grown at a rate averaging 10 percent a year during the last four decades. Industry has, in fact, surpassed all other sectors of economic growth and in the degree of modernization.
The highest priority was given to the metallurgical and machine building industries, which now account for nearly one-third of the total industrial output, although much of the specialized items must be imported for the industry. In the chemical industry, the main thrust has been to expand the production of fertilizers, plastics, and synthetic fibers. Textiles, chiefly synthetics, account for nearly one-seventh of the gross industrial output.
Since the discovery of offshore oil fields in the 1950s, the industries based on oil such as oil refining, and petrochemical products, previously located in a few inland centers, are now being developed at centers not too far from the east China coast.
Despite serious efforts from the mid- 1950s to build new centers in the interior, the industries are unevenly distributed and remains concentrated near the major cities, or close to the east coast and a few inland locations. Thus Shanghai and Guangzhou (Canton) areas on the east coast produce over 10 percent of country’s gross value of industrial production.
The Shanghai and close-by centers of Huangzhan and Nanjing specialize in textile industry and the production of consumer goods. In the Northeast the manufacturing belt of Shenyang, Fushun, and Anshan contains the country’s largest heavy metallurgical, shipbuilding, cement, and chemical industries.
The other prominent industrial areas in the country are: Tanjkin-Tangshan-Beijing also dealing with heavy iron and steel industry; Guangzhou (Canton) where the nation’s major textile industry is located; and the inland industrial belt of Wuhan- Wuchang and Hanyang specializing in heavy iron-steel manufacturing. In addition to these major industrial regions a number of old, handicraft centers of cottage industry are scattered in the country producing primarily textile items and consumer goods.