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In 1987 China possessed a diversified telecommunications system that linked all parts of the country by telephone, telegraph, radio, and television. None of the telecommunications forms were as prevalent or as advanced as those in modern Western countries, but the system included some of the most sophisticated technology in the world and constituted a foundation for further development of a modern network.

Historical Development

When the People's Republic was founded in 1949, the telecommunications facilities in China were outdated, and many had been damaged or destroyed during the war years. In the 1950s existing facilities were repaired, and, with Soviet assistance, considerable progress was made toward establishing a long-distance telephone wire network connecting Beijing to provincial-level capitals. In addition, conference telephone service was initiated, radio communications were improved, and the production of telecommunications equipment was accelerated. Growth in telecommunications halted with the general economic collapse after the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) but revived in the 1960s after the telephone network was expanded and improved equipment was introduced, including imports of Western plants. An important component of the Fourth Five-Year Plan (1971-75) was a major development program for the telecommunications system. The program allotted top priority to scarce electronics and construction resources and dramatically improved all aspects of China's telecommunications capabilities. Microwave radio relay lines and buried cable lines were constructed to create a network of wideband carrier trunk lines, which covered the entire country. China was linked to the international telecommunications network by the installation of communications satellite ground stations and the construction of coaxial cables linking Guangdong Province with Hong Kong and Macao. Provincial-level units and municipalities rapidly expanded local telephone and wire broadcasting networks. Expansion and modernization of the telecommunications system continued throughout the late-1970s and early 1980s, giving particular emphasis to the production of radio and television sets and expanded broadcasting capabilities.

Data as of July 1987