The Republic of Mali is situated on the southern edge of West Africa's Sahara desert. Covering a land of over 1.241 million square km, it shares borders with Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal and Mauritania.
The country has an estimated population of almost 12.77 million in 23 ethnic groups, including Bambara, Peul, Sarakole and others.
Mali's official language is French, but Bambara is widely used in the country as well.
An estimated 80 percent of Malians are Muslim, and the rest are Christians and believers of indigenous animist beliefs.
Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (from which Mali is named), and the Songhai Empire.
Mali fell under the control of the French beginning in the late 1800s. In early 1959, Mali and Senegal united to become the Mali Federation. The Mali Federation gained independence from France in1960.
Mali is listed by the United Nations as one of the least developed countries in the world.
The nation's major resources include gold, iron, alum earth, diatomite, halite and phosphates.
Agriculture is Mali's key industry, with millet, corn, paddy, peanut and cotton being the country's major crops. But the country has not been able to achieve self-sufficiency in food supplies.
Gold and cotton are the country's major exports, and equipment, petroleum and food the major imports.
Mali has rich tourism resources, with the three World Heritage sites of Tonbouctou, Djenne and Bandiagara, plus the capital Bamako, but the country's transportation remains underdeveloped.
China established diplomatic ties with Mali on Oct. 25, 1960, and since then the relations between the two countries have witnessed a smooth development, with cooperation in such fields as politics, trade, commerce, education, health care and human resources keeping expanded.
From January to October 2008, bilateral trade volume between the two countries totaled 202.7 million U.S. dollars, a 58.7 percent growth year-on-year.