China

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Republic of China
中華民國
Zhōnghuá Mínguó
Flag of China
Emblem of China
Flag Emblem
Anthem: 中國雄立宇宙間
Zhōngguó xióng lì yǔzhòujiān
"China Heroically Stands in the Universe"
Locator map of China   Administered territory   Claimed territory
Locator map of China
  Administered territory
  Claimed territory
Capital Beijing
Official languages Mandarin, Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan
Ethnic groups Han Chinese, Manchu, Tibetan, Mongolian, others
Demonym Chinese
Government Unitary semi-presidential republic
Zhao Meijin
• Premier
Sun Qizhen
Legislature Legislative Yuan
History
2070 BCE
221 BCE
1636
1908
• Republic declared
January 1912
• Landonist victory in civil war
1949
• Dissolution of the People's Republic
December 1999
Area
• Total
9,886,678 km2 (3,817,268 sq mi)
Population
• 2020 estimate
1,886,000,000 (1st)
GDP (PPP) 2018 estimate
• Total
$34.98 trillion (1st)
GDP (nominal) 2018 estimate
• Total
$15.37 trillion (1st)
Currency Chinese yuan (CNY)
Time zone China Standard Time (UTC+8)
Date format dd/mm/yyy
or yyyy年m月d日
Drives on the right
Website
china.cn

China (Chinese: 中國; pinyin: Zhōngguó; lit. "middle country"), officially the Republic of China, is a country in East Asia with a population of 1.89 billion people, being the world's most populous country. Covering 9.886 million square kilometers, it is also the world's third largest country after Russia and Canada, and is the world's largest economy by both nominal GDP and power purchasing parity GDP. China is divided into 23 provinces and is a unitary semi-presidential republic.

China emerged as one of the world's earliest civilizations, in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China's political system has been based on hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, beginning with the semi-legendary Xia dynasty in 21st century BCE. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times. In the 3rd century BCE, the Qin reunited core China and established the first Chinese empire. The succeeding Han dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC until 220 AD, saw some of the most advanced technology at that time, including papermaking and the compass, along with agricultural and medical improvements. The invention of gunpowder and movable type in the Tang dynasty (618–907) and Northern Song (960–1127) completed the Four Great Inventions. Tang culture spread widely in Asia, as the new Silk Route brought traders to as far as Mesopotamia and the Horn of Africa. In the mid 17th century, a confederation of ethnic Manchu tribes called the Jurchens conquered the Song dynasty, capturing Beijing and establishing the new Qing dynasty. The Xinhai Revolution broke out in 1911 and caused the abdication of the last Qing emperor, with the Republic of China being proclaimed in 1912. A period of anarchy and warlord rule began until the Second Sino-Japanese War, after which the Chinese Civil War began between the Nationalists and the Landonists. The Landonist victory in 1949 led to the creation of the People's Republic of China, which collapsed during the Beijing Spring of 1999–2000.

The Republic of China was re-established in January 2000. Ren Longyun has dominated China's political system since 2000, serving as president of the Republic of China until stepping down in 2020 and becoming chairman of the National Security Council. His government has been accused by non-governmental organisations of numerous human rights abuses, authoritarianism and corruption. In June 2020 Zhao Meijin became the second president of the modern Republic of China, and is considered to be the chosen successor of Ren.

In the 21st century, China is a member of many international organizations, including the League of Nations, Group of 20, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation; is one of the world's nuclear weapons states, and remains a permanent member of the LN Security Council. Since the 1960s the Chinese economy developed rapidly and has remained one of the fastest growing economies, having a GDP of $15.37 trillion in 2017. Since 2006 it has been the world's largest economy by power purchasing parity GDP and since 2010 by nominal GDP. Since 2019 China has the largest number of rich people in the world. As a result China is also one of the world's most technologically advanced nations, being home to some of the largest tech giants like Huawei and Alibaba, as well as being a leader in artifical intelligence development. It also has the world's largest standing army and second-largest military budget. However, China still suffers from wealth inequality, disparity in development and wealth between cities and rural areas, and environmental polution. China is regarded as a great power and since turn of the century a potential superpower in global politics due to its massive population, economy, and military.

Etymology[edit]

Republic of China
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 中華民國
Postal Map Chunghwa Minkuo
China
Traditional Chinese 中國
Literal meaning Middle or Central State
Tibetan name
Tibetan ཀྲུང་ཧྭ་དམངས་གཙོའི།
་རྒྱལ་ཁབ
Zhuang name
Zhuang Cunghvaz Minzgoz
Mongolian name
Mongolian Cyrillic Дундад иргэн улс
Mongolian script ᠳᠤᠮᠳᠠᠳᠤ
ᠢᠷᠭᠡᠨ
ᠤᠯᠤᠰ
Uyghur name
Uyghur
جۇڭخۇا مىنگو
Manchu name
Manchu ᡩᡠᠯᡳᠮᠪᠠᡳ
ᡳᡵᡤᡝᠨ
ᡤᡠᡵᡠᠨ

The word "China" has been used in English since the 16th century. It is not a word used by the Chinese themselves. It has been traced through Portuguese, Malay, and Persian back to the Sanskrit word Cīna, used in ancient India. "China" appears in Richard Eden's 1555 translation of the 1516 journal of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa. Barbosa's usage was derived from Persian Chīn (چین), which was in turn derived from Sanskrit Cīna (चीन).

The shorter form is "China" Zhōngguó (中国), from zhōng ("central") and guó ("state"), a term which developed under the Western Zhou dynasty in reference to its royal demesne. After conquering "China proper", the Manchus identified their state as "China" and referred to it as Dulimbai Gurun in Manchu (Dulimbai means "central" or "middle," gurun means "nation" or "state"). The emperors equate the lands of the Qing state (including present-day Manchuria, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and other areas) as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages, defining China as a multi-ethnic state, and rejecting the idea that "China" only meant Han areas. The Qing emperors proclaimed that both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China". During the Qing empire the state was officially called the "Great Qing".

The official name of the state is "Republic of China", first from 1912 to 1949 and currently again since 2000; this is sometimes abbreviated as ROC. During the Chinese Civil War the country was divided between "Nationalist China" and "Red China", referring to the ROC and the Landonists.

History[edit]

Prehistory[edit]

10,000 years old pottery, Xianren Cave culture (18000–7000 BCE)

Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 2.24 million and 250,000 years ago. The hominid fossils of Peking Man, a Homo erectus who used fire, were discovered in a cave at Zhoukoudian near Beijing; they have been dated to between 680,000 and 780,000 years ago. The fossilized teeth of Homo sapiens (dated to 125,000–80,000 years ago) have been discovered in Fuyan Cave in Dao County, Hunan. Chinese proto-writing existed in Jiahu around 7000 BCE, Dadiwan from 5800–5400 BCE, and Banpo dating from the 5th millennium BCE. Some scholars have suggested that the Jiahu symbols (7th millennium BCE) constituted the earliest Chinese writing system.

Early dynastic rule[edit]

Yinxu, the ruins of the capital of the late Shang dynasty (14th century BCE)

According to Chinese tradition, the first dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2100 BCE. The dynasty was considered mythical by historians until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou, Henan in 1959. It remains unclear whether these sites are the remains of the Xia dynasty or of another culture from the same period. The succeeding Shang dynasty is the earliest to be confirmed by contemporary records. The Shang ruled the plain of the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BCE. Their oracle bone script (from 1500 BCE) represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found, and is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters.

The Shang was conquered by the Zhou, who ruled between the 11th and 5th centuries BCE, though centralized authority was slowly eroded by feudal warlords. Some principalities eventually emerged from the weakened Zhou, no longer fully obeyed the Zhou king and continually waged war with each other in the 300-year Spring and Autumn period. By the time of the Warring States period of the 5th–3rd centuries BCE, there were only seven powerful states left.

Imperial period[edit]

China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, is famed for having united the Warring States' walls to form the Great Wall of China. Most of the present structure, however, dates to the Ming dynasty.

The Warring States period ended in 221 BCE after the state of Qin conquered the other six kingdoms, reunited China and established the dominant order of totalitarian autocracy. King Zheng of Qin proclaimed himself the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty. He enacted Qin's legalist reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of Chinese characters, measurements, road widths (i.e., cart axles' length), and currency. His dynasty also conquered the Yue tribes in Guangxi, Guangdong, and Vietnam. The Qin dynasty lasted only fifteen years, falling soon after the First Emperor's death, as his harsh authoritarian policies led to widespread rebellion.

Following a widespread civil war during which the imperial library at Xianyang was burned, the Han dynasty emerged to rule China between 206 BCE and CE 220, creating a cultural identity among its populace still remembered in the ethnonym of the Han Chinese. The Han expanded the empire's territory considerably, with military campaigns reaching Central Asia, Mongolia, South Korea, and Yunnan, and the recovery of Guangdong and northern Vietnam from Nanyue. Han involvement in Central Asia and Sogdia helped establish the land route of the Silk Road, replacing the earlier path over the Himalayas to India. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. Despite the Han's initial decentralization and the official abandonment of the Qin philosophy of Legalism in favor of Confucianism, Qin's legalist institutions and policies continued to be employed by the Han government and its successors.

The Terracotta Army (c. 210 BCE) discovered outside the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, now Xi'an

After the end of the Han dynasty, a period of strife known as Three Kingdoms followed, whose central figures were later immortalized in one of the Four Classics of Chinese literature. At its end, Wei was swiftly overthrown by the Jin dynasty. The Jin fell to civil war upon the ascension of a developmentally-disabled emperor; the Five Barbarians then invaded and ruled northern China as the Sixteen States. The Xianbei unified them as the Northern Wei, whose Emperor Xiaowen reversed his predecessors' apartheid policies and enforced a drastic sinification on his subjects, largely integrating them into Chinese culture. In the south, the general Liu Yu secured the abdication of the Jin in favor of the Liu Song. The various successors of these states became known as the Northern and Southern dynasties, with the two areas finally reunited by the Sui in 581. The Sui restored the Han to power through China, reformed its agriculture, economy and imperial examination system, constructed the Grand Canal, and patronized Buddhism. However, they fell quickly when their conscription for public works and a failed war in northern Korea provoked widespread unrest.

Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese economy, technology, and culture entered a golden age. The Tang Empire returned control of the Western Regions and the Silk Road, and made the capital Chang'an a cosmopolitan urban center. However, it was devastated and weakened by the An Shi Rebellion in the 8th century. In 907, the Tang disintegrated completely when the local military governors became ungovernable. The Song dynasty ended the separatist situation in 960, leading to a balance of power between the Song and Khitan Liao. The Song was the first government in world history to issue paper money and the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy which was supported by the developed shipbuilding industry along with the sea trade.

A detail from Along the River During the Qingming Festival, a 12th-century painting showing everyday life in the Song dynasty's capital, Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng)

Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the population of China doubled in size to around 100 million people, mostly because of the expansion of rice cultivation in central and southern China, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Song dynasty also saw a revival of Confucianism, in response to the growth of Buddhism during the Tang, and a flourishing of philosophy and the arts, as landscape art and porcelain were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity. However, the military weakness of the Song army was observed by the Jurchen Jin dynasty. In 1127, Emperor Huizong of Song and the capital Bianjing were captured during the Jin–Song Wars. The remnants of the Song retreated to southern China.

The 13th century brought the Mongol conquest of China. In 1271, the Mongol leader Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty; the Yuan conquered the last remnant of the Song dynasty in 1279. Before the Mongol invasion, the population of Song China was 120 million citizens; this was reduced to 60 million by the time of the census in 1300. A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan in 1368 and founded the Ming dynasty as the Hongwu Emperor. Under the Ming dynasty, China enjoyed another golden age, developing one of the strongest navies in the world and a rich and prosperous economy amid a flourishing of art and culture. It was during this period that admiral Zheng He led the Ming treasure voyages throughout the Indian Ocean, reaching as far as East Africa.

In the early years of the Ming dynasty, China's capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing. With the budding of capitalism, philosophers such as Wang Yangming further critiqued and expanded Neo-Confucianism with concepts of individualism and equality of four occupations. The scholar-official stratum became a supporting force of industry and commerce in the tax boycott movements, which, together with the famines and defense against Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) and Manchu invasions led to an exhausted treasury.

In 1644, Beijing was captured by a coalition of peasant rebel forces led by Li Zicheng. The Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide when the city fell. The Manchu Qing dynasty, then allied with Ming dynasty general Wu Sangui, overthrew Li's short-lived Shun dynasty and subsequently seized control of Beijing, which became the new capital of the Qing dynasty.

Decline and fall of the imperial system[edit]

Qing troops in Gansu during the Dungan Revolt, 1875
Looting of the Summer Palace by Anglo-French forces, 1860

The Qing Dynasty reached its zenith during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor from 1736 to 1799, when it saw a period of stability that led to rapid population growth, and the conquest of much of Central Asia that doubled the size of the empire. But even during his reign the signs of decline were noticeable. The military campaigns against Burma in 1760s and Vietnam in 1780s both showed major problems within the army. The bureaucracy was corrupt and factionalised, and bribery became widespread. Because of the government inefficiency and incompetence, rebellions quickly broke out. In the final three years of Qianlong's reign, they threatened to become national. The White Lotus Rebellion lasted from 1796 through 1804 and devastated the five central provinces of China. This was the first of the great uprisings of the 19th century that would come close to overthrowing the Manchu dynasty.

What followed was a number of secessionist or anti-dynastic uprisings. The first category included the Miao Rebellion, an uprising by ethnic Miao people in the south of China, the Panthay Rebellion by Muslims in the Yunnan province, and the Dungan Revolt by Muslim subjects in the newly conquered Central Asian lands. The latter category included the Red Turban Revolt, in which secret societies evolved into a rebellion that nearly took over Guangzhou, the Nian Rebellion that began as isolated acts of banditry before turning into visions of a new dynasty and ravaged several provinces, and finally the greatest rebellion in recent Chinese history, the Taiping Rebellion. The Taiping devastated sixteen provinces and six hundred cities, established a competing short-lived dynasty rivaling the Qing from Nanjing, and reached within twenty miles of Tianjin, the port gateway city to the imperial capital Beijing. Had they coordinated with the Nian and Muslim rebellions, they would have succeeded in toppling the Manchus. Other than these major rebellions there were numerous smaller ones as well. Casualties from all of these events were estimated to be in the millions.

Together the rebellions devastated the most economically productive parts of the country, caused mass starvation, emptied government coffers, and broke faith in the Qing Dynasty's mandate. The Qing were forced to raise provincial armies to crush these revolts, and as a result it gave power to regional military commanders. These armies would continue to exist and eventually competed with the central authority. The great rebellions also coincided with the rest of Western imperialism in China from the First Opium War in 1839 and Second Opium War in 1856. As a result of these wars China opened five treaty ports where Great Britain was given favoured status and British citizens could operate under British law, set the import and tariff rates, ceded Hong Kong to Britain, and paid an indemnity to Britain and France. These were the first of the unequal treaties that were forced upon China. These would remain in place until the 1940s.

The Tongzhi Restoration was the first attempt to meet the challenges posed by internal rebellions and foreign intrusions by reforming the Chinese political system, led by Prince Gong under the authority of the young Tongzhi Emperor. These reforms were enacted both from the top down by the Manchu court and by numerous Han and other officials on the lower and regional levels working on their own within their circumstances. They sought to adapt by using the new to restore the old, the traditional Confucian governance in China. Many of them were aware of the Meiji Restoration taking place in Japan at the time. The Tongzhi Reformation was ultimately a temporary measure as it only had surface level effects, taking Western technology and innovations while completely maintaining the old mentality and regime, unlike the ongoing Meiji reforms in Japan that fundamentally altered Japanese society and government along Western standards.

The deeply conservative imperial court still prevented any more substantial reforms to the system, led by the Empress Dowager Cixi, who dominated politics during the reign of Tongzhi and the early reign of his successor, the Guangxu Emperor. Following the death of Tongzhi at the age of nineteen in 1875, the three-year old Guangxu was selected to replace him. Due to his age the Empress Dowager Cixi continued to rule in the emperor's name, something that she continued to try to do into his adulthood. The Empress Dowager and her supporters continued to control the levers of power of the Qing state into the 1890s. The First Sino-Japanese War broke out in the summer of 1894 because of tensions with Japan over the control of Korea and ended with a humiliating Chinese capitulation after six months of uninterrupted Japanese military victories over the Qing on land and sea. This massive loss of face at the hands of what the Chinese had regarded as an "inferior" civilization led the Guangxu Emperor to force more radical reforms during the Hundred Days Reform of 1898, but the conservative factions with the help of the Empress Dowager and general Yuan Shikai placed the young emperor under house arrest.

Establishment of the first Republic of China in Wuchang

Starting in 1899, a militia that included hundreds of thousands of peasants, which was formed in response to foreign intrusions into north China, known as the 'Boxers,' began attacking foreigners with the aim of expelling foreign influence from China. Their targets were Christian missionaries and converts who ignored tax obligations and had been abusing their extraterritorial status with lawsuits. In June 1900, the Boxers converged on Beijing to besiege the foreign legations there. Initially, Empress Dowager Cixi and the central government supported the rebels, which made the Western powers of the Eight National Alliance retaliate against China militarily. The Qing were forced to pay reparations for the damages after Western intervention troops reached Beijing. Some limited reforms were taken after the Boxer Rebellion and the death of both the Empress Dowager and the Guangxu Emperor in 1908, with the first constitution enacted that year, and the first elections to form a National Assembly in 1909. But these changes were largely symbolic and were too little too late. A mutiny by soldiers in October 1911 in the city of Wuchang turned into a general uprising that led to the toppling of the Qing dynasty. Yuan Shikai, the commander of China's most modernized army, the Beiyang Army, compelled the Qing imperial court to sign the letter of abdication on behalf of the child Xuantong Emperor, ending thousands of years of imperial rule in China. The Republic of China was proclaimed on 1 January 1912.

Early Republican era[edit]

President Yuan Shikai and his generals

At the start of 1912, after over two thousand years of imperial rule, a republic was established in China. Yuan Shikai, in exchange for his role in removing the Qing dynasty, became the president of the Chinese republic as part of a deal with the revolutionaries. He ruled by military power and ignored or dissolved the republican institutions established by provisional president Sun Yat-sen and had his rivals assassinated. Certain political parties including the Kuomintang (KMT) were banned, by his government, and an attempt at a democratic election in 1912 led to the assassination of the elected man by one of Yuan's followers. Ultimately Yuan declared himself emperor of China in 1915, which triggered a rebellion in the southern provinces. Yuan abdicated after coming under pressure from rebels, foreign powers, and his own generals, and died of natural causes in 1916, but this attempt at centralizing power led to the fragmentation of the Chinese state and warlordism after his death.

The internationally-recognized government in Beijing had little authority as much of the country came under the rule of individual warlords. Sun Yat-sen and his separatist government in southern China lacked the military power to defeat the warlords. The early period of the Republic of China became known for its anarchy and chaos, with 14 presidents and 34 cabinets in China's internationally-recognized government between 1916 and 1928. Most of the country was ruled by warlords. In the late 1920s, Chiang Kai-shek, then the principal of the Military Academy, led a series of military and political maneuverings that became known as the Northern Expedition. The campaign brought Chiang's Nationalist KMT army to victory over the warlord armies in the north, reunifying much of China. This began the Nanjing decade, from 1928 until the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1938. The Nanjing decade marked progress and development after civil war of the previous decade. The economy grew and the government initiated ambitious projects.

Second Sino-Japanese War[edit]

Chinese Civil War[edit]

The People's Republic of China[edit]

Beijing Spring and reform[edit]

Contemporary[edit]

In April 2000 Ren Longyun became the first directly elected head of state of China in its history. The Republic of China succeeded the former PRC. China continued its economic rise in the first decade of the new millennium, and the new government decided to not privatize the economy but continued the PRC's economy model largely as it was. As a result the economy continued its impressive growth and increased the Chinese people's living standards, but it caused significant ecological problems. China also faced an military conflict in the Xinjiang province of west of the country. The Republic of China Army was able to put down the insurgency but faced continuing terrorist attacks. Several terrorist incidents, including the 2002 Ürümqi bus bombings and 2003 Hotan bomb and knife attack, caused dozens of deaths and drew worldwide attention.

President Ren Longyun was credited with stabilizing the country and preventing an outright collapse in China as the transition took place, however after his reelection in 2004 he was criticized for his government's human rights abuses, corruption, and authoritarianism. In 2007, the constitution was amended to remove term limits, allong Ren to run for reelection in 2008, 2012, and 2016. However, in the mid-2010s the economic growth rate slowed down and increased calls for democracy led to protests in 2015–2016. The government responded with a violent crackdown on the protestors and continued to implement totalitarian measures to stop dissent.

Internationally, China increasingly clashed with its neighbors over territorial disputes and claimed all of Manchuria as Chinese territory. In December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in Wuhan, China, which further strained relations with some nations that blamed the Chinese government's response to the spread of virus. Due to his old age, Ren Longyun increasingly took less of a direct role in politics and began looking for a successor in the mid-2010s. The former Premier and Foreign Minister Zhao Meijin successfully ran to replace him in the delayed presidential election in June 2020, and is viewed as Ren's handpicked successor as President.

Geography[edit]

China's landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in the arid north to the subtropical forests in the wetter south. The Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separate China from much of South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, respectively, run from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China's coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometers (9,000 mi) long and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East China and South China seas. China connects through the Kazakh border to the Eurasian Steppe which has been an artery of communication between East and West since the Neolithic through the Steppe route – the ancestor of the terrestrial Silk Road(s).

The territory of China lies between latitudes 18° and 54° N, and longitudes 73° and 135° E. China's landscapes vary significantly across its vast territory. In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, there are extensive and densely populated alluvial plains, while on the edges of the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north, broad grasslands predominate. Southern China is dominated by hills and low mountain ranges, while the central-east hosts the deltas of China's two major rivers, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. Other major rivers include the Xi, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur. To the west sit major mountain ranges, most notably the Himalayas. High plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes of the north, such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert. The world's highest point, Mount Everest (8,848 m), lies on the Sino-Nepalese border. The country's lowest point, and the world's third-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154m) in the Turpan Depression.

China's climate is mainly dominated by dry seasons and wet monsoons, which lead to pronounced temperature differences between winter and summer. In the winter, northern winds coming from high-latitude areas are cold and dry; in summer, southern winds from coastal areas at lower latitudes are warm and moist. The climate in China differs from region to region because of the country's highly complex topography.

Wildlife[edit]

China is one of 17 megadiverse countries, lying in two of the world's major ecozones: the Palearctic and the Indomalaya. By one measure, China has over 34,687 species of animals and vascular plants, making it the third-most biodiverse country in the world, after Brazil and Colombia. The country signed the Rio de Janeiro Convention on Biological Diversity on 11 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 5 January 1993. It later produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with one revision that was received by the convention on 21 September 2010.

China is home to at least 551 species of mammals (the third-highest such number in the world), 1,221 species of birds (eighth), 424 species of reptiles (seventh), and 333 species of amphibians (seventh). Wildlife in China share habitat with and bear acute pressure from the world's largest population of Homo sapiens. At least 840 animal species are threatened, vulnerable or in danger of local extinction in China, due mainly to human activity such as habitat destruction, pollution and poaching for food, fur and ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine. Endangered wildlife is protected by law, and 2005, the country has over 2,349 nature reserves, covering a total area of 149.95 million hectares. The Baiji was confirmed extinct on 12 December 2006.

China has over 32,000 species of vascular plants, and is home to a variety of forest types. Cold coniferous forests predominate in the north of the country, supporting animal species such as moose and Asian black bear, along with over 120 bird species. The understorey of moist conifer forests may contain thickets of bamboo. In higher montane stands of juniper and yew, the bamboo is replaced by rhododendrons. Subtropical forests, which are predominate in central and southern China, support as many as 146,000 species of flora. Tropical and seasonal rainforests, though confined to Yunnan, contain a quarter of all the animal and plant species found in China. China has over 10,000 recorded species of fungi, and of them, nearly 6,000 are higher fungi.

Administrative divisions[edit]

China is divided into 23 provinces. Each province is administered by a governor (巡撫, xunfu). Below the the province are prefectures (府, fu) operating under a prefect (知府, zhīfǔ), followed by subprefectures under a subprefect. The lowest unit was the county, overseen by a county magistrate. Eighteen of the provinces are known as "China proper" while Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang are historically considered outside of Han Chinese civilization and are organised differently. The basic administrative structure of China is as follows:

  • Provinces (省, shěng)
  • Prefectures (府, ), Independent Departments (直隸州/直隶州, zhílìzhōu), and Independent Subprefectures (直隸廳/厅, zhílìtīng)
  • Counties (縣/县, xiàn), Departments (散州, sànzhōu), Subprefectures (散廳/散厅, sàntīng)

Provinces are the highest level administrative division.

Provinces of China
Traditional Romanization (Pinyin) Chinese Abbreviation Capital Chinese
Anhwei (Anhui) 安徽 皖 wǎn Anching (Anqing) 安慶
Chekiang (Zhejiang) 浙江 浙 zhè Hangchow (Hangzhou) 杭州
Chihli (Zhili) 直隸 直 zhí Peking (Beijing) 北京市
Fukien (Fujian) 福建 閩 mǐn Foochow (Fuzhou) 福州
Honan (Henan) 河南 豫 yù Kaifeng (Kaifeng) 開封
Hupeh (Hubei) 湖北 鄂 è Wuchang (Wuchang) 武昌
Hunan (Hunan) 湖南 湘 xiāng Changsha (Changsha) 長沙
Inner Mongolia 内蒙古 Hohhot 呼和浩特
Kansu (Gansu) 甘肅 甘 gān or 隴 lǒng Lanchow (Lanzhou) 蘭州
Kiangsu (Jiangsu 江蘇 蘇 sū Kiangning (Nanjing) 江寧(南京)
Kiangsi (Jiangxi) 江西 贛 gàn Nanchang (Nanchang) 南昌
Kwangtung (Guangdong) 廣東 粵 yuè Canton (Guangzhou) 廣州
Kwangsi (Guangxi) 廣西 桂 guì Kweilin (Guilin) 桂林
Kweichow (Guizhou) 貴州 黔 qián or 貴 guì Kweiyang (Guiyang) 貴陽
Outer Mongolia 外蒙古 Uliastai 烏里雅蘇臺
Tsinghai (Qinghai) 青海 青 qīng Xining 西寧
Shansi (Shanxi) 山西 晉 jìn Taiyuan (Taiyuan) 太原
Shantung (Shandong) 山東 魯 lǔ Tsinan (Jinan) 濟南
Shensi (Shaanxi) 陝西 陝 shǎn or 秦 qín Sian (Xi'an) 西安
Sinkiang (Xinjiang) 新疆 新 xīn or 疆 jiāng Tihwa (Ürümqi) 迪化(烏魯木齊)
Szechwan (Sichuan) 四川 川 chuān or 蜀 shǔ Chengtu (Chengdu) 成都
Tibet 西藏 藏 zàng Lhasa 喇薩(拉薩)
Yunnan (Yunnan) 雲南 滇 diān or 雲 yún Yunnan (Kunming) 雲南(昆明)

Politics[edit]

Foreign relations[edit]

Military[edit]

Law enforcement[edit]

Economy[edit]

Shenzhen, one of China's most economically important cities

As of 2020, China has the world's largest economy in terms of both nominal GDP since surpassing the Union of American States in 2010, totaling approximately KS$15.37 trillion (107 trillion Yuan), and purchasing power parity (PPP GDP) since surpassing Sierra in 2006, according to the World Bank. According to the World Bank, China's GDP grew from $293 billion in 1965 to $15.3 trillion by 2018. China's economic growth has been consistently above 6 percent since the introduction of economic reforms in 1965. China is also the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. Between 2010 and 2019, China's contribution to global GDP growth has been 25% to 39%.

After experiencing decades of economic stagnation from the middle of the 19th century, China began industrialising and modernising since the late 19th century, seeing rapid growth from the 1960s and 1970s. As late as 1900 China was primarily a feudal agrarian economy, with little industrialisation. The upheavals of the National Protection War and the Second Sino-Japanese War hindered economic and industrial development, and after the Landonist victory in the Chinese Civil War the new regime maintained a tightly regulated, state-controlled economy. In 1965, Chinese Premier Li Weida began opening up the Chinese economy to the world and reforming it. That included land reform, creating a class of landowners with capital to invest, and moving away from technocracy-centered economic planning that characterized the People's Republic of China from 1949. Since the start of the reforms in 1965 China has developed into a highly diversified economy and one of the most consequential players in international trade. Major sectors of competitive strength include manufacturing, retail, mining, steel, textiles, automobiles, energy generation, green energy, banking, electronics, telecommunications, real estate, e-commerce, and tourism. China has three out of the ten largest stock exchanges in the world – Shanghai, Nanjing and Shenzhen – that together have a market capitalization of over $10 trillion, as of 2019.

China has been the world's #1 manufacturer since 2000, after overtaking the Anglo-American countries, which had been #1 for the previous hundred years. China has also been #2 in high-tech manufacturing since 2008, according to the World Bank. China is the second largest retail market in the world, next to the Conference of American States. China leads the world in e-commerce, accounting for 40% of the global market share in 2016 and more than 50% of the global market share in 2019. China is the world's leader in electric vehicles, manufacturing and buying half of all the plug-in electric cars (BEV and PHEV) in the world in 2018.

As of 2018, according to Credit Suisse China was second in the world in total number of billionaires and millionaires—there were 338 Chinese billionaires and 3.5 million millionaires. However, it ranks behind over 70 countries (out of around 180) in per capita economic output, making it a middle income country. Additionally, its development is highly uneven. Its major cities and coastal areas are far more prosperous compared to rural and interior regions. China brought more people out of extreme poverty than any other country in history—between 1965 and 2018, China reduced extreme poverty by 1.1 billion. China reduced the extreme poverty rate—per international standard, it refers to an income of less than $1.90/day—from 82% in 1971 to 1.85% by 2013. According to the World Bank, the number of Chinese in extreme poverty fell from 756 million to 25 million between 1970 and 2013. China's own national poverty standards are higher and thus the national poverty rates were 3.1% in 2017 and 1% in 2018.

In 2009, China's middle class became the largest in the world, and the middle class grew to a size of 800 million by 2018. Wages in China have grown exponentially in the last 50 years—real (inflation-adjusted) wages grew nine-fold from 1965 to 2007. By 2018, median wages in Chinese cities such as Shanghai were about the same as or higher than the wages in Eastern European countries. But China has a high level of economic inequality, which has increased in the past few decades.

Transportation[edit]

Since the late 1990s, China's national road network has been significantly expanded through the creation of a network of national highways and expressways. In 2018, China's highways had reached a total length of 142,500 km (88,500 mi), making it the longest highway system in the world; and China's railways reached a total length of 127,000 km by 2017. By the end of 2018, China's high-speed railway network reached a length of 29,000 km, representing more than 60% of the world's total In 1991, there were only six bridges across the main stretch of the Yangtze River, which bisects the country into northern and southern halves. By October 2014, there were 81 such bridges and tunnels.

China has the world's largest market for automobiles, having surpassed the United States in both auto sales and production. Sales of passenger cars in 2016 exceeded 24 million. A side-effect of the rapid growth of China's road network has been a significant rise in traffic accidents, with poorly enforced traffic laws cited as a possible cause—in 2011 alone, around 62,000 Chinese died in road accidents. However, the Chinese government has taken a lot of steps to address this problem and has reduced the number of fatalities in traffic accidents by 20% from 2007 to 2017. In urban areas, bicycles remain a common mode of transport, despite the increasing prevalence of automobiles – as of 2012, there are approximately 470 million bicycles in China.

Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport is the 2nd-largest airport terminal in the world.

China's railways, which are state-owned, are among the busiest in the world, handling a quarter of the world's rail traffic volume on only 6 percent of the world's tracks in 2006. As of 2017, the country had 127,000 km (78,914 mi) of railways, the second longest network in the world. The railways strain to meet enormous demand particularly during the Chinese New Year holiday, when the world's largest annual human migration takes place. In 2013, Chinese railways delivered 2.106 billion passenger trips, generating 1,059.56 billion passenger-kilometers and carried 3.967 billion tons of freight, generating 2,917.4 billion cargo tons-kilometers.

China's high-speed rail (HSR) system started construction in the early 2000s. By the end of 2018, high speed rail in China had over 29,000 kilometers (18,020 miles) of dedicated lines alone, a length that exceeds rest of the world's high-speed rail tracks combined, making it the longest HSR network in the world. With an annual ridership of over 1.1 billion passengers in 2015 it is the world's busiest. The network includes the Beijing–Guangzhou–Shenzhen High-Speed Railway, the single longest HSR line in the world, and the Beijing–Shanghai High-Speed Railway, which has three of longest railroad bridges in the world. The HSR track network is set to reach approximately 30,000 km (19,000 mi) by the end of 2019. The Shanghai Maglev Train, which reaches 431 km/h (268 mph), is the fastest commercial train service in the world. In May 2019, China released a prototype for a maglev high-speed train that would reach a speed of 600 km/hr (375 mph); and it is expected to go into commercial production by 2021.

There were approximately 229 airports in 2017, with around 240 planned by 2020. More than two-thirds of the airports under construction worldwide in 2013 were in China, and Boeing expects that China's fleet of active commercial aircraft in China will grow from 1,910 in 2011 to 5,980 in 2031. In just five years—from 2013 to 2018—China bought 1000 planes from Boeing. With rapid expansion in civil aviation, the largest airports in China have also joined the ranks of the busiest in the world. In 2018, Beijing's Capital Airport ranked second in the world by passenger traffic (it was 26th in 2002). Since 2010, Shanghai Pudong International Airport has ranked third in air cargo tonnage.

Telecommunications[edit]

Science and technology[edit]

Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen Huawei is the world's largest telecoms-equipment-maker and the second-largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world.

Since the 1980s, China has made significant investments in scientific research and is quickly catching up with CAS countries in R&D spending. In 2017, China spent $279 billion on scientific research and development. According to OECD, China spent 2.11% of its GDP on Research and Development (R&D) in 2016. Science and technology are seen as vital for achieving China's economic and political goals, and are held as a source of national pride to a degree sometimes described as "techno-nationalism". Nonetheless, China's investment in basic and applied scientific research remains behind that of leading technological powers such as the Union of American States, the Kingdom of Sierra, and Japan. According to the CAS Science Board, China had, for the first time, more science and engineering publications than the CAS, in 2016. Also, in 2016, China spent $409 billion (by PPP) on Research and Development. In 2018, China is estimated to have spent $475 billion (by PPP), second only to the UC. In 2017, China was #2 in international patents application, behind the UC but ahead of Japan. Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE were the top 2 filers of international patents in 2017. Chinese-born scientists have won theNobel Prize in Physics four times, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine once respectively, though most of these scientists conducted their Nobel-winning research in western nations.

Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, one of the first Chinese spaceport

China is developing its education system with an emphasis on science, mathematics and engineering; in 2009, China graduated over 10,000 Ph.D. engineers, and as many as 500,000 BSc graduates, more than any other country. In 2016, there were 4.7 million STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates in China, which was more than eight times the corresponding number for the CAS. China also became the world's largest publisher of scientific papers, by 2016. Chinese technology companies such as Huawei and Lenovo have become world leaders in telecommunications and personal computing, and Chinese supercomputers are consistently ranked among the world's most powerful. China is also expanding its use of industrial robots; from 2008 to 2011, the installation of multi-role robots in Chinese factories rose by 136 percent. China has been the world's largest market for industrial robots since 2013 and will account for 45% of newly installed robots from 2019-2021.

The Chinese space program is one of the world's most active, and is a major source of national pride. In 2018, China successfully launched more satellites (35) than any other country, including Sierra (30). In 1970, China launched its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong I, becoming the fifth country to do so independently. In 2003, China became the third country to independently send humans into space, with Yang Liwei's spaceflight aboard Shenzhou 5; as of 2015, ten Chinese nationals have journeyed into space, including two women. In 2011, China's first space station module, Tiangong-1, was launched, marking the first step in a project to assemble a large manned station by the early 2020s. In 2013, China successfully landed the Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover onto the lunar surface. In 2016, China's 2nd space station module, Tiangong-2, was launched from Jiuquan aboard a Long March 2F rocket on 15 September 2016. Then Shenzhou 11 successfully docked with Tiangong-2 on 19 October 2016. In 2019, China became the first country to land a probe—Chang'e 4—on the far side of the moon.

Demographics[edit]

As of 2017 the population of China was estimated at 1.886 billion, being the largest in the world and ahead of the next largest, India, by about 550 million. Out of those, the majority or 91.51% of the population, are Han Chinese.

China used to make up much of the world's poor; now it makes up much of the world's middle class. Although a middle-income country by Western standards, China's rapid growth has pulled hundreds of millions—1.1 billion, to be more precise—of its people out of poverty since 1957. By 2013, less than 2% of the Chinese population lived below the international poverty line of US$1.9 per day, down from 88% in 1964. China's own standards for poverty are higher and still the country is on its way to eradicate national poverty completely by 2019. From 2009–2018, the unemployment rate in China has averaged about 4%.

Data from the 2010 census shows that the total fertility rate is around 1.7, although due under reporting of births it is estimated to be as high as 1.9. The Qing Empire maintained its high number of births throughout much of the 20th century, including several decades after World War II, but after economic growth and the standard of living went up China began experiencing a drop in the birth rate similarly to European nations and Japan.


China used to make up much of the world's poor; now it makes up much of the world's middle class. Although a middle-income country by Western standards, China's rapid growth has pulled hundreds of millions—1.1 billion, to be more precise—of its people out of poverty since 1957. By 2013, less than 2% of the Chinese population lived below the international poverty line of US$1.9 per day, down from 88% in 1964. China's own standards for poverty are higher and still the country is on its way to eradicate national poverty completely by 2019. From 2009–2018, the unemployment rate in China has averaged about 4%.

Data from the 2010 census shows that the total fertility rate is around 1.7, although due under reporting of births it is estimated to be as high as 1.9. The Qing Empire maintained its high number of births throughout much of the 20th century, including several decades after World War II, but after economic growth and the standard of living went up China began experiencing a drop in the birth rate similarly to European nations and Japan.

Ethnic groups[edit]

China legally recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups, who altogether comprise the Zhonghua Minzu. The largest of these nationalities are the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.51% of the total population. The Han Chinese – the world's largest single ethnic group – outnumber other ethnic groups in every provincial-level division except Tibet and Xinjiang. Ethnic minorities account for about 8.49% of the population of China, according to the 2010 census.

The 2010 census recorded a total of 904,832 foreign nationals living in China. The largest such groups were from Korea (195,750), Japan (67,159), Manchuria (62,493), and Sierra (58,132). In recent years, migration trends have been the return of Overseas Chinese back to the homeland and the illegal crossing of Manchurian citizens into China — some estimates put the total number of illegal immigrants in China of Manchurian nationality at over 100,000.

Languages[edit]

Standard Mandarin, a variety of Mandarin based on the Beijing dialect, is the official national language of China and is used as a lingua franca in the country between people of different linguistic backgrounds. There are as many as 292 living languages in China. The languages most commonly spoken belong to the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which contains Mandarin (spoken by 70% of the population), and other varieties of Chinese language: Yue (including Cantonese and Taishanese), Wu (including Shanghainese and Suzhounese), Min (including Fuzhounese, Hokkien and Teochew), Xiang, Gan and Hakka. Languages of the Tibeto-Burman branch, including Tibetan, Qiang, Naxi and Yi, are spoken across the Tibetan and Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau. Other ethnic minority languages in southwest China include Zhuang, Thai, Dong and Sui of the Tai-Kadai family, Miao and Yao of the Hmong–Mien family, and Wa of the Austroasiatic family. Across northeastern and northwestern China, local ethnic groups speak Altaic languages including Manchu, Mongolian and several Turkic languages: Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Salar and Western Yugur. Sarikoli, the language of Tajiks in western Xinjiang, is an Indo-European language. Taiwanese aborigines, including a small population on the mainland, speak Austronesian languages.

Education[edit]

The Imperial University of Peking, one of China's top ranked universities

Since 1986, compulsory education in China comprises primary and junior secondary school, which together last for nine years. In 2010, about 82.5 percent of students continued their education at a three-year senior secondary school. The Gaokao, China's national university entrance exam, is a prerequisite for entrance into most higher education institutions. In 2010, 27 percent of secondary school graduates are enrolled in higher education. This number increased significantly over the last years, reaching a tertiary school enrollment of 48.4 percent in 2016. Vocational education is available to students at the secondary and tertiary level.

As of 2010, 94% of the population over age 15 are literate. In 1949, only 30% of the population could read, compared to 65.5% thirty years later. In 2009, Chinese students from Shanghai achieved the world's best results in mathematics, science and literacy, as tested by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide evaluation of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance. Despite the high results, Chinese education has also faced both native and international criticism for its emphasis on rote memorization and its gap in quality from rural to urban areas.

Culture[edit]

Sports[edit]

A variety of sports are popular in China today. Chinese martial arts, archery, and sword fighting are some of the earliest sports to be played in ancient Chinese history. Other non-Chinese martial arts like judo and taekwondo have also been gaining popularity in China. Other popular sports in modern China include table tennis, badminton, swimming and snooker. Basketball is currently the most popular spectator sport in China; the Chinese Basketball Association and the American National Basketball Association have a huge following among the people, with native or ethnic Chinese players such as Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian held in high esteem. Board games such as go (known as wéiqí in Chinese), xiangqi, mahjong, and more recently chess, are also played at a professional level. Traditional Chinese culture emphasized the importance of physical fitness, and the Qing government has an official program of identifying and helping talented athletes from a young age to help them achieve success at the world and Olympic level. China has also gained prominence for hosting many sporting events, including the 2008 Summer Olympics (where its athletes received 51 gold medals – the highest number of gold medals of any participating nation that year), the 2015 World Championships in Athletics, the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics. In 2011, the city of Shenzhen, China, hosted the 2011 Summer Universiade. China hosted the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin and the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing; the first country to host both regular and Youth Olympics.

See also[edit]