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Republic of China

Zhōnghuá Mínguó
Flag of China
Emblem of China
Anthem: 中國雄立宇宙間
Zhōngguó xióng lì yǔzhòujiān
"China Heroically Stands in the Universe"
National seal
Locator map of China
Locator map of China
Capital Beijing
Official languages Mandarin, Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan
Ethnic groups
Han Chinese, Manchu, Tibetan, Mongolian, others
Demonym(s) Chinese
Government Federal mixed parliamentary and presidential republic
• President
Zhao Meijin
• Premier
Lin Renjian
Tang Zhonglin
Legislature Legislative Yuan
2070 BCE
221 BCE
• First constitution
• Republic declared
January 1912
• People's Republic of China established
• Restoration of the Republic of China
January 2000
March 2021
• Total
9,886,678 km2 (3,817,268 sq mi)
• 2020 estimate
1,730,495,290 (1st)
GDP (PPP) 2018 estimate
• Total
$34.98 trillion (1st)
GDP (nominal) 2018 estimate
• Total
$15.37 trillion (1st)
Gini (2020) 12.6
HDI (2020) 0.957
very high
Currency Chinese yuan (CNY)
Time zone UTC+8 (China Standard Time)
Date format dd/mm/yyy
or yyyy年m月d日
Driving side right
a. Does not include statistics for Rehe Province, which is internationally recognized as part of Manchuria.

China (Chinese: 中國; pinyin: Zhōngguó; lit. "middle country"), officially the Republic of China, is a country in East Asia with a population of 1.73 billion people, being the world's most populous country. Covering 9.886 million square kilometers, it is also the world's largest country by land area and is the world's largest economy by both nominal GDP and power purchasing parity GDP. China has been a federal republic with elements of parliamentary and presidential systems since reforms passed in early 2021 and is organized into 15 federal states. Since the 2014 annexation of the Rehe Province by China from Manchuria it claims that region as its territory, but the claim is not recognized by most of the world.

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. After a period of decline, the Xinhai Revolution broke out in 1911 and caused the abdication of the last Qing emperor, with the first Republic of China being proclaimed in 1912. A period of anarchy and warlord rule began until the Second Sino-Japanese War, which led to the defeat of the Nationalist-led government of China and led directly into the Chinese Civil War. The Chinese Communist Party victory in 1949 led to the creation of the People's Republic of China (PRC), existing for fifty years before it collapsed during the Beijing Spring of 1999–2000.

The Republic of China was restored in January 2000 as a presidential republic, and initially in the early 2000s it appeared that China was beginning a transition to a multi-party democracy and a free market economy. However, President 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. Although officially a democratic state, by 2008 it was defined by some organizations as "an authoritarian state with limited civil rights" and after its 2014 annexation of the Rehe Province of neighboring Manchuria, which is unrecognized by most of the world, Sierra and multiple other Western nations imposed sanctions in China. In June 2020 Zhao Meijin became the second president of the modern Republic of China when President Ren stepped down after the 2020 presidential election. Upon becoming president in 2000 Ren put the country on the path of "market socialism" which included maintaining price controls, state ownership of many companies, utilities, and services, while gradually increasing the role of the free market forces. The Chinese economy has been described as a mixed socialist market economy, and China has continued impressive economic growth that began in the 1960s well into the 2010s, surpassing the Anglo-American countries as the world's biggest economy and manufacturing center by 2009. Since the victory of opposition parties in the 2021 Chinese legislative election, legislation was passed in March 2021 to devolve the powers of the central government and establish a parliamentary republic.

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 artificial 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 pollution. 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.


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

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. The current state is sometimes referred to as the Chinese Second Republic.



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

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

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 last dynasty

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

The Qing Dynasty reached the height of its power during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor from 1736 to 1799, when his Ten Great Campaigns led to the conquest of parts of Central Asia and the country saw a high growth in population, from 100 million to 300 million people. But in the 19th century the Qing government faced increasing challenges, including widespread corruption and bribery in the bureaucracy, inefficiency and incompetence, and problems within the army. Even before Qianlong's death several rebellions broke out in response to the government's failure to address these. The White Lotus Rebellion lasted from 1796 through 1804 and was the first of the many great rebellions that would nearly overthrow the Qing Dynasty.

A number of rebellions and uprisings followed. On the fringes of the empire there were 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. In the central provinces there were the Red Turban Revolt, in which secret societies nearly took over Guangzhou, the Nian Rebellion, and finally the greatest rebellion in recent Chinese history, the Taiping Rebellion. The Taiping captured hundreds of cities, established a competing short-lived dynasty rivaling the Qing from Nanjing, and nearly reached the imperial capital Beijing. The Taiping civil war alone was estimated to have caused 20 to 30 million deaths. Other than these major rebellions there were numerous smaller ones as well. Casualties from all of these events combined were estimated to be in the tens of millions.

Large regions of the country were devastated by the fighting and it caused economic disruption leading to mass starvation, as well as contributing to the public's disillusion with the ruling Qing Dynasty. Because of the decentralized nature of their military, the Qing raised local armies to crush the rebellions, and this gave power to regional military commanders who gained the ability to compete with the central authority. The rebellions also coincided with increasing Western interference in Chinese affairs during the First Opium War in 1839 and Second Opium War in 1856. As a result of these wars China opened several 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 and would remain in place until the 1940s. Gradually European powers expanded their influence in different parts of China.

In the wake of these upheavals the government tried to enact reforms, but these remained superficial without changing the fundamental system of the Qing Dynasty. The Tongzhi Restoration was led by Prince Gong under the authority of the young Tongzhi Emperor. The reforms were enacted by the Manchu court with assistance from Han Chinese officials and generals, seeking to adapt new technology within the framework of the traditional Confucian system to restore it. Many of them were aware of the Meiji Restoration taking place in Japan at the time. The Tongzhi Reformation only stalled the decline as it had surface level effects, unlike the Meiji reforms in Japan that completely changed Japanese society along Western lines.

Establishment of the first Republic of China in Wuchang

The Qing imperial court was conservative and prevented any real 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 defeat after six months of Japanese military victories over the Qing. 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 changes during the Hundred Days Reform of 1898, but the ultra-conservative forces were still too powerful, and with the help of the Empress Dowager and general Yuan Shikai placed the young emperor under house arrest.

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

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, while in North China, the former generals of Yuan Shikai fought over who would succeed him. 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 the nominal government in Beijing usually being led by the most powerful of the northern warlords, while cabinets and prime ministers were appointed and dismissed by the whims of warlord power struggles. The rest of the country was ruled by many different warlord factions. It was not until a political crisis in 1927 in North China led to a Manchurian intervention (Manchuria broke off from China in 1917 with Japanese support), which backfired and threatened the independence of Manchuria itself. The jingoistic leaders of the Japanese Kwantung Army intervened in the conflict to protect Japanese interests in Manchuria and it quickly escalated into the Second Sino-Japanese War. Most of China was unified in opposition to the Japanese aggression, with Chiang Kai-shek, head of Kuomintang, emerging as the new Chinese leader. As a result China was reunited with most of the warlords at least nominally pledging loyalty to Chiang and the Nationalist KMT government, for the war effort against Japan.

Sino-Japanese and Civil Wars

Chinese NRA soldiers during house-to-house fighting against Japanese in 1928

A state of total war between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China lasted from 1927 to 1938. In the first three years of the war the Japanese succeeded in taking over vast swaths of the Chinese coastal regions, including the capital Beijing, later the temporary capital Nanjing, and other major cities. However actual Japanese control was limited to the cities and railways, while most of the countryside remained under the control of Chinese Nationalist or Communist partisans, or bandit groups who fought for either side depending on the situation. The front line fluctuated often, and the conventional war was fought mostly by the Chinese National Revolutionary Army, a combined force of warlord troops and a small core of elite European-trained divisions, all nominally loyal to Chiang Kai-shek. In reality Chiang could only count on the loyalty of and direct command over about half of the troops under his nominal authority. The Japanese and the Chinese Nationalist Army fought many large battles during the war, while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took advantage of the situation to expand its control into Japanese-occupied zone, which included much of China's industry and population. This gave the Communists a greatly expanded power base, as previously in the 1920s they had been a minor group with a small following.

The corruption and ineffectiveness of the Chinese Nationalist government also helped the Communists increase their influence and popularity during the war with Japan. When in 1938 China was forced to accept much of Japan's demands in the China–Japan Basic Treaty following the military success of Operation Ichi-Go in capturing Chongqing, Chiang's wartime capital, it discredited the Nationalists even further. The Chinese economy was devastated by decades of warlordism and war, with many parts of the country on the brink of starvation and completely impoverished, while much of China's industry that was built since the 19th century had been destroyed. The discontent of the rural peasantry with the KMT was already apparent even during the war, with civilians in some parts of the country refusing to assist the Nationalist Army. Operation Ichi-Go had also destroyed much of the supply lines from British Myanmar by which the United Kingdom and Sierra were providing the KMT forces with supplies. The end of the war allowed the economy to begin recovering somewhat, but Chiang's acceptance of the conditions that Japan imposed on China caused outrage among the Chinese public. The quasi-independent warlords that had lined up behind Chiang also began reasserting their authority against the central government. The CCP took advantage of this, and also having gained bases and a large network across the country, began agitating against the KMT and Chiang Kai-shek.

Type 92 tanks, built and donated by Japan, in Chinese Nationalist service near Nanjing in 1948

With the incompetence and corruption of the Chinese Nationalist regime becoming clear during the war, the near-total collapse of the National Revolutionary Army during Operation Ichi-Go in 1937, and Chiang Kai-shek's acceptance of Japanese peace terms, the Chinese Communists led by Mao Zedong were able to exploit the unpopularity of the Nationalists to expand their influence in the countryside. Millions of peasants had joined the CCP regular army and militia during the war, while the Nationalist Army had been devastated and was running out of manpower. In the months after the war for the rest of 1938 negotiations between Chiang, the Communists, and some of the warlords would drag out. At first they reached a temporary power-sharing agreement, but this failed and the fighting between the KMT and CCP began. In formerly Japanese occupied eastern China, the KMT was allowed to retake much of the cities, and the Nationalists along with Japanese troops tried to surround and destroy the large swaths of Communist-guerrilla controlled areas. These campaigns largely failed, and the KMT and their Japanese backers lost most of eastern China early on, which contains China's largest and most economically developed cities.

Between 1938 and 1941, the CCP mostly concentrated on taking large parts of southern and western China where the depth of KMT control was especially weak. The fall of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces to the Communists at this time cut off the last Anglo-American supply lines to the KMT forces in the region. In late 1941 and 1942, having secured much of the rural western and southern China, the Communists launched a large offensive against major cities in eastern China where the KMT and Japanese expeditionary troops were holding out in the larger cities and towns along the railways. By 1944 the majority of these fell, and the KMT's control shifted to a few coastal cities and counties, along with the capital Beijing and the Zhili province near the China-Manchukuo border, with over 80% of Chinese territory being under Communist control. The Japanese, in fear of losing their influence over China, deployed additional forces, reaching over 300,000 troops in January 1945. However this further served to make the Nationalists seem like foreign collaborators. Despite this and other material support for Chiang Kai-shek from Japan, Chinese cities fell one by one, with Shanghai and Beijing falling to a final CCP offensive in 1949. Chiang himself escaped along with many other high-ranking KMT officials, living in Sierra in exile until his death.

Mao Zedong's China

A mass rally held by Mao in Tiananmen Square during the Cultural Revolution, 1952

The Chinese Communist victory over Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists and the creation of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in October 1949 shocked the world. Initially the PRC remained unrecognized by Japan and several other countries, preventing the country from obtaining the outside economic assistance and trade that it needed. During the rule of Mao Zedong from 1949 until his death in 1964, coinciding with the Interwar period and the start of Great War II, China remained an impoverished backwater. From 1950, Chairman Mao launched the Anti-Rightist Campaigns to purge opposition to Communist rule, turning the PRC into a one-party state, and the Cultural Revolution to turn the traditional Chinese society into one compatible with communism. As many as 1–2 million people were killed as a result of these events. In the meantime the Communist government was successful in restoring infrastructure such as power grids, railways, mines, and factories that had been devastated by decades of warfare. This was a necessity before any other economic transformation could take place along Communist lines. Many sectors of the economy were also centralized and nationalized, such as banking and transportation. These events took place between 1949 and 1952.

In 1950 China's neighbors such as Japan, Tondo, and Manchuria all outpaced China's rate of economic growth. Different initiatives undertaken by Mao and the CCP during the 1950s to improve the Chinese economy by central planning had some initial success but were largely ineffective. Heavy industry, including mining and manufacturing, expanded quickly in the early part of the decade. Agriculture, after being reorganized through collectivzation, increased in output. However there was continued inefficiency and an imbalance in the productivity of different industries. As a result Mao instituted a Three-Year Plan in 1953 for the purpose of increasing productivity and efficiency by further reorganizing farms and factories. Poor implementation and the inability of the new collectivized communes to execute all of the duties assigned to them led to a severe economic crisis and drop in farming output. By 1957, a famine had broken out in the country. After this Mao decided to revert to the situation before the first Three-Year Plan, while importing food and other goods from abroad to make up for the losses in production. In 1958 another Three-Year Plan was implemented to raise productivity, this time giving more of a role to central planning than the "Leap Forward" of 1953–1957 had. As a result, the Chinese economy began to recover and in the early 1960s production in agriculture and heavy industry had surpassed any previous level since 1949.

Upon the start of the Second Great War in 1953, the People's Republic of China initially remained neutral. However trade with other countries increased because of the war, with China coming out of total isolation somewhat. Hostility with Japan remained, and the PRC adopted a defensive posture against any possible Japanese invasion. The defeats of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific by the Anglo-American Allied powers by 1957 led the PRC to enter the war, together with the Manchu People's Republic, leading to the Chinese invasion of Korea and the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as a Chinese satellite state. For the first time, Chinese Communist leaders coordinated their military operations with Allied military commanders in the Pacific region during the final months of the war effort against Japan. In the aftermath of the defeat of the Axis powers and the postwar negotiations to create a new order, China became one of the several permanent members of the League of Nations Security Council, which effectively represented the world's leading powers.

Late Communist era

When Mao died in 1964 Zhou Zhiyong replaced him as the head of state of the PRC. Believing that Mao's attempts to revitalize the economy were too ineffective, Zhou decided to take China in a different direction. In early 1965 he accepted a diplomatic summit with Sierran Prime Minister Earl Warren. At that time the Cold War was in full swing, with the rivalry between the Kingdom of Sierra and the United Commonwealth of Continentalist States intensifying. As the PRC was the second-largest power in the Communist Eastern Bloc, Warren and his advisors saw the potential for turning China against the United Commonwealth and causing a split in the Communist world. Warren and Zhou signed a number of agreements, with China ceasing its hostility towards the West and itself to economic and technological investment by Western companies. The CAS-China Business Council was established to facilitate the economic cooperation. The increasing rivalry with the United Commonwealth for leadership of the Communist world led to China creating the International Conference of Marxist and Maoist Organizations (ICMMO) in 1969, for Communist countries that had ideological disagreements with the Continental-led Landintern. It accelerated the growing Sino–Continental split.

Chinese soldiers in Tajikistan, 1986

General Secretary Zhou Zhiyong was also the architect of the Chinese economic reform during the second half of the 1960s and especially in the 1970s. Zhou argued that Mao's reforms were insufficient to bring about good results, and China's continued economic backwardness was a national humiliation. The CCP leadership moved away from Mao's Three-Year Plans for the economy to "market socialism" in an attempt to improve the struggling country. The first stage between 1965 and 1974 allowed Chinese to own businesses and start private enterprises, as well as ending the collectivization of agriculture that. The second stage from then until 1981 allowed the privatization of many state-owned industries, while strategic sectors such as utilities, banking and petroleum remained controlled by the government. As all of this was happening, foreign investment was encouraged, at first on a limited scale before gradually increasing. All of this made China have the fastest growing economy in the world since the 1970s, surpassing the growth rate of other regional economies such as Japan, Korea, Manchuria, and Tondo by the late 1980s.

China's economy grew by an average of around 10% per year between 1967 and 2000, and the massive economic growth also caused profound changes to Chinese society as a whole. Hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens were lifted out of poverty as average income increased, as did the quality of the infrastructure and basic services. Mortality dropped while the standard of living of the average person increased drastically over the course of a generation. Urbanization also increased as more and more people moved from the rural countryside into the cities. It was the biggest increase in the standard of living for the largest number of people in history.

As China grew economically, the country also became more assertive in its foreign policy. The PRC supported North Vietnam during the Vietnam War, nearly fought a conflict with Manchuria during the October Crisis, and in 1979 Chinese troops intervened in Tajikistan to assist a Communist government in that country. The latter decision led to a cooling in China's relations with the Western Bloc, the Anglo-American and European capitalist nations. Sierra, Iran, and Hashemite Arabia provided weapons and aid to anti-Communist Muslim mujahedin rebels in Tajikistan. Despite Chinese military and economic support the Tajik Socialist Republic was unable to restore order in its own country. The Sino-Tajik War ultimately ended in disaster in the early 1990s with the fall of the Tajik Communist regime and a Chinese military withdrawal.

Because of the foreign policy quagmires, Zhou went back on the "opening and reform" policy to an extent, becoming more reactionary. He also curtailed several proposed political reforms that went along with the economic reform. As a result of this, Chinese economic reforms were somewhat slowed down during the 1980s and economic growth stagnated slightly. However it resumed after Zhou's death in 1990 and he was replaced by the reformer Song Kun, who returned the PRC back on the path of liberalizing political and economic reforms.

Reforms and the Revolution of 2000

Chinese Leaders after Mao
Zhou Zhiyong and Song Kun (right), who served as the head of the People's Republic of China in 1964–1990 and 1990–1999.

The reforms of the 1970s created a nascent market economy that benefited many people but disadvantaged others, and gave rise to new issues in Chinese society, including corruption and extreme financial inequality. China's "opening to the West" and the disastrous Sino-Tajik War in the 1980s created anxiety among the people about their country's future. There was also a growing division in the Communist Party between reformers and conservatives. When the reactionary Communist leader Zhou Zhiyong died in 1990, the "Eight Elders" of the Party who played a role in facilitating the Zhou-Warren meeting in 1965 and became very influential and wealthy as a result of the opening to the West ensured that the pro-reform Song Kun succeeded him as General Secretary and President. This was seen as a success for the reformer faction within the Party, whose membership included the Eight Elders that wielded influence in the bureaucracy and were seen as one of the powers behind the throne by the time of Zhou's death.

The new General Secretary Song Kun decided to follow the United Commonwealth's model of democracy as well as market socialism, announcing the new policy in his 1991 speech "On the Reform of the Party and State Leadership System." It was based on the view that Landonist democracy rather that the traditional Maoist dictatorship of the proletariat was essential in solving China's modern problems and further improving economic growth. In 1995 a new constitution was passed that granted political freedoms to the population, and as a result political repressions largely ceased, with an amnesty granted to many political prisoners. Members of the opposition were increasingly given posts in the government as part of an effort to separate the state institutions from the Communist Party, and the reformers within the Party gained power at the expense of the conservative faction. Political parties began to emerge and operate freely from 1995, and open agitation and campaigning by opposition movements in China led to increased support for these ideas among the Chinese public. In particular the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the restored Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) emerged as the leading parties in favor of abolishing the Communist one-party state in favor of a multi-party democracy.

In January 1998, the General Secretary announced a plan for free elections to be implemented, first on the local and provincial levels in the fall of 1998, followed by the first National People's Congress election in 1999, and a presidential election in 2000. These changes, if implemented, were unprecedented and were seen by many as being the end of the Communist Party's dominance of the state. The Ministry of State Security (MSS) began considering a coup against Song during early 1998. The plot was expanded by the Minister of State Security Wen Lan to also involve the Minister of Defense, Chen Kai, Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Zhang Xinzhi, and the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission Secretary Shen Huimin. They were determined to remove not only General Secretary Song but also the other reformists in the government and Party, to restore the strict Communist leadership of the nation. Together they could bring a number of troops and police forces to be involved, and the plotters accelerated their planning after the first provincial elections were held for provincial assemblies in October and November 1998, the first large-scale elections since before Chinese Civil War.

The coup d'etat occurred on September 27, 1999. While the General Secretary was visiting another province, MSS internal troops and several People's Liberation Army Ground Force units took control of key buildings throughout the capital. Song Kun was detained by coup supporters and placed under house arrest. New broadcasts from Beijing declared that the General Secretary had fallen ill and a Provisional Secretariat would fill his role, also placing the country under martial law. The coup poorly coordinated, however, and in a state of confusion millions of people took to the streets to protest. The ensuing "Beijing Spring" became the largest protest in Chinese history since the May Fourth Movement in 1919. Not only in the capital but in cities across the country there were calls for General Secretary Song to be released, which eventually expanded to calls for democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and greater accountability. On October 15, the Provisional Secretariat gave the order for some 150,000 PLA troops to clear Tiananmen Square using force. Fighting broke out between the crowd and the military, with an estimated 6,000 casualties on both sides. In the end, the crowd continued to have control over much the city as the military failed to contain the large number of protestors.

Around the country the majority of government officials waited to see what would happen, while the newly emerging political parties rallied support for the protest movement. The plotters were isolated in the capital and the international community condemned the crackdown on protests. The coup began to collapse against the overwhelming public opposition, as the PLA became reluctant to open fire again on hundreds of thousands of protestors. In early December the Provisional Secretariat dissolved itself and Song Kun was released from house arrest. However, by this point the protests demanded an end to Communist rule. As the protests continued, on December 23, Song Kun resigned in favor of Ren Longyun, who was a well known supporter of the reforms and believed they did not go far enough. Amidst the resulting chaos within the Central People's Government and the ongoing demonstrations, Ren Longyun announced in a speech on December 31, 1999, the dissolution of the People's Republic of China and an end to the CCP one-party state, intending to hold national elections within months. The Republic of China came into existence the next day on January 1, 2000, officially making the country a multi-party democracy.



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-Indian 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.


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

Administrative divisions of China

Since March 2021, the Republic of China consists of 15 federal regions (or states), which consist of ten provinces, one autonomous province, and four republics. The Administrative Reform Law was passed by the parliament to devolve powers from the central government and create a parliamentary republic rather than a unitary presidential republic. Each province is led by a governor while the republics are led by a president, all of which are directly elected. The autonomous province of Rehe was annexed by China from Manchuria in 2014 is disputed, being internationally recognized by the majority of countries as part of Manchuria. From 2000 to 2021, the ROC consisted of 22 provinces (along with Rehe from 2014), which themselves were based on those that existed in the People's Republic of China since the 1950s, and governors were elected indirectly by the provincial assemblies.

Federal regions of China
Flag Region Type Capital Pre-2021 provinces
Guangxi Province Guangzhou Guangdong, Guangxi
Huguang Province Wuhan Hubei, Hunan
Liangjiang Province Shanghai Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Anhui
Min-Zhe Province Fuzhou Fujian, Zhejiang
Shaan-Gan Province Taiyuan Shaanxi, Shanxi, Gansu
Sichuan Province Chongqing Sichuan
Yunnan Province Kunming Yunnan, Guizhou
Xikang Province Xichang eastern Tibet
Zhili Province Beijing Zhili
Zhongyuan Province Jinan Henan, Shandong
Chinese-army Wuhan flag (1911-1928) 19 dots.svg Rehe Autonomous Province Rehe
Flag of the Mongolian People's Republic (1924–1930, variant).svg Mongolia Republic Urga Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia
Qinghai Republic Qinghai
Flag of Tibet.svg Tibet Republic Lhasa western Tibet
Flag of Xinjiang-Shicai.svg Xinjiang Republic Kashgar Xinjiang

Government and politics

Republic of China

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of the
Republic of China

China is a federal mixed parliamentary and presidential republic since the 2021 constitutional reforms. The Constitution of the Republic of China states that it is a "government by the people and for the people." The current structure of the political system is based on Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People that describe five branches of government, each called a yuan (院, yuàn, literally "court"). It combines a European and Anglo-American three-branch system for separation of powers with elements of traditional Chinese administration.

  • Legislative Yuan: The main power of government comes from the people electing a parliament (the principle of democracy), with the Legislative Yuan being the directly elected unicameral parliament, responsible for passing laws and approving the budget, as well as forming the government by choosing the Premier. It can remove the Premier and his cabinet in a vote of no confidence. Often called "the parliament" in China, the Legislative Yuan has 870 seats, half of which are elected through party-list proportional representation and the other half in single-member constituencies. Members serve five-year terms.
  • Executive Yuan: The cabinet, headed by the Premier and consisting of government ministers, is tasked with implementing the day-to-day administration in accordance with the party platform or coalition agreement. The Executive Yuan is formed by the majority party or coalition in the legislature, and can be removed in a vote of no confidence. The Premier is the de facto most powerful political office in the government, being the chief executive.
  • Judicial Yuan: All courts in the Republic of China are overseen by the Judicial Yuan, where the Supreme Court is the highest court in the country. The Council of Grand Justices forms the leadership of the Judicial Yuan, which includes 13 judges along with a president and vice president.
  • Examination Yuan: The personnel office in charge of managing the civil service in all of its aspects, including examinations, training, hiring, positions, and payroll. It is based on the imperial examinations historically used in China for over one thousand years, with the intention of preparing and administering the state bureaucracy.
  • Control Yuan: The audit office that has the power to investigate government officials. Its main purpose is to investigate corruption and other legal violations among civil servants.

The President of the Republic of China is mainly a ceremonial office that serves as the symbol of national unity and the guardian of the constitution, though it does have some power as certain activities of government require the president's agreement and he can represent the country in international diplomacy. The President is not part of the Executive Yuan but is the figurehead head of state. Traditionally the ROC was dominated by strongman political leaders, and the constitutional changes were aimed to reduce the power of the presidency and give more power to the Premier, who is directly accountable to the Legislative Yuan.

The conference chamber of the Great Hall of the People. It is used for meetings of the Legislative Yuan and ceremonial purposes.

Between the 2021 reform and the fall of communism in 2000, China was a semi-presidential republic where the president and premier had equal authority within the Executive Yuan. In practice, President Ren Longyun of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) established an authoritarian government that has been described as a personal dictatorship rather than an institutionalized system, meaning that power was concentrated in the president and a small number of his officials. The Legislative and Judicial Yuans were effectively rubber stamp organizations for the executive, while the security organs such as the National Security Bureau held power over the rest of the government. He ruled by decree while the other four branches were weak institutions. When he stepped down from the presidency in 2020, Ren became the head of the National Security Council, which is an ad-hoc body formed by the President and the Premier to coordinate the nation's foreign and defense policy. In the January 2021 legislative election the Kuomintang failed to win a majority for the first time since 2000 and a coalition of reformist parties took the opportunity to push for democratizing reforms. Among them was changing the country to a mixed parliamentary system, with the premier replacing the president as the leader of the country and being appointed by the Legislative Yuan, as well as strengthening the other branches of government at the expense of the executive, and reforming the security agencies.

The current system was reached mainly through negotiations between the president, Zhao Meijin, who succeeded Ren Longyun and aligns with the Kuomintang, and the new coalition in the Legislative Yuan. The Additional Articles to the Constitution that entered into force in March 2021 were the framework of that was agreed upon. Disagreements remain between the Kuomintang and the new government over Ren Longyun's continued presence as the secretary of the National Security Council.

Foreign relations

China is a permanent member of the League of Nations Security Council, being one of the founding members of that organization since it was founded in the aftermath of the Second Great War. It maintains diplomatic relations with every member state of the LN and has a larger number of embassies, consulates, and permanent missions to transnational organizations than any other country in the world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an Executive Yuan-level government department that is tasked with maintaining China's diplomatic missions and foreign policy.


Type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine of the Republic of China Navy.
Soldiers of the Chinese Army

The Republic of China Armed Forces is the largest and one of the best equipped militaries in the world, as well as being one of the world's nuclear powers. It includes four main service branches, the Republic of China Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Rocket Force. Semi-independent services within the branches include the Military Police, the Marine Corps, and the Armed Forces Reserve, the latter being the volunteer military reserve force. The military has 3,144,000 active-duty personnel and 4,206,000 reserve personnel, making it the largest military by number of total personnel in the world. The Ministry of National Defense is the civilian leadership of the Armed Forces and the General Staff Department is responsible for operational command, strategic planning, and the combat readiness of the military.

Law enforcement

The Ministry of the Interior is tasked with maintaining public order, having replaced the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China in 2000, and among its many agencies is the National Police Agency. With over 1 million personnel, the National Police Agency is the country's regular civilian police. The National Security Bureau is the main intelligence and domestic security organization within the Interior Ministry, and it replaced the former Ministry of State Security of the PRC.


Shenzhen, one of China's most economically important cities

China has the world's largest economy in terms of both nominal GDP since surpassing the United Commonwealth 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 1966. 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 Warlord Era 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 General Secretary Zhou Zhiyong 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 1966 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.


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.

Huangjing Subway Station in Tianjin.

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.


Science and technology

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.


As of 2017 the population of China was estimated at 1.886 billion, being the second largest in the world after India. 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

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.


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.


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.



China has routinely topped the medal table in the Olympic Games, winning the most Olympic medals in Summer editions of the Olympics. China hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics, the Millennial Olympic Games, which have been described by many as one of the most Games in recent times. Traditional Chinese culture emphasized the importance of physical fitness, and the Chinese 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.

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.

See also