China (Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC),[lower-alpha 11] is a country in East Asia. It has a population exceeding 1.4 billion. China spans the equivalent of five time zones and borders fourteen countries by land,[lower-alpha 12] the most of any country in the world. With an area of nearly 9.6 million square kilometres (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the world's third largest country by total land area.[lower-alpha 13] The country consists of 22 provinces,[lower-alpha 14] five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). The national capital is Beijing, and the most populous city and largest financial center is Shanghai.

People's Republic of China
中华人民共和国 (Chinese)
Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó (Pinyin)
Yìyǒngjūn Jìnxíngqǔ
"March of the Volunteers"
Territory controlled by the People's Republic of China is shown in dark green; territory claimed but not controlled is shown in light green.
Territory controlled by the People's Republic of China is shown in dark green; territory claimed but not controlled is shown in light green.
39°55′N 116°23′E
Largest city
by population
Official languagesStandard Chinese[lower-alpha 1]
Recognized regional languages
Official scriptSimplified Chinese[lower-alpha 2]
Ethnic groups
GovernmentUnitary Marxist–Leninist one-party socialist republic
Xi Jinping
Li Qiang
Zhao Leji
Wang Huning
LegislatureNational People's Congress
c.2070 BCE
221 BCE
1 January 1912
1 October 1949
20 September 1954
4 December 1982
20 December 1999
9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi)[lower-alpha 7][5] (3rd / 4th)
 Water (%)
2.8[lower-alpha 8]
 2023 estimate
Neutral decrease 1,411,750,000[7] (2nd)
145[8]/km2 (375.5/sq mi) (83rd)
GDP (PPP)2023 estimate
Increase $33.015 trillion[9] (1st)
 Per capita
Increase $23,382[9] (73rd)
GDP (nominal)2023 estimate
Increase $19.374 trillion[lower-alpha 9][9] (2nd)
 Per capita
Increase $13,721[9] (64th)
Gini (2019)Positive decrease 38.2[10]
HDI (2021)Increase 0.768[11]
high · 79th
CurrencyRenminbi (元/¥)[lower-alpha 10] (CNY)
Time zoneUTC+8 (CST)
DST is not observed
Date format
Driving sideright (mainland)
left (Hong Kong and Macau)
Calling code+86 (mainland)
+852 (Hong Kong)
+853 (Macau)
ISO 3166 codeCN
Internet TLD

Modern China traces its origins to a cradle of civilization in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. The mythical Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors marks the beginning of a shared identity. The semi-legendary Xia dynasty in the 21st century BCE and the Shang and Zhou dynasties developed a political system to serve hereditary monarchies. Written script was developed and inscription of Bronze and engraving of Oracle bone became common. Classic literature, and the Hundred Schools of Thought emerged during this period and influenced the region and beyond for centuries to come.

In the third century BCE, the Qin dynasty ended the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period when Qin Shi Huangdi assumed the self-invented title of Huangdi (Emperor of China). Fractured by the uprising peasants, the Qin was replaced by Liu Bang's Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE). Together they laid the foundation for a political tradition of nearly two millennia in which the Chinese empire was one of the world's foremost economic powers. The empire expanded, fractured, and reunified; absorbed foreign religions and ideas; and made world-leading scientific advances, such as the Four Great Inventions: gunpowder, paper, the compass, and printing.

After centuries of disunity following the fall of the Han, the Sui (581–618) and Tang (618–907) dynasties reunified the empire. The Tang welcomed foreign trade and culture over the Silk Road and adapted Buddhism to their needs. The early modern Song dynasty (960–1279) became urban and commercial while the civilian scholar-officials or literati adopted the examination system and the doctrines of Neo-Confucianism to replace the military aristocrats of earlier dynasties. The Mongol established the Yuan dynasty in 1279 before the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) re-established Han Chinese control. The Manchu-led Qing dynasty affirmed its control further and established the basis for the modern Chinese nation, although subsequently suffered significant losses to European imperialism in the 19th century.

The Chinese monarchy collapsed in 1912 with the Xinhai Revolution, when the ruler of Qing abdicated and hand over power to the Republic of China (ROC). In its early years, the new republic witnessed warlords’ fighting against each other before centralizing in 1928 under the Nationalist government. A civil war between the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) broke out in 1927, though the war was halted when Japan invaded China in 1937. After Japan's surrender in 1945, China's civil war renewed. A division was caused in 1949[lower-alpha 15] when the CCP established the People's Republic of China on the mainland while the KMT-led government of the ROC retreated to the islands in the South and East China Sea.[lower-alpha 16] Both claiming to be the sole legitimate government, the United Nations has recognized the PRC of that status since 1971. From 1959 to 1961, the Great Leap Forward resulted in a sharp economic decline and massive famine. From 1966 to 1976, the Cultural Revolution led to greater political instability, economic and educational decline. With a change in the leadership, a series of political and economic reforms begun in 1978 has improved the economy and standards of living.

China is a unitary one-party socialist republic led by the CCP. It is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and a founding member of several multilateral and regional organizations such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund, the New Development Bank, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the RCEP. It is also a member of the BRICS, the G8+5, the G20, the APEC, and the East Asia Summit. China ranks poorly in measures of democracy, transparency, press freedom, religious freedom, and ethnic equality. The Chinese authorities are often criticized for human rights abuses. Making up around one-fifth of the world economy, China is the world's largest economy by GDP at purchasing power parity, the second-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the second-wealthiest country. The country is one of the fastest-growing major economies and is the world's largest manufacturer and exporter, as well as the second-largest importer. China is a nuclear-weapon state with the world's largest standing army by military personnel and the second-largest defense budget.

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