China, formally known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is an East Asian sovereign state. It is the world’s most populated state, with a population of about 1.381 billion. The state is ruled by the Communist Party of China, which is headquartered in Beijing. It has authority over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two mostly self-governing special administrative areas (Hong Kong and Macau). Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Hong Kong are the country’s main urban centres. China is a large state and a significant regional force in Asia, and has been dubbed a possible superpower.
China, with a land size of about 9.6 million square kilometers, is the world’s second biggest state in terms of land area and either the third or fourth largest in terms of total area, depending on the measuring technique used. China’s terrain is wide and varied, ranging from forest steppes in the dry north to subtropical forests in the moist south. China is separated from most of South and Central Asia by the Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir, and Tian Shan mountain ranges. The Yangtze and Yellow rivers, respectively the world’s third and sixth longest, flow from the Tibetan Plateau to the heavily populated eastern coast. China’s Pacific Ocean coastline stretches for 14,500 kilometers (9,000 miles) and is bordered by the Bohai, Yellow, East China, and South China seas.
China is one of civilization’s cradles, with its known history starting with an ancient civilisation – one of the world’s oldest – that thrived in the rich Yellow River valley in the North China Plain. China’s political structure has been built on hereditary monarchs known as dynasties for millennia. Since 221 BC, when the Qin Dynasty defeated many kingdoms to establish the first Chinese empire, the state has grown, split, and rebuilt several times. The Republic of China (ROC) succeeded the last dynasty in 1912 and governed the Chinese mainland until 1949, when it was destroyed in the Chinese Civil War by the Communist Party of China. On 1 October 1949, the Communist Party formed the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, while the ROC government moved to Taiwan, with Taipei serving as its de facto interim capital. Both the ROC and the PRC continue to assert their legitimacy as the legal government of all of China, but the latter has more international recognition and governs more land.
China has grown to become one of the world’s fastest-growing major economies since 1978, when economic reforms were implemented. As of 2014, it was the world’s second-biggest economy in terms of nominal GDP and the world’s largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). China is also the world’s biggest exporter of commodities and the world’s second largest importer. China is a nuclear weapons state with the biggest standing army and second-highest military expenditure in the world. The PRC is a United Nations member, having succeeded the ROC as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 1971. China is also a member of a number of official and informal international organizations, including the World Trade Organization, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BCIM, and the G-20.