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People's Republic of China
  • 中华人民共和国
  • Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó
Flag National Emblem
  • 《义勇军进行曲》
  • Yìyǒngjūn Jìnxíngqǔ  (Pinyin)
  • March of the Volunteers
Area controlled by the People's Republic of China shown in dark green; claimed but uncontrolled regions shown in light green.
Area controlled by the People's Republic of China shown in dark green; claimed but uncontrolled regions shown in light green.
Capital Beijing
39°55′N 116°23′E
Largest city Shanghai
Official languages Standard Chinese
Recognised regional languages
  • Mongolian
  • Tibetan
  • Uyghur
  • Zhuang
  • various others
Official written language Vernacular Chinese
Official script Simplified Chinese
Ethnic groups
  • 91.51% Han
Demonym Chinese
Government Marxist-Leninist single-party state under collective leadership
 -  President Xi Jinping
 -  Premier Wen Jiabao
 -  Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang
 -  Conference Chairman Yu Zhengsheng
Legislature National People's Congress
 -  Unification of China under the Qin Dynasty 221 BC 
 -  Republic established 1 January 1912 
 -  People's Republic proclaimed 1 October 1949 
 -  Total 9,706,961 km2 ( 3rd/4th)
3,747,879 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 2.8
 -  2012 estimate 1,353,821,000 ( 1st)
 -  2010 census 1,339,724,852 ( 1st)
 -  Density 139.6/km2 ( 81st)
363.3/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $12.382 trillion ( 2nd)
 -  Per capita $9,146 ( 91st)
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $8.250 trillion ( 2nd)
 -  Per capita $6,094 ( 90th)
Gini (2012) 47.4
HDI (2011) Increase 0.687
medium · 101st
Currency Renminbi (yuan) (¥) ( CNY)
Time zone China Standard Time ( UTC+8)
Date format
  • yyyy-mm-dd
  • or yyyymd
  • ( CE; CE-1949)
Drives on the right
Calling code +86
ISO 3166 code CN
Internet TLD
  • .cn
  • .中國
  • .中国
a. ^ Minorities that are recognized officially.
b. ^ Or (previously) "Peking".
c. ^ Since the 1980s, simple characterizations of the political structure are no longer possible. Currently, the central authority of the Chinese government is concentrated in the 7-9 members of the Politburo Standing Committee, headed by the General Secretary.
d. ^ Xi Jinping holds four concurrent positions: General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, President of the People's Republic of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission for both state and party.
e. ^ The area given is the official United Nations figure for the mainland. It also excludes the Trans-Karakoram Tract 5,800 km2 (2,200 sq mi), Aksai Chin 37,244 km2 (14,380 sq mi) and other territories in dispute with India. The total area of China is listed as 9,572,900 km2 (3,696,100 sq mi) by the Encyclopædia Britannica. For further information, see Territorial changes of the People's Republic of China.
f. ^ Except Hong Kong and Macau.

China ( / ˈ n ə /; Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó; see also Names of China), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a sovereign state located in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1.3 billion. The PRC is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party, with its seat of government in the capital city of Beijing. It exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two mostly self-governing special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). The PRC also claims Taiwan – which is controlled by the Republic of China (ROC), a separate political entity – as its 23rd province, a claim controversial due to the complex political status of Taiwan and the unresolved Chinese Civil War.

Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometres, China is the world's second-largest country by land area, and the third or fourth-largest by total area, depending on the definition of total area. China's landscape is vast and diverse, with forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts occupying the arid north and northwest near Mongolia and Central Asia, and subtropical forests prevalent in the wetter south near Southeast Asia. The terrain of western China is rugged and elevated, with the Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separating China from South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, have their sources in the Tibetan Plateau and continue to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China's coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometres (9,000 mi) long and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East and South China Seas.

The ancient Chinese civilization – one of the world's earliest – flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies, known as dynasties, beginning with the semi-mythological Xia of the Yellow River basin (c. 2000 BC). Since 221 BC, when the Qin Dynasty first conquered several states to form a Chinese empire, the country has expanded, fractured and been reformed numerous times. The Republic of China overthrew the last dynasty in 1911, and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949.

In 1945, the ROC acquired Taiwan from the Empire of Japan following World War II. In the 1946–1949 phase of the Chinese Civil War, the Communist Party defeated the nationalist Kuomintang in mainland China and established the People's Republic of China in Beijing on 1 October 1949, while the Kuomintang relocated the ROC government to Taipei. The ROC's jurisdiction is now limited to Taiwan and several outlying islands, including Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, and it has received limited diplomatic recognition.

Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become the world's fastest-growing major economy. As of 2013, it is the world's second-largest economy by both nominal total GDP and purchasing power parity (PPP), and is also the world's largest exporter and importer of goods. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, with the second-largest defense budget.

The PRC has been a United Nations member since 1971, when it replaced the ROC as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the BCIM and the G-20. China has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of academics, military analysts, and public policy and economics analysts.


Chinese name
Simplified Chinese: 中国
Traditional Chinese: 中國
Literal meaning: Middle Kingdom
People's Republic of China
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国
Traditional Chinese: 中華人民共和國
Mongolian name
Mongolian: Bügüde nayiramdaqu dumdadu arad ulus, ᠪᠦᠭᠦᠳᠡ ᠨᠠᠶᠢᠷᠠᠮᠳᠠᠬᠤ ᠳᠤᠮᠳᠠᠳᠤ ᠠᠷᠠᠳ ᠤᠯᠤᠰ
Tibetan name
Tibetan: ཀྲུང་ཧྭ་མི་དམངས་སྤྱི
Uyghur name
Uyghur: جۇڭخۇا خەلق جۇمھۇرىيىت
Zhuang name
Zhuang: Cunghvaz Yinzminz Gunghozgoz

The word "China" is derived from Persian Cin (چین), which is from Sanskrit Cīna (चीन). It is first recorded in 1516 in the journal of Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa. It appears in English in a translation published in 1555. The Sanskrit word was used to refer to China as early as AD 150. There are various scholarly theories regarding the origin of this word. The traditional theory, proposed in the 17th century by Martino Martini, is that "China" is derived from "Qin" ( 秦), the westernmost of the Chinese kingdoms during the Zhou Dynasty, or from the succeeding Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC). The word Cīna is used in two Hindu scriptures – the Mahābhārata of the 5th century BC and the Laws of Manu of the 2nd century BC – to refer to a country located in the Tibetan-Burman borderlands east of India.

In China, common names for the country include Zhōngguó ( Chinese: 中国; literally "the Middle State(s)") and Zhōnghuá (Chinese: 中华), although the country's official name has been changed numerous times by successive dynasties and modern governments. The term Zhongguo appeared in various ancient texts, such as the Classic of History of the 6th century BC, and in pre-imperial times it was often used as a cultural concept to distinguish the Huaxia tribes from perceived "barbarians". The term, which can be either singular or plural, referred to the group of states in the central plain; it was only in the nineteenth century that it emerged as a common name for the country as a whole. The Chinese were not unique in regarding their country as "central", since other civilizations had the same view.



Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 250,000 and 2.24 million years ago. A cave in Zhoukoudian (near present-day Beijing) exhibits fossils dated at between 300,000 and 780,000 BC. The fossils are of Peking Man, an example of Homo erectus who used fire. The Peking Man site has also yielded remains of Homo sapiens dating back to 18,000–11,000 BC.

Early dynastic rule

Jade deer ornament dating from the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th centuries BC).

Chinese tradition names the first imperial dynasty Xia, but it was considered mythical until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou in Henan Province in 1959. Archaeologists have since uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs in locations cited as Xia's in ancient historical texts, but it is impossible to verify that these remains are of the Xia without written records from the period.

Some of the thousands of life-size Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty, ca. 210 BC.

The first Chinese dynasty that left historical records, the loosely feudal Shang (Yin), settled along the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BC. The oracle bone script of the Shang Dynasty represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found, and the direct ancestor of the modern Chinese characters used throughout East Asia. The Shang were invaded from the west by the Zhou, who ruled between the 12th and 5th centuries BC, until their centralized authority was slowly eroded by feudal warlords. Many independent states eventually emerged out of the weakened Zhou state, and continually waged war with each other in the 300-year-long Spring and Autumn Period, only occasionally deferring to the Zhou king. By the time of the Warring States Period of the 5th–3rd centuries BC, there were seven powerful sovereign states in what is now China, each with its own king, ministry and army.

The Great Wall of China was built by several dynasties over two thousand years to protect the sedentary agricultural regions of the Chinese interior from incursions by nomadic pastoralists of the northern steppes.

Imperial China

The first unified Chinese state was established by Qin Shi Huang of the Qin state in 221 BC. Qin Shi Huang proclaimed himself the "First Emperor" (始皇帝), and imposed many reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of the Chinese language, measurements, length of cart axles, and currency. The Qin Dynasty lasted only fifteen years, falling soon after Qin Shi Huang's death, as its harsh legalist and authoritarian policies led to widespread rebellion.

The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BC and 220 AD, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace that has endured to the present day. The Han Dynasty expanded the empire's territory considerably with military campaigns reaching Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Central Asia, and also helped establish the Silk Road in Central Asia. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. After the collapse of Han, another period of disunion followed, including the highly chivalric period of the Three Kingdoms. Independent Chinese states of this period such as Wu opened diplomatic relations with Japan, introducing the Chinese writing system there. In 580 AD, China was reunited under the Sui. However, the Sui Dynasty declined following its defeat in the Goguryeo–Sui War (598–614).

Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese technology and culture entered a golden age. The Tang Empire was at its height of power until the middle of the 8th century, when the An Shi Rebellion destroyed the prosperity of the empire. The Song Dynasty was the first government in world history to issue paper money and the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy. Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the population of China doubled in size to around 100 million people, mostly due to the expansion of rice cultivation in central and southern China, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Song Dynasty also saw a flourishing of philosophy and the arts, as landscape art and portrait painting were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity, and social elites gathered to view art, share their own and trade precious artworks. Philosophers such as Cheng Yi and Chu Hsi reinvigorated Confucianism with new commentary, infused Buddhist ideals, and emphasized a new organization of classic texts that brought about the core doctrine of Neo-Confucianism.

Detail from Along the River During the Qingming Festival, a 12th-century painting showing everyday life in the Song Dynasty's capital city, Bianjing (today's Kaifeng).

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, Song Cina reportedly had approximately 120 million citizens; the 1300 census which followed the invasion reported roughly 60 million people.

Late dynastic rule

A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 and founded the Ming Dynasty. 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 Zheng He led explorations throughout the world, reaching as far as Africa. In the early years of the Ming Dynasty, China's capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing.

During the Ming Dynasty, thinkers such as Wang Yangming further critiqued and expanded Neo-Confucianism with concepts of individualism and innate morality that would have tremendous impact on later Japanese thought. Chosun Korea also became a nominal vassal state of Ming China, and adopted much of its Neo-Confucian bureaucratic structure.

In 1644, Beijing was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a minor Ming official who led the peasant revolt. The last Ming Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide when the city fell. The Manchu Qing Dynasty then allied with Ming Dynasty general Wu Sangui and overthrew Li's short-lived Shun Dynasty, and subsequently seized control of Beijing, which became the new capital of the Qing Dynasty. In total, the Manchu conquest of China cost as many as 25 million lives.

The Qing Dynasty, which lasted until 1912, was the last imperial dynasty of China. In the 19th century, the Qing Dynasty adopted a defensive posture towards European imperialism, even though it engaged in an imperialistic expansion of its own into Central Asia. At this time, China awoke to the significance of the rest of the world, the West in particular. As China opened up to foreign trade and missionary activity, opium produced by British India was forced onto Qing China. Two Opium Wars with Britain weakened the Emperor's control. Western imperialism proved to be disastrous for China:

"The end of the Opium War marked the beginning of Western imperialism in China. Unequal treaties, imposed at the end of the war, forced China to relinquish Hong Kong, open new "Treaty Ports" to foreign trade, pay indemnities to her vanquishers, and allow foreigners to live and work on Chinese soil free of the jurisdiction of Chinese law (extraterritoriality). Over the years new wars with Western powers would expand these impositions on China's national sovereignty, culminating in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the Sino-Japanese War of 1894- 95."

A 19th-century painting depicting the Taiping Rebellion of 1850–1864.

The weakening of the Qing regime, and the apparent humiliation of the unequal treaties in the eyes of the Chinese people, led to increasing domestic disorder. In late 1850, southern China erupted in the Taiping Rebellion, a violent civil war which lasted until 1864. The rebellion was led by Hong Xiuquan, who was partly influenced by an idiosyncratic interpretation of Christianity. Hong believed himself to be the son of God and the younger brother of Jesus. Although the Qing forces were eventually victorious, the civil war was one of the bloodiest in human history, costing at least 20 million lives (more than the total number of fatalities in World War I), with some estimates of up to 40 million. Other costly rebellions followed the Taiping Rebellion, such as the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (1855–67), Nien Rebellion (1851–1868), Miao Rebellion (1854–73), Panthay Rebellion (1856–1873) and the Dungan revolt (1862–1877).

These rebellions each resulted in an estimated loss of several million lives, and had a devastating impact on the fragile economy. The flow of British opium hastened the empire's decline. In the 19th century, the age of colonialism was at its height and the great Chinese Diaspora began; today, about 35 million overseas Chinese live in Southeast Asia. Emigration rates were strengthened by domestic catastrophes such as the Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–1879, which claimed between 9 and 13 million lives in northern China. From 108 BC to 1911 AD, China experienced 1,828 known famines, or nearly one per year, somewhere in the empire.

In the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, which was fought over influence in Korea, Japanese troops defeated Qing forces.

While China was wracked by continuous war, Meiji Japan succeeded in rapidly modernizing its military, and set its sights on the conquest of Korea and Manchuria. At the request of the Korean emperor, the Qing government sent troops to aid in suppressing the Tonghak Rebellion in 1894. However, Japan also sent troops to Korea, leading to the First Sino-Japanese War, which resulted in Qing China's loss of influence in the Korean Peninsula as well as the cession of Taiwan (including the Pescadores) to Japan in 1895.

Following this series of defeats, a reform plan for the empire to become a modern Meiji-style constitutional monarchy was drafted by the Guangxu Emperor in 1898, but was opposed and stopped by the Empress Dowager Cixi, who placed Emperor Guangxu under house arrest in a coup d'état. The ill-fated Boxer Rebellion of 1898–1901, in which westerners in Beijing were targeted en masse, resulted in as many as 115,000 deaths.

By the early 20th century, mass civil disorder had begun, and calls for reform and revolution were heard across the country. The 38-year-old Emperor Guangxu died under house arrest on 14 November 1908, suspiciously just a day before Cixi's own death. With the throne empty, he was succeeded by Cixi's handpicked heir, his two-year-old nephew Puyi, who became the Xuantong Emperor. Guangxu's consort became the Empress Dowager Longyu. In another coup d'état in 1912, Yuan Shikai overthrew Puyi, and forced Longyu to sign the abdication decree as regent, ending over two thousand years of imperial rule in China. Longyu died, childless, in 1913.

Republic of China (1912–1949)

On 1 January 1912, the Republic of China was established, heralding the end of Imperial China. Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (the KMT or Nationalist Party) was proclaimed provisional president of the republic. However, the presidency was later given to Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general, who had ensured the defection of the entire Beiyang Army from the Qing Empire to the revolution. In 1915, Yuan proclaimed himself Emperor of China, but was forced to abdicate and reestablish the republic in the face of popular condemnation, not only from the general population but also from among his own Beiyang Army and its commanders.

After Yuan Shikai's death in 1916, China was politically fragmented, with an internationally recognized but virtually powerless national government seated in Beijing. Regional warlords exercised actual control over their respective territories. In the late 1920s, the nationalist Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, was able to reunify the country under its own control with a series of deft military and political maneuverings, known collectively as the Northern Expedition. The Kuomintang moved the nation's capital to Nanjing and implemented "political tutelage", an intermediate stage of political development outlined in Sun Yat-sen's San-min program for transforming China into a modern democratic state. Effectively, political tutelage meant one-party rule by the Kuomintang, but the party was politically divided into competing cliques. This political division made it difficult for Chiang to battle the Communists, which the Kuomintang had been warring against since 1927 in the Chinese Civil War. This war continued successfully for the Kuomintang, especially after the Communists retreated in the Long March, until the Xi'an Incident and Japanese aggression forced Chiang to confront Imperial Japan.

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), a part of World War II, forced an uneasy alliance between the Kuomintang and the Communists. The Japanese " three-all policy" in northern China – "kill all, burn all and destroy all" – led to numerous war atrocities being committed against the civilian population; in all, as many as 20 million Chinese civilians died. An estimated 200,000 Chinese were massacred in the city of Nanjing alone during the Japanese occupation. Japan unconditionally surrendered to China in 1945. Taiwan, including the Pescadores, was put under the administrative control of the Republic of China, which immediately claimed sovereignty. China emerged victorious but war-ravaged and financially drained. The continued distrust between the Kuomintang and the Communists led to the resumption of civil war. In 1947, constitutional rule was established, but because of the ongoing unrest many provisions of the ROC constitution were never implemented in mainland China.

People's Republic of China (1949–present)

Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the Communist Party in control of mainland China, and the Kuomintang retreating offshore, reducing the ROC's territory to only Taiwan, Hainan, and their surrounding islands. On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China, which was commonly known in the West as "Communist China" or "Red China" during the Cold War. In 1950, the People's Liberation Army succeeded in capturing Hainan from the ROC, occupying Tibet, and defeating the majority of the remaining Kuomintang forces in Yunnan and Xinjiang provinces, though some Kuomintang holdouts survived until much later.

Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Mao encouraged population growth, and under his leadership the Chinese population almost doubled from around 550 million to over 900 million. However, Mao's Great Leap Forward, a large-scale economic and social reform project, resulted in an estimated 45 million deaths between 1958 and 1961, mostly from starvation. Between 1 and 2 million landlords were executed as "counterrevolutionaries." In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, which would last until Mao's death a decade later. The Cultural Revolution, motivated by power struggles within the Party and a fear of the Soviet Union, led to a major upheaval in Chinese society. In October 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China in the United Nations, and took its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council. In that same year, for the first time, the number of countries recognizing the PRC surpassed those recognizing the ROC in Taipei as the government of China. In February 1972, at the peak of the Sino-Soviet split, Mao and Zhou Enlai met Richard Nixon in Beijing. However, the US did not officially recognise the PRC as China's sole legitimate government until 1 January 1979.

After Mao's death in 1976 and the arrest of the Gang of Four, who were blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping quickly wrested power from Mao's anointed successor Hua Guofeng. Although he never became the head of the party or state himself, Deng was in fact the " paramount leader" of China at that time, his influence within the Party led the country to significant economic reforms. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the communes were disbanded with many peasants receiving multiple land leases, which greatly increased incentives and agricultural production. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment, a system termed by some " market socialism"; the Communist Party of China officially describes it as " socialism with Chinese characteristics". China adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982.

The death of pro-reform official Hu Yaobang helped to spark the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, during which students and others campaigned for several months, speaking out against corruption and in favour of greater political reform, including democratic rights and freedom of speech. However, they were eventually put down on 4 June when PLA troops and vehicles entered and forcibly cleared the square, resulting in numerous casualties. This event was widely reported and brought worldwide condemnation and sanctions against the government. The " Tank Man" incident in particular became famous.

The city of Shanghai has become a symbol of China's rapid economic expansion since the 1990s.

President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, both former mayors of Shanghai, led the nation in the 1990s. Under Jiang and Zhu's ten years of administration, China's economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of 11.2%. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Although rapid economic growth has made the Chinese economy the world's second-largest, this growth has also severely impacted the country's resources and environment. Another concern is that the benefits of economic development has not been distributed evenly, resulting in a wide development gap between urban and rural areas. As a result, under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the Chinese government initiated policies to address these issues of equitable distribution of resources, though the outcome remains to be seen. More than 40 million farmers have been displaced from their land, usually for economic development, contributing to the 87,000 demonstrations and riots which took place across China in 2005 alone. Living standards have improved significantly but political controls remain tight. Although China largely succeeded in maintaining its rapid rate of economic growth despite the late-2000s recession, its growth rate began to slow in the early 2010s, and the economy remains overly focused on fixed investment. In addition, preparations for a major Communist Party leadership change in late 2012 were marked by factional disputes and political scandals, such as the fall from power of Chongqing official Bo Xilai.

During China's decadal leadership reshuffle in November 2012, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were replaced as President and Premier by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, who will formally take office in 2013.


A composite satellite image showing the topography of China.
Longsheng Rice Terrace in Guangxi.
The Li River in Guangxi.

Political geography

The People's Republic of China is the second-largest country in the world by land area after Russia and is either the third- or fourth-largest by total area, after Russia, Canada and, depending on the definition of total area, the United States. China's total area is generally stated as being approximately 9,600,000 km2 (3,700,000 sq mi). Specific area figures range from 9,572,900 km2 (3,696,100 sq mi) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the UN Demographic Yearbook, to 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the CIA World Factbook, and 9,640,011 km2 (3,722,029 sq mi) including Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract, which are controlled by China and claimed by India. None of these figures include the 1,000 square kilometres (386.1 sq mi) of territory ceded to China by Tajikistan following the ratification of a Sino-Tajik border agreement in January 2011.

China has the longest combined land border in the world, measuring 22,117 km (13,743 mi) from the mouth of the Yalu River to the Gulf of Tonkin. China borders 14 nations, more than any other country except Russia, which also borders 14. China extends across much of East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Burma in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan in South Asia; Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; a small section of Russian Altai and Mongolia in Inner Asia; and the Russian Far East and North Korea in Northeast Asia. China's border with India is disputed, and was a key cause of the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan. The PRC and the Republic of China (Taiwan) make mutual claims over each other's territory and the frontier between areas under their respective control is closest near the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, off the Fujian coast, but otherwise run through the Taiwan Strait. The PRC and ROC assert identical claims over the entirety of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and the southern-most extent of these claims reach Zengmu Ansha (James Shoal), which would form a maritime frontier with Malaysia.

Landscape and climate

Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, in Tibet.
The South China Sea coast at Hainan.

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 width. 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, major mountain ranges, most notably the Himalayas, and high plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes of the north, such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert. The world's highest point, Mt. Everest (8848m), lies on the Sino-Nepalese border. The country's lowest point, and the world's fourth-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154m) in the Turpan Depression.

A major environmental issue in China is the continued expansion of its deserts, particularly the Gobi Desert, which is currently the world's fifth-largest desert. Although barrier tree lines planted since the 1970s have reduced the frequency of sandstorms, prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices have resulted in dust storms plaguing northern China each spring, which then spread to other parts of East Asia, including Korea and Japan. According to China's environmental watchdog, Sepa, China is losing a million acres (4,000 km²) per year to desertification. Water quality, erosion, and pollution control have become important issues in China's relations with other countries. Melting glaciers in the Himalayas could potentially lead to water shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

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.


A giant panda photographed in Sichuan.

China is one of 17 megadiverse countries, lying in two of the world's major ecozones: the Palearctic and the Indomalaya. 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 which was received by the convention on 21 September 2010.


In China's Palearctic zone, mammals such as the horse, camel, tapir, and jerboa can be found. Among the species found in the Indomalaya region are the Leopard Cat, bamboo rat, treeshrew, and various monkey and ape species. Some overlap exists between the two regions due to natural dispersal and migration; deer, antelope, bears, wolves, pigs, and numerous rodent species can all be found in China's diverse climatic and geological environments. The giant panda, an emblem of modern China, is found only in a limited area along the Yangtze River. Illegal trading in endangered species is rife in China, although there are now laws to prohibit such activities.


China 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 the Asian black bear, along with over 120 bird species. Moist conifer forests can have thickets of bamboo as an understorey, replaced by rhododendrons in higher montane stands of juniper and yew. Subtropical forests, which dominate central and southern China, support as many as 146,000 species of flora. Tropical and seasonal rainforests, though confined to Yunnan and Hainan Island, contain a quarter of all the animal and plant species found in China.


The number of species of fungi recorded in China, including lichen-forming species, is not known with precision, but probably exceeds 10,000. More than 2,400 species were listed by the mycologist S.C. Teng in the first modern treatment of Chinese fungi in the English language, which was published in 1996. More than 5,000 species of "higher fungi" – mainly basidiomycetes with some ascomycetes – were reported in 2001 for tropical China alone, and nearly 4,000 species of fungi were reported in 2005 for northwestern China. The exploration and classification of the fungi of China is currently being pursued under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with the production of many volumes in the Flora Fungorum Sinicorum series of publications. The issue of fungal conservation, long overlooked in China, was first addressed in the early 2010s, with pioneer publications evaluating the conservation status of individual species.

Environmental issues

Wind turbines in Xinjiang. The Dabancheng project is Asia's largest wind farm.

In recent decades, China has suffered from severe environmental deterioration and pollution. While regulations such as the 1979 Environmental Protection Law are fairly stringent, they are poorly enforced, as they are frequently disregarded by local communities and government officials in favour of rapid economic development. As a result, public protests and riots over environmental issues have become increasingly common.

Environmental campaigners have warned that water pollution is becoming a severe threat to Chinese society. According to the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources, roughly 300 million Chinese do not have access to safe drinking water, and 40% of China’s rivers had been polluted by industrial and agricultural waste by late 2011. This crisis is compounded by the perennial problem of water shortages, with 400 out of 600 surveyed Chinese cities reportedly short of drinking water. Additionally, numerous major Chinese coastal cities, including Shanghai, are deemed to be highly vulnerable to large-scale flooding.

However, China is the world's leading investor in renewable energy commercialisation, with $52 billion invested in 2011 alone. China produces more wind turbines and solar panels than any other country, and renewable energy projects, such as solar water heating, are widely pursued at the local level. By 2009, over 17% of China's energy was derived from renewable sources – most notably hydroelectric power plants, of which China has a total installed capacity of 197 GW. In 2011, the Chinese government announced plans to invest four trillion yuan (US$618.55 billion) in water infrastructure projects over a ten-year period, and to complete construction of a flood prevention and anti-drought system by 2020. In 2013, nearly 3,000 dead pigs were found in the Huangpu river although Chinese authorities claim that it does not effect their drinking water.


The People's Republic of China, along with Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba, is one of the world's four remaining official socialist states espousing communism. However, in practice, China's political structure cannot be characterized so simply. The Chinese government has been variously described as communist and socialist, but also as authoritarian, with heavy restrictions remaining in many areas, most notably on the Internet, the press, freedom of assembly, reproductive rights, and freedom of religion. Its current political/economic system has been termed by its leaders as " socialism with Chinese characteristics".

The country is ruled by the Communist Party of China (CPC), whose power is enshrined in China's constitution. The Chinese electoral system is hierarchical, whereby local People's Congresses are directly elected, and all higher levels of People's Congresses up to the National People's Congress (NPC) are indirectly elected by the People's Congress of the level immediately below. The political system is partly decentralized, with limited democratic processes internal to the party and at local village levels, although these experiments have been marred by corruption. There are other political parties in China, referred to in China as democratic parties, which participate in the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

The Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where the National People's Congress convenes.

Compared to its closed-door policies until the mid-1970s, the liberalization of China has resulted in the administrative climate being less restrictive than before. China nominally supports the Leninist principle of " democratic centralism", but the elected National People's Congress has been described as a " rubber stamp" body. The incumbent President is Hu Jintao, and the Premier is Wen Jiabao, who is also a former senior member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China is Xi Jinping, who serves concurrently as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

There have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that open contested elections are now held at the village and town levels. However, the Party retains effective control over government appointments: in the absence of meaningful opposition, the CPC wins by default most of the time. Political concerns in China include lessening the growing gap between rich and poor and fighting corruption within the government leadership. Nonetheless, the level of public support for the government and its management of the nation is among the highest in the world, with 86% of Chinese citizens expressing satisfaction with their nation's economy according to a 2008 Pew Research Centre survey.

Administrative divisions

The People's Republic of China has administrative control over 22 provinces, and considers Taiwan to be its 23rd province, although Taiwan is currently governed by the Republic of China, which disputes the PRC's claim. China also has five subdivisions officially termed autonomous regions, each with a designated minority group; four municipalities; and two Special Administrative Regions (SARs), which enjoy a degree of political autonomy. These 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, and four municipalities can be collectively referred to as " mainland China", a term which usually excludes the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau. None of these divisions are recognized by the ROC government, which claims the entirety of PRC territory.

Municipality of Beijing Municipality of Tianjin Municipality of Shanghai Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Macau Special Administrative Region China administrative claimed included.svg
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Foreign relations

Hu Jintao with former US President George W. Bush in 2006.

The PRC has diplomatic relations with 171 countries and maintains embassies in 162. Its legitimacy is disputed by the Republic of China and a few other countries; it is thus the largest and most populous state with limited recognition. Sweden was the first western country to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC on 9 May 1950. In 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China as the sole representative of China in the United Nations and as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. China was also a former member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and still considers itself an advocate for developing countries. Along with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, China is a member of the BRICS group of emerging major economies, and hosted the group's third official summit at Sanya, Hainan in April 2011.

Under its interpretation of the One-China policy, Beijing has made it a precondition to establishing diplomatic relations that the other country acknowledges its claim to Taiwan and severs official ties with the government of the Republic of China. Chinese officials have protested on numerous occasions when foreign countries have made diplomatic overtures to Taiwan, especially in the matter of armament sales. Political meetings between foreign government officials and the 14th Dalai Lama are also opposed by China, as the latter considers Tibet to be formally part of China.

Much of current Chinese foreign policy is reportedly based on Zhou Enlai's Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and is also driven by the concept of "harmony without uniformity", which encourages diplomatic relations between states despite ideological differences. This policy has led China to support states that are regarded as dangerous or repressive by Western nations, such as Zimbabwe, North Korea and Iran. Conflicts with foreign countries have occurred at times in China's recent history, particularly with the United States; for instance, the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict in May 1999 and the Hainan Island incident involving a U.S. spy plane in April 2001. Relations with many Western nations suffered for a time following the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, although in recent years China has improved its diplomatic links with the West. China furthermore has an increasingly close economic relationship with Russia, and the two states often vote in unison in the UN Security Council. In recent decades, China has followed a policy of engaging with African nations for trade and bilateral co-operation; in 2012, Sino-African trade totalled over US$160 billion. China has furthermore strengthened its ties with major South American economies, becoming the largest trading partner of Brazil and building strategic links with Argentina.

A meeting of G5 leaders in 2007, with China's Hu Jintao second from right.

Trade relations

In recent decades, China has played an increasing role in calling for free trade areas and security pacts amongst its Asia-Pacific neighbors. In 2004, it proposed an entirely new East Asia Summit (EAS) framework as a forum for regional security issues, pointedly excluding the United States. The EAS, which includes ASEAN Plus Three, India, Australia and New Zealand, held its inaugural summit in 2005. China is also a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), along with Russia and the Central Asian republics.

In 2000, the United States Congress approved "permanent normal trade relations" (PNTR) with China, allowing Chinese exports in at the same low tariffs as goods from most other countries. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush asserted that free trade would gradually open China to democratic reform. Bush was furthermore an advocate of Chinese entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). China has a significant trade surplus with the United States, its most important export market. In the early 2010s, US politicians argued that the Chinese yuan was significantly undervalued, giving China an unfair trade advantage.

Territorial disputes

Map depicting territorial disputes between the PRC and neighboring states. For a larger map, see here.

In addition to claiming all of Taiwan, China has been involved in a number of other international territorial disputes. Since the 1990s, China has been involved in negotiations to resolve its disputed land borders, including a disputed border with India and an undefined border with Bhutan. China is additionally involved in multilateral disputes over the ownership of several small islands in the East and South China Seas.

Emerging superpower status

China is regularly hailed as a potential new superpower, with certain commentators citing its rapid economic progress, growing military might, very large population, and increasing international influence as signs that it will play a prominent global role in the 21st century. Others, however, warn that economic bubbles and demographic imbalances could slow or even halt China's growth as the century progresses. Some authors also question the definition of "superpower", arguing that China's large economy alone would not qualify it as a superpower, and noting that it lacks the military and cultural influence of the United States.

Sociopolitical issues and reform

The Chinese democracy movement, social activists, and some members of the Communist Party of China have all identified the need for social and political reform. While economic and social controls have been greatly relaxed in China since the 1970s, political freedom is still tightly restricted. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China states that the "fundamental rights" of citizens include freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to a fair trial, freedom of religion, universal suffrage, and property rights. However, in practice, these provisions do not afford significant protection against criminal prosecution by the state. Rural migrants to China's cities often find themselves treated as second-class citizens by the hukou household registration system, which controls access to state benefits. Property rights are often poorly protected, and taxation disproportionately affects poorer citizens. However, a number of rural taxes have been reduced or abolished since the early 2000s, and additional social services provided to rural dwellers.

Censorship of political speech and information, most notably on the Internet, is openly and routinely used in China to silence criticism of the government and the ruling Communist Party. In 2005, Reporters Without Borders ranked China 159th out of 167 states in its Annual World Press Freedom Index, indicating a very low level of perceived press freedom. The government has suppressed demonstrations by organizations that it considers a potential threat to "social stability", as was the case with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The Communist Party has had mixed success in controlling information: a powerful and pervasive media control system faces equally strong market forces, an increasingly educated citizenry, and technological and cultural changes that are making China more open to the wider world.

A number of foreign governments and NGOs also routinely criticize China's human rights record, alleging widespread civil rights violations such as detention without trial, forced confessions, torture, restrictions of fundamental rights, and excessive use of the death penalty. The government has responded to foreign criticism by arguing that the notion of human rights should take into account a country's present level of economic development, and focus more on the people's rights to subsistence and development in poorer countries. It emphasizes the rise in the standard of living, literacy, and life expectancy for the average Chinese since the 1970s, as well as improvements in workplace safety and efforts to combat natural disasters such as the perennial Yangtze River floods. Furthermore, some Chinese politicians have spoken out in support of democratisation, although others remain more conservative. In 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao stated that China needs "to gradually improve the democratic election system so that state power will truly belong to the people and state power will be used to serve the people." Despite his status, Wen's comments were later censored by the government. Although the Chinese government is increasingly tolerant of NGOs which offer practical, efficient solutions to social problems, such "third sector" activity remains heavily regulated.


A PLAAF Chengdu J-10 fighter aircraft.

With 2.3 million active troops, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest standing military force in the world, commanded by the Central Military Commission (CMC). The PLA consists of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF), the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), and a strategic nuclear force, the Second Artillery Corps. According to SIPRI, China's military expenditure in 2011 totalled US$129.2 billion (923 billion yuan), constituting the world's second-largest military budget. However, other nations, such as the United States, have claimed that China does not report its real level of military spending, which is allegedly much higher than the official budget. A 2007 report by the US Secretary of Defense noted that "China's actions in certain areas increasingly appear inconsistent with its declaratory policies". For its part, China claims it maintains an army purely for defensive purposes.

As a recognised nuclear weapons state, China is considered both a major regional military power and a potential military superpower. As of August 2011, China's Second Artillery Corps is believed to maintain at least 195 nuclear missiles, including 75 ICBMs. Nonetheless, China is the only member of the UN Security Council to have relatively limited power projection capabilities. To offset this, it has developed numerous power projection assets – its first aircraft carrier entered service in 2012, and it maintains a substantial fleet of submarines, including several nuclear-powered attack and ballistic missile submarines. China has furthermore established a network of foreign military relationships that has been compared to a string of pearls.

Members of a Chinese military honour guard. China possesses the largest standing army in the world, with around 2.3 million active personnel. Its ground forces alone total 1.7 million soldiers.

China has made significant progress in modernizing its air force since the early 2000s, purchasing Russian fighter jets such as the Sukhoi Su-30, and also manufacturing its own modern fighters, most notably the Chengdu J-10 and the Shenyang J-11, J-15 and J-16. China is furthermore engaged in developing an indigenous stealth aircraft, the Chengdu J-20, and numerous combat drones. China has also updated its ground forces, replacing its ageing Soviet-derived tank inventory with numerous variants of the modern Type 99 tank, and upgrading its battlefield C3I and C4I systems to enhance its network-centric warfare capabilities. In addition, China has developed or acquired numerous advanced missile systems, including anti-satellite missiles, cruise missiles and submarine-launched nuclear ICBMs. As a result of these breakthroughs, China has been perceived as attempting to match the United States in military technology, although some analysts note that the American military remains far more capable than the PLA.


The Shanghai Stock Exchange building in Shanghai's Lujiazui financial district. Shanghai has the 25th-largest city GDP in the world, totalling US$304 billion in 2011.

As of 2013, China has the world's second-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, totalling approximately US$8.250 trillion according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, China's 2012 nominal GDP per capita of US$6,094 puts it behind around ninety countries (out of 183 countries on the IMF list) in global GDP per capita rankings. If PPP is taken into account in total GDP figures, China is again second only to the United States – in 2012, its PPP GDP reached $12.382 trillion, corresponding to $9,146 per capita.

From its founding in 1949 until late 1978, the People's Republic of China was a Soviet-style centrally planned economy, without private businesses or capitalism. To propel the country towards a modern, industrialized communist society, Mao Zedong instituted the Great Leap Forward in the early 1960s, although this had decidedly mixed economic results. Following Mao's death in 1976 and the consequent end of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping and the new Chinese leadership began to reform the economy and move towards a more market-oriented mixed economy under one-party rule. Agricultural collectivization was dismantled and farmlands were privatized to increase productivity. Foreign trade was focused upon as a major vehicle of growth, leading to the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), first in Shenzhen and then in other Chinese cities. Inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were restructured by introducing western-style management systems, with unprofitable ones being closed outright, resulting in massive job losses. Modern-day China is mainly characterized as having a market economy based on private property ownership, and is one of the leading examples of state capitalism. The state still dominates in strategic "pillar" industries (such as energy and heavy industries), but private enterprise (composed of around 30 million private businesses) has expanded enormously.

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping initiated China's market-oriented reforms.

Since economic liberalization began in 1978, China's investment- and export-led economy has grown almost a hundredfold and is the fastest-growing major economy in the world. According to the IMF, China's annual average GDP growth between 2001 and 2010 was 10.5%, and the Chinese economy is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 9.5% between 2011 and 2015. Between 2007 and 2011, China's economic growth rate was equivalent to all of the G7 countries' growth combined. According to the Global Growth Generators index announced by Citigroup in February 2011, China has a very high 3G growth rating. Its high productivity, low labor costs and relatively good infrastructure have made it a global leader in manufacturing, but its undervalued exchange rate has caused friction with other major economies, and it has also been widely criticised for manufacturing large quantities of counterfeit goods.

China is a member of the WTO and is the world's largest trading power, with a total international trade value of US$3.87 trillion in 2012. Its foreign exchange reserves reached US$2.85 trillion by the end of 2010, an increase of 18.7% over the previous year, making its reserves by far the world's largest. China owns an estimated $1.6 trillion of US securities. China, holding over US$1.16 trillion in US Treasury bonds, is the largest foreign holder of US public debt. China is the world's third-largest recipient of inward foreign direct investment (FDI), attracting $115 billion in 2011 alone, marking a 9% increase over 2010. China also increasingly invests abroad, with a total outward FDI of $68 billion in 2010, and a number of major takeovers of foreign firms by Chinese companies.

A graph comparing the 2012 nominal GDPs of major economies
in US$ billions, according to IMF data.

China now ranks 29th in the Global Competitiveness Index, although it is only ranked 135th among the 179 countries measured in the Index of Economic Freedom. In 2011, 61 Chinese companies were listed in the Fortune Global 500. Measured by total revenues, three of the world's top ten most valuable companies are Chinese, including fifth-ranked Sinopec Group, sixth-ranked China National Petroleum and seventh-ranked State Grid (the world's largest electric utilities company).

China's middle-class population (defined as those with annual income of at least US$17,000) had reached more than 100 million by 2011, while the number of individuals worth more than 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million) was estimated to be 1.02 million in 2012, according to the Hurun Report. Based on the Hurun rich list, the number of US dollar billionaires in China increased from 130 in 2009 to 251 in 2012, giving China the world's second-highest number of billionaires. China's retail market was worth RMB 8.9 trillion (US$1.302 trillion) in 2007, and is growing at 16.8% annually. China is also now the world's second-largest consumer of luxury goods behind Japan, with 27.5% of the global share. However, in recent years, China's rapid economic growth has contributed to severe consumer inflation, leading to increased government regulation. In the early 2010s, China's economic growth rate began to slow amid global economic turmoil, although it remains the world's fastest-growing major economy.

Nanjing Road, a major shopping street in Shanghai.

The Chinese economy is highly energy-intensive and inefficient; China became the world's largest energy consumer in 2010, and still relies on coal to supply over 70% of its energy needs. Coupled with lax environmental regulations, this has led to massive water and air pollution, leaving China with 20 of the world's 30 most polluted cities. Consequently, the government has promised to use more renewable energy, planning to make renewables constitute 30% of China's total energy production by 2050. Efforts have also been made to streamline bureaucracy and reduce wastefulness by government enterprises.

Science and technology

A man in black armor standing in front of a rocket, attached to a stick, with the stick being held up by two X shaped wooden brackets.
History of science and
technology in China
By era
Han Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
Song Dynasty
People's Republic of China
Present-day China
Value in dollars of high-tech exports by country in 2009. The value of Chinese high-tech exports was more than twice that of any other nation.


China was a world leader in science and technology until the Ming Dynasty. Ancient Chinese discoveries and inventions, such as papermaking, printing, the compass, and gunpowder (the Four Great Inventions), contributed to the economic development of Asia and Europe. However, Chinese scientific activity entered a prolonged decline in the fourteenth century. Unlike the European scientists of the Scientific Revolution, medieval Chinese thinkers did not attempt to reduce observations of nature to mathematical laws, and they did not form a scholarly community offering peer review and progressive research. There was an increasing concentration on literature, the arts, and public administration, while science and technology were seen as trivial or restricted to limited practical applications. The causes of this Great Divergence continue to be debated.

After repeated military defeats by Western nations in the 19th century, Chinese reformers began promoting modern science and technology as part of the Self-Strengthening Movement. After the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, efforts were made to organize science and technology based on the model of the Soviet Union. However, Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution of 1966–76 had a catastrophic effect on Chinese research, as academics were persecuted and the training of scientists and engineers was severely curtailed for nearly a decade. After Mao's death in 1976, science and technology was established as one of the Four Modernizations, and the Soviet-inspired academic system was gradually reformed.

The launch of China's Shenzhou 6 manned spacecraft in 2005.

Modern era

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, China has become one of the world's leading technological powers, spending over US$100 billion on scientific research and development in 2011 alone. Science and technology are seen as vital for achieving economic and political goals, and are held as a source of national pride to a degree sometimes described as "techno-nationalism". Almost all of the members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China have engineering degrees.

China is rapidly developing its education system with an emphasis on science, mathematics and engineering; in 2009, it produced over 10,000 Ph.D. engineering graduates, and as many as 500,000 BSc graduates, more than any other country. China is also the world's second-largest publisher of scientific papers, producing 121,500 in 2010 alone, including 5,200 in leading international scientific journals. 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 furthermore the world's largest investor in renewable energy technology.

The Chinese space program is one of the world's most active, and is a major source of national pride. In 1970, China launched its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong I. In 2003, China became the third country to independently send humans into space, with Yang Liwei's spaceflight aboard Shenzhou 5; as of September 2012, eight Chinese nationals have journeyed into space. In 2008, China conducted its first spacewalk with the Shenzhou 7 mission. 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 2020. The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program includes a planned lunar rover launch in 2013, and possibly a manned lunar landing in 2025. Experience gained from the lunar program may be used for future programs such as the exploration of Mars and Venus. However, some foreign analysts have accused China of covertly using its civilian space missions for military purposes, such as the launch of surveillance satellites.



China currently has the largest number of active cellphones of any country in the world, with over 1 billion users as of May 2012. It also has the world's largest number of internet and broadband users. By December 2010, China had around 457 million internet users, an increase of 19% over the previous year, and by the end of 2011 the number of internet users had exceeded 500 million. According to the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), China's average internet connection speed in 2011 was 100.9 kbit/s, less than half of the global average of 212.5 kbit/s.

China Telecom and China Unicom, the country's two largest broadband providers, accounted for 20% of global broadband subscribers, whereas the world's ten largest broadband service providers combined accounted for 39% of the world's broadband customers. China Telecom alone serves 55 million broadband subscribers, while China Unicom serves more than 40 million. The massive rise in internet use in China continues to fuel rapid broadband growth, whereas the world's other major broadband ISPs operate in the mature markets of the developed world, with high levels of broadband penetration and rapidly slowing subscriber growth. Several Chinese telecommunications companies, most notably Huawei and ZTE, have become highly profitable in overseas markets, but have also been accused of spying for the Chinese military.


There are over 85,000 km (52,800 mi) of divided expressways in China.
A high-speed maglev train leaving Pudong International Airport, Shanghai, in 2006.

Since the late 1990s, China's national road network has been significantly expanded through the creation of a network of expressways, known as the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS). By the end of 2011, China's expressways had reached a total length of 85,000 km (53,000 mi), second only to the highway network of the United States. Private car ownership is growing rapidly in China, which surpassed the United States as the world's largest automobile market in 2009, with total car sales of over 13.6 million. Analysts predict that annual car sales in China may rise as high as 40 million by 2020. A side-effect of the rapid growth of China's road network has been a significant rise in traffic accidents, mostly caused by poorly enforced traffic laws – in 2011 alone, around 62,000 Chinese died in road accidents, and efforts to improve traffic safety have had limited success.

China also possesses the world's longest high-speed rail network, with over 9,676 km (6,012 mi) of service routes. Of these, 3,515 km (2,184 mi) serve trains with top speeds of 300 km/h (190 mph). In 2011, China produced its first high-speed trains built entirely without foreign assistance. China intends to operate approximately 16,000 km (9,900 mi) of high-speed rail lines by 2020. Rapid transit systems are also rapidly developing in China's major cities, in the form of networks of underground or light rail systems. China is additionally developing its own satellite navigation system, dubbed Beidou, which began offering commercial navigation services across Asia in 2012, and is planned to offer global coverage by 2020.

As of 2012, China is the world's largest constructor of new airports, and the Chinese government has begun a US$250 billion five-year project to expand and modernize domestic air travel. However, long-distance transportation remains dominated by railways and charter bus systems. Railways are the vital carrier in China; they are monopolized by the state, and divided into various railway bureaux in different regions. Due to huge demand, the system is regularly subject to overcrowding, particularly during holiday seasons, such as Chunyun during the Chinese New Year. The Chinese rail network carried an estimated 1.68 billion total passengers in 2010 alone. In urban areas, bicycles remain an extremely common mode of transport, despite the increasing prevalence of automobiles – as of 2012, there are approximately 470 million bicycles in China.


A 2009 population density map of the People's Republic of China. The eastern coastal provinces are much more densely populated than the western interior.

The national census of 2010 recorded the population of the People's Republic of China as approximately 1,338,612,968. About 21% of the population (145,461,833 males; 128,445,739 females) were 14 years old or younger, 71% (482,439,115 males; 455,960,489 females) were between 15 and 64 years old, and 8% (48,562,635 males; 53,103,902 females) were over 65 years old. The population growth rate for 2006 was 0.6%.

By end of 2010, the proportion of mainland Chinese people aged 14 or younger was 16.60%, while the number aged 60 or older grew to 13.26%, giving a total proportion of 29.86% dependents. The proportion of the population of workable age was thus around 70%.

Although a middle-income country by Western standards, China's rapid growth has pulled hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty since 1978. Today, about 10% of the Chinese population lives below the poverty line of US$1 per day, down from 64% in 1978. Urban unemployment in China reportedly declined to 4% by the end of 2007, although true overall unemployment may be as high as 10%.

With a population of over 1.3 billion and dwindling natural resources, China is very concerned about its population growth and has attempted, with mixed results, to implement a strict family planning policy, known as the " one-child policy." The government's goal is one child per family, with exceptions for ethnic minorities and a degree of flexibility in rural areas. It is hoped that population growth in China will stabilize in the early decades of the 21st century, though some projections estimate a population of anywhere between 1.4 billion and 1.6 billion by 2025. China's family planning minister has indicated that the one-child policy will be maintained until at least 2020.

Population of China from 1949 to 2008.

The one-child policy is resisted, particularly in rural areas, because of the need for agricultural labour and a traditional preference for boys (who can later serve as male heirs). Families who breach the policy often lie during the census.

The decreasing reliability of Chinese population statistics since family planning began in the late 1970s has made evaluating the effectiveness of the policy difficult. Data from the 2010 census implies that the total fertility rate may now be around 1.4. The government is particularly concerned with the large imbalance in the sex ratio at birth, apparently the result of a combination of traditional preference for boys and family planning pressure, which led to a ban on using ultrasound devices for non-emergency applications, in an attempt to prevent sex-selective abortion.

According to the 2010 census, there were 118.06 boys born for every 100 girls, which is 0.53 points lower than the ratio obtained from a population sample survey carried out in 2005. However, the gender ratio of 118.06 is still beyond the normal range of around 105 percent, and experts warn of increased social instability should this trend continue. For the population born between the years 1900 and 2000, it is estimated that there could be 35.59 million fewer females than males. Other demographers argue that perceived gender imbalances may arise from the underreporting of female births. A recent study suggests that as many as three million Chinese babies are hidden by their parents every year. According to the 2010 census, males accounted for 51.27 percent of the total population, while females made up 48.73 percent of the total.

Ethnic groups

Ethnic composition (2000)
Han 91.65%
Zhuang 1.27%
Hui 0.79%
Manchu 0.78%
Uyghur 0.76%
Miao 0.71%
Yi 0.65%
Other 3.39%

China officially recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups, the largest of which 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 province, municipality and autonomous region except Tibet and Xinjiang, and are descended from ancient Huaxia tribes living along the Yellow River.

Ethnic minorities account for about 8.49% of the population of China, according to the 2010 census. Compared with the 2000 population census, the Han population increased by 66,537,177 persons, or 5.74%, while the population of the 55 national minorities combined increased by 7,362,627 persons, or 6.92%.

The 2010 census recorded a total of 593,832 foreign citizens living in China. The largest such groups were from South Korea (120,750), the United States (71,493) and Japan (66,159).


1990 map of Chinese ethnolinguistic groups.

The languages most spoken in China belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family. There are also several major linguistic groups within the Chinese language itself. The most spoken varieties are Mandarin (natively spoken by over 70% of the population), Wu (includes Shanghainese), Yue (includes Cantonese and Taishanese), Min (includes Hokkien and Teochew), Xiang, Gan, and Hakka. Non-Sinitic languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Zhuang, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Hmong and Korean. 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 between people of different linguistic backgrounds.

Classical Chinese was the written standard in China for thousands of years, and allowed for written communication between speakers of various unintelligible languages and dialects in China. Written vernacular Chinese, or baihua, is the written standard, based on the Mandarin dialect and first popularized in Ming Dynasty novels. It was adopted, with significant modifications, during the early 20th century as the national standard. Classical Chinese is still part of the high school curriculum, and is thus intelligible to some degree to many Chinese. Since their promulgation by the government in 1956, Simplified Chinese characters have become the official standardized written script used to write the Chinese language within mainland China, supplanting the use of the earlier Traditional Chinese characters.


Since 2000, China's cities have expanded at an average rate of 10% annually. It is estimated that China's urban population will increase by 400 million people by 2025, when its cities will house a combined population of over one billion. The country's urbanization rate increased from 17.4% to 46.6% between 1978 and 2009, a scale unprecedented in human history. Between 150 and 200 million migrant workers work part-time in the major cities, returning home to the countryside periodically with their earnings.

Today, China has dozens of cities with one million or more long-term residents, including the three global cities of Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai; by 2025, the country will be home to 221 cities with over a million inhabitants. The figures in the table below are from the 2008 census, and are only estimates of the urban populations within administrative city limits; a different ranking exists when considering the total municipal populations (which includes suburban and rural populations). The large " floating populations" of migrant workers make conducting censuses in urban areas difficult; the figures below include only long-term residents.


Tsinghua University in Beijing.

In 1986, China set the long-term goal of providing compulsory nine-year basic education to every child. As of 2007, there were 396,567 primary schools, 94,116 secondary schools, and 2,236 higher education institutions in China. In February 2006, the government advanced its basic education goal by pledging to provide completely free nine-year education, including textbooks and fees. Free compulsory education in China consists of elementary school and middle school between the ages of 6 and 15; almost all children in urban areas continue with three years of high school.

As of 2007, 93.3% of the population over age 15 are literate, compared to only 20% in 1950. In 2000, China's literacy rate among 15-to-24-year-olds was 98.9% (99.2% for males and 98.5% for females). In March 2007, the Chinese government declared education a national "strategic priority"; the central budget for national scholarships was tripled between 2007 and 2009, and 223.5 billion yuan (US$28.65 billion) of extra state funding was allocated between 2007 and 2012 to improve compulsory education in rural areas.

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.

The quality of Chinese colleges and universities varies considerably across the country. The consistently top-ranked universities in mainland China are:

  • Beijing: Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Beijing Normal University
  • Changchun: Jilin University
  • Changsha: Central South University
  • Chengdu: Sichuan University
  • Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University
  • Hangzhou: Zhejiang University
  • Harbin: Harbin Institute of Technology
  • Hefei: University of Science and Technology of China
  • Jinan: Shandong University
  • Nanjing: Nanjing University, Southeast University
  • Shanghai: Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tongji University, East China Normal University
  • Tianjin: Nankai University, Tianjin University
  • Wuhan: Wuhan University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology
  • Xi'an: Xi'an Jiaotong University


The Ministry of Health, together with its counterparts in the provincial health bureaux, oversees the health needs of the Chinese population. An emphasis on public health and preventive medicine has characterized Chinese health policy since the early 1950s. At that time, the Communist Party started the Patriotic Health Campaign, which was aimed at improving sanitation and hygiene, as well as treating and preventing several diseases. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid and scarlet fever, which were previously rife in China, were nearly eradicated by the campaign. After Deng Xiaoping began instituting economic reforms in 1978, the health of the Chinese public improved rapidly due to better nutrition, although many of the free public health services provided in the countryside disappeared along with the People's Communes. Healthcare in China became mostly privatised, and experienced a significant rise in quality. The national life expectancy at birth rose from about 35 years in 1949 to 73.18 years in 2008, and infant mortality decreased from 300 per thousand in the 1950s to around 23 per thousand in 2006. Malnutrition as of 2002 stood at 12% of the population, according to United Nations FAO sources. In 2009, the government began a large-scale healthcare provision initiative worth US$124 billion, which is expected to eventually cover 90% of China's population.

As of 2012, China's national average life expectancy at birth is 74.8 years, and its infant mortality rate is 15.6 per thousand births. Despite significant improvements in health and the construction of advanced medical facilities, China has several emerging public health problems, such as respiratory illnesses caused by widespread air pollution and hundreds of millions of cigarette smokers, a possible future HIV/AIDS epidemic, and an increase in obesity among urban youths. China's large population and densely populated cities have led to serious disease outbreaks in recent years, such as the 2003 outbreak of SARS, although this has since been largely contained. Pollution is proving to be a particularly severe threat – in 2007, estimates of annual excess deaths in China from air and water pollution were placed at 760,000 people, and as many as 500 million Chinese lacked access to clean drinking water in 2005.


The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, a Taoist complex where the Emperor was said to commune with Heaven.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by China's constitution, although religious organizations which lack official approval can be subject to state persecution. An accurate estimate of the number of religious adherents is hard to obtain because of a lack of official data, but there is a general consensus that religious belief has been enjoying a resurgence in China since the late 1980s. A 1998 survey by found that 59% (over 700 million) of the population was non-religious. A later survey, conducted in 2007, found that there were 300 million religious believers in China, constituting 23% of the population, as distinct from the official figure of 100 million.

Despite the surveys' varying results, most agree that China's traditional religions – Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions – are the dominant faiths. According to various sources, Buddhism in China accounts for between 660 million (~50% of the population) and over 1 billion (~80%), while Taoists number as many as 400 million (~30%). However, because of the fact that one person may subscribe to two or more of these traditional beliefs simultaneously, and the difficulty in clearly differentiating Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religions, there is likely a strong degree of overlap in the number of adherents of these religions. In addition, some who subscribe to Buddhism and Taoism follow their philosophies in principle but stop short of believing in any kind of deity or divinity.

Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin, northeast China. By 1921, Harbin had a Russian population of around 100,000, feeding the growth of Christianity in the city.

Most Chinese Buddhists are merely nominal adherents, because only a small proportion of the population (around 8% or 100 million) may have taken the formal step of going for refuge. Even then, it is still difficult to estimate accurately the number of Buddhists, because they do not have congregational memberships and often do not participate in public ceremonies. Mahayana Buddhism (Dacheng) and its subsets Pure Land (Amidism), Tiantai and Chán (better known in English by its Japanese pronunciation Zen) are the most widely practiced denominations of Buddhism. Other forms, such as Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism, are practiced largely by ethnic minorities along the geographic fringes of the Chinese mainland.

Christianity was first introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty, with the arrival of Nestorian Christianity in 635 AD. Of China's minority religions, Christianity is now one of the fastest-growing. The total number of Christians is difficult to determine, as many belong to unauthorized house churches, but estimates of their number have ranged from 40 million (3% of the total population) to 54 million (4%) to as many as 130 million (10%). Official government statistics put the number of Christians at 25 million, including 10 million Catholics, but these count only members of officially sanctioned church bodies. China is believed to now have the world's second-largest evangelical Christian population – behind the United States – and is also experiencing a surge in mainstream Christian publishing. In 2011, it was reported that more people attended Sunday church services in China than in all of Europe combined.

The Masjid and Islamic Centre in Kowloon.

Islam in China dates to a mission in 651; over the following centuries, Muslim traders and scholars became prominent in China. Accurate statistics on China's current Muslim population are hard to find; most estimates give a figure of between 20 and 30 million Muslims (1.5% to 2% of the total population).

China also has numerous minority religions, including Hinduism, Dongbaism, Bön, and a number of more modern religions and sects, such as Xiantianism. In July 1999, the Falun Gong spiritual practice was officially banned by the authorities, and many international organizations have criticized the government's recent treatment of Falun Gong. There are no reliable estimates of the number of Falun Gong practitioners in China, although informal estimates have given figures as high as 70 million.


A traditional Beijing opera being performed.
Beijing's Forbidden City, showing its classical Chinese architectural style.

Since ancient times, Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by Confucianism and conservative philosophies. For much of the country's dynastic era, opportunities for social advancement could be provided by high performance in the prestigious Imperial examinations, which were instituted in 605 AD to help the Emperor select skilful bureaucrats. The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as the belief that calligraphy and literati painting were higher forms of art than dancing or drama. Chinese culture has long emphasized a sense of deep history and a largely inward-looking national perspective. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today. In recent years, a number of New Confucians have claimed that modern democratic ideals and human rights are compatible with traditional Confucian values.

The first leaders of the People's Republic of China were born into the traditional imperial order, but were influenced by the May Fourth Movement and reformist ideals. They sought to change some traditional aspects of Chinese culture, such as rural land tenure, sexism, and the Confucian system of education, while preserving others, such as the family structure and culture of obedience to the state. Some observers see the period following the establishment of the PRC in 1949 as a continuation of traditional Chinese dynastic history, while others claim that the Communist Party's rule has damaged the foundations of Chinese culture, especially through political movements such as the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, where many aspects of traditional culture were destroyed, having been denounced as "regressive and harmful' or 'vestiges of feudalism'. Many important aspects of traditional Chinese morals and culture, such as Confucianism, art, literature, and performing arts like Peking opera, were altered to conform to government policies and propaganda at the time.

Today, the Chinese government has accepted numerous elements of traditional Chinese culture as being integral to Chinese society. With the rise of Chinese nationalism and the end of the Cultural Revolution, various forms of traditional Chinese art, literature, music, film, fashion and architecture have seen a vigorous revival, and folk and variety art in particular have sparked interest nationally and even worldwide. China is now the third-most-visited country in the world, with 55.7 million inbound international visitors in 2010. It also experiences an enormous volume of domestic tourism; an estimated 740 million Chinese holidaymakers travelled within the country in October 2012 alone.

Traditional Chinese food in Tianjin, including dumpling and guobacai.


Chinese cuisine is highly diverse, drawing on several millennia of culinary history. The dynastic emperors of ancient China were known to host banquets with over 100 dishes served at a time, employing countless imperial kitchen staff and concubines to prepare the food. Such royal dishes gradually became a part of wider Chinese culture. China's staple food is rice, but the country is also well known for its meat dishes. Spices are endemic to Chinese cuisine.

Numerous foreign offshoots of Chinese food, such as Hong Kong cuisine and American Chinese food, have emerged in the various nations which play host to the Chinese diaspora.


Dragon boat racing, a popular traditional Chinese sport.

China has one of the oldest sporting cultures in the world. There is evidence that a form of association football was played in China around 1000 AD. Today, some of the most popular sports in the country include martial arts, basketball, football, table tennis, badminton, swimming and snooker. Board games such as go (known as weiqi in China), xiangqi, and more recently chess, are also played at a professional level.

Physical fitness is widely emphasized in Chinese culture. Morning exercises are a common activity, with elderly citizens encouraged to practice qigong and t'ai chi ch'uan. Young people in China are also keen on basketball, especially in urban centers with limited space and grass areas. The American National Basketball Association has a huge following among Chinese youths, with ethnic Chinese players such as Yao Ming being held in high esteem. Commercial gyms and fitness clubs are rapidly gaining popularity in China, with over 3,000 such establishments serving around 3 million active subscribers in China's major cities in 2010. In addition, China is home to a huge number of cyclists, with an estimated 470 million bicycles as of 2012. Many more traditional sports, such as dragon boat racing, Mongolian-style wrestling and horse racing are also popular.

China has participated in the Olympic Games since 1932, although it has only participated as the PRC since 1952. China hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where its athletes received 51 gold medals – the highest number of gold medals of any participating nation that year. China also won the most medals of any nation at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, with 231 overall, including 95 gold medals. China will host the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin and the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.

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