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People's Republic of China
  • 中华人民共和国
  • Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó
Flag National Emblem
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[a]
39°55′N 116°23′E / 39.917°N 116.383°E / 39.917; 116.383
Largest city Shanghai[1]
Official languages Standard Chinese[2][b]
Recognised regional languages
Official written language Vernacular Chinese
Official script Simplified Chinese[2]
Ethnic groups
Demonym Chinese
Government Single-party socialist republic
 -  President Xi Jinping[d]
 -  Premier Li Keqiang
 -  Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang
 -  Conference Chairman Yu Zhengsheng
Legislature National People's Congress
 -  Unification of China under the Qin Dynasty 221 BCE 
 -  Republic established 1 January 1912 
 -  People's Republic proclaimed 1 October 1949 
 -  Total 9,596,961 km2[e] (3rd/4th)
3,705,407 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 0.28%[f]
 -  2012 estimate 1,350,695,000[8] (1st)
 -  2010 census 1,339,724,852[9] (1st)
 -  Density 2011 estimate:[10] 144/km2 (83rd)
373/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2013 estimate
 -  Total $14.9614 trillion[11] (2nd)
 -  Per capita $10,253[11] (91st)
GDP (nominal) 2013 estimate
 -  Total $9.3253 trillion[11] (2nd)
 -  Per capita $6,853[11] (84th)
Gini (2012) 47.4[12]
HDI (2012) Increase 0.699[13]
medium · 101st
Currency Renminbi (yuan)(¥)[g] (CNY)
Time zone China Standard Time (UTC+8)
Date format
  • yyyy-mm-dd
  • or yyyymd
  • (CE; CE-1949)
Drives on the right[h]
Calling code +86
ISO 3166 code CN
Internet TLD

China (Listeni/ˈnə/; Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó), officially the People's Republic of China, is a sovereign state located in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1.35 billion. The PRC is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party, with its seat of government in the capital city of Beijing.[14] 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 which is controversial due to the complex political status of Taiwan.[15]

Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometers, China is the world's second-largest country by land area,[16] and either the third or fourth-largest by total area, depending on the method of measurement.[i] China's landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the wetter south. The Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separate China from South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, run from the Tibetan Plateau 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 history of China goes back to the ancient civilization – one of the world's earliest – that 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 BCE). Since 221 BCE, 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 (ROC) overthrew the last dynasty in 1911, and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949. After the defeat of the Empire of Japan in World War II, 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 its present capital of Taipei.

Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become one of the world's fastest-growing major economies. 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.[17] China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, with the second-largest defense budget.[18] 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 is a regional power within Asia and has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of commentators.[19][20]


The word "China" is derived from the Persian word Cin (چین), which is from the Sanskrit word Cīna (चीन).[23] It is first recorded in 1516 in the journal of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa.[24] The journal was translated and published in England in 1555.[25] The traditional theory, proposed in the 17th century by Martino Martini, is that Cīna is derived from "Qin" (), the westernmost of the Chinese kingdoms during the Zhou Dynasty.[26] However, the word was used in early Hindu scripture, including the Mahābhārata (5th century BC) and the Laws of Manu (2nd century BC).[27][28]

The official name of the present country is the People's Republic of China (Chinese: 中华人民共和国; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó). The common Chinese names for the country are Zhōngguó (Chinese: 中国, from zhōng, "central" or "middle", and guó, "state" or "states," and in modern times, "nation") and Zhōnghuá (Chinese: 中华), although the country's official name has been changed numerous times by successive dynasties and modern governments. The term Zhōngguó appeared in various ancient texts, such as the Classic of History of the 6th century BCE,[j] 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 or provinces in the central plain, but was not used as a name for the country as a whole until the nineteenth century. The Chinese were not unique in regarding their country as "central", with other civilizations having the same view of themselves.[29]


Jade deer ornament dating from the Shang Dynasty (17th–11th centuries BCE)
Some of the thousands of life-size Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty, ca. 210 BCE


Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 250,000 and 2.24 million years ago.[30] A cave in Zhoukoudian (near present-day Beijing) exhibits hominid fossils dated at between 680,000 and 780,000 BCE.[31] The fossils are of Peking Man, an example of Homo erectus who used fire.[32] The Peking Man site has also yielded remains of Homo sapiens dating back to 18,000–11,000 BCE.[33] Some scholars assert that a form of proto-writing existed in China as early as 3000 BCE.[34]

According to Chinese tradition, the first imperial dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2070 BCE.[35] However, the dynasty was considered mythical by historians until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou, Henan in 1959.[36] It remains unclear whether these sites are the remains of the Xia Dynasty or of another culture from the same period.[37]

Early dynastic rule

The first Chinese dynasty that left historical records, the loosely feudal Shang,[38] settled along the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BCE.[39] The oracle bone script of the Shang Dynasty represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found,[40] and is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters.[41] The Shang were conquered by the Zhou, who ruled between the 12th and 5th centuries BCE, until its centralized authority was slowly eroded by feudal warlords. Many independent states eventually emerged from the weakened Zhou state and continually waged war with each other in the 300-year Spring and Autumn Period, only occasionally deferring to the Zhou king. By the time of the Warring States period of the 5th–3rd centuries BCE, there were seven powerful sovereign states in what is now China, each with its own king, ministry and army.

Imperial China

The Warring States period ended in 221 BCE, after the state of Qin conquered the other six kingdoms and established the first unified Chinese state. Qin Shi Huang, the emperor of Qin, proclaimed himself the "First Emperor" (始皇帝) and imposed 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.[42][43]

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

The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BCE and 220 CE, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace that has endured to the present day.[42][43] 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.[44] The Han Dynasty adopted Confucianism, a philosophy developed in the Spring and Autumn period, as its official state ideology. Despite the Han's official abandonment of Legalism, the official ideology of the Qin, Legalist institutions and policies remained and formed the basis of the Han government.[45]

After the collapse of Han, a period of disunion known as the period of the Three Kingdoms followed.[46] In 581 CE, China was reunited under the Sui. However, the Sui Dynasty declined following its defeat in the Goguryeo–Sui War (598–614).[47][48]

Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese technology and culture entered a golden age.[49] 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.[50] 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.[51] 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,[52] and social elites gathered to view art, share their own and trade precious artworks. The Song Dynasty saw a revival of Confucianism, in response to the growth of Buddhism during the Tang.[53]

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 the 13th century, China was gradually conquered by the Mongol empire. 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 China reportedly consisted of approximately 120 million citizens; the 1300 census that followed the invasion reported roughly 60 million people.[54] 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.[55] In the early years of the Ming Dynasty, China's capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing. During the Ming Dynasty, philosophers such as Wang Yangming further critiqued and expanded Neo-Confucianism with concepts of individualism and innate morality.[56]

In 1644, Beijing was captured 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.

End of dynastic rule

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

The Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1644 until 1912, was the last imperial dynasty of China. In the 19th century, the Qing Dynasty experienced Western imperialism following two Opium Wars (1839–42 and 1856–60) with Britain. China was forced to sign unequal treaties, pay compensation, allow extraterritoriality for foreign nationals, and cede Hong Kong to the British.[57] The First Sino-Japanese War (1894−95) resulted in Qing China's loss of influence in the Korean Peninsula, as well as the cession of Taiwan to Japan.[58]

The Qing dynasty also began experiencing internal unrest in which millions of people died. In the 1850s and 1860s, the failed Taiping Rebellion ravaged southern China. Other major rebellions included the Punti–Hakka Clan Wars (1855–67), the Nien Rebellion (1851–68), the Miao Rebellion (1854–73), the Panthay Rebellion (1856–73) and the Dungan revolt (1862–77).

In the 19th century, the great Chinese Diaspora began. Emigration rates were strengthened by conflicts and catastrophes such as the Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–1879, which claimed between 9 and 13 million lives in northern China.[59] In 1898, the Guangxu Emperor drafted a reform plan to establish a modern constitutional monarchy, but he was overthrown by the Empress Dowager Cixi in a coup d'état. The ill-fated anti-Western Boxer Rebellion of 1899–1901 further weakened the Qing Dynasty. The Xinhai Revolution of 1911–12 brought an end to the Qing Dynasty and established the Republic of China.

Republic of China (1912–1949)

Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China (seated on right), and Chiang Kai-shek, later President of the Republic of China

On 1 January 1912, the Republic of China was established, and Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (the KMT or Nationalist Party) was proclaimed provisional president.[60] However, the presidency was later given to Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general who in 1915 proclaimed himself Emperor of China. In the face of popular condemnation and opposition from his own Beiyang Army, he was forced to abdicate and reestablish the republic.[61]

After Yuan Shikai's death in 1916, China was politically fragmented. Its Beijing-based government was internationally recognized but virtually powerless; regional warlords controlled most of its territory.[62][63] In the late 1920s, the 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.[64][65] 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.[66][67] The political division in China made it difficult for Chiang to battle the Communists, against whom the Kuomintang had been warring since 1927 in the Chinese Civil War. This war continued successfully for the Kuomintang, especially after the Communists retreated in the Long March, until Japanese aggression and the 1936 Xi'an Incident forced Chiang to confront Imperial Japan.[68]

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), a theater of World War II, forced an uneasy alliance between the Kuomintang and the Communists. Japanese forces committed numerous war atrocities against the civilian population; in all, as many as 20 million Chinese civilians died.[69] An estimated 200,000 Chinese were massacred in the city of Nanjing alone during the Japanese occupation.[70] Japan surrendered unconditionally 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.[71]

People's Republic of China (1949–present)

Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the PRC in 1949

Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the Communist Party in control of most of mainland China, and the Kuomintang retreating offshore, reducing the ROC's territory to only Taiwan, Hainan, their surrounding islands. On 1 October 1949, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China.[72] In 1950, the People's Liberation Army succeeded in capturing Hainan from the ROC[73] and occupying Tibet.[74] However, remaining Nationalist forces continued to wage an insurgency in western China throughout the 1950s.[75]

Mao encouraged population growth, and under his leadership the Chinese population almost doubled from around 550 million to over 900 million.[76] 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.[77] Between 1 and 2 million landlords were executed as "counterrevolutionaries."[78] In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, sparking a period of political recrimination and social upheaval which lasted until Mao's death in 1976. 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.[79]

After Mao's death in 1976 and the arrest of the faction known as the Gang of Four, who were blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping took power and led the country to significant economic reforms. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the communes were disbanded in favor of private land leases. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment.[80] China adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982. In 1989, the violent suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square brought condemnation and sanctions against the Chinese government from various countries.[81]

Shanghai skyline

President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji led the nation in the 1990s. Under their 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%.[82][83] The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and maintained its high rate of economic growth under Hu Jintao's presidency in the 2000s. However, rapid growth also severely impacted the country's resources and environment,[84][85] and caused major social displacement.[86][87] Living standards continued to improve rapidly despite the late-2000s recession, but centralized political control remained tight.[88]

Preparations for a decadal Communist Party leadership change in 2012 were marked by factional disputes and political scandals.[89] During China's 18th National Communist Party Congress in November 2012, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were replaced as President and Premier by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, who formally took office in 2013.[90][91] Under Xi, the Chinese government began large-scale efforts to reform its economy,[92][93] which has suffered from structural instabilities and slowing growth.[94][95][96][97] Xi's administration also announced major reforms to the one-child policy and prison system.[98]


A composite satellite image showing the topography of China
The Li River in Guangxi

Political geography

The People's Republic of China is the second-largest country in the world by land area[99] 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.[k] China's total area is generally stated as being approximately 9,600,000 km2 (3,700,000 sq mi).[100] Specific area figures range from 9,572,900 km2 (3,696,100 sq mi) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica,[101] 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the UN Demographic Yearbook,[5] to 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the CIA World Factbook.[7]

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.[7] China borders 14 nations, more than any other country except Russia, which also borders 14.[102] China extends across much of East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Burma in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan[l] in South Asia; Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; and Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea in Inner Asia and Northeast Asia. Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Landscape and climate

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 sit major mountain ranges, most notably the Himalayas. High plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes of the north, such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert. The world's highest point, Mount Everest (8,848m), lies on the Sino-Nepalese border.[103] The country's lowest point, and the world's third-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154m) in the Turpan Depression.[104]

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.[105] The climate in China differs from region to region because of the country's highly complex topography.

A major environmental issue in China is the continued expansion of its deserts, particularly the Gobi Desert.[106][107] 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.[108] 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.[109]


A giant panda, China's most famous endangered and endemic species, at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan

China is one of 17 megadiverse countries,[110] lying in two of the world's major ecozones: the Palearctic and the Indomalaya. By one measure, China has over 34,687 species of animals and vascular plants, making it the third-most biodiverse country in the world, after Brazil and Colombia.[111] 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.[112] It later produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with one revision that was received by the convention on 21 September 2010.[113]

China is home to at least 551 species of mammals (the third-highest such number in the world),[114] 1,221 species of birds (eighth),[115] 424 species of reptiles (seventh)[116] and 333 species of amphibians (seventh).[117] China is the most biodiverse country in each category outside of the tropics. Wildlife in China share habitat with and bear acute pressure from the world's largest population of homo sapiens. At least 840 animal species are threatened, vulnerable or in danger of local extinction in China, due mainly to human activity such as habitat destruction, pollution and poaching for food, fur and ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine.[118] Endangered wildlife is protected by law, and as of 2005, the country has over 2,349 nature reserves, covering a total area of 149.95 million hectares, 15 percent of China's total land area.[119]

China has over 32,000 species of vascular plants,[120] and is home to a variety of forest types. Cold coniferous forests predominate in the north of the country, supporting animal species such as moose and Asian black bear, along with over 120 bird species.[121] The understorey of moist conifer forests may contain thickets of bamboo. In higher montane stands of juniper and yew, the bamboo is replaced by rhododendrons. Subtropical forests, which are predominate in central and southern China, support as many as 146,000 species of flora.[121] Tropical and seasonal rainforests, though confined to Yunnan and Hainan Island, contain a quarter of all the animal and plant species found in China.[121] China has over 10,000 recorded species of fungi,[122] and of them, nearly 6,000 are higher fungi.[123]

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.[124][125] 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 favor of rapid economic development.[126] Urban air pollution is a severe health issue in the country; the World Bank estimated in 2013 that 16 of the world's 20 most-polluted cities are located in China.[127] China is the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter.[128] The country also has water problems. Roughly 298 million Chinese in rural areas do not have access to safe drinking water,[129] and 40% of China's rivers had been polluted by industrial and agricultural waste by late 2011.[130] This crisis is compounded by increasingly severe water shortages, particularly in the north-east of the country.[131][132]

However, China is the world's leading investor in renewable energy commercialization, with $52 billion invested in 2011 alone;[133][134][135] it is a major manufacturer of renewable energy technologies and invests heavily in local-scale renewable energy projects.[136][137] 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.[138] In 2011, the Chinese government announced plans to invest four trillion yuan (US$618.55 billion) in water infrastructure and desalination projects over a ten-year period, and to complete construction of a flood prevention and anti-drought system by 2020.[131][139] In 2013, China began a five-year, US$277-billion effort to reduce air pollution, particularly in the north of the country.[140]


The People's Republic of China is one of the world's few remaining socialist states openly endorsing communism (see Ideology of the Communist Party of China). The Chinese government has been variously described as communist and socialist, but also as authoritarian and corporatist,[141] with heavy restrictions in many areas, most notably against free access to the Internet, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to have children, free formation of social organizations and freedom of religion.[142] Its current political and economic system has been termed by its leaders as "socialism with Chinese characteristics" (which is Marxism adapted to Chinese circumstances) and as the "socialist market economy" respectively.[143]

The country is ruled by the Communist Party of China (CPC), whose power is enshrined in China's constitution.[144] 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.[145] The political system is decentralized, and provincial and sub-provincial leaders have a significant amount of autonomy.[146] 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).[147]

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 supports the Leninist principle of "democratic centralism",[148] but the elected National People's Congress has been described as a "rubber stamp" body.[149] The incumbent President is Xi Jinping, who is also the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission.[90] The current Premier is Li Keqiang, who is also a senior member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee.

There have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that open contested elections are now held at the village and town levels.[150][151] 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 the growing gap between rich and poor and government corruption.[152][153] Nonetheless, the level of public support for the government and its management of the nation is high, with 80–95% of Chinese citizens expressing satisfaction with the central government, according to a 2011 survey.[154]

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 and independently governed by the Republic of China, which disputes the PRC's claim.[155] 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 the PRC's territory.

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Tibet (Xizang) Autonomous Region Qinghai Province Gansu Province Sichuan Province Yunnan Province Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Inner Mongolia (Nei Mongol) Autonomous Region Shaanxi Province Municipality of Chongqing Guizhou Province Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Shanxi Province Henan Province Hubei Province Hunan Province Guangdong Province Hainan Province Hebei Province Heilongjiang Province Jilin Province Liaoning Province Municipality of Beijing Municipality of Tianjin Shangdong Province Jiangsu Province Anhui Province Municipality of Shanghai Zhejiang Province Jiangxi Province Fujian Province Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Macau Special Administrative Region Taiwan ProvinceChina administrative claimed included.svg
About this image

Foreign relations

Xi Jinping at a meeting with United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in September 2012.

The PRC has diplomatic relations with 171 countries and maintains embassies in 162.[156] 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. 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.[157] China was also a former member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and still considers itself an advocate for developing countries.[158] 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.[159]

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,[160] especially in the matter of armament sales.[161] 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.[162]

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.[163] This policy may have led China to support states that are regarded as dangerous or repressive by Western nations, such as Zimbabwe, North Korea and Iran.[164] China has a close economic and military relationship with Russia,[165] and the two states often vote in unison in the UN Security Council.[166][167][168]

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.[169] 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. China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 11 December 2001.

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.[170] China has a significant trade surplus with the United States, its most important export market.[171] In the early 2010s, US politicians argued that the Chinese yuan was significantly undervalued, giving China an unfair trade advantage.[172][173][174] In recent decades, China has followed a policy of engaging with African nations for trade and bilateral co-operation;[175][176][177] in 2012, Sino-African trade totalled over US$160 billion.[178] China has furthermore strengthened its ties with major South American economies, becoming the largest trading partner of Brazil and building strategic links with Argentina.[179][180]

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, such as the Senkaku Islands and the Scarborough Shoal.[181][182]

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.[20][183] Others, however, warn that economic bubbles and demographic imbalances could slow or even halt China's growth as the century progresses.[184][185] 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.[186]

Sociopolitical issues and reform

Protests in support of Cantonese media localization in Guangzhou, 2010

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 significantly 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.[187][188] Censorship of political speech and information, most notably on the Internet,[189][190] is openly and routinely used in China to silence criticism of the government and the ruling Communist Party.[191][192] 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.[193]

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.[194][195] Property rights are often poorly protected,[194] and taxation disproportionately affects poorer citizens.[195] However, a number of rural taxes have been reduced or abolished since the early 2000s, and additional social services provided to rural dwellers.[196][197]

A number of foreign governments, foreign press agencies and NGOs also routinely criticize China's human rights record, alleging widespread civil rights violations such as detention without trial, forced abortions,[198] forced confessions, torture, restrictions of fundamental rights,[142][199][200] and excessive use of the death penalty.[201][202] 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 Chinese state is regularly accused of large-scale repression and human rights abuses in Tibet and Xinjiang, including violent police crackdowns and religious suppression.[203][204]

The Chinese 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 the "people's rights to subsistence and development".[205] It emphasizes the rise in the Chinese standard of living, literacy rate and average life expectancy since the 1970s, as well as improvements in workplace safety and efforts to combat natural disasters such as the perennial Yangtze River floods.[205][206][207] Furthermore, some Chinese politicians have spoken out in support of democratisation, although others remain more conservative.[208] Some major reform efforts have been conducted; for an instance in November 2013, the government announced its plans to the abolish the much-criticized re-education through labor program.[98] Although during the 2000s and early 2010s, the Chinese government was increasingly tolerant of NGOs that offer practical, efficient solutions to social problems, such "third sector" activity remained heavily regulated.[209]


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).[210] 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 the Chinese government, China's military expenditure in 2012 totalled US$100 billion, constituting the world's second-largest military budget.[211] However, other nations, such as the United States, have argued that China does not report its real level of military spending, which is allegedly much higher than the official budget.[212]

As a recognized nuclear weapons state, China is considered both a major regional military power and a potential military superpower.[213] According to a 2013 report by the US Department of Defense, China fields between 50 and 75 nuclear ICBMs, along with a number of SRBMs.[18] However, compared with the other four UN Security Council Permanent Members, China has a relatively limited power projection capabilities.[214] To offset this, it has developed numerous power projection assets – its first aircraft carrier entered service in 2012,[215][216][217][218] and it maintains a substantial fleet of submarines, including several nuclear-powered attack and ballistic missile submarines.[219] China has furthermore established a network of foreign military relationships along critical sea lanes.[220]

Members of a Chinese military honor guard

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.[215][221] China is furthermore engaged in developing an indigenous stealth aircraft and numerous combat drones.[222][223][224] 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.[225] In addition, China has developed or acquired numerous advanced missile systems,[226][227] including anti-satellite missiles,[228] cruise missiles[229] and submarine-launched nuclear ICBMs.[230]


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[231]

As of 2013, China has the world's second-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, totalling approximately US$9.3253 trillion according to the National Bureau of Statistics of the People's Republic of China.[11] If purchasing power parity (PPP) is taken into account (US$12.405 trillion in 2012, US$14.9614 trillion in 2013), China's economy is again second only to the United States. In 2013, its PPP GDP per capita was US$10,253,[11] while nominal GDP per capita was US$6,853. Both cases put China behind around ninety countries (out of 183 countries on the IMF list) in global GDP per capita rankings.[11]

Economic history and growth

From its founding in 1949 until late 1978, the People's Republic of China was a Soviet-style centrally planned economy. 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 privatized, while foreign trade became a major new focus, leading to the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs). Inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were restructured and unprofitable ones were closed outright, resulting in massive job losses. Modern-day China is mainly characterized as having a market economy based on private property ownership,[232] and is one of the leading examples of state capitalism.[233][234] The state still dominates in strategic "pillar" sectors such as energy production and heavy industries, but private enterprise has expanded enormously, with around 30 million private businesses recorded in 2008.[235][236][237][238]

Nanjing Road, a major shopping street in Shanghai

Since economic liberalization began in 1978, China has been among the world's fastest-growing economies,[239] relying largely on investment- and export-led growth.[240] According to the IMF, China's annual average GDP growth between 2001 and 2010 was 10.5%. Between 2007 and 2011, China's economic growth rate was equivalent to all of the G7 countries' growth combined.[241] According to the Global Growth Generators index announced by Citigroup in February 2011, China has a very high 3G growth rating.[242] Its high productivity, low labor costs and relatively good infrastructure have made it a global leader in manufacturing. However, the Chinese economy is highly energy-intensive and inefficient;[243] China became the world's largest energy consumer in 2010,[244] relies on coal to supply over 70% of its energy needs, and surpassed the US to become the world's largest oil importer in September 2013.[245][246] However, China's economic growth and industrialization has damaged its environment, and in the early 2010s, China's economic growth rate began to slow amid domestic credit troubles—international demand for Chinese exports has weakened and this has led to turmoil in the global economy.[247][248][249]

In the online realm, China's e-commerce industry has grown more slowly than the EU and the US, with a significant period of development occurring from around 2009 onwards. According to Credit Suisse, the total value of online transactions in China grew from an insignificant size in 2008 to around RMB 4 trillion (US$660 billion) in 2012. Alipay has the biggest market share in China with 300 million users and control of just under half of China's online payment market in February 2014, while Tenpay's share is around 20 percent, and China UnionPay's share is slightly greater than 10 percent.[250]

China in the global economy

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.[17] 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.[251][252] As of 2009, China owns an estimated $1.6 trillion of US securities.[253] China, holding over US$1.16 trillion in US Treasury bonds,[254] is the largest foreign holder of US public debt.[255][256] In 2012, China was the world's largest recipient of inward foreign direct investment (FDI), attracting $253 billion.[257] China also invests abroad, with a total outward FDI of $62.4 billion in 2012,[257] and a number of major takeovers of foreign firms by Chinese companies.[258] China's undervalued exchange rate has caused friction with other major economies,[173][259][260] and it has also been widely criticized for manufacturing large quantities of counterfeit goods.[261][262]

A graph comparing the 2012 nominal GDPs of major economies
in US$ billions, according to IMF data[263]

China ranked 29th in the Global Competitiveness Index in 2009,[264] although it is only ranked 136th among the 179 countries measured in the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom.[265] In 2011, 61 Chinese companies were listed in the Fortune Global 500.[266] Measured by total revenues, three of the world's top ten most valuable companies in 2011 were Chinese, including fifth-ranked Sinopec Group, sixth-ranked China National Petroleum and seventh-ranked State Grid (the world's largest electric utilities company).[266]

Class and income equality

China's middle-class population (if defined as those with annual income of between US$10,000 and US$60,000) had reached more than 300 million by 2012.[267] According to the Hurun Report, 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.[268][269] China's domestic retail market was worth over 20 trillion yuan (US$3.2 trillion) in 2012[270] and is growing at over 12% annually as of 2013,[271] while the country's luxury goods market has expanded immensely, with 27.5% of the global share.[272] However, in recent years, China's rapid economic growth has contributed to severe consumer inflation,[273][274] leading to increased government regulation.[275] China has a high level of economic inequality,[276] which has increased in the past few decades.[277] In 2012, China's Gini coefficient was 0.474.[12]

Internationalization of the renminbi

In November 2010, Russia began using the Chinese renminbi in its bilateral trade with China.[278] This was soon followed by Japan,[279] Australia,[280] Singapore,[281] and the United Kingdom.[282] As a result of the rapid internationalization of the renminbi, it became the eighth-most-traded currency in the world in 2013.[283]

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


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), later became widespread in Asia and Europe. Chinese mathematicians were the first to use negative numbers.[284][285] However, by the 17th century, the Western world had surpassed China in scientific and technological development.[286] The causes of this Great Divergence continue to be debated.[287]

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 Communists came to power in 1949, efforts were made to organize science and technology based on the model of the Soviet Union, in which scientific research was part of central planning.[288] After Mao's death in 1976, science and technology was established as one of the Four Modernizations,[289] and the Soviet-inspired academic system was gradually reformed.[290]

Modern era

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution, China has made significant investments in scientific research,[291] spending over US$100 billion on scientific research and development in 2011 alone.[292] 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".[293] While Chinese-born scientists have won the Nobel Prize in Physics four times and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry once, these scientists had all earned their doctorates and conducted their award-winning research in the West.[m]

The launch of a Chinese Long March 3B rocket

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.[298] 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.[299] Chinese technology companies such as Huawei and Lenovo have become world leaders in telecommunications and personal computing,[300][301][302] and Chinese supercomputers are consistently ranked among the world's most powerful.[303][304] Currently China is experiencing a significant growth in the use of industrial robots; from 2008 to 2011, the installation of multi-role robots has risen by 136 percent.[305]

The Chinese space program is one of the world's most active, and is a major source of national pride.[306][307] 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 June 2013, ten Chinese nationals have journeyed into space. In 2011, China's first space station module, Tiangong-1, was launched, marking the first step in a project to assemble a large manned station by the early 2020s.[308]



China currently has the largest number of active cellphones of any country in the world, with over 1 billion users by February 2012.[309] It also has the world's largest number of internet and broadband users,[310] with over 591 million internet users as of 2013, equivalent to around 44% of its population.[311] A 2013 report found that the national average internet connection speed is 3.14 MB/s.[312] As of July 2013, China accounts for 24% of the world's internet-connected devices.[313]

China Telecom and China Unicom, the world's two largest broadband providers, accounted for 20% of global broadband subscribers. China Telecom alone serves more than 50 million broadband subscribers, while China Unicom serves more than 40 million.[314] Several Chinese telecommunications companies, most notably Huawei and ZTE, have been accused of spying for the Chinese military.[315]


Since the late 1990s, China's national road network has been significantly expanded through the creation of a network of highways, known as the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS). In 2011 China's highways had reached a total length of 85,000 km (53,000 mi), making it the longest highway system in the world.[316] 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.[317] Analysts predict that annual car sales in China may rise as high as 40 million by 2020.[318] A side-effect of the rapid growth of China's road network has been a significant rise in traffic accidents,[319] with poorly enforced traffic laws cited as a possible cause—in 2011 alone, around 62,000 Chinese died in road accidents.[320] In urban areas, bicycles remain a common mode of transport, despite the increasing prevalence of automobiles – as of 2012, there are approximately 470 million bicycles in China.[321]

China's railways, owned by the state,[322] are the busiest in the world, handling a quarter of the world's cargo and passenger travel.[323] Due to huge demand, the system is regularly subject to overcrowding, particularly during holiday seasons, such as Chunyun during the Chinese New Year.[323] The Chinese rail network carried an estimated 1.68 billion total passengers in 2010 alone.[324]

A high-speed maglev train leaving Pudong International Airport, Shanghai, in 2006

More than 10,000 km of China's railway mileage—over 100,000 km in total—are high-speed lines.[325] In December 2012, China opened the world's longest high-speed rail line, running from Beijing to Guangzhou.[326] China intends to operate approximately 16,000 km (9,900 mi) of high-speed rail lines by 2020.[324] Rapid transit systems are also rapidly developing in China's major cities, in the form of networks of underground or light rail systems.[327] China is additionally developing its own satellite navigation system, dubbed Beidou, which began offering commercial navigation services across Asia in 2012,[328] and is planned to offer global coverage by 2020.[329]

As of 2013, more than two-thirds of airports under construction worldwide are in China,[330] and Boeing expects that China's fleet of active commercial aircraft in China will grow from 1,910 to 2011 to 5,980 in 2031.[330] However, 80% of China's airspace remains restricted for military use, and Chinese airlines made up eight of the 10 worst-performing Asian airlines in terms of delays.[331]


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 1,370,536,875. About 16.60% of the population were 14 years old or younger, 70.14% were between 15 and 59 years old, and 13.26% were over 60 years old.[332] The population growth rate for 2013 is estimated to be 0.46%.[333]

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%.[334]

With a population of over 1.3 billion and dwindling natural resources, the government of China is very concerned about its population growth rate and has attempted since 1979, with mixed results,[335] to implement a strict family planning policy, known as the "one-child policy." Before 2013, this policy sought to restrict families to one child each, with exceptions for ethnic minorities and a degree of flexibility in rural areas. A major loosening of the policy was enacted in December 2013, allowing families to have two children if one parent is an only child.[336] China's family planning minister indicated in 2008 that the one-child policy would be maintained until at least 2020.[337] The one-child policy is resisted, particularly in rural areas, primarily because of the need for agricultural labour and a traditional preference for boys. Families who breach the policy often lie during the census.[338] Data from the 2010 census implies that the total fertility rate may now be around 1.4.[339]

Population of China from 1949 to 2008

The policy, along with traditional preference for boys, may be contributing to an imbalance in the sex ratio at birth.[340][341] According to the 2010 census, the sex ration at birth was 118.06 boys for every 100 girls,[342] which is beyond the normal range of around 105 boys for every 100 girls.[343] The 2010 census found that males accounted for 51.27 percent of the total population.[342] However, China's sex ratio is more balanced than it was in 1953, when males accounted for 51.82 percent of the total population.[342]

Ethnic groups

China officially recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Han Chinese, who constitute about 91.51% of the total population.[9] The Han Chinese – the world's largest single ethnic group[344] – outnumber other ethnic groups in every provincial-level division except Tibet and Xinjiang.[345] Ethnic minorities account for about 8.49% of the population of China, according to the 2010 census.[9] 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%.[9] 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).[346]


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 (spoken by 70% of the population),[347] Wu (including Shanghainese), Yue (including Cantonese and Taishanese), Min (including Hokkien and Teochew), Xiang, Gan, and Hakka. Non-Sinitic languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Zhuang, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Hmong and Korean.[348] Standard Mandarin, a variety of Mandarin based on the Beijing dialect, is the official national language of China and is used as a lingua franca in the country between people of different linguistic backgrounds.[349]

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.


China has urbanized significantly in the past few decades. The percent of the country's population living in urban areas increased from 20% in 1990 to 46% in 2007.[350] It is estimated that China's urban population will reach one billion by 2030.[350] As of 2012, there are more than 262 million migrant workers in China.[351] Most of them are from rural areas and seek work in the cities.

China has over 160 cities with a population of over one million,[352] including the seven megacities (cities with a population of over 10 million) of Chongqing, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Shenzhen, and Wuhan.[353][354][355] By 2025, it is estimated that the country will be home to 221 cities with over a million inhabitants.[350] The figures in the table below are from the 2010 census,[3] 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;[356] the figures below include only long-term residents.


Since 1986, compulsory education in China comprises primary and junior secondary school, which together last for nine years.[358] In 2010, about 82.5 percent of students continued their education at a three-year senior secondary school.[359] The Gaokao, China's national university entrance exam, is a prerequisite for entrance into most higher education institutions. In 2010, 27 percent of secondary school graduates are enrolled in higher education.[360] Vocational education is available to students at the secondary and tertiary level.[361]

In February 2006, the government pledged to provide completely free nine-year education, including textbooks and fees.[362] Annual education investment went from less than US$50 billion in 2003 to more than US$250 billion in 2011.[363] However, there remains an inequality in education spending. In 2010, the annual education expenditure per secondary school student in Beijing totaled ¥20,023, while in Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in China, only totaled ¥3,204.[364] Free compulsory education in China consists of primary school and junior secondary school between the ages of 6 and 15. In 2011, around 81.4% of Chinese have received secondary education.[365] By 2007, there were 396,567 primary schools, 94,116 secondary schools, and 2,236 higher education institutions in China.[366]

As of 2010, 94% of the population over age 15 are literate,[367] compared to only 20% in 1950.[368] 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.[369]


Chart showing the rise of China's Human Development Index from 1970 to 2010

The Ministry of Health, together with its counterparts in the provincial health bureaux, oversees the health needs of the Chinese population.[370] 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 privatized, and experienced a significant rise in quality. In 2009, the government began a 3-year large-scale healthcare provision initiative worth US$124 billion.[371] By 2011, the campaign resulted in 95% of China's population having basic health insurance coverage.[372] In 2011, China was estimated to be the world's third-largest supplier of pharmaceuticals, but its population has suffered from the development and distribution of counterfeit medications.[373]

Life expectancy at birth in China is 75 years,[374] and the infant mortality rate is 12 per thousand.[375] Both have improved significantly since the 1950s.[n] Rates of stunting, a condition caused by malnutrition, have declined from 33.1% in 1990 to 9.9% in 2010.[378] 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,[379] hundreds of millions of cigarette smokers,[380] and an increase in obesity among urban youths.[381][382] 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.[383] In 2010, air pollution caused 1.2 million premature deaths in China.[384]


The Guoqing Temple on Mount Tiantai, built in 598 CE, was the founding site of the Tiantai branch of Chinese Buddhism.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by China's constitution, although religious organizations that lack official approval can be subject to state persecution.[199][385] Estimates of religious demographics in China vary. A 2007 survey found that 31.4 percent of Chinese above the age of 16 were religious,[386] while a 2006 study found that 46% of the Chinese population were religious.[387]

Over the millennia, the Chinese civilization has been influenced by various religious movements. China's San Jiao ("three doctrines" or "three religions") include Confucianism,[o] Buddhism, and Taoism, and historically have had a significant impact in shaping Chinese culture.[389][390] Elements of these three belief systems are often incorporated into popular or folk religious traditions.[391] A 2008 survey of rural villagers in six provinces found that

more than two-thirds of self-proclaimed religious believers (or 31.09% of all sample villagers) do not or cannot clearly identify their faith ... These people believe that there are supernatural powers that dominate or strongly influence the fate of human beings, and they think their fates can be changed through offering sacrifices to gods or ancestors. These beliefs and practices are often deeply rooted in traditional Chinese cultures and customs of local communities.[387]

A 2007 survey by the Horizon Research Consultancy Group found that individuals who self-identify as Buddhists made up 11–16% of China's adult population, while Christians comprised around 3–4%, and Muslims comprised approximately 1%.[392] Some of the ethnic minorities of China practice unique ethnic religionsDongbaism is the traditional religion of the Nakhi people, Moism that of the Zhuang people, and Ruism that of the Qiang people. The traditional indigenous religion of Tibet is Bön, while most Tibetans follow Tibetan Buddhism, a form of Vajrayana.[393]


A traditional Peking opera being performed

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 have their origins in the Han Dynasty.[394] The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as the belief that calligraphy, poetry and 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.[20] Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today.[395]

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,[396] were altered to conform to government policies and propaganda at the time. Access to foreign media remains heavily restricted; only 34 foreign films a year are allowed to be shown in Chinese cinemas.[397]

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,[398][399] and folk and variety art in particular have sparked interest nationally and even worldwide.[400] China is now the third-most-visited country in the world,[401] with 55.7 million inbound international visitors in 2010.[402] It also experiences an enormous volume of domestic tourism; an estimated 740 million Chinese holidaymakers travelled within the country in October 2012 alone.[403]

Traditional Chinese food in Tianjin, including dumpling, baozi and guobacai


Chinese cuisine is highly diverse, drawing on several millennia of culinary history. The dynastic emperors of ancient China were known to have many dining chambers in their palaces, with each chamber divided into several departments, each responsible for a specific type of dish.[404] China's staple food is rice. Pork is the most popular meat in China, accounting for about three-fourths of the country's total meat consumption.[405] Spices are central to Chinese cuisine. Numerous foreign offshoots of Chinese food, such as Hong Kong cuisine and American Chinese food, have emerged in the various nations that 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 called cuju was played in China during the Han Dynasty.[406] 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.[407]

Physical fitness is widely emphasized in Chinese culture, with morning exercises such as qigong and t'ai chi ch'uan widely practiced,[408] and commercial gyms and fitness clubs gaining popularity in the country.[409] Young people in China are also enjoy soccer and basketball, especially in urban centers with limited space and grass areas. The American National Basketball Association has a huge following among the Chinese youth, with ethnic or native Chinese players such as Yao Ming and Jeremy Lin held in high esteem.[410] In addition, China is home to a huge number of cyclists, with an estimated 470 million bicycles as of 2012.[321] Many more traditional sports, such as dragon boat racing, Mongolian-style wrestling and horse racing are also popular.[411]

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.[412] China also won the most medals of any nation at the 2012 Summer Paralympics, with 231 overall, including 95 gold medals.[413][414] In 2011, Shenzhen in Guandgong, China hosted the 2011 Summer Universiade. China hosted the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin and will host the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing.

See also


  1. ^ Or (previously) "Peking".
  2. ^ Portuguese (Macau only), English (Hong Kong only).
  3. ^ Ethnic minorities that are recognized officially.
  4. ^ 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.[4]
  5. ^ The area given is the official United Nations figure for the mainland and excludes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.[5] 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.[6] For further information, see Territorial changes of the People's Republic of China.
  6. ^ This figure was calculated using data from the CIA World Factbook.[7]
  7. ^ The Hong Kong Dollar is used in Hong Kong and the Macanese pataca is used in Macau.
  8. ^ Except Hong Kong and Macau.
  9. ^ The total area ranking relative to the United States depends on the measurement of the total areas of China and the United States. See List of countries and outlying territories by area for more information.
  10. ^ 《尚書•梓材》:「皇天既付中國民越厥疆土于先王」
  11. ^ According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the total area of the United States, at 9,522,055 km2 (3,676,486 sq mi), is slightly smaller than that of China. Meanwhile, the CIA World Factbook states that China's total area was greater than that of the United States until the coastal waters of the Great Lakes was added to the United States' total area in 1996. From 1989 through 1996, the total area of US was listed as 9,372,610 km2 (3,618,780 sq mi) (land area plus inland water only). The listed total area changed to 9,629,091 km2 (3,717,813 sq mi) in 1997 (with the Great Lakes areas and the coastal waters added), to 9,631,418 km2 (3,718,711 sq mi) in 2004, to 9,631,420 km2 (3,718,710 sq mi) in 2006, and to 9,826,630 km2 (3,794,080 sq mi) in 2007 (territorial waters added).
  12. ^ China's border with Pakistan and part of its border with India falls in the disputed region of Kashmir. The area under Pakistani administration is claimed by India, while the area under Indian administration is claimed by Pakistan.
  13. ^ Tsung-Dao Lee,[294] Chen Ning Yang,[294] Daniel C. Tsui,[295] Charles K. Kao,[296] Yuan T. Lee,[297]
  14. ^ The national life expectancy at birth rose from about 31 years in 1949 to 75 years in 2008,[376] and infant mortality decreased from 300 per thousand in the 1950s to around 33 per thousand in 2001.[377]
  15. ^ Whether or not Confucianism can be classified as a religion is disputed.[388]


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Further reading

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