About China

About China

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China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is a unitary sovereign state in East Asia and the world’s most populous country, with a population of around 1.5 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square Kilometres or 3,700,000 square miles. Governed by the Communist Party of China, it exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. There are in excess of 600 Cities, categorised from tier one through to tier 4, tier one being the largest and most important such as the capital Beijing.

China emerged as one of the world’s earliest civilisations, in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China’s political system was based on hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, beginning with the semi-legendary Xia dynasty in 21st century BCE. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times. In the 3rd century BCE, the Qin unified core China and established the first Chinese dynasty. The succeeding Han dynasty saw some of the most advanced technology at that time, including papermaking and the use of the compass, along with agricultural and medical improvements.

The invention of gunpowder and printing in the Tang dynasty completed the Four Great Inventions. Tang culture spread widely in Asia, as the new maritime Silk Route brought traders to as far as Mesopotamia and Somalia. Dynastic rule ended in 1912 with the Xinhai Revolution, as a republic replaced the Qing dynasty. The Chinese Civil War led to the break-up of the country in 1949, with the victorious Communist Party of China founding the People’s Republic of China.

Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China’s economy has been one of the world’s fastest-growing. As of 2016, it is the world’s second-largest economy by nominal GDP and largest by purchasing power parity. China is also the world’s largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods.  China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world’s largest standing army and second-largest defence budget. The PRC is a member of the United Nations. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the ASEAN Plus mechanism, WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BCIM and the G20. China is a great power and a major regional power within Asia.

China’s landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from 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 much of South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, respectively, run from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China’s coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 Kilometres or 9,000 miles long and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East China and South China seas. China connects through the Kazakh border to the Eurasian Steppe which has been an artery of communication between East and West since the Neolithic times through the Steppe route – the ancestor of the terrestrial Silk Road.

China has suffered from well documented environmental issues; however, China is now the world’s leading investor in renewable energy and its commercialization. It is a major manufacturer of renewable energy technologies and invests heavily in local-scale renewable energy projects. By 2015, over 24% of China’s energy was derived from renewable sources, while most notably from hydroelectric power: a total installed capacity of 197 GW makes China the largest hydroelectric power producer in the world. China also has the largest power capacity of installed solar photovoltaic and wind power systems.

As of 2010, 94% of the population over age 15 were literate. In 1949, only 20% of the population could read, compared to 65.5% thirty years later. In 2009, Chinese students from Shanghai achieved the world’s best results in mathematics, science and literacy, as tested by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide evaluation of 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance. Despite the high results, Chinese education has also faced both native and international criticism for its emphasis on rote memorisation and its gap in quality from rural to urban areas.

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