Around the time it was officially founded, the Republic of China (ROC), retreated
to the island of Taiwan, where it currently remains. Since then, the People's
Republic of China (PRC) has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan and some nearby
islands, which are administered by the ROC, and asserts that the PRC has supplanted
the ROC in its legitimacy to govern all of China. The ROC rejects these claims,
and administers itself as a sovereign country with a democratically elected
government and president. Until 1991, the ROC also claimed to be the sole leader
of all of China, as well as Mongolia. The term "mainland China" is
sometimes used to denote the area under PRC rule, but usually excludes the two
Special Administrative Regions: Hong Kong and Macau. The Communist Party of
China (CPC) has led the PRC under a one-party system since the country's establishment
in 1949. Despite this, nearly half of the PRC's economy has been privatized
in the past three decades under "Socialism with Chinese characteristics."
Market-based economic reforms started since 1978 helped lift millions of people
out of poverty, bringing the poverty rate down from 53% of population in 1981
to 8% by 2001. Today, China is the world's largest producer of steel and concrete,
and consumes a third of the world's steel, over half of the world's concrete,
and is the second largest importer and consumer of world oil.
However, due to this mixing of market and planned economies, the PRC is faced
with a number of problems associated with each, including unemployment and an
increasing rural/urban income gap. Despite these shortcomings, greater prosperity
has led to growing Chinese influence in global, economic, political, military,
scientific, technological, and cultural affairs.