The People's Republic of China (PRC), commonly known
as China (pinyin: Zhonghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó),
is the largest country in East Asia, with a smaller proportion of its
area located in Central Asia. Due to its huge and stable population, its
rapidly growing economy, its large research and development investments
and military spending, and other capabilities, the PRC is often considered
by analysts and commentators as an emerging superpower.
At over 3.7 million square miles (over 9.5 million km²), the PRC
is the third or fourth largest country by area. The PRC's landscape is
extremely varied with largely desert on the north and humid and mountainous
on the east and largely dry and arid on the western part of the country.
It is also the world's most populous nation, with over 1.3 billion citizens.
The present-day location of PRC was the birthplace of the Chinese civilization
that dates back to at least 18th century BC. The PRC was officially founded
as a state on October 1, 1949 in Beijing, its capital, during the closing
stages of the Chinese Civil War.
The PRC is currently the world's fourth largest economy and second largest
at purchasing power parity, third largest exporter and importer, consumes
a third of the world's steel and almost half of the world's concrete,
and represents China as a permanent member of the UN Security Council
and APEC. China is the largest trading partner of every country in East
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.
Geography and climate
China is composed of a vast variety of highly different landscapes, with
mostly plateaus and mountains in the west, and lower lands in the east.
Principal rivers flow from west to east, including the Yangtze (central),
the Huang He (Yellow river, north-central), and the Amur (northeast),
and sometimes toward the south (including the Pearl River, Mekong River,
and Brahmaputra), with most Chinese rivers emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea
there are extensive and densely populated alluvial plains. On the edges
of the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north, grasslands can be seen. Southern
China is dominated by hills and low mountain ranges. In the central-east
are the deltas of China's two major rivers, the Huang He and Yangtze River
(Chang Jiang). Most of China's arable lands lie along these rivers; they
were the centers of China's major ancient civilizations. Other major rivers
include the Pearl River, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur. Yunnan Province
is considered a part of the Greater Mekong Subregion, which also includes
Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
In the west, the north has a great alluvial plain, and the south has
a vast calcareous tableland traversed by hill ranges of moderate elevation,
and the Himalayas, containing Earth's highest point, Mount Everest. The
northwest also has high plateaus with more arid desert landscapes such
as the Takla-Makan and the Gobi Desert, which has been expanding. During
many dynasties, the southwestern border of China has been the high mountains
and deep valleys of Yunnan, which separate modern China from Burma, Laos
The Paleozoic formations of China, excepting only the upper part of the
Carboniferous system, are marine, while the Mesozoic and Tertiary deposits
are estuarine and freshwater or else of terrestrial origin. Groups of
volcanic cones occur in the Great Plain of north China. In the Liaodong
and Shandong Peninsulas, there are basaltic plateaus.
The climate of China varies greatly. The northern zone (containing Beijing)
has summer daytime temperatures of more 30 degrees and winters of Arctic
severity. The central zone (containing Shanghai) has a temperate continental
climate with very hot summers and cold winters. The southern zone (containing
Guangzhou) has a subtropical climate with very hot summers and mild winters.
Due to a prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices, dust storms
have become usual in the spring in China. Dust has blown to southern China
and Taiwan, and has even reached the West Coast of the United States.
Water, erosion, and pollution control have become important issues in
China's relations with other countries.