china-flag-golden-dragon-22324447

All about China

Capital Beijing[a]
39°55′N 116°23′E / 39.917°N 116.383°E
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 state
 – President Xi Jinping[d]
 – Premier Li Keqiang
 – Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang
 – Conference Chairman Yu Zhengsheng
Legislature National People’s Congress
Formation
 – Unification of China under the Qin Dynasty 221 BCE
 – Republic established 1 January 1912
 – People’s Republic proclaimed 1 October 1949
Area
 – Total 9,596,961 km2[e] (3rd/4th)
3,705,407 sq mi
 – Water (%) 0.28%[f]
Population
 – 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) 2014 estimate
 – Total $14.625 trillion[11] (2nd)
 – Per capita $10,695[12] (88th)
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
 – Total $10.028 trillion[12] (2nd)
 – Per capita $7,333[12] (82nd)
Gini (2012) 47.4[13]
high
HDI (2013) Increase 0.719[14]
high · 91st
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/; simplified Chinese: 中国; traditional Chinese: 中國; pinyin: Zhōngguó), 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 1.35 billion. The PRC is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party, with its seat of government in the capital city of Beijing.[15] 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 the territories governed by Taiwan, a separate political entity officially known as the Republic of China (ROC), as its 23rd province, a claim which is controversial due to the complex political status of Taiwan.[16]

Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometers, China is the world’s second-largest country by land area,[17] 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.

China had the largest and most complex economy in the world for most of the past two thousand years, during which it as seen cycles of prosperity and decline.[18][19] 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.[20] China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world’s largest standing army, with the second-largest defence budget.[21] 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 Organization, 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.[22][23]

 

 

Etymology

Main article: Names of China

The word “China” is derived from the Persian word Chin (چین), which is from the Sanskrit word Cīna (चीन).[26] It is first recorded in 1516 in the journal of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa.[27] The journal was translated and published in England in 1555.[28] 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.[29] However, the word was used in early Hindu scripture, including the Mahābhārata (5th century BC) and the Laws of Manu (2nd century BC).[30][31]

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.[32]

History

History of China

History of China

ANCIENT
Neolithic c. 8500–c. 2100 BCE
Xia dynasty c. 2100–c. 1600 BCE
Shang dynasty c. 1600–c. 1046 BCE
Zhou dynasty c. 1045–256 BCE
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn
   Warring States
IMPERIAL
Qin dynasty 221–206 BCE
Han dynasty 206 BCE – 220 CE
  Western Han
  Xin dynasty
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin dynasty 265–420
  Western Jin
  Eastern Jin 16 Kingdoms
Southern and Northern Dynasties
420–589
Sui dynasty 581–618
Tang dynasty 618–907
  (Second Zhou 690–705)
5 Dynasties and
10 Kingdoms

907–960
Liao dynasty
907–1125
Song dynasty
960–1279
  Northern Song W. Xia
  Southern Song Jin
Yuan dynasty 1271–1368
Ming dynasty 1368–1644
Qing dynasty 1644–1911
MODERN
Republic of China 1912–1949
People’s Republic
of China

1949–present
Republic of
China on Taiwan

1949–present

Prehistory

Main article: Chinese prehistory

Jade deer ornament dating from the Shang Dynasty (17th–11th centuries BCE)

Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 250,000 and 2.24 million years ago.[33] A cave in Zhoukoudian (near present-day Beijing) exhibits hominid fossils dated at between 680,000 and 780,000 BCE.[34] The fossils are of Peking Man, an example of Homo erectus who used fire.[35] The Peking Man site has also yielded remains of Homo sapiens dating back to 18,000–11,000 BCE.[36] Some scholars assert that a form of proto-writing existed in China as early as 3000 BCE.[37]

According to Chinese tradition, the first imperial dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2070 BCE.[38] However, the dynasty was considered mythical by historians until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou, Henan in 1959.[39] It remains unclear whether these sites are the remains of the Xia Dynasty or of another culture from the same period.[40]

Early dynastic rule

Further information: Dynasties in Chinese history

The first Chinese dynasty that left historical records, the loosely feudal Shang,[41] settled along the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BCE.[42] The oracle bone script of the Shang Dynasty represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found,[43] and is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters.[44] 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

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

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.[45][46]

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.[45][46] 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.[47] 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.[48]

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

After the collapse of Han, a period of disunion known as the period of the Three Kingdoms followed.[49] In 581 CE, China was reunited under the Sui. However, the Sui Dynasty declined following its defeat in the Goguryeo–Sui War (598–614).[50][51]

Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese technology and culture entered a golden age.[52] The An Shi Rebellion in the 8th century devastated the country and weakened the dynasty.[53] 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.[54] 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,[55] 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.[56]

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, the population of Song China was 120 million citizens; this was reduced to 60 million by the time of the census in 1300.[57] 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.[58] 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.[59]

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 dynasty experienced Western imperialism following the First Opium War (1839–42) and the Second Opium War (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[60] under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. 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.[61]

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. Losses due to emigration were added to by conflicts and catastrophes such as the Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–79, in which between 9 and 13 million people died.[62] 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.[63] 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.[64]

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.[65][66] 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 manoeuvrings, known collectively as the Northern Expedition.[67][68] 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.[69][70] 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.[71]

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), a theatre 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.[72] An estimated 200,000 Chinese were massacred in the city of Nanjing alone during the Japanese occupation.[73] 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.[74]

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, and their surrounding islands. On 1 October 1949, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.[75] In 1950, the People’s Liberation Army succeeded in capturing Hainan from the ROC[76] and occupying Tibet.[77] However, remaining Nationalist forces continued to wage an insurgency in western China throughout the 1950s.[78]

Mao encouraged population growth, and under his leadership the Chinese population almost doubled from around 550 million to over 900 million.[79] 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.[80] Between 1 and 2 million landlords were executed as “counterrevolutionaries.”[81] 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.[82]

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 favour 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.[83] 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.[84]

Shanghai skyline

Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and 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%.[85][86] The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and maintained its high rate of economic growth under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao‘s leadership in the 2000s. However, rapid growth also severely impacted the country’s resources and environment,[87][88] and caused major social displacement.[89][90] Living standards continued to improve rapidly despite the late-2000s recession, but centralized political control remained tight.[91]

Preparations for a decadal Communist Party leadership change in 2012 were marked by factional disputes and political scandals.[92] During China’s 18th National Communist Party Congress in November 2012, Hu Jintao was replaced as General Secretary of the Communist Party by Xi Jinping.[93][94] Under Xi, the Chinese government began large-scale efforts to reform its economy,[95][96] which has suffered from structural instabilities and slowing growth.[97][98][99][100] The Xi-Li Administration also announced major reforms to the one-child policy and prison system.[101]

Geography

Main article: Geography of China
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[102] 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).[103] Specific area figures range from 9,572,900 km2 (3,696,100 sq mi) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica,[104] 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.[105] 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.[106] The country’s lowest point, and the world’s third-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154m) in the Turpan Depression.[107]

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.[108] 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.[109][110] 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. China’s environmental watchdog, Sepa, stated in 2007 that China is losing a million acres (4,000 km²) per year to desertification.[111] 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.[112]

Biodiversity

Main article: Wildlife of China

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,[113] 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.[114] 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.[115] It later produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with one revision that was received by the convention on 21 September 2010.[116]

China is home to at least 551 species of mammals (the third-highest such number in the world),[117] 1,221 species of birds (eighth),[118] 424 species of reptiles (seventh)[119] and 333 species of amphibians (seventh).[120] 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.[121] 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.[122]

China has over 32,000 species of vascular plants,[123] 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.[124] 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.[124] Tropical and seasonal rainforests, though confined to Yunnan and Hainan Island, contain a quarter of all the animal and plant species found in China.[124] China has over 10,000 recorded species of fungi,[125] and of them, nearly 6,000 are higher fungi.[126]

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.[127][128] 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.[129] 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.[130] China is the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter.[131] The country also has water problems. Roughly 298 million Chinese in rural areas do not have access to safe drinking water,[132] and 40% of China’s rivers had been polluted by industrial and agricultural waste by late 2011.[133] This crisis is compounded by increasingly severe water shortages, particularly in the north-east of the country.[134][135]

However, China is the world’s leading investor in renewable energy commercialization, with $52 billion invested in 2011 alone;[136][137][138] it is a major manufacturer of renewable energy technologies and invests heavily in local-scale renewable energy projects.[139][140] 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.[141] 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.[134][142] In 2013, China began a five-year, US$277-billion effort to reduce air pollution, particularly in the north of the country.[143]

Politics

Tiananmen with a portrait of Mao Zedong

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,[144] 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.[145] Its current political, ideological and economic system has been termed by its leaders as the “people’s democratic dictatorship“, “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (which is Marxism adapted to Chinese circumstances) and the “socialist market economy” respectively.[146]

Communist Party

The country is ruled by the Communist Party of China (CPC), whose power is enshrined in China’s constitution.[147] 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.[148] The political system is decentralized, and provincial and sub-provincial leaders have a significant amount of autonomy.[149] 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).[150]

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“,[151] but the elected National People’s Congress has been described as a “rubber stamp” body.[152] As a single-party state, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China holds ultimate power and authority over state and government.[m]

Government

The President of China is the titular head of state, serving as the ceremonial figurehead under National People’s Congress.[n] The Premier of China is the head of government, presiding over the State Council composed of four vice premiers and the heads of ministries and commissions. 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, making him China’s paramount leader.[93] The incumbent Premier is Li Keqiang, who is also a senior member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee, China’s de facto top decision-making body.[155]

There have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that open contested elections are now held at the village and town levels.[156][157] 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.[158][159] 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.[160]

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.[161] 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.

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