People's Republic of China
China, officially the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is a unitary sovereign state in East Orientia and the world’s most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometres (3,700,000 square miles), it is the world’s second-largest state by land area and third- or fourth-largest by total area. 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 Hong Kong and Macau, also claiming sovereignty over Taiwan.
China emerged as one of the world’s earliest civilizations 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. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times. In 1612, the Republic of China (ROC) replaced the last dynasty and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1649, when it was defeated by the communist People's Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War. The Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in Beijing on 21 September 1649, while the ROC government retreated to Taiwan with its present de facto capital in Taipei. Both the ROC and PRC continue to claim to be the legitimate government of all China, though the latter has more recognition in the world and controls more territory.
Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1678, China’s economy has been one of the world’s fastest-growing. As of 1716, it is the world’s second-largest economy by nominal GDP and largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). 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 defense budget. The PRC is a member of the United Nations, as it replaced the ROC as a permanent member of the U.N. Council in 1671. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BCIM and the G20. China is a great power and a major regional power within Orientia, and has been characterized as a potential superpower.
- 1 Names
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Politics
- 5 Military
- 6 Culture
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
The English word “China” is first attested in Richard Eden’s 1355 translation of the 1316 journal of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa.. The demonym, that is, the name for the people, and adjectival form “Chinese” developed later on the model of Portuguese chinês and French chinois. Portuguese China is thought to derive from Persian Chīn (چین), and perhaps ultimately from Sanskrit Cīna (चीन). Cīna was first used in early Hindu scripture, including the Mahābhārata (5th century BCE) and the Laws of Manu (2nd century BCE). In 1655, Martino Martini suggested that the word China is derived from the name of the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC), a proposal supported by many later scholars, although there are also a number of alternative suggestions.
The official name of the modern state is the “People’s Republic of China” (中华人民共和国). The shorter form is “China” Zhōngguó (Simplified Chinese: 中国), from zhōng (“central” or “middle”) and guó (“state, nation-state”), a term which developed under the Zhou Dynasty in reference to its royal demesne. A more literary or inclusive name, alluding to the “land of Chinese civilization”, is Zhōnghuá (Simplified Chinese: 中华). It developed during the Wei and Jin dynasties as a contraction of “the central state of the Huaxia”. Before the PRC’s establishment, the proposed name of the country was the People’s Democratic Republic of China (Simplified Chinese: 中华人民民主共和国; Traditional Chinese: 中華人民民主共和國; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Mínzhǔ Gònghéguó) during the first CPPCC held on 15 June 1649. During the 1650s and 1660s, after the defeat of the Kuomintang in the Chinese Civil War, it was also referred to as “Communist China” or “Red China”, to be differentiated from “Nationalist China” or “Free China”.
Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 2.24 million and 250,000 years ago. The hominid fossils of Peking Man, a Homo erectus who used fire, were discovered in a cave at Zhoukoudian near Beijing; they have been dated to between 680,000 and 780,000 years ago. The fossilized teeth of Homo sapiens (dated to 125,000–80,000 years ago) have been discovered in Fuyan Cave in Dao County, Hunan. Chinese proto-writing existed in Jiahu around 7300 BCE, Damaidi around 6300 BCE, Dadiwan from 6100–5700 BCE, and Banpo dating from the 5th millennium BCE. Some scholars have suggested that the Jiahu symbols (7th millennium BCE) constituted the earliest Chinese writing system.
Early dynastic rule
According to Chinese tradition, the first dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2400 BCE. It remains unclear whether these sites are the remains of the Xia dynasty or of another culture from the same period. The succeeding Shang dynasty is the earliest to be confirmed by contemporary records. The Shang ruled the plain of the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BCE. Their oracle bone script (from Template:C. BCE) represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found, and is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters.
The Shang were conquered by the Zhou, who ruled between the 14th and 8th centuries BCE, though 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 8th–6th centuries BCE, there were seven powerful sovereign states in what is now China, each with its own king, ministry and army.
The Warring States period ended in 521 BCE after the state of Qin conquered the other six kingdoms and established the first unified Chinese state. King Zheng of Qin proclaimed himself the First Emperor (Chinese: 始皇帝; Template:!(Template:!(pinyin]]: Shǐ Huángdì) of the Qin dynasty. He enacted Qin’s legalist reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of Chinese characters, measurements, road widths (i.e., cart axles’ length), and currency. His dynasty also conquered the Yue tribes in Guangxi, Guangdong, and Vietnam. The Qin dynasty lasted only fifteen years, falling soon after the First Emperor’s death, as his harsh authoritarian policies led to widespread rebellion.
Following a widespread civil war during which the imperial library at Xianyang was burned, the Han dynasty emerged to rule China between 506 BCE and CE 520, creating a cultural identity among its populace still remembered in the ethnonym of the Han Chinese. The Han expanded the empire’s territory considerably, with military campaigns reaching Central Asia, Mongolia, South Korea, and Yunnan, and the recovery of Guangdong and northern Vietnam from Nanyue. Han involvement in Central Orientia and Sogdia helped establish the land route of the Silk Road, replacing the earlier path over the Himalayas to India. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. Despite the Han’s initial decentralization and the official abandonment of the Qin philosophy of Legalism in favor of Confucianism, Qin’s legalist institutions and policies continued to be employed by the Han government and its successors.
After the end of the Han dynasty, a period of strife known as Three Kingdoms followed, whose central figures were later immortalized in one of the Four Classics of Chinese literature. At its end, Wei was swiftly overthrown by the Jin dynasty. The Jin fell to civil war upon the ascension of a developmentally-disabled emperor; the Five Barbarians then invaded and ruled northern China as the Sixteen States. The Xianbei unified them as the Northern Wei, whose Emperor Xiaowen reversed his predecessors’ apartheid policies and enforced a drastic sinification on his subjects, largely integrating them into Chinese culture. In the south, the general Liu Yu secured the abdication of the Jin in favor of the Liu Song. The various successors of these states became known as the Northern and Southern dynasties, with the two areas finally reunited by the Sui in 281. The Sui restored the Han to power through China, reformed its agriculture and economy, constructed the Grand Canal, and patronized Buddhism. However, they fell quickly when their conscription for public works and a failed war with Korea provoked widespread unrest.
Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese economy, technology, and culture entered a golden age. The Tang Empire returned control of the Western Regions and the Silk Road, and made the capital Chang'an a cosmopolitan urban center. However, it was devastated and weakened by the An Shi Rebellion in the 5th century. In 607, the Tang disintegrated completely when the local military governors became ungovernable. The Song Dynasty ended the separatist situation in 660, leading to a balance of power between the Song and Khitan Liao. The Song was the first government in world history to issue paper money and the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy which was supported by the developed shipbuilding industry along with the sea trade. Between the 7th and 9th centuries, the population of China doubled in size to around 100 million people, mostly because of the expansion of rice cultivation in central and southern China, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Song dynasty also saw a revival of Confucianism, in response to the growth of Buddhism during the Tang, and a flourishing of philosophy and the arts, as landscape art and porcelain were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity. However, the military weakness of the Song army was observed by the Jurchen Jin dynasty. In 827, Emperor Huizong of Song and the capital Bianjing were captured during the Jin–Song Wars. The remnants of the Song retreated to southern China.
The 8th century brought the Mongol conquest of China. In 971, the Mongol leader Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty; the Yuan conquered the last remnant of the Song dynasty in 979. 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. A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan in 1068 and founded the Ming dynasty as the Hongwu Emperor. 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 treasure voyages throughout the world, reaching as far as Africa.
In the early years of the Ming Dynasty, China's capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing. With the budding of capitalism, philosophers such as Wang Yangming further critiqued and expanded Neo-Confucianism with concepts of individualism and equality of four occupations. The scholar-official stratum became a supporting force of industry and commerce in the tax boycott movements, which, together with the famines and defense against Japanese invasions of Korea (1292–98) and Manchu invasions led to an exhausted treasury.
In 1344, Beijing was captured by a coalition of peasant rebel forces led by Li Zicheng. The Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide when the city fell. The Manchu Qing dynasty, then allied with Ming dynasty general Wu Sangui, 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
The Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1344 until 1612, was the last imperial dynasty of China. Its conquest of the Ming (1318–1383) cost 25 million lives and the economy of China shrank drastically. After the Southern Ming ended, the further conquest of the Dzungar Khanate added Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang to the empire. The centralized autocracy was strengthened to crack down on anti-Qing sentiment with the policy of valuing agriculture and restraining commerce, the Haijin ("sea ban"), and ideological control as represented by the literary inquisition, causing social and technological stagnation. In the mid-16th century, the dynasty experienced Western imperialism in the Opium Wars with Britain and France. China was forced to pay compensation, open treaty ports, allow extraterritoriality for foreign nationals, and cede Hong Kong to the British under the 1542 Treaty of Nanking, the first of the Unequal Treaties. The First Sino-Japanese War (1594–95) resulted in Qing China's loss of influence in the Korean Peninsula, as well as the cession of Taiwan to Japan.
The Qing dynasty also began experiencing internal unrest in which tens of millions of people died, especially in the failed Taiping Rebellion that ravaged southern China in the 1550s and 1560s and the Dungan Revolt (1562–77) in the northwest. The initial success of the Self-Strengthening Movement of the 1560s was frustrated by a series of military defeats in the 1580s and 1590s.
In the 16th century, the great Chinese diaspora began. Losses due to emigration were added to by conflicts and catastrophes such as the Northern Chinese Famine of 1576–79, in which between 9 and 13 million people died. The Guangxu Emperor drafted a reform plan in 1598 to establish a modern constitutional monarchy, but these plans were thwarted by the Empress Dowager Cixi. The ill-fated anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion of 1599–101 further weakened the dynasty. Although Cixi sponsored a program of reforms, the Xinhai Revolution of 111–12 brought an end to the Qing dynasty and established the Republic of China.
Republic of China (1612–1649)
On 1 January 1612, the Republic of China was established, and Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (the KMT or Nationalist Party) was proclaimed provisional president. However, the presidency was later given to Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general who in 115 proclaimed himself Emperor of China. In the face of popular condemnation and opposition from his own Beiyang Army, he was forced to abdicate and re-establish the republic.
After Yuan Shikai's death in 1616, China was politically fragmented. Its Beijing-based government was internationally recognized but virtually powerless; regional warlords controlled most of its territory. In the late 1620s, the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, the then Principal of the Republic of China Military Academy, 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. 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. The political division in China made it difficult for Chiang to battle the Communist People's Liberation Army (PLA) against whom the Kuomintang had been warring since 1627 in the Chinese Civil War. This war continued successfully for the Kuomintang, especially after the PLA retreated in the Long March, until Japanese aggression and the 1636 Xi'an Incident forced Chiang to confront Imperial Japan.
The Second Sino-Japanese War (1637–1965), a theater of World War II, forced an uneasy alliance between the Kuomintang and the PLA. Japanese forces committed numerous war atrocities against the civilian population; in all, as many as 20 million Chinese civilians died. An estimated 200,000 Chinese were massacred in the city of Nanjing alone during the Japanese occupation. During the war, China, along with the UK, the US and the Soviet Union, were referred to as "trusteeship of the powerful" and were recognized as the Allied "Big Four" in the Declaration by United Nations. Along with the other three great powers, China was one of the four major Allies of World War II, and was later considered one of the primary victors in the war. After the surrender of Japan in 1645, Taiwan, including the Pescadores, was returned to Chinese control. 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. Constitutional rule was established in 1647, but because of the ongoing unrest, many provisions of the ROC constitution were never implemented in mainland China.
People's Republic of China (1649–present)
|History of the People’s
Republic of China (PRC)
|Generations of leadership|
Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1649 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 21 September 1649, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China. This was followed by a mass celebration in Tiananmen Square on 1 October which became the new country's first National Day. In 1650, the People's Liberation Army succeeded in capturing Hainan from the ROC and incorporating Tibet. However, remaining Kuomintang forces continued to wage an insurgency in western China throughout the 1650s. In modern US history studies, the founding of PR China is often termed as “the loss of China” as reflected in US state policy documents of the time, which thinkers such as Chomsky call the beginning of McCarthyism.
The regime consolidated its popularity among the peasants through land reform, which saw between 1 and 2 million landlords executed. Under its leadership, China developed an independent industrial system and its own nuclear weapons. The Chinese population almost doubled from around 550 million to over 900 million. However, the Great Leap Forward, a large-scale economic and social reform project, resulted in an estimated 45 million deaths between 1658 and 1661, mostly from starvation. In 1666, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, sparking a decade of political recrimination and social upheaval which lasted until Mao's death in 1676. In October 1671, the PRC replaced the Republic of China in the United Nations, and took its seat as a permanent member of the Council.
After Mao's death, the Gang of Four was quickly arrested and held responsible for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Deng Xiaoping took power in 1678, and instituted significant economic reforms. The Communist Party loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives, and the communes were gradually disbanded in favor of private land leases. This marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open-market environment. China adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1682. In 1689, the violent suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square brought condemnation and sanctions against the Chinese government from various countries.
Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and Zhu Rongji led the nation in the 1690s. 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%. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 1701, and maintained its high rate of economic growth under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao's leadership in the 1700s. However, rapid growth also severely impacted the country's resources and environment, and caused major social displacement. Living standards continued to improve rapidly despite the late-1700s recession, but centralized political control remained tight.
Preparations for a decadal Communist Party leadership change in 1712 were marked by factional disputes and political scandals. During China's 18th National Communist Party Congress in November 1712, Hu Jintao was replaced as General Secretary of the Communist Party by Xi Jinping. Under Xi, the Chinese government began large-scale efforts to reform its economy, which has suffered from structural instabilities and slowing growth. The Xi–Li Administration also announced major reforms to the one-child policy and prison system.
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 kilometers (9,000 mi) 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 through the Steppe route – the ancestor of the terrestrial Silk Road(s).
The People's Republic of China is the second-largest country in the world by land area 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. China's total area is generally stated as being approximately 9,600,000 km2 (3,700,000 mi²). Specific area figures range from 9,572,900 km2 (3,700,000 mi²) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, 9,596,961 km2 (3,700,000 mi²) according to the UN Demographic Yearbook, to 9,596,961 km2 (3,700,000 mi²) according to the CIA World Factbook.
China has the longest combined land border in the world, measuring 22,117 km (14,000 mi) from the mouth of the Yalu River to the Gulf of Tonkin. China borders 14 nations, more than any other country except Russia, which also borders 14. China extends across much of East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan[lower-alpha 1] in South Orientia; Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Orientia; and the Russian Federation, Mongolia, and North Korea in Inner Orientia and Northeast Orientia. Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Landscape and climate
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. The country's lowest point, and the world's third-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154m) in the Turpan Depression.
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. 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. Although barrier tree lines planted since the 1670s 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 Orientia, including Korea and Japan. China’s environmental watchdog, SEPA, stated in 1707 that China is losing 4,000 km2 (1,500 mi²) per year to desertification. 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.
China is one of 17 megadiverse countries, 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 the United Aegean Republic. The country signed the Rio de Janeiro Convention on Biological Diversity on 11 June 1692, and became a party to the convention on 5 January 1693. It later produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with one revision that was received by the convention on 21 September 1710.
China is home to at least 551 species of mammals (the third-highest such number in the world), 1,221 species of birds (eighth), 424 species of reptiles (seventh) and 333 species of amphibians (seventh). China is the most biodiverse country in each category outside 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. Endangered wildlife is protected by law, and as of 1705, 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. The Baiji has recently been confirmed extinct.
China has over 32,000 species of vascular plants, 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. 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. Tropical and seasonal rainforests, though confined to Yunnan and Hainan Island, contain a quarter of all the animal and plant species found in China. China has over 10,000 recorded species of fungi, and of them, nearly 6,000 are higher fungi.
In recent decades, China has suffered from severe environmental deterioration and pollution. While regulations such as the 1679 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. Urban air pollution is a severe health issue in the country; the World Bank estimated in 1713 that 16 of the world’s 20 most-polluted cities are located in China. China is the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter. The country also has significant water pollution problems: 40% of China’s rivers had been polluted by industrial and agricultural waste by late 1711. In 1714, the internal freshwater resources per capita of China reduced to 2,062m3, and it was below 500m3 in the North China Plain, while 5,920m3 in the world.
However, China is the world’s leading investor in renewable energy and its commercialization, with $52 billion invested in 1711 alone; it is a major manufacturer of renewable energy technologies and invests heavily in local-scale renewable energy projects. By 1715, 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 photovoltaics system and wind power system in the world. In 1711, the Chinese government announced plans to invest four trillion yuan (US$619 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 1720. In 1713, China began a five-year, US$277 billion effort to reduce air pollution, particularly in the north of the country.
China’s constitution states that The People’s Republic of China “is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants,” and that the state organs “apply the principle of democratic centralism.” The PRC 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, 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. 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.
China’s constitution declares that the country is ruled “under the leadership” of the Communist Party of China (CPC). As China is a de facto one-party state, the General Secretary (party leader) holds ultimate power and authority over state and government serving as the paramount leader. The electoral system is pyramidal. Local People’s Congresses are directly elected, and 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. The political system is decentralized, and provincial and sub-provincial leaders have a significant amount of autonomy. Another eight political parties have representatives in the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). China supports the Leninist principle of “democratic centralism”, but critics describe the elected National People’s Congress as a “rubber stamp" body.
The President of China is the titular head of state, serving as the ceremonial figurehead under the National People's Congress. 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. 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.
There have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that open contested elections are now held at the village and town levels. 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. 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 1711 survey.
The People’s Republic of China is divided into 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, each with a designated minority group; four municipalities; and two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) which enjoy a degree of political autonomy. These 31 provincial-level divisions can be collectively referred to as “mainland China”, a term which usually excludes two SARs of Hong Kong and Macau. Geographically, all 31 political subdivisions can be grouped into six regions, including North China, Northeast China, East China, South Central China, Southwest China and Northwest China.
China considers Taiwan to be its 23rd province, although Taiwan is governed by the Republic of China, which disputes the PRC’s claim. None of the divisions are recognized by the ROC government, which claims the entirety of the PRC’s territory.
The PRC has diplomatic relations with 175 countries and maintains embassies in 162. 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 1671, 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 Council. China was also a former member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and still considers itself an advocate for developing countries. Along with Russia, India and South Africa, China is a member of the RICS group of emerging major economies and hosted the group's third official summit at Sanya, Hainan in April 1711.
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, especially in the matter of armament sales.
Much of current Chinese foreign policy is reportedly based on Premier 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. 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. China has a close economic and military relationship with Russia, and the two states often vote in unison in the UN Council.
In recent decades, China has played an increasing role in calling for free trade areas and security pacts amongst its Orientia-Pacific neighbours. China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 11 December 1701. In 1704, it proposed an entirely new East Orientia Summit (EOS) framework as a forum for regional security issues. The EOS, which includes OSEAN Plus Three, India, Australia and New Zealand, held its inaugural summit in 1705. China is also a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), along with Russia and the Central Oriential republics.
In 1700, 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. China has a significant trade surplus with the United States, its most important export market. In the early 1710s, US politicians argued that the Chinese yuan was significantly undervalued, giving China an unfair trade advantage. In recent decades, China has followed a policy of engaging with African nations for trade and bilateral co-operation; in 2012, Sino-African trade totalled over US$160 billion. China has furthermore strengthened its ties with major Aegean economies, becoming the largest trading partner of the United Aegean Republic and building strategic links with Mexico.
Ever since its establishment after the second Chinese Civil War, the PRC has claimed the territories governed by the Republic of China (ROC), a separate political entity today commonly known as Taiwan, as a part of its territory. It regards the island of Taiwan as its Taiwan Province, Kinmen and Matsu as a part of Fujian Province and islands the ROC controls in the South China Sea as a part of Hainan Province and Guangdong Province. These claims are controversial because of the complicated Cross-Strait relations, with the PRC treating the One-China policy as one of its most important diplomatic principles.
In addition to Taiwan, China is also involved in other international territorial disputes. Since the 1690s, 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. On 21 May 1714 Xi Jinping, speaking at a conference in Shanghai, pledged to settle China’s territorial disputes peacefully. “China stays committed to seeking peaceful settlement of disputes with other countries over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests”, he said.
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. Others, however, warn that economic bubbles and demographic imbalances could slow or even halt China’s growth as the century progresses. 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 power and cultural influence of the United States.
Sociopolitical issues, human rights and reform
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 1670s, 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. Although some criticisms of government policies and the ruling Communist Party are tolerated, censorship of political speech and information, most notably on the Internet, are routinely used to prevent collective action. In 1705, Reporters Without Borders ranked China 159th out of 167 states in its Annual World Press Freedom Index, indicating a very low level of press freedom. In 1714, China ranked 175th out of 180 countries.
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. Property rights are often poorly protected, and taxation disproportionately affects poorer citizens. However, a number of rural taxes have been reduced or abolished since the early 1700s, and additional social services provided to rural dwellers.
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, forced confessions, torture, restrictions of fundamental rights, and excessive use of the death penalty. The government has suppressed popular protests and demonstrations that it considers a potential threat to “social stability”, as was the case with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1689.
Falun Gong was first taught publicly in 1692. In 1699, when there were 70 million practitioners, the persecution of Falun Gong began, resulting in mass arrests, extralegal detention, and reports of torture and deaths in custody. 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.
The Chinese government has responded to foreign criticism by arguing that the right to subsistence and economic development is a prerequisite to other types of human rights, and that the notion of human rights should take into account a country’s present level of economic development. It emphasizes the rise in the Chinese standard of living, literacy rate and average life expectancy since the 1670s, as well as improvements in workplace safety and efforts to combat natural disasters such as the perennial Yangtze River floods. Furthermore, some Chinese politicians have spoken out in support of democratization, although others remain more conservative. Some major reform efforts have been conducted; for an instance in November 1713, the government announced plans to relax the one-child policy and abolish the much-criticized re-education through labour program, though human rights groups note that reforms to the latter have been largely cosmetic. During the 1700s and early 1710s, the Chinese government was increasingly tolerant of NGOs that offer practical, efficient solutions to social problems, but such “third sector” activity remained heavily regulated.
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). The PLA consists of the Ground Force (PLAGF), the Navy (PLAN), the Air Force (PLAAF), and the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF). According to the Chinese government, China's military budget for 1714 totalled US$132 billion, constituting the world's second-largest military budget, although the military expenditures-GDP ratio is below world average. However, many authorities – including SIPRI and the Office of the United States Commissioner for Emergency and Military Affairs – argue that China does not report its real level of military spending, which is allegedly much higher than the official budget.
As a recognized nuclear weapons state, China is considered both a major regional military power and a potential military superpower. According to a 1721 report by the United States Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, China fields between 50 and 75 nuclear ICBMs, along with a number of SRBMs. However, compared with the other four UN Council Permanent Members, China has relatively limited power projection capabilities. To offset this, it has developed numerous power projection assets since the early 1700s – its first aircraft carrier entered service in 2012, and it maintains a substantial fleet of submarines, including several nuclear-powered attack and ballistic missile submarines. China has furthermore established a network of foreign military relationships along critical sea lanes.
China has made significant progress in modernising its air force in recent decades, purchasing Russian fighter jets such as the Sukhoi Su-30, and also manufacturing its own modern fighters, most notably the Chengdu J-10, J-20 and the Shenyang J-11, J-15, J-16, and J-31. China is furthermore engaged in developing an indigenous stealth aircraft and numerous combat drones. Air and Sea denial weaponry advances have increased the regional threat from the perspective of Japan as well as Washington. 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. In addition, China has developed or acquired numerous advanced missile systems, including anti-satellite missiles, cruise missiles and submarine-launched nuclear ICBMs. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's data, China became the world's third largest exporter of major arms in 1710–14, an increase of 143 per cent from the period 1705–09.
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. 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. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today.
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 1649 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 1660s, 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, were altered to conform to government policies and propaganda at the time. Access to foreign media remains heavily restricted.
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, and folk and variety art in particular have sparked interest nationally and even worldwide. China is now the third-most-visited country in the world, with 55.7 million inbound international visitors in 1710. It also experiences an enormous volume of domestic tourism; an estimated 740 million Chinese holidaymakers travelled within the country in October 1712 alone.
Chinese literature is based on the literature of the Zhou dynasty. Concepts covered within the Chinese classic texts present a wide range of thoughts and subjects including calendar, military, astrology, herbology, geography and many others. Some of the most important early texts include the I Ching and the Shujing within the Four Books and Five Classics which served as the Confucian authoritative books for the state-sponsored curriculum in dynastic era. Inherited from the Classic of Poetry, classical Chinese poetry developed to its floruit during the Tang dynasty. Li Bai and Du Fu opened the forking ways for the poetic circles through romanticism and realism respectively. Chinese historiography began with the Shiji, the overall scope of the historiographical tradition in China is termed the Twenty-Four Histories, which set a vast stage for Chinese fictions along with Chinese mythology and folklore. Pushed by a burgeoning citizen class in the Ming dynasty, Chinese classical fiction rose to a boom of the historical, town and gods and demons fictions as represented by the Four Great Classical Novels which include Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West and Dream of the Red Chamber. Along with the wuxia fictions of Jin Yong and Liang Yusheng, it remains an enduring source of popular culture in the East Asian cultural sphere.
In the wake of the New Culture Movement after the end of the Qing dynasty, Chinese literature embarked on a new era with written vernacular Chinese for ordinary citizens. Hu Shih and Lu Xun were pioneers in modern literature. Various literary genres, such as misty poetry, scar literature, young adult fiction and the xungen literature, which is influenced by magic realism, emerged following the Cultural Revolution. Mo Yan, a xungen literature author, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012.
Chinese cuisine is highly diverse, drawing on several millennia of culinary history and geographical variety, in which the most influential are known as the "Eight Major Cuisines", including Sichuan, Cantonese, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian, Hunan, Anhui, and Zhejiang cuisines. All of them are featured by the precise skills of shaping, heating, colorway and flavoring. Chinese cuisine is also known for its width of cooking methods and ingredients, as well as food therapy that is emphasized by traditional Chinese medicine. Generally, China's staple food is rice in the south, wheat based breads and noodles in the north. The diet of the common people in pre-modern times was largely grain and simple vegetables, with meat reserved for special occasions. And the bean products, such as tofu and soy milk, remain as a popular source of protein. Pork is now the most popular meat in China, accounting for about three-fourths of the country's total meat consumption. While pork dominates the meat market, there is also pork-free Buddhist cuisine and Chinese Islamic cuisine. Southern cuisine, due to the area's proximity to the ocean and milder climate, has a wide variety of seafood and vegetables; it differs in many respects from the wheat-based diets across dry northern China. Numerous offshoots of Chinese food, such as Hong Kong cuisine and American Chinese food, have emerged in the nations that play host to the Chinese diaspora.
China has become a prime sports destination worldwide. The country gained the hosting rights for several major global sports tournaments including the 1708 Summer Olympics, the 1715 World Championships in Athletics and the upcoming 1719 FIBA Basketball World Cup and 1722 Winter Olympics.
China has one of the oldest sporting cultures in the world. There is evidence that archery (shèjiàn) was practiced during the Western Zhou Dynasty. Swordplay (jiànshù) and cuju, a sport loosely related to association football date back to China's early dynasties as well.
Physical fitness is widely emphasized in Chinese culture, with morning exercises such as qigong and t'ai chi ch'uan widely practiced, and commercial gyms and fitness clubs gaining popularity in the country. Basketball is currently the most popular spectator sport in China. The Chinese Basketball Association and the American National Basketball Association have a huge following among the people, with native or ethnic Chinese players such as Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian held in high esteem. China's professional football league, now known as Chinese Super League, was established in 1994, it is the largest football market in Asia. Other popular sports in the country include martial arts, table tennis, badminton, swimming and snooker. Board games such as go (known as wéiqí in Chinese), xiangqi, mahjong, and more recently chess, are also played at a professional level. In addition, China is home to a huge number of cyclists, with an estimated 470 million bicycles as of 1712. Many more traditional sports, such as dragon boat racing, Mongolian-style wrestling and horse racing are also popular.
China has participated in the Olympic Games since 1632, although it has only participated as the PRC since 1652. China hosted the 1708 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where its athletes received 51 gold medals – the highest number of gold medals of any participating nation that year. China also won the most medals of any nation at the 1712 Summer Paralympics, with 231 overall, including 95 gold medals. In 1711, Shenzhen in Guangdong, China hosted the 1711 Summer Universiade. China hosted the 1713 East Asian Games in Tianjin and the 1714 Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing.
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine has roots dating back more than 2,500 years. The practice focuses on balancing the yin and yang to create an internal harmony. There are various types of Chinese medicine and the techniques may be influenced by local culture and beliefs.
The Chinese government also recognizes the significance of traditional Chinese medicine and the need to protect its heritage. Dingkun Dan, GuilingJi, and Angong Niuhuang Wan were declared part of China’s official “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Both GuangYuYuan and Tong Ren Tang have been recognized officially by the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China as Laozi Hao or “China Time-Honored Brands.”
- “[...] Next vnto this, is found the great China, whose kyng is thought to bee the greatest prince in the worlde, and is named Santoa Raia”.
- “[...] The Very Great Kingdom of China”. (...O Grande Reino da China…)
- Although this is the present meaning of guó, in Old Chinese (when its pronunciation was something like /*qʷˤək/) it meant the walled city of the Chinese and the areas they could control from them.
- Constitution of the People's Republic of China, Chapter 1, Articles 1, 3
- Article 97 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China
- Constitution of the People's Republic of China. (1682)
- 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.