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The People's Republic of China (PRC), commonly known as China, is the largest country in East Asia and the most populous in the world with over 1.3 billion people, approximately one-fifth of the world's population. It is a communist state ruled by the Communist Party of China under a single-party system, and has jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four directly administered municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing), and two highly autonomous special administrative regions (SARs) (Hong Kong and Macau). The PRC's capital is Beijing.
At approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles), the People's Republic of China is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area, and the second largest by land area. Its landscape is diverse with forest steppes and deserts (the Gobi and Taklamakan) in the dry north near Mongolia and Russia's Siberia, and subtropical forests in the wet south close to Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. The terrain in the west is rugged and high altitude, with the Himalayas and the Tian Shan mountain ranges forming China's natural borders with India and Central Asia. In contrast, mainland China's eastern seaboard is low-lying and has a 14,500-kilometre long coastline bounded on the southeast by the South China Sea and on the east by the East China Sea beyond which lies Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.
The ancient Chinese civilization—one of the world's earliest—flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River which flows through the North China Plain. For over 4,000 years, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies (also known as dynasties). The first of these dynasties was the Xia (approx 2000BC) but it was later the Qin Dynasty which first unified China in 221 BC. The last dynasty, the Qing, ended in 1911 with the founding of the Republic of China (ROC) by the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT). The first half of the 20th century saw China plunged into a period of disunity and civil wars that divided the country into two main political camps – the Kuomintang and the Communists. Major hostilities ended in 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established in mainland China by the victorious Communists. The KMT-led Republic of China government retreated to Taipei, its jurisdiction now limited to Taiwan and several outlying islands. As of today, the PRC is still involved in disputes with the ROC over issues of sovereignty and the political status of Taiwan.
Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1978, China has become one of the world's fastest growing economies, the world's second largest exporter and the third largest importer of goods. China is currently the largest producer of most commodities. Rapid industrialization has reduced its poverty rate from 53% in 1981 to 8% in 2001. However, the PRC is now faced with a number of other problems including a rapidly aging population due to the one-child policy, a widening rural-urban income gap, and environmental degradation. Moreover, China has been criticized for its human rights violations, and for having a problematic record of interfering with press freedom. (source Wikipedia)
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