China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion in 2019. Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometers (3.7 million mi2), it is the world's third or fourth-largest country by area. As a one-party state led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the country is officially divided into 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
China emerged as one of the world's first civilizations, in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. China was one of the world's foremost economic powers for most of the two millennia from the 1st until the 19th century. For millennia, China's political system was based on absolute hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, beginning with the Xia dynasty in 21st century BCE. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times. In the 3rd century BCE, the Qin reunited core China and established the first Chinese empire. The succeeding Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) saw some of the most advanced technology at that time, including papermaking and the compass, along with agricultural and medical improvements. The invention of gunpowder and movable type in the Tang dynasty (618–907) and Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) completed the Four Great Inventions. Tang culture spread widely in Asia, as the new Silk Route brought traders to as far as Mesopotamia and the Horn of Africa. The Qing Empire, China's last dynasty, suffered heavy losses to foreign imperialism. The Chinese monarchy collapsed in 1912 with the 1911 Revolution, when the Republic of China (ROC) replaced the Qing dynasty. China was invaded by the Empire of Japan during World War II. The Chinese Civil War resulted in a division of territory in 1949 when the CCP led by Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China on mainland China while the Kuomintang-led ROC government retreated to the island of Taiwan.Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China has been a unitary one-party socialist republic, and is one of the few remaining socialist states. The country is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since replacing the ROC in 1971. China is a founding member of several multilateral and regional cooperation organizations such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and is a member of the BRICS nations and the East Asia Summit. It ranks among the lowest in international measurements of civil liberties, government transparency, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and ethnic minorities and practises mass censorship and mass surveillance of its citizens with the Great Firewall controlling access to the internet. The country has engaged in human rights abuses, political and religious repression since the PRC's foundation, such as the ongoing Uyghur genocide. China has violently suppressed peaceful demonstrations including the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and 2019–20 Hong Kong protests.
After economic reforms in 1978, and its entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, China's economy grew to the largest in the world by PPP in 2014, and became the second-largest country by nominal GDP in 2010. China is the world's fastest-growing major economy, the second-wealthiest nation in the world, and the world's largest manufacturer and exporter. The nation has the world's largest standing army—the People's Liberation Army—the second-largest defense budget, and is a recognized nuclear weapons state. China has been characterized as an emerging superpower due to its large economy and powerful military.