China (Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; Chinese: 中华人民共和国; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó), 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), it exercises jurisdiction over 22 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 (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 colonialism. The Chinese monarchy collapsed in 1912 with the Xinhai Revolution, when the Republic of China (ROC) replaced the Qing dynasty. China was invaded by 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. The PRC is sometimes referred to as Mainland China or the Mainland to distinguish the ROC from the PRC.China is the largest economy in the world by PPP since 2014, the second-largest by nominal GDP since 2010, the world's largest manufacturing economy since 2010, and the second-wealthiest nation in the world. Since the introduction of reforms in 1978, the economy of China has produced numerous significant achievements. They include the country being the world's fastest-growing major economy (since 1978 China’s GDP growth has averaged almost 10 percent a year), the continuation of the world's fastest rise in GDP per capita recorded from 1960 to 2018, the world's highest amount of exports, the world's fastest-growing consumer market, the world's largest banking sector (with assets of $40 trillion and the world's top four largest banks all being in China), having four of the world's top ten most competitive financial centers (Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing and Shenzhen) in the 2020 Global Financial Centres Index (more than any other country), lifting more than 850 million people out of poverty, and having the highest number of people in the top 10% of the wealthiest individuals in the world.China is a unitary one-party socialist republic and is one of the few nominally socialist states. Political dissidents and human rights groups have denounced the Chinese government for widespread human rights abuses, including political repression, suppression of religious and ethnic minorities, censorship, mass surveillance, and their response to protests, notably in 1989. The country is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, the People's Liberation Army, and the second-largest defense budget. The PRC is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since replacing the ROC in 1971. China has been characterized as an emerging superpower, mainly because of its economy, fast infrastructural development, and military.