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 kilometres (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. For millennia, China's political system was based on absolute hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, beginning with the semi-mythical 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, which ruled from 206 BCE until 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 final 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 Imperial 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.China is a unitary one-party socialist republic and is one of the few existing nominally socialist states. Political dissidents and human rights groups have denounced and criticized the Chinese government for human rights abuses, including suppression of religious and ethnic minorities, censorship, mass surveillance, and their response to protests, notably in 1989.
China is the largest economy in the world by PPP since 2014, the world's second-largest economy by nominal GDP since 2010, and the largest economy in Eurasia. Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China's economy has been the world's fastest-growing major economy, with annual growth rates consistently above 10%. According to the World Bank, China's GDP grew from $150 billion in 1978 to $12.24 trillion by 2017. China recorded the fastest rise in GDP per capita in the world from 1960 to 2018. China is the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. China holds 17.7% of the world's total wealth, the second largest share held by any country. China has the world's largest banking sector, with assets of $40 trillion and the world's top 4 largest banks all being in China. China has the highest number of rich people in the world's top 10% of wealth since 2019 and has one of the most billionaires of any country in the world. China 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. One of the world's foremost infrastructural giants, China has the world's largest bullet train network, the most supertall skyscrapers in the world, and initiated the largest transcontinental infrastructure investment project in modern history. China has been characterized as an emerging superpower, mainly because of its large economy, fast infrastructural development, and powerful military.