People's Republic of China

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People's Republic of China
National Emblem of China
Flag National Emblem
Anthem: 义勇军进行曲
Yìyǒngjūn Jìnxíngqǔ
("March of the Volunteers")
Land controlled by the People's Republic of China shown in dark green; land claimed but uncontrolled shown in light green.
Capital Beijing
Largest city Shanghai
Official languages Standard Chinese[lower-alpha 1]
Recognised regional languages
Official script Simplified Chinese[lower-alpha 2]
Ethnic groups Majority Han Chinese
Religion
Demonym Chinese
Government Unitary Marxist–Leninist[1] one-party socialist republic[2]
 •  CCP General Secretary
President[lower-alpha 4]
Military Chairman[lower-alpha 5]
Xi Jinping
 •  Premier Li Keqiang
 •  Vice President Wang Qishan[lower-alpha 6]
 •  Senior Vice Premier Han Zheng
 •  Congress Chairman Li Zhanshu
 •  CPPCC Chairman[lower-alpha 7] Wang Yang
 •  1st CCP Secretariat's Member {{{leader_name7}}}
Legislature National People's Congress
Formation
 •  First pre-imperial dynasty c. 2070 BC 
 •  First imperial dynasty 221 BC 
 •  Republic established 1 January 1912 
 •  Proclamation of the People's Republic 1 October 1949 
 •  First constitution 20 September 1954 
 •  Current constitution 4 December 1982 
 •  Most recent polity admitted 20 December 1999 
Area
 •  Total 9,596,961 km2[lower-alpha 8][5] (3rd/4th)
3,705,407 sq mi
 •  Water (%) 2.8[lower-alpha 9]
Population
 •  2020 census Increase 1,411,778,724[7] (1st)
 •  Density 145 [8]/km2 (83rd)
373/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2021 estimate
 •  Total Increase $26.66 trillion[9] (1st)
 •  Per capita Increase $18,931[9] (70th)
GDP (nominal) 2021 estimate
 •  Total Increase $16.64 trillion[9] (2nd)
 •  Per capita Increase $11,819[9] (56th)
Gini (2018) Negative increase 46.7[10]
high
HDI (2019) Increase 0.761[11]
high · 85th
Currency Renminbi (元 / ¥)[lower-alpha 10] (CNY)
Time zone China Standard Time (UTC+8)
Date format
  • yyyy-mm-dd
  • or yyyymd
  • (CE; CE-1949)
Drives on the right (mainland);
  • left (Hong Kong and Macau SARs)
Calling code +86 (mainland);
ISO 3166 code CN
Internet TLD
  • .hk / .香港 (Hong Kong SAR)
  • .mo / .澳门 / .澳門 (Macau SAR)


The People's Republic of China (Chinese: 中华人民共和国; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó; abbr. PRC), is an authoritarian state in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of more than 1.41 billion. China follows a single standard time offset of UTC+08:00 even though it spans five geographical time zones and borders 14 countries, the second most of any country in the world after Russia. Covering an area of approximately 9.6 million square kilometers (3.7 million mi2), it is the world's third or fourth largest country.[lower-alpha 11] The country is officially divided into 23 provinces,[lower-alpha 12] five autonomous regions, and four direct-controlled municipalities of Beijing (the capital city), Tianjin, Shanghai (the largest city), and Chongqing, as well as two special administrative regions: 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 BC. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times. In the 3rd century BC, the Qin reunited core China and established the first Chinese empire. The succeeding Han dynasty (206 BC–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, which formed the territorial basis for modern China, 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 Chinese Communist Party (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.[lower-alpha 13] Both the PRC and the ROC currently claim to be the sole legitimate government of China, resulting in an ongoing dispute even after the United Nations recognized the PRC as the government to represent China at all UN conferences in 1971. China is currently governed as a unitary one-party socialist republic by the Chinese Communist Party.

China is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a founding member of several multilateral and regional cooperation organizations such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund, the New Development Bank, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and is a member of the BRICS, the G8+5, the G20, the APEC, 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. Chinese authorities have been criticized by political dissidents and human rights activists for widespread human rights abuses, including political repression, mass censorship, mass surveillance of their citizens and violent suppression of protests.

After economic reforms in 1978, and its entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, China's economy became the second-largest country by nominal GDP in 2010 and grew to the largest in the world by PPP in 2014. 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 a potential superpower due to its large economy and powerful military.

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Etymology

China
China (Chinese characters).svg
"China" in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese 中国
Traditional Chinese 中國
Hanyu Pinyin Zhōngguó
Literal meaning "Middle Kingdom" or "Central Kingdom"

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China (today's Guangdong), Mangi (inland of Xanton), and Cataio (inland of China and Chequan, and including the capital Cambalu, Xandu, and a marble bridge) are all shown as separate regions on this 1570 map by Abraham Ortelius

The word "China" has been used in English since the 16th century; however, it was not a word used by the Chinese themselves during this period in time. Its origin has been traced through Portuguese, Malay, and Persian back to the Sanskrit word Chīna, used in ancient India.[17]

"China" appears in Richard Eden's 1555 translation[lower-alpha 14] of the 1516 journal of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa.[lower-alpha 15][17] Barbosa's usage was derived from Persian Chīn (چین), which was in turn derived from Sanskrit Cīna (चीन).[22] Cīna was first used in early Hindu scripture, including the Mahābhārata (5th century BC) and the Laws of Manu (2nd century BC).[23] In 1655, Martino Martini suggested that the word China is derived ultimately from the name of the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC).[24][23] Although usage in Indian sources precedes this dynasty, this derivation is still given in various sources.[25] The origin of the Sanskrit word is a matter of debate, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.[17] Alternative suggestions include the names for Yelang and the Jing or Chu state.[23][26]

The official name of the modern state is the "People's Republic of China" (simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国; traditional Chinese: 中華人民共和國; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó). The shorter form is "China" Zhōngguó (中国; 中國) from zhōng ("central") and guó ("state"),[lower-alpha 16] a term which developed under the Western Zhou dynasty in reference to its royal demesne.[lower-alpha 17] It was then applied to the area around Luoyi (present-day Luoyang) during the Eastern Zhou and then to China's Central Plain before being used as an occasional synonym for the state under the Qing.[28] It was often used as a cultural concept to distinguish the Huaxia people from perceived "barbarians".[28] The name Zhongguo is also translated as "Middle Kingdom" in English.[30] China (PRC) is sometimes referred to as the Mainland when distinguishing the ROC from the PRC.[31][32][33][34]

History

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Prehistory

10,000 years old pottery, Xianren Cave culture (18000–7000 BC)

Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China 2.25 million years ago.[35] The hominid fossils of Peking Man, a Homo erectus who used fire,[36] were discovered in a cave at Zhoukoudian near Beijing; they have been dated to between 680,000 and 780,000 years ago.[37] The fossilized teeth of Homo sapiens (dated to 125,000–80,000 years ago) have been discovered in Fuyan Cave in Dao County, Hunan.[38] Chinese proto-writing existed in Jiahu around 7000 BC,[39] at Damaidi around 6000 BC,[40] Dadiwan from 5800 to 5400 BC, and Banpo dating from the 5th millennium BC. Some scholars have suggested that the Jiahu symbols (7th millennium BC) constituted the earliest Chinese writing system.[39]

Early dynastic rule

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File:甲骨文发现地 - panoramio.jpg
Yinxu, the ruins of the capital of the late Shang dynasty (14th century BC)

According to Chinese tradition, the first dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2100 BC.[41] The Xia dynasty marked the beginning of China's political system based on hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, which lasted for a millennium.[42] The dynasty was considered mythical by historians until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou, Henan in 1959.[43] It remains unclear whether these sites are the remains of the Xia dynasty or of another culture from the same period.[44] The succeeding Shang dynasty is the earliest to be confirmed by contemporary records.[45] The Shang ruled the plain of the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BC.[46] Their oracle bone script (from c. 1500 BC)[47][48] represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found[49] and is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters.[50]

The Shang was conquered by the Zhou, who ruled between the 11th and 5th centuries BC, though centralized authority was slowly eroded by feudal warlords. Some principalities eventually emerged from the weakened Zhou, no longer fully obeyed the Zhou king, and continually waged war with each other in the 300-year Spring and Autumn period. By the time of the Warring States period of the 5th–3rd centuries BC, there were only seven powerful states left.[51]

Imperial China

File:Badaling China Great-Wall-of-China-01.jpg
China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, is famed for having united the Warring States' walls to form the Great Wall of China. Most of the present structure, however, dates to the Ming dynasty.

The Warring States period ended in 221 BC after the state of Qin conquered the other six kingdoms, reunited China and established the dominant order of autocracy. King Zheng of Qin proclaimed himself the First Emperor 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.[52] The Qin dynasty lasted only fifteen years, falling soon after the First Emperor's death, as his harsh authoritarian policies led to widespread rebellion.[53][54]

Following a widespread civil war during which the imperial library at Xianyang was burned,[lower-alpha 18] the Han dynasty emerged to rule China between 206 BC and CE 220, creating a cultural identity among its populace still remembered in the ethnonym of the Han Chinese.[53][54] 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 Asia 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.[56] 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.[57]

File:Han Expansion.png
Map showing the expansion of Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC

After the end of the Han dynasty, a period of strife known as Three Kingdoms followed,[58] 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 581. The Sui restored the Han to power through China, reformed its agriculture, economy and imperial examination system, constructed the Grand Canal, and patronized Buddhism. However, they fell quickly when their conscription for public works and a failed war in northern Korea provoked widespread unrest.[59][60]

Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese economy, technology, and culture entered a golden age.[61] The Tang Empire retained control of the Western Regions and the Silk Road,[62] which brought traders to as far as Mesopotamia and the Horn of Africa,[63] and made the capital Chang'an a cosmopolitan urban center. However, it was devastated and weakened by the An Lushan Rebellion in the 8th century.[64] In 907, the Tang disintegrated completely when the local military governors became ungovernable. The Song dynasty ended the separatist situation in 960, 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.[65]

A detail from Along the River During the Qingming Festival, a 12th-century painting showing everyday life in the Song dynasty's capital, Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng)

Between the 10th and 11th 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,[66] and a flourishing of philosophy and the arts, as landscape art and porcelain were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity.[67][68] However, the military weakness of the Song army was observed by the Jurchen Jin dynasty. In 1127, Emperor Huizong of Song and the capital Bianjing were captured during the Jin–Song Wars. The remnants of the Song retreated to southern China.[69]

The 13th century brought the Mongol conquest of China. In 1271, the Mongol leader Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty; the Yuan conquered the last remnant of the Song dynasty in 1279. 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.[70] A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan in 1368 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 admiral Zheng He led the Ming treasure voyages throughout the Indian Ocean, reaching as far as East Africa.[71]

The Qing conquest of the Ming and expansion of the empire

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.[72] 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 (1592–1598) and Manchu invasions led to an exhausted treasury.[73]

In 1644, 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.[citation needed]

Late imperial

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A 19th-century depiction of the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864)

The Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1644 until 1912, was the last imperial dynasty of China. Its conquest of the Ming (1618–1683) cost 25 million lives and the economy of China shrank drastically.[74] After the Southern Ming ended, the further conquest of the Dzungar Khanate added Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang to the empire.[75] 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.[76][77] In the mid-19th 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[78] under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the first of the Unequal Treaties. The First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) resulted in Qing China's loss of influence in the Korean Peninsula, as well as the cession of Taiwan to Japan.[79]

The Eight-Nation Alliance invaded China to defeat the anti-foreign Boxers and their Qing backers. The image shows a celebration ceremony inside the Chinese imperial palace, the Forbidden City after the signing of the Boxer Protocol in 1901.

The Qing dynasty also began experiencing internal unrest in which tens of millions of people died, especially in the White Lotus Rebellion, the failed Taiping Rebellion that ravaged southern China in the 1850s and 1860s and the Dungan Revolt (1862–1877) in the northwest. The initial success of the Self-Strengthening Movement of the 1860s was frustrated by a series of military defeats in the 1880s and 1890s.[citation needed]

In the 19th century, the great Chinese diaspora began. Losses due to emigration were added to by conflicts and catastrophes such as the Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–1879, in which between 9 and 13 million people died.[80] The Guangxu Emperor drafted a reform plan in 1898 to establish a modern constitutional monarchy, but these plans were thwarted by the Empress Dowager Cixi. The ill-fated anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion of 1899–1901 further weakened the dynasty. Although Cixi sponsored a program of reforms, the Xinhai Revolution of 1911–1912 brought an end to the Qing dynasty and established the Republic of China.[81] Puyi, the last Emperor of China, abdicated in 1912.[82]

Republic (1912–1949)

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Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of Republic of China, the first republic in Asia.

On 1 January 1912, the Republic of China was established, and Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (the KMT or Nationalist Party) was proclaimed provisional president.[83] On 12 February 1912, regent Empress Dowager Longyu sealed the imperial abdication decree on behalf of 4 year old Puyi, the last emperor of China, ending 5,000 years of monarchy in China.[84] In March 1912, the presidency was given to Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general who in 1915 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 in 1916.[85]

After Yuan Shikai's death in 1916, China was politically fragmented. Its Beijing-based government was internationally recognized but virtually powerless; regional warlords controlled most of its territory.[86][87] In the late 1920s, 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.[88][89] 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.[90][91] 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 1927 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 1936 Xi'an Incident forced Chiang to confront Imperial Japan.[92]

Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong toasting together in 1946 following the end of World War II

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), 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.[93] An estimated 40,000 to 300,000 Chinese were massacred in the city of Nanjing alone during the Japanese occupation.[94] During the war, China, along with the UK, the United States, and the Soviet Union, were referred to as "trusteeship of the powerful"[95] and were recognized as the Allied "Big Four" in the Declaration by United Nations.[96][97] 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.[98][99] After the surrender of Japan in 1945, 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 1947, but because of the ongoing unrest, many provisions of the ROC constitution were never implemented in mainland China.[100]

People's Republic (1949–present)

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Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the PRC in 1949.

Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the Communist Party in control of most of mainland China, and the Kuomintang retreating offshore to Taiwan, reducing its territory to only Taiwan, Hainan, and their surrounding islands. On 1 October 1949, Communist Party of China Chairman Mao Zedong formally proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China at the new nation's founding ceremony and inaugural military parade in Tiananmen Square, Beijing.[101][102] In 1950, the People's Liberation Army captured Hainan from the ROC[103] and incorporated Tibet.[104] However, remaining Kuomintang forces continued to wage an insurgency in western China throughout the 1950s.[105]

Deng Xiaoping with U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1979

The government consolidated its popularity among the peasants through land reform, which included the execution of between 1 and 2 million landlords.[106] China developed an independent industrial system and its own nuclear weapons.[107] The Chinese population increased from 550 million in 1950 to 900 million in 1974.[108] However, the Great Leap Forward, an idealistic massive reform project, resulted in an estimated 15 to 35 million deaths between 1958 and 1961, mostly from starvation.[109][110][111] In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, sparking a decade of political recrimination and social upheaval that lasted until Mao's death in 1976. In October 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic in the United Nations, and took its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council.[112]

After Mao's death, the Gang of Four was quickly arrested by Hua Guofeng and held responsible for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Elder Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978, and instituted significant economic reforms. The Party loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives, and the communes were gradually disbanded in favor of working contracted to households. This marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open-market environment.[113] China adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982. In 1989, the suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square brought condemnations and sanctions against the Chinese government from various foreign countries.[114]

Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and Zhu Rongji led the nation in the 1990s. 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%.[115][116] The country joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and maintained its high rate of economic growth under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao's leadership in the 2000s. However, the growth also severely impacted the country's resources and environment,[117][118] and caused major social displacement.[119][120]

Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping has ruled since 2012 and has pursued large-scale efforts to reform China's economy [121][122] (which has suffered from structural instabilities and slowing growth),[123][124][125] and has also reformed the one-child policy and penal system,[126] as well as instituting a vast anti corruption crackdown.[127] In 2013, China initiated the Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure investment project.[128] The COVID-19 pandemic broke out in Wuhan, Hubei in 2019.[129][130]

On 1 July 2021, the People's Republic of China celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party of China (first of the Two Centenaries) with a huge gathering in Tiananmen Square and cultural artistic performance in Beijing National Stadium in Beijing.[131]

Geography

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Satellite image of China from NASA WorldWind

China's landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in the arid north to the 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 km (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).[citation needed]

Landscape and climate

The territory of China lies between latitudes 18° and 54° N, and longitudes 73° and 135° E. The geographical center of China is marked by the Center of the Country Monument at Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.. China's landscapes vary significantly across its vast territory. 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 (8,848 m), lies on the Sino-Nepalese border.[133] The country's lowest point, and the world's third-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154 m) in the Turpan Depression.[134]

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.[135]

A major environmental issue in China is the continued expansion of its deserts, particularly the Gobi Desert.[136][137] Although barrier tree lines planted since the 1970s 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 Asia, including Japan and Korea. China's environmental watchdog, SEPA, stated in 2007 that China is losing 4,000 km2 (1,500 sq mi) per year to desertification.[138] 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.[139] According to academics, in order to limit climate change in China to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) electricity generation from coal in China without carbon capture must be phased out by 2045.[140] Official government statistics about Chinese agricultural productivity are considered unreliable, due to exaggeration of production at subsidiary government levels.[141][142] Much of China has a climate very suitable for agriculture and the country has been the world's largest producer of rice, wheat, tomatoes, eggplant, grapes, watermelon, spinach, and many other crops.[143]

Biodiversity

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China is one of 17 megadiverse countries,[144] lying in two of the world's major biogeographic realms: the Palearctic and the Indomalayan. 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 Brazil and Colombia.[145] The country signed the Rio de Janeiro Convention on Biological Diversity on 11 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 5 January 1993.[146] It later produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with one revision that was received by the convention on 21 September 2010.[147]

China is home to at least 551 species of mammals (the third-highest such number in the world),[148] 1,221 species of birds (eighth),[149] 424 species of reptiles (seventh)[150] and 333 species of amphibians (seventh).[151] Wildlife in China shares habitat with, and bears acute pressure, from the world's largest population of humans. 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.[152] Endangered wildlife is protected by law, and as of 2005, 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.[153][better source needed] Most wild animals have been eliminated from the core agricultural regions of east and central China, but they have fared better in the mountainous south and west.[154][155] The Baiji was confirmed extinct on 12 December 2006.[156]

China has over 32,000 species of vascular plants,[157] 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.[158] The understory 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 a high density of plant species including numerous rare endemics. Tropical and seasonal rainforests, though confined to Yunnan and Hainan Island, contain a quarter of all the animal and plant species found in China.[158] China has over 10,000 recorded species of fungi,[159] and of them, nearly 6,000 are higher fungi.[160]

Environment

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The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world.

In recent decades, China has suffered from severe environmental deterioration and pollution.[161][162] While regulations such as the 1979 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.[163] China is the country with the second highest death toll because of air pollution, after India. There are approximately 1 million deaths caused by exposure to ambient air pollution.[164][165] China is the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter,[166] and has been ranked as the 13th largest in emissions per capita.[167] The country also has significant water pollution problems: 8.2% of China's rivers had been polluted by industrial and agricultural waste in 2019, and were unfit for use.[168][169] China had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 7.14/10, ranking it 53rd globally out of 172 countries.[170]

However, China is the world's leading investor in renewable energy and its commercialization, with $52 billion invested in 2011 alone;[171][172][173] it is a major manufacturer of renewable energy technologies and invests heavily in local-scale renewable energy projects.[174][175][176] By 2015, 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.[177][178] China also has the largest power capacity of installed solar photovoltaics system and wind power system in the world.[179][180] Greenhouse gas emissions by China are the world's largest,[167] as is renewable energy in China.[181]

Political geography

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File:China administrative.svg
Map showing the territorial claims of the PRC.

The People's Republic of China is the second-largest country in the world by land area[182] after Russia, and is the third or fourth largest by total area. [lower-alpha 19] China's total area is generally stated as being approximately 9,600,000 km2 (3,700,000 sq mi).[183][better source needed] Specific area figures range from 9,572,900 km2 (3,696,100 sq mi) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica,[184] to 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the UN Demographic Yearbook,[3] and the CIA World Factbook.[6]

China has the longest combined land border in the world, measuring 22,117 km (13,743 mi) from the mouth of the Yalu River (Amnok River) to the Gulf of Tonkin.[6] China borders 14 nations and extends across much of East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan[lower-alpha 20] in South Asia; Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; and Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea in Inner Asia and Northeast Asia. Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.[citation needed]

Politics

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The Chinese constitution states that The People's Republic of China "is a socialist state governed by a people’s democratic dictatorship that is led by the working class and based on an alliance of workers and peasants," and that the state institutions "shall practice the principle of democratic centralism."[185] The PRC is one of the world's only socialist states governed by a communist party. The Chinese government has been variously described as communist and socialist, but also as authoritarian[186] and corporatist,[187] 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.[188] Its current political, ideological and economic system has been termed by its leaders as a "consultative democracy" "people's democratic dictatorship", "socialism with Chinese characteristics" (which is Marxism adapted to Chinese circumstances) and the "socialist market economy" respectively.[189][190]

Communist Party

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Communist Party of China is the founding and ruling political party of China.

Since 2018, the main body of the Chinese constitution declares that "the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)."[191] The 2018 amendments constitutionalized the de facto one-party state status of China,[191] wherein the General Secretary (party leader) holds ultimate power and authority over state and government and serves as the paramount leader of China.[192] The current General Secretary is Xi Jinping, who took office on November 15, 2012 and was re-elected on 25 October 2017.[193] 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.[185]Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Another eight political parties, have representatives in the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).[194] China supports the Leninist principle of "democratic centralism",[185] but critics describe the elected National People's Congress as a "rubber stamp" body.[195]

Since both the Communist Party of China and the People's Liberation Army promote according to seniority, it is possible to discern distinct generations of Chinese leadership.[196] In official discourse, each group of leadership is identified with a distinct extension of the ideology of the party. Historians have studied various periods in the development of the government of the People's Republic of China by reference to these "generations".

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Generations of Chinese Leadership[196]
Generation Paramount Leader Start End Theory
First Mao Zedong 1949 1976 Mao Zedong Thought
Second Deng Xiaoping 1976 1992 Deng Xiaoping Theory
Third Jiang Zemin 1992 2002 Three Represents
Fourth Hu Jintao 2002 2012 Scientific Outlook on Development
Fifth Xi Jinping 2012 Xi Jinping Thought

Government

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China is a one-party state led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The National People's Congress in 2018 altered the country's constitution to remove the two-term limit on holding the Presidency of China, permitting the current leader, Xi Jinping, to remain president of China (and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party) for an unlimited time, earning criticism for creating dictatorial governance.[197][198] The President is the titular head of state, elected by the National People's Congress. The Premier 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 Chinese Communist Party 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 CCP Politburo Standing Committee, China's de facto top decision-making body.[199][200]

In 2017, Xi called on the communist party to further tighten its grip on the country, to uphold the unity of the party leadership, and achieve the "Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation".[189][201] Political concerns in China include the growing gap between rich and poor and government corruption.[202] 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 2011 survey.[203]

Administrative divisions

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The People's Republic of China is officially divided into 23 provinces,[204] five autonomous regions (each with a designated minority group), and four municipalities—collectively referred to as "mainland China"—as well as the special administrative regions (SARs) of Hong Kong and Macau. Geographically, all 31 provincial divisions of mainland China can be grouped into six regions: North China, Northeast China, East China, South Central China, Southwest China, and Northwest China.[205]

China considers Taiwan to be its 23rd province,[204] although Taiwan is governed by the Republic of China (ROC), which rejects the PRC's claim. Conversely, the ROC claims sovereignty over all divisions governed by the PRC.[citation needed]

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Tibet (Xizang) Autonomous Region Qinghai Province Gansu Province Sichuan Province Yunnan Province Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Inner Mongolia (Nei Mongol) Autonomous Region Shaanxi Province Municipality of Chongqing Guizhou Province Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Shanxi Province Henan Province Hubei Province Hunan Province Guangdong Province Hainan Province Hebei Province Heilongjiang Province Jilin Province Liaoning Province Municipality of Beijing Municipality of Tianjin Shangdong Province Jiangsu Province Anhui Province Municipality of Shanghai Zhejiang Province Jiangxi Province Fujian Province Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Macau Special Administrative Region Taiwan ProvinceChina administrative claimed included.png
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Foreign relations

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The PRC has diplomatic relations with 175 countries and maintains embassies in 162. In 2019, China had the largest diplomatic network in the world.[206][207] 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, with a population of more than 1.4 billion.[208] In 1971, 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 Security Council.[209] China was also a former member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and still considers itself an advocate for developing countries.[210] Along with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, China is a member of the BRICS group of emerging major economies and hosted the group's third official summit at Sanya, Hainan in April 2011.[211]

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.[citation needed] Chinese officials have protested on numerous occasions when foreign countries have made diplomatic overtures to Taiwan,[212] especially in the matter of armament sales.[213]

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.[214] 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.[215] China has a close economic and military relationship with Russia,[216] and the two states often vote in unison in the UN Security Council.[217][218][219]

Trade relations

On 21 May 2014, China and Russia signed a $400 billion gas deal. Currently, Russia is supplying natural gas to China.

China became the world's largest trading nation in 2013, as measured by the sum of imports and exports, as well as the world's biggest commodity importer. comprising roughly 45% of maritime's dry-bulk market.[220][221] By 2016, China was the largest trading partner of 124 other countries.[222] China is the largest trading partner for the ASEAN nations, with a total trade value of $345.8 billion in 2015 accounting for 15.2% of ASEAN's total trade.[223] ASEAN is also China's largest trading partner.[224] In 2020, China became the largest trading partner of the European Union for goods, with the total value of goods trade reaching nearly $700 billion.[225] China, along with ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, is a member of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world's largest free-trade area covering 30% of the world's population and economic output.[226] China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. In 2004, it proposed an entirely new East Asia Summit (EAS) framework as a forum for regional security issues.[227] The EAS, which includes ASEAN Plus Three, India, Australia and New Zealand, held its inaugural summit in 2005.[228]

China has had a long and complex trade relationship with the United States. In 2000, 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.[229] China has a significant trade surplus with the United States, its most important export market.[230] In the early 2010s, US politicians argued that the Chinese yuan was significantly undervalued, giving China an unfair trade advantage.[231][232][233][needs update]

Since the turn of the century, China has followed a policy of engaging with African nations for trade and bilateral co-operation;[234][235][236] in 2019, Sino-African trade totalled $208 billion, having grown 20 times over two decades.[237] According to Madison Condon "China finances more infrastructure projects in Africa than the World Bank and provides billions of dollars in low-interest loans to the continent’s emerging economies."[238] China maintains extensive and highly diversified trade links with the European Union.[225] China has furthermore strengthened its trade ties with major South American economies,[239] and is the largest trading partner of Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, and several others.[240]

China's Belt and Road Initiative has expanded significantly over the last six years and, as of April 2020, includes 138 countries and 30 international organizations. In addition to intensifying foreign policy relations, the focus here is particularly on building efficient transport routes. The focus is particularly on the maritime Silk Road with its connections to East Africa and Europe and there are Chinese investments or related declarations of intent at numerous ports such as Gwadar, Kuantan, Hambantota, Piraeus and Trieste. However many of these loans made under the Belt and Road program are unsustainable and China has faced a number of calls for debt relief from debtor nations.[241][242]

Territorial disputes

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Taiwan
Map depicting territorial disputes between the PRC and neighbouring states. For a larger map, see here.

Ever since its establishment after the 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.[243][better source needed]

Land border disputes

China has resolved its land borders with 12 out of 14 neighboring countries, having pursued substantial compromises in most of them.[244][245][246] As of 2020, China currently has a disputed land border with only India and Bhutan.[citation needed]

Maritime border disputes

China is additionally involved in maritime disputes with multiple countries over the ownership of several small islands in the East and South China Seas, such as the Senkaku Islands and the Scarborough Shoal.[247][248]

Sociopolitical issues and human rights

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March in memory of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo who died of organ failure while in government custody in 2017

China uses a massive espionage network of cameras, facial recognition software, sensors, surveillance of personal technology, and a social credit system as a means of social control of persons living in China.[249] The Chinese democracy movement, social activists, and some members of the Chinese Communist Party believe in the need for social and political reform. While economic and social controls have been significantly relaxed in China since the 1970s, 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.[250][251] Although some criticisms of government policies and the ruling Communist Party are tolerated, censorship of political speech and information, most notably on the Internet,[252][253] are routinely used to prevent collective action.[254] By 2020, China plans to give all its citizens a personal "Social Credit" score based on how they behave.[255][needs update] The Social Credit System, now being piloted in a number of Chinese cities,[needs update] is considered a form of mass surveillance which uses big data analysis technology.[256][257]

A number of foreign governments, foreign press agencies, and NGOs have criticized China's human rights record, alleging widespread civil rights violations such as detention without trial, forced abortions,[258] forced confessions, torture, restrictions of fundamental rights,[188][259] and excessive use of the death penalty.[260][261] The government suppresses popular protests and demonstrations that it considers a potential threat to "social stability", as was the case with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.[262]

File:Xinjiang Internment Map, US-Aus Gov Assessment.jpg
Western governments accused China of committing genocide against Uyghurs and detaining more than one million Uyghurs and other Xinjiang minorities in camps.[263]

The Chinese state is regularly accused of large-scale repression and human rights abuses in Tibet[264] and Xinjiang,[265] including violent police crackdowns and religious suppression throughout the Chinese nation.[266][267] At least one million members of China's Muslim Uyghur minority have been detained in mass detention camps, termed "Vocational Education and Training Centers", aimed at changing the political thinking of detainees, their identities, and their religious beliefs.[268] According to the U.S. Department of State, actions including political indoctrination, torture, physical and psychological abuse, forced sterilization, sexual abuse, and forced labor are common in these facilities.[269] The state has also sought to control offshore reporting of tensions in Xinjiang, intimidating foreign-based reporters by detaining their family members.[270] According to a 2020 report, China's treatment of Uyghurs meets UN definition of genocide,[271] and several groups called for a UN investigation.[272] On 19 January 2021, the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, announced that the United States Department of State had determined that "genocide and crimes against humanity" had been perpetrated by China against the Uyghurs.[273]

Global studies from Pew Research Center in 2014 and 2017 ranked the Chinese government's restrictions on religion as among the highest in the world, despite low to moderate rankings for religious-related social hostilities in the country.[274][275] The Global Slavery Index estimated that in 2016 more than 3.8 million people were living in "conditions of modern slavery", or 0.25% of the population, including victims of human trafficking, forced labor, forced marriage, child labor, and state-imposed forced labor. The state-imposed forced system was formally abolished in 2013 but it is not clear the extent to which its various practices have stopped.[276] The Chinese penal system includes labor prison factories, detention centers, and re-education camps, which fall under the heading Laogai ("reform through labor"). The Laogai Research Foundation in the United States estimated that there were over a thousand slave labour prisons and camps, known collectively as the Laogai.[277]

In 2019, a study called for the mass retraction of more than 400 scientific papers on organ transplantation, because of fears the organs were obtained unethically from Chinese prisoners. While the government says 10,000 transplants occur each year, hospital data shows between 60,000 and 100,000 organs are transplanted each year. The report provided evidence that this gap is being made up by executed prisoners of conscience.[278]

Military

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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).[279] China has the second-biggest military reserve force, only behind North Korea. The PLA consists of the Ground Force (PLAGF), the Navy (PLAN), the Air Force (PLAAF), and the People's Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF).[citation needed] According to the Chinese government, China's military budget for 2017 totalled US$151.5 billion, constituting the world's second-largest military budget, although the military expenditures-GDP ratio with 1.3% of GDP is below world average.[280] However, many authorities – including SIPRI and the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense – argue that China does not report its real level of military spending, which is allegedly much higher than the official budget.[280][281]

Economy

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China and other major developing economies by GDP per capita at purchasing-power parity, 1990–2013. The rapid economic growth of China (blue) is readily apparent.[282]
File:China Product Exports (2019).svg
A proportional representation of Chinese exports, 2019

Since 2010, China had the world's second-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP,[283] totaling approximately US$15.66 trillion (101.6 trillion Yuan) as of 2020.[284][285] In terms of purchasing power parity (PPP GDP), China's economy has been the largest in the world since 2014, according to the World Bank.[286] China is also the world's fastest-growing major economy.[287] According to the World Bank, China's GDP grew from $150 billion in 1978 to $14.28 trillion by 2019.[288] China's economic growth has been consistently above 6 percent since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978.[289] China is also the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods.[290] Between 2010 and 2019, China's contribution to global GDP growth has been 25% to 39%.[291][292]

China had one of the largest economies in the world for most of the past two thousand years,[293] during which it has seen cycles of prosperity and decline.[294][295] Since economic reforms began in 1978, China has developed into a highly diversified economy and one of the most consequential players in international trade. Major sectors of competitive strength include manufacturing, retail, mining, steel, textiles, automobiles, energy generation, green energy, banking, electronics, telecommunications, real estate, e-commerce, and tourism. China has three out of the ten largest stock exchanges in the world[296]Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shenzhen—that together have a market capitalization of over $15.9 trillion, as of October 2020.[297] China has four (Shanghai, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shenzhen) out of the world's top ten most competitive financial centers, which is more than any country in the 2020 Global Financial Centres Index.[298] By 2035, China's four cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen) are projected to be among the global top ten largest cities by nominal GDP according to a report by Oxford Economics.[299]

China has been the world's No. 1 manufacturer since 2010, after overtaking the US, which had been No. 1 for the previous hundred years.[300][301] China has also been No. 2 in high-tech manufacturing since 2012, according to US National Science Foundation.[302] China is the second largest retail market in the world, next to the United States.[303] China leads the world in e-commerce, accounting for 40% of the global market share in 2016[304] and more than 50% of the global market share in 2019.[305] China is the world's leader in electric vehicles, manufacturing and buying half of all the plug-in electric cars (BEV and PHEV) in the world in 2018.[306] China is also the leading producer of batteries for electric vehicles as well as several key raw materials for batteries.[307] China had 174 GW of installed solar capacity by the end of 2018, which amounts to more than 40% of the global solar capacity.[308][309]

Foreign and Chinese sources have claimed that official Chinese government statistics overstate China's economic growth.[310][311][312]