East Asia’s China is officially known as the People’s Republic of China. With a population of more than 1.4 billion, it is the nation with the largest population in the world. The second most borders of any country in the world, behind Russia, are shared by China, which straddles five time zones geographically. It is the third or fourth largest country in the world, with a total area of roughly 9.6 million square kilometres (3,700,000 sq mi). There are 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities, and 2 Special Administrative Regions in the nation (Hong Kong and Macau). Beijing serves as the country’s capital, while Shanghai serves as the country’s largest metropolis and financial hub.
The North China Plain’s fertile Yellow River valley served as a cradle of civilisation and is where modern Chinese can trace their ancestry. A bureaucratic political system was developed by the semi-legendary Xia dynasty in the 21st century BCE and the well-documented Shang and Zhou dynasties to support hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, while the Hundred Schools of Thought discussed the relationship between the state, family, and individual. The first Chinese empire, the short-lived Qin dynasty, was finally established in the third century BCE as a result of Qin’s unification battles. For nearly two millennia, the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), which was more reliable, set the precedent for the Chinese empire’s prominence as a major economic force.
The empire grew, broke apart, and then came back together, was conquered, assimilated foreign ideologies and religions, and produced four of the world’s greatest inventions—gunpowder, paper, the compass, and printing. The Tang dynasty (618-907) brought the empire back together after centuries of division following the fall of the Han. This was something the Roman Empire was unable to do. The multiethnic Tang embraced trade and culture from other countries that arrived over the Silk Road and modified Buddhism to suit Chinese requirements.
The Song dynasty (960–1279), the first of the modern era, saw a rise in urbanisation and commerce. The Neo-Confucian ideas and the examination system were employed by the civilian scholar-official or literati to supplant the military aristocrats of prior dynasties. The Yuan dynasty was created in 1279 by the Mongol invasion, although Han Chinese rule was later restored during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The Manchu-led Qing dynasty virtually doubled the empire’s size and founded the multiethnic state that served as the foundation for the modern Chinese nation, but in the 19th century, it suffered significant defeats at the hands of Western imperialism.
With the Xinhai Revolution in 1912, which saw the Republic of China (ROC) succeed the Qing dynasty, the Chinese monarchy came to an end. The Second Sino-Japanese War began in 1937 when Japan invaded China, igniting the civil war between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Kuomintang. As a result of the Japanese forces’ capitulation and expulsion from China in 1945, there was a power vacuum in the nation, which sparked new hostilities between the CCP and the Kuomintang.
The division of Chinese territory that followed the end of the civil war in 1949 saw the CCP create the People’s Republic of China on the mainland while the Kuomintang-led ROC government fled to Taiwan. Although the PRC has been the only recognised representative of China at the UN since 1971, both sides assert that they are the only legitimate government in the country. The Great Leap Forward, an economic and social programme carried out by the PRC from 1959 to 1961, is thought to have killed 15 to 55 million people, largely from famine. Since 1978, China has implemented a number of economic reforms, and in 2001, it joined the World Trade Organization.