Saturday, 25 August 2012

China morning round-up: Liu Xiang row

native name???????Zh?nghu? R?nm?n G?ngh?gu?
conventional long namePeople's Republic of China
common namethe People's Republic of China
image coatNational Emblem of the People's Republic of China.svg
symbol typeNational Emblem
map captionArea controlled by China is in dark green.Claimed but uncontrolled regions are in light green.
map width220px
national anthem
File:March of the Volunteers instrumental.ogg
"March of the Volunteers"???????? (Pinyin: "Y?y?ngj?n J?nx?ngq?")
official languages{{nobr|Standard Chinese}}
| languages_type = Official written language | languages = Vernacular Chinese | languages_sub = yes | languages2_type = Official script | languages2 = Simplified Chinese | languages2_sub = yes | regional_languages = Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Zhuang, and various others | ethnic_groups = 91.51% Han; 55 recognised minorities | capital = Beijing (Peking) | latd=39 |latm=55 |latNS=N |longd=116 |longm=23 |longEW=E | largest_city = Shanghai | demonym = Chinese | government_type = Nominally Marxist?Leninist single-party state | leader_title1 = Paramount Leader | leader_name1 = Hu Jintao | leader_title2 = Premier | leader_name2 = Wen Jiabao | leader_title3 = Congress?Chairman | leader_name3 = Wu Bangguo | leader_title4 = Conference?Chairman | leader_name4 = Jia Qinglin | legislature = National People's Congress | sovereignty_type = Establishment | established_event1 = Unification of China under the Qin Dynasty | established_date1 = 221 BC | established_event2 = Republic established | established_date2 = 1 January 1912 | established_event3 = People's Republic proclaimed | established_date3 = 1 October 1949 | area_footnote = or 9,671,018?km? | area_km2 = 9,640,821 | area_sq_mi = 3704427 | area_rank = 3rd/4th | area_magnitude = 1 E12 | percent_water = 2.8 | population_census = 1,339,724,852 | population_census_year = 2010 | population_census_rank = 1st | pop_den_footnote = | population_density_km2 = 139.6 | population_density_sq_mi = 363.3 | population_density_rank = 53rd | GDP_nominal = $7.298 trillion | GDP_nominal_rank = 2nd | GDP_nominal_year = 2011 | GDP_nominal_per_capita = $5,413 | GDP_nominal_per_capita_rank = 90th | GDP_PPP_year = 2011 | GDP_PPP = $11.299 trillion | GDP_PPP_rank = 2nd | GDP_PPP_per_capita = $8,382 | GDP_PPP_per_capita_rank = 91st | Gini = 41.5 | Gini_year = 2007 | HDI_year = 2011 | HDI = 0.687 | HDI_rank = 101st | HDI_category = medium | currency = Renminbi (yuan) (?) | currency_code = CNY | time_zone = China Standard Time | utc_offset = +8 | date_format = yyyy-mm-dd or yyyymd (CE; CE-1949) | drives_on = right, except for Hong Kong & Macau | cctld = .cn .?? .?? | calling_code = +86 | footnotes = a. Simple characterizations of the political structure since the 1980s are no longer possible.

b. As paramount leader, Hu Jintao holds four concurrent positions: General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, President of the People's Republic of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission for both state and party.

c. excludes all disputed territories. Includes Chinese-administered area (Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract, both territories claimed by India), Taiwan is not included. d. Information for mainland China only. Hong Kong, Macau, and territories under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China (Taiwan) are excluded. }}

China (; ; see also Names of China), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is the world's most-populous country, with a population of over 1.3?billion. Covering approximately 9.6?million square kilometres, the East Asian state is the world's second-largest country by land area, and the third- or fourth-largest in total area, depending on the definition of total area.

The People's Republic of China is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party of China. It exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four directly controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two mostly self-governing special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). Its capital city is Beijing. The PRC also claims Taiwan?which is controlled by the Republic of China (ROC), a separate political entity?as its 23rd province, a claim controversial due to the complex political status of Taiwan and the unresolved Chinese Civil War. The PRC government denies the legitimacy of the ROC.

China's landscape is vast and diverse, with forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts occupying the arid north and northwest near Mongolia and Central Asia, and subtropical forests being prevalent in the wetter south near Southeast Asia. The terrain of western China is rugged and elevated, with the Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separating China from South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, have their sources in the Tibetan Plateau and continue to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China's coastline along the Pacific Ocean is long?the 11th-longest in the world?and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East and South China Seas.

The nation of China has had numerous historical incarnations. The ancient Chinese civilization?one of the world's earliest?flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies, known as dynasties, beginning with the semi-mythological Xia of the Yellow River basin (approx. 2000 BC) and ending with the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Since 221 BC, when the Qin Dynasty first conquered several states to form a Chinese empire, the country has expanded, fractured and been reformed numerous times. The Republic of China, founded in 1911 after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949. In 1945, the ROC acquired Taiwan from Japan following World War II.

In the 1946?1949 phase of the Chinese Civil War, the Chinese Communist Party defeated the nationalist Kuomintang in mainland China and established the People's Republic of China in Beijing on 1 October 1949. The Kuomintang relocated the ROC government to Taiwan, establishing its capital in Taipei. The ROC's jurisdiction is now limited to Taiwan and several outlying islands, including Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu. Since 1949, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (now widely known as "Taiwan") have remained in dispute over the sovereignty of China and the political status of Taiwan, mutually claiming each other's territory and competing for international diplomatic recognition. In 1971, the PRC gained admission to the United Nations and took the Chinese seat as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the BCIM and the G-20. As of July 2012, all but 23 countries have recognized the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China.

Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1978, China has become the world's fastest-growing major economy. As of 2012, it is the world's second-largest economy, after the United States, by both nominal GDP and purchasing power parity (PPP), and is also the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. On a per capita income basis, China ranked 90th by nominal GDP and 91st by GDP (PPP) in 2011, according to the IMF. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, with the second-largest defense budget. In 2003, China became the third nation in the world, after the former Soviet Union and the United States, to independently launch a successful manned space mission. China has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of academics, military analysts, and public policy and economics analysts.

Etymology

The word "China" is derived from Cin (???), a Persian name for China popularized in medieval Europe by the account of the 13th-century Venetian explorer Marco Polo. The first recorded use in English dates from 1555. The Persian word is, in turn, derived from the Sanskrit word C?na (???), which was used as a name for China as early as AD 150. There are various scholarly theories regarding the origin of this word. The traditional theory, proposed in the 17th century by Martino Martini, is that "China" is derived from "Qin" (), the westernmost of the Chinese kingdoms during the Zhou Dynasty, or from the succeeding Qin Dynasty (221?206 BC). The word C?na is used in two Hindu scriptures ? the Mah?bh?rata of the 5th century BC and the Laws of Manu of the 2nd century BC ? to refer to a country located in the Tibetan-Burman borderlands east of India.

In China, common names for the country include Zh?nggu? () and Zh?nghu? (), although the country's official name has been changed numerous times by successive dynasties and modern governments. The term Zhongguo appeared in various ancient texts, such as the Classic of History of the 6th century BC, and in pre-imperial times it was often used as a cultural concept to distinguish the Huaxia from the barbarians. The term, which can be either singular or plural, referred to the group of states in the central plain. It was only in the nineteenth century that the term emerged as the formal name of the country. The Chinese were not unique in regarding their country as "central", since other civilizations had the same view.

History

Prehistory

Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 250,000 and 2.24 million years ago. A cave in Zhoukoudian (near present-day Beijing) exhibits fossils dated at between 300,000 and 780,000 BC. The fossils are of Peking Man, an example of Homo erectus who used fire. There are also remains of Homo sapiens dating back to 18,000?11,000 BC found at the Peking Man site.

Early dynastic rule

Chinese tradition names the first dynasty Xia, but it was considered mythical until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou in Henan Province in 1959. Archaeologists have since uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs in locations cited as Xia's in ancient historical texts, but it is impossible to verify that these remains are of the Xia without written records from the period.

The first Chinese dynasty that left historical records, the loosely feudal Shang (Yin), settled along the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BC. The oracle bone script of the Shang Dynasty represent the oldest forms of Chinese writing found and the direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters used throughout East Asia. The Shang were invaded from the west by the Zhou, who ruled from the 12th to the 5th century BC, until their centralized authority was slowly eroded by feudal warlords. Many independent states eventually emerged out of the weakened Zhou state, and continually waged war with each other in the Spring and Autumn Period, only occasionally deferring to the Zhou king. By the time of the Warring States Period, there were seven powerful sovereign states, each with its own king, ministry and army.

Imperial China

The first unified Chinese state was established by Qin Shi Huang of the Qin state in 221 BC. Qin Shi Huang proclaimed himself the "First Emperor" (???), and imposed many reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of the Chinese language, measurements, length of cart axles, and currency. The Qin Dynasty lasted only fifteen years, falling soon after Qin Shi Huang's death, as its harsh legalist and authoritarian policies led to widespread rebellion.

The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BC and 220 AD, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace that extends to the present day. The Han Dynasty expanded the empire's territory considerably with military campaigns reaching Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Central Asia, and also helped establish the Silk Road in Central Asia. China was for a large part of the last two millennia the world's largest economy. However, in the later part of the Qing Dynasty, China's economic development began to slow and Europe's rapid development in the Industrial Revolution enabled it to surpass China.

After the collapse of Han, another period of disunion followed, including the highly chivalric period of the Three Kingdoms. Independent Chinese states of this period such as Wu opened diplomatic relations with Japan, introducing the Chinese writing system there. In 580 AD, China was reunited under the Sui. However, the Sui Dynasty declined following its defeat in the Goguryeo?Sui War (598?614).

Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese technology and culture entered a golden age. The Tang Empire was at its height of power until the middle of the 8th century, when the An Shi Rebellion destroyed the prosperity of the empire. The Song Dynasty was the first government in world history to issue paper money and the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy. Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the population of China doubled in size. This growth came about through expanded rice cultivation in central and southern China, and the production of abundant food surpluses.

Within its borders, the Northern Song Dynasty had a population of some 100 million people. The Song Dynasty was a culturally rich period for philosophy and the arts. Landscape art and portrait painting were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity after the Tang Dynasty, and social elites gathered to view art, share their own, and trade precious artworks. Philosophers such as Cheng Yi and Chu Hsi reinvigorated Confucianism with new commentary, infused Buddhist ideals, and emphasized a new organization of classic texts that brought about the core doctrine of Neo-Confucianism. In 1271, the Mongol leader and fifth Khagan of the Mongol Empire Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty, with the last remnant of the Song Dynasty falling to the Yuan in 1279. Before the Mongol invasion, Chinese dynasties reportedly had approximately 120 million inhabitants; after the conquest was completed in 1279, the 1300 census reported roughly 60 million people.

Late dynastic rule

A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 and founded the Ming Dynasty. 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 Zheng He led explorations throughout the world, possibly reaching America. In the early years of the Ming Dynasty, China's capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing.

During the Ming Dynasty, thinkers such as Wang Yangming further critiqued and expanded Neo-Confucianism with concepts of individualism and innate morality that would have tremendous impact on later Japanese thought. Chosun Korea also became a nominal vassal state of Ming China, and adopted much of its Neo-Confucian bureaucratic structure.

In 1644, Beijing was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a minor Ming official who led the peasant revolt. The last Ming Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide when the city fell. The Manchu Qing Dynasty then allied with Ming Dynasty general Wu Sangui and overthrew Li's short-lived Shun Dynasty, and subsequently seized control of Beijing, which became the new capital of the Qing Dynasty.

The Qing Dynasty, which lasted until 1912, was the last imperial dynasty of China. In the 19th century, the Qing Dynasty adopted a defensive posture towards European imperialism, even though it engaged in an imperialistic expansion of its own into Central Asia. At this time, China awoke to the significance of the rest of the world, the West in particular. As China opened up to foreign trade and missionary activity, opium produced by British India was forced onto Qing China. Two Opium Wars with Britain weakened the Emperor's control. European imperialism proved to be disastrous for China:

The Arrow War (1856?1860) [2nd Opium War] saw another disastrous defeat for China. The subsequent passing of the humiliating Treaty of Tianjin in 1856 and the Beijing Conventions of 1860 opened up more of the country to foreign penetrations and more ports for their vessels. Hong Kong was ceded over to the British. Thus, the "unequal treaties system" was established. Heavy indemnities had to be paid by China, and more territory and control were taken over by the foreigners.
The weakening of the Qing regime, and the apparent humiliation of the unequal treaties in the eyes of the Chinese people had several consequences. One consequence was the Taiping Rebellion, a civil war which lasted from 1851 to 1862. The rebellion was led by Hong Xiuquan, who was partly influenced by an idiosyncratic interpretation of Christianity. Hong believed himself to be the son of God and the younger brother of Jesus. Although the Qing forces were eventually victorious, the civil war was one of the bloodiest in human history, costing at least 20 million lives (more than the total number of fatalities in World War I), with some estimates of up to two hundred million. Other costly rebellions followed the Taiping Rebellion, such as the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (1855?67), Nien Rebellion (1851?1868), Miao Rebellion (1854?73), Panthay Rebellion (1856?1873) and the Dungan revolt (1862?1877).

These rebellions resulted in an estimated loss of several million lives each and led to disastrous results for the economy and the countryside. The flow of British opium hastened the empire's decline. In the 19th century, the age of colonialism was at its height and the great Chinese Diaspora began; today, about 35 million overseas Chinese live in Southeast Asia. Emigration rates were strengthened by domestic catastrophes such as the famine of 1876?79, which claimed between 9 and 13 million lives in northern China. From 108 BC to 1911 AD, China experienced 1,828 famines, or one per year, somewhere in the empire.

While China was wracked by continuous war, Meiji Japan succeeded in rapidly modernizing its military, and set its sights on the conquest of Korea and Manchuria. At the request of the Korean emperor, the Qing government sent troops to aid in suppressing the Tonghak Rebellion in 1894. However, Japan also sent troops to Korea, leading to the First Sino-Japanese War, which resulted in Qing China's loss of influence in the Korean Peninsula as well as the cession of Taiwan (including the Pescadores) to Japan.

Following this series of defeats, a reform plan for the empire to become a modern Meiji-style constitutional monarchy was drafted by the Guangxu Emperor in 1898, but was opposed and stopped by the Empress Dowager Cixi, who placed Emperor Guangxu under house arrest in a coup d'?tat. Further destruction followed the ill-fated 1900 Boxer Rebellion against westerners in Beijing.

By the early 20th century, mass civil disorder had begun, and calls for reform and revolution were heard across the country. The 38-year-old Emperor Guangxu died under house arrest on 14 November 1908, suspiciously just a day before Cixi's own death. With the throne empty, he was succeeded by Cixi's handpicked heir, his two year old nephew Puyi, who became the Xuantong Emperor. Guangxu's consort became the Empress Dowager Longyu. In another coup de'tat, Yuan Shikai overthrew the last Qing emperor, and forced empress Dowager Longyu to sign the abdication decree as regent in 1912, ending two thousand years of imperial rule in China. She died, childless, in 1913.

Republic of China (1912?1949)

On 1 January 1912, the Republic of China was established, heralding the end of Imperial China. Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (the KMT or Nationalist Party) was proclaimed provisional president of the republic. However, the presidency was later given to Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general, who had ensured the defection of the entire Beiyang Army from the Qing Empire to the revolution. In 1915, Yuan proclaimed himself Emperor of China, but was forced to abdicate and reestablish the republic in the face of popular condemnation, not only from the general population but also from among his own Beiyang Army and its commanders.

After Yuan Shikai's death in 1916, China was politically fragmented, with an internationally recognized but virtually powerless national government seated in Beijing. Regional warlords exercised actual control over their respective territories. In the late 1920s, the nationalist Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, was able to reunify the country under its own control with a series of deft military and political maneuverings, known collectively as the Northern Expedition. 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. Effectively, political tutelage meant one-party rule by the Kuomintang, but the party was politically divided into competing cliques. This political division made it difficult for Chiang to battle the Communists, which the Kuomintang had been warring against since 1927 in the Chinese Civil War. This war continued successfully for the Kuomintang, especially after the Communists retreated in the Long March, until the Xi'an Incident and Japanese aggression forced Chiang to confront Imperial Japan.

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937?1945), a part of World War II, forced an uneasy alliance between the Kuomintang and the Communists. The Japanese "three-all policy" in northern China?"kill all, burn all and destroy all"?led to numerous war atrocities being committed against the civilian population; in all, as many as 20 million Chinese civilians were killed. An estimated 200,000 Chinese were massacred in the city of Nanjing alone during the Japanese occupation. Japan unconditionally surrendered to China in 1945. Taiwan, including the Pescadores, was put under the administrative control of the Republic of China, which immediately claimed sovereignty. 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. In 1947, constitutional rule was established, but because of the ongoing unrest many provisions of the ROC constitution were never implemented in mainland China.

People's Republic of China (1949?present)

Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the Communist Party in control of mainland China, and the Kuomintang retreating offshore, reducing the ROC's territory to only Taiwan, Hainan, and their surrounding islands. On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China, which was commonly known in the West as "Communist China" or "Red China" during the Cold War. In 1950, the People's Liberation Army succeeded in capturing Hainan from the ROC, occupying Tibet, and defeating the majority of the remaining Kuomintang forces in Yunnan and Xinjiang provinces, though some Kuomintang holdouts survived until much later.

Mao encouraged population growth, and under his leadership the Chinese population almost doubled from around 550 million to over 900 million. However, Mao's Great Leap Forward, a large-scale economic and social reform project, resulted in an estimated 45?million deaths between 1958 and 1961, mostly from starvation. In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, which would last until Mao's death a decade later. The Cultural Revolution, motivated by power struggles within the Party and a fear of the Soviet Union, led to a major upheaval in Chinese society. In October 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China in the United Nations, and took its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council. In that same year, for the first time, the number of countries recognizing the PRC surpassed those recognizing the ROC in Taipei as the government of China. In February 1972, at the peak of the Sino-Soviet split, Mao and Zhou Enlai met Richard Nixon in Beijing. However, the U.S. did not officially recognise the PRC as China's sole legitimate government until 1 January 1979.

After Mao's death in 1976 and the arrest of the Gang of Four, who were blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping quickly wrested power from Mao's anointed successor Hua Guofeng. Although he never became the head of the party or state himself, Deng was in fact the Paramount Leader of China at that time, his influence within the Party led the country to significant economic reforms. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the communes were disbanded with many peasants receiving multiple land leases, which greatly increased incentives and agricultural production. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment, a system termed by some "market socialism"; the Communist Party of China officially describes it as "socialism with Chinese characteristics". China adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982.

The death of pro-reform official Hu Yaobang helped to spark the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, during which students and others campaigned for several months, speaking out against corruption and in favour of greater political reform, including democratic rights and freedom of speech. However, they were eventually put down on 4 June when PLA troops and vehicles entered and forcibly cleared the square, resulting in numerous casualties. This event was widely reported and brought worldwide condemnation and sanctions against the government. The "Tank Man" incident in particular became famous. President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, both former mayors of Shanghai, led the nation in the 1990s. Under Jiang and Zhu's ten years of 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%. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Although rapid economic growth has made the Chinese economy the world's second-largest, this growth has also severely impacted the country's resources and environment. Another concern is that the benefits of economic development has not been distributed evenly, resulting in a wide development gap between urban and rural areas. As a result, under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, the Chinese government initiated policies to address these issues of equitable distribution of resources, though the outcome remains to be seen. More than 40?million farmers have been displaced from their land, usually for economic development, contributing to the 87,000 demonstrations and riots across China in 2005. Living standards have improved significantly but political controls remain tight.

Geography

Political geography

The People's Republic of China is the second-largest country in the world by land area after Russia and is either the third- or fourth-largest by total area, after Russia, Canada and, depending on the definition of total area, the United States. China's total area is generally stated as being approximately . Specific area figures range from according to the Encyclop?dia Britannica, according to the UN Demographic Yearbook, to according to the CIA World Factbook, and including Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract, which are controlled by China and claimed by India. None of these figures include the of territory ceded to China by Tajikistan following the ratification of a Sino-Tajik border agreement in January 2011.

According to the Encyclop?dia Britannica, the total area of the United States, at , is slightly smaller than that of China. Meanwhile, the CIA World Factbook states that China's total area was greater than that of the United States until the coastal waters of the Great Lakes was added to the United States' total area in 1996.

China has the longest combined land border in the world, measuring from the mouth of the Yalu River to the Gulf of Tonkin. China borders 14 nations, more than any other country except Russia, which also borders 14. China extends across much of East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Burma in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan in South Asia; Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; a small section of Russian Altai and Mongolia in Inner Asia; and the Russian Far East and North Korea in Northeast Asia.

Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. The PRC and the Republic of China (Taiwan) make mutual claims over each other's territory and the frontier between areas under their respective control is closest near the islands of Kinmen and Matsu, off the Fujian coast, but otherwise run through the Taiwan Strait. The PRC and ROC assert identical claims over the entirety of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, and the southern-most extent of these claims reach Zengmu Ansha (James Shoal), which would form a maritime frontier with Malaysia.

Landscape and climate

The territory of China lies between latitudes 18? and 54? N, and longitudes 73? and 135? E. China's landscapes vary significantly across its vast width. 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, major mountain ranges, most notably the Himalayas, and high plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes of the north, such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert. The world's highest point, Mt. Everest (8848m), lies on the Sino-Nepalese border. The country's lowest point, and the world's fourth-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (?154m) in the Turpan Depression.

A major environmental issue in China is the continued expansion of its deserts, particularly the Gobi Desert, which is currently the world's fifth-largest desert. 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 Korea and Japan. According to China's environmental watchdog, Sepa, China is losing a million acres (4,000?km?) per year to desertification. 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.

China's climate is mainly dominated by dry seasons and wet monsoons, which lead to a 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. The climate in China differs from region to region because of the country's extensive and complex topography.

Biodiversity

China is one of 17 megadiverse countries, lying in two of the world's major ecozones: the Palearctic and the Indomalaya. In the Palearctic zone, mammals such as the horse, camel, tapir, and jerboa can be found. Among the species found in the Indomalaya region are the Leopard Cat, bamboo rat, treeshrew, and various monkey and ape species. Some overlap exists between the two regions due to natural dispersal and migration; deer, antelope, bears, wolves, pigs, and numerous rodent species can all be found in China's diverse climatic and geological environments. The famous giant panda is found only in a limited area along the Yangtze River. China suffers from a continuing problem with trade in endangered species, although there are now laws to prohibit such activities.

China also hosts a variety of forest types. Cold coniferous forests predominate in the north of the country, supporting animal species such as moose and the Asian black bear, along with over 120 bird species. Moist conifer forests can have thickets of bamboo as an understorey, replaced by rhododendrons in higher montane stands of juniper and yew. Subtropical forests, which dominate central and southern China, support as many as 146,000 species of flora. Tropical and seasonal rainforests, though confined to Yunnan and Hainan Island, contain a quarter of all the plant and animal species found in China.

Environmental issues

In recent decades, China has suffered from severe environmental deterioration and pollution. While regulations such as the 1979 Environmental Protection Law are fairly stringent, enforcement of them is poor, as they are frequently disregarded by local communities and government officials in favour of rapid economic development.

Environmental campaigners such as Ma Jun have warned of the danger that water pollution poses to Chinese society. According to the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources, roughly 300?million Chinese do not have access to safe drinking water, and 40% of China?s rivers have been polluted by industrial and agricultural waste as of late 2011. This crisis is compounded by the perennial problem of water shortages, with 400 out of 600 surveyed Chinese cities reportedly short of drinking water.

However, China is the world's leading investor in renewable energy technologies, with $34.6?billion invested in 2009 alone. China produces more wind turbines and solar panels than any other country, and renewable energy projects, such as solar water heating, are widely pursued at the local level. By 2009, over 17% of China's energy was derived from renewable sources ? most notably hydroelectric power plants, of which China has a total installed capacity of 197 GW. In 2011, the Chinese government announced plans to invest four trillion yuan (US$618.55 billion) in water infrastructure projects over a ten-year period, and to complete construction of a flood prevention and anti-drought system by 2020.

Politics

The People's Republic of China, along with Vietnam, North Korea, Laos, and Cuba, is one of the five remaining official Communist states in the world. but simple characterizations of China's political structure since the 1980s are no longer possible. The Chinese government has been variously described as communist and socialist, but also as authoritarian, with heavy restrictions remaining in many areas, most notably on the Internet, the press, freedom of assembly, reproductive rights, and freedom of religion. Its current political/economic system has been termed by its leaders as "socialism with Chinese characteristics".

Compared to its closed-door policies until the mid-1970s, the liberalization of China has resulted in the administrative climate being less restrictive than before. China nominally supports the Leninist principle of "democratic centralism", but Chinese politics are far different from the liberal democracy or social democracy espoused in most European and North American countries, and the National People's Congress has been described as a "rubber stamp" body. China's incumbent President is Hu Jintao, who is also the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and its Premier is Wen Jiabao, who is also a senior member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee.

The country is ruled by the Communist Party of China (CPC), whose power is enshrined in China's constitution. The Chinese electoral system is hierarchical, whereby local People's Congresses are directly elected, and all 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. The political system is partly decentralized, with limited democratic processes internal to the party and at local village levels, although these experiments have been marred by corruption. There are other political parties in China, referred to in China as democratic parties, which participate in the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

There have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that open contested elections are now held at the village and town levels, and that legislatures have shown some assertiveness from time to time. However, the Party retains effective control over government appointments: in the absence of meaningful opposition, the CPC wins by default most of the time. Political concerns in China include lessening the growing gap between rich and poor and fighting corruption within the government leadership.

The level of support to the government action and the management of the nation is among the highest in the world, with 86% of people who express satisfaction with the way things are going in their country and with their nation's economy according to a 2008 Pew Research Center survey.

Administrative divisions

The People's Republic of China has administrative control over 22 provinces, and considers Taiwan to be its 23rd province, although Taiwan is currently governed by the Republic of China, which disputes the PRC's claim. China also has five subdivisions officially termed autonomous regions, each with a designated minority group; four municipalities; and two Special Administrative Regions (SARs), which enjoy a degree of political autonomy. These 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, and four municipalities can be collectively referred to as "mainland China", a term which usually excludes the SARs of Hong Kong and Macau.

Foreign relations

China has diplomatic relations with 171 countries and maintains embassies in 162. 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. Sweden was the first western country to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic on 9 May 1950. 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. China was also a former member and leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and still considers itself an advocate for developing countries.

Under its interpretation of the One-China policy, China 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. Chinese officials have protested on numerous occasions when foreign countries have made diplomatic overtures to Taiwan, especially in the matter of armament sales. Political meetings between foreign government officials and the 14th Dalai Lama are also opposed by China, as it considers Tibet to be formally part of China.

Much of China's current foreign policy is reportedly based on Zhou Enlai's Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence?non-interference in other states' affairs, non-aggression, peaceful coexistence, equality and mutual benefits. China's foreign policy is also driven by the concept of "harmony without uniformity", which encourages diplomatic relations between states despite ideological differences. This policy has led China to support states that are regarded as dangerous or repressive by Western nations, such as Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran. Conflicts with foreign countries have occurred at times in China's recent history, particularly with the United States; for example, the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo conflict in May 1999 and the US-China spy plane incident in April 2001. China's foreign relations with many Western nations suffered for a time following the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, although in recent years China has improved its diplomatic links with the West. China furthermore has an increasingly close economic relationship with Russia, and the two states often vote in unison in the UN Security Council.

Trade relations

In recent decades, China has played an increasing role in calling for free trade areas and security pacts amongst its Asia-Pacific neighbors. In 2004, China proposed an entirely new East Asia Summit (EAS) framework as a forum for regional security issues, pointedly excluding the United States. The EAS, which includes ASEAN Plus Three, India, Australia and New Zealand, held its inaugural summit in 2005. China is also a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), along with Russia and the Central Asian republics.

In 2000, the U.S. Congress approved "permanent normal trade relations" (PNTR) with China, allowing Chinese exports in at the same low tariffs as goods from most other countries. Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush asserted that free trade would gradually open China to democratic reform. Bush was furthermore an advocate of China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO). China has a significant trade surplus with the United States, its most important export market. In the early 2010s, U.S. politicians argued that the Chinese yuan was significantly undervalued, giving China an unfair trade advantage.

Sinophobic attitudes often target Chinese minorities and nationals living outside of China. Sometimes, such anti-Chinese attitudes turn violent, as occurred during the 13 May Incident in Malaysia in 1969 and the Jakarta riots of May 1998 in Indonesia, in which more than 2,000 people died. In recent years, a number of anti-Chinese riots and incidents have also occurred in Africa and Oceania. Anti-Chinese sentiment is often rooted in socio-economics.

Territorial disputes

China has been involved in a number of international territorial disputes, mostly resulting from the legacy of unequal treaties imposed on China during the historical period of New Imperialism. Since the 1990s, China has been entering negotiations to resolve its disputed land borders, usually by offering concessions and accepting less than half of the disputed territory with each party. China's only remaining land border disputes are a disputed border with India and an undefined border with Bhutan. China is additionally involved in more minor multilateral disputes over the ownership of several small islands in the East and South China Seas.

China and the developing world

China is heavily engaged, both politically and economically, with numerous nations in the developing world. Most notably, they have followed a policy of engaging with African nations for trade and bilateral co-operation. Xinhua, China's official news agency, states that there are no less than 750,000 Chinese nationals working or living in Africa. China has furthermore strengthened its ties with major South American economies, becoming the largest trading partner of Brazil and building strategic links with Argentina. 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 in Hainan Province in April 2011.

Emerging superpower status

China is regularly hailed as a potential new superpower, with certain commentators citing its rapid economic progress, growing military might, very large population, and increasing international influence as signs that it will play a prominent global role in the 21st century. Others, however, warn that economic bubbles and demographic imbalances could slow or even halt China's growth as the century progresses.

Sociopolitical issues and reform

The Chinese democracy movement, social activists, and some members of the Communist Party of China have all identified the need for social and political reform. While economic and social controls have been greatly 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.

As the Chinese economy expanded following Deng Xiaoping's 1978 reforms, tens of millions of rural Chinese who have moved to the cities find themselves treated as second-class citizens by China's hukou household registration system, which controls access to state benefits. Property rights are often poorly protected, and eminent domain land seizures have had a disproportionate effect on poorer peasants. In 2003, the average Chinese farmer paid three times more taxes than the average urban dweller, despite having one-sixth of the annual income. However, a number of rural taxes have since been reduced or abolished, and additional social services provided to rural dwellers.

Censorship of political speech and information, most notably on the Internet, is openly and routinely used in China to silence criticism of the government and the ruling Communist Party. In 2005, Reporters Without Borders ranked China 159th out of 167 states in its Annual World Press Freedom Index, indicating a very low level of perceived press freedom. The government has suppressed demonstrations by organizations that it considers a potential threat to "social stability", as was the case with the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The Communist Party has had mixed success in controlling information: a powerful and pervasive media control system faces equally strong market forces, an increasingly educated citizenry, and technological and cultural changes that are making China more open to the wider world, especially on environmental issues. However, attempts are still made by the Chinese government to control public access to outside information, with online searches for politically sensitive material being blocked by the so-called Great Firewall. Internet censorship in China is amongst the most stringent in the world.

A number of foreign governments and NGOs routinely criticize China's human rights record, alleging widespread civil rights violations, including systematic use of lengthy detention without trial, forced confessions, torture, mistreatment of prisoners, and restrictions of freedom of speech, assembly, association, religion, the press, and labor rights. China executes more people than any other country, nearly 30 times more per-capita than the United States This high execution rate is partly due to the fact that numerous white-collar crimes, such as fraud, are punishable by death in China. However, in the early 2010s, China began restricting the application of capital punishment for some such crimes. The Chinese government has been criticized for China's lack of religious freedom, including policies targeting Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong members.

The Chinese government has responded to foreign criticism by arguing that the notion of human rights should take into account a country's present level of economic development, and focus more on the people's rights to subsistence and development in poorer countries. The rise in the standard of living, literacy, and life expectancy for the average Chinese since the 1970s is seen by the government as tangible progress made in human rights. Improvements in workplace safety, and efforts to combat natural disasters such as the perennial Yangtze River floods, are also portrayed in China as progress in human rights for a still largely poor country.

Some Chinese politicians have spoken out in favor of reforms, while others remain more conservative. In 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao stated that China needs "to gradually improve the democratic election system so that state power will truly belong to the people and state power will be used to serve the people." Despite his status, Wen's comments were later censored by the government.

As the social, cultural and political consequences of economic growth and reform become increasingly manifest, tensions between the conservatives and reformists in the Communist Party are sharpening. Zhou Tianyong, the vice director of research of the Central Party School, argues that gradual political reform as well as repression of those pushing for overly rapid change over the next thirty years will be essential if China is to avoid an overly turbulent transition to a democratic, middle-class-dominated polity.

Military

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). The PLA consists of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF), the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), and a strategic nuclear force, the Second Artillery Corps. According to SIPRI, China's military expenditure in 2011 totalled US$129.2 billion (923 billion yuan), constituting the world's second-largest military budget. However, other nations, such as the United States, have claimed that China does not report its real level of military spending, which is allegedly much higher than the official budget. A 2007 report by the US Secretary of Defense noted that "China's actions in certain areas increasingly appear inconsistent with its declaratory policies". For its part, China claims it maintains an army purely for defensive purposes.

As a recognised nuclear weapons state, China is considered both a major regional military power and a potential military superpower. As of August 2011, China's Second Artillery Corps is believed to maintain at least 195 nuclear missiles, including 75 ICBMs. Nonetheless, China is the only member of the UN Security Council to have relatively limited power projection capabilities. To offset this, it has begun developing power projection assets, such as aircraft carriers, and has established a network of foreign military relationships that has been compared to a string of pearls. China has made significant progress in modernizing its military since the early 2000s. It has purchased advanced Russian fighter jets, such as the Sukhoi Su-30, and has also produced its own modern fighters, most notably the Chengdu J-10 and Shenyang J-11. China is furthermore engaged in developing an indigenous stealth aircraft, the Chengdu J-20. China's ground forces have also undergone significant modernisations, replacing its ageing Soviet-derived tank inventory with numerous variants of the modern Type 99 tank, and upgrading its battlefield C3I systems to enhance its network-centric warfare capabilities. China has furthermore acquired and improved upon the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system. Russia later produced the next-generation S-400 Triumf system, with China reportedly having spent $500?million on a downgraded export version of it. A number of indigenous missile technologies have also been developed ? in 2007, China conducted a successful test of an anti-satellite missile, and its first indigenous land-attack cruise missile, the CJ-10, entered service in 2009. In 2011, the Pentagon reported that China was believed to be testing the JL-2 missile, a submarine-launched nuclear ICBM with multiple-warhead delivery capabilities.

In recent years, much attention has been focused on enhancing the blue-water capabilities of the People's Liberation Army Navy. In August 2011, China's first aircraft carrier, the refurbished Soviet vessel Varyag, began sea trials. China furthermore maintains a substantial fleet of submarines, including several nuclear-powered attack and ballistic missile submarines. On 13 March 2011, the PLAN missile frigate Xuzhou was spotted off the coast of Libya, marking the first time in history a Chinese warship sailed into the Mediterranean. The ship's entrance into the Mediterranean was officially part of a humanitarian mission to rescue Chinese nationals from the 2011 Libyan civil war, though analysts such as Fareed Zakaria viewed the mission as also being an attempt to increase China's global military presence.

Economy

As of 2012, China has the world's second-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, totalling approximately US$7.298?trillion according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, China's 2011 nominal GDP per capita of US$5,184 puts it behind around ninety countries (out of 183 countries on the IMF list) in global GDP per capita rankings. If PPP is taken into account in total GDP figures, China is again second only to the United States?in 2011, its PPP GDP reached $11.316 trillion, corresponding to $8,394 per capita. In 2009, China's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries contributed 10.6%, 46.8%, and 42.6% respectively to its total GDP.

From its founding in 1949 until late 1978, the People's Republic of China was a Soviet-style centrally planned economy, without private businesses or capitalism. To propel the country towards a modern, industrialized communist society, Mao Zedong instituted the Great Leap Forward in the early 1960s, although this had decidedly mixed economic results. Following Mao's death in 1976 and the consequent end of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping and the new Chinese leadership began to reform the economy and move towards a more market-oriented mixed economy under one-party rule. Collectivization of the agriculture was dismantled and farmlands were privatized to increase productivity. Modern-day China is mainly characterized as having a market economy based on private property ownership, and is one of the leading examples of state capitalism.

Under the post-Mao market reforms, a wide variety of small-scale private enterprises were encouraged, while the government relaxed price controls and promoted foreign investment. Foreign trade was focused upon as a major vehicle of growth, leading to the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), first in Shenzhen and then in other Chinese cities. Inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) were restructured by introducing western-style management systems, with unprofitable ones being closed outright, resulting in massive job losses. By the latter part of 2010, China was reversing some of its economic liberalization initiatives, with state-owned companies buying up independent businesses in the steel, auto and energy industries.

Since economic liberalization began in 1978, China's investment- and export-led economy has grown almost a hundredfold and is the fastest-growing major economy in the world. According to the IMF, China's annual average GDP growth between 2001 and 2010 was 10.5%, and the Chinese economy is predicted to grow at an average annual rate of 9.5% between 2011 and 2015. Between 2007 and 2011, China's economic growth rate was equivalent to all of the G7 countries' growth combined. According to the Global Growth Generators index announced by Citigroup in February 2011, China has a very high 3G growth rating.

China is the third-most-visited country in the world, with 55.7?million inbound international visitors in 2010. It is a member of the WTO and is the world's second-largest trading power behind the US, with a total international trade value of US$3.64?trillion in 2011. Its foreign exchange reserves reached US$2.85?trillion by the end of 2010, an increase of 18.7% over the previous year, making its reserves by far the world's largest.