The People's Republic of China, commonly known as China ( ( listen); Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó), is a sovereign state located in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1.35 billion. The PRC is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party, with its seat of government in the capital city of Beijing. It exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two mostly self-governing special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). 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.
Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometres, China is the world's second-largest country by land area, but only the third or fourth-largest by total area, depending on the method of measurement. China's landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the wetter south. The Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separate China from South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, run from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China's coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometres (9,000 mi) long, and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East and South China Seas.
The ancient Chinese civilization – one of the world's earliest – flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies, known as dynasties, beginning with the semi-mythological Xia of the Yellow River basin (c. 2000 BCE). Since 221 BCE, 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 (ROC) overthrew the last dynasty in 1911, and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949. After the defeat of the Empire of Japan in World War II, the Communist Party defeated the nationalist Kuomintang in mainland China and established the People's Republic of China in Beijing on 1 October 1949, while the Kuomintang relocated the ROC government to its present de facto temporary capital of Taipei. To date, the ROC and PRC claim to be the legitimate government of all of China
Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become one of the world's fastest-growing major economies. As of 2013, it is the world's second-largest economy by both nominal total GDP and purchasing power parity (PPP), and is also the world's largest exporter and importer of goods. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, with the second-largest defense budget. The PRC has been a United Nations member since 1971, when it replaced the ROC 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 G20. China is a regional power within Asia and has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of commentators.
Gwoyeu Romatzyh (GR) is a system for writing Chinese in the Latin alphabet. It was developed in the 1920s by a group of linguists led by Y.R. Chao, and is unique in its use of "tonal spelling" to indicate the four tones of Mandarin. Tones are a fundamental part of the Chinese language: using the wrong tone sounds as puzzling as if one said bud in English when one means bed or bad. Unlike other systems, which indicate tones with accents or numbers, GR modifies the spelling of the syllable: the four tones of guo, for example, are illustrated (the second tone gwo, meaning "nation", occurs in Gwoyeu). Some teachers believe that these distinctive spellings may help foreign students remember the tones. In 1928 China adopted GR as the nation's official romanization system. Although GR was mainly used in dictionaries, its proponents hoped one day to establish it as a writing system for a reformed Chinese script. But despite support from trained linguists in China and overseas, GR met with public indifference and even hostility due to its complexity. Eventually GR lost ground to Pinyin and other later romanization systems. However, its influence is still evident, as several of the principles introduced by its creators have been used in romanization systems that followed it.
The Great Wall of China is a 6,352 km (3,948 miles) long Chinese fortification built over a span of nearly 2,000 years, in order to protect the various dynasties from raids coming from areas in modern-day Mongolia and Manchuria. Along most of its arc, it roughly delineates the border between North China and Inner Mongolia. Although it is commonly said that the wall is visible to the naked eye from space, it is more accurate to say that it is visible under favorable viewing conditions, if one knows exactly where to look.
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Xue Susu (c.1564–1650? C.E.) was a Chinese courtesan. Known as one of the "Eight Great Courtesans of the Ming Dynasty", she was an accomplished painter and poet, and was noted for her skill at mounted archery. She was particularly noted for her figure paintings, which included many Buddhist subjects. Her works are held in a number of museums both in China and elsewhere. Her archery was commented upon by a number of contemporary writers, as were her masculine, martial tendencies; these were regarded as an attractive feature by the literati of the period. She lived in Eastern China, residing for most of her life in the Zhejiang and Jiangsu districts. After a career as a celebrated courtesan in Nanjing, Xue married several times, but none of these unions lasted. During her later life, she eventually opted for the life of a Buddhist recluse.
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The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, officially General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, is head of the Communist Party of China and the highest-ranking official within China, a standing member of the Politburo and head of the Secretariat. The officeholder is usually considered the paramount leader of China.
According to the Constitution, the General Secretary serves as an ex officio member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China's de facto top decision-making body. Since the early 1990s, the holder of the post has been, except for transitional periods, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, making the holder the Commander-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army.
The current General Secretary is Xi Jinping (picture), who took the office at the 18th National Congress on 15 November 2012.
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