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China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a unitary one-party sovereign state in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area, depending on the source consulted. Governed by the Communist Party of China, it exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

China emerged as one of the world's earliest civilizations, in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, beginning with the semi-legendary Xia dynasty in 21st century BCE. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times. In the 3rd century BCE, the Qin unified core China and established the first Chinese dynasty. The succeeding Han dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC until 220 AD, 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 printing in the Tang dynasty (618 - 907) completed the Four Great Inventions. Tang culture spread widely in Asia, as the new maritime Silk Route brought traders to as far as Mesopotamia and Somalia. Dynastic rule ended in 1912 with the Xinhai Revolution, as a republic replaced the Qing dynasty. The Chinese Civil War led to the break up of the country in 1949, with the victorious Communist Party of China founding the People’s Republic of China on the mainland while the losing Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan, a dispute which is still unresolved.

Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China's economy has been one of the world's fastest-growing with annual growth rates consistently above 6 percent. As of 2016, it is the world's second-largest economy by nominal GDP and largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). China is also the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army and second-largest defense budget. The PRC is a member of the United Nations, as it replaced the ROC as a permanent member of the UN Security Council in 1971. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the ASEAN Plus mechanism, WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the BCIM, and the G20. China is a great power and a major regional power within Asia, and has been characterized as a potential superpower.

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Jiao zi.jpg

The technology of the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) was advanced, providing some of the most prolific technological advancements in Chinese history, much of which came from talented statesmen drafted by the government through imperial examinations. The ingenuity of mechanical engineering had a long tradition in China. The Song Dynasty engineer Su Song admitted that he and his contemporaries were building upon the achievements of the ancients such as Zhang Heng, an astronomer, inventor, and early master of mechanical gears. The application of movable type printing advanced the already widespread use of woodblock printing to educate and amuse Confucian students and the masses. The application of new weapons employing the use of gunpowder enabled the Song Dynasty to ward off its militant enemies until its collapse to the Mongol forces of Kublai Khan, in the late 13th century. Notable advancements in civil engineering, nautics, and metallurgy were made in Song China, as well as the introduction of the windmill to China during the 13th century. These advancements, along with the introduction of paper-printed money, helped revolutionize and sustain the economy of the Song Dynasty.

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Lijiang River
Credit: Miguel A. Monjas

Mountain peaks by the Lijiang River, in Guangxi Province.

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Beiyue Temple

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Selected biography

Jay Chou at the "Secret" premiere in Seoul, South Korea

Jay Chou (born 1979) is a World Music Award-winning Taiwanese musician, singer, producer, actor and director. In 1998, he was discovered in a talent contest where he showcased his piano and song-writing skills. Over the next two years, he was hired to compose for popular Chinese singers. Trained in classical music, he combines Chinese and Western music styles to produce songs that fuse R&B, rock, and pop genres, covering issues such as domestic violence, war, and urbanization. In 2000, he released his first album titled Jay under the record company Alfa Music. Since then, he has released one album per year, selling several million copies each. His music has gained recognition throughout Asia, most notably in regions such as China, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, and in overseas Chinese communities, winning more than 20 awards each year. He has sold over 25 million albums worldwide. In 2007, he was named one of the 50 most influential people in China by the British think tank Chatham House. He starred in Initial D (2005) for which he won Best Newcomer Actor in Golden Horse Awards, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by Hong Kong Film Awards for his role in Curse of the Golden Flower (2006).

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China's Politics

Emblem of the Communist Party of China
Xi Jinping

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.

National Emblem of the Republic of China
Tsai Ing-wen

The President of the Republic of China is the head of state of the Republic of China (ROC).

The Constitution names the president as head of state and commander-in-chief of the Republic of China Armed Forces (formerly known as the National Revolutionary Army). The president is responsible for conducting foreign relations, such as concluding treaties, declaring war, and making peace. The president must promulgate all laws and has no right to veto. Other powers of the president include granting amnesty, pardon or clemency, declaring martial law, and conferring honors and decorations.

The current President is Tsai Ing-wen (picture), since May 20, 2016. The first woman to be elected to the office, Tsai is the seventh president of the Republic of China under the 1947 Constitution and the second president from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

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