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The People's Republic of China, commonly known as China (/ˈnə/; 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.

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Nathu La-Stairs.JPG

Nathu La is a mountain pass in the Himalayas. It is located on the Indo-China border connecting the Indian state of Sikkim with the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. The pass, at 4,310 m (14,140 ft) above mean sea level, forms part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road. Nathu means "listening ears" and La means "pass" in Tibetan[disambiguation needed]. It is also spelled Ntula, Natu La, Nathula, or Natula. Nathu La is one of the three trading border posts between China and India; the other two are Shipkila in Himachal Pradesh and Lipulekh (or Lipulech) in Uttarakhand. Sealed by India after the 1962 Sino-Indian War, it was re-opened in 2006 following numerous bilateral trade agreements. The opening of the pass is expected to bolster the economy of the region and play a key role in the growing Sino-Indian trade. Currently, agreements between the two nations limit trade across the pass to the export of 29 types of goods from India and import of 15 from the Chinese side. The opening also shortens the travel distance to important Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the region.

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Bönpa monastery of Narshi Gonpa
Credit: Jialiang Gao

The Tibetan Bönpa monastery of Narshi Gonpa, in Sichuan Province.

Did you know...

The first part of the Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, titled The Remaining Mountain

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Selected biography

Luan Da (died 112 BC) was a religious figure during the early Han Dynasty from the state of Yue. He professed to know the secret to immortality and be able to communicate with spiritual beings. Possessing the gift of gab and adept at confidence tricks, Luan Da gained the favour of Emperor Wu of Han, also known as Han Wudi. In the space of a few months, he rose from a commoner to great influence, holding titles and land, and marrying one of the emperor's daughters. However, he could not fulfill his promise to Emperor Wu, failing to produce a means to immortality. He gradually lost the emperor's favour and went on a purported visit to immortals; however, he was eventually captured and executed. At the apex of his career, many of his fellow mystics held him up as their role model and sought to emulate him. His death was a sign of the trade's fall from favour; laws were passed to restrict the practice of mediumship, even penalising those who married its practitioners.

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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.

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粵語 / 廣東話 (Cantonese)           古文 / 文言文 (Classical Chinese)           贛語 (Gan)           Hak-kâ-fa (Hakka)           قازاق تىلى (Kazakh)           中文 / 普通話 (Mandarin) (Now unable to access in China Mainland because of the GFW)           閩東語 (Min Dong)           閩南語 (Min-nan)           བོད་ཡིག (Tibetan)           ئۇيغۇرچە (Uyghur)           吳語 / 吳儂軟語 (Wu)           Sawcuengh (Zhuang)

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