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China (; Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), 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, and the third or fourth-largest by total area, depending on the definition of total area. 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 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 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 BC). 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 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 Taipei. The ROC's jurisdiction is now limited to Taiwan and several outlying islands, including Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, and it now receives limited diplomatic recognition.
Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become the world's fastest-growing major economy. 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 G-20. China has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of academics, military analysts, and public policy and economics analysts.
|Literal meaning:||Middle Kingdom|
|People's Republic of China|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Uyghur:||جۇڭخۇا خەلق جۇمھۇرىيىت|
|Zhuang:||Cunghvaz Yinzminz Gunghozgoz|
The word "China" is derived from Persian Cin (چین), which is from Sanskrit Cīna (चीन). It is first recorded in 1516 in the journal of Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa. It appears in English in a translation published in 1555. The Sanskrit word was used to refer to 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" (秦), the westernmost of the Chinese kingdoms during the Zhou Dynasty, or from the succeeding Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC). The word Cīna is used in two Hindu scriptures – the Mahābhārata 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 present country include Zhōngguó (Chinese: 中国; literally "the Middle State(s)") and Zhōnghuá (Chinese: 中华), 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 tribes from perceived "barbarians". The term, which can be either singular or plural, referred to the group of states or provinces in the central plain but was not used as a name for the country as a whole until the nineteenth century. The Chinese were not unique in regarding their country as "central", since other civilizations had the same view of themselves.
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. The Peking Man site has also yielded remains of Homo sapiens dating back to 18,000–11,000 BC.
Early dynastic rule
Chinese tradition names the first imperial 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 represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found, and the direct ancestor of the modern Chinese characters used throughout East Asia. The Shang were invaded from the west by the Zhou, who ruled between the 12th and 5th centuries 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 300-year-long Spring and Autumn Period, only occasionally deferring to the Zhou king. By the time of the Warring States Period of the 5th–3rd centuries BC, there were seven powerful sovereign states in what is now China, each with its own king, ministry and army.
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" (始皇帝), 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 has endured 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. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. 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 to around 100 million people, mostly due to the expansion of rice cultivation in central and southern China, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Song Dynasty also saw a flourishing of philosophy and the arts, as landscape art and portrait painting were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity, 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 Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty; the Yuan conquered the last remnant of the Song Dynasty in 1279. Before the Mongol invasion, Song Cina reportedly had approximately 120 million citizens; the 1300 census which followed the invasion 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, reaching as far as Africa. 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. In total, the Manchu conquest of China cost as many as 25 million lives.
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. Western imperialism proved to be disastrous for China:
"The end of the Opium War marked the beginning of Western imperialism in China. Unequal treaties, imposed at the end of the war, forced China to relinquish Hong Kong, open new "Treaty Ports" to foreign trade, pay indemnities to her vanquishers, and allow foreigners to live and work on Chinese soil free of the jurisdiction of Chinese law (extraterritoriality). Over the years new wars with Western powers would expand these impositions on China's national sovereignty, culminating in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95."
The weakening of the Qing regime, and the apparent humiliation of the unequal treaties in the eyes of the Chinese people, led to increasing domestic disorder. In late 1850, southern China erupted in the Taiping Rebellion, a violent civil war which lasted until 1864. 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 40 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 each resulted in an estimated loss of several million lives, and had a devastating impact on the fragile economy. 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 Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–1879, which claimed between 9 and 13 million lives in northern China. From 108 BC to 1911 AD, China experienced 1,828 known famines, or nearly 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 in 1895.
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'état. The ill-fated Boxer Rebellion of 1898–1901, in which westerners in Beijing were targeted en masse, resulted in as many as 115,000 deaths. Slavery was formally abolished in 1906.
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 d'état in 1912, Yuan Shikai overthrew Puyi, and forced Longyu to sign the abdication decree as regent, ending over two thousand years of imperial rule in China. Longyu 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 died. 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. Between 1 and 2 million landlords were executed as "counterrevolutionaries." 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 US 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 which took place across China in 2005 alone. Living standards have improved significantly but political controls remain tight. Although China largely succeeded in maintaining its rapid rate of economic growth despite the late-2000s recession, its growth rate began to slow in the early 2010s, and the economy remains overly focused on fixed investment.
Preparations for a major Communist Party leadership change in late 2012 were marked by factional disputes and political scandals, such as the fall from power of Chongqing official Bo Xilai. During China's decadal leadership reshuffle in November 2012, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao were replaced as President and Premier by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, who formally took office in 2013.
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 9,600,000 km2 (3,700,000 sq mi). Specific area figures range from 9,572,900 km2 (3,696,100 sq mi) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the UN Demographic Yearbook, to 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the CIA World Factbook, and 9,640,011 km2 (3,722,029 sq mi) including Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract, which are controlled by China and claimed by India. None of these figures include the 1,000 square kilometres (386.1 sq mi) of territory ceded to China by Tajikistan following the ratification of a Sino-Tajik border agreement in January 2011.
China has the longest combined land border in the world, measuring 22,117 km (13,743 mi) 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. China's border with India is disputed, and was a key cause of the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan. 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 southernmost extent of these claims reaches 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 km²) 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 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 highly complex topography.
China is one of 17 megadiverse countries, lying in two of the world's major ecozones: the Palearctic and the Indomalaya. By one measure, China has over 34,687 species of animals and vascular plants, making it the third-most biodiverse country in the world, after Brazil and Colombia. The country signed the Rio de Janeiro Convention on Biological Diversity on 11 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 5 January 1993. It later produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with one revision which was received by the convention on 21 September 2010.
China is home to at least 551 species of mammals (the third-highest such number in the world), 1,221 species of birds (eighth), 424 species of reptiles (seventh) and 333 species of amphibians (seventh). China is the most biodiverse country in each category outside of the tropics. Wildlife in China share habitat with and bear acute pressure from the world's largest population of homo sapiens. At least 840 animal species are threatened, vulnerable or in danger of local extinction in China, due mainly to human activity such as habitat destruction, pollution and poaching for food, fur and ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine. Endangered wildlife is protect by law and the country has over 360 nature reserves. The giant panda, the country's most famous endangered and endemic species, lives in protected nature reserves in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi province. A number of other species, such as the South China tiger, Chinese alligator and Pere David's deer, are virtually extinct in the wild and survive only in captive breeding programs.
As the country has grown wealthier in recent years, domestic appetite has grown for wildlife products, leading to a sharp rise in Illegal trading in endangered species such as ivory, rhino horns, shark fins, and threatening wildlife in other countries. Laws prohibiting illegal animal trade are unevenly enforced.
China has over 32,000 species of vascular plants and is home to 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 animal and plant species found in China.
The number of species of fungi recorded in China, including lichen-forming species, is not known with precision, but probably exceeds 10,000. More than 2,400 species were listed by the mycologist S.C. Teng in the first modern treatment of Chinese fungi in the English language, which was published in 1996. More than 5,000 species of "higher fungi" – mainly basidiomycetes with some ascomycetes – were reported in 2001 for tropical China alone, and nearly 4,000 species of fungi were reported in 2005 for northwestern China. The exploration and classification of the fungi of China is currently being pursued under the auspices of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with the production of many volumes in the Flora Fungorum Sinicorum series of publications. The issue of fungal conservation, long overlooked in China, was first addressed in the early 2010s, with pioneer publications evaluating the conservation status of individual species.
In recent decades, China has suffered from severe environmental deterioration and pollution. While regulations such as the 1979 Environmental Protection Law are fairly stringent, they are poorly enforced, as they are frequently disregarded by local communities and government officials in favour of rapid economic development. As a result, public protests and riots over environmental issues have become increasingly common.
Environmental campaigners have warned that water pollution is becoming a severe threat 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 had been polluted by industrial and agricultural waste by 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. Additionally, numerous major Chinese coastal cities, including Shanghai, are deemed to be highly vulnerable to large-scale flooding.
However, China is the world's leading investor in renewable energy commercialisation, with $52 billion invested in 2011 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.
The People's Republic of China, along with Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam, is one of the world's four remaining socialist states espousing communism. 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".
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).
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 supports the Leninist principle of "democratic centralism", but the elected National People's Congress has been described as a "rubber stamp" body. The incumbent President is Xi Jinping, who is also the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. The current Premier is Li Keqiang, who is also a senior member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee.
There have been some moves toward political liberalization, in that open contested elections are now held at the village and town levels. 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. Nonetheless, the level of public support for the government and its management of the nation is among the highest in the world, with 86% of Chinese citizens expressing satisfaction with their nation's economy according to a 2008 Pew Research Center survey.
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. None of these divisions are recognized by the ROC government, which claims the entirety of PRC territory.