China (Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó; literally: 'Central kingdom'), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion in 2017. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third or fourth largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state 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 first 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 reunited core China and established the first Chinese empire. The succeeding Han dynasty, which ruled from 206 BCE until 220 CE, 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 movable type in the Tang dynasty (618–907) and Northern Song (960–1127) completed the Four Great Inventions. Tang culture spread widely in Asia, as the new Silk Route brought traders to as far as Mesopotamia and the Horn of Africa. Dynastic rule ended in 1912 with the Xinhai Revolution, when the Republic of China (ROC) replaced the Qing dynasty. China as a whole was ravaged by feudal warlordism and Japan during World War II. The subsequent Chinese Civil War resulted in a division of territory in 1949, when the Communist Party of China led by Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China, on mainland China while the Kuomintang-led nationalist government retreated to the island of Taiwan. The political status of Taiwan remains disputed to this day.
China is a unitary one-party socialist republic and is one of the few remaining countries openly endorsing communism. Political dissidents, human rights groups and independent outside observers have denounced and criticized what they claim the Chinese government of human rights abuses, suppression of religious and ethnic minorities, censorship and mass surveillance. The Chinese government has responded to this criticism by arguing that the right to subsistence and economic development is a prerequisite to other types of human rights, and that the notion of human rights should take into account a country's present level of economic development.
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. According to the World Bank, China's GDP grew from $150 billion in 1978 to $12.24 trillion by 2017. According to official data, China's GDP in 2018 was 90 trillion Yuan ($13.28 trillion). Since 2010, China has been the world's second-largest economy by nominal GDP and since 2014, the largest economy in the world 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, the People's Liberation Army, and second-largest defense budget. The PRC is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as it replaced the ROC in 1971, as well as an active global partner of ASEAN Plus mechanism. China is also a leading member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), WTO, APEC, BRICS, the BCIM, and the G20. China has been characterized as an emerging superpower, mainly because of its massive population, economy, and military. Read more...
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Marco Polo (1254–1324) was an merchant traveler from the Republic of Venice whose travels are recorded in Livres des merveilles du monde, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned the mercantile trade from his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, who traveled through Asia, and apparently met Kublai Khan. In 1269, they returned to Venice to meet Marco for the first time. The three of them embarked on an epic journey to Asia, returning after 24 years to find Venice at war with Genoa; Marco was imprisoned, and dictated his stories to a cellmate. He was released in 1299, became a wealthy merchant, married and had three children. He died in 1324, and was buried in San Lorenzo. His pioneering journey inspired Christopher Columbus and many other travellers. There is a substantial literature based on his writings. Polo influenced European cartography, leading to the introduction of the Fra Mauro map.
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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.
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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