China (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo), country in East Asia, the world s third largest country by area (after Russia and Canada) and the largest by population. Officially the People s Republic of China, it is bounded on the north by the Republic of Mongolia and Russia; on the northeast by Russia and North Korea; on the east by the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea; on the south by the South China Sea, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), India, Bhutan, and Nepal; on the west by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan; and on the northwest by Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. China includes more than 3400 offshore islands. The total area of China is 9, 571, 300 sq km (3, 695, 500 sq mi), not including Hong Kong, Macau, and land under the control of the Republic of China on Taiwan, which mainland China considers a renegade province. In 1971 the United Nations (UN) admitted the People s Republic of China (mainland China) and expelled the Republic of China (hereafter Taiwan) from its membership. Although most world governments do not recognize Taiwan, the island maintains a distinct government and economy. Information in this article, unless otherwise indicated, refers only to mainland China. Hong Kong, formerly a British territory, reverted to China in 1997. Unless otherwise specified, the statistics in this article do not include Hong Kong, which maintains a separate economy and has considerable political autonomy. The statistics also do not include Macau, located near Hong Kong on China s southern coast, which is a Chinese territory administered by Portugal. Macau is scheduled to return to Chinese administration in 1999. The capital of China is Beijing; the country s most populous urban center is Shanghai.
More than one-fifth of the world s total population lives within China s borders. China gave birth to one of the world s earliest civilizations and has a recorded history that dates from some 3500 years ago. Zhongguo, the Chinese name for the country, means central land, a reference to the Chinese belief that their country was the geographical center of the earth and the only true civilization. By the 19th century China had become a politically and economically weak nation, dominated by foreign powers.
China underwent many changes in the first half of the 20th century. The imperial government was overthrown and in the chaotic years that followed, two groups-the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Communists-struggled for control of the country. In 1949 the Communists won control of China. The government of the Republic of China, led by the KMT, fled to Taiwan. The accession of the Communist government in 1949 stands as one of the most important events in Chinese history; in a remarkably short period of time radical changes were effected in both the Chinese economy and society. Since the 1970s China has cast off its self-imposed isolation from the international community and has sought to modernize its economic structure.
LAND AND RESOURCES China ...