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The People's Republic of China is the most populous country in the world. It is bordered by the South China Sea to the south and west, and otherwise surrounded by Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

Additionally, China is separated by the sea from Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea. China also has jurisdiction over some autonomous regions, which enjoy a degree of self-governance while remaining part of China. China also claims sovereignty over Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, which is covered in a parallel category.

One of the world's earliest civilizations, hominids are known to have inhabited the region as early as 2.24 million years ago. Peking Man was discovered in a cave near Beijing.

The first human dynasty in China was probably the Xia Dynasty, which began about 2100 BC. The next dynasty, for which there is documentation, was the Shang Dynasty, which held power between the 17th and 11th centuries BC. The Shang gave way to the Zhou Dynasty, which ruled between the 11th and 5th centuries BC. In the latter part of the Zhou Dynasty, several independent states warred with one another, generally without deference to the Zhou king. This was known as the Warring States period.

This was followed by a succession of dynasties, some unified, other broken up into independent states. These included the Qin, Han, Jin, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Shun, Ming, and Qing dynasties, the latter of which lasted from 1644 to 1912 AD. The Qing Dynasty was the last of the imperial dynasties of China. China added Tibet, Xinjiang, and Mongolia to China, but the cost of its conquest of the Ming Dynasty was expensive, in terms of lives and economy. During the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s, China lost the Hong Kong Island to the United Kingdom, and China had to pay compensation to Britain and France, as well as making other concessions that weakened its position in the world.

Next, it faced the 1850-1864 Taiping Rebellion, the 1862-1877 Dungan Revolt, and the 1899-1901 Boxer Rebellion. Because of periods of unrest, the Northern Chinese Famine of 1876-1879, and a lack of opportunity, Chinese people began moving to other countries. China lost Taiwan to Japan during the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894. Finally, the 1911-1912 Xinhai Revolution put an end to the Qing Dynasty, establishing the Republic of China.

When China's provisional president proclaimed himself emperor, he was deposed during a military coup, which reestablished the republic. The republic was fragmented, as regional warlords battled for control of territories until Chiang Kai-shek managed to reunify the country. Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the Kuomintang, also known as the Nationalist Party of China.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, an element of World War II, Japanese military forces killed as many as 20 million Chinese citizens. China became one of the Allied Nations, along with the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Upon the surrender of Japan, Taiwan was restored to China.

However, the war was an economic drain on the country. The Chinese Civil War began in 1945, but it was actually a continuation of tensions between the government and communist elements within the country. The war ended with the communists in control of most of mainland China, and the Kuomintang retreating to Taiwan, Hainan, and the surrounding islands. China became the People's Republic of China in 1949, although the Kuomintang continued an insurgency through the 1950s.

Today, China is a socialist state that openly endorses communism, and which places heavy restrictions on the press, the freedom of assembly and the formation of social organizations, freedom of religion, the right to bear children, and on Internet access. Access to foreign media, in particular, is heavily restricted.

Economically, China has had the largest economy in the world for most of the past two thousand years, and currently has the second largest economy, after the United States. Only about 10% of the Chinese people live below the poverty level, and it has a literacy rate of nearly 95%, up from only 20% in 1949. Chinese students routinely achieve very high results in literacy, mathematics, and science.

Officially, the People's Republic of China is an atheist country and, although its constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in practice the adherence to religious beliefs has been discouraged, and more than 60% of the population identifies as atheist. Traditionally, the Chinese followed Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism and, prior to the communist revolution, Christianity had been making inroads in China.

Nevertheless, the long history of Confucianism has had a lasting effect on Chinese culture that is still seen in its art, music, and literature.


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