China emerged as one of the world's earliest 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. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times. In 1912, the Republic of China replaced the last dynasty and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949, when it was defeated by the communist People's Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War. The Communist Party established the People's Republic of China in Beijing on 21 September 1949, while the ROC government retreated to Taiwan with its present de facto capital in Taipei. Both the ROC and PRC continue to claim to be the legitimate government of all China, though the latter has more recognition in the world and controls more territory.
Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China's economy has been one of the world's fastest-growing. As of 2016, it is the world's second-largest economy by nominal GDP and largest by purchasing power parity. 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 and second-largest defense budget. The PRC is a member of the United Nations, as it replaced the ROC as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in 1971. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BCIM and the G20. China is a great power and a major regional power within Asia, and has been characterized as a potential superpower.
The English word "China" is first attested in Richard Eden's 1555 translation of the 1516 journal of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa. The demonym, that is, the name for the people, and adjectival form "Chinese" developed later on the model of Portuguese chinês and French chinois. Portuguese China is thought to derive from Persian Chīn (چین), and perhaps ultimately from Sanskrit Cīna (चीन). Cīna was first used in early Hindu scripture, including the Mahābhārata (5th century BCE) and the Laws of Manu (2nd century BCE). In 1655, Martino Martini suggested that the word China is derived from the name of the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC), a proposal supported by many later scholars, although there are also a number of alternative suggestions.
The official name of the modern state is the "People's Republic of China" (Chinese: 中华人民共和国; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó). The shorter form is "China" Zhōngguó (中国), from zhōng ("central") and guó ("state"), a term which developed under the Western Zhou dynasty in reference to its royal demesne. It was then applied to the area around Luoyi (present-day Luoyang) during the Eastern Zhou and then to China's Central Plain before being used as an occasional synonym for the state under the Qing. It was often used as a cultural concept to distinguish the Huaxia people from perceived "barbarians" and was the source of the English name "Middle Kingdom". A more literary or inclusive name, alluding to the "land of Chinese civilization", is Zhōnghuá (中华). It developed during the Wei and Jin dynasties as a contraction of "the central state of the Huaxia". Before the PRC's establishment, the proposed name of the country was the People's Democratic Republic of China (simplified Chinese: 中华人民民主共和国; traditional Chinese: 中華人民民主共和國; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Mínzhǔ Gònghéguó) during the first CPPCC held on 15 June 1949. During the 1950s and 1960s, after the defeat of the Kuomintang in the Chinese Civil War, it was also referred to as "Communist China" or "Red China", to be differentiated from "Nationalist China" or "Free China".
Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 2.24 million and 250,000 years ago. The hominid fossils of Peking Man, a Homo erectus who used fire, were discovered in a cave at Zhoukoudian near Beijing; they have been dated to between 680,000 and 780,000 years ago. The fossilized teeth of Homo sapiens (dated to 125,000–80,000 years ago) have been discovered in Fuyan Cave in Dao County, Hunan. Chinese proto-writing existed in Jiahu around 7000 BCE, Damaidi around 6000 BCE, Dadiwan from 5800–5400 BCE, and Banpo dating from the 5th millennium BCE. Some scholars have suggested that the Jiahu symbols (7th millennium BCE) constituted the earliest Chinese writing system.
According to Chinese tradition, the first dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2100 BCE. The dynasty was considered mythical by historians until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou, Henan in 1959. It remains unclear whether these sites are the remains of the Xia dynasty or of another culture from the same period. The succeeding Shang dynasty is the earliest to be confirmed by contemporary records. The Shang ruled the plain of the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BCE. Their oracle bone script (from c. 1500 BCE) represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found, and is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters.
The Shang were conquered by the Zhou, who ruled between the 11th and 5th centuries BCE, though centralized authority was slowly eroded by feudal warlords. Many independent states eventually emerged from the weakened Zhou state and continually waged war with each other in the 300-year Spring and Autumn period, only occasionally deferring to the Zhou king. By the time of the Warring States period of the 5th–3rd centuries BCE, there were seven powerful sovereign states in what is now China, each with its own king, ministry and army.
The Warring States period ended in 221 BCE after the state of Qin conquered the other six kingdoms and established the first unified Chinese state. King Zheng of Qin proclaimed himself the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty. He enacted Qin's legalist reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of Chinese characters, measurements, road widths (i.e., cart axles' length), and currency. His dynasty also conquered the Yue tribes in Guangxi, Guangdong, and Vietnam. The Qin dynasty lasted only fifteen years, falling soon after the First Emperor's death, as his harsh authoritarian policies led to widespread rebellion.
Following a widespread civil war during which the imperial library at Xianyang was burned, the Han dynasty emerged to rule China between 206 BCE and CE 220, creating a cultural identity among its populace still remembered in the ethnonym of the Han Chinese. The Han expanded the empire's territory considerably, with military campaigns reaching Central Asia, Mongolia, South Korea, and Yunnan, and the recovery of Guangdong and northern Vietnam from Nanyue. Han involvement in Central Asia and Sogdia helped establish the land route of the Silk Road, replacing the earlier path over the Himalayas to India. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. Despite the Han's initial decentralization and the official abandonment of the Qin philosophy of Legalism in favor of Confucianism, Qin's legalist institutions and policies continued to be employed by the Han government and its successors.
After the end of the Han dynasty, a period of strife known as Three Kingdoms followed, whose central figures were later immortalized in one of the Four Classics of Chinese literature. At its end, Wei was swiftly overthrown by the Jin dynasty. The Jin fell to civil war upon the ascension of a developmentally-disabled emperor; the Five Barbarians then invaded and ruled northern China as the Sixteen States. The Xianbei unified them as the Northern Wei, whose Emperor Xiaowen reversed his predecessors' apartheid policies and enforced a drastic sinification on his subjects, largely integrating them into Chinese culture. In the south, the general Liu Yu secured the abdication of the Jin in favor of the Liu Song. The various successors of these states became known as the Northern and Southern dynasties, with the two areas finally reunited by the Sui in 581. The Sui restored the Han to power through China, reformed its agriculture and economy, constructed the Grand Canal, and patronized Buddhism. However, they fell quickly when their conscription for public works and a failed war with Korea provoked widespread unrest.
Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese economy, technology, and culture entered a golden age. The Tang Empire returned control of the Western Regions and the Silk Road, and made the capital Chang'an a cosmopolitan urban center. However, it was devastated and weakened by the An Shi Rebellion in the 8th century. In 907, the Tang disintegrated completely when the local military governors became ungovernable. The Song Dynasty ended the separatist situation in 960, leading to a balance of power between the Song and Khitan Liao. The Song was the first government in world history to issue paper money and the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy which was supported by the developed shipbuilding industry along with the sea trade. Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the population of China doubled in size to around 100 million people, mostly because of the expansion of rice cultivation in central and southern China, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Song dynasty also saw a revival of Confucianism, in response to the growth of Buddhism during the Tang, and a flourishing of philosophy and the arts, as landscape art and porcelain were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity. However, the military weakness of the Song army was observed by the Jurchen Jin dynasty. In 1127, Emperor Huizong of Song and the capital Bianjing were captured during the Jin–Song Wars. The remnants of the Song retreated to southern China.
The 13th century brought the Mongol conquest of China. 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, the population of Song China was 120 million citizens; this was reduced to 60 million by the time of the census in 1300. A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan in 1368 and founded the Ming dynasty as the Hongwu Emperor. 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 treasure voyages 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. With the budding of capitalism, philosophers such as Wang Yangming further critiqued and expanded Neo-Confucianism with concepts of individualism and equality of four occupations. The scholar-official stratum became a supporting force of industry and commerce in the tax boycott movements, which, together with the famines and defense against Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) and Manchu invasions led to an exhausted treasury.
In 1644, Beijing was captured by a coalition of peasant rebel forces led by Li Zicheng. The Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide when the city fell. The Manchu Qing dynasty, then allied with Ming dynasty general Wu Sangui, overthrew Li's short-lived Shun dynasty and subsequently seized control of Beijing, which became the new capital of the Qing dynasty.
The Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1644 until 1912, was the last imperial dynasty of China. Its conquest of the Ming (1618–1683) cost 25 million lives and the economy of China shrank drastically. After the Southern Ming ended, the further conquest of the Dzungar Khanate added Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang to the empire. The centralized autocracy was strengthened to crack down on anti-Qing sentiment with the policy of valuing agriculture and restraining commerce, the Haijin ("sea ban"), and ideological control as represented by the literary inquisition, causing social and technological stagnation. In the mid-19th century, the dynasty experienced Western imperialism in the Opium Wars with Britain and France. China was forced to pay compensation, open treaty ports, allow extraterritoriality for foreign nationals, and cede Hong Kong to the British under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the first of the Unequal Treaties. The First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) resulted in Qing China's loss of influence in the Korean Peninsula, as well as the cession of Taiwan to Japan.
The Qing dynasty also began experiencing internal unrest in which tens of millions of people died, especially in the failed Taiping Rebellion that ravaged southern China in the 1850s and 1860s and the Dungan Revolt (1862–77) in the northwest. The initial success of the Self-Strengthening Movement of the 1860s was frustrated by a series of military defeats in the 1880s and 1890s.
In the 19th century, the great Chinese diaspora began. Losses due to emigration were added to by conflicts and catastrophes such as the Northern Chinese Famine of 1876–79, in which between 9 and 13 million people died. The Guangxu Emperor drafted a reform plan in 1898 to establish a modern constitutional monarchy, but these plans were thwarted by the Empress Dowager Cixi. The ill-fated anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion of 1899–1901 further weakened the dynasty. Although Cixi sponsored a program of reforms, the Xinhai Revolution of 1911–12 brought an end to the Qing dynasty and established the Republic of China.
On 1 January 1912, the Republic of China was established, and Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (the KMT or Nationalist Party) was proclaimed provisional president. However, the presidency was later given to Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general who in 1915 proclaimed himself Emperor of China. In the face of popular condemnation and opposition from his own Beiyang Army, he was forced to abdicate and re-establish the republic.
After Yuan Shikai's death in 1916, China was politically fragmented. Its Beijing-based government was internationally recognized but virtually powerless; regional warlords controlled most of its territory. In the late 1920s, the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, the then Principal of the Republic of China Military Academy, was able to reunify the country under its own control with a series of deft military and political manoeuvrings, 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. The political division in China made it difficult for Chiang to battle the Communist, People's Liberation Army (PLA) against whom the Kuomintang had been warring since 1927 in the Chinese Civil War. This war continued successfully for the Kuomintang, especially after the PLA retreated in the Long March, until Japanese aggression and the 1936 Xi'an Incident forced Chiang to confront Imperial Japan.
The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), a theater of World War II, forced an uneasy alliance between the Kuomintang and the PLA. Japanese forces committed numerous war atrocities 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. During the war, China, along with the UK, the US and the Soviet Union, were referred to as "trusteeship of the powerful" and were recognized as the Allied "Big Four" in the Declaration by United Nations. Along with the other three great powers, China was one of the four major Allies of World War II, and was later considered one of the primary victors in the war. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Taiwan, including the Pescadores, was returned to Chinese control. 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. Constitutional rule was established in 1947, but because of the ongoing unrest, many provisions of the ROC constitution were never implemented in mainland China.
Major combat in the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with the Communist Party in control of most of mainland China, and the Kuomintang retreating offshore, reducing the ROC's territory to only Taiwan, Hainan, and their surrounding islands. On 21 September 1949, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China. This was followed by a mass celebration in Tiananmen Square on 1 October which became the new country's first National Day. In 1950, the People's Liberation Army succeeded in capturing Hainan from the ROC and incorporating Tibet. However, remaining Kuomintang forces continued to wage an insurgency in western China throughout the 1950s. In modern US history studies, the founding of PRC China is often termed as "the loss of China" as reflected in US state policy documents of the time, which thinkers such as Chomsky call the beginning of McCarthyism.
The regime consolidated its popularity among the peasants through land reform, which saw between 1 and 2 million landlords executed. Under its leadership, China developed an independent industrial system and its own nuclear weapons. The Chinese population almost doubled from around 550 million to over 900 million. However, the 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. In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, sparking a decade of political recrimination and social upheaval which lasted until Mao's death in 1976. 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.
After Mao's death, the Gang of Four was quickly arrested and held responsible for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. Deng Xiaoping took power in 1978, and instituted significant economic reforms. The Communist Party loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives, and the communes were gradually disbanded in favor of private land leases. This marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open-market environment. China adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982. In 1989, the violent suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square brought condemnation and sanctions against the Chinese government from various countries.
Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and Zhu Rongji led the nation in the 1990s. Under their 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, and maintained its high rate of economic growth under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao's leadership in the 2000s. However, rapid growth also severely impacted the country's resources and environment, and caused major social displacement. Living standards continued to improve rapidly despite the late-2000s recession, but centralized political control remained tight.
Preparations for a decadal Communist Party leadership change in 2012 were marked by factional disputes and political scandals. During China's 18th National Communist Party Congress in November 2012, Hu Jintao was replaced as General Secretary of the Communist Party by Xi Jinping. Under Xi, the Chinese government began large-scale efforts to reform its economy, which has suffered from structural instabilities and slowing growth. The Xi–Li Administration also announced major reforms to the one-child policy and prison system.
China's landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from 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 much of South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, respectively, run from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China's coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometers (9,000 mi) long and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East China and South China seas. China connects through the Kazakh border to the Eurasian Steppe which has been an artery of communication between East and West since the Neolithic through the Steppe route – the ancestor of the terrestrial Silk Road(s).
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.
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 Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in South Asia; Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; and Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea in Inner Asia and Northeast Asia. Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
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 sit major mountain ranges, most notably the Himalayas. High plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes of the north, such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert. The world's highest point, Mount Everest (8,848m), lies on the Sino-Nepalese border. The country's lowest point, and the world's third-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154m) in the Turpan Depression.
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.
A major environmental issue in China is the continued expansion of its deserts, particularly the Gobi 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. China's environmental watchdog, SEPA, stated in 2007 that China is losing 4,000 km2 (1,500 sq mi) 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 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 that 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 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 protected by law, and as of 2005, the country has over 2,349 nature reserves, covering a total area of 149.95 million hectares, 15 percent of China's total land area. The Baiji has recently been confirmed extinct.
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 Asian black bear, along with over 120 bird species. The understorey of moist conifer forests may contain thickets of bamboo. In higher montane stands of juniper and yew, the bamboo is replaced by rhododendrons. Subtropical forests, which are predominate in 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. China has over 10,000 recorded species of fungi, and of them, nearly 6,000 are higher fungi.
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 favor of rapid economic development. Urban air pollution is a severe health issue in the country; the World Bank estimated in 2013 that 16 of the world's 20 most-polluted cities are located in China. China is the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter. The country also has significant water pollution problems: 40% of China's rivers had been polluted by industrial and agricultural waste by late 2011. In 2014, the internal freshwater resources per capita of China reduced to 2,062m3, and it was below 500m3 in the North China Plain, while 5,920m3 in the world.
However, China is the world's leading investor in renewable energy and its commercialization, with $52 billion invested in 2011 alone; it is a major manufacturer of renewable energy technologies and invests heavily in local-scale renewable energy projects. By 2015, over 24% of China's energy was derived from renewable sources, while most notably from hydroelectric power: a total installed capacity of 197 GW makes China the largest hydroelectric power producer in the world. China also has the largest power capacity of installed solar photovoltaics system and wind power system in the world. In 2011, the Chinese government announced plans to invest four trillion yuan (US$619 billion) in water infrastructure and desalination projects over a ten-year period, and to complete construction of a flood prevention and anti-drought system by 2020. In 2013, China began a five-year, US$277 billion effort to reduce air pollution, particularly in the north of the country.
China's constitution states that The People's Republic of China "is a socialist state under the people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants," and that the state organs "apply the principle of democratic centralism." The PRC is one of the world's few remaining socialist states openly endorsing communism (see Ideology of the Communist Party of China). The Chinese government has been variously described as communist and socialist, but also as authoritarian and corporatist, with heavy restrictions in many areas, most notably against free access to the Internet, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, the right to have children, free formation of social organizations and freedom of religion. Its current political, ideological and economic system has been termed by its leaders as the "people's democratic dictatorship", "socialism with Chinese characteristics" (which is Marxism adapted to Chinese circumstances) and the "socialist market economy" respectively.
China's constitution declares that the country is ruled "under the leadership" of the Communist Party of China (CPC). As China is a de facto one-party state, the General Secretary (party leader) holds ultimate power and authority over state and government serving as the paramount leader. The electoral system is pyramidal. Local People's Congresses are directly elected, and 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 decentralized, and provincial and sub-provincial leaders have a significant amount of autonomy. Another eight political parties, have representatives in the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). China supports the Leninist principle of "democratic centralism", but critics describe the elected National People's Congress as a "rubber stamp" body.
The President of China is the titular head of state, serving as the ceremonial figurehead under National People's Congress. The Premier of China is the head of government, presiding over the State Council composed of four vice premiers and the heads of ministries and commissions. 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, making him China's paramount leader. The incumbent premier is Li Keqiang, who is also a senior member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee, China's de facto top decision-making body.
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 the growing gap between rich and poor and government corruption. Nonetheless, the level of public support for the government and its management of the nation is high, with 80–95% of Chinese citizens expressing satisfaction with the central government, according to a 2011 survey.
The People's Republic of China is divided into 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, each with a designated minority group; four municipalities; and two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) which enjoy a degree of political autonomy. These 31 provincial-level divisions can be collectively referred to as "mainland China", a term which usually excludes two SARs of Hong Kong and Macau. Geographically, all 31 provincial divisions can be grouped into six regions, including North China, Northeast China, East China, South Central China, Southwest China and Northwest China.
China considers Taiwan to be its 23rd province, although Taiwan is governed by the Republic of China, which disputes the PRC's claim. None of the divisions are recognized by the ROC government, which claims the entirety of the PRC's territory.