China (Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's second-most populous country with a population exceeding 1.4 billion. China spans the equivalent of five time zones and borders fourteen countries by land, tied with Russia as having the most of any country in the world. With an area of nearly 9.6 million square kilometres (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the world's third largest country by total land area. The country is divided into 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two semi-autonomous special administrative regions. The national capital is Beijing, and the most populous city and largest financial center is Shanghai.
The region that is now China has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. The earliest Chinese dynastic states, such as the Shang and the Zhou, emerged in the basin of the Yellow River before the late second millennium BCE. The eighth to third centuries BCE saw a breakdown in Zhou authority and significant conflict, as well as the emergence of Classical Chinese literature and philosophy. In 221 BCE, China was unified under an emperor, ushering in more than two millennia in which China was governed by one or more imperial dynasties, such as the Han, Tang, Ming and Qing. Some of China's most notable achievements, such as the invention of gunpowder and paper, the establishment of the Silk Road, and the building of the Great Wall, occurred during this period. The Chinese culture, including languages, traditions, architecture, philosophy and more, has heavily influenced East Asia during this imperial period.
In 1912, the Chinese monarchy was overthrown and the Republic of China established. The Republic saw consistent conflict for most of the mid-20th century, including a civil war between the Kuomintang government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which began in 1927, as well as the Second Sino-Japanese War that began in 1937 and continued until 1945, therefore becoming involved in World War II. The latter led to a temporary stop in the civil war and numerous Japanese atrocities such as the Nanjing Massacre, which continue to influence China-Japan relations. In 1949, the CCP established control over China as the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan. Early communist rule saw two major projects: the Great Leap Forward, which resulted in a sharp economic decline and massive famine; and the Cultural Revolution, a movement to purge all non-communist elements of Chinese society that led to mass violence and persecution. Beginning in 1978, the Chinese government began economic reforms that moved the country away from planned economics, but political reforms were cut short by the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which ended in a massacre. Despite the event, the economic reform continued to strengthen the nation's economy in the following decades while raising China's standard of living significantly.
China is a unitary one-party socialist republic led by the CCP. It is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and a founding member of several multilateral and regional organizations such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Silk Road Fund, the New Development Bank, and the RCEP. It is also a member of the BRICS, the G20, APEC, and the East Asia Summit. China ranks poorly in measures of democracy, transparency, and human rights, including for press freedom, religious freedom, and ethnic equality. Making up around one-fifth of the world economy, China is the world's largest economy by GDP at purchasing power parity, the second-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the second-wealthiest country. The country is one of the fastest-growing major economies and is the world's largest manufacturer and exporter, as well as the second-largest importer. China is a nuclear-weapon state with the world's largest standing army by military personnel and the second-largest defense budget.