The People's Republic of China commonly known as China is the largest country in East Asia and the most populous in the world with over 1.3 billion people, approximately one-fifth of the world's population. It is titularly a socialist republic (specifically a people's democratic dictatorship according to its constitution) ruled by the Communist Party of China under a single party system and has jurisdiction over twenty two provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities and two largely self governing Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macau). The PRC's capital is Beijing.
At approximately 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles), the People's Republic of China is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area, and the second largest by land area. Its landscape is diverse with forest steppes and deserts the Gobi and Taklamakan in the dry north near Mongolia and Russia's Siberia and subtropical forests in the wet south close to Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. The terrain in the west is rugged and high altitude, with the Himalayas and the Tian Shan mountain ranges forming China's natural borders with India and Central Asia. In contrast, mainland China's eastern seaboard is low-lying and has a 14,500 kilometre long coastline bounded on the southeast by the South China Sea and on the east by the East China Sea beyond which lies Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.
Ancient Chinese civilization one of the world's earliest flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River which flows through the North China Plain. For over 4,000 years China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies also known as dynasties. The first of these dynasties was the Xia but it was later the Qin Dynasty who first unified China in 221 BC. The last dynasty the Qing, ended in 1911 with the founding of the Republic of China (ROC) by the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT).
China is a cultural region an ancient civilization and depending on perspective, a national or multinational entity extending over a large area in East Asia.
China has one of the world's oldest civilizations and has the oldest continuous civilization. It has archaeological evidence dating back over 5,000 years. It also has one of the world's oldest written language system, and is viewed as the source of many major inventions. Historically, China's cultural sphere has extended across East Asia as a whole with Chinese religion, customs, and writing systems being adopted to varying degrees by neighbors such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. The first evidence of human presence in the region was found at the Zhoukoudian cave and is one of the first known specimens of Homo erectus, now commonly known as the Peking Man estimated to have lived from 300,000 to 550,000 years ago.
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