Modern History of China

General Introduction to Modern China

Modern ChinaThe People's Republic of China (PRC), commonly known as China, is a country in East Asia. It is the most populous state in the world with over 1.3 billion people. China is ruled by the Communist Party of China under a single-party system.

 

As the successor of the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China on the mainland, the CPC exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four directly administered municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two highly autonomous special administrative regions (SARs) - Hong Kong and Macau.

 

The PRC's capital is Beijing. At about 9.6 million square kilometres (3.7 million square miles), the PRC 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 Burma. The terrain in the west is rugged and at 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. The 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 more than 4,000 years, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies (also known as dynasties). The first of these dynasties was the Xia dynasty (approx 2000BC) but it was the later Qin Dynasty that first unified China in 221 BC.

 

The last dynasty, the Qing dynasty , ended in 1911 with the founding of the Republic of China (ROC) by the Kuomintang (KMT), the Chinese Nationalist Party. The first half of the 20th century saw China plunged into a period of disunity and civil wars that divided the country into two main political camps – the Kuomintang and the communists. Major hostilities ended in 1949, when the communists won the civil war and established the People's Republic of China in mainland China.

 

The KMT-led Republic of China government retreated to Taipei, its jurisdiction now limited to Taiwan and several outlying islands. Since then, the PRC has been involved in disputes with the ROC over issues of sovereignty and the political status of Taiwan. Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1978, China has become the world's fastest growing major economy, the world's largest exporter and second largest importer of goods. Rapid industrialization has reduced its poverty rate from 53% in 1981 to 8% in 2001. However, the PRC is now faced with a number of other problems including a rapidly aging population due to the one-child policy, a widening rural-urban income gap, and environmental degradation.

 

Moreover, China has been criticized for its human rights violations by governments and non-governmental organizations (NGO), and for having a problematic record of interfering with press freedom. China is a major power and the world's third largest economy nominally (or second largest by PPP) and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, as well as being a member of multilateral organizations including the WTO, APEC, G-20 and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

 

China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army with the second-largest defense budget. China has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of academics, military analysts, and public policy and economics analysts.