China flag 10 x 15 cm
The People's Republic of China (PRC), 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 a fifth of the world's population. It is a socialist republic 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 capitalist Special Administrative Regions. China's capital is Beijing.
At 9.6-million square kilometres, the People's Republic of China is the world's third or fourth largest country by area. Its landscape is diverse. In the north near Mongolia and Russia's Siberia, the Gobi Desert and forest steppes dominate the dry expanse while lush subtropical forests grow in the south, including near Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. The terrain in the west is rugged and high, with the Himalayas and the Tian Shan mountain ranges forming China's natural borders with India and Central Asia. In contrast, 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 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 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). 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 (KMT) and the Communists. Major hostilities ended in 1949, when the People's Republic of China (PRC) was established in mainland China by the victorious Communists. The KMT-led Republic of China government retreated to Taipei, its jurisdiction now limited to Taiwan and several outlying islands. As of today, the PRC is still involved in disputes with the ROC over issues of sovereignty and the political status of Taiwan.
China's importance in the world today is reflected from the fact that it is the world's third largest economy (nominally or second largest by PPP) and a permanent member of the UN Security Council as well as in other multilateral organizations including the WTO, APEC, East Asia Summit, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In addition, it is a nuclear state and has the world's largest standing army with the fourth largest defense budget. Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1978, China has become one of the world's fastest growing economies and the world's second largest exporter and the third 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.
The flag of the People's Republic of China, the "Five-Starred Red Flag, was designed by Zeng Liansong, an economist and artist from Rui'an, Zhejiang. He designed it in response to a circular distributed by the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in July 1949, shortly after they came to power. Out of more than 3,000 entries received for the design competition, Zeng's was chosen after being nominated as one of the 38 finalists. Mao Zedong hoisted the first flag on a pole overlooking Tiananmen Square on the day of its unveiling. China's first national flag originated in 1872. It was yellow with a blue dragon, representing the Manchu (Qing) Dynasty, which ruled China for many years. The revolt of 1911 saw the changing of the flag to 5 different colored stripes. Soviet republics were established in the 1920s, each of which was represented by a red flag referring to the Soviet fatherland. The present flag dates from 1949, when the People's Republic was formed.