The People’s Republic of China, or in its abbreviated form China, is situated in eastern and central Asia on the western coast of the Pacific Ocean where it has a long coastline. Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometers of land area, China is the third largest country in the world—slightly smaller than Russia and Canada. It has the largest population in the world—at the end of 2014, the population of mainland China reached 13.6 billion. It has 56 ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Han which constitute 92 percent of the total population. At present, China has 34 provincial-level administrative divisions consisting of 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 direct-controlled municipalities, and 2 special administrative regions.
Most of China, including Hainan, Southern China, Central China, Northern China, and Western China, and the Northeast, is situated in temperate and subtropical climate zones, which belong to the monsoon climate area. Only a small portion is situated in the tropical zone or is near the cold belt. In the summer most of the country is hot and rainy, while during the winter there is a wide variation in temperature between north and south. Annual rainfall varies from over 1,500 millimeters in the southeast to as low as 50 millimeters in the northwest.
China’s terrain is high in the west and drops off in the east. Its major land forms consist of mountains, plateaus, basins, plains, and hills. The average elevation above sea level of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the “Roof of the World,” is over 4,000 meters. The Yangtze River and Yellow River are China’s two most important rivers. The Yangtze is 6,300 kilometers long, and is China’s largest river. Almost as long as the Nile River in Africa and the Amazon River in South America, it is the world’s third longest river. The Yellow River, 5,464 kilometers long, is China’s second longest river. The Yellow River basin is the place where Chinese civilization originated.
China is one of the countries where an economy and civilization developed the earliest in human history. It has a history and culture that have lasted for 5,000 years, and within the country there are still many ancient sites that can provide evidence of China’s antiquity. The compass, gunpowder, paper-making, movable type printing, and other inventions have made a great contribution to the development of human society.
In recent years with the rapid development of the economy, the living standard of the Chinese people has continuously risen, and most people have reached a modest level of prosperity. China now has the fastest growing economy in the Asia-Pacific region.