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China
Chinese Mandarin
speaking country
China
Languages Mandarin, Cantonese
Capital Beijing
Other main cities Shanghai, Beijing , Tianjin, Shenyang, Xian
Area (km2) 9,571,300
Population 1,243,738,000
Currency Yuan
History of China
The People's Republic of China has the largest population of any country and is home to one fifth of the population of the world. Over 55 ethnic minorities exist within China as well as the majority Han Chinese.

China is well known for its ideographic writing system that is comprehensible across all Chinese dialects even though some dialects within Han Chinese are mutually incomprehensible. A common language called Putonghua is used by schools and the media.

China's initial civilisation developed under the Shang Dynasty (1500-1000 BC) with the introduction of the ideographic writing system, an ancestor of the modern system, but the earliest recorded human settlements existed there over 3,500 years before.

The Chou Dynasty saw the growth of the moral philosophy we now associate with ancient China but the feudal lords were not united until the reign of Emperor Ch'in Shi'h Huang Ti (246-210 BC) - the inceptor of the Great Wall. China is considered to have been the most civilised country in the world through to the 14th Century and much of the European interest in trade with this great nation was prompted by interest in such diverse goods as silk, gunpowder and paper.

China resisted contact with the rest of the world for many years (only Macau in the Southeast was under Portuguese control), but China was forced to begin increasing trade and other activities after the first Anglo-Chinese war (1839-42). Britain received a lease on Hong Kong and further trade concessions after the Sino-Japanese war.

The Chinese 'Boxer Rebellion' failed to turn the tide and internal strife led to the Provisional Chinese Republic 11 years later in 1911, civil war and invasion by Japan followed.

The further civil war that resulted from the Japanese surrender after World War II ended with Mao's proclamation of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949. A degree of international isolation was ended with the visit of the US President Nixon in 1972, helping pave the way for China's membership of the UN.

Since then many economic reforms have taken place and the economy has grown rapidly since the early 1990s. In 1997 the British lease on Hong Kong ended and in 1999 Macao returned to Chinese control.

Did you know?
CHINESE ranks FIRST in the world's league table of languages, with an estimated 1.3 Billion native speakers.
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