Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook
The People's Republic of China (PRC), commonly referred to as China, is a state in East Asia. Since its founding in 1949, it has been led by the Communist Party of China (CPC). It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1.3 billion people, most of whom are classified as the Han Chinese ethnicity. It is the largest country in area in East Asia and the fourth largest in the world, after Russia, Canada, and the United States. The PRC borders 14 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar/Burma, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam. Although it officially remains a communist state, the PRC has considerably privatized its economy in the past three decades. Politically, it remains a one-party authoritarian state from its true communist days.
The PRC claims sovereignty over but has never controlled Taiwan and some neighboring islands, which are controlled by the Republic of China. The PRC considers those areas as parts of itself, an eternally complete and indivisible country. This claim is controversial with the ROC considering itself an independent state. The term "mainland China" is sometimes used to denote the area under the PRC's rule, usually excluding the two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau. The PRC is sometimes also referred to as "Red China", especially by its political opponents and critics, in reference to the association between the color red and communism.
After World War II, the Chinese Civil War between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang ended in 1949 with the Communists in control of mainland China and the Kuomintang in control of Taiwan and some outlying islands of Fujian. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong declared the People's Republic of China, establishing a communist state, and proclaiming that "China has stood up."
Supporters of the Maoist Era, consisting mostly of poorer Chinese and Marxist foreign experts, claim that under Mao, China's unity and sovereignty was assured for the first time in a century, and there was development of infrastructure, industry, healthcare, and education, which raised living standards of average Chinese. They also believe that campaigns such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were essential in jumpstarting China's development and purifying its culture. Supporters may also doubt statistics or accounts given for death tolls or other damages incurred by Mao's campaigns.
Following the dramatic economic failures of the early 1960s, Mao stepped down from his position as chairman of the People's Republic. The National People's Congress elected Liu Shaoqi as Mao's successor. Mao remained head of the Party but was removed from day to day management of economic affairs which came under the control of a more moderate leadership under the dominant influence of Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and others who initiated economic reforms.
In 1966 Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, which is viewed by his opponents (including both Western analysts and many Chinese people who were youth at the time) as a strike back at his rivals by mobilizing the youth of the country in support of his thought and purging the moderate leadership, but is viewed by his supporters as an experiment in direct democracy and a genuine attempt at purging Chinese society of corruption and other negative influences. Disorder followed but gradually under the leadership of Zhou Enlai moderate forces regained influence. After Mao's death, Deng Xiaoping, the leader of the reformists, succeeded in winning the power struggle, and Mao's widow, Jiang Qing and her associates, the Gang of Four, who had assumed control of the country, were arrested and put on trial. Since then, the government has gradually and greatly loosened governmental control over people's personal lives, and began transitioning China's planned economy into a mixed economy.
Supporters of the economic reforms, who tend to be middle-class Chinese and most left-center to right Western observers, point to the rapid development of the consumer and export sectors of the economy, the creation of an urban middle class that now constitutes 15% of the population, higher living standards and a much wider range of personal rights and freedoms for average Chinese as evidence of the success of the reforms. Critics of the economic reforms, who tend to be poorer workers and peasants in China and leftist Western observers, claim that the reforms have caused wealth disparity, environmental pollution, rampant corruption, widespread unemployment associated with layoffs at inefficient state-owned enterprises, and has introduced often unwelcome cultural influences. Consequently they believe that China's culture has been corrupted, her poor have been reduced to a hopeless adject underclass, and that the social stability is threatened.
Despite these concessions to capitalism, the Communist Party of China remains in control and has maintained repressive policies against groups which it feels are threats, such as Falun Gong and the separatist movement in Tibet. Supporters of these policies, who tend to be the majority of rural Chinese people and a smaller majority of urban Chinese people, as well as a minority of observers, claim that these policies safeguard stability in a society that is torn apart by class differences and rivalries, has no tradition of civil participation, and limited rule of law. Opponents of these policies, who tend to be a minority of Chinese people, most Chinese dissidents living abroad, many people from Hong Kong or Taiwan, ethnic minorities like Tibetans, and most Westerners, claim that these policies severely violate norms of human rights that the international community recognizes, and further claim that this results in a police state, which creates an atmosphere of fear and ignorance.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "China".