Click on the map of China for a full description of individual provinces.
1,413 million (2021 est.)
17,730 billion US$ (2021)
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China, home to 1 in 5 of all humanity, is the most populous country in the world and the third largest in land area after Russia and Canada; slightly ahead of the US and Europe. It is divided into 33 administrative regions (22 provinces; 4 metropolitan municipalities; 5 autonomous regions and 2 special autonomous regions). The map shows the geographical division of China into provinces. We also have a map of each distinct geographic region of China. Geographically the Yellow and Yangzi rivers act as boundaries, thoroughfares and water sources for the majority of Chinese people.
China is a very diverse country geographically with high mountains in the south-west, arid deserts in the north and north-west, tropical rainforests in the far south-west and snowfields in the north-east. It is dominated by two large rivers: the Yellow River in the north and the Yangzi in the center, both flowing east into the East China Sea. It is subject to climactic extremes, from tropical uniformity in the far south to harsh, long and cold winters in the far north. Most rain falls on the eastern and south-eastern coasts during hot and humid summers. Please refer to our Climate and Geography guides for further details.
Population is densest on the South China Plain formed by a triangle from Beijing (Hebei) to Luoyang (Henan) to Shanghai. Apart from that main triangular area, Sichuan, Chongqing and the southern coast are also heavily populated. As early as 1830 the population stood at 395 million; it passed the 1 billion mark in 1982 and now the total population stands at 1,413 million. China has always been densely populated compared to other countries, reaching about a third of the total world population at times. The density varies widely from the 'average' of 130 people per km2, from over 3,000 in Shanghai to 2 over the vast empty lands of Tibet. The one child policy instituted in 1979 has halted the rapid increase and China's population is stabilizing, it is likely to be overtaken by India as the most populous nation in a few decades. The proportion of men to women is 119 to 100 and there are concerns about the surplus of boys who will remain unmarried. For much more on this topic please refer to our China population section.
The Han Chinese are the dominant people, but in the border provinces indigenous people predominate. The five autonomous regions of China (Tibet, Xinjiang, Guangxi, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia) give these areas some limited relaxation of central control. It is the people that make up a country, and there are a surprising number of minority peoples that have all contributed their own cultural influence. For all about the different nationalities that make up China please read more in our Peoples of China section.
China has a land border with a total of 14 neighboring countries. The history of the relations with China's neighbors reveals much about China itself. We detail each of China's 14 neighboring countries. Japan, Korea and Taiwan stand out as historically significant neighbors and we cover the history of their special relations with China.
Man made Geography
Historically the Great Wall defines the north wall country of China as much as anything, it is even mentioned in the Chinese National Anthem. The world's longest canal, Grand Canal runs north-south and knits together the important rivers as they flow east to the sea. When contact with Central Asia and Europe took the over-land route it was the Silk Road into China that carried the goods through the natural gateway into Gansu.
China has an extremely diverse geology. The land now forming China is made up of a number of tectonic plates that have fused over the billions of years of Earth's history. The varied geology gives a wide variety of soil types for agriculture and extensive deposits of minerals, oil and gas.
The flag ➚ of the People's Republic of China is red for revolution and good fortune with one large and four smaller yellow stars angled around it. The large star symbolizes the Communist Party and the other four stars the important classes of people of China: working class, peasantry, petit bourgeoisie (small family businesses) ➚ and patriotic capitalists. Reflecting the views at the time it excludes intellectuals and ‘ordinary’ capitalists. Lucky red is the color of communism and the Han dynasty, while yellow is for the Yellow River as well as the skin color of Han Chinese people. A later revision suggested that the smaller stars may refer to the ethnic minority peoples of China. It has been known, even at Olympic Games ➚, for the smaller stars to be incorrectly aligned causing offense to Chinese people as each smaller star should be slightly rotated with respect to the larger star.
The National emblem ➚ of the People's Republic of China has the same five yellow stars for the party and the important classes of people of China. They stand above a representation of Tiananmen Gate, the entrance to the Forbidden City from Tiananmen Square. The circle is surrounded by ears of grain representing the rural peasants while the gear at the bottom stands for the industrial workers. The Chinese National Badge was designed in 1935 by Liang Sicheng, Lin Huiyin and others and finalized by Gao Zhuang.
Previously the flag used by the Republic of China (1928-1949) had a white sun in a blue sky surrounded by red ground. The twelve rays of the sun symbolizes either months or hours. The red ground represents the blood of martyrs who died to found the Republic. Blue is for liberty and white for equality and democracy. It is still used by Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
Another flag briefly used for the Republic (1912-1928) was five equal horizontal bars of different colors.
Each bar represents a different ethnic group: red for Han Chinese; yellow for Manchu; blue for Mongolians; white for Hui and black for Tibetans. This misses out the largest minority group in China the Zhuang. The Japanese puppet state of Manchuguo used a variation of this flag.
Further back in Chinese history, each dynasty had its own flag; the last Manchu Qing dynasty developed a rectangular format (1889-1912) rather than the original triangular form to tie in with flags of other nations. It is also known as the Yellow Dragon Flag, a blue dragon is chasing a red pearl. Yellow has been the color of emperors from ancient times.
Tian Han wrote the national anthem and it was set to music by Nie Er ➚ in 1935. It is entitled “The March of the Volunteers” 义勇军进行曲yì yǒng jūn jìn xíng qǔ and was written at the time of the Republic of China and the fight against Japanese invasion. It first appeared as the theme song to the film ‘Heroes in an era of turbulence’ in 1935. The lyrics are by 田汉➚ Tián Hàn (1898-1968) and the music by 聂耳➚ Niè Ěr (1912-35). It was adopted as the national anthem in 1940.
Qǐlái! búyuàn zuò núlì de rénmen!
Bǎ wǒmende xuèròu zhùchéng wǒmen xīnde chángchéng!
Zhōnghuá mínzú dào le zuì wēixiǎn de shíhòu
Měigèrén bèi pòzhe fāchū zuìhòude hǒushēng
Qǐlái! qǐlái! qǐlái!
Wǒmen wànzhòng yìxīn,
Màozhe dírén de pàohuǒ, qiánjìn!
Màozhe dírén de pàohuǒ, qiánjìn!
Qiánjìn! qiánjìn, jìn!
Arise, you who refuse to be slaves;
With our own flesh and blood,
Let us build a new Great Wall!
The peoples of China are at their greatest peril,
Everybody must roar his defiance.
Arise! Arise! Arise!
Millions of hearts beating as one,
Brave the enemy's gunfire, march on!
Brave the enemy's gunfire, march on!
March on! March on! On!
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YouTube video of a performance of the Chinese National Anthem
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