Learn About China in 5 Minutes
May 11, 2020


By allin5minutes

What is China?

With more than 1.4 billion people, China is the world’s most populous country, and it has created many of the foundations of the modern world.

China (officially known as the People’s Republic of China)  is one of the largest countries in the world covering 9.6 million sq km (3.7 million sq miles). It borders 14 nations and this number is equaled only by Russia.

The capital city is Beijing, and Shanghai is the city with most people living in it. Some other well-known cities are Guangzhou, Chongqing, and Hangzhou.

The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China

A few of the main places to see in China are:

  • The Great Wall of China – the longest wall in the world
  • The Terracotta Army – represents the army that was the decisive factor in forming a united China
  • The Forbidden City – a place of Chinese cultural and historical relics
  • Giant Pandas – can be seen close up.

The climate of China is extremely diverse, from tropical regions in the south to subarctic regions in the north. 

China has two major rivers, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. There is also the Taklamakan Desert and the Gobi Desert.

The world’s highest point, Mt. Everest (8848m), is on the border between China and Nepal.


China was one of the world’s earliest civilizations. The recorded history of Chinese civilization can be traced to the Yellow River valley, which is said to be the ‘cradle of Chinese civilization’.

The Xia Dynasty was the first one to be described in ancient historical chronicles.

China was unified in 221 BC by Qin Shi Huang, which was the ‘First Emperor’ of China.

The two-thousand-year-old imperial system collapsed in 1911 when Sun Yat-Sen founded the Republic of China. In 1916, China descended into anarchy, with various warlords ruling over different regions of China.

A busy street in China
A busy street in China

The Chinese Civil War from 1946 to 1949 led to the break up of the country, with the Communist leader Mao Zedong founding the People’s Republic of China on the mainland while the losing side retreated to Taiwan.

Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. It is the second-largest economy by nominal GDP after the United States and the largest country by purchasing power parity (PPP).


China is governed by the Communist Party of China.  The government consists of the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judicial branch, and the military branch. 

The primary organs of state power are the National People’s Congress (NPC), the President, and the State Council. The Head of State is the President and the Head of Government is the Premier.

The current president of China is Xi Jinping and he has been in the office since 2012.


The official language of China is Standard Mandarin, which is mostly based on the Beijing dialect. Mandarin has been the only language used in education on the mainland since the 1950s. Mandarin is a tonal language, and getting the four tones correct when speaking is necessary to be understood. Mainland China uses “simplified characters”, adopted to facilitate literacy during the mid-1950s. Traditional characters are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Many regions in China have their own dialects which can be very different.

Interesting facts

China is the owner of all pandas in the world. Any pandas in other countries are lent from China.

China has only one time zone, therefore in some places, the sun rises as late as 10:00 AM.

China is the only country in the world where reproduction is limited. Until 2015, Chinese couples were allowed to have only 1 child, and now they can have 2 children.

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