China is a cultural region, ancient civilization, and nation in East Asia. It is one of the world’s oldest civilizations, consisting of states and cultures dating back more than six millennia. The stalemate of the last Chinese Civil War has resulted in two political states using the name China: the People’s Republic of China (PRC), commonly known as “China,” which controls mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau; and the Republic of China (ROC), commonly known as “Taiwan,” which controls the island of Taiwan and its surrounding islands. Most foreign governments officially recognise the PRC as the single legitimate government of “China”, including the areas administered by the ROC. China is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations. It has the world’s longest continuously used written language system, and has been the source of some of the world’s great inventions, including the Four Great Inventions of ancient China: paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.

Area:9,596,961 sq km
Religion:Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%-4%, Muslim 1%-2%, note: officially atheist
Languages:Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect) (official), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages
Government type:Communist state


For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under Mao Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China’s sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life. After 1978, his successor Deng Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled.


China’s economy during the last quarter century has changed from a centrally planned system that was largely closed to international trade to a more market-oriented economy that has a rapidly growing private sector and is a major player in the global economy. Reforms started in the late 1970s with the phasing out of collectivized agriculture, and expanded to include the gradual liberalization of prices, fiscal decentralization, increased autonomy for state enterprises, the foundation of a diversified banking system, the development of stock markets, the rapid growth of the non-state sector, and the opening to foreign trade and investment. The restructuring of the economy and resulting efficiency gains have contributed to a more than tenfold increase in GDP since 1978. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China in 2006 stood as the second-largest economy in the world after the US. China has benefited from a huge expansion in computer Internet use, with more than 100 million users at the end of 2005. Foreign investment remains a strong element in China’s remarkable expansion in world trade and has been an important factor in the growth of urban jobs.


China is the second largest country of East Asia by area after Russia. It borders 14 nations (counted clockwise from south): Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and North Korea. The territory of the PRC contains a large variety of landscapes. In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, there are extensive and densely populated alluvial plains, while on the edges of the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north, grasslands can be seen. Southern China is dominated by hill country and low mountain ranges. In the central-east are the deltas of China’s two major rivers, the Huang He and Yangtze River (Chang Jiang). To the west, major mountain ranges, notably the Himalayas with China’s highest point Mount Everest, and high plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert.


For centuries, opportunity for economic and social advancement in China could be provided by high performance on imperial examinations. The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as the view that calligraphy and literati painting were higher forms of art than dancing or drama. China’s traditional values were derived from various versions of Confucianism. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today. Today, the government has accepted a great deal of traditional Chinese culture as an integral part of Chinese society, lauding it as an important achievement of the Chinese civilization and emphasizing it as vital to a Chinese national identity. Modern Chinese art, literature, music, film, fashion and architecture have become increasingly ready to incorporate various degrees of traditional Chinese culture into their works.


The People’s Republic of China has a nationwide system of public education, which includes primary schools, middle schools (lower and upper), and universities. Nine years of education is technically compulsory for all Chinese students.

To provide for its population in mainland China, the PRC has a vast and varied school system. There are preschools, kindergartens, schools for the deaf and blind, key schools (similar to college preparatory schools), primary schools, secondary schools (comprising junior and senior middle schools, secondary agricultural and vocational schools, regular secondary schools, secondary teachers’ schools, secondary technical schools, and secondary professional schools), and various institutions of higher learning (consisting of regular colleges and universities, professional colleges, and short-term vocational universities).

Two years before the dawn of the 21st Century the Chinese government proposed an ambitious plan intended to expand university enrollment to ensure a greater output of professional and specialized graduates. An adjunct to the plan aimed to develop an elite of world class universities. Restructuring, through consolidations, mergers and shifts among the authorities which supervise institutions, was aimed at addressing the problems of small size and low efficiency. Higher vocational education was also restructured, and there was a general tendency there to emphasize elite institutions. The creation of private universities, not under governmental control, remains slow and its future uncertain.

In 2007 China will conduct a national evaluation of its universities. The results of this evaluation will be used to support the next major planned policy initiative. The last substantial national evaluation of universities, which was undertaken in 1994, resulted in the ‘massification’ of higher education as well as a renewed emphasis on elite institutions. [3] Academics praise reforms for changing China’s higher education from a unified, centralized, closed and static system into one characterized by more diversification, decentralization, openness and dynamism, stimulating the involvement of local governments and other non-state sectors. At the same time they note that this decentralization and marketization has led to further inequality in educational opportunity.

Myanmar Connections

China is fast developing and is an important investor in Myanmar, particularly as it seeks to develop access to the Indian Ocean. As a result, China has been busy building new roads and shipping facilities in Myanmar. Additionally, China must seek new sources of fuel to feed its energy hungry economy and has been developing related businesses in Myanmar. These reasons make China an essential business partner and a knowledge of how it operates is necessary for future relations. Myanmar students can learn at a variety of world-class universities which have international programs in English. It is popular for students to study Chinese language and there are many independent schools and institutes that specialize in this.

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