Volksrepublik China    
Peoples Republic of China - 中华人民共和国
 Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó

An ancient country occupying a large area in eastern Asia, between Turkestan and the China Sea and stretching from Siberia to Indochina. Chinese civilization appeared in the 3rd millennium B.C., producing one of the earliest sophisticated cultures. China was long divided into numerous states, within a feudal system. China was unified under the Chin and Han dynasties (255 B.C.-220 A.D.), but again broke into contending states after the fall of the Hans. Unification was achieved under the Sui and T'ang dynasties (589-907), but internal division again appeared. In the early 13th century, the Mongols overran China, establishing the Yuan dynasty, which at its height (circa 1300) ruled China, Turkestan, Korea and Indochina. In 1368, the Ming dynasty expelled the Yuan and inaugurated a period of dynamic growth. In 1644, the Manchu dynasty overthrew the Ming and created a vast and powerful empire. 

During 1840-1900, China was defeated in a series of wars, which secured for the European powers numerous concessions within the Chinese empire. In 1892, Dr. Sun Yat-sen founded the Regenerate China Society, which began to foment revolution. In 1911, the empress-dowager was deposed, and a republic proclaimed. A period of civil war and internal division under local warlords ensued, until Chiang Kai-shek, commanding the Nationalist armies, was able to re-establish some unity during the 1920s. In 1927, Chiang moved against Soviet influence in the Nationalist government, and the communists split with the regime, launching a guerrilla war against the central government. In 1931, Japan occupied Manchuria and began to expand into China, openly invading the country in 1937. The Nationalists and communists maintained an uneasy truce during World War II, but with the defeat of Japan and the occupation of Manchuria by the Soviets, the civil war began in earnest. 

By 1949, the Nationalists had been defeated and driven to the island of Formosa (Taiwan). Since that time, the Chinese People's Republic on the mainland and the Republic of China on Taiwan have both claimed to represent the rightful government of China. The Chinese People's Republic was closely linked with the Soviet Union during the 1950s, but by the 1960s this relationship had deteriorated. Conflicting nationalisms became identified with ideological differences, and the two nations each came to regard the other as its principal enemy. U.S. relations with the mainland regime, broken in 1950, became increasingly close after 1972. On Dec. 15, 1978, the United States formally recognized the People's Republic as the sole legal government of China. 

Under Mao Zedong, China was thoroughly communized, and all political opposition suppressed. Ongoing economic miscalculations and brutal attempts to bring about economic progress based on Maoist principles were unsuccessful. In 1975 Mao died, and by 1978 Deng Xiaoping had established himself as "paramount leader." Deng pursued a far more liberal, and far more successful, policy. While political expression remained tightly controlled, there were no more wholesale purges, and ideology was adapted to market realities. As a result, China has advanced dramatically, and in the 1990s, its economy has been one of the fastest growing in the world. The Nationalist regime on Taiwan has been politically isolated in recent years. In 1971, it was expelled from the United Nations, in favor of the People's Republic, and in 1978, the United States, its principal ally and supporter, severed formal diplomatic relations. Taiwan has been able, however, to maintain extensive informal contacts abroad through its active international commercial operations.

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