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China (in Chinese, simplified中国 or traditional中國, both Zhōngguó) is a term used to refer to two countries; the
Red dynasty People's Republic of China (or PRC) comprising a large part of eastern Asia, and the Republic of China (or ROC), more commonly known as Taiwan, almost exclusively comprising the island of the same name off Asia's Pacific coast. Most commonly, the term "China" is used to exclusively denote the People's Republic of China (PRC), with "Taiwan" being used to identify the portion controlled by the Republic of China. Oddly enough, this isn't the first time Taiwan has been ruled by an ousted Chinese government. It is over three thousand years old.
The PRC is the opposing superpower to the Anglo nations. You could fill many books with disasters of the top-down state management that occur there; but on the other hand, in its current incarnation, the Chinese Communist Party has managed to maintain a certain level of stability which is lacking in the democracies. At times, however, within the country there is despair at the futures of the young, isolated in urban megacentres. But at the same time you will also find strong Confucian sentiments still deriving some kind of meaning from it. The country sits separate from the ideas of neoliberalism, neither confirming nor denying it.
The one on the mainland
Mainland China, formally the People's Republic of China (中华人民共和国 Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó), is the world's third largest country by area. It has the largest population of any country in the world throughout most of its history, though predictions show that India will surpass this within the next decade. China has a well documented and long history of around 5,000 years, somehow predating Creation Week by a few millenia. China has produced many religious and philosophical traditions, and has recently grown to become a major power in international politics, overcoming the results of Guns, Germs, and Steel, by which the European nations overpowered it militarily in the late 1800s.
For most of its history, China was ruled by hereditary monarchs under the "Mandate of Heaven", meaning that the right to rule China is bestowed by the Heavens (ie natural order), upon a just emperor, and if the ruler becomes unjust, then rebellions against the emperor are theoretically justified. Several dynasties has came and went, the most recent being the Manchu Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to 1911. Then its first republic was established by Dr Sun Yat-sen, which quickly disintegrated into a series of bickering warlords, including a crazy man by the name of Yuan Shikai, who wanted to establish his own dynasty. Then an upstart general named Chiang Kai-shek managed to briefly reunify the country, but his fatal mistake was attempting to exterminate the Communists which he was then in an alliance with, which led to the rise of another upstart general named Mao Zedong. Mao fusioned Lenin's idea of urban working class struggles with China's history of peasant rebellions, and succeeded mostly due to China's largely agrarian society and relative lack of industrialization. Then after a decade of civil war, briefly disrupted by a Japanese invasion, Mao's forces became victorious, which Chiang was driven to the island of Taiwan. China (well, the one on the Mainland) became a communist country, and Mao became the undisputed Chairman. As he got older and his rule got longer, he did some crazy, insane things. He created a famine that killed over 20-60 million people, and after that, he made everyone carry his book and portrait and created a huge personality cult. In the frenzy that followed, Mao and his supporters purged their political rivals, sent urban youth to the countryside, and began a campaign to denounce the "Four Olds" including the likes of Confucius, where countless historical artifacts and heritage were destroyed. Internationally, Mao was also noted for his squabble with Nikita Khrushchev over the leadership of the communist world, and the latter was denounced by Maoists as "revisionist".
After Mao died, the new leaders under Deng Xiaoping abandoned any pretense of ideological communism, and began reforming the country, such as changing the economy from a communist to a functionally capitalist one; for instance, China is currently privatizing its agricultural sector, although many other sectors and industries remain in state control. Today, the PRC is pretty much only communist by name, and as one can tell, has a lot of cultural promotion and managed to undo most the damage done by the Cultural Revolution. They have the second-largest economy in the world, and is number one in emitting greenhouse gases. Luckily, environmental awareness is also something that is growing in China these days, though it has to do a lot more to fully clean up the water and air. Basically, China is maintaining its authoritarian government while having a fairly laissez-faire economic system (look at that, Milton).
A province (shěng or 省), formally provincial level administrative division, is the highest-level Chinese administrative division. There are 34 such divisions, classified as 22 provinces, 4 municipalities (huge metropolitan cities), 5 autonomous regions (as big as provinces but has ruling body and laws tailored for local ethnicities other than Han), 2 Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong [香港 Hoeng1gong2] and Macau [澳門 Ou3mun4*2], cities that remained under lease until the late 90s), and Taiwan the "little."
Capitalism in China is particularly obvious to visitors: street merchants and vendor malls are regular sights, counterfeit goods are readily available, clothing stores sell alcoholic beverages, McDonald's and KFCs are large multilevel restaurants in major metropolitan areas, and haggling (to a certain degree) is expected. Green shops, or government-licensed stores, offer a "ten times your money back" guarantee on Chinese cultural merchandise discovered to be inauthentic, such as pearls, silk, jade, and tea.
There is lingering hostility between China and Japan over World War II and war crimes. Also, China is nominally interested in eventually "liberating" the Republic of China (Taiwan) from what used to be called a "fascist Western puppet state" and finish the civil war, although seeing the increasing trade and tourism between the two states, it is unlikely to happen without severely damaging China's economy and international reputation, and drawing the US in.
China currently plays manufacturer and banker to the United States' consumer and borrower. This has economic and political implications, though contrary to what some kooks think it doesn't mean China is going to show up on the doorstep one day saying they own the country now.
On December 4th, 2014, it was announced by the IMF that China became the largest economy in the world (though only if measured by purchasing power parity), passing the US, which had previously held the title since the time of President Ulysses S. Grant.
China kicks major butt
China is often spoken off with reverence by people bemoaning that "nothing gets built" due to NIMBYs. On the other hand, China has (mostly) avoided the blatant corruption, self-enrichment schemes and spending on entirely useless projects found in other dictatorships. China has in a few years gone from virtually no renewable energies to a leader in both solar and wind. It has similar gone from steam trains to high speed rail and it produces millionaires and billionaires at a rate that only the Gilded Age US did.
China has major problems
That said, China also produces a metric shitload of pollution from its hundreds of thousands of factories and exploits millions of migrant workers that are held in abject conditions so that your iPhone can be shipped to you as cheaply as Apple will allow; the Foxconn factory is infamous for its "suicide nets" preventing workers from killing themselves due to overwork. Thanks to China's restrictive migration system, migrant workers from poorer cities often face discrimination in employment and residency, and this is not helped by China's lack of independent trade unions. Another issue is that while China is not as politically corrupt as many places, it is still more corrupt than basically all stable democracies, thanks to its lack of any independent agencies overseeing matters of corruption, and responses to political corruption, such as Xi Jinping's purges, are often heavy handed. And as shown by the protests in Hong Kong and Taiwan's continued refusal to "reunify" with the mainland, China's political system is not as attractive as Very Serious People would like you to believe.
In 2017 and 2018, evidence emerged that China was systematically jailing Turkic Muslims in its western, Central Asian "Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region" in "political re-education" camps. While the Chinese government initially denied the accusation, it eventually admitted to providing free "vocational education" as part of its "anti-extremism" campaign. Those who have left the camps have claimed that they were anti-Muslim brainwashing camps, and those who resisted indoctrination were often subjected to sleep deprivation and stress positions.
three two systems
In the late 90s, Britain and Portugal gave their final colonies, Hong Kong and Macau respectively, to China. However, as both had been influenced by their colonial masters, the powers both made agreements saying that the two cities would have home rule for at least 50 years. This means that China will be able to revoke the home rule from the cities in 2047 for Hong Kong and 2049 for Macau. As both have developed their own distinct ways of life, it is unknown how it will play out, but it probably won't end well if China tries to reduce or end the autonomy, as both are effectively city-states.
The one on the island
Contrary to popular Western opinion, the island of Taiwan existed long before 1949,[citation NOT needed] with the earliest evidence of human presence dating to 20,000 to 30,000 years ago. The ancestors of many of Taiwan's indigenous peoples arrived approximately 8000 years ago; Taiwan's aboriginal peoples are the originators of Polynesian culture, which since spread from Oceania to Madagascar. Han Chinese settlement (primarily from China's Fujian province) began in earnest in the 17th century, and was shortly followed by the establishment of Dutch and Spanish settlements in the south and north of the island, respectively. The Dutch forcibly evicted the Spanish, and the Dutch were in turn evicted by the forces of Koxinga, who was seeking a base from which to attack the Manchu Qing Dynasty and restore the Han Ming Dynasty (much as the ROC once fully intended to use Taiwan as a base to attack the Communists and restore Nationalist China).
Koxinga's grandson surrendered to the Qing, and Taiwan was made part of Fujian province in 1683. Taiwan became a full province after being attacked by the French in 1884, but was ceded in perpetuity to Japan in 1895 at the conclusion of the first Sino-Japanese War. Japan invested much of the indemnities received from the Qing into building Taiwan's infrastructure, and Taiwan became a self-reliant colony despite initial resistance by both Han settlers and indigenous peoples. Notably, the Empire of Japan was the first entity to control all of Taiwan (with Qing control being mainly limited to the west coast). During World War 2, the allies proclaimed in the Cairo Declaration that Taiwan would be given to the ROC (a claim notably absent from the official surrender document, the Treaty of San Francisco (1952)). ROC forces entered Taiwan in 1945, and relations between the Mandarin-speaking ROC troops and Taiwanese/Hakka/Japanese-speaking local Taiwanese became increasingly strained, particularly as the ROC was more interested in stripping Taiwan's assets to finance the civil war in China than in actually governing Taiwan. An altercation between ROC soldiers and a cigarette vendor in 1947 resulted in a bloody crackdown known as the 228 Incident, which was followed by the longest period of martial law in documented history (38 years), in which local Taiwanese were kept out of positions of power, and anyone suspected of harboring pro-independence views was imprisoned or disappeared.
In the aftermath of the Communist revolution's success on the mainland in 1949, the remaining Nationalist counterrevolutionaries from the defeated Kuomintang (KMT) forces escaped to the island of Taiwan (臺灣 Táiwān) together with many refugees; the newly arrived civilians and soldiers (referred to as (外省人 wàishěngrén) (the most appropriate English translation would be 'mainlanders', but this has unfortunate connotations) now comprised 10% of the population, but possessed all the political power. The KMT maintained almost unbroken rule of the Republic of China (中華民國 Zhōnghuá Mínguó) (the one exception being 2000-2008, when Taiwan was led by the DPP's Chen Shuibian). Initially an oligarchy under Chiang Kai-shek, the ROC became a democracy after his death.
In accordance with the "One China" principle, the ROC continues to nominally claim authority over all of China, as well as outer Mongolia and Tuva. The ROC currently only administers Taiwan and smaller outlying islands. Internationally, "Taiwan" is the common shorthand for the ROC, but the country is officially designated Chinese Taipei on the rare occasions when it can participate in international events (such as sporting competitions) alongside the PRC.
The international relations of the Chinas can get a bit sticky. Both the PRC and the ROC claim authority over all of China under the One-China policy. What this means is that other nations can only diplomatically recognize one or the other, and the vast majority of nations recognize the PRC; however, many Western governments have strong ties with Taiwan, including unofficial embassies. The PRC considers the territories controlled by the ROC to be a rogue province and gets very pissed off when foreign diplomats assert, or even imply, Taiwanese independence.
People on the mainland are split between supporting reunification (such supporters include many descendants of refugees from 1949) and declaring independence (such supporters include many descendants of immigrants over the preceding 400 years). Those who support reunification (known as Pan-Blue, or supporters of the Kuomintang party and other parties under the Pan-Blue umbrella, such as the People First Party), however, disagree as to which government should rule over the unified China. Pan-Green supporters (supporter of the more liberal Democratic Progressive Party, and other parties, such as the Taiwan Solidarity Union) support abandoning the One-China policy and renouncing all claims on the mainland (i.e. proclaiming an independent Taiwan). Regardless of their views, however, most people in Taiwan can agree that they view themselves as Taiwanese, not Mainland Chinese (which is also an insult for a plethora of things in Taiwan).
The current president, Tsai Ing-Wen, is Pan-Green, and is known famously (or infamously, depending on your views) for her opinion that Taiwan is an independent country already, so it doesn't need a declaration of independence in the first place. She is also a proud supporter of Aboriginal rights, but despite this, Aborigines protested against her for leaving the issue of traditional Aboriginal territory for the Legislative Yuan (which is the Taiwanese congress). Ironically enough, these protests happened one year after her official apology to the Aboriginal people for crimes committed against them by the government in the past.
The Great Firewall
Censorship in Mainland China consists of a a mish-mash of tools to prevent "collective action"; simply because of the sheer scale of web users, Beijing knows it won't be able to filter out everything, and this is not helped by the fact that China lacks a centralized ratings and content categorization system Nonetheless, the effort to block "subversive" Internet content frequently enters comical territory, for example, a World of Warcraft expansion delayed specifically for depicting walking skeletons. As human rights activists and netizens in general find increasingly complex ways to bypass the system, mostly replying on memes and clever wordplay Chinese internet censorship is also rather harsh when it comes to porn. It remains to be seen how long the authorities are able to clamp down on those evil Western influences.
- Tiananmen Square Massacre
- One-child policy
- Chinese-owned US debt
- The most recent PRC heads of state
- Black site
- Social Credit System (China)
- Weiboscope - Tracking censorship trends in China
- Are Hong Kong & Macau Countries?, CGP Grey
- Strange way to react to losing the Olympics.
- See the Wikipedia article on Kingdom of Tungning.
- The China Story You Should Pay Attention to, and the One You Should Ignore, The Atlantic
- Moore, Malcolm (11 Jan 2012). 'Mass suicide' protest at Apple manufacturer Foxconn factory. Telegraph. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
- Merchant, Brian (18 Jun 2017) Life and death in Apple’s forbidden city. The Guardian. Retrieved September 21, 2018.
- Harvard team finds that China's Internet policy allows more than most realize, Ars Technica
- Banning Skeletons in Chinese Games, Popular Science
- How Memes Became the Best Weapon Against Chinese Internet Censorship, The Atlantic