a cultural region, an ancient civilization, and, depending on perspective, a national or multinational entity extending over a large area in East Asia.
In 1949, when major combat ended in the Chinese Civil War, two political entities emerged having the term "China" in their names:
- People's Republic of China The People's Republic of China (PRC), established in 1949, commonly known as China, has control over mainland China and the largely self-governing territories of Hong Kong (since 1997) and Macau (since 1999).
- Republic of China The Republic of China (ROC), established on the mainland in 1911, nowadays commonly known as Taiwan, has control over the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu after losing control of the mainland in 1949.
China has one of the world's oldest civilizations and has the oldest continuous civilization. It has archaeological evidence dating back over 5,000 years. China had the largest economy for most of the last two millenia; until the 1850s when it missed the industrial revolution. Subsequently, imperialism, wars and civil wars damaged the country and its economy for most of the twentieth century. In the 1970s, economic reforms transformed the country and made it one of the major economic powers once again. China is viewed as the source of many major inventions. It has one of the world's oldest written language systems.
Historically, China's cultural sphere has extended across East Asia as a whole, with Chinese religion, customs, and writing systems being adopted to varying degrees by neighbors such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. The first evidence of human presence in the region was found at the Zhoukoudian cave and is one of the first known specimens of Homo erectus, now commonly known as the Peking Man, estimated to have lived from 300,000 to 780,000 years ago.