China is a country of Asia
with a surface area of 9,596,361 km² (density of 140.1 inhab./km²). The population of China is 1,344,413,526 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of China is the city of Beijing which has 19,610,000 inhabitants. The president of the single-party state Republic is Hu Jintao.
China or the People's Republic of China is a country in East Asia bordered by the Pacific Ocean and borders Vietnam, Laos, Burma, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, North Korea and Mongolia. The Chinese civilization has strongly influenced humanity in particular thanks to its many discoveries like paper or gunpowder.
China at a glance
People's Republic (single-party)
Capital: Beijing (Beijing)
Administrative divisions: 22 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities and 2 special regions (Macao and Hong Kong). China also claims the island of Taiwan
Population: over 1,376 billion people
Main language: Chinese Mandarin
Main religions: traditional religions, buddhism, christianity, islam
Current Chairman: Xi Jinping
Current Prime Minister: Li Keqiang
Currency: yuan renminbi (1 yuan = 10 jiao = 100 fen)
Conversion into euro: 100 yuan = 12.9 euros
Tourism: most of the country is safe for tourists. However, Xinjiang Autonomous Region is discouraged, while Qinghai Province, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and part of Sichuan Province are forbidden to foreigners. It is compulsory to be accompanied by a guide to get to Tibet. The health risks associated with poor hygiene, insect bites and pollution should be taken into consideration.
China, a country of immoderation
The largest Asian country, the most populous country in the world, the largest army in the world, a continuing history since prehistoric times, the largest land border, there is no lack of superlatives to qualify China.
With over 9.5 million square kilometers, this immense country has of course an enormous variety of landscapes formed by plains, plateaus, depressions of deserts and mountains.
The highest peak in China and the world is Mount Everest (in Tibet) which rises to 8,850 meters above sea level, while the Turgan depression is 154 meters below sea level, which perfectly illustrates the diversity Chinese landscapes, relief and climate:
The western part of the country consists mainly of high mountains including the Himalayas, which serves as the natural border between China and Nepal. This chain crosses seven countries and stretches over 2,400 kilometers long, from Pakistan to Tibet, and 250 to 400 kilometers wide. It is characterized by its 14 summits, the highest in the world, exceeding 8,000 meters of altitude including Everest and K2. The Himalayas formed after the collision between India, which was still an island a little less than 10 million years ago, and the Eurasian continent. The Indian plate slipped under the Eurasian plate which allowed the Himalayas to rise and become the roof of the world. The Indian plate continues its progression (5 cm per year) causing regular earthquakes. The Himalayas count many glaciers and its peaks are covered with eternal snow. It is also home to many water sources including Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra fed by glaciers as well as several hundred lakes. If the southern slope of the Himalayas is moist, the northern slope (Tibet side) is much more arid. The mountain forms a rampart against the rains of the monsoons and is responsible for the formation of deserts including those of Gobi and Taklamakan.
In the north of the Himalayas is the huge Tibetan plateau, also known as the Qing-Zang High Plateau, which overflows into Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and India. This area was already inhabited by men during prehistory as evidenced by the various archaeological excavations. Tibet is experiencing a harsh climate with sudden changes in temperature when the sky overlaps and great differences between day and night. Depending on the altitude, the vegetation consists of steppes or coniferous forests which are home to diverse fauna, including yaks, cervids and sheep. Endemic species such as Tibetan fox and Tibetan pig raised in this area since the Stone Age. Herds are guarded by dog breeds from the Himalayas, the Tibetan Mastiff or the Tibetan Terrier. The extreme north of the country has a subarctic climate.
The Taklamakan Desert is separated from the Tibetan Plateau by the Kunlun Mountain Range, a chain of high mountains exceeding 5,000 meters of altitude and inhabited only by a few nomads and shepherds in summer. On the other hand, there are important fauna including wolves, bears, donkeys (hemiones) and wild yaks.
The Taklamakan Desert known as the "Sea of Death" in the west and the Gobi Desert in the east occupy much of northern China. The Taklamakan Desert was formerly traversed by streams that originated in the Kunlun Cordillera or in the Pamirs range. Nowadays, most of these rivers end at the gates of this moving desert made of sand dunes and clay. Only the Hotan formed by the torrents Karakax and Yurungkax sometimes manage to cross this vast expanse. The discovery of vestiges of several cities and dead trees confirms the hypothesis of a prehistoric habitat in this region. The climate is arid with low and occasional precipitation, temperatures oscillate between -20 ° in winter and 25 ° in summer. Vegetation is rare and consists of a few shrubs and herbs. Bactrian camels and wild donkeys are found here.
At the east of the Taklamakan Desert, Lob Nor is a vast marshy salt water area that served as the site for China's nuclear tests from 1964 to 1986, resulting in many deaths, cancers and Congenital anomalies among neighboring populations.
Mongolia's Altai is characterized by a large part of the border between China and Mongolia, formed by a succession of eroded mountain ranges, glaciers and valleys. It lies to the west of the Gobi.
The Gobi Desert, one of the largest deserts in the world, is mainly covered with stones and has a rugged relief. Most of this desert is in Mongolia and includes a wide variety of landscapes. It is inhabited by different nomadic ethnic groups.
The temperatures can exceed 38 ° C in summer and fall to -43 ° C in winter with temperature variations between day and night reaching 32 ° C.
Central China is still mountainous but has much lower peaks than the western part of the country. Located between the Gobi Desert and the Great Wall, the Mongolian Plateau is dominated by the Tin Mountain Range and ends with the Huangtu Plateau, a vast loess plateau extending to the foot of the Cordillera Qilian Mountains Kunlun, Qinling (ash tree) and Taihang.
Further south, the land benefits from a tropical climate favorable to agriculture and more particularly to the rice fields which are harvested twice a year. These are also the most densely populated areas with a high rate of industries, concentrated in particular on the Yangtze River plains and the Sichuan basin, which is crossed by the longest river in Asia and the third longest River of the world, the Yangzi Jiang (Blue River). The river originates in Tibet and travels 6,380 kilometers before forming a vast delta and flowing into the East China Sea. It crosses many territories often surrounded by deep canyons including the spectacular Three Gorges and its limestone cliffs 1,200 meters high, a must-see tourist site. The Yangzu Jiang and its 700 tributaries form an immense river basin covering more than 1.8 million km², which makes it possible to irrigate 40% of China.
Southwest China, especially Yunnan Province, is becoming more mountainous but enjoying a temperate climate favorable to agriculture. Yunnan is known for producing tobacco, terraced rice and flowers. The flora also benefits from this climate and there are nearly 20,000 different plant species in the province.
In the extreme south of the country, the district of Xishuangbanna has a tropical climate, lush vegetation, extraordinary wildlife (elephants, leopards, Bengal tigers ...) and produces many tropical fruits which has got its nickname of "garden of heaven".
The eastern part of China has a plains relief punctuated by a few hills extending to the sea. Heavily irrigated by the deltas of large rivers, this region is essentially agricultural.
The coastline is divided between sandy beaches north of Hangzhou Bay and rocky cliffs to the south.
China is currently suffering from a major rural exodus, which has led the government to build more and more cities to accommodate the rural population impoverished by the industrialization of farms and the lack of drinking water. This phenomenon, together with the increasing industrialization of the country and the use of coal as the main source of energy, has led to disturbing atmospheric pollution, particularly in the 90 cities which exceed 1 million inhabitants. Rivers are also affected by pollution due to chaotic management of industrial waste and nitrogen fertilizers that are returned directly to rivers by industries.
Moreover, periods of drought are accelerating and causing severe water shortages even in cities. The Gobi Desert continues its expansion and many lakes are definitively dried up.
A controversial origin
China is one of the cradles of human civilization and archaeologists have discovered traces of occupation by the Homo erectus dated more than 2 million years ago.
The discovery of the Wushan Man in a cave at the site of Longgupo has indeed been dated 2.48 million years. This dating is close to that of the prehistoric sites uncovered on the site of Gona in Ethiopia. Although the oldest remains of bipeds date from 6 million years ago (bipedal Orrorin Tugenensis discovered in Kenya and Ardipithecus kadabba discovered in Ethiopia) and even 7 million years ago (Sahelanthropus tchadensis discovered in Chad), the prehistorians still clash with each other about the origin of the planet's population.
The study of wildlife confirmed that exchanges between the African continent and Eurasia took place from 2.5 million years ago. It also allows to determine the evolution of the hominids who were the originators of the nomadic gatherers before becoming hunters and finally to settle down only 10,000 years ago.
African hominids are, according to the theory most often advanced, the common ancestors of all mankind, but some recent discoveries of anthropoid apes dated 45 million years ago in China put this theory into question and would support the thesis of an origin Asian ... which has not yet been confirmed or reversed. Moreover, the mode of dispersal of these anthropoids, which would have benefited from the movements of the tectonic plates several million years ago, has not yet been clarified. They would have arrived in Africa 39 million years ago and one of their branches would have evolved into hominids. The problem becomes even more complicated when it is known that Asian anthropoids also appeared in South America shortly after Africa.
The fire control is one of the main stages in the evolution of hominids. It is in China, and more particularly at the site of Zhoukoudian that the oldest home (currently) was discovered, it is dated 400,000 years. This site was discovered in the 1920s and is famous for having sheltered the Sinanthropus (Sinanthropus pekinensis or Peking man) who lived in caves 700,000 years ago, so long after the man from Wushan. The site was probably occupied until about 11,000 BCE.
From hunter-gatherers, the first inhabitants of China gradually became farmers and, around 4,500 BC, the civilization of Yangshao emerged. It is a Neolithic culture whose territorial limits have not yet been defined. Indeed, more than 1,000 foci of this civilization were discovered in the country and the first theory assuming a single establishment in the Yellow River Valley has since been refuted. It is likely that the Yangshao culture then coexisted with other neolithic cultures spread throughout the eastern part of China (Hemudu, Dawenkou and Daxi cultures). They were replaced in the 3rd millennium BC by the Majiayao culture along the upper reaches of the Yellow River and by the Longshan culture that settled along the middle and lower reaches of the river.
These civilizations live by hunting, gathering, agriculture and livestock and develop a habitat built of compacted soil grouped in villages protected by ditches. Several large centers covering approximately 300 hectares develop towards the end of the period (around 1900 BC). These small cities are fortified and produce ceramics and refined tools. The difference in habitats, burials and discovered objects demonstrates a first hierarchy of the type of chieftainship and also marks the beginning of the first wars.
The time of the dynasties
The beginning of the Bronze Age coincided with the emergence of the Erlitou culture (perhaps assimilated to the Xia dynasty, the first legendary Chinese dynasty but whose existence has not yet been confirmed) on the middle course Of the Yellow River and its expansion over the whole of Henan, Hubei, Shanxi and Shaanxi. This culture, considered as the first Chinese state, died around 1520 BC and gave way to the Erligang period, which saw the emergence of the first real towns and the construction of public or religious buildings. A large production of worked bronze objects and pottery bearing the first signs of the birth of writing in China and a strong hierarchy demonstrate the power and influence of the State of Erligang even if, At present, the social and political system of this civilization has not been determined. It is equally difficult to explain how and why the culture of Erligang was extinguished towards 1.300 BC and to what extent this end is linked to the emergence of the Shang dynasty which would have settled on the site of Zhengzhou built during The period of Erligang and considered as one of the eight ancient capitals of China. Nevertheless, this period brings China into history. It should be noted, however, that if the region occupied by successive cultures represents the beginning of China, different civilizations had developed in parallel in other regions during prehistory.
The Shang (or Yin) dynasty ruled China until 1045 BC, approximately five centuries. This long period is marked by the construction of the first city-palaces oriented along a north-south axis, but above all by the practice of writing that had already appeared during the Erligang period. The state then presents itself in the form of a kingdom administered by a single family. At the same time, the western province of Xinjiang was occupied by the Tokharians, a people of Indo-European origin. They were probably in contact with the inhabitants of the kingdom of the Shang who brought them different technologies including the use of tanks used for military purposes.
Around 1045 BC, the Shang Dynasty was overthrown by the Zhou from the banks of the Wei He, a tributary of the Yellow River.
The Zhou dynasty reigned for nearly eight centuries, until 256 BC. However, two periods must be distinguished:
The Western Zhou dynasty from 1045 to 771 BCE predominantly dominated the impoverished and weakened Shang kings, who had already lost a large part of their territories. The last King Shang is the victim of a coup led by his own vassals who wish to replace him by the Duke of Zhou, Ji Fa who will become the first king of his dynasty under the name of Wu (or Zhou Wuwang). He founded his capital in Hao (now Xi'an in Shaanxi province). The Zhou dynasty pursued an expansionist policy and divided its territories into principalities governed by relatives of the royal lineage. Little by little, the Zhou kings neglect their fiefs, which find their own traditions, far from those of a nonexistent king. The nobility and the army turn against their over-despotic suzerain, King Li, and dismiss him in 841 BC. It gives way to a period of regency before the beginning of the reign of Xuan Wang who undertook to defend without success the territories of the northwest of the country against the Barbarians. His successor, You was killed in 771 BC during the invasion of the Barbarians supported by the father of the wife whom he had repudiated. This reign marks the end of the power of the Western Zhou Dynasty.
The Eastern Zhou dynasty is from 771 to 252 BC and is better known as the "Spring and Autumn Periods" followed by the "Warring States". After You dies, the capital is moved to Luoyi (now Louyang in Henan Province). The sovereigns, however, fail to regain their former splendor and the principalities clash with one another. The stronger militarily absorb the weaker and we witness the birth of some important states including Jin, Qi, Qin and Chu. At the same time, various spiritual movements were born, notably Confucianism and Taoism. The Zhou can no longer hold their role of absolute sovereigns in the face of the rise of their vassals. They keep a purely symbolic role and can only attend the waltz of alliances and dominations of the various peripheral states that will allow the birth of the Warring States in the 5th century.
At that time, "the Warring States" refers to the seven ancient Zhou principalities that have succeeded in emerging: Chu, Han, Qi Qin, Wei, Yan and Zhao, also called the "Seven Heroes". The princes become independent kings who will organize their respective countries into centralized and organized states. This period is marked by different economic reforms, including the development of new agricultural lands, the creation of schools of positivist thought and a real cultural influence. However, internal conflicts, marriage alliances, betrayals and state-to-state attacks make the situation unstable, which benefits the Kingdom of Qin, which embarked on the "Unification Wars" in 230 BC. They will end 9 years later after the Qin victory over other nations.
The Qin dynasty thus began in 221 BC but lasted only 14 years. This short period, however, represents a real turning point in the history of unified China, which is now an empire and which now has only one currency, one handwriting, one unit of weight and measurement and one capital Xianyang (in Shaanxi Province ). Qin Shi Huang is therefore the first to bear the title of emperor. He turns out to be an intransigent, repressive and tyrannical leader, even forbidding books and blaming the nobility and the adepts of Confucianism. His reign is marked by the beginning of the construction of the Great Wall, the expansion of cities and an economic growth based on agriculture which takes advantage of new techniques, including fertilization of land. The personality of the emperor aroused many revolts that erupted throughout the country when his son succeeded him. He was forced into suicide three years later, leaving China a prey to civil wars (Chu-Han war). The country is divided into 18 Kingdoms quickly dominated by the Chu and Han.
The Han dynasty began in 206 BCE following the victory of the Han over the Chu and lasted for more than four centuries, until 220 AD, despite a brief interruption at the beginning of the first century. The once unified country enjoys a long period of peace and prosperity, notably through the creation of the "Silk Road", replacing the "Jade Route" linking China to present-day Myanmar. China is opening up to trade with other peoples and caravans now transport silk but also many other products such as amber, ivory, spices, musk, porcelain ... This road is used until now 'In the 15th century when it is gradually abandoned in favor of a faster and safer maritime route.
The first part of the reign of the Han (Western Han who chose Chang'an as its capital) is marked by the growing influence of Confucianism based on virtue, the inner wealth of man, and the hierarchy of society that begins in the Family circle (the woman is subject to her husband, the younger children owe respect to their elders and must love their parents, ...) It is imposed as state doctrine by Emperor Han Wudi. The empire quickly expanded and annexed the territories of Xiongnu, nomads living in northern China. The expansionist policy continues and the Han also control part of Turkestan, Manchuria and Korea. The army is deployed along the northern and western borders of China and is responsible for controlling the movement of populations. The country then enjoyed a strong central administration, but quarrels and internal shenanigans in the imperial court combined with the rise of the provincial administrations weakened the power of the emperor and allowed the temporary emergence of the Xin dynasty during 14 years. The management of the unique emperor Xin, Wang Mang, a visionary who wants to apply the Zhouli rites to the letter, is chaotic and his reign is also marked by great natural disasters. The people see a sign of heavenly punishment against the usurper which leads to the restitution of the empire to the Han dynasty and the rise to the throne of Han Guang Wudi in 25 AD.
The eastern Han established their capital in Luoyang and a new era of prosperity settled in the country, lasts until the end of the 1st century. At that time Buddhism mahāyāna made its appearance in China. His precepts are conveyed by the monks who follow the Silk Road.
At the same time, the provinces once again benefit from a strong local government and the provincial elites are granted large agricultural estates. Gradually the Han Empire collapsed undermined by insurrections but also by the growing power of the eunuchs who now manage the court while isolating it even more from the provinces. The warlords clash with each other and the empire is quickly divided into three (the North, Sichuan and the lower Yangzi). The Han dynasty dies out in 220 leaving room for the Three Kingdoms period.
The Three Kingdoms include the Wei Kingdom ruled by Cao Pi, the Shu Kingdom governed by Liu Bei and the Wu Kingdom ruled by Sun Quan. These three Lords of War disputed the succession of the last Han and proclaimed themselves in turn emperor. They will confront each other regularly but also try to seize the territories outside China's old borders.
It is then that a military strategist, Sima Yi, stands out for his feats of arms and obtains the confidence of the Wei dynasty. He succeeded in eliminating the guardian of the young crown prince and taking his place, the first step towards the Jin dynasty.
The Jin Dynasty is divided into two parts, the Western Jin who rule from 265 to 316 and establish their capital in Luoyang and the Jin Orientals ruling from 316 to 420 and whose capital is Jiankang.
China is once again unified but is still not in peace. Indeed, the second Emperor Jin is mentally deficient and totally incapable of managing the country, which leads to conflicts between the various members of his family who want to rule the regency, an episode known as the "War of the Eight Princes" Lasts from 291 to 306 and puts the country in a situation close to chaos. Different tribes take advantage of it to become independent again and to take possession of the lands of the north.
The Eastern Jin should seek refuge south of the Huai River and abandon the most economically rich part of the country. Despite some victories to settle on the southern shores of the Yellow River, the Jin failed to restore stability in the divided country and the civil war re-established due to the revolt of the clans departed from the courtyard. For ten years, the Jin Orientals gathering the Southern dynasties confronted the Sixteen Kingdoms of the North. These wars ended in 420 on the overthrow of the Jin dynasty, the separation of China in two and the reigns of the five dynasties of the North and the four dynasties of the South.
The dynasties of the North and the South, the time of separation
The Wei of the North, the Wei of the East, the Wei of the West and the Northern Zhou succeed each other in the north, while the Liu Song, the South Qi, the Liang and the Chen succeed one another in the south. This period ends at the end of the 6th century by the reunification and the advent of the Sui. During this period, the North and the South are evolving and cultural and political differences probably appear despite the continuation of trade. The South is considered more refined while the North influenced by the "barbarians" derives its power from its armed forces. The language and the customs also distance them with the birth of dialects or the observance of different funeral rites. However, these assertions must be taken with caution because there is no evidence that they are in line with reality.
Towards the end of the 6th century, the general of the armies, Yang Jian dismissed the last emperor Zhou who is then only a child and seizes power. He is known as the founder of the Sui dynasty. He then undertook to reunite an army composed not only of foot soldiers and horsemen but also of a strong navy counting several thousand ships. He gathers his troops along the borders between the North and the South, from Sichuan to the ocean in order to confront the Chen dynasty which is at the head of South China.
The time of reunification, the comeback of the great dynasties
In 589, Emperor Chen surrendered, opening the way to the reunification and the advent of the Sui, who were to reign over China until 618. During this short period, the country was to benefit from large-scale work, the construction of granaries to shelter the crops and the extension of the Grand Canal of China, which began in the 5th century BC and is still an important waterway.
Despite an imposing army, several Sui military campaigns resulted in failures by the troops of the Koguryo kingdom (Korea). China is paying a heavy toll in human lives for these wars, which is causing the discontent of the already bloodless people because of the great work and betrayals within the army itself. The Sui dynasty disappears in 618.
It is replaced by the Tang dynasty which undertakes to pacify the country and restore its former power. Emperors not only succeeded in boosting trade and the economy, strengthening the country's central administration and reviving the Chinese cultural influence, but also expanding territories. In 690 the only Chinese empress in history, Wu Zetian, took power and founded the Zhou dynasty marking a brief interruption in the reign of the Tang Dynasty. His son fomented a coup d'etat and restored the Tang dynasty in 704. The dynasty reached its peak during the long reign of Xuanzon, but in 756 the "Revolt of An Lushan", a general dismissed from the imperial court, A new turning point in history. An Lushan succeeded in chasing Xuanzon from the capital Chang'an, seizing power and founding the Yan dynasty which died seven years later.
The following Tang emperors no longer succeed in asserting their authority, which is nibbled at once by the generals established in the provinces and by the eunuchs and ministers of the imperial court. Moreover, the empire had to face attacks from neighboring states, which began the end of the dynasty in 907.
For more than 70 years, China experienced a succession of dynasties and creations of small independent kingdoms. This period of transition known as the "Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms" puts the country to fire and blood and knows only brief moments of peace.
The Song Dynasty in the North took power in 960 following the conquest of the different kingdoms by Song Taizu, a general who had seized the Kingdom of the Zhou. He established his capital in Kaifeng and, despite some tensions, the country lives more peaceful hours which allow the improvement of communication networks, the invention of new technologies and energize the external commercial relations. In the 11th century, the Song suffered several military reverses, in Vietnam (Ly dynasty) and in Manchuria (the Jurchen who founded their own state). The Jurch Dynasty's Jurchen became enemies and attacked the Song capital, forcing the court to retreat south of the Yangzi Jiang River to found the new capital Lin'an (Hanghzou), marking the beginning of the dynasty Song of the South.
The Southern Song dynasty began in 1127 and managed to maintain the borders between China and the Jin. At the same time, it is building an important merchant navy and constructing new ports that are better equipped for maritime trade. The merchant ships are protected by warships that use gunpowder, a Chinese invention dating probably from the 7th century. The funding of this work creates tensions between the government and the heavily taxed or even despoiled nobles of their property.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the Mongols under the leadership of Genghis Khan set out to conquer neighboring states. They seized the lands belonging to the Jin dynasty and the kingdom of the Western Xia, and in 1259 attacked the Southern Song. The Songs were defeated in 1276 (or 1279) and the Yuan dynasty succeeded them.
The Yuan Mongolian dynasty is founded by Khan Kubilai who chooses Zhongdu (Beijing) as its capital. For the first time in its history, China is ruled by a dynasty not descended from the Han ethnic group. The descendants of Kubilai are unable to gain acceptance by the people despite their desire to become true emperors by relying on Chinese advisers. Indeed, the highest functions are occupied only by the Mongols and the interbreeding is prohibited which prevents any integration between the two peoples.
On the other hand, the arts, mathematics and the sciences develop while the great constructions resume and the Europeans discover China. This does not prevent the people from opposing the Mongols, and in 1351 the "Revolt of the Red Turbans" broke out, led by warlords. The movement spreads throughout China and burns the country for 17 years. In 1368, the last emperor Yuan fled, leaving the place to the Ming dynasty.
The Ming dynasty founded by Hongwu reigned over China until 1644, nearly three centuries and marks the return of the Han to power. The country is booming again thanks to an agricultural policy benefiting from communication networks, international trade with Japan and Europe, the valorization of handicrafts and urban expansion. An army of more than a million men is formed to assert the power of the empire. Major constructions are accelerating, notably the Forbidden City of Beijing and the extension of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal.
China has an important cultural influence and excels in many arts such as calligraphy, ceramics or cabinetmaking.
Yet the first tensions are palpable as of the middle of the 15th century due to natural disasters that cause famines, military defeats and the growing power of eunuchs. The 16th century experienced its mostly financial problems. The government decides to increase taxes, which will ruin both agriculture and trade and cause a serious crisis in the 1620s. Famines, epidemics, locust invasions, nothing is spared the people who are decimated. Revolts broke out in the provinces against Peking, and in 1640 warlord Li Zicheng seized the city, putting an end to the Ming dynasty. He founded the Shun dynasty of which he proclaimed himself emperor in 1644. He died shortly afterwards in fuzzy conditions and the very young dynasty was extinguished.
The End of the Empire
The Qing Dynasty Qing took power in 1645 and did not leave it until 1912. The Qing, descendants of the Jurchens established in Manchuria are thus the last Chinese emperors.
Initially, the new government adopted the same political system as the Ming in order to maintain a certain stability in the country, but soon the population must adopt Manchu customs such as the wearing of the braid and the traditional costume by the men. The government has the power to censor literature and pursue a repressive policy against anyone who criticizes its decisions.
Nevertheless, the country is experiencing a period of calm and agriculture is making progress thanks to the methods of obtaining three rice crops per year. This golden age tarnished during the 19th century. The population explosion leads to a decrease in the quality of life, while the great European nations that have settled in the neighboring states are trying to insinuate themselves into the political life. The Chinese are closing their maritime borders and Canton alone remains open for trade which is now managed by the government.
The United Kingdom, which sells opium in China in large quantities, runs up against the prohibition introduced in 1729 by the emperor because of the ravages caused by drugs among the population. He nevertheless circumvented this ban and triggered the "First Opium War" in 1839. The United Kingdom emerged victorious from the conflict in 1842 and then seized Hong Kong, which remained a British colony until 1997.
The defeat of China has serious consequences. From now on, Europeans can flood the market with their products that sell at prices that are inaccessible to the people who are in debt and revolt. The rebellions are controlled by the Chinese government supported by the European powers and by Japan. It is in this context that the "second opium war" begins following the arrest of a British smuggling ship in 1856. The English supported by the French invade China and seize Beijing in 1860.
The Beijing Convention, which favors the West, is still in debt to China, which must also face popular movements of revolt. In 1899, the Qing-backed "Rebellion of the Boxers" fought against the foreign powers who nevertheless emerged victorious.
The birth of the Republic
It is in this difficult context that originate the first revolutionary movements backed by the military that will lead to the end of Chinese dynasties and the birth of the Republic of China. The Chinese Revolution also called Xinhai begins with an uprising in a barracks in Wuchang. This incident is only the prelude to a real revolution that is gaining the other provinces. These proclaim themselves independent, one after the other, while the imperial army is overwhelmed. The time for negotiations has come and Puyi, the last Chinese emperor at the age of 6 years, abdicated in 1912. A government is set up in Nanjing and Sun Yat-sen, founder of the nationalist Kuomintang party, became the first provisional President of China. He was soon replaced by Yuan Shikai, the former commander of the imperial troops.
The beginnings of the Republic are difficult because of tensions and corruption within the government. In 1915, Yuan Shikai tried to re-establish the empire in order to strengthen his power, but this restoration was met with strong opposition. The military leaders of the provinces rise again, the new empire only holds 83 days.
This desire to come back to the empire has further destabilized power and, for more than a decade, the country was in the hands of the "warlords" who clashed in a real war until 1928 when the The National Revolutionary Army lifted by the Kuomintang party emerged victorious from an offensive in the North. The warlords were beaten and the reunified Republic of China enjoyed a genuine central power even though several civil wars were to put it at regular risk until 1949, when the Communists took control of the country and the foundation Of the People's Republic of China.
The People's Republic of China
In 1949, China was out of breath after more than a century of tensions, armed conflicts and civil wars. The two wars of opium, the revolts that led to the proclamation of the republic, the foreign powers' control over trade, the warfare waged by warlords, and the long war between China and Japan (1937- 1945) which wanted to extend its territories by annexing the country leave the country bloodless.
It is in this context that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) supported by the peasants rises up against the Kuomintang, triggering a new civil war. In 1949, one of the founders of the CCP, Mao Zedong, known as the "Great Helmsman", proclaimed the People's Republic of China, while supporters of the Kuomintang were exiled to the island of Taiwan where they continued to support the Republic of China.
The country is not pacified and undergoes a veritable regime of terror during campaigns of purification (campaign to eliminate counter-revolutionaries, campaign of the three antis and campaign of the five antis) destined to eliminate in particular the corruption, the escape Taxation and the diversion of State property. In 1954, the constitution was adopted, marking the birth of a socialist state.
But the power of Mao Zedong, who is both the head of state and the CCP, is weakened as the population no longer supports the collectivization put in place since 1955. Peasants and craftsmen are integrated voluntarily or cooperatively by cooperatives, while the industries are placed under the tutelage of the State. This movement called "first leap forward" is not successful and collectivization associated with several natural disasters reduces crops and causes famine. Mao suffered a first setback to Congress in 1956 and the government decided to let go of a bit of ballast, to listen to the critics and to grant more freedoms especially to the artists and intellectuals through the "Campaign of the Cent Flowers ". A genuine protest movement led by students and intellectuals who want the return of democracy immediately hurts and criticisms against the power and especially against the Party are numerous.
Faced with this flood of unforeseen recriminations and the people's desire for freedom, the Party feels threatened and reacts very quickly. Mao declares that only beneficial criticisms will henceforth be authorized and that acts or words not in conformity with socialism are "unwelcome". The repression is violent and particularly targets students and university professors. Many of them, accused of right-wing, are executed, imprisoned or exiled. Young graduates can no longer choose their assignments and are sent to the countryside. More than half a million intellectuals are sent to labor camps, but repression affects all social classes and becomes a pretext for eliminating vagrants or purging administrations.
In 1958, Mao launched a new "Great Leap Forward", forcing the entire population, including the peasants, to participate in industrial production, which created a new famine and began the decline of Mao, which was gradually displaced from power.
Feeling that he escaped, Mao relying on the students (Red Guards) launched the "Cultural Revolution" in 1966 to eliminate the CCP revisionists and especially exterminate all traces of traditional Chinese culture (the four old things, namely, Old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits). Temples and antiquities are destroyed, shows and concerts are banned, books, paintings and ancient documents are burned while their owners and artists are subject to torture, imprisonment and death. This revolution did not really end until 1976, when Mao died.
The end of the isolationism
From then, China began a slow opening to the outside world and Deng Xiaoping, who seized power, embarked on a series of economic reforms in order to catch up with the rest of the country. The State no longer has a monopoly on cereal and industrial production and the population gets a better standard of living and above all more freedom.
Everything is not perfect, however, and students associate with intellectuals and workers to demand a reform of the entire political system. The demonstrators gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In reaction, the government institutes martial law and forces the army to evacuate the various occupied places. The record is cumbersome and even if the exact figures are not known, it is estimated that several hundred or even thousands of civilians were killed and many arrests took place in the days following the events.
The international reaction is not long in coming and measures are being taken against China.
China will pursue its reforms and its economy is rapidly recovering to the point that the country becomes the third economic power in 2008. The cheap labor attracts foreign investors.
However, the CCP remains the most important party and the policy is always repressive.
According to its constitution, the People's Republic of China is a "socialist state of popular democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants".
The country is headed by the President (currently Xi Jinping) who is also Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and chairman of the Central Military Commission. He is assisted by the Prime Minister of the State Council (Li Keqiang), Chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee (Zhang Dejiang) and Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (Yu Zhengsheng).
The CCP imposes permanent control of the population, in particular through censorship and control of the mass media. However, Party does not intervene in autonomous regions or in regions with special status (Hong Kong and Macao). Moreover, the National People's Congress can oppose laws and measures desired by the State and the Party.
There are eight other political parties accepted by the CCP. They are part of the People's Consultative Conference.
An economic power
China's economic growth continues, which gives the country a GDP ranking second in the world. Despite these figures, the population remains poor and its purchasing power is meager. Shanghai considered the financial center of the Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong benefiting from the development of the service sector and the city of games of chance and chance Macao are the main economic hubs of the country.
At present, agriculture accounts for only 10% of GDP even though this sector occupies one third of the population. Industries and services account for 44% and 46% of GDP, respectively. Tourism has also grown, particularly since the introduction of paid holidays that allow the Chinese to visit their own country.
Foreign investors also contribute to the economy of China which has earned the country the nickname "workshop of the world". Since 2005, all sectors are open to individuals and the state no longer controls the industries.
Considered an enormous polluter until the 2000s, China has initiated a policy aimed at privileging green energy even though coal remains by far the main source of energy in the country.
A country of cultural contrast
China's total population is well over 1,360,000, or more if the population of Taiwan (claimed by China), Hong Kong and Macao is taken into account, accounting for 20% of the world's population. Almost half of the Chinese live in rural areas.
56 ethnic groups are recognized in China but the Hans (the historical ethnic group) make up the majority with more than 92% of the population. The Zhuangs and the Manchus are the main minority ethnic groups but represent only about 1% of the population.
The official language is Mandarin (traditional Chinese). It is the mother tongue of the majority of Chinese and the language taught at school. The Cantonese is spoken mainly in southern China, Macao and Hong Kong while the wu is spoken mainly in Shanghai and in Zhejiang province.
Freedom of worship is admitted in China since the 3rd century BC even though the state is in charge of controlling religious groups and sects that might threaten power.
The possibility of belonging to several religions does not make it possible to obtain precise statistics concerning the religious affiliation of the population. Thus a Chinese can be both Buddhist and Taoist.
However, it is estimated that 70% of Chinese people are followers of traditional religions such as ancestor worship or Taoism, 15% are Buddhists, 3% are Christians, 2% are Muslims and 10% of the population would be without a religious affiliation.
Traditional medicine is also very popular in China. It is based in part on the harmony and balance (yin and yang) of the body and treats the pathologies using plants, minerals and even substances of animal origin in the form of decoctions or powders, l Acupuncture, dietetics, emotion management, massages and qi gong gymnastic exercises.
A victim of the Mao Cultural Revolution, China has lost much of its cultural heritage even though the government has undertaken to rebuild destroyed buildings and works of art.
Chinese cuisine is rich and varied and is based on vegetables, cereals, fruits, meat and fish, all accompanied by rice (in the south) or wheat (in the north). Feminine (yin) foods are represented by vegetables and fruits that are soft and moist from male foods (yang) represented by meat and spices that "warm".
There are four major gastronomic trends in China, the traditional kitchens of Beijing, Canton, Shanghai and Sichuan.
The favorite drinks of the Chinese are tea, a true symbol of the country, coffee, beer and wine. Strong spirits are of all good meals and the Chinese make a great consumption of Maotai, a brandy, a 5 cereal alcohol, Wuliangye or sorghum alcohol, Daqu.
The visa (for a period equal to or less than thirty days in the case of tourism) is compulsory to stay in China. However, a visa is not required for stays in Hong Kong or Macao only.
The passport must be valid for at least six months after the expected date of exit from the territory. The authorities have the right to refuse entry to foreigners even if they have the required papers.
Travelers must register (by themselves or via their hotel) with the police office on which their area of residence depends.
China is a relatively safe country for tourists thanks to the repression of disorder organized by the authorities. However, delinquency is recorded in Beijing and, in general, in stations and tourist sites.
Several areas can be avoided due to unrest, so it is recommended to inquire before staying in China.
Moreover, certain districts of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Sichuan Province are prohibited to foreigners. To be able to stay in Tibet, you must request a special authorization through the travel agency and be accompanied by a guide.
It is advisable to respect the laws and measures and to avoid any improper behavior (drunkenness, noise, ..) which could lead to the expulsion of the territory or even a penalty of imprisonment. Consumption and a fortiori the sale of drugs is very severely punished. It should be noted that screening can be done in bars and establishments open at night.
One must also be vigilant because of credit card scams and pressures on tourists to make them pay for goods at very high prices or accept white weddings.
The vaccination against yellow fever is mandatory but it is also recommended to be in order of vaccine against diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, viral hepatitis, bacterial meningitis, rabies and Japanese encephalitis.
A visit to the major cities of China is not recommended for elderly people, pregnant women, children and people suffering from respiratory or cardiac diseases due to the pollution rate.
China is opening up more and more to tourism and contains many natural or historical treasures.
The main tourist attractions are the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the terracotta army of a Qin emperor, the huge Three Gorges dam, or the rice terraces built on the mountainside.
The natural sites are countless and exceptional and green tourism enthusiasts will surely linger in the Tiger Leaping Gorge to a depth of nearly 4,000 meters or in the rocky peaks of the Stone Forest of Shilin. They will also admire the elegance and beauty of the Suzhou Gardens and enjoy the peacefulness of the Hangzhou Zen Gardens.
Temples, national parks, pandas, tea houses, big Buddhas, lively markets and small restaurants, desert landscapes and overcrowded cities, China is a country of contrasts that seduces its visitors.