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The Ancient Chinese Civilization

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China's landscape is vast and diverse, with forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in the arid north and northwest near Mongolia and Central Asia, and subtropical forests in the wetter south near Southeast Asia. The terrain of western China is rugged and elevated, with the towering Himalaya, Karakorum, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain separating China from South and Central Asia. The world's highest point, Mt. Everest (8,848 m) and the second-highest, K2 (8,611 m) lie on China's borders, respectively, with Nepal and Pakistan. The country's lowest and the world's third-lowest point, Lake Ayding (-154 m), is located in the Turpan Depression. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, flow from the desolate Tibetan Plateau to the densely-populated eastern seaboard. China's coastline along the Pacific Ocean, 14,500-kilometre (9,000 mi) in length (the 11th-longest in the world), is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East and South China Seas.

The ancient Chinese civilization--one of the world's earliest--flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain.[17] China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies, known as dynasties, beginning with the Xia (approx. 2,000 BC) and lasting almost 4,000 years, until the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. Since the Qin Dynasty first united China in 221 BC, the country has been divided and reunited numerous times in history. The Republic of China (ROC), founded in 1912 after the overthrow of the Qing, ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949. In the Chinese Civil War of 1946-1949, the Chinese Communists defeated the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang) on the mainland and established the People's Republic of China in Beijing on October 1, 1949. The Kuomintang relocated the ROC government to the island of Taiwan with its capital in Taipei. The ROC's jurisdiction is now limited to Taiwan, Kinmen, Matsu and several outlying islands. Since then, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) have remained in dispute over the sovereignty of China and the political status of Taiwan, mutually claiming each other's territory and competing for international diplomatic recognition. In 1971, the PRC gained admission to United Nations and took the Chinese seat as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. The PRC is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRIC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the G-20. As of September 2011, all but 23 nations have recognized the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China.

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