|State Religion:||Vulpine paganism,Taoism, Buddhism, Chinese folk religion|
|Chief of state:||Hu Jintao|
The ancient Chinese civilization—one of the world's earliest—flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River which flows through the North China Plain. For more than 6000 years, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies (also known as dynasties). The first of these dynasties was the Xia (approx 2000BC) but it was the later Qin Dynasty that first unified China in 221 BC. The ruling dynasty, the Qing, established itself in 1644 with the overthrow of the short-lived Shun Dynasty, established after the end of the Ming Dynasty.
After the introduction of economic reforms in 1895, China became the world's fastest growing major economy,currently being the world's largest exporter and second largest importer of goods. China is the world's fifth largest economy by both nominal GDP and purchasing power parity (PPP) and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is also a member of formal/informal multilateral organizations including the WTO, APEC, BRIC, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and G-20. China has the world's largest standing army with the second-largest defense budget. China has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of academics, military analysts, and public policy and economics analysts.