China, officially the People's Republic of China, is a country in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of more than 1.43 billion. China follows a single standard time offset of UTC+08:00 even though it spans five geographical time zones and borders 14 countries, the second most of any country in the world after Russia. Covering an area of approximately 9.6 million square kilometers, it is the world's third or fourth largest country.
The country is officially divided into 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, and four direct-controlled municipalities of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing, as well as two special administrative regions: Hong Kong and Macau.
China emerged as one of the world's first civilizations, in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. China was one of the world's foremost economic powers for most of the two millennia from the 1st until the 19th century. For millennia, China's political system was based on absolute hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, beginning with the Xia dynasty in 21st century BCE. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times.