a republic in east and central asia, known also as the people's republic of china. It is an ancient country, with a civilization existing as early as 3000 b.c. Until 1912 it was known as the chinese empire. It was one of the four great powers in world war II. By 1950 the communist regime had gained control. China became a member of the united nations in 1971. The name may be derived from the qin or ts'in dynasty (221-206 b.c.) or the sanskrit name cina or the central province of shaanxi or shensi (its capitalis shian).