China is the world's most populous country. It has a continuous culture stretching back nearly 4,000 years and originated many of the foundations of the modern world.
The People's Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949 after the Communist Party defeated the nationalist Kuomintang, who retreated to Taiwan, creating two rival Chinese states - the PRC on the mainland and the Republic of China based on Taiwan.
After stagnating for decades under the rigid authoritarian socialism of founder Mao Zedong, China reformed its economy along partly capitalist lines to make it one of the world's fastest-growing, as well its leading exporter. China is now a major overseas investor, and is pursuing an increasingly assertive foreign and defence policy.
But economic change has not been matched by political reform, and the Communist Party retains a tight grip on political life and much of wider society.
China is the largest media market in the world, and has the world's largest online population.
Outlets operate under tight Communist Party control. The opening-up of the industry has extended to distribution and advertising, not to editorial content. However, there is leeway for independent coverage that is not perceived as a threat to social stability or the Party.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has described President Xi Jinping as the "planet's leading censor and press freedom predator".
The Communist Party has taken repression "to new heights", the group said in its 2016 World Press Freedom Index. "Journalists were spared nothing, not even abductions, televised forced confessions and threats to relatives."
Beijing tries to limit access to foreign news by restricting rebroadcasting and the use of satellite receivers, by jamming shortwave broadcasts, including those of the BBC, and by blocking websites.
Overseas Chinese-language news outlets that are not state-owned are blocked in mainland China. However, international English language websites like the BBC are often available to view. But content that is contrary to Communist Party rhetoric is filtered and English-language news sites can be filtered at times of tension.
Fears that the media in Hong Kong would lose their independence when the territory reverted to Chinese control in 1997 have generally not been borne out. Hong Kong still has editorially-dynamic media, but worries about interference remain.
TV is available in most homes and the sector is competitive, especially in cities. There are more than 3,300 local, regional and national TV channels.
State-run Chinese Central TV (CCTV) is China's largest media company. Its dominance is challenged by provincial TVs, which are on the air nationally via satellite. China is a major market for pay TV, which is almost entirely delivered by cable. All of China's 2,600-plus radio stations are state-owned.
There are around 1,900 newspapers. Each city has its own title, usually published by the local government, as well as a local Communist Party daily.
China spends hugely on TV, radio, online and press outlets targeted at international audiences, aiming to extend its political influence and boost its image. It is less keen to allow foreign players into the domestic market.
With 731 million users (China Internet Network Information Centre, CNNIC, January 2017), China has the world's largest internet-using population.
The CNNIC says 92.5% of China's online population can access the internet via a smartphone.
There are three powerful online giants, known collectively as "BAT": Baidu is the top search engine; e-commerce leader Alibaba has allied with Sina, which operates the Weibo microblog platform; and Tencent owns instant messenger WeChat.
Because of official censorship, Weibo is losing some of its appeal as a forum where relatively uncensored news can be shared.
WeChat, Tencent's take on the WhatsApp instant messenger, has more than 846 million monthly active users, making it the most popular social media platform in China.
China has the world's largest online video market. Streaming platforms, including market leader iQiyi, Youku Tudou and Sohu have a huge following and pose a challenge to traditional TV.
An extensive web filtering system, dubbed the "Great Firewall of China", blocks tens of thousands of sites using URL filtering and keyword censoring.
Thousands of cyber-police watch the web and material deemed politically and socially sensitive is filtered. Blocked resources include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and human rights sites.
The use of circumvention tools, including virtual private networks (VPNs), became harder after China strengthened its firewall to allow it to intercept data traffic to and from individual IP addresses. This was coined the "Great Fire Cannon" when it came into effect in 2015.
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