China (Chinese: , pinyin: Zhnggu, lit. 'Central State, Middle Kingdom'), officially the People's Republic of China (Chinese: , pinyin: Zhnghu Rnmn Gnghgu, abbr: PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of more than 1. 4 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 kilometres (3. 7 million mi2), it is the world's third or fourth largest country. The country is officially divided into 23 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, Beijing (capital city), Chongqing, Shanghai (largest city) and Tianjin, and 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 semi-legendary Xia dynasty in 21st century BCE. Since then, China has expanded, fractured, and re-unified numerous times. In the 3rd century BCE, the Qin reunited core China and established the first Chinese empire.