The Chinese National EUROSCI Network Centre was created to better serve the needs of Chinese students and scholars. The People's Republic of China (PRC) is the world's most populous country, with around 1.404 billion inhabitants. It is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area, depending on the source consulted. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China's economy has been one of the world's fastest-growing, with annual growth rates consistently above 6 percent. As of 2016, it is the world's second-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). China is also the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state, and has the world's largest standing army, and second-largest defense budget. The PRC is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, as well as an active global partner of the ASEAN Plus mechanism. China is also a leading member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), WTO, APEC, BRICS, the BCIM, and the G20.