Chinese History as described in mythology begins with Pangu, who created the universe and passed on his knowledge to legendary sage emperors and culture heroes who taught the ancient Chinese to communicate and to survive.
21st Century–16th Century BC
Long thought to be a myth, the Xia Dynasty does exist; archeologists later found urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs that suggest civilization during this time period around the cities of Anyang, Henan, and Province in the central area of China.
The Shang Dynasty, started by a rebel leader who overthrew the Xia Dynasty, rules in the Huang He Henan Valley. It concentrates its efforts on agriculture mixed with hunting and animal husbandry. The Chinese develop a writing system and use bronze metallurgy.
In 1027, the last Shang ruler, a despot, is overthrown by a frontier tribe known as the Zhou, which settles in the Wei Valley in the modern Shannzi Province with its capital in the modern-day city of Xi An. Soon the dynasty manages to conquer all of China north of the Yangtze River. The dynasty establishes the divine rights of kings some one thousand years before Western Europe will come up with this theory. The government is semi-feudal with family ties instead of feudal lords ruling.
The Zhou Court is attacked and sacked by rebel leaders, and the Zhou dynasty flees to Luoyang.
The Zhou kingdom becomes fragmented as states leave the confederacy. The cities become more centralized and establish impersonal political and economic institutions.
These years mark the lifespan of Master Kong, or Confucius, who longs for the early days of the Zhou period. He believes the only way such a system can be made to work properly is for each person to act according to prescribed relationships. To Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification are facts of life to be sustained by ethical values. His ideal is the junzi, which comes to mean “gentleman” in the sense of a cultivated or superior man.
The Zhou period becomes one of constant civil war, which leads the various warlords into an arms race as they build bigger and stronger armies. The arms race leads to the development of coinage and the use of iron not only in weapons of war, but also in agriculture. Public works such as flood control, irrigation projects, canal digging, and building of great walls around cities becomes commonplace.
A Confucian disciple named Mencius continues the ideas of Confucius when he declares that men are by nature good and that the king must rule by the people’s consent, not by being a tyrant; otherwise, he will lose his divine right to rule.
A Confucian disciple named Xun Zi preaches that man is innately selfish and evil, and that goodness is attended though education and status. He asserts that the best government is authoritarian and not based on ethics or morals. His two disciples maintain that human nature is incorrigibly selfish; therefore, the only way to preserve the social order is to impose discipline from above and enforce laws strictly—forming the foundation for a school of thought that will become known as legalism.
The western state of Qin defeats all the warlords and takes over China. The new king crowns himself Shi Huangdi, which means “First Emperor.” He imposes Qin’s centralized, nonhereditary, bureaucratic system on his new empire. Shi Huangdi, who is credited with building the Great Wall, is a legalist who imposes his power in the matters of laws and procedures, coinage and writing, thought and scholarship. He has put to death any Confucian scholars who disagree with him.
The first emperor dies and revolt breaks out in his kingdom over who would be the new king.
The Qin dynasty comes to an end.
206 BC–AD 220
The civil war ends with the Han Dynasty coming to power. The new capital is at Chang’an, and while it takes the Qin administrative system, it refuses to take the centralized power. Instead, it sets up vassal provinces and puts the Confucian scholars in charge of the civil service with the world’s first civil service exam based on Confucian thought. During this period, the Chinese develop paper and porcelain, and thanks to the strength of its army, pushes the borders west to the rim of Tarim Basin. They establish the Silk Road, which allows transport of goods to Antioch, Baghdad, and Alexandria. The armies also conquer Vietnam and Korea, where they set up tributary governments.
A growing population, increased wealth, resultant financial difficulties, and ever more complex political institutions, along with massive corruption, lead to the fall of the Han Dynasty.
Three kingdoms, Wei, Shu, and Wu, divide China and rule it together.
The Jin Dynasty wrestles control of China away from the three kingdoms and rules all of China from its capital of Luoyang.
Invading nomadic tribes sack Luoyang and the capital moves to Nanjing. However, it has lost control of all of China and various warlords rule separate areas.
The Jin Dynasty falls due to the influence of non-Chinese living in the country who have brought Buddhism with them. Warlords take over in separate sections of China. In its last years, the Jin Dynasty invented gunpowder and the wheelbarrow and made advances in medicine, astronomy, and cartography.
China is reunited by the Sui Dynasty, which is as ruthless and corrupt as the old Qin Dynasty. The new dynasty implements heavy taxes and forced labor on efforts such as making a Great Canal and rebuilding the Great Wall.
Weakened by a costly and disastrous military campaign in Korea, the Sui Dynasty faces rebellion, disloyalty, and assassination as it falls.
The Tang Dynasty takes control of China and places its capital in the city of Chang’an. It makes contact with India and the Middle East, makes Buddhism the official state religion, and invents block printing, opening up education to the masses. The dynasty also perfects the Confucius method of civil service.
Arab Muslims defeat the Tangs at the Battle of Tales in Central Asia. This leads to misrule, court intrigue, economic exploration, and popular rebellions throughout China, weakening the Tangs even more.
The Tang Dynasty falls due to northern invaders. China is divided into fifteen kingdoms.
The Song family unites much of China and begins the Northern Song Period. The Songs build a centralized bureaucracy staffed by civilian scholar officials. In various regions of China, administrators are appointed to replace military governors. The empire now has more power than ever. The Songs develop cities for trade, industry, and maritime commerce, dismiss Buddhism as a foreign religion, and embrace Confucius’ ideas.
The Songs are forced to flee their capital for another due to nomadic invaders. The Northern Song Period ends and the Southern Song Period begins.
After conquering much of northern China, Korea, Central Asia, and twice-invading Europe, the Mongols turn their eyes on Southern Song and destroy it. The grandson of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, names the new government the Yuan, which is run by Mongols and non-Chinese-speaking officials. During this era, drama and writing are fully developed and China begins to use Western musical instruments. Islam, Roman Catholicism, and Tibetan Buddhism are also started during this period.
After a civil war among the Mongol heirs, natural disasters, and peasant revolt, the Yuan Dynasty collapses. A Buddhist Monk-turned-rebel leader replaces it with the Ming Dynasty, which establishes two capitals: one in Beijing and the other in Nanjing.
Due to pressure at court and a war with the Mongols, the Chinese navy is disbanded. The country returns to a strict agrarian society. The stability of the government leads many Chinese to believe that they have the most perfect government on earth and that nothing foreign is wanted or needed.
After many years of war with the Mongols and raids by the Japanese into Korea and along the coast, the Ming Dynasty falls and is replaced by the Manchu Dynasty. The Manchus are from Manchuria and keep much of the culture in place. The Manchu army, once it conquers all of China proper, goes on to conquer Outer Mongolia and sets up a client state in Central Asia known as Tibet. Soon they rule even Taiwan.
A border war with Russia begins.
By this year, the Portuguese, Spanish, French, and British have established cities on the coast, which they use for trading purposes. The Chinese try to treat the powers as client states only to be told they want to be political equals, which China will not grant.
The Catholic Jesuits who have been trying to turn China Christian since the late 1200s is condemned by the Pope for allowing Chinese Christians to continue practicing ancestor rights and for teaching the Chinese cannon casting, calendar-making, geography, mathematics, cartography, music, art, and architecture. This puts an effective end to the missionary field in China.
The long-lasting border war with Russia comes to an end with a treaty.
China agrees to let the foreign powers trade in the city of Guangzhou with officially licensed Chinese firms.
China has begun to have economic problems due to having a population of three hundred million, but not enough jobs or land to live off of. The government and military is corrupt and cannot help fix the problems, so there are several revolts led by secret societies. Also, Britain begins to bring raw cotton and opium into China by bribing the corrupt bureaucracy.
The Chinese government sends a commissioner to stop the opium trade. The commissioner seizes and destroys the entire opium stock, then arrests the entire foreign community. The British send troops into China in what is known as the Opium War.
After losing the war, the Chinese sign a treaty with Britain, which makes the Chinese surrender the island of Hong Kong to the British, abolish the licensed monopoly system of trade; open five ports to British residence and foreign trade; limit the tariff on trade to 5 percent, grant British nationals exemption from Chinese laws, and pay a large fine. The British also are granted “most favored nation” status.
China sees droughts, famines, and floods, which can all be traced back to the government refusing to spend money on public works and refusing to help. This decade also sees some economic tension, military defeats, and Anti-Manchu sentiment. Russia invades and captures the Heilong Jiang position of Manchuria.
The Taping Rebellion, led by a village schoolteacher named Hong Xiuquan, begins in South China. Hong mixes some pre-Confucian ideas with Protestant beliefs and forms a new ideology, which soon draws him thousands of followers. He forms a military organization for protection from the peasants and then declares himself king over the “Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace.” He gives the land to the peasants to farm in common and outlaws slavery, concubines, arranged marriage, opium smoking, foot binding, judicial torture, and idol worship. However, the people he places in charge refuse to listen to him. The British and the French, who have just finished burning Beijing to the ground, send troops to stop the rebellion.
Russia has captured all of Manchuria north of Heilong Jiang and east of the Ussuri River. A treaty is signed stating that all foreign settlements in the ports are sovereign parts of the country to which they belong and China can no longer rule there. This is enforced by gunboats that sail off the coasts.
After the death of thirty million people, the Taping Rebellion comes to an end. France colonizes Vietnam and Cambodia.
The Tongzhi Restoration is designed to stop the decaying of the imperial system, which is dying due to the government studying Western language and science, operating special schools, and opening factories, arsenals, and shipyards based on the Western model. The Qing adopt the Western diplomatic practices and students are sent to Europe to study. The young emperor has his mother, Ci Xi, lead the movement.
With the death of the young emperor, the modernization movement is taken over by Generals Li Hongzhang and Zuo Zongtang, who had fought against the Taping rebels. In what becomes known as the “Self-Strengthening Movement,” they try to graft Western technology onto Chinese institutions. They establish modern institutions, develop basic industries, communications, and transportation, and modernize the military. However, this movement does not recognize the part that social theories and politics have played in the advances of the West, so it fails.
After a small war with France, Great Britain, and Russia, China loses Amman, Burma, and Turkestan.
China fights a war with Japan and is forced to give up Taiwan and the Penghu Islands, pay a huge fine, permit the establishment of Japanese industry in four treaty ports, and recognize Japanese control of Korea.
Great Britain leases Hong Kong for ninety-nine years. Also, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and Belgium each gain spheres of influence in China.
June 11–September 21—Emperor Guangxu orders a series of reforms aimed at making sweeping changes in China, including stamping out corruption and remaking the civil service and academic exam system, the legal system, the governmental structure, the defense establishment, and the postal service. He orders modernization of agriculture, medicine, and mining, and wants to promote practical studies instead of neo-Confucian orthodoxy as well as send students abroad for firsthand observations and studies. All of these changes are to be brought about by a constitutional monarchy. Some members of the Manchu Dynasty do not agree and organize a coup led by Yuan Shikai and Ci Xi, which arrests and imprisons the emperor. Ci Xi then takes the throne, rescinds all the emperor’s orders, arrests the members of his government, and executes six of them.
The United States proposes that China should be an “open door,” with all the nations of the world sharing its profits. All but Russia agree.
The Boxer Rebellion occurs, in which groups of Boxers roam North China and murder missionaries and Chinese Christians, then attack the foreign embassies in Beijing. The Great Powers send troops to crush the revolt and occupy China.
China is made to consent to the execution of ten high officials and the punishment of hundreds of others, expansion of the Legation Quarter, payment of war reparations, stationing of foreign troops in China, razing of some Chinese fortifications, and the agreement to make reforms in China as punishment for the rebellion.
The Emperor Guangxu dies in prison, having never been released.
Ci Xi dies and the throne passes to her nephew, Pu Xi, who is two years old. Until he comes of age, his father, Prince Chun, rules in his place. Chun ends all reforms in the country.
September—A demonstration in Sichuan Province becomes a revolt when police fire on the crowd. The revolt is led by Sun Yatsen, who studied in China and has been waiting for this moment since 1905.
October—Soldiers in Wuchang begin to demonstrate against the government. Sun Yatsen brings his rebels into the area to organize riots.
November—Fifteen of the twenty-four Chinese provinces are in rebellion.
January—Sun Yatsen is made provincial president of the Chinese Republic and makes his capital in Nanjing. However, in Beijing, a rival named Yuan Shikai, head of the armed forces, demands to be president with the capital in Beijing.
February—Pu Yi abdicates the throne and the Chinese monarchy comes to an end.
March—Yuan Shikai becomes provincial president of the Chinese Republic. The new country has no army except what Yuan controls, and he rules more like a dictator than prime minister.
August—A friend of Sun Yatsen, Song Jiaoren, forms the KMT or Nationalist Party.
The KMT wins the majority of seats in the elections. Yuan has Song assassinated, which sends the south into rebellion led by Sun. The rebellion is crushed and Sun flees to Japan. Yuan is elected president of China by the Chinese parliament. The Great Powers agree to recognize him as such in return for China giving up Outer Mongolia and Xizang.
Yuan outlaws the KMT, disbands parliament, and has a new constitution written making him president of China for life. Japan declares itself part of the Allied side in World War I and attacks German possessions in China.
Yuan declares that the monarchy will be restored and that he will be the new emperor. Several provinces secede from China.
Japan sends China a list of demands that would make it a satellite state of Japan. China agrees to give Japan what land it is already on, along with Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. Yuan dies of natural causes.
China declares war against Germany in hopes of regaining what it lost to Japan.
The New Culture Movement commences.
China and Japan make a secret agreement to give Japan the Shandong Province if Japan won’t bother China for more land.
At the Paris Peace Conference, the secret deal becomes public and there is an outcry in China. Sun Yatsen reestablishes the KMT to oppose the Beijing government. An outbreak of massive student riots against Beijing and Japan begins in China.
Sun becomes president of the southern republics of China, which seceded in 1915. He tries to unite the government, and when the West does not respond, goes to the USSR for help. The USSR agrees to help him and the newly formed CCP or Chinese Communist Party.
The KMT is once again outlawed and Sun is forced to flee for Shanghai, where he officially receives aid from the USSR.
The Soviets send advisors to China in order to reorganize the KMT along Communist Party lines. The Soviets encourage CCP members to also join the KMT and pay for Sun’s lieutenant, Chang Kai-Shek, to go to Moscow for training.
Chang returns from Moscow and opens and heads up a military academy in Guangzhou.
Sun dies of cancer. Chang leads his military cadets to conquer half of China.
The KMT splits into two factions, and there is a kidnapping attempt on Chang. Chang retaliates by ordering all Soviet advisors out of China, makes it illegal for CCP members to hold top positions in the KMT, and makes himself head of the KMT.
The KMT splits into two different parties. The CCP makes its capital at Wuhan, and the KMT makes an anti-communist capital at Nanjing. Several communist uprisings take place in Nanchang, Changsha, Shantou, and Guangzhou, along with a peasant revolt in the Hunan Province led by a young peasant named Mao Zedong. All are crushed.
The CCP is expelled from Wuhan and Chang is made president of China.
Chang modernizes the legal and prison system, stabilizes prices, pays off debts, reforms the banking and currency systems, builds railroads and highways, improves public health facilities, makes it illegal to sell drugs, and helps support industrial and agriculture production. He also pledges to reform the education system, make one national Chinese language, and establish a widespread communication system.
1929–1930: Mao Zedong establishes a guerilla force of ten thousand dedicated communists on the border of Hunan and Jiangzi provinces.
Mao declares the establishment of the Chinese Socialist Republic with himself as leader. The CCP refuses to acknowledge Mao. Japan conquers Manchuria and places ex emperor Pu Yi as a puppet ruler. Japan then starts to move south along the Chinese coast. The government does nothing, as it is more interested in hunting down the CCP.
With both the KMT and the CCP after him, Mao takes one hundred thousand communists on a circuitous retreat of some 12,500 kilometers through eleven provinces, eighteen mountain ranges, and twenty-four rivers in southwest and northwest China in what has become known as the Long March. At the end of it, only eight thousand survive, but Mao now has control of the CCP. He sets up a capital at Yan-an and waits.
Nationalist troops recently ousted from Manchuria mutiny at Xi An and arrest Chang until he agrees to stop fighting the communists and start fighting Japan.
The KMT and CCP join forces and fight the Japanese army outside Beijing in the Battle of Marco Polo Bridge.
Japan controls much of northern China and the coastal areas, and the alliance between the KMT and CCP ends.
The KMT and CCP begin to fight once more. Mao Zedong comes up with a new plan, which is to have his troops disperse among the peasant villages during the day and at night attack KMT and Japanese forces through guerilla warfare. He also begins to set down his thoughts in the Little Red Book.
The US begins to send aid to China.
Britain and the US revise their treaties to favor China in exchange for allowing Allied troops to fight the Japanese in China. The US also agrees to open its borders to Chinese immigrants, which the US has not done since the 1880s.
The end of World War II sees China emerge as a victor but with major problems. She is having economic problems and is on the verge of a civil war. The economy owes its problems to the war, inflation, and corruption. Many are starving and homeless due to the war.
August 1945: The USSR declares war on Japan and invades China to mop up the Japanese forces. They take the arms and ammunition of the Japanese and send it to Mao and his forces, which now number 1.2 million.
The US arranges a truce between the KMT and CCP and sends troops in to enforce it.
The US withdraws its troops from China and stops giving it military aid; it continues to give loans.
The KMT sees its army refuse to fight the CCP. The Communists own much of northern and northeastern China, and although the KMT has more men, supplies, and land, it is tired from fighting.
Beijing falls to the Communists.
October—The People’s Republic of China is officially established with its government in Beijing led by Mao Zedong. Mao sets up the people’s democratic dictatorship with its four classes being the workers, the peasants, the petite bourgeoisie, and the national-capitalists. The classes are to be led by the CCP, which has a membership of 4.5 million. Mao rules the party and the government is ruled by Zhou Enlai as premier of the State Administrative Council. The USSR recognizes the new government of China.
November—Chang flees China for Taiwan with his supporters.
December—Chang declares Taipei the capital of China.
China and the USSR sign the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, which will remain valid until 1980 and is designed to keep Japan and the Allied countries from attacking China. In response to units of the UN army advancing in North Korea, units of the People’s Volunteer Army cross the border into North Korea and join in the Korean War. They also march into Xizang and make it once again part of China.
The UN declares China to be an aggressor in the Korean War and embargoes arms and war materials to China. It also refuses to allow China to take the seat in the Security Council away from Taiwan, which is still considered to be China.
A massive campaign to rid the country of war criminals, traitors, bureaucratic capitalists, and counterrevolutionaries is launched with a main goal of executing people in front of party-sponsored trials. At first the targets are foreigners and Christian missionaries who are seen as secret US agents, but soon the drive is combined with land reform with landlords and wealthy peasants brought up on charges. When the barrel starts to run dry on them, the focus shifts to university faculty members, scientists, artists, and writers. The campaign manages to end corruption in government and the industry for a time—something that in China has never been achieved.
Its first modern census reveals that it has a population 563 million. Elections are held for the First People’s National Congress to meet in 1954.
China’s First Five-Year Plan is announced, with goals of achieving industrialization, collectivizing agriculture, and centralizing politics. The Chinese decide to copy the Soviet model for developing heavy industry and sign agreements with the USSR to do so.
The First People’s National Congress writes a constitution and formally elects Mao Zedong as president of China, Liu Shaoqi as chairman of the congress, and Zhou Enlai as premier of the state council. Later this year, a power struggle in the CCP leads to the purge of Gao Gang and Rao Shushi, who try to seize control.
Agriculture is collectivized. China also nationalizes banking, trade, and industry. The CCP encourages intellectuals to join the party while disfranchising the peasants.
The Hundred Flowers Campaign is started by Mao to let intellectuals speak out against the CCP, but so many do so that the leadership turns against them and calls them bourgeois rightists.
The Soviet Union agrees to help China develop a nuclear bomb.
The CCP launches the Great Leap Forward, aimed at accomplishing the economic and technical development of the country at a vastly faster pace and with greater results. Mao, although happy with the progress made in the First Five Years, believes that more can be accomplished in the Second Five Years if people can be ideologically aroused and if domestic resources can be used more efficiently for the simultaneous development of industry and agriculture. To do this, the party mobilizes peasants into mass organizations, steps up ideological guidance and indoctrination of technical experts, and makes efforts to build a more responsive political system. Toward the latter goal, people are formed into cadres and sent to factories, communes, mines, and public works projects for manual labor and first-hand familiarization with grass-roots conditions.
Fall—There are now 23,500 communes of 22,000 people each. Each commune controls its own means of production and manages its own accounting. They give tasks to people who live in traditional villages and each commune supports itself through agriculture, small-scale local industry (backyard pig iron furnaces), schooling, marketing, administration, and militia-run security. The communes have mess halls, kitchens, and nurseries, and attack the traditional family by sending the men to work on irrigation and dams.
With the population showing signs of restlessness, the CCP admits it lied in its report of the previous year. There is a massive food shortage, shortage of raw material for industry, overproduction of shoddy goods, breakdown of industrial plants through mismanagement, and exhaustion that runs up and down the line to include everybody.
April—Mao resigns as chairman and is replaced by Liu Shaoqi, but keeps his position as head of the CCP. National Defense Minister Peng Dehuai is fired for criticizing Mao in public and is replaced by Lin Biao, who purges all of Dehuai’s men from the army and starts a hard-line military policy.
April–October—The Chinese bomb the Nationalist-held islands of Jinmen and Mazu, start a propaganda campaign against the US, and publicly state that the military intends to take Taiwan.
Summer—The USSR stops helping China develop nuclear weapons and also stops all economic aid to China. Riots begin in the province of Xizang, and when the Chinese send troops, the Dalai Lama flees with thousands of his rebels to India. When China demands they be given back, they are ignored.
Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun, Peng Zhen, and Bo Yibo take over command of the CCP although they allow Mao to remain ceremonial head. The new leaders reorganize the commune system, giving the villages more say; reestablish its six regional bureaus; and tighten party discipline. They also give control of the factories to the factory leaders and strengthen the defense and internal security of China.
Mao decides the time has come to fight, so he begins a policy designed to purify the party and end the capitalist and antisocialist tendencies in the country. Called the Social Education Movement, its primary emphasis is on restoring ideological purity, reinfusing revolutionary fervor into the party and government bureaucracies, and intensifying class struggle. Opposition comes from the moderate element in the CCP run by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Mao calls on the CCP and PLA to accentuate Maoist thought as the guiding principle for the Socialist Education Movement and for all revolutionary undertakings in China. He also supports a reform movement in the schools where classes are slated to accommodate the work schedules of communes and factories. This helps make mass education less costly and reeducates intellectuals and scholars to accept the need for their own participation in manual labor.
October—China and India fight a border war known as Sino-Indian War over China, capturing Aksai Chin. The Chinese only stop fighting when the USSR steps in on India’s side.
The USSR and China stop being allies. Mao takes back the power in the CCP with the help of Lin Biao, Jiang Qing, Mao’s fourth wife, and Chen Boda, a leading theoretician. He then purges the party of Liu Shaoqi and her supporters.
The Soviets begin to build up troops on the border.
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is meant to cleanse the CCP of all elements disloyal to Mao. The party splits, with a minority supporting Mao and the majority supporting Liu and Deng, who has not yet been killed. Premier Zhou Enlai, while quietly supporting Mao, in public pushes for reconciliation. Mao now turns to the Peoples Liberation Army to take control and train the next generation of leaders. They recruit middle school students to the Red Guard, which uses Mao’s Little Red Book as the standard by which all revolutionary efforts are to be judged. The book talks about the four rights (the right to speak out freely, air views fully, hold great debates, and write big character posters), which the youth follow with a passion. Such is the loyalty to Mao that civil disorder breaks out in the country, which is mixed with clashes between Red Guards and security troops. The party organization is shattered and the party treasury is depleted.
The PLA takes over the country and sets up revolutionary committees staffed with Cultural Revolution activists, trusted cadres, and military commanders, the latter frequently holding the greatest power.
Mao finally wins his quest, with his opponents purged from public life.
March—Soviet and Chinese troops clash on the border at Zhenbao Island and Mao calls for peace.
April—The Ninth Party Congress meets and calls for an end to the Cultural Revolution. Mao is made head of China, with Liu Biao made vice chairmen of the CCP and Mao’s successor. Other Maoists are awarded with seats on the Central Committee, including Jiang Qing, and Premier Zhou Enlai.
Mao retires from public life although he still retains control.
December—Party committees are reestablished and replace the revolutionary committees.
Lin Biao tries to take command in the country through a coup, but it fails. He flees the country and is killed in a plane crash. His supporters are purged from the party, and people purged during the Cultural Revolution are rehabilitated.
President Nixon makes a state visit to China; later this year, China reestablishes relations with Japan.
Deng Xiaoping is made vice premier under Zhou Enlai with the permission of Mao; later this year, the Tenth Party Congress meets and modernization of all sectors of the economy made by Enlai and Xiaoping are approved. Xiaoping is also given a seat on the Central Committee.
Zhou Enlai outlines his program of the Four Modernizations in agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology; Deng is elected vice chairman of the CPP and made a member of the Political Bureau and Standing Committee. He is also made chief of staff of the PLA. Chiang Kai-shek dies in Taiwan and is replaced by Chiang Ching-kuo.
January—Zhou Enlai dies.
April—A mass demonstration breaks out in Tiananmen Square, where Enlai is praised and Mao condemned. Deng Xiaoping is blamed for the riot and removed from all his posts, being replaced by Hua Guofeng, a Political Bureau member, vice premier, and minister of public security.
June—Mao fully retires from office and goes back to his home, where he is never seen again. He dies the following September.
July—An earthquake destroys the city of Tangshan in Hebei Province.
October—Jiang Qing and her three principal associates, known as the Gang of Four, try to seize power and are arrested by Minister of National Defense Ye Jianying and Wang Dongxing, commander of the CCP’s elite bodyguard. Hua Guofeng, Ye Jianying, and Li Xiannian take power in a triumvirate.
July—The Central Committee exonerates Deng Xiaoping from all blame for the April 1976 riots and lets him take his former offices back after he makes a public apology.
August—The Eleventh National Party Congress is held. Hua is officially made party chairman, with Ye Jianying, Deng Xiaoping, Li Xiannian, and Wang Dongxing elected as vice chairmen. The congress formally ends the Cultural Revolution and blames it on the Gang of Four, and then sets a goal to make China a superpower by the year 2000.
Fall—Deng reorganizes the bureaucracy and redirects policy. He has Wang Dongxing replaced by Hu Yaobang, who also is made head of the CCP Organization Department. Deng then reforms education and overturns rulings on literature, art, and intellectuals that date back to the sixties.
February and March—The CCP splits between Hua, who leads the left, and Deng, who controls the moderates. The left wants to have larger-scale public works, which the moderates do not allow, as China doesn’t have the money to pay for it. The left then attacks with calls for strict adherence to Mao Zedong thought and the party line of class struggle. Deng counterattacks by bringing back into power friends who support his reform plans and encourage students to attack his opponents and even the memory of Mao with posters.
December—Deng is fully in charge by this time and calls for replacing the old party line of supporting the class struggle with supporting the Four Moderations. He then declares that economics, not politics, will be the goal to policy. He appoints friends to the Political Bureau and Hu Yaobang secretary general of the CCP and head of the Party’s Propaganda Department.
The United States and China formally trade ambassadors; there is a border war between China and Vietnam; and China decides not to renew the Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance with the USSR. Deng then celebrates thirty years of communist rule in China by purging the CCP and PLA of everyone who has joined during the Cultural Revolution.
February—Deng has Wang Dongxing, Wu De, Ji Dengkui, and Chen Xilian removed from the Political Bureau and elevates Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang to the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and the newly restored party secretariat.
September—Deng resigns in a deal whereby Hua Guofeng also resigns in favor of Zhao Ziyang.
November—The Gang of Four and six of Lin Biao’s associates are put on public trial. The Gang of Four has been in jail since October 1976 and the other six since September 1971. The ten are charged with the usurpation of state power and party leadership; the persecution of some 750,000 people, 34,375 of whom died during 1966–76; and, in the case of the Lin Biao defendants, the plotting of the assassination of Mao.
January—All ten defendants are found guilty. Jiang Qing is sentenced to death and a two-year suspended prison, but later the sentence is reduced to life. Zhang Chungiao is sentenced to life along with Wang Hongwen, while Yao Wenyuan is given twenty years. The Lin Biao associates are given eighteen years with parole after sixteen years.
June—Hua Guofeng is given vice chair of CCP and Secretary General Hu Yaobang is made chairman. Hua is forced to give his position of chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission to Deng Xiaoping.
Deng passes a resolution to dissolve the commune and open up China to foreign trade.
Hu Yaobang resigns from office and is replaced by Zhao Ziyang. Also Deng Xiaoping, Chen Yun, and Li Xiannian resign and are replaced by younger members who are more technology-oriented.
The death of Taiwan’s president, Chiang Ching-kuo, brings calls of reunification for the two countries—but nothing is done.
April—Hu Yaobang dies and, at a demonstration in Tiananmen Square, students demand that the Communist government fall.
May—Gorbachev visits China and holds a summit in which relations between the USSR and China are formalized. Although martial law has been declared in Beijing, massive demonstrations—including some governmental workers—continue in the city and at Tiananmen Square.
June—Since the students and citizens refuse to leave Tiananmen Square, the government sends in the military. Tanks roll into the square and open fire, killing more than two hundred people.
Relations with Vietnam are formalized.
Diplomatic relations with both Koreas are established.
Deng Xiaoping retires from office. Jiang Zemin replaces him.
Deng Xiaoping dies, ending an era; Hong Kong is returned to China by the British.
Macau is returned to China by the Portuguese; China celebrates fifty years under the Communist flag.
China decides to increase its defense spending by 17.7 percent… Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng says the additional funds will go mainly to pay increases for officers and enlisted men and “to meet the drastic changes in the military situation around the world and prepare for defense and combat given the conditions of modern technology, especially high technology.” The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is founded in Shanghai by six nations, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The Chinese government begins blocking access to the popular search engines Google and AltaVista.
China increases its defense spending by another 9.6 percent, which brings its military budget to $22.4 billion, stating that a strong Chinese military will help safeguard world peace and regional stability, not pose a threat to other countries. China launches the spacecraft Shenzhou 5 from the Gobi Desert, carrying astronaut Lt. Col. Yang Liewi, making China the third nation to send a man into space.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that China increased it defense budget by about 10 percent in 2004, to $35.4 billion—a figure that is about 70 percent above the government’s official figure. Russia and China, along with other members of the SCO, conduct their first-ever joint military exercises called “Peace Mission 2005.”
Google unveils its first search service inside China (www.google.com.cn). Its concession: Google will play by government rules and censor results of sensitive queries, such as “Falun Gong” or “multiparty elections.”
The members of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) hold the military exercise, “Peace Mission 2007,” with Russia bearing the entire cost (almost $80 million US dollars) of the exercises, and the Chinese making the second-largest contribution, comprised of 1,700 People’s Liberation Army personnel, 46 aircraft, G-9 and Mi-17 helicopters, G-7A fighters, IL-76 transports, and JH-7A “Flying Leopard” fighter bombers.
May—China’s defense budget will rise to $59 billion this year, an increase of 17.6 percent over a year earlier, said Jiang Enzhu, a spokesman for the National People’s Congress. In Washington, the Pentagon’s annual assessment of China’s military power focuses on the growing capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army to thwart the space-based technology of potential foes, not only in shooting down satellites, as it did in January 2007 with an aged weather satellite. “The PLA is also exploring satellite jammers, kinetic energy weapons, high-powered lasers, high-powered microwave weapons, particle beam weapons and electromagnetic pulse weapons for counter-space application,” the report said.
With just over 1.3 billion people (1,330,044,605 as of mid-2008), China is the world’s largest and most populous country. As the world’s population is approximately 6.7 billion, China represents a full 20 percent of the world’s population, so one in every five people on the planet is a resident of China.
March—At least 1,295 computers, both private and government, in more than one hundred countries, are compromised by an espionage network dubbed GhostNet that is believed to be based in China. It allegedly gains access to computers at NATO and numerous foreign ministries, banks, embassies, and some news organizations across the world. Also affected are computers used by the office of the Dalai Lama.
April—China has 32 million more young men than young women, a gender gap that could lead to increasing crime, because parents facing strict birth limits abort female fetuses to have a son, one study said.
December—A new military hotline between Beijing and Moscow has now been used for the first time. There is still no hotline between China and the US.
June—China reduces its holding of US Treasury bonds by $4.4 billion, leaving it at $763.5 billion. Experts say the move reflects concern over the safety of US dollar-linked assets. China is the largest holder of US Treasury bonds.
July—With 13 million surgical abortions performed every year, China has more than any other country in the world. According to one expert, the figures indicate that many Chinese now consider the cheap, widely available procedure an acceptable form of birth control. A report in the China Daily newspaper also says that about 10 million abortion pills, which are used to terminate pregnancy in the very early stages, are given out every year. The real number of abortions is believed to be even higher, since many are performed outside of hospitals in unregistered, rural clinics.
The Chinese government intensifies its pressure against Christians in 2010 for a “fifth straight year of escalating persecution,” according to ChinaAid Association, a Christian human-rights organization based in Washington. Beatings, torture, arrests, harassment, and church demolitions are among the ninety cases of persecution, a nearly 17 percent increase over 2009, according to a report released by ChinaAid on March 31. The Chinese one-child limit forces abortions on those who violate the stringent one-child-per-family law. Also, China overtakes Japan as the world’s second-biggest economy.
Chinese President Hu Jinato receives a high-profile welcome from the Obama administration, including a formal state dinner prompting House members and human rights groups to criticize China’s abysmal human rights record. Protests are held against the Chinese president’s US arrival. The New York Times reports on May 12 that more than a dozen Christian leaders in China have thrown their support behind an embattled underground church, calling for the government to end its persecution and for broader religious freedoms as well. China’s economy grows 9.5 percent, driving up stocks across Asia as the nation maintains momentum after monetary tightening to cool inflation.
A Chinese government office is forecasting economic growth of between 7.7 and 7.8 percent for the year in a sign of an expected improvement in prospects for the world’s second-largest economy. Amnesty Inernational estimates over 500,00 human-rights violations have taken place this year alone throughout China. The U.S. sees China’s emerging economic and military power as a major threat to its global and national safety.
US blames China’s military directly for cyberattacks and demands that China block cyberattacks and agree to “acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace.” (New York Times)
China overtakes the US to become the world’s largest economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. By the end of 2014, China makes up 16.48 percent of the world’s purchasing-power adjusted GDP (or $17.632 trillion), and the US makes up just 16.28 percent (or $17.416 trillion):
China may be outpaced as the world’s fastest-growing economy, according to the International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde. India’s economy is expected to grow 7.5 percent in the 2015-2-16 fiscal year, up from 7.5 percent. At this rate, India will be the world’s fastest-growing large economy.
Bringing about growth is tough for Chinese policymakers throughout the year. Even with loosened liquidity and government intervention, annual growth falls to a consistent 6.7 percent in the first three quarters of this year, the slowest rate seen in twenty-five years.
North Korea’s test of its most powerful and sophisticated ballistic missile to date has sparked a heated debate inside the Trump administration over whether to impose broad new sanctions against Chinese banks suspected of laundering money for the rogue regime, now that it is seen as posing a credible nuclear threat to the US mainland.
After months of trade talks between China and the US, the White House announces that it will impose tariffs of 25 percent on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, a move that China regards as the first shot fired in a trade war. That, combined with a close call when US and Chinese warships nearly collide in the South China Sea, fuels a growing global rivalry between the two world powers.
China’s trade war with the US continues to dominate this year’s headlines; however, other issues are getting attention as well, such as the country’s soaring debt and its slow economic growth, which is at a thirty-year low. Also, in October of this year, the nation celebrates the seventieth year of the Communist Party’s rule, surpassing the longevity of the Communist Party’s rule in the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991.
By March of this year, the coronavirus or COVID-19, with its source in Wuhan, China, has spread to become a pandemic that has up to the time of this publication infected more than 133,000 people worldwide and caused nearly 5,000 deaths. The number of cases in China, however, seems to be beginning to level off, thanks to containment measures such as quarantines and travel restrictions for hundreds of millions of citizens and foreigners.