China - state flag
The flag of the People's Republic of China was adopted in 1949. The color red
stands for revolution, but it also has an old tradition, as it was the color of
the Han Dynasty. The big star today symbolizes the leadership of the Communist
Party. The four little stars stand for peasants, workers, petty bourgeois and
What does the flag of China look like? Follow this link, then you will see
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An alternative symbolism is that the big star represents the Han Chinese,
while the others represent the largest national minorities: Manchus, Tibetans,
Mongols and Uyghurs.
The first traces of human activity in China are primitive stone tools from
the older Paleolithic. The oldest human find is a fragment of a lower jaw from
the cave of Longgupo near Wushan; its age is estimated at 1.8
million. year. About 1 million years old is the skull from Lantian in Shanxi. An
important site is the caves in Zhoukoudian near Beijing, which are especially
famous for the discovery of the Peking man, who lived for approximately 500,000 years
ago. These early human finds all belong to Homo erectus. It is
uncertain when the forerunner of modern man, archaic Homo Sapiens,
appeared in China, but it may have been as early as 200,000 years ago. The
people of the oldest Stone Age lived as hunters and gatherers and knew about the
use of fire. Several types of stone and bone tools as well as jewelry of animal
bones and seashells have been found in tombs from the younger Paleolithic at
Zhoukoudian, approximately 16,000 BC.
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The first traces of agriculture and settlement in villages are from around
7000 BC. In northwestern China, millet was the main crop, while rice dominated
in the south and southeast. In both areas, the pig and the dog were the oldest
domestic animals, later followed by water buffalo, beef and sheep. Stone tools
became more specialized and refined, and pottery became widespread. Some of the
pottery was decorated, most often with painted geometric patterns, but birds,
animal and human figures also appear. The figure patterns may indicate that the
religion was animistic. The settlements were located by rivers and coasts and
were protected first by ditches and later by ramparts or palisade works. In the
north, the houses were half buried in groups around a central house. Later,
important buildings were placed on elevations. The grouping of houses
suggests that the Chinese clan system was already under construction. In the
south, pile houses were widespread.
There were two main cultures: a central-western one on the Huang He River and
the tributary Wei He River and one east-southeast along the east coast. The
Yangshao culture at Wei He is famous for its painted pottery. The early phase
(until 4300 BC) is known from Banpo at Xi'an with a later branch in Miaodigou
(approximately 3900 BC) at Huang He. Yangshao spread, presumably in the late 3000's,
northwest to Majiayao and on to Banshan (approximately 2800-2500 BC) and Machang (approximately 2500
BC) in Gansu Province. In the south, an early culture is known from Hemudu (approximately
5000) near Hangzhou with wooden houses, fine pottery and jade making.
Traces of Dawenkou culture (approximately 4300-2400 BC) have been found in the eastern
province of Shandong. A later culture, Liangzhu (approximately 3300-2250 BC), in the areas
around Hangzhou and Shanghai has particularly finely processed jade
objects. From the later part of the Stone Age, the Longshan culture (approximately
3000-1700 BC) is known in Shandong, which made extremely thin, black
pottery. During this period, the settlements grew in size and could be
surrounded by massive earthworks. Finds of arrowheads and spearheads indicate
the emergence of more warlike communities fighting for settlements and hunting
or farming areas. At the same time, the worship of phallus symbols became common
in contrast to the ancient worship of female figures with highlighted breasts
and genitals. The Bronze Age began approximately 2000 BC, and at the same time the
development of state formations began.
China - history
China - History, Delimitation
The territory of Chinese history is ideally the territory of modern China
with Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and the islands of the South China Sea and of
course the large areas to the north, west and south, where significant
non-Chinese-speaking minorities live, and where especially large areas in west,
e.g., Tibet and Xinjiang, first became part of the Chinese Empire in the 1700's.
|ca. 7000 BC
||The earliest known settlements with agriculture in
|approx. 1650-approx. 1000 BC
||Shang Dynasty. The scriptures are developed in late Shang time.
|approx. 1000-255 BC
||Zhoudynastiet. The most important philosophical directions can be
traced back to the period after approximately 500 BC
||Qindynastiet. The imperial era begins.
||Qin is overthrown by Liu Bang, who becomes the first emperor of
the Han Dynasty.
||Imperial initiative to promote the introduction of Buddhism from
||The mobile dynasty is falling. China is divided.
||The Southern Dynasty gains power throughout China.
||The seaweed dynasty is established. The civil service apparatus is
being expanded. Cultural flourishing that culminates in the first half
of the 700's.
||China suffers defeat to the Arabs on the Talas River in southern
Kazakhstan; the Chinese advance to the west is halted.
||An Lu-shan rebellion. Xi'an plundered. The emperor flees to
Sichuan. The seaweed dynasty is decisively weakened.
||Between the collapse of the Tang Dynasty and the establishment of
the Song Dynasty, five short-lived dynasties and 10 smaller states rule
in southern China.
||The Manchurian Jind dynasty rules in northern China.
||The Mongols attack China.
||Khubilai Khan founds the Mongol Yuan Dynasty with its capital
||The song dynasty is falling.
||The Ming Dynasty is founded. Nanjing becomes the capital.
||Beijing becomes the capital.
||Admiral Zheng He's expeditions to Arabia, the east coast of Africa
and the southeast coast.
||Portuguese rule in Macao. From approximately 1600 other European
countries start trading with China.
||The Ming Dynasty is ruled by Manchus who establish the Qing
||The Opium Wars.
||The Taiping Uprising.
||Muslim uprisings in parts of China.
||Arrow Wars. China at war with Britain and France.
||First Sino-Japanese War. Taiwan ceded to Japan.
||The Boxer Rebellion.
||The Qing Dynasty and thus the Chinese Empire fall. Sun
Yat-sen becomes president, but must go into exile in 1913.
||Warlords dominate the political power in China.
||The Communist Party of China (CCP) is founded.
||Guomindang (GMD) under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek formally
||Japan conquers Manchuria.
||Manchuria becomes independent as Manchukuo, but is actually a
Japanese sound state.
||The Long March.
||Japan attacks China. Nanjing Massacre.
||Civil war between GMD and CCP.
||Establishment of the People's Republic of China.
||Chinese troops move into Tibet.
||Korean War. China is participating on North Korea's side.
||The Big Spring Forward campaign is trying to increase production. It
fails and the failed policy leads to a famine.
||Tibetan uprising in Lhasa is defeated.
||China breaks with the Soviet Union.
||The Cultural Revolution.
||The People's Republic of China will have a seat in the UN.
||Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong die. Showdown with the Fire Band.
||Deng Xiaoping becomes China's real leader. Reform policy begins.
||Student demonstrations in Beijing and incipient organization of
dissatisfied workers. The protesters are being defeated by the
military. Sanctions against China.
||Deng Xiaoping dies. Hong Kong is given by Britain back to China.
||China is experiencing strong economic growth.
Before entering China, many of these areas have had a rich and varied
history, which deserves an independent place in our historical knowledge of
present-day China; but in both Chinese and foreign historiography they are most
often mentioned only when they have been part of or at war with the Chinese
Empire or have been perceived as part of the dynastic succession. One side
effect is that in modern Chinese historiography there is a tendency to virtually
all wars until the meeting with the Europeans in the 1800's. manufactured as
civil wars between peoples and states that are now part of China.
The perception of China's history
There are many notions about the development of Chinese society, which are
partly based on the Chinese self-understanding in relation to especially the
western societies, which have been both role models and aggressors from the
mid-1800's. to the mid-1900's, partly on foreign perceptions, which have often
concentrated on contradictions rather than similarities. The image still stands
strong in the West of a poor and overpopulated society with an autocratic,
centralist and bureaucratic state, built up with the family as a model and basic
unit and with contempt for trade and similar secondary economic activity. Recent
research has shed some sometimes unexpected light on Chinese society's changes
in time and space, making it difficult to say definitively what traits are so
entrenched, that they can be used to draw comparisons to developments in the
rest of the world. It is not least the regional variations that have a hard time
making an impact in the clear history writing, but the extensive regional
historical and archaeological work, which is under strong development in China,
will probably improve this situation.
Dynasties in the earliest history and imperial times
The oldest Chinese characters are found on animal bones that have been used
in oracle taking, from the 2nd millennium BC. They thus date from the late
period of the Shang dynasty, which is the first dynasty known for sure, and
which was founded in 1600-BC. With the writing of the late Shang period begins
the actual Chinese history that is traditionally divided into dynasties. The
pre-Shang dynasty, the Xiad Dynasty, is known from later written sources, but is
not yet with certainty linked to archaeological finds. The Shang dynasty lasted
until 1000 BC. and was centered in the northern part of Henan Province, but its
extent has not been precisely determined. The Shang State was based on family
organizations with the king as the central figure and with a personified cult of
divinity of which the royal cult was a part. The Shang dynasty was succeeded by
the Zhou dynasty (1000-t.-255 BC). Together with Xia, these three dynasties
have a special place in Chinese history and thinking, a golden period with ideal
forms of society that posterity should strive to resemble.
|Dynasties and selected emperors, reigns and heads of
|-approx. 1650 BC
|approx. 1650-approx. 1000 BC
|approx. 1000-255 BC
||Spring and Autumn period
||The Warring States Period
|206 BC-9 AD
||Xin (Wang Mangs interregnum)
||Period of the Three Kingdoms
||The southern dynasty
||The northern dynasties
||The five dynasties
||Ming (periods of government)
||Republic of China (Presidents)
||People's Republic of China (Presidents)
With the founding of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC. began the imperial era,
ending with the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. In a quarter of that period, a
unified state did not exist, and it was not until the Yuan Dynasty's conquest of
southern China in 1279 that unity was established.
The most important dynasties after Qin were Han (206 BC-220 AD), Tang
(618-907), Song (960-1279), the Mongol dynasty Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644
) and the Manchu Qing (1644-1912). In between these there have been periods of
several kingdoms. A total of 23 legitimate dynasties are counted.
Society, profession or population
Around the middle of the last millennium BC. there had been a development
away from a more archaic economy, with scattered political and economic entities
with some degree of common cultivation of the land gradually giving way to
private property, primarily in the outlying areas where new land was
cultivated. At the same time, better fertilization, drainage and irrigation were
introduced, some of which are still in use in Sichuan. With the more intensive
operation of the land, the population increased, which became the basis of
the mass armies that came to shape the warfare instead of the more courtly and
ritualistic forms of earlier times. This development was also helped along the
way by new technology, manufacture of cast iron, which made it relatively
inexpensive to manufacture stabbing and percussion weapons and not least
projectiles for the crossbow, which became an important weapon until the
introduction of firearms in recent times. In the period after the first census,
the most important change in agricultural production was the expansion to the
south and the cultivation of the rich lands, not least from the middle of the
first millennium AD, when rice cultivation with planting rather than direct
sowing began to spread. At the same time, the emergence of markets outside the
controlled cities meant freer conditions for trade, and around the Buddhist
monasteries a monetary and banking system gradually emerged. There are no
figures for the size of the population in that period, but it has probably had
significant ups and downs until it is estimated under Song to have reached over
100 million. residents. In Song, the last major breakthrough in traditional
agriculture came with the introduction of the rapidly ripening rice
fromChampa in southern Vietnam, which enabled several crops, including not least
rice and wheat, on the same land in the same year. The introduction of the
American crops, corn, potatoes, peanuts, tobacco, etc., which appeared after
1500, seems to have stretched over so long that in the imperial period they have
not had the same effect as the Champarisen. As a textile plant, hemp was long
the most important, but cotton cultivation began in earnest towards the end of
Song and gradually spread to the north.
A census from 1381 showed approximately 60 million It probably increased to three
times in the period up to 1600, but fell so sharply during wars, crises and
storms in the first half of the 1600's. After a significant increase in 1749,
approximately 175 million residents, while the 300 million. was reached towards the
end of the 1700-t. In the mid-1800's. is calculated with approximately 430 million The
number fell again, due to the extensive uprisings of 1851-65, so that
approximately 400 million at the end of the imperial period in 1912.
At the beginning of the last three dynasties, Yuan, Ming and Qing, large
declines in population have been observed with reasonable certainty, not least
in the central plains, as evidenced by extensive measures taken to attract
farmers from other regions to to revive production. Hunger and disease also
followed bad harvest years due to the weather, grasshoppers, etc. During the
last approximately 500 years, from which there are good sources of local conditions,
one can see that in many areas, at least in the northern part, there have been
bad years at two to three year intervals and severe famine a few times in 100
years. The total food production has for long periods, also approximately 1650-1800,
when the population increased most sharply, been sufficient. The problem has
been getting the food to where it was needed. It was one of the government's
tasks to provide assistance in such situations, and in some periods, especially
in the 1700's, it has been shown that it could organize significant relief work,
and there were, for example, tax exemptions in bad harvest years. From
approximately In 1800, however, production did not seem to have kept pace with
Numerous inventions have been made in China, and some have been of great
importance to the technological development of the world. Nowadays, the Chinese
even mention paper, compass, gunpowder and letterpress. This contributes to the
Chinese to some extent rightly claiming that they until approximately 1500 constituted
the most advanced society in the world. Of the four inventions mentioned,
however, only the paper, invented at the beginning of the first millennium AD,
as well as the art of printing, especially from the Song Period, developed
independently in China to be able to have a greater influence on the development
of society. Printed writings were a prerequisite for the spread of teaching and
examinations as well as for literary development, especially when publishing
became a lucrative business in the 1500's. Studies of reading ability show,
From an early age, Chinese society has been centered around cities. In
particular, the Song Period is known for a lively economic activity based on
urban occupations such as crafts and trade, and not least in the 1500's. there
were large industry-like workshops with several hundred employees. The cities
have also had an impact on the farmers who lived in their vicinity. They could
sell in the markets, products from home industry that could exploit the
labor force during periods when it could not be used in agriculture. In this
process of increased commercialization of society, changes are taking place in
the position of the peasants. So even though there have also been large estates
and tendencies to concentration of land cultivated by tenants since Song, the
mentality of the Chinese farmer has been that of the self-employed.
From the classical period, the Chinese population has been divided into four
groups: the learned officials who headed society as the prince's servants, as
well as the peasants, artisans, and at the bottom the merchants. The division
meant that, for example, merchant families would like to see a member of the
family as a civil servant or at least in alliance with civil servants. This may
be the reason why the new companies that emerged in the late 1800's had a strong
connection to the civil service. The dependence on bureaucracy weakened
companies as their capital was used for purposes other than business
operations. However, one must be careful to conclude that merchants have
automatically been at the bottom of the social ladder and that trade has been
neglected in Chinese daily life.
Simultaneously with the traditional division of the population, the nobility
should be mentioned. Early Zhou was a family society where power and position
were determined by birth. Admittedly, this was weakened in the late Zhou period
and abolished in Qin, but right up to the Tang era, a nobility with estates and
influence in government and local communities was an essential element of the
economic and political life of the community. In later dynasties, the many
descendants of emperors, and during Qing also the Manchus, as their military
efficiency declined, constituted an upper class of parasites.
There has also been a class of slaves. During periods when slavery was
banned, they have been registered as family members, and to this day there have
been various underprivileged groups, some defined historically, others based on
their profession. Thus the Mongols introduced in 1200-1300-t. a division of the
population into approximately 80 hereditary professional groups, which in simplified
form continued during the following Ming dynasty with hereditary position, eg
farmer, craftsman or soldier.
The position of women in society has been lower than that of men in the
period in which written sources are available. Towards the Song Dynasty, changes
took place, which deprived women of the right to self-employment, and it
was also during Song that the custom of lacing the woman's feet began. We do not
yet have a comprehensive overview of the woman's position, but literary works
testify that a few women have been able to get an education.
Government and society
In the Zhou State, local princes and nobles ruled over hereditary
territories and recognized the supremacy of the Zhou King. From the middle of
the period, especially in the border areas and later in the conquered areas,
there was a development of administrative units where the prince could deploy
his own people independently of family ties, and it is from the same areas that
tax collection and peasant property are first heard. to the land they
cultivated. It was a time of upheaval in which especially the lower princes
without lucrative hereditary positions were on the rise. Among these arose a
number of philosophical schools with various proposals for the arrangement of
society; the most important was Confucianism, which with its emphasis that all
people, regardless of origin, could both give and receive education and thus
earn themselves the highest posts, led to a radical break with the dependence on
clan and family affiliation that had hitherto characterized society. Another
characteristic of Confucianism was the idea that the good prince, by his mere
example, could ensure a good government, independent of law. Confucianism set a
number of requirements for human relations, which with its adherence to rituals
and its emphasis on hierarchical conditions have helped to give Confucianism a
reputation for being against change. This is hardly correct, but the Chinese
themselves have contributed to this impression, for example at the encounter
with Western culture in the 1800's.
Another important philosophical school that influenced the development of
society was legalism, which emphasized laws that were to apply to all; legalism
was the basis of the Qinstaten. Under Han, it was replaced by Confucianism as
the mainstay of state thought, but a number of features of legalism were
preserved in later periods. Law texts that were to some extent based on the
legislation of the Qin and Han periods were collected in large collections of
laws during the first millennium AD. Recent studies of Chinese law, which have
traditionally been characterized primarily as constituting a criminal law,
suggest a very sophisticated legal practice.
With Confucianism and legalism, the contradiction in Chinese state perception
is seen between the belief in "government by man" versus "government by law",
which has emerged periodically in the Chinese debate since He and also has
significance in today's changes in Chinese society.
The third philosophy that is usually mentioned in this connection is Daoism,
which to a greater extent sees man and human life as part of nature. As a
state-bearing philosophy, Daoism acquires for a short period approximately 400 AD
The legalists promoted agriculture at the expense of trade as the basis of a
strong military state. Control over the population was sought to be maintained
by updating units on five households with mutual responsibility to the law. A
Confucian classic that provides an idealized picture of the government under
Zhou also mentions updating the population into groups based on ten households.
Such divisions appear in many later dynasties in one form or another as units of
a local self-government. If the numerical division could be implemented, it
would neutralize the traditional divisions that could be the basis for informal
but real power relations, thereby giving the central government and its local
representatives better control right down to the village level. The examples
known, however, suggest that this practice has seldom been able to live up to
the ambitions of the rulers. A famous case is the controversial reforms of the
1000's. by Wang Anshi, whose basic idea was that the state, which at the time was
exposed to strong pressure on the northern border, could best be strengthened if
the burdens were better distributed and the peasants were given the opportunity
to work free of ambitious officials, landowners and lenders.. In addition to
reforms in which the state actively strengthened economic activity, the
population was divided into units of ten households to ensure law and order and
as a basis for discharging a militia instead of an expensive and inefficient
standing army. The reforms were quickly abolished or changed when Wang Anshi's
opponents came to power.
Under MingA registration system was set up in which the population was
divided into units of 110 households, whose leaders, who were in turn found
among the ten richest households, were responsible for paying taxes, carrying
out public works and, to a certain extent, peace and order was maintained,
education completed, etc. People were to remain where they were registered, and
the system generally presupposed a society without change, an ideal that was not
observed either in the Ming era or in other periods of China's history. Although
attempts to set up such organizations are also seen later, the period after
approximately 1500 characterized by the absence of more ambitious projects aimed at
controlling local communities. At a time when central power in Europe, for
example, was becoming stronger, it seems
Above local self-government there was a bureaucracy. Already from Zhou a
steady development is seen, but the bureaucracy was for a long time linked to
warriors and landowners. It is only with the Seaweed Period that it finds the
form that is becoming known, first in Korea and Japan and much later in the
West. The exam system became an important basis for official
recruitment; however, it was not until Song that the examination system gave the
social status for which it later became known.
Education in, first and foremost, the neocongfusian interpretation of
classical texts became, for the rest of the imperial period, an important path
to political, economic, and social position, but never the only one. Thus, there
were periods when many offices were sold either to raise money or as a
deliberate attempt to reduce the influence of the personal ties that the exam
system could promote. Exams gave access to positions, but towards the end of the
dynasties there were far more graduates with exams than there were
positions. The candidates then found employment in education or as specialized
secretaries of civil servants, or they stayed at home to manage the family's
property and position in the local community, which was thereby strengthened in
relation to the central government. In the last thousand years, the bureaucracy
has been dominated by civilians, but in turbulent periods there was a
militarization of society with private armies and castles, and military or
military-oriented civilian officials played a significant role at times.
Above the bureaucracy, the person of the emperor has been important to the
leadership of the government; however, there are numerous examples of emperors
without influence either because of incompetence or because other individuals or
government bodies have actually taken power. It could be widowed empresses, such
as Wu Zetian in the late 600's. and Cixi in the late 1800's, other imperial or
imperial relatives, nobles, eunuchs, ethnic comrades, officials, or the
bureaucracy itself. In the periods when there have been both northern and
southern states, there seems to have been a tendency for the person of the
emperor to be more important in northern dynasties than in southern ones, where
large noble families had greater influence.
A prerequisite for the development of the state with its need to master its
resources was the collection of taxes. The oldest known tax from the Zhou period
was a personal tax (cup tax). This was the common form until Tang and became
special in 500-600-teKr. linked to ideal notions of allocating equal plots of
land to each individual person. Upon the person's death, the land or most of it
fell back to the state. There are doubts about the extent to which such systems
have worked. From the end of 700-teKr. personal taxation was gradually abolished
in favor of land taxation; however, it continued in the form of some hovering
services to the state and its representatives. During major tax reforms from the
1500's. and onwards the land tax and the hover services were to some extent
combined, so that there is talk of a unitary tax. Another important form of tax
has been consumption taxes, which really began in 100-tkKr. with tax on salt and
iron. At times, consumption and trade taxes have been the state's main source of
revenue, especially during the Song, and from the mid-1800's. during the
uprisings that ravaged large parts of the country, a tax was imposed on all
goods that passed customs stations. That tax came at the end of the dynasty to
make up over half of the state’s revenue.
There has been a period of under-taxation. Especially after a turbulent
period, low taxes were appropriate to get the economy recovered. Periods of low
taxes are thus often seen in connection with the establishment of new
dynasties. Under-taxation could be difficult to change later due to respect for
the laws issued by the first emperor of a given dynasty. Attempts were made,
such as the tax reforms of Ming and Qing, but the basic under-taxation was not
touched upon. Unofficial but often widely recognized taxes were levied on the
expenses to be incurred, and the burden on the individual taxpayer could thus be
significant. The unofficial taxes and taxpayers' efforts to get rid of them have
provided a fertile ground for corruption,
China and the outside world
The traditional view of China as a closed country does not stand up to closer
analysis. Chinese culture expanded from its core area on the plains around Huang
He and the tributary of the Wei River. The most important periods of military
expansion to the north and west were in 100-tkKr., 600-teKr., 1200-1300-t. (the
Mongols) and 1600-1700-t., but in addition there has been a slower expansion
both politically and demographically first to the south in the first millennium
AD, in the last few hundred years to the northeast, so that these areas today
predominantly have Han Chinese population.
Chinese sources, which are the most important for most of the early history
of East, Central and South Asia, testify to contacts to this end, just as there
are records and other indications of contact with West Asia in Roman times.
China has also been the subject of religious influences from
outside. Buddhism came to China in the Han era from India and through Central
Asia and was for a few hundred years from the middle of the first millennium the
most important spiritual current in China with influence on both the political
center and daily life. Chinese monks during this period went to India, and many
Buddhist scriptures were translated into Chinese. Their travel stories suggest
that there has been a lively traffic to both Central Asia and overseas
territories, especially to Southeast Asia. At the same time, Japanese and Korean
monks traveled to China to study Buddhism.
During the Tang and Song periods, there were Arab-Muslim merchant communities
on the China coast, and under the Mongols there were rich connections to the
rest of Asia and Europe, just as foreigners flocked to trade and live in
China. Then the American silver in the 1500's. entered the world market, China
became an important part of the world economy, as a significant part of the
silver could be absorbed into the Chinese economy, where it was used in tax
It was during the efforts after the Mongols in 1368 to create a Chinese state
with a strong imperial power in direct contact with the local communities that
the attempts to prevent contacts with foreign countries became part of the
official policy, which in various forms continued until the 1800's. Chinese were
banned from trading in foreigners and sailing. Attempts to cut off the
population from contact with the outside world never succeeded, but it
contributed to the government's notion that the country was isolated. This
self-understanding was strengthened in the encounter with the Europeans, who
appeared in greater numbers during the 1500's. The first Europeans complied with
the conditions set by the Chinese government as long as money could be made on
trade, but from approximately In 1800, they began to demand diplomatic contacts on
equal terms and with permanent diplomatic representations. At the same time, the
British in particular began to finance their purchases of tea by selling opium,
grown in India, rather than as before with silver. This led to economic problems
in China, which ended with a ban on opium imports and the subsequent
oneOpium War 1839-42. In Chinese historiography, the war is still considered the
beginning of the modern period, but at the same time as the beginning of the
approximately 100 years, when foreign powers gained more and more influence, and where
especially Russia was given large areas, which the Russians had previously
recognized as Chinese.
In 1856-60 there was another war with Great Britain and later also with
France. It was in the so-called Arrow War on trade rights. The war was a
humiliating defeat for the Qing regime and culminated in 1860 with the burning
by British troops of the Imperial Summer Palace near Beijing. One result of the
war was the system of treaty ports.
Later efforts to hold together the empire that the Manchus in the 1700-t. had
gathered, led to attempts to modernize the country's economy and defense and a
little later around the year 1900 also the education system. This happened in
certain areas, but nationwide initiatives were not possible. The division of the
country, which continued some time after the end of the empire, had in fact
begun in the mid-1800's. with the great uprisings and the advance of the
The Chinese defeat in the war with Japan in 1895 led in 1898 to reforms that
were initially slowed down. But after the defeat in 1901 to the European powers
after the Boxer Rebellion, a more systematic reform program was launched in
government and administration and of education. Limited popular participation in
local assemblies was also initiated, but before these reforms took effect, the
country began to fall apart after a military uprising that began in Wuhan on
10.10.1911 and gradually spread across most of the country. Envoys from 16
provincial assemblies met in Nanjing in late December 1911 and elected Sun
Yat-sen as China's new president on January 1, 1912. Just over a month later, on
February 12, the emperor abdicated.
The Republic's first year
The new Republic of China, which replaced the Qing Dynasty, took over an
economically backward country. Regional independence movements threatened the
unity of the kingdom, and foreign powers, through their concessions and the
unequal treaties, had considerable power over the development within their
various spheres of influence. In addition, the Confucian ideology was no longer
able to unite the intellectual elite of society.
The coalition of political forces that had overthrown the Qing Dynasty
quickly collapsed. Sun Yat-sen, who was the leader of Tongmenghui 'The
Revolutionary Alliance', was appointed provisional president on January 1, 1912,
but the Qing regime refused to capitulate. Instead, it gave military man Yuan
Shikai the power to form a Republican government. Yuan was soon outmaneuvered by
Sun Yat-sen and became president in March 1912. In the December 1912 election to
China's first parliament, Sun Yat-sen's party, now renamed Guomindang, won.(GMD)
'National People's Party', a clear victory, but Yuan suppressed the opposition
with assassinations, threats and bribery. In late 1913, GMD was banned and Sun
Yat-sen went into exile. Yuan Shikai now based his power on the military and on
foreign powers, and in 1914 the parliament was dissolved.
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 allowed Japan greater influence in China,
and in 1915 Japan confronted China with 21 demands, the common denominator of
which was a far-reaching extension of Japanese privileges in China. However, the
loss of external prestige did not weaken Yuan Shikai's ambitions, and in late
1915 he launched a plan to re-establish the empire with himself as the new
emperor. But when he was installed in January 1916, the resistance became too
great, and after just two months he again gave up the monarchy. Protests
continued, however, province after province declared independence from Beijing,
and in June 1916, Yuan Shikai died; after 1916, the country virtually ceased to
function as a unit.
The political-military instability in the years after 1916 inflicted great
suffering on the population. Nevertheless, it was during that period that
Chinese industrialization really took off. World War I was a triggering factor,
but progress continued even after 1918.
Nationalism and communism
Although China had joined the Allies in 1917, the great powers decided at
the Versailles peace talks to hand over Germany's special rights on the Chinese
peninsula of Shandong to Japan instead of returning the territory to Chinese
sovereignty. This humiliation triggered on May 4, 1919 large student
demonstrations in Beijing. The protest movement, which originated in Beijing
University, was part of a cultural renewal movement that wanted to do away with
the Confucian tradition. Central to the movement was Xin Qingnian magazine 'New
Youth', edited by Chen Duxiu, to which Mao Zedong was also affiliated. The May
4 movement is a collective term for this whole syndrome of innovation. Based on
this movement becameChina Communist Party (CCP) formed in 1921 with
Chen Duxiu as leader.
After the expulsion in 1913, Sun Yat-sen had continued his political struggle
and, based in Guangzhou, tried to create the basis for a reunited China. The
Soviet Union had offered itself as an ally in the Sun Yat-sen struggle,
resulting in close cooperation between the GMD and the CCP and the formation of
the United Front between the two parties in 1924. The core was the new Whampoa
Military Academy, whose first leader was Chiang Kai- shek, while the
communist Zhou Enlai became director of the political department of the academy.
After the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925, the revolutionary movement continued
to spread. There was an explosive approach to the CCP-dominated unions as well
as a resurgence of revolutionary peasant movements in the villages. On July 1,
1926, the Northern Expedition against the warlords in Central and Eastern China
began; at the end of 1926, the GMD controlled seven provinces in this region.
In early 1927, Chiang Kai-shek broke with the Soviet Union and the CCP, and
in April he triggered a coup in Shanghai in which hundreds of Communists and
trade union leaders were killed. The GMD was initially divided, but quickly
regrouped, and the Communists were driven underground or fled to South China's
most rugged mountain areas. The rise of the GMD continued, and on October 10,
1928, the new government was installed as China's national government with its
capital in Nanjing and Chiang as president.
The period 1928-37 is often called the Nanjing Decade, but in reality the GMD
in 1928 controlled only part of eastern and central China, while the rest of the
country continued to be ruled by warlord regimes that were merely formally
subordinate to the Nanjing government. This picture did not change significantly
during the period. Apart from the local warlords, the Nanjing government faced
two new enemies: the Communists and the Japanese, who in 1931 had
After the massacres of 1927, the CCP succeeded in establishing a base area on
the border between Hunan and Jiangxi, and in 1930, the Soviet government of
southwestern Jiangxi was formed under Mao's leadership. The Chiang Kai - shek's
first three "siege and defeat campaigns" against the Red Army 1930-31 all ended
in defeat. In 1931, the first Soviet National Congress was held in the
Jiangxibase area. Mao was installed as head of government, but in reality his
power was too downward, as the CCP's top leadership, the so-called 28
Bolsheviks, were more Soviet loyal than Mao's groups and skeptical of his
peasant-based guerrilla methods. The CCP's base areas at this time had approximately 9
mio. residents, of which 3 million. in the Jiangxi Soviet itself, and an army
of up to 150,000 men.
After two more campaigns, in 1934 Chiang succeeded in putting the Red Army
out of the game. The CCP decided to evacuate from Jiangxi and in October 1934
broke with 100,000 men surrounding Chiang in an escape to the west. This was the
beginning of the Long March 1934-35, which led the Red Army from SE to NW China
and at the same time led to Mao's takeover of the party leadership. Once the
remnants of the Red Army had established themselves in northwestern China,
Chiang stood ready to give the CCP the death blow; but Japan's growing pressure
on China changed history.
The Japanese conquest of Manchuria in 1931 set in motion a chain reaction of
conflicts between China and Japan. For the GMD, it was a serious setback for the
efforts of national unification. Up through the 1930's, the Japanese advance in
northern China continued, while Chiang primarily focused on continuing to fight
the CCP. In 1936, however, he was forced by his own to negotiate an end to the
Civil War. Zhou Enlai represented the CCP at the negotiations that led to the
Second United Front between the GMD and the CCP 1937-45.
China in World War II
The forces of the GMD and the CCP added a few minor defeats to the Japanese,
but in the main China was powerless in the face of a Japanese onslaught that by
the end of 1938 had divided the country into three parts: Japan controlled East
China from Manchuria in the north to Guangzhou in the south. and industrially
developed area. In poor Central and SW China, the GMD ruled, while the CCP
controlled a base area in the extremely poor and sparsely populated
North- West China, with Yan'an as its headquarters. Communist guerrilla units,
in turn, were very successful in infiltrating the lands behind the Japanese
lines in northern China, and during the war these areas became the CCP's main
power base. After 1938, tensions grew again between the GMD and the CCP, and
after a military clash in January 1941, the cooperation ceased in practice.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, China joined the
Allies with formal declarations of war against Japan and Germany. Chiang
Kai-shek's strategy was to allow the United States to defeat Japan separately
and to use US military aid to build up GMD forces with a view to the post - war
settlement with the CCP. He was therefore not interested in the Americans'
efforts to reorganize the GMD's military into a more active fight against the
Mao strengthened his position in the CCP during World War II, and at the
party's seventh congress in April 1945, "Mao Zedong Thinking" was enshrined as
the CCP's governing ideology.
Civil War 1946-1949
Immediately after the Japanese capitulation in August 1945, a race was
launched between the forces of the GMD and the CCP to take over the territories
that the Japanese had controlled. Mao relied on Manchuria, which was occupied by
Soviet forces, and in the autumn, 100,000 men under the command of the CCP were
transferred here. This commitment became crucial to the outcome of the Civil
War. When the Soviet Union withdrew from Manchuria in the spring of 1946, the
CCP had established a power base in the villages that laid the groundwork for
the final victory in 1949.
Despite several US mediation attempts, the Civil War broke out in earnest in
April 1946. In the first years of the Civil War, the GMD had apparently taken
over and in March 1947 was able to occupy the CCP's headquarters in Yan'an. But
despite superiority in manpower and equipment, Chiang's forces were scattered
over many positions. The CCP's forces, from 1946 the People's Liberation Army,
therefore had the opportunity to cut off the GMD garrisons from supplies and
defeat them individually. In 1948, the fortunes of war for the Communists
returned with decisive victories in Manchuria and northern China, and Beijing
was captured in January 1949. On October 1, 1949, Mao proclaimed the People's
Republic of China at Tiananmen in Beijing, while Chiang Kai-shek evacuated the
remnants of his armies to Taiwan.
The communist victory in 1949 was due to a number of factors. A major role
was played by the Japanese occupation, which had enabled the CCP to build
positions of strength behind the Japanese lines, while giving the party a strong
patriotic profile. Another important factor was the CCP's growing experience of
implementing social reforms in the villages, which strengthened adherence to the
party's policies. For the GMD, the regime was weakened during the civil war by
corruption, economic chaos and widespread demoralization. Finally, Chiang
Kai-shek's own erroneous military dispositions came into play. The Republic of
China had not been able to fulfill the enormous tasks that had been placed on
its shoulders at its establishment in 1912. Now it was the turn of the CCP to
The first year of the People's Republic of China
Due to the continued support of the United States for Chiang Kai - shek's GMD
regime in Taiwan, the newly formed People's Republic had no choice but to, in
Mao's words, "lean to one side", namely the Soviet Union. Domestically, the
CCP's strategy, as presented in the September 1949 joint program, can be
described as moderate socialism. The objective included land reform, industrial
development and equality for women; in the long run, agriculture had to be
transformed into cooperatives and industry socialized.
The immediate tasks in 1949-50 were fighting inflation and rebuilding the
war-torn country. Two major reforms characterized society, the Marriage Act of
1950, which gave women the right to own land and facilitated access to divorce,
and the land reform, which redistributed landowners to landless and poor
peasants. The reform was accompanied by extensive violence against the old upper
class in the villages, and about 1 million. landowners were killed. In the
cities, the focus was on getting the industry going again, and private business
owners were encouraged to work loyally for the new system.
China's involvement in the 1950-53 Korean War came to significantly affect
development. When the US-dominated UN force had pushed North Korea's army back
near the Chinese border, China responded by deploying large forces on North
Korea's side and pushing UN forces back to the 38th parallel. Internationally,
the war meant that China became further isolated from the West and more
dependent on friendship with the Soviet Union. Suspicion of everything Western
grew, and campaigns against "spies" and "counter-revolutionaries" contributed to
the establishment of a social surveillance system in which the demand was
adherence to the new regime.
The Soviet model came to the fore with the first five-year plan (1953-57). In
the following years, the pace of socialization was accelerated several times at
Mao's initiative, and by the beginning of 1956, both the co - operativeization
of agriculture and the state takeover of industry were largely
complete. Meanwhile, with its participation in the Bandung Conference in 1955,
China had marked a desire for closer ties with the Alliance-Free Movement in the
Khrushchev's confrontation with the Stalin era in 1956 and unrest in the
Eastern Bloc forced Chinese leaders to change course. With the Campaign of the
Hundred Flowers (1956-57), Mao wanted to win the intellectuals for the CCP
through greater freedom of speech. In the spring of 1957, criticism of the party
proved to be more profound than originally thought, and hundreds of thousands of
intellectuals were now punished as "right-wing".
In November 1957, Mao visited Moscow, but beneath the surface a conflict
simmered between China and the Soviet Union, and Chinese leaders sought a less
bureaucratic and more growth-promoting model as an alternative to the Soviet
The Great Leap Forward
The result of these considerations was the Great Leap Forward, a mass
movement for social and political transformation, combined with a massive
increase in production. The heart of the campaign was the municipalities, which
were formed in the second half of 1958. The municipalities were to combine
agriculture, industry, trade, education and the militia, and their main task was
to use China's most important resources, human labor, for direct capital
formation through construction, iron smelting, etc. After a promising start, the
negative effects quickly became apparent. The iron was bad and the coordination
of the many initiatives impossible. In the "three bitter years" of 1959-61, the
crisis developed into a regular famine that cost millions of lives. Up to 45
million. is considered to have been murdered, worked to death, starved to death
or otherwise perished as a result of the campaign. It thus stands as one of the
bloodiest events in world history. After the conflict with the Soviet Union
broke out in 1960, China was now more isolated than ever after 1949.
In 1958, the party's economists had warned against the Great Springs
strategy, but the party incl. the organizational leaders Liu Shaoqi and Deng
Xiaoping had been behind Mao as a whole. In 1959, however, Mao's furious
reaction to Defense Minister Peng Dehuai's criticism of Mao's policies created
an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in the CCP's supreme bodies.
The Cultural Revolution
In the first half of the 1960's, the CCP pursued a more cautious economic
policy, and traditional planned economy again held its entrance, while the Mao
1960-62 remained in the background. However, he did place his close ally Lin
Biao in the post of defense minister. From the end of 1964, the conflict in the
party was irreversible between Mao and his allies on the one hand and the party
organization by Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping in particular on the other. In May
1966, Mao launched the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, whose dual goal
was to eliminate Mao's opponents among older top leaders and give the youth the
opportunity for revolutionary experiences through participation in the Red Guard
During the active combat phase of the Cultural Revolution 1966-68, millions
of schoolchildren and young people, organized in Red Guard groups, went on the
offensive against anything reminiscent of China's ancient culture or Western
influence, as well as against intellectuals and party leaders. Liu Shaoqi was
imprisoned and died of ill-treatment in 1969. Deng Xiaoping was placed under
house arrest and later sent to Jiangxi, where he worked at a tractor
factory. From the beginning of 1967, however, Red Guards factions came into
conflict with each other, and the situation became increasingly chaotic until
the army in 1968 was deployed and disarmed the Red Guards. At the CCP's Ninth
Congress in 1969, the People's Liberation Army emerged as the party's most
important power base, and Lin Biao was promoted as Mao's successor.
Mao's last year
In 1970, Mao and Prime Minister Zhou Enlai decided to radically change
foreign policy and break China's isolation by opening a dialogue with the United
States. In 1971, US Security Adviser Henry Kissinger visited China to prepare
for President Richard Nixon's visit in 1972 and the Shanghai Communiqué, which
called for a normalization of relations between the two countries. In October
1971, a majority in the UN General Assembly deprived Taiwan of its seat in the
UN and thus in the Security Council and handed it over to the People's Republic
That same fall, a drama unfolded at the highest level in Beijing. According
to the official account, Lin Biao tried to assassinate Mao, and when that
failed, he tried to escape by plane to the Soviet Union in September 1971. The
plane crashed and Lin Biao perished.
In China, however, the Cultural Revolution was not yet over. At the Tenth
Party Congress in 1973, the Cultural Revolutionary wing, consolidated around
Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, was consolidated, but it did not have the power to
prevent the rehabilitation of a number of party leaders, including Deng
Xiaoping, who in 1973 was appointed Deputy Prime Minister. In practice, Deng
came to serve as Prime Minister when Zhou Enlaiat this time was weakened by
disease. Thus, a fierce power struggle was planned in connection with Mao's
apparently imminent death. Zhou Enlai's death in January 1976 sparked major
demonstrations in Beijing against the Cultural Revolutionaries. Deng was
designated as the mastermind behind these demonstrations and deposed from all
his posts. The Cultural Revolutionary wing, however, had only limited support in
the party organization and not at all in the army. After Mao's death in
September 1976 it succeeded Mao personally appointed party leader and Prime
Minister Hua Guofeng, with the help of the army to isolate Jiang Qing group was
arrested and condemned as Gang of Four in the subsequent criticism campaign.
In the years during and immediately after the Cultural Revolution, the
movement of many intellectuals in the West and the Third World was seen as an
example of a popular, non-bureaucratic socialism. After Deng Xiaoping's takeover
in 1978, revelations of the shadowy sides of the Cultural Revolution began to
emerge, and today there is widespread agreement both inside and outside China
that the Cultural Revolution was a disaster for the country. Up to 1
million people lost their lives due to persecution or participation in factional
fighting. Economic growth was slowed down and the education system suffered
greatly. The many changes of course during the Cultural Revolution led to
widespread political apathy and cynicism in the population, and the CCP put a
very large part of its prestige out of control.
Deng Xiaoping's era
Hua Guofeng was appointed Prime Minister in April 1976, and in October of the
same year he took over the chairmanship of the CCP after Mao. In 1976-77, Hua
was launched as "the brilliant leader" in the media, but in reality his power
base was flimsy and he could not prevent further rehabilitations of the victims
of the Cultural Revolution. In 1977, Deng Xiaoping was rehabilitated for the
second time, and in 1978, the breakdown of Hua's power continued. In the fall of
1978, the 1976 demonstrations were re-evaluated and proclaimed a "revolutionary
event"; likewise, the victims of the Anti-Right movement in 1957 were
rehabilitated. In Beijing and other cities, the sticking of critical wall papers
testified to the beginnings of a popular pro-democracy movement. And in December
1978, Deng and his followers took over the political initiative, when, at the
landmark third plenary session of the Central Committee, they adopted a
reorientation of the CCP's course. Going forward, economic development should be
the main task, not Maoist class struggle. The conditions of the peasants were
improved, and they were given greater freedom for private production alongside
the collective. The confusion of politics, administration and economic
management was recognized as a problem. In many areas, the third plenary session
set the agenda for the "reform and open door" policy of the Deng Xiaoping era,
and the meeting has since gained status in the Chinese media as a crucial
turning point in China's modern history. Thereafter, Deng Xiaoping, albeit
informally, served as China's supreme leader. and they were given greater
freedom for private production alongside the collective. The confusion of
politics, administration and economic management was recognized as a problem. In
many areas, the third plenary session set the agenda for the "reform and open
door" policy of the Deng Xiaoping era, and the meeting has since gained status
in the Chinese media as a crucial turning point in China's modern
history. Thereafter, Deng Xiaoping, albeit informally, served as China's supreme
leader. and they were given greater freedom for private production alongside the
collective. The confusion of politics, administration and economic management
was recognized as a problem. In many areas, the third plenary session set the
agenda for the "reform and open door" policy of the Deng Xiaoping era, and the
meeting has since gained status in the Chinese media as a crucial turning point
in China's modern history. Thereafter, Deng Xiaoping, albeit informally, served
as China's supreme leader. and the meeting has since gained status in the
Chinese media as a crucial turning point in China's modern history. Thereafter,
Deng Xiaoping, albeit informally, served as China's supreme leader. and the
meeting has since gained status in the Chinese media as a crucial turning point
in China's modern history. Thereafter, Deng Xiaoping, albeit informally, served
as China's supreme leader.
In 1979, China and the United States established full diplomatic relations,
while Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia to eliminate the Chinese-backed Pol Pot
regime. China responded in January 1979 with a military attack on Vietnam, which
enjoyed the support of the Soviet Union, and Chinese foreign policy increasingly
resembled an informal alliance with the United States against the main enemy,
the Soviet Union. On the home front, the Democracy Movement was overthrown in
the spring of 1979, and its most notorious advocate, Wei Jingsheng, was
sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Deng balanced between the reform-minded and the more orthodox members of the
top leadership, and important reforms were tested in provinces, controlled by
the people of Deng; thus, the "system of responsibility", in which the peasants
in effect gained private control over their land, was tested in the provinces of
Sichuan and Anhui before the system was made nationwide in the first years of
the 1980's culminating in the 1982 decision to dissolve the people's communes. In
1979, the "special economic zones" were established for the purpose of
attracting foreign capital and increasing China's exports. In 1980, one of the
most successful people in the reform wing, Zhao Ziyang, took over the post
of Prime Minister from Hua Guofeng, and another reformer, Hu Yaobang, took over
the post of party leader in 1981.
The one-child policy was launched in 1980, the same year that the Fire Band
was brought to justice and sentenced to death, which, however, was converted to
life imprisonment. Also in 1980, Deng Xiaoping presented at an internal party
meeting proposals for far-reaching political reforms. The core of Deng's
proposal was a clear separation between, on the one hand, the CCP's
political-ideological work and, on the other hand, administrative and economic
functions. At the local elections in the People's Congress in 1980, the
boundaries of criticism and initiative from below were expanded. But the liberal
wave of 1980 triggered a counter-offensive by the Orthodox Communists in
1980-81, and in 1982-83 they again for a period had great influence in the party
leadership; at the same time, close cooperation with the United States began to
cool, and China sought a position of neutrality vis-à-vis the superpowers, the
United States and the Soviet Union.
In 1984, the pace of economic reforms picked up again; while the emphasis in
1979-84 had been on reforms in agriculture, where the average standard of living
of the peasants had doubled, the industry now came into focus. 1984 was also the
year when China and the United Kingdom signed an agreement on the transfer of
Hong Kong to China in 1997. In the following years, China entered a period of
high economic growth, and trade with the outside world also grew rapidly. But at
the same time, social tensions increased as the difference between winners and
losers in the reform process became apparent. Some provinces and regions began
to resemble the East Asian “tiger economies,” while others were stuck in
poverty. Inflation and corruption contributed to a mood of uncertainty and
skepticism. With the relatively greater freedom of expression after the
mid-1980's' The critique of the CCP's abuse of power among intellectuals and
students also grew. A series of student demonstrations in 1986-87 led to a
violent reaction from the orthodox wing of the party, and Deng Xiaoping
sacrificed the reform-minded Hu Yaobang to the party leadership post. However,
Deng managed to rock Zhao Ziyang into the party leadership post, while the
technocratLi Peng took over Zhao's prime ministerial post. At the CCP's
thirteenth congress in October 1987, the reform course was resumed.
In 1988, tensions in society increased again. Inflation triggered waves of
panic purchases, and in the summer of 1988, the government decided to slow down
price reform and economic growth. Internally in the system, Zhao's star was now
too declining, and Li Peng's rising, but Zhao would not give up the reform
course without a fight.
Against the background of the split in top management, intellectual critics
in the spring of 1989 saw an opportunity to penetrate with their message, and in
reality an alliance emerged between the Zhao group in top management and the
critical intellectuals. The fermented criticism turned into large student
demonstrations, triggered by Hu Yaobang's death on April 15, 1989. During May,
this new democracy movement spread to 123 Chinese cities, and millions of city
dwellers lined up around student demonstrations. The government imposed a state
of emergency in Beijing on May 20, 1989, but this did not stop the
demonstrations, and the CCP's aging leaders therefore chose to deploy the army.
On the night of June 4, 1989, up to 200,000 troops were deployed against the
democracy movement in Beijing. Many hundreds of civilians were killed
on Tiananmenplace, and thousands wounded. Shortly afterwards, Zhao Ziyang and
his supporters were officially ousted from office, while authorities launched a
crackdown on system critics, student leaders and workers who had tried to form
independent unions. Jiang Zemin was installed as the new party leader. The
events sparked international criticism and sanctions against China. In return,
China became more closely associated with the faltering regimes of Eastern
Europe and the Soviet Union, but when these collapsed in 1989-90, China's
international isolation increased dangerously. However, international sanctions
were eased again during 1990-92, and China's leaders maneuvered out of isolation
with great skill, prioritizing China's place in the East Asian growth region at
the top of its foreign policy agenda.
The Chinese leadership pursued a tight economic policy in 1989-91, which
brought inflation under control, but in the spring of 1992, Deng Xiaoping called
for new reform initiatives and increased growth.
1992-96 was characterized by an extremely rapid economic development, so that
China by the end of 1900-t. must be counted among the countries in the world
with the highest economic growth. At the same time, economic reforms have come a
long way; the state sector is no longer dominant and prices are mainly
determined by the market. However, the political system is still authoritarian,
although the intellectual and spiritual climate has become somewhat freer since
the 1989-91 setback. Deng's death 19.2. 1997 had no immediate effect on the
political stability of the country, as the age-impaired leader in his last years
of life did not actively participate in political life.
Overall, the Deng era transformed China from a totalitarian society that
demanded the active support of all citizens to an authoritarian system that
limits oppression to the most outspoken critics. Despite the CCP's continued
political dominance, the state apparatus has been significantly
modernized. Internationally, China has managed not only to secure its borders,
but also to engage in rapidly growing economic cooperation, especially in
relation to neighboring countries in East and Southeast Asia.
From 1997 to 2002, Jiang Zemin was in charge. He belonged to the "third
generation" (after Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping) of leaders. On July 1, 1997,
Jiang, as China's representative, was able to oversee the British Crown Colony
of Hong Kongreturn to Chinese sovereignty, and in September of that year, at the
15th Congress of the Communist Party, he presented a plan for the privatization
of the bulk of state-owned industry. However, the great financial crisis in
Asia, which began in the autumn of 1997, made it more difficult to sell the
often deeply indebted state-owned companies. China's economic growth was not
affected by the financial crisis to the same extent as a number of other
countries in East Asia, but in the late 1990's the economy was characterized by
deflation and rising unemployment. At the same time, large income disparities
have become commonplace.
Political control is zealously maintained, and all approaches to independent
organizations or the media have been severely cracked down on. When a group of
citizens applied for permission to form China's Democratic Party in 1998, they
were sentenced to long prison terms. However, a far greater and quite surprising
challenge to the Chinese leadership came from the neo-religious Falun
Gong movement, which in 1999 organized a sit-in with about 10,000 participants
in front of the government headquarters in Beijing; the movement was
subsequently banned and massively suppressed. A third challenge to the system
comes from thousands of local protests across China targeting corruption, taxes
or lack of unemployment benefits.
Only on one occasion has the government allowed protest demonstrations. When
US bombs hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in May 1999 during the bombing
campaign against Yugoslavia, it triggered a wave of rage and agitated
nationalism among Chinese youth, and the US embassy in Beijing was besieged by
protesters for days. A new crisis between China and the United States arose in
2001, when a US surveillance plane collided with a Chinese fighter over the
South China Sea. China's self-esteem, in turn, was rectified by the IOC's
decision the same year to host Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, just as
China's accession to the WTO, finally confirmed in 2001, heralds new progress
for China's integration into the world community.
Economically, developments in China have been successful, and the reforms,
although their course has been tortuous and without a clear plan, have
contributed to progress. The flip side of the coin is environmental destruction,
corruption, millions of itinerant freelancers and major social inequalities. The
official socialist ideology is eroded and lacks credibility, just as the CCP's
rule in the eyes of many Chinese lacks legitimacy. The challenges posed by the
1900's. has faced China, has been taken up, but far from all hopes have been
Jiang Zemin resigned as party leader at the 16th Congress of the Communist
Party in the autumn of 2002 and as president in 2003. A "fourth generation", led
by Hu Jintao, took over the leadership of the country. The soaring economic
growth rates continued into the middle of the decade that began in the year
2000, as did reports of ecological devastation and disasters, unprecedented
social polarization, and thousands of protest demonstrations by poor farmers and
workers. However, new signals from the Communist Party's top leadership in 2005
and 2006 suggest that better environmental protection and greater social justice
have actually been placed at the top of the leadership's
agenda. Internationally, since the beginning of the decade, China has aligned
itself closely with the United States in the "war on terror", as the Chinese
government's repression of Muslim "separatists" in China's western province of
Xinjiang has been linked to the anti-terrorism struggle. Precisely the fight
against "separatists" in Xinjiang and Tibet has led to criticism from the
outside world. In the spring of 2008, there was ethnic unrest in Tibet between
Han Chinese and Tibetans; there were several killed and the regime struck down
with a heavy hand. In July 2009, there was violent unrest in
Xinjiang; officially 156 were killed. In the middle of the decade in particular,
Japan has been the target of new, short-lived, outbursts of nationalist anger in
Chinese youth. In March 2005, the Chinese People's Congress passed an
anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan, which is threatened with military action if
the "peaceful reunification" of Taiwan with China is not realized. outbursts of
nationalist anger in Chinese youth. In March 2005, the Chinese People's Congress
passed an anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan, which is threatened with military
action if the "peaceful reunification" of Taiwan with China is not
realized. outbursts of nationalist anger in Chinese youth. In March 2005, the
Chinese People's Congress passed an anti-secession law aimed at Taiwan, which is
threatened with military action if the "peaceful reunification" of Taiwan with
China is not realized.