1839-42: First Opium War. British imported tea from China, and in return exported opium from India into China. In 1839, the Chinese government destroys 20,000 chests of British opium and prohibits its use. Britain retaliates militarily.
1842: Treaty of Nanjing. The Chinese, defeated by the British military in the Opium War, are forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing. China is forced to give Hong Kong to the British and open five ports for the British to inhabit and in which to conduct trade, including opium. The British are also exempted from Chinese law.
1851-64: Taiping Rebellion is led by Hong Xiuquan, a village teacher. Millions of peasants join the fight against the Qing government. British and French forces, preferring to deal with the weakened Qing administration, support it against the rebels. An estimated 30 million people are killed in the rebellion.
1883-85: France defeats China in the Franco-Chinese war, gaining control of nearby Indochina. Britain extends its empire from India to Burma.
1893: Mao Zedong is born.
1894-95: The Sino-Japanese war ends in a Chinese defeat. China is forced to give Formosa (Taiwan) to Japan and to relinquish claims on Korea. This begins a half-century of Japanese colonial domination of Korea.
1898: Spanish-American War. United States takes over Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines. The Philippines is used as a base for U.S. penetration of China.
1899: The U.S. government announces the “Open Door Policy,” calling for an equal opportunity for foreign powers to “develop” China for their own commercial interests. The policy is implemented because nearly all of China’s coastal region has been taken over by six other imperialist powers.
1900: The Boxer Rebellion. Starting in northern China, people attack missionary facilities and Chinese Christians. By June 1900, militants besiege the foreign invaders in Beijing and Tianjin. The Qing government supports the militants against the foreigners, but the Chinese are crushed by British firepower. Reprisals include mass executions, forced payment of money to the foreigners and the stationing of foreign troops on Chinese soil.
1911: The Republican Revolution, also known as the First Revolution, signals the end of the Manchu Dynasty in Central and South China. Dr. Sun Yat-sen is declared president of a provisional government in Nanking.
1912: Sun Yat-sen resigns and Yuan Shih-k’ai becomes president of the Republic of China. Over the next few years, he suspends the provisional constitution and parliament, declares himself emperor, and is overthrown in 1916.
1914-18: World War I. Japan, allied with Britain and France, seizes German holdings in Shandong province in 1914. In 1917, Britain, France and Italy secretly support Japanese control over southeastern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia.
1917: The October Revolution is victorious in Russia. The new revolutionary Russian government supports the Kuomintang—the National People’s Party—founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
1921: The Communist Party of China is formed. Mao Zedong is named secretary of the Communist Party of Hunan province.
1923: Members of the CPC join the Kuomintang as individuals, forming the first “united front.”
1925-27: Revolutionary upsurge in China.
1925: Advisers from the Communist International (Comintern) support Chiang Kai-shek as military leader of the Nationalist Revolutionary Expedition, launched from Canton in 1926. The Comintern helps establish Whampoa Military Academy to train Chinese officers.
1927: Forces loyal to Chiang Kai-shek attack the urban-based CPC in an anti-communist coup. The CPC loses 80 percent of its members in the attacks, its numbers dwindling to about 10,000. Surviving CPC members retreat to the countryside.
Mao Zedong leads peasants in the unsuccessful Autumn Harvest Uprising in Hunan province. The Red Army is founded.
1929-30: Chiang Kai-shek launches first of five “final extermination” campaigns against CPC base areas. The first four campaigns would be defeated.
1931: Japan invades Manchuria, China’s main industrial region, and sets up the puppet state of “Manchukuo.”
1932: Japan attacks Shanghai.
1934-35: The Long March. Chiang Kai-shek’s massive “Fifth Final Extermination” campaign forces the CPC and Red Army to embark on the Long March, which lasts for more than a year. Traveling thousands of miles on foot and fighting numerous battles, the communist-led forces suffer heavy losses but survive and establish a new base area in Yenan.
1937: Japan launches a massive invasion of China. The CPC proposes a united front strategy to fight Japanese invaders. Chiang Kai-shek only agrees after being kidnapped and held hostage by his own generals. The war continues against Japanese invaders until 1945.
1940-41: Cooperation between CPC and Kuomintang forces breaks down. The Kuomintang relies on U.S. aid, and the communists expand their guerrilla movement.
1941-45: 27 million Soviet workers and peasants are killed in Word War II. Two-thirds of the Soviet Union’s industry is destroyed.
1945: The CPC has 1.2 million members, up from 100,000
1946: The CPC renames the Red Army the People’s Liberation Army.
1948: The communists overwhelmingly defeat Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces in Manchuria despite massive U.S. aid.
1949: The People’s Liberation Army defeats the Kuomintang in the Hwai-hai campaign in January.
On Oct. 1, the People’s Republic of China is formally declared. Chiang Kai-shek flees to Taiwan. A People’s Political Consultative Conference is held, based on Mao’s text, “The People’s Democratic Dictatorship.” Workers, peasants, intellectuals and the national bourgeoisie are represented. Mao is elected chairman. He announces a foreign policy of “leaning to one side”—toward the Soviet Union. The People’s Republic of China is recognized by several countries: the Soviet Union, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Great Britain. The United States withdraws its diplomats from China. CPC membership reaches 4.5 million.
1950: China and the Soviet Union sign a treaty of alliance. An agrarian reform law redistributes land from the landlords to the peasants. The new marriage law gives greater rights to women. The People’s Liberation Army enters the Tibetan area of Chamdo.
War breaks out in Korea after United Nations forces, led by the United States, are sent to the peninsula. Chinese troops fight on the side of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). The U.S. government sends the Navy to “protect” Taiwan.
1951: Chinese representatives in Beijing present Tibetan representatives with a Seventeen Point Agreement affirming China’s sovereignty over Tibet. The agreement is ratified in Lhasa a few months later.
1953: China’s first Five-Year Plan is announced. Using the Soviet Union’s economic plans as a model, China’s plan calls for heavy industrial development. Soviet aid and advisers assist in implementation. An armistice is signed in the Korean War, but no formal peace treaty is ever signed.
1955: Major industries are socialized. China and the Soviet Union reach an agreement on nuclear cooperation.
1956: China backs the Soviet intervention to put down a counter-revolutionary rebellion in Hungary.
1958: The second Five-Year Plan—known as the “Great Leap Forward”—begins. This includes the introduction of the people’s commune as the basic unit of economic life in the Chinese countryside, part of a widespread collectivization effort. The goal is to rapidly industrialize China by mobilizing the country’s vast peasant population behind the effort.
1959: The Soviet Union repudiates a secret agreement to assist China in developing nuclear weapons. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visits the United States for three days of private talks with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Following the failure of a reactionary armed uprising in Tibet, the Dalai Lama flees to India to establish a new “government in exile.”
1960: Ideological differences between China and the Soviet Union lead to a split. Khrushchev had denounced Joseph Stalin after Stalin’s death and called for co-existence between communist and capitalist countries. The Soviet Union recalls all technical advisers from China and cancels more than 600 contracts between the two countries.
1962: Border disputes and incidents between India and China escalate, centered on a disputed area in which China had constructed a military road to Tibet. China attacks, taking 35,000 square miles of territory, but then unilaterally retreats, creating a demilitarized zone and calling for peaceful negotiations to resolve the dispute.
1962-65: The Socialist Education Movement is launched to combat bourgeois tendencies within the CPC. Classes are scheduled to fit the work schedules of factories and communes. Intellectuals are drafted to do manual labor.
1963: The Soviet Union signs a partial nuclear test ban treaty with the United States and Britain.
1964: China condemns U.S. aggression against Vietnam, saying that an attack on Vietnam is like an attack on China itself. China successfully tests its first atomic bomb.
1965: Counterrevolution in Indonesia overthrows the bourgeois-nationalist government of Sukarno, a key ally of China. Over 1 million Indonesian communists and their supporters are massacred.
1966: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is launched by Mao and other leaders within the CPC. In many ways, it is a struggle between left and more right-wing leaders over the course China will take, and a struggle against entrenched party bureaucrats and bourgeois tendencies. The Sino-Soviet split escalates from a mainly ideological struggle to a state-to-state conflict.
1967: In January and February, workers in Shanghai establish the “Shanghai Commune.”
1968: Mao announces a directive, by which educated urban youth will work in the countryside for re-education with poor peasants. There are numerous clashes, some involving casualties, between China and the Soviet Union along their border; these clashes continue the next year.
China denounces the Soviet intervention to block counterrevolution in Czechoslovakia as a manifestation of “Soviet social imperialism.”
1969: Cultural Revolution left-wing leader and People’s Liberation Army commander Lin Biao is designated as constitutional successor to Mao Zedong. Lin had authored (in 1965) an article, “Long Live the Victory of the People’s War!” outlining a worldwide strategy of anti-imperialist struggle and had compiled the “Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong,” which became known as “the Little Red Book.”
1970: China launches its first satellite into orbit.
1971: President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, secretly visits Beijing during a trip to Pakistan in July.
Lin Biao dies in a mysterious plane crash in September. Chen Boda, another prominent leftist leader, drops from public view.
The People’s Republic of China takes its rightful seat at the United Nations after a majority of member nations demand it.
1972: President Nixon visits China in February as a further step toward a U.S.-China rapprochement. During Nixon’s stay, the United States and China issue the Shanghai Communiqué. The document pledges that the countries will work to normalize their relations. The U.S. government formally recognizes the principle that Taiwan is a part of China.
1976: In January, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai dies. Deng Xiaoping is purged from CPC leadership positions
In September, Mao Zedong dies. Key leftist allies of Mao, the “Gang of Four,” are arrested in October.
1977: Deng Xiaoping is restored to his CPC positions.
1978: Deng Xiaoping signals a reorganization of the Chinese economy, which he describes as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The Third Plenum of the 11th CPC Congress emphasizes the need for economic modernization with a focus on industry, agriculture, defense and science/technology.
Following multiple incursions by Pol Pot forces into Vietnam, Vietnamese troops intervene in Cambodia in December, overthrowing the China-allied Khmer Rouge regime.
1979: The United States and China resume full diplomatic relations on January 1. Four months later, the U.S. government passes the Taiwan Relations Act, formalizing quasi-diplomatic relations between the United States and Taiwan. China solidifies a strategic alliance with the United States against the Soviet Union and its allies.
China invades Vietnam on Feb. 17, partly in response to Vietnam’s occupation of Cambodia. Chinese troops withdraw three weeks later.
1980: China designates four economic zones open to foreign investors and relaxes restrictions on foreign investors.
1982: The new Chinese Constitution enshrines the market.
1985: Time magazine names Deng Xiaoping “Man of the Year” for his embrace of “free-market reforms.”
1989: From April to June, demonstrators occupy Tiananmen Square in Beijing, opposing the government. Demands escalate from calling for “democracy” to calling for the CPC-led government to resign. Protests continue for six weeks before the government moves to end them. Several hundred people die in fights near the square on June 3-4, many of whom were soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army. Anti-China hysteria sweeps the United States. The U.S.-China alliance ends.
Eastern European socialist governments in Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania are overthrown.
1990-91: The United States invades Iraq in January 1991. China votes in the United Nations to abstain, in effect giving the United States a green light for the invasion.
1991: The Soviet Union is overthrown and dismantled.
1992: The 14th CPC Congress declares its intent to build a “socialist market economy.” Major Chinese cities are opened to foreign investment.
1996: China holds missile tests off Taiwan.
1997: In February, Deng Xiaoping dies.
Hong Kong is returned to China, ending 155 years of British colonial rule.
1999: NATO warplanes bomb the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia during the war.
2000: The U.S. Senate passes the Permanent Normal Trade Relations bill, which guarantees Chinese goods the same access to the U.S. market as products from other countries.
2001: In April, a U.S. spy plane collides with a Chinese fighter jet, killing the Chinese pilot and forcing the spy plane to land on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. China accuses the U.S. plane of ramming its aircraft.
China joins the World Trade Organization in November.
2002: The 16th National Congress of the CPC opens party membership to China’s capitalists—owners of private capital.
2003: The United States invades and occupies Iraq.
2004: China’s global trade exceeds $1 trillion, becoming the third largest trading country behind the United States and Germany.
2005: The United States and Japan issue a joint agreement in February, declaring for the first time that security in the Taiwan Strait is a “common strategic objective.” The declaration is a thinly veiled threat against China.
China Reform Forum chair Zheng Bijian states that the number one goal of the country’s leadership is for China to go from being an “underdeveloped” country to a “medium-level developed country” by the mid-21st century.
2006: China joins the unanimous U.N. Security Council vote sanctioning Iran for its uranium enrichment program.
2007: In May, Nigeria launches its first telecommunications satellite from China. It was designed and built by Chinese engineers.
In June, China’s National People’s Congress adopts a labor reform bill over the objection of the international capitalists requiring employers to provide workers with written contracts including long-term job security provisions.
Seventeen members of the CPC issue a public letter in July to the CPC’s leadership, urging a reconsideration of the general line of economic reforms.
The United States, in October, awards the Dalai Lama the congressional gold medal—the government’s highest civilian honor.
In November, China blocks U.S. naval vessels from entering Hong Kong, saying that relations with the United States have been “disturbed and harmed” because of actions with regard to Tibet and recent massive weapons sales to Taiwan.