China’s first-half 20C Timeline

Updated 25th March, 2014

The first half of the 20th Century was troubled times for both China and India – one desperately escaping from imperialism and quasi-colonialism, straight into war with Japan and incipient revolution and liberation; the other escaping from colonialism to independence, and into the trauma of partition.

China – from empire to republic via war to liberation

·         1890s – China is being slowly partitioned by foreign powers. The Boxer Rebellion arises, with stated aim of “overthrowing Qing and destroying foreigners”
·         1899 – Boxers are defeated by Qing, but Dowager Empress Cixi decides they might be useful to her, and sets them task of killing all foreigners in China.

·         1900 – An international force – from eight nations including Britain, USA, Russia, Germany and Japan – arrives in Beijing and routs Boxers. They go on to ransack Summer Palace a second time.

See also: 

·         1911 – 10 October, Republic of China formed.
·         1912 – Qing dynasty never recovers from humiliations of last 70 years, especially 1900, and finally collapses. 10 October Sun Yatsen founds Kuomintang (KMT – Nationalist Party) and takes control of new republican government. To avert civil war he offers presidency to Yuan Shikai, former head of Qing armies, and warlord of Northern China.
·         1913 – Yuan dissolves republican government and sends Sun into exile again.
·         1916 – Yuan’s sudden death sends Northern China into civil war, while Sun returns to take control of KMT government in South China.

·         1921 – Chinese Communist Party (CCP) formed. Early members include Mao Zedong, and Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping joins as CCP Youth League member in France. At insistence of Soviet Union, CCP joins KMT to fight Northern warlords.
·         1925 – Sun Yatsen dies. Chiang Kaishek now in control of KMT.
·         1927 – After jointly defeating Northern warlords, CCP organises a strike against Chiang and KMT. They are brutally suppressed; around 5,000 people are killed.

·         1931 – Japan invades Manchuria (Northern China)
·         1934 – The Long March: Encircled and outnumbered, communists flee, marching c10,000km and crossing dozen mountain ranges. Many die, but they succeed in regrouping and establishing base in Yan’an, Sha’anxi.
·         1936 – Chiang famously said: “The Japanese are a disease of the skin, the Communists are a disease of the heart” and wanted to focus on defeating Communists first. His generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng disagreed and kidnapped him, forcing him to agree to United Front with Communists against Japanese.
·         1937 – Sino-Japanese War starts.
·         1937-45 – United Front ends when Chiang stops distributing US arms to Communists. During war KMT retreat westwards to Chongqing as eventual war-time capital; while CCP retreat to countryside.

·         1945 – Japan surrenders in China war theatre.
·         1945–49 – By end of WWII KMT had bankrupted China while CCP had built strong, national following from rural bases. Est. civilian deaths – 10m and military – 1.3m.