** Chinese history 20th century

Chinese Historical Overview: 20th Century

Figure 1.--This is a scene from China during the Cultural Revolution taken in 1974. I do not know where it was taken. It might be a scene from a movie, but I am not sure of that. Notice the baggy jackets and trousers for both boys and girls. The Cultural Revolution was Mao's second major effort to seize a Stalibst-style grip on China and the Communist Party.

China's experiece in the 20th century was the most turbulant of any great power. China at the beginning of the 20th century wasa backward almpst medieval society. The 20th century in Chima began with the Boxer Rebellion (1900) which exposed the weakeness of decadent Manchu dynasty. The European rescue force and the reparations and concessions involved descredited the Manchus and led to the overthrow of the monarch (1912) and estanlishment of the Chinese Republic (1913). The Guomindang led by Chaing Kai-check fought a campaign with war lords to unify the country (1910s). After World War I a civil war broke out with the Communists (1920s). Japan invaded China in the 1930s. The Japanese first seized Manchuria (1931) and then attacked China proper (1937). Some historians consider the Sino-Japanese War to be the beginning of World War II. The Japanese waged a war un unbelievable brutality, occupying much of the country. No country suffered more in World War II than China. The losses were enormous, even greater than Soviet losses. The enormity of the Japanese crimes in China still cloud their bilateral relationship. The Jspanese were, however, unable to defeat the Chinese. The war with Japan lasted until the Japanese surrendered to the Allies (1945). The Chinese Civil War began before the Japanese invasion and continued even longer, finally ending with the Communist victory (1949). The victory of the Communists meant massive social change. The Communists iniitated radical reforms aimed at bringing China into the 20th century. Some efforts were effective, others caused imense sufferung. Millions of Chinese died in the famine resulting from Mao's Great Leap Forward. Developments in China in fact involve much more than the War and thus require separate treatment. The Cultural Revolution is a case in point. School children and youth were both at the front of the Cultural Revolution and greatly affected by it it. China after the Cultural Revolution embraced free-market economic reforms. Modern China has embraced economic market reforms, but has not yet moved toward political liberalization. China by the end of the century had the world's fastest growing economy. The Communist Party has, however, continued to limit free expression and maintains a party dictatorship.

The Manchus

The Ming in 1643 employed the war-like Manchus from the northeast to defend China from the Central Asian Tatars. A Manchu prince established himself in Peking, and, in 1644, on the suicide of the last Ming emperor, took the imperial throne, founding the last royal dynasty of China. The first Manchu emperor, Shunzhi, only 1 year after bevoming emperor in 1645 ordered that pigtails (queues) should be worn in the style of the Manchu. This was seen as a sign of submission to Manchu rule. [Chang] The enforced adoption by the Chinese of the plaited queue of the Manchus at first produced friction between the two peoples, but this gradually disappeared, and Manchus and Chinese assumed harmonious relations, but the Manchus remained a destinct warrior and official class. The huge Chinese population and culture gradually engulfed the numerically small invaders who adopted Chinese language and culture. The Manchus conqured Mongolia and ruled Manchuria. The gratest Manchu emperor was K'ang Hsi (1662-1722). He conquered Tibet. He promoted sciemce and the arts. The Central Asian states of Turkestan and Kashgaria were conquered by Ch'ien Lung (1736-96). Burma was penetrated and Cochin China (Vienam) and Korea were forced to pay tribute. After Ch'ien subsequent Machu emperors encountered increasingly difficulty suppressing rebellions. The Chinese tendency to turn inward and failure to pursue modern science and industry made it increasingly difficult to contend with the growing power of European nations intent on entering the China trade. The Manchus, who found it difficult, to descriminate among Europeans found it difficult to understand the national rivalries as well as the avarice of the Europeans. Trade florished even under restructions imposed by the Manchus. Europeans had difficulty, however, in delivering products of interest to the Chinese, until the British and other foreign merchants i the 19th century began selling increasing quantities of opium which was illegal in China. The increasing tendency of Eurropean governments to intervene to protect their traders and the desire to maintain the lucrative opium trade led to Opium War which began in 1840. A naval task force by 1842 had forced China to make major concessions including ceeding Hong Kong as a British enclave. Other European powers also demanded similar enclaves. This generally took the form of areas of cities, but the French seized Tonkin expanding control of Indo-China (1884) and Japan, which did embrace modern technology, seized control of Korea (1894) and Taiwan (1895). Two elements emerged in China to contend with the Europeans. The first was traditionalist reactionary force inspired by the Emperess to exterminate the foreigners. Nationalist reformers desiring to modernize China were persecuted. The Boxers with their primitives weapons and with them the Emperess were humiliated by a foreign military expediton in 1900-01. Gradually the reformers grew in strength.

Boxer Rebellion (1900)

China's experiece in the 20th century was the most turbulant of any great power. It began with the Boxer Rebellion (1900) which exposed the weakeness of decadent Manchu dynasty. China had viewed itself as the greatest world power and other countries of little importance. Growing European power by the 19th century had enforced many indignaties on China, begnning in particular with the Opium Wars. European countries enforced inequitable treties and carved out treaty ports. Japan even seized Formosa (1895). There were two major responses. One was a desire by progressive reformers to modernize China by adopting modern technology and institutions along the lines being persued in Japan. The other was a desire to drive out all foreign influence and maintain traditional culture. Dowager Empress Cixi suppressed the progressive reformers . Unable to resist the European powers openly, Emperess Cixi secretly promoted the traditionalist faction. The most important traditionalist faction was the Society of Harmonious Fists which in the West became known as the Boxers. The Boxers began attacking foreigners, especially isolated foreigners living outside the treaty ports. Here the most vuunerable were the foreign missionaries living among the Chinese. The missionaries were espec=ially hated by the Boxers. Gradually attackd on foreigners and Chinese associated with them increased, especially in north China. Open fighting began when a British force moving to Peking to protect the forign community there came under fire--something the regular Chinese Army was afraid to do. Full scale revolt broke out in Peking. The Boxers killed the German ambassador and beseigned the foreign embassies. Attacks on foreigners and foreign property occurred all over north China. Six fireign govern,ents (America, Austria-Hungary?, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan) organized a relief mission. The European rescue force and the reparations and concessions imposed on China under the Peking Protocol descredited the Manchus and led to the overthrow of the monarch (1912).

Last Manchu Emperpor: Pu-yi (1908-11)

Puyi was born in 1906 and and on the death of his uncle Guangxu became the last emperor of China. We have noted various spellings, P'u-i, Puyi, Pu-Yi, and Buyi. Unlike his newphew, he did not have the Dowager Empress as regent. Pu Yi's father, Prince Ch'un, served as his son's regent. The prince, however, disliked politics and court officials conducted givernment affairs. Reformers in China demanded change and action aginst the Europeans. They considered Prince Ch'un weak and the imperial regime corrupt and backward--incapable of challenging the Europeans. Puyi was raised by court officials who taught him to leave a desolate life. A Scottish tutor, Reginald Johnston, was hired for him. Puyi was forced to abdiagate in 1912 after the 1911 Republican Revolution. He was permitted to live in the Forbidden City until 1924. He was courted by the Japanese who had acquired the former German concessions in Manchuria. Puyi took up residence in the Japanese concession at Tientsin. The Japanese gradually expanded their control of Manchuria. They installed him in 1933 as Emperor of the puppet state of Manchoukuo. He met with Emperor Hirohito. We do not know the nature of their discussions. Puyi was surprised to learn that he had no real authority. The Soviet invaded Manchuria in the final weeks of World War II and turned him over to the Chinese for trial as a war criminal. The Chinese pardoned him in 1959. He returned to Beijing where he worked in the mechanical repair shop of a botanical garden and died in 1967. Puyi's life was beautifully told in the film, "The Last Emperor".

Overthrow of the Imperial Government (1911)

Agitation for a Chinese republic was led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. A rebellion broke out (October 10, 1911). This led to the over throw of the Manchus. The Imperial Army garrison at Wuchang rebelled on October 10, 1911, and declared China to be a republic. Other garrisons joined them. Within 2 months thirteen of China's eighteen provinces had joined the rebellion. The Imperial Government was unable to supress the rebellion because by this time, many military commanders were allied with the republicans. The republicans occupied Beijing (1912). They demanded Puyi abdicate. The last emperor, Hsuan Pu-yi, a small boy, abdicated (February 7, 1912). This ended the imperial system that had dominated China for four millenia. Prince Chun, the regent, was offered an arrangement that guaranteed Pu-Yi's title, safety, income, and continued possession of the Forbidden City. Thuis was arranged by Yuan Shikai, the most powerful imperial general. As part of the deal to arrange Pu-Yi's abdication, Yuan demanded that he be appointed president of the new Republic. The National Assesmbly dominated by the Kuomintang/Guomindang (KMT) met (February 1913). Sun proved to be an idealistic, but ineffectual leader and China descended into rule by war lords and increased penetration by foreign powers.

Yuan Shikai and the Republic (1911-16)

The Republic that Sun helped create had many early problems. The major problem was that the Republic did not have an army. Military power was in the hands of Yuan Shikai (1859-16) and the other former Imperial Army commanders. The would become known as war lords. Thus the authority of Yuan Shikai soon eclipsed that of the new Parliament. Yuan moved to establish a dictatorship. Yuan revised the original democratic constitution with now consultatiion. Song Jiaoren (1882-1913) founded the Guomindang/Kuomintang (National People's Party--KMT) (1912). Song was an associate of Sun. The KMT was a nationalist party and commonly referred to as the Natiionalists. It was an alliance of several parties with a national orientation which at the time largely meant an anti-foreign/imperilist orientation. Sun's Tongmeng Hui Party was but one of the parties joining the KMT. The Republic held elections for a bicammeral Parliament (February 1913). Song and the KMT campaigned against Yuan and his administration. The KMT won a majority in Parliament. Yuan's response was to order Song's assassination (March 1913). This was a favorite tactic. He had already begun assasinating generals which supported the Republic. Popular feeling became increasingly hostile toward Yuan. Sun and KNT figures fomented rebellion in the south (summer 1913). Guangzhou (Canton) in particular was a center of Republic strength. Yuan used his military forces to supress the rebellion. Sun and other plotters soughtv refuge vin Japan. Yuan also used his military and police power to intimidate the new Parliament (October 1913). They formally elected Yuan president of the Republic of China. The major world powers recognized Yuan's government. Yuan help obtain international recognition by agree to autonomy for Outer Mongolia and Xizang. China was still the titular soverign power, but Russia was given a free hand in Outer Mongolia and Britain continuance to play a role in Tibet whivh it vcould influence from India. Having defeated the KMT and achieving international recognition, Yun proceeded to make himself a new emperor. Yuan banned the KMT and ordered KMT delegated ejected from Parliament (November 1913). Next he disolved Parliament aktigether as well as the provincial assemblies. Then he issued a new Constitution which essentially made him president for life. The final step was to prepare to restore the imperial system (late-1915). This proved tobe his undoing. Rebellions brokeout throughout China. A sucession of wo\ar lords declared their independemce. Even his cloest associates beganto desert him. Amist the turmoil, Yuan died of natural causes (June 1916).

World War I (1914-18)

China was not a factor in World War I. but the war affected the country. China was far away from both the Eastern and Western Fronts and at the time saw itself victimized by all of the major beligerant countries. Some early fighting, however, occurred in China. Japan which had a naval treaty with Britain declared war on Germany. The British wanted to use the Japanese rather than weaken the Grand Fleet to dispatch vessels to the Pacific. Japan spmewhat to Britain's surprise, eagerly joined the war, seeing the possibility of acquiring Germany�s Pacific colonies and take over its Chinese concessions. The Japanese dispatched a naval squadron to intercept the German Pacific Squadron commanded by Admiral von Spee seeking refugee in Tsingtao Harbour. The Japanese blockaded Tsingtao and minor naval skirmishes occurred. The Japanese landed troops on the Shantung Peninsula and moved south toward Kiaochow (September 2, 1914). Kiaochow had a garrison of 5,500 German and Austro-Hungarian troops. The Japanese drive was reinforced by a British expiditionary regiment made up of Indian (Sikh) and Welsh troops (September 24). After some intense fighting the Germans and Austro-Hungarians surrendered (November 7). This was the only significant fighting taking place in China. Britain like the other major beligerant countries were running short of men because of the terrible casulties. The British suffered dreadful casulties on the Somme (1916). One effort to address this problem was to recruit workers throughout the Empire. As Britain had Chinese treaty ports, this meant China was one of the countries where workers were recruited. Most came from Shan Tung (Shandong), but there were also recruits from Honan (Hunan). The British also recruited missionry and sinologue officers. About 100,000 Chinese were recruited. The Chinese labor units under British military descipline debarked from Weihaiwei (Weihai) which was a British treaty port until 1930. The Chinese were used to dig trenches and build other fortifications. They were not used in the actual fighting, but about 2,000 died from mines, illness (such as the Inflenza Epidemic after the War), and other causes. A few were shot as a result of a mutiny at Boulogne. [Summerskill] China declared war on Germany (1917). There was no real Chinese concern about Germany as the British and Japanese has seized Germany's concessions in China. China sa, however, diplomatic problems since Japan had joined the Allies and the Royal Navy commanded the seas. Despite the declaration of war, I do not know of any significant Chinese contribution to the Allied war effort. China after the War benefited from American insistence at Versailles that the Open Door Policy be accedpted by the major powers. This was a major issue at the Washington Naval Conference (1921-22).

Unification (1920s)

Sun Yat-sen's republican revolutionary movement was damaged by Yuan Shikai's attempt to become a new emperor. The student-led May Fourth Movemnent help revive the fortunes of the Nationalists. After Yuan's death a governent survived in Beijing. A succession of warlords replaced Yuan. It still was the government recognized by foreign powers. Sun Yat-sen returned from his refuge in Japan and helped restablished a rival government in Guangzhou (Canton). He managed to obtain support from southern warlords. He restablished the KMT (October 1919). A wave of patriotic, nationlist sentiment spread throughout China after World War I. The Chinese increasingly resentful of the foreign concessions, but now the Japanese with their Twenty-One Demands bore the brunt of Chinese ire. The war lords were another matter of concern. Sun Yat-sen and the KMT (republicans/nationalists) had considerable popular support, but little military strength. The result was a three-way struggle for power among warlords, Nationalists and Communists. Sun had become president of the southern Guangzhou government. Sun become president of the southern government (1921). Sun spent his last years trying to strengthen his governmentbin the south and unify the country. Sun attempted to obtain help, especially military assistance, from the Western democracies. None were prepared to assist. Sun athe KMT still had the taint of revolutionaries. Sun eventually turned to the Bolsheviks which has just emerged victorious in the Russian Civil War. The Soviets were being isolated by the major world powers. China offered ab opportunity to break out of thatv isolatiion and help create a friendly power along its long border. Soviet propaganda issued strongly-worded attacks on Western imperialism along with criticism of capitalism. The Soviets had a quandry. The KMT was anti-imprtaialist, but it was not a Communist Party. And there was a small Communist Party in China--the CCP. The Bolsheviks decided on a dual policy, supporting both Sun and the KMR as well as the small CCP. The Soviets hoped that the two consolide, but saw advantages with whoever managed to unify China. Thiswas the beginning of the dpic struggle between the Nationalists and the Communists. The alliance between the KMT in Guangzhou and the southern warlords btoke down (1922). Sun fled to Shanghai. Sun as the leader of the not very sucessful KMT, accepted Soviet aid. Sun by that time saw that Soviet support was critical. Sun obtained a pledge from a Soviet representative in Shanghai that the Soviet Union would provide assistance for Chinese unification (1923). Soviet advisers, including Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin, quickly began arriving bin China. They attempted to reorganize the KMT along the lines of the SovietbCommunist Party. The Comintern, essentially an agency of the Soviet secret police, ordered the CCP to cooperate with the KMT. They were to join the KMT, but retain their CCP identity. Sun was thus able to arrange an alliance with the still small CCP. He then began a campaign to supress the warlords and unifying China. Sun died of cancer (1925). Chiang Kaishek, the KMT military commander seized control of the party. Chiang launched the well-known "Northern Expedition". He campaigned from Guangzhou (Canton) north to to Shanghai. This essentially unified Southern China with the great bulk of the country's population. Most importantly, the KMT controlled the Lower Yangzi. Chiang also seized many foreign concessions.

Civil War Erupts (1927)

The Communists were an important part of the KMT coalition. They had a strong following among workers in many cities. Chiang who did not trust the Communists, fell out with them. The KMT and the Communist split was the beginning of the Civil War. Ching launched a military campaign against the CCP (1927). One of the CCP members who managed to escape was Mao Zedong. The Communists were in the 1920s a largely urban movement. Mao for example while of peasant orgins, became a Commiunist because he worked in a library where he read Marxist books. To escape the KMT campaign against the CCP, the Communists abandoned their urban base and fled to the countryside. Chiang with German military advisors tried to cut them off and destroy them. Chiang's goal was tgo "eliminate the cancer of Communism." He almost complete this, but the Communuists broke out from the KNT military encirclement (1934). The Communists were almost completely defeated. Suronded by KMT forces, Mao led the Long March and established the Communists in northwestern China. They began with about 100,000 people. After a year and 6,000 miles they were down to 6,000-8,000 people.

War with Japan (1931-45)

Chang also had to contend with the Japanese who proved even more of a threat and in the 1930s a long war with Japan began. The Japanese inherited many of the concessions of the German and Austrains, including extensive concessions in Manchuria. The Japanese army in Manchuria seized the province (1931). The Nationalists did not contest this action militarily. They did protest diplomatically and took Japan to the League of Nations. The Japanese invaded China proper from Manchurian bases (1937). This was the begining of a long dreadful war. Japan occupied Chinese coastal areas and important cities, except for the European concessions. The Jpanese persued the War with unbelievable brutality. The Rape of Nanking was one of the most barabarous attrocities of modern times. China fought the Japanese alone for several years. American support for China was limited by isolationist sentiment and American neutrality laws. President Roosevelt guiding public opinion managed to provide some support including the Flying Tigers in 1941. It was American insistence that Japan end its aggression in China and opposition to other incursions in the Pacific that convinced the Japanese that war with America was necessary. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into the War (1941). After America entered the War, more substantial support flowed to China. The Japanese occupied areas of China were only liberated after the Japanese surrender in World War II (1945).

Mao and Stalin

A reader asks, "Do you know why Stalin did not embrace Mao and the Chinese Communists at the start? Was it because of different views of Communism?" This is of course a good question. Soviet activitie in Xinhijng is one example about the complex retalionship beteen Stalin, Chiang, and Mao. The historical record is very clear, Stalin did not fully embrace Mao and the Chinese Communists. It is difficult to know what was on Stalin's mind. He never left a political tretise like Hitler's Mein Kampf. I would be very careful, however about ascribing ideology to his policies. After all in his right to power he purged so call 'right deviaionists'. And once in power he went after the left. As far as I can tell it was pirely a matter of personal power. The KMT was a revolutionary group which was after World War I focused on ending the European concessions. Thus they were a natural ally of the Soviets and at first Mao and the Communists wre a part of the KMT. Later even after supressing the Mao's Communists, the KMT were a useful ally against the Japanese, keeping the bulk of the Jpanese Army occupied. As for Mao and the Communists, they were locally grown Communists beyond the cntrol of Moscow. Stalin did not trust Communists he did not control, and only to a degree Communists he did control. Thus an kindedent Communist movement, especially in a large country close to the Soviet Union was a threat to Stalin. In addition, Stalin had terrtoril ambitions in China. Taking territory from the KMT was one hing. taking it from a fraternal Comminit state a more different matter. Mao generally accepted Stalin's lack of enthuiasm, recognizing his leadership of the world Communist movement or at least not disputing it. This changed after Stalin's death (1953). Ge no longer accepted Soviet leadership, especially Khrushchev's leadership leading to the Cold War Sino-Soviet split.

Renewed Civil War: Final Phase (1945-49)

The KMT and the CPC formed a Second United Front to resist the Japanese invasion (1937). In fact the great bulk of the resistance ti the Japanese came from the KMT forces. And the Communists continued the Civil War at a low level. The war with Japan greatly weaknened the Nationalists. Their best divisions were destroyed in the early operations to defend Shanghai and other cities. Finally theu had to retreat into the hinterland where the Japanese had difficulty brining their superior forces to bear on the KMT forces. And KMT operations to secure food, resources, and men caused terrible suffering in the countryside, undermined their relationship with the pesantry, tenous at best even before the War. The Communists who generally avoided combat with the Japanese in contrast were nmore judicious in their contacts with the peasantry. The Soviets smashed the Japanese army in Manchuria The Soviets quickly destroyed the Japanese Kwantung Army and left the Soviets in controlm of Manchuria. They turned massive quantities of arms over to the CPC. Some 0.7 million Japanese surrendered to the Soviets. General MacArthure after the Japanese surrender (August 15) ordered the Japanese in China tio surrender to KMT not CPC forces. Chiang realized that he lacked the resources to prevent a CPC takeover of Manchuria following the scheduled Soviet departure. He negiotiated an arrangement with the Soviets to delay their withdrawal until he had moved enough of the KMT Armjy, including many of his best-trained men and modern material into Manchuria. The Soviet Red Army blocked the KMT troops. The United States airlifted KMT units to occupy the main cities of Manchuria and northern China. Much of the country side, however, was dominated by the CPC. The KMT launced an offensive to strengthen their positionn in the north (November 15). The Soviets spent the extra time given themn in Manchuria to dismantling the extensive Jaoanese Manchurian industrial base and transporting it back to the Soviet Union. Some estimates value the industrial pilage at up to $2 billion dollars. [Lilley] United States Marines were used to hold Beiping and Tianjin against a possible Soviet incursion, and logistic support was given to Nationalist forces in north and northeast China. The CPC forces for the first time were now well armed. America tried to mediate the war, but this was a pipe dream evolving from a limited knowledge of China. General of the Army George Catlett Marshall began efforts to mediate a solution to the Chinese civil war. General of the Army George Catlett Marshall (November 1945). The Nationalists and Communists renewed the civil war in earnest (1946). American policymakers and strategists debated the extent to which the United States should intervene to try to prevent a Communist victory in the Chinese civil war. Marshall who was appointed Secretary of State opposed direct American military intervention, but supported economic assistance. Much of the economic assitance was wasted because of the cirruoption of KMT officials. The United States thus aided the Nationalists with massive economic loans, but no military support. Battles raged across China, but primarily in the north where the Comminist were strongest. The war was not just for territory, but for the allegiance of the population. Here the KNT was at a disadvantage because of the plocies theu pursued during the war with Japan. The CPC forces had not taken on the Japanese to the same extent as the KMT and had been more judicuious in their handling of civilians, especially the peasantry. The Communists used Manchuria as a secure base of supply and manpower. KMT forces rushed north to take over after the Soviet withdrawl sized the cities, but did not control the countryside. Communists field commanders in the north after several operational set-backs in attempting to take the major cities finally defeated KMT forces in a series of conventional engagements. These were some of the stringest elen=mebts of the KMT Army. The CPC succeded in seizing Manchuria. Mao then began to focus on the war south of the Great Wall. Instead the COPC forces crossed the river. And with manhy if the strongest KMT units destoyed in the northern fighing, the COC armies swept south. KMT resistance cllaosed. Chiang and his supporters retreated to Taiwan. Mao proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) (October 1, 1949). After 4 years, major military action finally ended (1950). The PRC was in complete control of the mainland as well as Hainan. The KMT now controlled only Taiwan, Penghu, Quemoy, Matsu and a few outlying islands.

People's Republic (1949- )

Mao-Tse-Tung and the Comminist Party merged the victor in the more than two decades Civil War. The las important battles were fought in 1949. the Communists were left in control of most of the Mainland. Chang and the Natiinalists retreated to Taiwan anbd other offshore islands where the lack of a sunsrantial navy precented the Comminists from tking advantage of their military superiority. surrounding islands. On 1 October 1949, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China (October 1, 1949). The PLA proceeded to capture Hainan and Tibet. Nationalist forces held out in western China during the 1950s, but were ultimately overwealmed. On Taiwan, however, the Nationalists not only held out, but prospered with proved very embarassing to Mao whose economic policies proved a disasterous failure. This led to military actions, but after Chinese intrvention in Korea, the American 7th Fleet intervenrd, esentially guaranteing the security if Taiwan. The success of the Communist Revolution led brought massive social change to China. The Communists iniitated radical reforms aimed at bringing China into the 20th century. Some efforts were effective, especially public health reforms. Others caused imense suffering. Landlords were executed as 'counter-revolutionary enemies of the people'. [Busky, p. 11.] Contacts with the West were curtailed as China looked to the Soviet Union and state planning to run their economy and begin a rapid modernization. Businesses and private land holdings were nationalized. Everyone was incouraged to think alike and dress alike. The desire was to put everyone on an equal footing. China after the victory of the Communists became a closed society. Information about China was essentially closed to the West. Effort by the CIA to penetrate the Bamboo Curtain were decidely unsuccessful. Agents droped by air or inserted along the coast simply disappeared. CIA military efforts with the Kuomintang failed. The British in an effort to save Hong Kong forbade the CIA to use the colony t penetrate China until 1968. Taiwanese intelligence was thoroughly penetrated. [Lilley] As a result, until Nixon's opening to China, the CIA had little more reliable information on China and Communist leaders than what might be found in the newspaper. This lack of information was first notable in the failure to appreciate the potential for Chinese intervention in Korea (1950). Mao encouraged population growth, and under his leadership the Chinese population almost doubled from around 550 million to over 900 million. Mao's Great Leap Forward, a large-scale economic and social reform project based on his ideological thinking, was a spectacular failure for both agriculture and industry. It cause the largest famine in Chinese histort and for propaganbda reasons, China refused to appeal for internatiinal assistance. No one know how many people died. Some estimates are as high as 45 million people (1958-61) [84] In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, sparking a period of political recrimination and social upheaval which lasted until Mao's death in 1976. In October 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China in the United Nations, and took its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council. [kao, p. 188.] We notice very destinctive clothing with tge success of the Revolution.


Since the spectacular voyages of Cheng Ho (Zheng He) in the 15th century, China showed little interest in the sea. This extended even to Taiwan whuch became know as Formosa during the Portuguese period. The Chinese made no effort to interfere with the piracy that developed from the island in the 19th century. Mariners from many countries (American, Btitain, French, Japanese, and others) complained to the Imperial government they received no satisfaction (1870s). The Manchu Emperor told them that "Taiwan is beyond our territory." The French launched an expedition to attack the pirates and occupied much of the norther part of the island (1884-85). Only with the rise of Japanese power did the Imperial Government begin to take an interest. The Emperor declared Taiwan to be a "province" of the Empire (1887). The First Sino-Japanese War was fought in part over Taiwan (1895). The Imperial Government in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, ceded Taiwan to Japan in perpetuity. The Taiwanese with some Manchu support declared independence (May 25, 1895). Yje Japanese landed 12,000 soldiers in the north (May 29). The Taiwanese firces were crushed and and Japan quickly seized control of their new possession. Japanese forces entered Tainan in the south (October 21). The Japanese occupation regime was was harsh. Unlike the Manchus, however, they were not corrupt. They supressed piracy. They founded a modern educational system. Classes were taught in Japanese. The Japanese made important investments in infrastructure, communications, trains, roads, and industry. [Kerr] The Japanese remained firmly in control of Taiwan throughout World war II. The Allies at the Cairo Conference accepted Chiang Kai-shek's request that Taiwan be "returned to China." American planners considered an invasion of the island, but the Philippines and Okinawa were selected instead. The Allies agreed to allow that Chiang's troops to "temporarily occupy Taiwan, on behalf of the Allied forces." The Taiwanese welcomed the Chinese troops, glad to be finally rid of the Japanese. The Taiwanese whole finding the Chinese at first to be less brutal than the Japanese, found the Chinese to be repressive and corrupt. A series of incidents occurred. An incident in Taipei led to a massive demonstration (February 28, 1947). Chinese authorities were surprised and brought in additional troops from China. Taiwanese leaders, students, professionals, and community leades were arrested. Large numbers were executed. Some reports suggest that about 28,000 people were killed. Scholars describe what follows as the White Terror and thousands more were arrested and tortured and many executed by the Taiwan Garrison Command. The Kuomintang (KMT) was defeated by the Communists in the Civil War on the Mainland (1949). Chiang Kai-shek withdrew to Taiwan where he declared martial Law. This was necessary in part because the Chinese population that escaped to Taiwan was only about 15 percent of the populatiojn. There he was protected by the American 6th Fleet. Taiwan thus became a flash point in the Cold war. Martial Law and dictatorial KMT rule continued for four decades. The islands of Quemoy and Matsu were an issue in the 1960 presidential election. The KMT maintained the fiction that Nationalist China was the legitimate government of China and some day they would recover the Mainland. . The Allies and Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty ending World War II. Japan ceded Taiwan in the Treaty, but the future id the island was left up to the United Nations. While the KNT tightly controlled Taiwan politically, the island made considrable economic progress, becoming one of the Asian Tigers. Here the educated population and infrastructure left by the Japanese were an importnt factor. Nixon and Kissinger made their "opening" to China (1971). Beijing was awarded Taiwan's seat in the United Nations. The United States and China agreed to the Shanghai Communiqu� (1972). The Communique is the basis for the United States "One China" policy.

Korea War (1950-53)

The North Korean Army crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950 to forcibly unify Korea. The Soviets had provided modern weapons in great quantity to the North Koreans. Embolded by the Communist victory in China during 1948-49, Kim-il-Jong obtained Stalin's approval for the attack. President Truman immediately ordered war material be provided the South Koreans and then air support for the South Korean Army. Seoul fell within days. Truman went to the United Nations which, because the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council, approved a military opperation to repell the North Korean attack. Truman than ordered American military intervention. The Soviets had helped the North Koreans build a powerful military force. The United states after World War II had significantly scled back its conventional military force. As a result, the North Koreans pushed the South Koreans back to a small perimiter around the southern port of Pusan. Generl MacArthir from Japan organized an amphibious invasion at Inchon which caught the North Koreans between two forces. North Korem resistance collapsed and MacArthur rushed north accross th 38th parallel to completely defeat and occupy North Korea. Tuman was skeptical, but MacArthur assured him that Chinese warnings to intervene were bluff. They were not an America norces approaching the Yalu River were mauled by a massive Chinese attack. For a while it looked like the Chiese would tota;lly defeat the U.N. forces, but the front was finally stabilized north of Seoul. What followed was 2 years of stalemate which became a major political issue. Peace talks with the Communists were frustrating. Th major issue became the Communist demand that all POWs be returned, even the ones who did not want to be repatriated. Finally a ceasefire was reached. Stalin died in 1953. Eisenhower became president in 1953 and fulfilling a campaign promise, went to Korea. The armistice went into force (July 27, 1953). More than 3 million Koreans were killed as a result of the War. Millions more were made homeless refugees. About 1 million Chinese soldiers are believe to have been killed. American casualties totaled nearly 55,000.

Opening to the West

President Nixon's opening to China had a major impact on international relations (1972). His ambassador to China was George H.W. Bush. President Regan's communiqu� with Deng Xiaoping agreeded to limit arms sales to Taiwan (August 1982). This was, however, rendered essebntialy inoperative with Regan's simulatenous "six assurances" to Taiwan designed to insure that Taiwan would not be forced to negotiate with Beijing. [Lilley]

Market Reforms (1976- )

Gradually the Cultural Revolution played itself out. China embarked on a radical change in policy through its door open to the outside world in 1978.

Democracy Movement

The Communist Party used the Army to supress the student-le demoracy movement in Tenamen Square.

Hong Kong (1997)

Britain creaeted Hong Kong The British officially established a Crown colony and founded the City of Victoria in the following year (1843). There was virtually nothing there except a few fishermen and charcoal burners, whose settlements scattered along several coastal hamlets. Hong Kong opened up southern China to the British. This caused a rapid increase in population. Hong Kong also provide a place of safety duting the bloody Taiping Rebellion (1850-64). Natural dsasters and famine also drove Chinese people to Hong Kong which at first had no border controls. Continued conflict over opium led to the Second Opium War, this time with French participation. The British managed to expand the Crown Colony to include the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter's Island. Both were ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Convention of Beijing (1860). Britain obtained a 99-year lease from the Qing Manuch) Inperial Government under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory (1898). The British also secured Lantau Island and over 200 other small outlying islets. Hong Kong was one of the most important of the treaty ports forced on China by the 'unequal treaties', mostly by European powers. (Japan also opened treaty ports in China and Korea.) Hong Kong became one of the most prosperous cities in China with the combination of Chinese hard work and business zeal with British capitalism and stbility. This came into the limelight after the Communist seizure of power (1949). Hong Kong not only prospered, but became one of the most prosperous countries in the world and one of the Asian Tigers while Communist China languished in poverty. Communism not only did not bring about a rapid development of the country, but caused massive dislocations and disasters with the deaths of tens of millions and the greatest famine in world history. Unlike many other countries, there was no British effort to introduce democracy and popular elections. Rather they estanlisged a Legislative Council they could control. Hong Kongers did benefit from many aspects of a democratic system, including the rule of law, an independent judiciary, due process, freedom of speech, a free press, property rights, and other principles of English law. The 99-year Qing leased expired (July 1997). This resulted in the transfer of sovereignty, commonly referred to as athe Handover. This ended 156 years of British colonial control. Some view it as the final end end of the British Empire. Hong Kong became a special administrative region. The Chinese Government pledged a One Country, Two System policy. This meant a pledge to maintain governing and economic systems separate from those of the Mainland. This has generally been the case in economic matters. This has not been the case political. China exercises influence through the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which controls the police and judicial system. Chinese authorities over time have become very disturbed by the free speech Hing Kongers enjoyed. Hong Kongers such as book sellers began disappearing and repaararing in Mainland custody. This was done covertly by the Hing Kong police. The Legislative Council began to approve an extradition lawwhich would provide a legal process to arrest Hong Kongers and bring to trial under Mainland law. The result has been an unprecedent outburtst of mass protest.

Modern China

China has made enormous economic progress. The market reforms have been the chief driving force. China now has the world's fastest groweing ecnomy. The Communist Party has relinquished control over many aspects of the lives of ordinary Chinese people that it had once sougt to control. The accomplishments jhave been enormous and scarely imaginable to the generation of the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese have made major progress in the effort both to develop decent living standards and obtaining individual freedom. One question that has to be asked, and rarely is raised, is could so much progress have been achieved if the Democracy Movement had succeeded. Despite the enormous progress, however, the Party has failed to deliver other promised reforms. Chief amongst these are honest government and the rule of law. These are not minor matters. It is the rule of law that arguably proved to be the key factor at the heart of Britain's (and later America's) success. The failure of the rule of law permitted the disent to barbarity in NAZI Germany and Soviet Russia. There are today in China brave nen and women struggling to achieve both honest government and the rule of law and in many instances have faced dreadful consequences. [Johnson] The Communist Party has, however, continued to limit free expression and maintained a party dictatorship. It remains to be seen how China will develop until these remaing issues are addressed. The chief question is China's future development without the rule of law.


Busky, Donald F. Communism in History and Theory (Greenwood Publishing Group: 2002).

Gabriel, Satya J. "Political Economy of the Great Leap Forward: Permanent Revolution and State Feudal Communes," China Essay Series Essay No. 4 (September 1998).

Johnson, Ian. Wild Grass: Three Stories of Change in Modern China (Pantheon, 2004), 324p.

Kao, Michael Y.M. "Taiwan's and Beijing's Campaigns for Unification" in Harvey Feldman and Michael Y. M. Kao, Taiwan in a Time of Transition (New York: Paragon House, 1988).

Kerr, George. Formosan Home Rule Movement.

Lilly, James with Jeffrery Lilly. China Hands: Nine Decades of Adventure, Espionage, and Diplomacy in Asia (Public Affairs, 2004), 417p.


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Created: April 8, 2004
Last updated: 9:42 PM 4/3/2015