The history of the People’s Republic of China begins on October 1, 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed with Chairman Mao Zedong as President and Zhou Enlai as Minister of State and Foreign Affairs. After a century of decay, foreign annexation and civil war, China gained a stable central government.

The People’s Republic followed the Republic of China, which existed from 1912 to 1949. During that period, the nationalists (Guomindang) and the communists fought against each other, before the communists won in 1949 and the People’s Republic of China was created. The nationalists, with leader Chiang Kai-shek, moved to the island of Taiwan and continued the Republic of China there. Since 1949, the Communist Party of China has ruled the People’s Republic of China, with Mao as de facto head of state until his death in 1976. In 1978, Deng Xiaoping came to power and started the modernization of the country.

History Timeline of China

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Soviet assistance

The Soviet Union, with which Mao signed a 30-year friendship and defense pact in February 1950, became China’s ally. Hectic activity began with Soviet assistance to secure the regime’s grip on the country, secure food supplies and develop the country in a communist direction. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of China.

Mao largely followed the Soviet pattern of collectivization of agriculture, nationalization of the modest industry, and heavy investment in heavy industry. He wanted to lead his revolution a little further than the Russians had done.

The big leap

The final phase of the collectivization came in 1958, when a total of 750,000 newly created agricultural collectives were converted into 24,000 municipalities with political and administrative powers. In 1958, Mao also announced the ” big leap ” with fiercely-scaled production targets for agriculture and industry; among other things, steel was called for in small, primitive furnaces, but this steel proved to be of little use.

Production results during the “big leap”, which lasted three years, far from meeting expectations. The consequences were almost catastrophic, and the “big leap” has since been heavily criticized in the party’s official history. A contributing cause was drought and flooding in much of China during these years.

Population statistics from later years indicate that millions suffered starvation deaths in the years 1958–1961.

The hundred flowers

In cultural life, in 1955 began a unification campaign against “bourgeois and idealistic ideas in literature and art”. In 1956, a more liberal cultural policy was launched under the slogan “The Hundred Flowers”. Mao called for criticism of the party and the state. Mao had discussed with his party partners the possibility of bringing new ideas into the revolutionary work. Important in this work was Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, who had previously tried to get the intellectuals to speak. When this had not been very successful, Mao wanted to extend this to a campaign with the call “Let the hundred flowers flourish, let the hundred schools contend.” The intention was to release new ideas to prevent the Communist Party and China from stagnating in a dogmatic communism that had been seen in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

It soon became apparent that Mao had miscalculated the result of the campaign as criticism of the party was far greater than expected. Not least were the proposals that demanded, among other things, the multiparty system, the departure of the Communist Party and the decentralization of power, which were unacceptable to Mao. He felt betrayed by the intellectuals. In June 1957, the party reversed and launched an anti-right campaign that led to the arrest and persecution of hundreds of thousands of intellectuals. One of the main objectives of the campaign was lawyers who fought for an independent judiciary. Many intellectuals were sent to labor camps, imprisoned or lost jobs. Some first dropped out of labor camps in the 1980s.

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International relations

The question of which of the two Chinese governments (the mainland government or the nationalist government in Taiwan) was to represent China in the United Nations became relevant just after the establishment of the People’s Republic. However, the Korean War stopped the process and sharpened the opposition to the United States. In January 1950, the United States had withdrawn its diplomatic representation in China in protest against the seizure of US property and because they would not break the Guomindang regime. US President Harry S. Truman ordered the 7th Fleet to patrol around Taiwan, and this was interpreted by the Beijing government as aggression.

In October 1950, Chinese forces moved into Korea, where the conflict with the United States Army lasted until the ceasefire agreement was signed in July 1953. In 1951, Tibet was occupied by Chinese troops; an uprising in 1959 was crushed with great brutality. In September 1954, the People’s Republic began bombing the islands of Quemoy and Matsu in the Taiwan Strait as the initiation of an offensive to conquer Taiwan. The protection lasted until April 1955 when China, after attending the Bandung Conference, switched to a more conciliatory policy.

Foreign policy had supported the People’s Republic of Moscow. The Russians provided military equipment, industrial equipment and provided technical assistance. Nevertheless, it was US support for Taiwan’s President Chiang Kai-shek and attempts to isolate the People’s Republic politically rather than deeper interests with the Russians, which prompted Beijing to seek a federal ally in Moscow.

After the 20th Party Congress in Moscow in 1956 and the Stalinisation, relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated. China distanced itself from Nikita Khrushchev’s negotiating policy towards the Western powers; Moscow called home nearly 1400 professionals from China and withdrew a promise to share their nuclear secrets with the Chinese.

The relationship between the People’s Republic and India was at times tense, and especially after the Chinese’s complete takeover of power in Tibet. In the autumn of 1959 there was the armed clash at Ladakh and in 1962 several bloody border raids. China claimed large land areas, something India rejected.

After the 22nd party congress in Moscow in 1961, the ideological contradictions of the Soviet Union were tightened and found expression in an approach between China and Albania. In 1963, there was a complete breach and Chinese condemnation of the Soviet Union-US probation agreement. Mao accused the Russians of annexing Chinese lands and subjugating Outer Mongolia.

China detonated its first nuclear bomb on October 16, 1964, in Xinjiang. The Vietnam War saw the Chinese as a “people’s liberation war” and set it as an example to other Third World countries.

The cultural Revolution

The backlash during the “big leap” led to contradictions within management; in December 1958, Mao resigned as head of state and was replaced by Liu Shaoqi. The relationship between these two deteriorated steadily and was one of several reasons why, after a calm and politically moderate period, Mao triggered ” the great proletarian cultural revolution ” in 1966.

Mao was at the forefront of a political direction within the party and would direct a decisive blow to rivals who he believed had bureaucratized the party and weakened the revolutionary glow. The Cultural Revolution was launched through a circular from the Central Committee. A plenary meeting of the committee from 1 to 12. August 1966 set out the goals of the revolution, and on August 18 the masses of young activists, the Red Guardists, emerged.

The leadership was added to a group where Chen Boda was chairman and among other Mao’s wife Jiang Qing member. A battle against everything “old”, mass demonstrations and group journeys to spread the revolution now marked the life of the nation. In 1967, the cultural revolution was brought into factories and villages. In many places, workers and peasants resisted, and chaotic conditions arose that hampered production.

The Cultural Revolution brought new economic directives; in agriculture, the production result should be shared equally among all brigade members, that is, residents of a village. The individual families were no longer allowed to keep their small private plots. In the industry, performance wages and bonuses were fought. Cultural personalities and political leaders at every level were persecuted, and physical abuse was widespread.

Officially, the party has subsequently estimated that 100 million people were affected by the persecution. President Liu Shaoqi died in prison in 1969 after mistreatment. The army was set up in January 1967 and revolutionary committees formed to take over the government in a number of provinces. In the fall, the cultural revolution culminated, but officially its duration is counted until October 1976, when the ” Firerbanden ” was arrested. In the history of the party, the years 1966–76 are called “the ten-year disaster”.

Political changes

The party congress in 1969 confirmed the changes within the leadership that were made during the Cultural Revolution. Defense Minister Lin Biao officially became Mao’s successor, and he edited the quote collection “Mao’s Little Red.” Later he was accused of wanting to do a coup d’état. According to party history, he died in a plane crash after an unsuccessful attempt to kill Mao. Five members of his ” counter-revolutionary clicks ” were sentenced to long prison sentences in 1981, along with the “Firerbanden”.

Relations with the USSR were further tightened, and in March 1967 severe border crossings occurred at the Ussuri River and elsewhere. China tried its first hydrogen bomb in June 1967, and in April 1970 the first Chinese Earth satellite – a satellite orbiting the Earth – was launched. The People’s Republic joined the United Nations in November 1971 with a permanent seat on the Security Council, at the same time as Taiwan was excluded.

US President Richard M. Nixon visited Beijing in February 1972, and a normalization of relations with the United States began. Contact offices were opened in 1973 in the two capitals. In the UN there was a constant clash between China and the Soviet Union.

A gradual normalization of internal conditions took place in the 1970s. The political power of the army was supplanted by the new party leadership. Schools and universities reopened, business came to a more normal pace. In January 1975, the first national congress met in more than ten years. Deng Xiaoping, who was deprived of his duties as Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary General of the Central Committee during the Cultural Revolution, but rehabilitated in 1974 and elected to the Politburo, now returned as Deputy Chairman of the Party, Deputy Prime Minister and Chief of Staff of the Army.

There was another controversy over whether China’s political line should follow. Deng led a pragmatic faction, which wanted to develop China industrially and militarily into a modern superpower, in accordance with Zhou Enlai’s plans, while the supporters of Mao held on to a more ideological line. Following Zhou’s death in January 1976, this battle erupted in fierce demonstrations in Beijing.

Hua Guofeng, former Minister of Security and Agriculture, became prime minister, and Deng resigned from all his positions for the second time. In July 1976, a natural disaster occurred which for a time stopped all political maneuvers. The millionth city of Tangshan was almost wiped out, and Tianjin suffered major damage after a major earthquake. Officially, 242,000 people lost their lives.

Tibet had been proclaimed in 1965 as a so-called autonomous region of the People’s Republic. During the Cultural Revolution, the grip was harder, the religion was suppressed and thousands of monasteries destroyed.

After Mao’s death – second generation leaders

Mao Zedong died on September 9, 1976. The power struggle within the party quickly went to climax. Mao’s widow Jiang Qing was arrested on October 6, along with three other members of the Politburo, and charged with attempted coup. Jiang and another of the ” Firerbanden ” members were sentenced to death in 1981, but in 1983 the sentences were turned into life imprisonment. The other two members were sentenced to long prison sentences.

Hua Guofeng took over as party chairman after Mao. From 1977 there was a gradual decline in the political line from before the cultural revolution. Deng Xiaoping was rehabilitated again and appointed Deputy Prime Minister, Chief of Staff in the Army and Deputy Chairman of the party. Now began a political test of strength between the dogmatic Maoist Hua and the pragmatic reformist Deng.

The Central Committee’s plenary session in December 1978 was decisive. Here, the Deng wing achieved a complete breakthrough. New guidelines marked the course change; China withdrew from Maoism and opened up to the West. A restructuring of the economy was underway. The development of the heavy industry was to be reduced and greater emphasis was placed on the production of consumer goods. By the year 2000, China was to focus on “the four modernizations”: in industry, agriculture, defense and science/technology.

The agricultural directives were particularly important. The earth was no longer to be run by the large collectives, but by the individual peasant family, largely as their own production unit. The “system of responsibility” in practice meant a decline in private agriculture, even though the state still owned the land. For China’s 800 million peasants, it was an important reform that the omnipotent peoples municipalities disappeared as government agencies in the countryside in the first half of the 1980s.

Local government reverted to the traditional system from before 1958, with villages and xiang (almost the Norwegian rural concept) as administrative units. Progress in agriculture paved the way for a change in other areas as well. In 1984, the Central Committee adopted industrial and urban economy reforms; thus, China took a long step towards a mixed economy.

The price system came in the mold, market forces should play a role. The reform program completely broke with the ideological legacy of the Mao era. In business, there should be competition both between companies and between workers. Wages were graded by effort. The individual companies gained greater self-reliance, but had to take responsibility for operating deficits themselves. Private commercial activities in the form of small shops and workshops were encouraged.

New Constitution

In 1982, China was given a new constitution that was less ideologically distinct than the 1975 and 1978. Constituencies were reinstated. Under the new constitution, the main task was to modernize and economic growth, not class struggle and sustained revolution. In 1980, Hua Guofeng had to step down as prime minister, the following year also as party chairman. Zhao Ziyang became prime minister and Hu Yaobang party leader. Both were closely related to Deng Xiaoping, who was increasingly clear as China’s most powerful leader.

In 1983, Deng Xiaoping’s selected works were published in a circulation of about 50 million; the book became mandatory reading for party members during a “correction” campaign – ideological retraining of membership. A three-year campaign against crime began in 1983 with mass executions in many major cities; Amnesty International assumed that 10,000 were executed in the first year.

In the cultural life, there were significant fluctuations after Mao’s death; liberal currents alternated with ideological austerity. Campaigns were waged against “bourgeois liberalism” and “spiritual pollution,” that is, unwanted cultural influence from the West. Classical Western art was accepted and increasingly widespread. From around 1985, western “pop” became increasingly tolerated with more and more discos and karaoke bars in the cities.

Deng Xiaoping and his reformist wing gradually strengthened their position in the 1980s. The 13th Party Congress in 1987 became a new victory for the reform line in the economy. The need to expand “the open door” to the outside world was emphasized. In the fall of 1988, however, the brakes were applied in the economic reform process; In the spring of 1989 came a multi-year economic austerity program with features from previous central diversion.

Beijing massacre

The relatively liberal Hu Yaobang, who was deposed as a party leader in 1987 following pressure from Orthodox forces, died on April 15, 1989. He stood for many young people as a symbol of political renewal, and the death triggered spontaneous demonstrations of freedom and democracy.

The demonstrations lasted for weeks afterwards with large crowds at Tiananmen Square (Tiananmen Square). The wave of protests was aimed at corruption and inflation, and gradually became characterized by popular revolt. Prime Minister Li Peng declared military state of emergency on May 20, but the crowds stopped the march of troops.

Zhao Ziyang, who had become party leader after Hu Yaobang, took orders for a soft line, but was voted down in the Politburo and deposed. On the night of June 4, the army struck, following orders from Prime Minister Li Peng to clear the space of Heavenly Peace. Firearms were used, and a large number of activists, bystanders and soldiers were killed.

The state of emergency following the so-called “Beijing massacre” lasted until January 1990.

New leadership collective – third generation leaders

The relatively unknown Jiang Zemin, former party leader in Shanghai, was appointed as the party’s new secretary general after Zhao Ziyang. Zhao became a so-called “non-person” who should never be mentioned again, and was held in house arrest until his death in 2005. The first three years after June 1989 were supporters of a hard line on the offensive, while the wing of reform struck retreat. Deng Xiaoping retired from his last party job in November 1989, but continued his work behind the scenes as China’s most powerful leader throughout the 1990s. In 1992 he left his political weight behind new reform proposals.

In 1993, Deng appointed Jiang Zemin to the “core” of a collective leadership to take over after his death. Jiang also became China’s president. Other leading players in the leadership collective were Prime Minister Li Peng, Qiao Shi, who in 1993 became President of the People’s Congress, and Deputy Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, with the economy as the area of ​​responsibility.

Under Jiang Zemin’s leadership, the party began to use the term “generations” on the various leadership collectives in the history of the People’s Republic. It was emphasized that management was collective and not related to individuals. One of the reasons for this was also that it was easier to distance people from previous leadership, such as Zhao Ziyang, who had been secretary general of the Communist Party but had fallen out of favor.

In the 1990s, national “patriotism” became increasingly emphasized in propaganda, while Marxism-Leninism became less emphasized. Jiang Zemin led a broad campaign for “socialist spiritual culture”.


In 1965, Tibet became a so-called autonomous region of the People’s Republic. During the cultural revolution of 1966-1976, religion and Tibetan culture were suppressed and thousands of monasteries destroyed. Since 1987, there have been several Chinese antics riots several times; in 1989, 16 protesters were killed.

The 1989 Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for its non-violence struggle; China responded with a protest to the Norwegian government. The Dalai Lama has insisted that China give Tibetans expanded autonomy and demand the end of mass immigration of ethnic Chinese. However, he has not demanded full independence for Tibet, but accepts that Beijing controls foreign and defense policy.

Return of colonies

One of the main reasons for Beijing in the 1990s was to bring the ancient colonies of Hong Kong and Macao back to the motherland. After 13 years of tense countdown, Britain’s flag was dropped and the Chinese hoisted across Hong Kong overnight to July 1, 1997. With the takeover, China increased its billionth population by half a percent, while at one time the country’s GDP grew one-fifth greater. On December 20, 1999, Macao was incorporated into China as a “special administrative region”.

Beijing has defined as its most important political task to bring Taiwan back under China’s formal sovereignty as well. After the reunification with Hong Kong, China again proposed that the formula “one country, two systems” should apply to Taiwan as well, so that the island could retain its political and economic system, and also the armed forces. Beijing, on the other hand, insisted that Taiwan should accept the national symbols of the People’s Republic as flags and national weapons. This and similar thrusts have been rejected by changing Taiwanese governments.

History of China
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