Thursday, September 4, 2008

History of the Republic of China

The history of the Republic of China begins after the Qing Dynasty in 1912, when the formation of the Republic of China ended over two thousand years of Imperial rule. The Qing Dynasty, also known as the Manchu Dynasty, ruled from 1644 to 1912. Since the republic's founding, it has experienced many tribulations as it was dominated by and fragmented by foreign powers. In 1928, the republic was nominally unified under the Kuomintang , and was in the early stages of industrialization and modernization when it was caught in the conflicts between the Kuomintang government, the Communist Party of China, remnant warlords, and Japan. Most nation-building efforts were stopped during the full-scale against Japan from 1937 to 1945, and later the widening gap between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party made a coalition government impossible, causing the resumption of the Chinese Civil War.

A series of political, economic, and military missteps led the Kuomintang to defeat and retreat to Taiwan in 1949, establishing an authoritarian that declared itself to be the sole legitimate ruler of all of China. However, since political liberalization began in the late 1970s, the Republic of China has transformed itself into a localized, multiparty, representative democracy.

Flag of the ROC

Early Republic of China

Founding of the Republic of China

The last days of the Qing Dynasty were marked by civil unrests and foreign invasions. Various internal rebellions caused millions of deaths, and conflicts with foreign powers almost always resulted in humiliating unequal treaties that forced huge sums of and compromised territorial integrity. In addition, there were feelings that political power should return to the majority Han Chinese from the minority Manchus. Responding to these civil failures and discontent, the Qing Imperial Court did attempt to reform the government in various ways, such as the decision to draft a constitution in 1906, the establishment of provincial legislatures in 1909, and the preparation for a national parliament in 1910. However, many of these measures were opposed by the conservatives of the Qing Court, and many reformers were either imprisoned or executed outright. The failures of the Imperial Court to enact such reforming measures of political liberalization and modernization caused the reformists to steer toward the road of revolution.

There were many revolutionary groups, but the most organized one was founded by Sun Yat-sen, a republican and anti-Qing activist who became increasingly popular among the overseas Chinese and Chinese students abroad, especially in Japan. In 1905 Sun founded the Tongmenghui in Tokyo with Huang Xing, a popular leader of the Chinese revolutionary movement in Japan, as his deputy. This movement, generously supported by overseas Chinese funds, also gained political support with regional military officers and some of the reformers who had fled China after the Hundred Days' Reform. Sun's political philosophy was conceptualized in 1897, first enunciated in Tokyo in 1905, and modified through the early 1920s. It centered on the Three Principles of the People: "nationalism, democracy, and people's livelihood". The principle of nationalism called for overthrowing the Manchus and ending foreign hegemony over China. The second principle, democracy, was used to describe Sun's goal of a popularly elected republican form of government. People's livelihood, often referred to as socialism, was aimed at helping the common people through regulation of the ownership of the means of production and land.

The Republican Era of China began with the outbreak of revolution on 10 October 1911, in , the capital of Hubei Province, among discontented modernized army units whose anti-Qing plot had been uncovered. This would be known as the Wuchang Uprising which is celebrated as Double Tenth Day in Taiwan. It had been preceded by numerous abortive uprisings and organized protests inside China. The revolt quickly spread to neighboring cities, and Tongmenghui members throughout the country rose in immediate support of the Wuchang revolutionary forces. On 12 October, the Revolutionaries succeeded in capturing Hankou and Hanyang.

However this euphoria over the revolution was short-lived. On 27 October, Yuan Shikai was appointed by the Qing Court to lead his New Armies, including the First Army led by Feng Guozhang and the Second Army led by Duan Qirui, to retake the city of Wuhan, which was taken by the Revolutionary Army on 11 October. The Revolutionary Army had some six thousand troops to fend off nearly fifteen thousand of Yuan's New Army. On 11 November, the Revolutionaries retreated from Wuhan to Hanyang. By 27 November, Hanyang was also lost and the Revolutionaries had to return to their starting point, Wuchang. However, during some fifty days of warfare against Yuan's army, fifteen of the twenty-four provinces had declared their independence of the Qing empire. A month later, Sun Yat-sen returned to China from the United States, where he had been raising funds among overseas Chinese and American sympathizers. On 1 January 1912, delegates from the independent provinces elected Sun Yat-sen as the first Provisional President of the Republic of China.

Because of the short period and fervor in which the provinces declared independence from the Qing Court, Yuan Shikai felt that it was in his best interest to negotiate with the Revolutionaries. Yuan agreed to accept the Republic of China, and as such most of the rest of the New Armies were now turned against the Qing Dynasty. The chain of events forced the last emperor of China, Puyi, to abdicate, on 12 February upon Yuan Shikai's suggestion to Empress Dowager Longyu, who signed the abdication papers. Puyi was allowed to continue living in the Forbidden City, however. The Republic of China officially succeeded the Qing Dynasty.

Early Republic

On 1 January 1912, Sun officially declared the Republic of China and was inaugurated in Nanjing as the first . But power in Beijing already had passed to Yuan Shikai, who had effective control of the Beiyang Army, the most powerful military force in China at the time. To prevent civil war and possible foreign intervention from undermining the infant republic, Sun agreed to Yuan's demand that China be united under a Beijing government headed by Yuan. On 10 March, in Beijing, Yuan Shikai was sworn in as the second Provisional President of the Republic of China.

The republic that Sun Yat-sen and his associates envisaged evolved slowly. Although there were many political parties each vying for supremacy in the legislature, the revolutionists lacked an army, and the power of Yuan Shikai began to outstrip that of parliament. Yuan revised the constitution at will and became dictatorial. In August 1912, the Kuomintang was founded by Song Jiaoren, one of Sun's associates. It was an amalgamation of small political groups, including Sun's Tongmenghui. In the national elections held in February 1913 for the new bicameral parliament, Song campaigned against the Yuan administration, whose representation at the time was largely by the , led by Liang Qichao. Song was an able campaigner and the Kuomintang won a majority of seats.

Second Revolution

Some people believe that Yuan Shikai had Song assassinated in March; it has never been proven, although he had already arranged the assassination of several pro-revolutionist generals. Animosity towards Yuan grew. In April, Yuan secured the Reorganization Loan of twenty-five million pounds sterling from Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Japan, without consulting the parliament first. The loan was used to finance Yuan's Beiyang Army. On 20 May, Yuan concluded a deal with Russia that recognized special Russian privilege in Outer Mongolia and restricted Chinese right to station troops there. Kuomintang members of the Parliament accused Yuan of abusing his rights and called for his removal. On the other hand, the , which was composed of constitutional monarchists and supported Yuan, accused the Kuomintang of fomenting an insurrection. Yuan then decided to use military action against the Kuomintang.

In July 1913, seven southern provinces rebelled against Yuan, thus beginning the Second Revolution . There were several underlying reasons for the Second Revolution besides Yuan's abuse of power. First was that many Revolutionary Armies from different provinces were disbanded after the establishment of the Republic of China, and many officers and soldiers felt that they were not compensated for toppling the Qing Dynasty. Thus, there was much discontent against the new government among the military. Secondly, many revolutionaries felt that Yuan Shikai and Li Yuanhong were undeserving of the posts of presidency and vice presidency, because they acquired the posts through political maneuvers, rather than participation in the revolutionary movement. And lastly, Yuan's use of violence , dashed Kuomintang's hope of achieving reforms and political goals through electoral means.

However, the Second Revolution did not fare well for the Kuomintang. The leading Kuomintang military force of Jiangxi was defeated by Yuan's forces on 1 August and Nanchang was taken. On 1 September, Nanjing was taken. When the rebellion was suppressed, Sun and other instigators fled to Japan. In October 1913 an intimidated parliament formally elected Yuan Shikai President of the Republic of China, and the major powers extended recognition to his government. Duan Qirui and other trusted Beiyang generals were given prominent positions in cabinet. To achieve international recognition, Yuan Shikai had to agree to autonomy for Outer Mongolia and Tibet. China was still to be suzerain, but it would have to allow Russia a free hand in Outer Mongolia and and continuation of its influence in Tibet.

Yuan Shikai and the National Protection War

In November Yuan Shikai, legally president, ordered the Kuomintang dissolved and forcefully removed its members from parliament. Because the majority of the parliament members belonged to the Kuomintang, the parliament did not meet quorum and was subsequently unable to convene. In January 1914 Yuan formally suspended the parliament. In February, Yuan called into session a meeting to revise the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China, which was announced in May of that year. The revision greatly expanded Yuan's powers, allowing him to declare war, sign treaties, and appoint officials without seeking approvals from the legislature first. In December 1914, he further revised the law and lengthened the term of the President to ten years, with no term limit. Essentially Yuan was preparing for his ascendancy as the emperor.

On the other hand, since the failure of the Second Revolution, Sun Yat-sen and his allies were trying to rebuild the revolutionary movement. In July 1914, Sun established the Chinese Revolutionary Party . Sun felt that his failures at building a consistent revolutionary movement stemmed from the lack of cohesiveness among its members. Thus, for his new party, Sun required its members to be totally loyal to Sun and follow a series of rather harsh rules. Some of Sun's earlier associates, including Huang Xing, balked at the idea of such authoritarian organization and refused to join Sun. However, they agreed that the republic must not revert back to imperial rule.

Besides the revolutionary groups associated with Sun, there were also several other groups aimed at toppling Yuan Shikai. One was the Progressive Party, the originally constitutional-monarchist party which opposed the Kuomintang during the Second Revolution. The Progressive Party switched their position largely because of Yuan's sabotage of the national parliament. Secondly, many provincial governors, who had declared their independence from the Qing Imperial Court in 1912, found the idea of supporting another Imperial Court utterly ridiculous. Yuan also alienated his Beiyang generals by centralizing tax collection from local authorities. In addition, public opinion was overwhelmingly anti-Yuan.

When World War I broke out in 1914, Japan fought on the Allied side and seized holdings in Shandong Province. In 1915 the Japanese set before the government in Beijing the so-called Twenty-One Demands. The Demands aimed to install Japanese economic controls in railway and mining operations in Shandong, Manchuria, Fujian, and pressed to have Yuan Shikai appoint Japanese advisors in key positions in the Chinese government. The Twenty-One Demands would have made China a Japanese protectorate. The Beijing government rejected some of these demands but yielded to the Japanese insistence on keeping the Shandong territory already in its possession. Beijing also recognized Tokyo's authority over southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia. Yuan's acceptance of the demands was extremely unpopular, but he continued his monarchist agenda nevertheless.

On 12 December 1915, Yuan, supported by his son Yuan Keding, of a new . This sent shockwaves throughout China, causing widespread rebellion in numerous provinces. On 25 December, former Yunnan governor Cai E, former Jiangxi governor Li Liejun , and Yunnan general Tang Jiyao formed the National Protection Army and declared Yunnan independent. Thus began the National Protection War . The Yunnan independence also encouraged other southern provinces to declare independence. Yuan's Beiyang generals, who were already wary of Yuan's imperial coronation, did not put up an aggressive campaign against the National Protection Army. On 22 March 1916, Yuan formally repudiated monarchy and stepped down as the first and last emperor of his dynasty. Yuan died on 6 June of that year. Vice President Li Yuanhong assumed presidency and appointed Beiyang general Duan Qirui as his Premier. Yuan Shikai's imperial ambitions finally ended with the return of republican government.

Warlord Era

After Yuan Shikai's death, shifting alliances of regional warlords fought for control of the Beijing government. Despite the fact that various warlords gained control of the government in Beijing during the warlord era, this did not constitute a new era of control or governance, because other warlords did not acknowledge the transitory governments in this period and were a law unto themselves. These military-dominated governments were collectively known as the Beiyang government. The warlord era is considered by some historians to have ended in 1927.

World War I and brief Manchu restoration

After Yuan Shikai's death, Li Yuanhong became the President and Duan Qirui became the Premier. The Provisional Constitution was reinstated and the parliament convened. However, Li Yuanhong and Duan Qirui had many conflicts, the most glaring of which was China's entry into World War I. Since the outbreak of the war, China had remained neutral until the United States urged all neutral countries to join the , as a condemnation of Germany's use of unrestricted submarine warfare. Premier Duan Qirui was particularly interested in joining the Allies, because he would then use the opportunity to secure loans from Japan to build up his Anhui Clique army. The two factions in the parliament engaged in ugly debates regarding the entry of China and, in May 1917, Li Yuanhong dismissed Duan Qirui from his government.

Duan's dismissal caused provincial military governors loyal to Duan to declare independence and to call for Li Yuanhong to step down as the President. Li Yuanhong summoned to mediate the situation. Zhang Xun had been a general serving the Qing Court and was by this time the military governor of Anhui province. He had his mind on restoring Puyi to the imperial throne. Zhang was supplied with funds and weapons through the German legation who were eager to keep China neutral.

On 1 July 1917, Zhang officially proclaimed that the Qing Dynasty has been restored and requested that Li Yuanhong give up his seat as the President, which Li promptly rejected. During the restoration affair, Duan Qirui led his army and defeated Zhang Xun's restoration forces in Beijing. One of Duan's airplanes bombed the Forbidden City, in what was possibly the first aerial bombardment in East Asia. On 12 July Zhang's forces disintegrated and Duan returned to Beijing.

The Manchu restoration ended almost as soon as it began. During this period of confusion, Vice President Feng Guozhang, also a Beiyang general, assumed the post of Acting President of the republic and was sworn-in in Nanjing. Duan Qirui resumed his post as the Premier. The Zhili Clique of Feng Guozhang and the Anhui Clique of Duan Qirui emerged as the most powerful cliques following the restoration affair.

Duan Qirui's triumphant return to Beijing essentially made him the most powerful leader in China. Duan dissolved the parliament upon his return and declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary on 13 August 1917. German and Austro-Hungarian nationals were detained and their assets seized. Around 175,000 Chinese workers volunteered for labour battalions after being enticed with money, some even years before war was declared. They were sent to the , German East Africa, and Mesopotamia and served on supply ships. Some 10,000 died including over 500 due to U-boats. No soldiers were sent overseas though they did participate with the Allies in the Siberian Intervention under Japanese General Kikuzo Otani.

Constitutional Protection War

In September, Duan's complete disregard for the constitution caused Sun Yat-sen and the deposed parliament members to establish a new government in Guangzhou and the Constitutional Protection Army to counter Duan's abuse of power. Ironically, Sun Yat-sen's new government was not based on the Provisional Constitution. Rather, the new government was a military government and Sun was its Generalissimo . Six southern provinces became part of Sun's Guangzhou military government and repelled Duan's attempt to destroy the Constitutional Protection Army.

The Constitutional Protection War continued through 1918. Many in Sun Yat-sen's Guangzhou government felt Sun's position as the Generalissimo was too exclusionary and promoted a cabinet system to challenge Sun's ultimate authority. As a result, the Guangzhou government was reorganized to elect a seven-member cabinet system, known as the Governing Committee. Sun was once again sidelined by his political opponents and military strongmen. He left for Shanghai following the reorganization.

Duan Qirui's Beijing government did not fare much better than Sun's. Some generals in Duan's Anhui Clique and others in the Zhili Clique did not want to use force to unify the southern provinces. They felt negotiation was the solution to unify China and forced Duan to resign in October. In addition, many were distressed by Duan's borrowing of huge sums of Japanese money to fund his army to fight internal enemies. President Feng Guozhang, with his term expiring, was then succeeded by Xu Shichang, who wanted to negotiate with the southern provinces. In February 1919, delegates from the northern and southern provinces convened in Shanghai to discuss postwar situations. However, the meeting broke down over Duan's borrowing of Japanese loans to fund the Anhui Clique army and further attempts at negotiation were hampered by the May Fourth Movement. The Constitutional Protection War essentially left China divided along the north-south border.

May Fourth Movement

In 1917, China declared war on Germany in the hope of recovering its lost province, then under Japanese control. But, in 1918, the Beijing government signed a secret deal with Japan accepting the latter's claim to Shandong. When the Treaty of Versailles confirmed the Japanese claim to Shandong and Beijing's sellout became public, internal reaction was shattering. On 4 May 1919, there were massive student demonstrations against the Beijing government and Japan. The political fervor, student activism, and iconoclastic and reformist intellectual currents set in motion by the patriotic student protest developed into a national awakening known as the May Fourth Movement. The intellectual milieu in which the May Fourth Movement developed was known as the New Culture Movement and occupied the period from 1917 to 1923. The student demonstrations of 4 May 1919, were the high point of the New Culture Movement, and the terms are often used synonymously. Chinese representatives refused to sign the Treaty of Versailles, due to intense pressure from the student protesters and public opinion alike.

Fight against warlordism

The May Fourth Movement helped to rekindle the then-fading cause of republican revolution. In 1917 Sun Yat-sen had become commander-in-chief of a rival military government in Guangzhou in collaboration with southern warlords. In October 1919, Sun reestablished the Kuomintang to counter the government in Beijing. The latter, under a succession of warlords, still maintained its facade of legitimacy and its relations with the West. By 1921, Sun had become president of the southern government. He spent his remaining years trying to consolidate his regime and achieve unity with the north. His efforts to obtain aid from the Western democracies were ignored, however, and in 1920 he turned to the Soviet Union, which had recently achieved its own revolution. The Soviets sought to befriend the Chinese revolutionists by offering scathing attacks on "Western imperialism." But for political expediency, the Soviet leadership initiated a dual policy of support for both Sun and the newly established Chinese Communist Party . The Soviets hoped for consolidation but were prepared for either side to emerge victorious. In this way the struggle for power in China began between the Nationalists and the Communists.

In 1922 the Kuomintang-warlord alliance in Guangzhou was ruptured, and Sun fled to Shanghai. By then, Sun saw the need to seek Soviet support for his cause. In 1923, a joint statement by Sun and a Soviet representative in Shanghai pledged Soviet assistance for China's national unification. Soviet advisers — the most prominent of whom was an agent of the Comintern, Mikhail Borodin — began to arrive in China in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of the Kuomintang along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CCP was under Comintern instructions to cooperate with the Kuomintang, and its members were encouraged to join while maintaining their party identities.

The policy of working with the Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek had been recommended by the Communist Henk Sneevliet, chosen in 1923 to be the Comintern representative in China due to his revolutionary experience in the Dutch Indies, where he had a major role in founding the Partai Komunis Indonesia - and who felt that the Chinese party was too small and weak to undertake a major effort on its own .

The CCP was still small at the time, having a membership of 300 in 1921 and only 1,500 by 1925. The Kuomintang in 1922 already had 150,000 members. Soviet advisers also helped the Kuomintang set up a political institute to train propagandists in mass mobilization techniques and in 1923 sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of Sun's lieutenants from Tongmenghui days, for several months' military and political study in Moscow. After Chiang's return in late 1923, he participated in the establishment of the Whampoa Military Academy outside Guangzhou, which was the seat of government under the Kuomintang-CCP alliance. In 1924 Chiang became head of the academy and began the rise to prominence that would make him Sun's successor as head of the Kuomintang and the unifier of all China under the right-wing nationalist government.

Chiang consolidates power

Sun Yat-sen died of cancer in Beijing in March 1925, as the Nationalist movement he had helped to initiate was gaining momentum. During the summer of 1925, Chiang, as commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army, set out on the long-delayed against the northern warlords. Within nine months, half of China had been conquered. By 1926, however, the Kuomintang had divided into left- and right-wing factions, and the Communist bloc within it was also growing. In March 1926, after thwarting a kidnapping attempt against him , Chiang abruptly dismissed his Soviet advisers, imposed restrictions on CCP members' participation in the top leadership, and emerged as the preeminent Kuomintang leader. The Soviet Union, still hoping to prevent a split between Chiang and the CCP, ordered Communist underground activities to facilitate the Northern Expedition, which was finally launched by Chiang from Guangzhou in July 1926.

In early 1927, the Kuomintang-CCP rivalry led to a split in the revolutionary ranks. The CCP and the left wing of the Kuomintang had decided to move the seat of the Nationalist government from Guangzhou to Wuhan. But Chiang, whose Northern Expedition was proving successful, set his forces to destroying the Shanghai CCP apparatus and established an anti-Communist government at Nanjing in . There now were three capitals in China: the internationally recognized warlord regime in Beijing; the Communist and left-wing Kuomintang regime at Wuhan; and the right-wing civilian-military regime at Nanjing, which would remain the Kuomintang capital for the next decade.

The Comintern cause appeared bankrupt. A new policy was instituted calling on the CCP to foment armed insurrections in both urban and rural areas in preparation for an expected rising tide of revolution. Unsuccessful attempts were made by Communists to take cities such as Nanchang, Changsha, Shantou, and Guangzhou, and an armed rural insurrection, known as the Autumn Harvest Uprising, was staged by peasants in Hunan Province. The insurrection was led by Mao Zedong, who would later become chairman of the CCP and head of state of the People's Republic of China.

But in mid-1927, the CCP was at a low ebb. The Communists had been expelled from Wuhan by their left-wing Kuomintang allies, who in turn were toppled by a military regime. By 1928, all of China was at least nominally under Chiang's control, and the Nanjing government received prompt international recognition as the sole legitimate government of China. The Kuomintang government announced that in conformity with Sun Yat-sen's formula for the three stages of revolution — military unification, political tutelage, and constitutional democracy — China had reached the end of the first phase and would embark on the second, which would be under Kuomintang direction.

Nanjing Decade

The "Nanjing Decade" of 1928-37 was one of consolidation and accomplishment by the Kuomintang. Some of the harsh aspects of foreign concessions and privileges in China were moderated through diplomacy. In May 1930 the government regained the right to set its tariff, which before then had been set by the foreign powers to deprive China of revenue and domestic industrial development. The government acted also energetically to modernize the legal and penal systems, stabilize prices, amortize debts, reform the banking and currency systems, build railroads and highways, improve public health facilities, legislate against traffic in narcotics, and augment industrial and agricultural production. On 3 November 1935 the government instituted the fiat currency reform, immediately stabilizing prices and also raising revenues for the government. Great strides also were made in education and, in an effort to help unify Chinese society, in a program to popularize the Standard Mandarin language and overcome other Spoken Chinese variations. The widespread establishment of communications facilities further encouraged a sense of unity and pride among the people. On the other hand, political freedom was considerably curtailed than previous periods because of the Kuomintang's one-party domination through "political tutelage" and often violent means in shutting down anti-government protests.

Although the Kuomintang was nominally in control of the entire country during this period, large areas of China remained under the semi-autonomous rule of local warlords or warlord coalitions. The Kuomintang's rule was strongest in the eastern regions of China around the capital Nanjing, but regional warlords such as Feng Yuxiang and Yan Xishan retained considerable local authority. The Central Plains War in 1930 and the Japanese aggression in 1931 seemingly solved this situation as the regional authority were able to unite together under one common front along with the central government.

Second Sino-Japanese War

Few Chinese had any illusions about Japanese designs on China. Hungry for raw materials and pressed by a growing population, Japan initiated the seizure of Manchuria in September 1931 and established ex-Qing emperor Puyi as head of the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. The loss of Manchuria, and its vast potential for industrial development and war industries, was a blow to the Kuomintang economy. The League of Nations, established at the end of World War I, was unable to act in the face of the Japanese defiance. The Japanese began to push from south of the into northern China and into the coastal provinces. Chinese fury against Japan was predictable, but anger was also directed against the Republic of China government, which at the time was more preoccupied with anti-Communist extermination campaigns than with resisting the Japanese invaders. The importance of "internal unity before external danger" was forcefully brought home in December 1936, when Chiang Kai-shek, in an event now known as the Xi'an Incident was kidnapped by Zhang Xueliang and forced to ally with the Communists against the Japanese as a condition of his release.

The Chinese resistance stiffened after 7 July 1937, when a clash occurred between Chinese and Japanese troops outside Beijing near the Marco Polo Bridge. This skirmish not only marked the beginning of open, though undeclared, war between China and Japan but also hastened the formal announcement of the against Japan. Shanghai fell after a which ended after severe Japanese naval and army casualties. The capital of Nanjing fell in December 1937. It was followed by a series of mass killings and rape of civilians in the Nanjing Massacre.

The collaboration between the Kuomintang and CCP took place with salutary effects for the beleaguered CCP. The distrust between the two parties, however, was scarcely veiled. The uneasy alliance began to break down after late 1938, despite Japan's steady territorial gains in northern China, the coastal regions, and the rich Yangtze River Valley in central China. After 1940, conflicts between the Kuomintang and Communists became more frequent in the . The Communists expanded their influence wherever opportunities presented themselves through mass organizations, administrative reforms, and the land- and tax-reform measures favoring the peasants — while the Kuomintang attempted to neutralize the spread of Communist influence. Meanwhile northern China was infiltrated politically further more by the Japanese . Facilities such as Wei Huang Gong is an example.

In 1945, the Republic of China emerged from the war nominally a great military power but actually a nation economically prostrate and on the verge of all-out civil war. The economy deteriorated, sapped by the military demands of foreign war and internal strife, by spiraling inflation, and by Nationalist profiteering, speculation, and hoarding. Starvation came in the wake of the war, and millions were rendered homeless by floods and the unsettled conditions in many parts of the country. The situation was further complicated by an Allied agreement at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 that brought Soviet troops into Manchuria to hasten the termination of war against Japan. Although the Chinese had not been present at Yalta, they had been consulted; they had agreed to have the Soviets enter the war in the belief that the Soviet Union would deal only with the Kuomintang government. After the war, the Soviet Union, as part of the Yalta agreement's allowing a Soviet sphere of influence in Manchuria, dismantled and removed more than half the industrial equipment left there by the Japanese. The Soviet presence in northeast China enabled the Communists to move in long enough to arm themselves with the equipment surrendered by the withdrawing Japanese army. The problems of rehabilitating the formerly Japanese-occupied areas and of reconstructing the nation from the ravages of a protracted war were staggering.

See also: Wang Jingwei Government, Manchukuo

Civil War

During World War II, the United States emerged as a major actor in Chinese affairs. As an ally it embarked in late 1941 on a program of massive military and financial aid to the hard-pressed Nationalist government. In January 1943 the United States and Britain led the way in revising their treaties with China, bringing to an end a century of unequal treaty relations. Within a few months, a new agreement was signed between the United States and Republic of China for the stationing of American troops in China for the common war effort against Japan. In December 1943 the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 1880s and subsequent laws enacted by the United States Congress to restrict Chinese immigration into the United States were repealed.

The wartime policy of the United States was initially to help China become a strong ally and a stabilizing force in postwar East Asia. As the conflict between the Kuomintang and the Communists intensified, however, the United States sought unsuccessfully to reconcile the rival forces for a more effective anti-Japanese war effort. Toward the end of the war, United States Marines were used to hold Beiping and Tianjin against a possible Soviet incursion, and logistic support was given to Kuomintang forces in north and northeast China.

Through the mediatory influence of the United States a military truce was arranged in January 1946, but battles between the Kuomintang and Communists soon resumed. Public opinion of administrative incompetence of the Republic of China government was escalated and incited by the Communists in the against mishandling of a rape accusation in early 1947 and another national protest against monetary reforms later that year. Realizing that American efforts short of large-scale armed intervention could not stop the war, the United States withdrew the American mission, headed by General George C. Marshall, in early 1947. The Chinese Civil War, in which the United States aided the Nationalists with massive economic loans and weapons but no combat support, became more widespread. Battles raged not only for territories but also for the allegiance of cross sections of the population.

Belatedly, the Republic of China government sought to enlist popular support through internal reforms. The effort was in vain, however, because of the rampant corruption in government and the accompanying political and economic chaos. By late 1948, the Kuomintang position was bleak. The demoralized and undisciplined Kuomintang troops proved no match for the communist People's Liberation Army, earlier known as the Red Army. The Communists were well established in the north and northeast. Although the Kuomintang had an advantage in numbers of men and weapons, controlled a much larger territory and population than their adversaries, and enjoyed considerable international support, they were exhausted by the long war with Japan and in-fighting among various generals. They were also losing the propaganda war to the Communists, with the population weary of Kuomintang corruption and yearning for peace. In January 1949, Beiping was taken by the Communists without a fight, and its name changed back to Beijing. Between April and November, major cities passed from Kuomintang to Communist control with minimal resistance. In most cases, the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. After Chiang Kai-shek and a few hundred thousand Republic of China troops and 2 million refugees, predominantly from the government and business community, fled from the mainland to the island of Taiwan , there remained only isolated pockets of resistance. In December 1949, Chiang proclaimed Taipei, Taiwan, the temporary capital of the Republic of China.

Republic of China on Taiwan

Tension between locals and mainlanders

After World War I, Taiwan reverted to Chinese rule and the Nationalists occupied Taiwan. The Republic of China appointed as the Chief Executive of Taiwan. He arrived in Taiwan on 24 October 1945 and received the last Japanese governor, Ando Rikichi, who signed the document of surrender on the . On the next day, Chen Yi proclaimed Taiwan Retrocession Day. The validity of the proclamation is subject to some debate however, with some supporters of Taiwan independence arguing that it is invalid, and that the date simply marks the start of a military occupation by the Republic of China.

During the immediate postwar period, the Chinese Kuomintang administration on Taiwan was viewed by some as being inept and corrupt. Many Taiwanese people were disillusioned with the incoming Kuomintang administration, which proved to be as harsh as Japanese imperial rule. Anti-mainlander violence flared on 28 February 1947 following an accidental shooting of a cigarette vendor by the police. The resulting 228 Incident became a pivotal event in the shaping of modern Taiwanese identity. For several weeks after the incident, many Taiwanese rebelled, participating in island-wide riots protesting the government's corruption and harsh rule. The governor, Chen Yi, while pretending to negotiate in good faith with leaders of the protest movement, called for troops from the mainland. The Kuomintang, allegedly fearing a Communist infiltration, assembled a large military force to quell the disturbance in Taiwan, in the process killing many and imprisoning thousands of others. Many of the Taiwanese who had formed home rule groups under the Japanese were the victims of the incident, as were civilian mainlanders who bore the brunt of vigilante retaliation. This was followed by martial law and the "white terror" in which many thousands of people were imprisoned or executed for their political opposition to the Kuomintang. Many victims of the white terror were Taiwanese elite--political leaders, wealthier families, intellectuals, etc. In addition, mainlanders were not spared either, as many had real or perceived associations with communists before they came to Taiwan. For example, some mainlanders who had joined book clubs on the mainland, deemed leftist by the government, were liable to be arrested and many served long prison sentences for these real or perceived threats.

Martial law, among other things, included sedition laws against supporters of communism or Taiwanese independence, leading to very substantial political repression. It also prohibited the formation of new parties . Second, because of the regime’s claim to rule all of China, the vast majority of the seats in the Legislative Yuan and National Assembly were held by those elected from Mainland constituencies in 1947 and 1948. The regime argued that these legislators should keep their seats until elections in their original constituencies were possible. Although supplemental elections that increased Taiwan’s representation in these bodies were held starting in 1969, the huge majorities of senior legislators continued through 1990, guaranteeing KMT control whether or not the party won on election day. More informally, the Islanders, or long-time Chinese residents of Taiwan , remained distinctly underrepresented in the top ranks of government and the party through the early 1990s, suggesting a significant limit to democratization.

Economic developments

Partially with the help of the China Aid Act of 1948 and the Chinese-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction, the Republic of China government implemented a far-reaching and highly successful land reform program on Taiwan during the 1950s. They redistributed land among small farmers and compensated large landowners with commodities certificates and stock in state-owned industries. These rural reforms, such as the 375 rent reduction program, were never implemented with much force on the mainland but were very successful in Taiwan.

Overall, although the reforms left some large landowners impoverished, others turned their compensation into capital and started commercial and industrial enterprises. These entrepreneurs were to become Taiwan's first industrial capitalists. Together with refugee businessmen from the mainland, they managed Taiwan's transition from an agricultural to a commercial, industrial economy.

Taiwan's phenomenal economic development earned it a spot as one of the four Four Asian Tigers, along with Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, though as of late, much work remains in the on-going process of privatization of state-owned industries and in financial sector reforms.

Diplomatic setbacks

The 1970s saw many switches in diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China to the People's Republic of China. After World War II, the Republic of China had been one of the founding members in the United Nations and held China's seat on the Security Council until 1971, when it was expelled by and replaced in all UN organs with the Communist People's Republic of China government. Since the 1980s, the number of nations officially recognizing the Republic of China has decreased to 24. The People's Republic of China refuses to maintain diplomatic relations with any government which formally recognizes the Republic of China, leading to a complex political status of Taiwan . United States troops were stationed in Taiwan after the victory of the Communists in China in order to aid in the defense of Taiwan against invasion by the People's Republic of China. The United States military continued to be stationed in Taiwan until diplomatic relations were broken with the Republic of China in 1979 but to this day maintains a significant intelligence presence.

Democratic reforms

Even though Chiang Kai-shek was first and foremost a dictator, he also slowly began democratization progress in Taiwan, beginning with the elections of local offices. He also reformed the top Kuomintang leadership, transforming the party from a Leninist organization to one with many factions, each with differing opinions. Chiang Ching-kuo, succeeding his father Chiang Kai-shek, accelerated to liberalize Taiwan's political system. Events such as the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979 highlighted the need for change and groups like Amnesty International were mobilizing a campaign against the government and President Chiang Ching-kuo. Chiang Ching-kuo, although a mainlander, pronounced that he was also a Taiwanese and also introduced many Taiwanese people into top echelons of the party. He also named Lee Teng-hui, a Taiwanese, as his vice president and likely successor. In 1986, the permission to form new political parties was granted, and the Democratic Progressive Party was inaugurated as the first opposition party. However, a political crisis appeared imminent as the Ministry of Justice filed charges against the DPP for violating martial law restrictions, but President Chiang defused it by announcing that martial law would end and that new political parties could be formed as long as they supported the Republican and renounced both communism and Taiwan Independence. The lifting of Martial Law Decree and the ban on veterans to visit their mainland relatives was approved in 1987; the removal of the ban on registration of new newspapers in 1988 was also a historical event.

After the 1988 death of Chiang Ching-kuo, his successor Lee Teng-hui continued to hand more government authority over to the native Taiwanese and to democratize the government. In 1990, Lee held the National Affairs Conference which led to the abolishment of the national emergency period the following year and paved the way for both the total re-election for the National Assembly in 1991 and the Legislative Yuan in 1992. Full democracy in the sense that citizens are able to select their legislators, not just local officials, in free and fair elections was achieved in 1991 when the senior legislators were forced to retire. In 1994, again under the urging of President Lee, the presidency of the Republic of China was changed via constitutional revision into a position popularly elected by the people on Taiwan.

Under Lee, Taiwan underwent a process of in which local culture and history was promoted over a pan-China viewpoint. Lee's reforms included printing banknotes from the Central Bank rather than the Provincial Bank of Taiwan and "freezing" the . Restrictions on the use of in the broadcast media and in schools were lifted as well.

However, democratization had its problems. During the early stages of the process, political parties were still banned, but independent candidates, some including those who had splintered off from the Kuomintang, were allowed to run for offices, provided that they would not receive any campaign funding from the party. As a result, many of these candidates resorted to borrowing money from businessmen, local elite, or even gangsters, in exchange for political and economic favors. This was the beginning of the "" phenomena in Taiwan in which dishonest politicians were backed by businessmen and criminal elements at the expense of the society. In opposition to this, some former Kuomintang members formed the to combat the Kuomintang, which had liberalized but had also introduced widespread corruption.

Another stage was reached when the first direct elections for the powerful president were held in 1996. Lee ran as the incumbent in Taiwan's first direct presidential election against DPP candidate and former dissident, Peng Ming-min, which prompted the People's Republic of China to conduct a series of missile tests in the Taiwan Strait to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate. The aggressive tactic prompted United States President Bill Clinton to invoke the Taiwan Relations Act and dispatch an aircraft carrier into the region off Taiwan's southern coast to monitor the situation.

For the Republic of China on Taiwan, political liberalization and democratization completed rather smoothly. The country transformed from an authoritarian state to developing fully democratic institutions without major incidents such as coups by either revolutionaries or reactionaries. This was because the Kuomintang itself stated that, in its political roadmap, one-party dictatorship must end and that the ultimate form of the government would be a constitutional democracy, provided that the system was ready for one. Therefore, democratization proceeded smoothly, without major changes to the constitution or massive restructuring of the government.

Political transition

The marked the end of the Kuomintang's status as the ruling party. Opposition DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian won a three way race that saw the Pan-Blue vote split by independent James Soong and Kuomintang candidate Lien Chan. Chen garnered 39% of the vote. After the election, Soong formed the People First Party .

Chen Shui-bian was re-elected by a narrow 0.2% of the vote the over Kuomintang Chairman Lien, who had PFP Chairman Soong as his running mate. On the day before the election, both Chen and Vice President Annette Lu were in . Their injuries were not life threatening, but the incident is believed by Pan-Blue to have gained them enough sympathy to influence the result. That incident might also gave president Chen the ability of declaring martial emergency, which allegedly prevented the police and military, which were strongly Pan-Blue, from voting. Lien refused to concede, alleging voting irregularities. Kuomintang and PFP supporters held mass protests throughout the following weeks. Subsequently, Kuomintang and PFP took the case to the court. The High Court ordered a nation-wide recount and found no evidence to support the accusation made by Kuomintang and PFP. The Court decided that the election result was legitimate and valid.

During the legislative elections held on 8 December 2004, the Kuomintang-PFP dominated Pan-Blue alliance gained a slim majority in the elections which resulted into President Chen resigning as DPP chairman. The cabinet of Premier Yu Shyi-kun resigned, and Frank Hsieh assumed premiership on 25 January 2005.

In a move that some saw as a reaction to Chen's re-election, the People's Republic of China enacted a proposed that allows the use of force on Taiwan and the Republic of China government if it formally declares independence. However, this law was met with overwhelming protest from nearly all political parties and public figures of the Republic of China and disapproval from the western countries. Negotiations in January in Macau between the aviation authorities from both the Republic of China and People's Republic of China resulted in direct-cross strait charter flights between mainland China and Taiwan during the Lunar New Year Period. In a twist of events, President Chen and PFP Chairman Soong held a summit and the independence-leaning president indicated that eventual reunification with the mainland would be an option. Against the anti-secession law proposed by the People's Republic of China, President Chen held a video conference with the European Parliament in Brussels urging the European Union not to lift the arms embargo on the People's Republic of China.

Domestic politics during the Chen administration has largely been a political stalemate as the Kuomintang and PFP together hold a pan-Blue majority in the legislature. Among the many items that have made little progress due to the political stalemate are a stalled arms procurement bill, which would advance defense capabilities of the Republic of China through the purchase of weaponry, such as sub-hunting P-3 Orions, from the US government, and banking reform legislation, which would help in the consolidation of the many banks in the Republic of China, none of which hold even 10% shares of the local market. It is important to note that the president of the Republic of China, unlike the president of the United States, does not wield veto power, providing him with little to no leverage in negotiating with an opposition legislature, regardless of how slim the majority.

The constitution was further amended in 2005, creating a two-vote electoral system, with single member plurality seats and seats, and abolishing the National Assembly, transferring most of its former powers to the Legislative Yuan, and leaving further amendment voting to public referendums. The continues to reform, and it is likely there will be further reform to settle the power balance between the president and the . The issue of formally declaring the is also a constant constitutional question. Arms purchases to the United States are still a controversial political question, with the Pan-Green Coalition camp favoring the purchase, and the Pan-Blue Coalition opposing it. Recent allegations about inside the First Family have led to three recall motions votations in the Legislative Yuan aimed at ousting Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian. All of them have failed since the Pan-Blue Coalition lacks the two thirds majority required to complete the process and the political parties voted according to political lines. The first lady, Wu Shu-chen is accused of illegally using state funds for personal reasons, and she is on an ongoing trial. The president faces similar accusations to his wife, but is protected from prosecution by presidential immunity. He has promised to resign if his wife is found guilty.

In December 2006, municipal and mayoral elections were held in Taipei and Kaohsiung. The KMT retained a clear majority in the capital, while the DPP and the KMT obtained very close results in the southern city of Kaohsiung. Huang Chun-ying lost to Chen Chu by a margin of 0.14 percent, 378,303 votes to 379,417 votes, making Chen Chu the first female mayor of a special municipality in the Republic of China.In 2007, Taiwan applies for membership in the United Nations under the name "Taiwan", and is rejected by the General Assembly.

In the 2008 presidential election KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou defeats DPP candidate Hsieh with 58.48% of the vote. Ma ran on a platform supporting friendlier relations with the mainland and economic reforms. Many voters boycott the referenda on whether and how to join UN so the level of voter participation required for referenda to be considered valid is not achieved.

Further reading

* Duara, Prasenjit, , in ''Comparative Studies in Society and History'', Vol. 29, No. 1 , pp. 132-161, Cambridge University Press
* Schurmann, F. and Schell, O. ''Republican China'' .

History of the People's Republic of China

The history of the People's Republic of China details the history of mainland China since October 1, 1949, when, after a near complete victory by the Communist Party of China in the Chinese Civil War, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China from atop Tiananmen . The PRC has for several decades been synonymous with China, but it is only the most recent political entity to govern mainland China, preceded by the and thousands of years of imperial dynasties.

1949–1976: Socialist transformation under Mao Zedong

Before there was the People's Republic of China, the Chinese communist party established the Chinese Soviet Republic between 1931 to 1934. It was the first time when there were two Chinas. It was eventually destroyed by the Government of the Republic of China.

Following the Chinese Civil War and the victory of the Mao Zedong's forces over the Kuomintang forces of Chiang Kai-shek , who fled to Taiwan, Mao declared the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949. Mao's first goal was a total overhaul of the land ownership system, and extensive land reforms. China's old system of landlord ownership of farmland and peasant workers was replaced with a more equal distribution system in favour of less wealthy peasants. Mao laid heavy emphasis on class struggle and theoretical work, and in 1953 began various campaigns to suppress former landlords and capitalists. Foreign investment was largely wiped out.

Mao believed that socialism would eventually triumph over all other ideologies, and following the First Five-Year Plan based on a Soviet-style centrally controlled economy, Mao took on the ambitious project of the Great Leap Forward in 1958, beginning an unprecedented process of collectivization in rural areas. Mao urged the use of backyard iron smelters to increase steel production, pulling workers off of agricultural labor to the point that large amounts of crops rotted unharvested. Mao decided to continue to advocate these smelters despite a visit to a factory steel mill which proved to him that high quality steel could only be produced in a factory; he thought that ending the program would dampen peasant enthusiasm for the leap forward.
''The destruction of balance constitutes leaping forward and such destruction is better than balance. Imbalance and headache are good things.''
Mao, May of 1958, in a speech.

The implementation of Maoist thought in China may have been responsible for over 70 million excessive deaths during peacetime, with the Cultural Revolution, Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957-58, and the Great Leap Forward.
Because of Mao's land reforms during the the Great Leap Forward, which resulted in famines, thirty million perished between 1958 and 1961. By the end of 1961 the birth rate was nearly cut in half because of malnutrition. Active campaigns, including party purges and "reeducation" resulted in imprisonment and/or the execution of those deemed contrary to the implementation of Maoist ideals.
Mao's failure with the Leap reduced his power in government, whose administrative duties fell on Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping.

Supporters of the Maoist Era claim that under Mao, China's unity and sovereignty was assured for the first time in a century, and there was development of infrastructure, industry, healthcare, and education, which raised standard of living for the average Chinese. They also claimed that such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution were essential in jumpstarting China's development and "purifying" its culture. More nuanced arguments claim that though the consequences of both these campaigns were economically and humanly disastrous, they left behind a "clean slate" on which later economic progress could be built. Supporters often also doubt statistics or accounts given for death tolls or other damages incurred by Mao's campaigns, attributing the high death toll to natural disasters, famine, or other consequences of political chaos during the rule of Chiang Kai-Shek.

Critics of Mao's regime assert that Mao's administration imposed strict controls over everyday life, and believe that campaigns such as the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution contributed to or caused millions of deaths, incurred severe economic costs, and damaged China's cultural heritage. The Great Leap Forward in particular preceded a massive famine in which 20–30 million people died; most Western and many Chinese analysts attribute this to poor agricultural and economic planning.

To impose socialist orthodoxy and rid China of "old elements", and at the same time serving certain political goals, Mao began the Cultural Revolution in May 1966. The campaign was far reaching into all aspects of Chinese life. Red Guards terrorized the streets as many ordinary citizens were deemed counter-revolutionaries. Education and public transportation came to a nearly complete halt. Daily life involved shouting slogans and reciting Mao quotations. Many prominent political leaders, including Liu and Deng, were purged and deemed "capitalist-roaders". The campaign would not come to a complete end until the death of Mao in 1976.

1976–1989: Rise of Deng Xiaoping and economic reforms

Mao Zedong's death was followed by a power struggle between the Gang of Four, Hua Guofeng, and eventually Deng Xiaoping. Deng would maneuver himself to the top of China's leadership by 1980. At the 3rd Plenum of the 11th CPC Congress, Deng embarked China on the road to , policies that began with the de-collectivization of the countryside, followed with industrial reforms aimed at decentralizing government controls in the industrial sector. On the subject of Mao's legacy Deng coined the famous phrase "7 parts good, 3 parts bad", and avoided denouncing Mao altogether. Deng championed the idea of Special Economic Zones , areas where foreign investment would be allowed to pour in without strict government restraint and regulations, running on a basically system. Deng laid emphasis on light industry as a stepping stone to the development of heavy industries.

Supporters of the economic reforms point to the rapid development of the consumer and export sectors of the economy, the creation of an urban middle class that now constitutes 15% of the population, higher living standards and a much wider range of personal rights and freedoms for average Chinese as evidence of the success of the reforms.

Although standards of living improved significantly in the 1980s, Deng's reforms were not without criticism. Conservatives asserted that Deng opened China once again to various social evils, and an overall increase in materialistic thinking, while liberals attacked Deng's unrelenting stance on the political front. Liberal forces began manifesting with different forms of protest against the leadership, which in 1989 resulted in the during which China's government was condemned internationally. Critics of the economic reforms, both in China and abroad, claim that the reforms have caused wealth disparity, environmental pollution, rampant , widespread unemployment associated with layoffs at inefficient state-owned enterprises, and has introduced often unwelcome cultural influences. Consequently they believe that China's culture has been corrupted, the poor have been reduced to a hopeless abject underclass, and that the social stability is threatened. They are also of the opinion that various political reforms, such as moves towards popular elections, have been unfairly nipped in the bud. Regardless of either view, today, the public perception of Mao has improved at least superficially; images of Mao and Mao related objects have become fashionable, commonly used on novelty items and even as talismans. However, the path of modernization and market-oriented economic reforms that China started since the early 1980s appears to be fundamentally unchallenged. Even critics of China's market reforms do not wish to see a backtrack of these two decades of reforms, but rather propose corrective measures to offset some of the social issues caused by existing reforms.

1989–2002: Economic growth under the third generation

After Tiananmen, Deng Xiaoping retired from public view. While keeping ultimate control, power was passed onto the third generation of leadership led by Jiang Zemin, who was hailed as its "core". Economic growth, despite foreign trade embargoes, returned to a fast pace by the mid-1990s. Jiang's macroeconomic reforms furthered Deng's vision for "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics". At the same time, Jiang's period saw a continued rise in social corruption in all areas of life. Unemployment skyrocketed as unprofitable SOE's were closed to make way for more competitive ventures, internally and abroad. The ill-equipped social welfare system was put on a serious test. Jiang also laid heavy emphasis on scientific and technological advancement in areas such as space exploration. To sustain vast human consumption, the Three Gorges Dam was built, attracting supporters and widespread criticism. Environmental pollution became a very serious problem as Beijing was frequently hit by sandstorms as a result of desertification.

The 1990s saw two foreign colonies returned to China, Hong Kong from in 1997, and Macau from Portugal in 1999. Hong Kong and Macau mostly continued their own governance, retaining independence in their economic, social, and judicial systems. Jiang and President Clinton exchanged state visits, but Sino-American relations took very sour turns at the end of the decade. Much controversy surrounded the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, which the U.S. government claimed was due to bad intelligence and false target identification . Inside the US, the Cox Report stated that China had been stealing various top US military secrets. And in 2001, a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US spy plane, inciting further outrage with the Chinese public, already dissatisfied with the US.

On the political agenda, China was once again put on the spotlight for the banning of Falun Gong in 1999. Silent protesters of the spiritual movement sat outside of Zhongnanhai, asking for dialogue with China's leaders. Jiang saw it as threatening to the country's political situation, and outlawed the group altogether, while using the mass media to denounce it as an evil cult.

Conversely, Premier Zhu Rongji's economic policies held China's economy strong during the Asian Financial Crisis. Economic growth averaged at 8% annually, pushed back by the 1998 Yangtze River Floods. After a decade of talks, China was finally admitted into the World Trade Organization. Standards of living improved significantly, although a wide urban-rural wealth gap was opened, as China saw the reappearance of the middle class. Wealth disparity between East and the Western hinterlands continued to widen by the day, prompting government programs to "develop the West", taking on such ambitious projects such as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. The burden of education was greater than ever. Rampant corruption continued despite Premier Zhu's anti-corruption campaign that executed many officials.


The first major crisis faced by China in the 21st century as a new generation of leaders led by Hu Jintao after assuming power was the public health crisis involving SARS, an illness that seemed to have originated out of Guangdong province. China's position in the war on terror drew the country closer diplomatically to the United States. The economy continues to grow in double-digit numbers as the development of rural areas became the major focus of government policy. In gradual steps to consolidate his power, Hu Jintao removed Shanghai Party Chief Chen Liangyu and other potential political opponents amidst the fight against corruption, and the on-going struggle against once powerful Shanghai clique. The assertion of the to create a Harmonious Society is the focus of the Hu-Wen administration, as some Jiang-era excesses are slowly reversed. Although the administration continues to face pressure to reform the political system and the party, the Hu-Wen administration is comparatively better received than the Jiang administration. In the years after Hu's rise to power, respect of basic human rights in China continue to be a source of concern.

The and future of Taiwan remain uncertain, but steps have been taken to improving relations between the Communist Party and several of Taiwan's pro-unification parties, notably former rival Kuomintang.

The continued economic growth of the country as well as its sporting power status has gained China the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. However, this had also put Hu's administration under intense spotlight. While the 2008 Olympic is commonly understood to be a come-out party for People's Republic of China, in light of the March 2008 Tibet protests, the government received heavy scrutiny. The Olympic torch was met with protest en route. Within the country these reactions were met with a fervent wave of nationalism with accusations of Western bias against China.

In May 2008, a massive earthquake registering 8.0 on the Richter scale hit of China, exacting a death toll officially estimated at approximately 70,000. The government had responded quicker than in previous events, and has allowed foreign media access to the regions that were hardest hit. The adequacy of the government response has generally been praised, and the relief efforts extended to every corner of Chinese life.

In May and June 2008, heavy rains in southern China caused in the provinces of Anhui, Hunan, Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangdong, with dozens of fatalities and over a million people forced to evacuate.

Dynasties in Chinese history

The following is a chronology of the in Chinese history.

Chinese history is rarely as neat as it is portrayed and it was rare indeed for one dynasty to end calmly and give way quickly and smoothly to a new one. Dynasties were often established before the overthrow of an existing regime, or continued for a time after they had been defeated.

In addition, China was divided for long periods of its history, with different regions being ruled over by different groups. At times like these, there was no dynasty ruling a unified China. As a case in point, there is much dispute about times in and after the Western Zhou period. One example of the potential for confusion will suffice:

The conventional date 1644 marks the year in which the Manchu Qing dynasty armies occupied Beijing and brought Qing rule to China proper, succeeding the Ming dynasty. However, the Qing dynasty itself was established in 1636 , while the last Ming dynasty pretender was not disposed of until 1662. The change of ruling houses was a messy and prolonged affair, and the Qing took almost twenty years to extend their control over the whole of China. It is therefore inaccurate to assume China changes all at once in the year 1644.

For more details on the dynasties listed here and their emperors, follow the relevant links in the table. Click on H for the history of the dynasty, and E for a table of its emperors .

Chronology of dynasties

Economic history of China

According to some and Indian sources, China was the largest economy on earth for most of the recorded history of the past two millennia.

The ''Financial Times'' noted that "China has been the world’s largest economy for 18 of the past 20 centuries", while according to ''The Economist'', "China was not only the largest economy for much of recorded history, but until the 15th century, it also had the highest income per capita — and was the world’s technological leader."

As recently as 1820, China accounted for 33% of the world's GDP. Barely a hundred years later, the tables had turned. By the early part of twentieth century, China accounted for only 9% of world's GDP. The primary explanation for the relative eclipse of China lies in the fact that the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, which made Europe and then America rich, almost completely bypassed China.

Qing Dynasty

1625 - 1650

China was the world's largest economy followed by India and France. During this period, the territorial domain of the Qing empire expanded substantially. Due to the demand for Chinese products such as porcelain and tea, Qing China was the largest market for Spain's silver exports from her colonies in South America.

1650 - 1675

China was the world's largest economy followed by India and France. From this time to about the 1800s, the seclusion of China on a world-scale grew to its peak during the Ming Dynasty after the Yung-lo emperor's reign in the 1400s.

1675 - 1700

India was the world's largest economy followed by China and France.

1700 - 1725

China was the world's largest economy followed by India and France. Collapse of the central authority of the Mughal Empire and the resultant chaos triggered India's long but slow decline on the world stage.

1725 - 1825

China was the world's largest economy followed by India and France.

1825 - 1850

China was the world's largest economy followed by the UK and India. Industrial Revolution in the UK catapulted the nation to the top league of Europe for the first time ever.

1850 - 1875

China was the world's largest economy followed by the UK, USA and India.

1875 - 1911

USA was the world's largest economy followed by China, UK, Germany and India. Collapse of the central authority of the Qing Dynasty and the resultant chaos triggered China's short but rapid decline on the world stage. The gross domestic product of China in 1900 was estimated at about 50 per cent that of the USA.

Nationalist Republic

1911 - 1925

USA was the world's largest economy followed by the UK, China, France, Germany, India and the USSR. The gross domestic product of China in 1925 was estimated at about 20 per cent that of the USA.

1925 - 1950

USA was the world's largest economy followed by the USSR, UK, China, France, Germany, India and Japan. The gross domestic product of China in 1950 was estimated at about 10 per cent that of the USA.

People's Republic

1950 - 1975

USA was the world's largest economy followed by the USSR, Japan, Germany and China. The gross domestic product of China in 1975 was estimated at about 10 percent that of the USA. Though Mao's collectivization reforms helped arrest the economic decline, China was no longer the largest Asian economy.

1975 - 2000

USA was the world's largest economy followed by Japan, Germany and China. The gross domestic product of China in 2000 was estimated at about 10 per cent that of the USA. Communist reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s initiated the current wave of export-oriented economic expansion.

2000 - Present

The size of China's economy has been rapidly increasing, though they have been paying a premium price for this development in terms of pollution and human rights violations.

Further reading

* Duara, Prasenjit, , in ''Comparative Studies in Society and History'', Vol. 29, No. 1 , pp. 132-161, Cambridge University Press

Chinese historiography

Chinese historiography refers to the study of methods and assumptions made in studying Chinese history.

History of Chinese Historians

Record of Chinese history dated back to the Shang Dynasty. The ''Classic of History'', one of the Five Classics of Chinese classic texts is one of the earliest narratives of China. The ''Spring and Autumn Annals'', the official chronicle of the State of Lu covering the period from 722 BCE to 481 BCE, is among the earliest surviving Chinese historical texts to be arranged on principles. It is believed to be compiled by Confucius.

''Zhan Guo Ce'' was a renowned ancient Chinese historical work and compilation of sporadic materials on the Warring States Period compiled between 3rd century to 1st century BCE. Its author is unknown.

The first systematic Chinese historical text, ''Shiji'' or ''Records of the Grand Historian'', was written by Sima Qian. The book covers the period from the time of the Yellow Emperor until the author's own time. Due to his highly praised work, Sima Qian is often regarded as the father of Chinese historiography.

''Records of the Grand Historian'' is the first among Twenty-Four Histories, a collection of Chinese historical books covering a period of history from 3000 BC to the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century.

''Shitong'' is the first Chinese work about historiography compiled by Liu Zhiji between 708 and 710. The book describes the general pattern of the past official dynastic historiography on structure, method, order of arrangement, sequence, caption and commentary back to the pre-Qin era.

''Zizhi Tongjian'', literally "Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government", was a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography. Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered Sima Guang and other scholars to begin compiling this universal history of China in 1065 and they presented it to his successor Emperor Shenzong of Song in 1084. It contains 294 volumes and about 3 million words . The book chronologically narrates the history of China from the Warring States period in 403 BCE to the beginning of the Song Dynasty in 959 CE.

''Zizhi Tongjian'' changed a tradition dating back almost 1,000 years to the Shiji; standard Chinese dynastic histories primarily divided chapters between annals of rulers and biographies of officials. In Chinese terms, the book changed the format of histories from biographical style to chronological style , which is better suited for analysis and criticism.

As a tradition, rulers initiating new dynasties would order the scholars of the previous dynasty to compile its final history.

Narratives and Interpretations of Chinese history

Dynastic Cycle

China's traditionalist view of history sees the rise and fall of dynasties as passing the "Mandate of Heaven". In this view, a new dynasty is founded by a moral uprighteous founder. Over time, the dynasty becomes morally corrupt and dissolute. The immorality of the dynasty is reflected in natural disasters, rebellions, and foreign invasions. Eventually, the dynasty becomes so weak as to allow its replacement by a new dynasty. This theory became popular during the Zhou dynasty. It is not entirely cyclical because it claims the golden age has passed and history is gradually descending towards decadence.

This theory also claims there can be only one rightful sovereign ruling all under heaven at a time but throughout Chinese history there have been many contentious and long periods of disunity where the question of legitimacy is moot. Another problem arises if the dynasty falls even if it was virtuous. The last ruler of a dynasty is always castigated as evil even if that was not the case. The greatest weakness was the end of the cycle itself with the birth of the Republic of China. Notions of the Mandate of Heaven and divine monarchy were discarded, as shown in two unpopular and failed attempts to restore the imperial system by Yuan Shikai and .

Marxist Interpretations of Chinese history

Most Chinese history that is published in the People's Republic of China is based on a .
The Marxist view of history is that history is governed by universal laws and that according to these laws, a society moves through a series of stages with the transition between stages being driven by class struggle. These stages are

* slave society
* feudal society
* capitalist society
* socialist society
* world communist society

The official historical view within the People's Republic of China associates each of
these stages with a particular era in Chinese history as well as making some subdivisions.

* slave society - to
* feudal society - decentralized feudalism - to
* feudal society - bureaucratic feudalism - to Opium War
* feudal society - semicolonial era - Opium War to end of Qing dynasty
* capitalist society -
* socialist society - 1949 to ???
* socialist society - primary stage of socialism - 1978 to 2050
* world communist society - ?

Because of the strength of the Communist Party of China and the importance of the Marxist interpretation of history in legitimizing its rule, it is difficult for historians within the PRC to actively argue in favor of non-Marxist and anti-Marxist interpretations of history. However, this political restriction is less confining than it may first appear in that the Marxist historical framework is surprisingly flexible, and a rather simple matter to modify an alternative historical theory to use language that at least does not challenge the Marxist interpretation of history.

There are several problems associated with Marxist interpretation. First, slavery existed throughout China's history and has never been the primary mode of production. While the can be labelled as , others were centralized states. To account for the discrepancy, Chinese Marxists invented the term "bureaucratic feudalism", which is an oxymoron. The placement of the Tang as the beginning of the bureaucratic phase rests largely on the imperial examination system which finally overcame the nine-rank system; prior to this both systems were in use. Some contend capitalism first arose in Song dynasty China by following Kondratiev waves to their source.

Three Stages of Revolution

The Kuomintang issued their own theory of political stages based on Sun Yatsen's proposal though it is limited only to recent history.

* military unification - 1923 to 1928
* political tutelage - 1928 to 1947
* constitutional democracy - 1947 onward

The most obvious criticism is the near identical nature of "political tutelage" and "constitutional democracy" which consisted of one party rule until the 1990s. Chen Shui-bian proposed his own Four-Stage Theory of the Republic of China.

Ethnic Inclusiveness

Also sponsored by the PRC is the view that Chinese history should include all of China's ethnic groups past and present , not just the history of the Han Chinese. China is viewed as a coherent state formed since time immemorial and exists as one legal entity even in periods of political disunity.

The benefit of this theory is to show the contributions of non-Han to Chinese history. It allows once "foreign" dynasties like the Mongol and the Manchu as well as the Khitan , Jurchen to be appreciated as part of the Chinese tapestry, allegedly helping reduce the alienation of ethnic minorities living in China. This theory also avoids "Han centered" analyses. For example, it denies Yue Fei, a "Han Chinese" who fought for China against the Jurchens, a place as a "hero of China".

But the theory has led to criticism and international disputes. It has been identified as a smokescreen for China's hold on Tibet and Xinjiang. China's claims on Taiwan are also criticized by those who think, ideologically, that the PRC does not have legitimate claims on these territories. Mongolia and Vietnam have concerns that it will be used against them in future since they could be labeled "Chinese" under the theory. Korean historians dispute the labeling of ethnic Korean archeological sites in China as Chinese. The theory has also been accused of giving rise to controversial characterizations such as the identification of Genghis Khan as "Chinese", while there exists a modern Mongolian nation-state. Apologists for the "ethnical inclusiveness" theory cite the fact that there are more ethnic Mongols living in the Chinese-controlled Inner Mongolia than the nation-state of Mongolia to assert that China actually has a stronger claim to the Mongolian heritage than Mongolia does.

The Chinese tradition since the that emperors of one dynasty would sponsor the writing of the official history of the immediately preceding dynasty has been cited in favor of an ethnically inclusive interpretation of history. The compilation of official histories usually involved monumental intellectual labor. The Yuan and Qing Dynasties, which might be thought "foreign" as their imperial families were not of the Han people, faithfully carried out the tradition, writing the official histories of Han-ruled Song and Ming Dynasties respectively. Had the two "non-Han" imperial families not thought themselves as continuing the "Mandate of Heaven" of the Middle Kingdom -- the cosmological center of their known world -- it would be hard to explain why they retained the costly tradition. Thus, every non-Han dynasty saw itself as the legitimate holder of the "Mandate of Heaven", which legitimized the dynastic cycle regardless of social or ethnic background as it was moral integrity and benevolent leadership that had been validating the "Mandate of Heaven." By assuming the mantle of the legitimate dynasty, the ethnic groups that established such non-Han dynasties are thus regarded as having forfeited their right to remain ethnically distinct from China.

The ethnic inclusiveness theory is not limited to the PRC alone. The Tongmenghui initially regarded the Manchus as non-Chinese occupiers. They quickly realized that ethnic inclusiveness was needed if the new republic was to maintain control over the territories bequeathed by the Qing dynasty. "Han independence" was therefore scrapped in favor of the Five Races Under One Union principle, which later developed into the theory of ''Zhonghua minzu''. The Republic of China regime on Taiwan continues to claim a much larger territory encompassing Mongolia and Tannu Uriankhai.

Anti-Imperialist Narratives

Closely related are anti-imperialist narratives. While some
anti-imperialist narratives notably those of historians
within the People's Republic of China as well as Western Marxist histories incorporate anti-imperialist narratives in their histories, many anti-imperialist narratives are non-Marxist or as in the case of the Kuomintang in the 1960s, actively anti-Marxist.

Modernist Interpretations of Chinese history

This view of Chinese history sees Chinese society in the 20th century as a traditional society seeking to become modern, usually with the implicit
assumption that Western society is the definition of modern society.

This view of Chinese history has its roots with British views of the orient
of the early 19th century. In this viewpoint, the societies of India, China,
and the Middle East were societies with glorious pasts but that they have
become trapped in a static past . This view provided an implicit justification
of British colonialism with Britain assuming the "white man's burden" of
breaking these societies from their static past and bringing them into the
modern world.

By the mid 20th century, it was increasingly clear to historians that the
notion of "changeless China" was untenable. A new concept, popularized by
John Fairbank was the notion of "change within tradition" which argued
that although China did change in the pre-modern period but that this change
existed within certain cultural traditions.

There are a number of criticisms of the modernist critique. One centers
on the definition of "traditional society." The criticism is that the
idea of "traditional society" is simply a catch all term for early non-Western
society and implies that all such societies are similar. To use an analogy,
one could classify all animals into "fish" and "non-fish" but that classification would be hardly useful, and would imply that spiders are similar to mountain goats.

The notion of "change within tradition" also been subject to criticism. The criticism is that the statement that "China has not changed fundamentally" is tautological, that one looks for things that have not changed and then define those as fundamental. The trouble with doing this is that when one can do
this with anything that has lasted for an extended period of time resulting
in absurd statements such as "England has not changed fundamentally in the
past thousand years because the institution of the monarchy has existed
for this long."

Hydraulic Theory

Derived from Marx and Max Weber, Karl August Wittfogel argued that bureaucracy arose to manage irrigation systems. Despotism was needed to force the people into building canals, dikes, and waterways to increase agriculture. Yu the Great, one of China's legendary founders, is mostly known for his control of the flood. The hydraulic empire produces wealth from its stability and while dynasties may change, the structure remains intact until destroyed by modern powers.

Critics of Wittfogel's oriental despotism theory point out that water management was not a high priority when compared to taxes, rituals, and fighting off bandits. The theory also has a strong orientalist bent which regards all Asian states as generally the same.

Convergence Theory

Convergence theory is a broad term which includes a viewpoint popular among non-Marxist Chinese intellectuals of the mid 20th century. This includes
Hu Shih and Ray Huang's involution theory. This view was that the past 150
years was a period in which Chinese and Western civilization were in the
process of convergence into a world civilization.

This view is heavily influenced by modernization theory, but is also strongly influenced by indigenous sources such as the notion of "shijie datong" or
the Great Unity. It has tended to be less popular among more recent historians. Among Western historians, it conflicts with the postmodern impulse which is skeptical of great narratives. Among Chinese historians, convergence theory is in conflict with Chinese nationalism which includes a strong element of China as being unique.

European conflict interpretations of Chinese history

European conflict interpretations focus on interaction with Europe as the
driving force behind recent Chinese history. There are two variants, one focuses on Europe as the driving force behind China's quest for modernity, the other focuses on the effects of European colonialism.

One criticism of this view is that it ignores historical forces that do not involve Europe, such as indigenous economic forces. One example of a blind
spot which is provided by this viewpoint is the influence of central Asian
policies on interactions with Europe in the Qing dynasty.

Post-modern interpretations of Chinese history

Post-modern interpretations of Chinese history tend to reject the grand narratives of
other interpretations of history. Instead of seeking a grand pattern of history, post-modern interpretations tend to focus on a small subset of Chinese history.

In attention rather than focusing on the political elites of China, post-modern historians look also at the daily lives of ordinary people.

Issues in the study of Chinese history

Recent trends in Chinese historical scholarship

The late 20th century and early 21st century has seen a large amount of studies of Chinese
history, quite a bit of it 'revisionist' in that it seeks to challenge traditional paradigms. The field is rapidly evolving with much new scholarship. Much of this new scholarship comes from the realization that there is much about Chinese history that is unknown or controversial. To give one such controversy, it is an active topic of discussion whether the typical Chinese peasant in 1900 was seeing his life improve or decline. In addition to the realization that there are major gaps in our knowledge of Chinese history is the equal realization that there are tremendous amounts of primary source material that has not yet been analyzed.

Recent Western scholarship of China has been heavily influenced by postmodernism.

For example, current scholars of China tend to question the question, and look heavily at the assumptions within a question before attempting to answer it. For example, one begins to answer the question "Why did China not develop modern science and capitalism?" by asking the question "Why are we assuming that what China did develop was not modern science and capitalism?" This then brings up the question of what are the essential characteristics of modern science and capitalism, and whether it makes any sense at all to apply European concepts to Chinese history.

One example of the fruitfulness of questioning assumption comes from questioning the assumption that "China was weak in the 19th century" and pointing out the fact that at the time in which China was supposedly weak, it managed to extend its borders to record sizes in Central Asia. This in turn has caused scholars to be more interested in Chinese policies and actions in Central Asia and has led to the realization that Central Asia affected Chinese policies toward Europe in a deep way.

Another trend in Western scholarship of China has been to move away from "grand theories" of history toward understanding of a narrow part of China. A survey of papers on Chinese history in the early 21st century would reveal relatively little attempt to fit Chinese history into a master paradigm of history as was common in the 1950s. Instead, early 21st century papers on Chinese history tend to be empirical studies of a small part of China which aim to reach a deep understanding of the social, political, or economic dynamics of a small region such as a province or a village with little effort made to create a master narrative
which would be generalizable to all of China.

Also, such current scholars attempt to assess source material more critically. For example, for a long period it was assumed that Imperial China had no system of because the law codes did not have explicit provisions for civil lawsuits. However, more recent studies which use the records of civil magistrates suggest that China did in fact have a very well developed system of civil law in which provisions of the criminal code were interpreted to allow civil causes of action. Another example of the more critical view taken toward source material has been anti-merchant statements made by intellectuals in the mid-Qing dynasty. Traditionally these have been interpreted as examples of government hostility toward commerce, but more result studies which use source material such as magistrate diaries and genealogical records, suggest that merchants in fact had a powerful impact on government policies and that the division between the world of the merchant and the world of the official was far more porous than traditionally believed. In fact there is a growing consensus that anti-merchant statements in the mid-Qing dynasty should be taken as evidence of a substantial erosion in the power and freedom of action of officials.

Finally, current scholars have taken an increasing interest in the lives of common people and to tap documentary and historical evidence that was previously not analyzed. Examples of these records include a large mass of governmental and family archives which have not yet been processed, economic records such as census records, price records, land surveys, and tax records. In addition there are large numbers of cultural artifacts such as vernacular novels, how-to books, and children's books, which are in the process of being analyzed for clues as to how the average Chinese lived.


*Early Imperial China
*Mid-Imperial China
*Late Imperial China

History of Chinese art

Chinese art is art that, whether ancient or modern, originated in or is practiced in China or by artists or performers. Early so-called "stone age art" dates back to 10,000 BC, mostly consisting of simple pottery and sculptures. This early period was followed by a series of art , most of which lasted several hundred years. The Chinese art in the Republic of China and that of overseas Chinese can also be considered part of Chinese art where it is based in or draws on Chinese heritage and Chinese culture.

Historical development to 221 BC

Neolithic pottery

Early forms of art in China are found in the Neolithic Yangshao culture , which dates back to the 6th millennium BC. Archeological findings such as those at the Banpo have revealed that the Yangshao made pottery; early were and most often cord-marked. The first s were fish and human faces, but these eventually evolved into - abstract designs, some painted.

The most distinctive feature of Yangshao culture was the extensive use of painted pottery, especially human facial, animal, and geometric designs. Unlike the later Longshan culture, the Yangshao culture did not use pottery wheels in pottery making. According to archaeologists, Yangshao society was based around matriarchal clans. Excavations have found that children were buried in painted pottery jars.

Jade culture

The Liangzhu culture was the last Neolithic Jade culture in the Yangtze River delta and was spaced over a period of about 1,300 years. The Jade from this culture is characterized by finely worked, large ritual jades such as cylinders, discs, Yue axes and also pendants and decorations in the form of chiseled open-work plaques, plates and representations of small birds, turtles and fish. The Liangzhu Jade has a white, milky bone-like aspect due to its Tremolite rock origin and influence of water-based fluids at the burial sites. Jade is a green stone that cannot be carved so it has to be grinded.

Bronze casting

The Bronze Age in China began with the Xia Dynasty. Examples from this period have been recovered from ruins of the Erlitou culture, in Shanxi, and include complex but unadorned utilitarian objects. In the following Shang Dynasty more elaborate objects, including many ritual vessels, were crafted. The Shang are remembered for their bronze casting, noted for its clarity of detail. Shang bronzesmiths usually worked in outside the cities to make ritual vessels, and sometimes weapons and chariot fittings as well. The bronze vessels were receptacles for storing or serving various solids and liquids used in the performance of sacred ceremonies. Some forms such as the ''ku'' and ''jue'' can be very graceful, but the most powerful pieces are the '''', sometimes described as having the an "air of ferocious majesty."

It is typical of the developed Shang style that all available space is decorated, most often with stylized forms of real and imaginary animals. The most common motif is the ''taotie'', which shows a mythological being presented frontally as though squashed onto a horizontal plane to form a symmetrical design. The early significance of ''taotie'' is not clear, but myths about it existed around the late Zhou Dynasty. It was considered to be variously a covetous man banished to guard a corner of heaven against evil monsters; or a monster equipped with only a head which tries to devour men but hurts only itself.

The function and appearance of bronzes changed gradually from the Shang to the Zhou. They shifted from been used in religious rites to more practical purposes. By the Warring States Period, bronze vessels had become objects of aesthetic enjoyment. Some were decorated with social scenes, such as from a banquet or hunt; whilst others displayed abstract patterns inlaid with gold, silver, or precious and semiprecious stones.

Shang bronzes became appreciated as works of art from the Song Dynasty, when they were collected and prized not only for their shape and design but also for the various green, blue green, and even reddish patinas created by chemical action as they lay buried in the ground. The study of early Chinese bronze casting is a specialized field of art history.

Early Chinese music

The origins of Chinese music and poetry can be found in the ''Book of Songs'', containing poems composed between 1000 BC and 600 BC. The text, preserved among the canon of early Chinese literature, contains folk songs, religious hymns and stately songs. Originally intended to be sung, the accompanying music unfortunately has since been lost. They had a wide range of purposes, including for courtship, ceremonial greetings, warfare, feasting and lamentation. The love poems are among the most appealing in the freshness and innocence of their language.

Early Chinese music was based on percussion instruments such as the bronze bell. Chinese bells were sounded by being struck from the outside, usually with a piece of wood. Sets of bells were suspended on wooden racks. Inside excavated bells are groves and marks of scraping and scratching made as they were tuned to the right pitch. Percussion instruments gradually gave way to string and reed instruments toward the Warring States period.

Significantly, the character for writing the word ''music'' was the same as that for ''joy'' . For Confucius and his disciples, music was important because it had the power to make people harmonious and well balanced, or, conversely, caused them to be quarrelsome and depraved. According to Xun Zi, music was as important as the ''li'' stressed in Confucianism. Mozi, philosophically opposed to Confucianism, disagreed. He dismissed music as having only aesthetic uses, and thus useless and wasteful.

Early Chinese poetry

In addition to the ''Book of Songs'' , a second early and influential poetic anthology was the , made up primarily of poems ascribed to the semilegendary Qu Yuan and his follower Song Yu . The songs in this collection are more lyrical and romantic and represent a different tradition from the earlier ''Classic of Poetry'' .

Chu and Southern culture

A rich source of art in early China was the state of , which developed in the Yangtze River valley. Excavations of Chu tombs have found painted wooden sculptures, jade disks, glass beads, musical instruments, and an assortment of lacquerware. Many of the lacquer objects are finely painted, red on black or black on red. A site in Changsha, Hunan province, has revealed the world's oldest painting on silk discovered to date. It shows a woman accompanied by a and a dragon, two mythological animals to feature prominently in Chinese art.

An anthology of Chu poetry has also survived in the form of the ''Chu Ci'', which has been translated into English by David Hawkes. Many of the works in the text are associated with Shamanism. There are also descriptions of fantastic landscapes, examples of China's first nature poetry. The longest poem, "Encountering Sorrow," is reputed to have been written by the tragic Qu Yuan as a political allegory.

Early Imperial China

Qin sculpture

The Terracotta Army, inside the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, consists of more than 7,000 life-size tomb terra-cotta figures of warriors and horses buried with the self-proclaimed first of in –209 BC.

The figures were painted before being placed into the vault. The original colors were visible when the pieces were first unearthed. However, exposure to air caused the pigments to fade, so today the unearthed figures appear terra-cotta in color.

The figures are in several poses including standing infantry and kneeling archers, as well as charioteers with horses. Each figure's head appears to be unique, showing a variety of facial features and expressions as well as hair styles.


is made from a hard paste comprised of the clay kaolin and a feldspar called petuntse, which cements the vessel and seals any . ''China'' has become synonymous with high-quality porcelain. Most china comes from the city of Jingdezhen in China's Jiangxi province.

Jingdezhen, under a variety of names, has been central to porcelain production in China since at least the early Han Dynasty.

The most noticeable difference between porcelain and the other pottery clays is that it "wets" very quickly , and that it tends to continue to "move" longer than other clays, requiring experience in handling to attain optimum results.

During medieval times in Europe, porcelain was very expensive and in high demand for its beauty.

TLV mirrors also date from the Han dynasty.

Han poetry

During, the Han Dynasty, Chu lyrics evolved into the ''fu'' , a poem usually in rhymed verse except for introductory and concluding passages that are in prose, often in the form of questions and answers.

From the Han Dynasty onwards, a process similar to the origins of the Shi Jing produced the ''yue fu'' poems.

Han Paper art

The most notable invention of the era was paper which spawned two new types of arts. Chinese Paper Cutting became a new concept. The idea of expressing symbols and Chinese characters already a part of calligraphy was now extended to Han paper cut outs. Another art form was the Chinese paper folding. While it has its roots in the Han dynasty, later renditions would transform the art into origami, after buddhist monks bring paper to Japan.

Other Han art

The Han Dynasty was also known for jade burial suits. One of the earliest known depictions of a landscape in Chinese art comes from a pair of hollow-tile door panels from a Western Han Dynasty tomb near Zhengzhou, dated 60 BCE. A scene of continuous depth recession is conveyed by the zigzag of lines representing roads and garden walls, giving the impression that one is looking down from the top of a hill. Other famous paintings include '''', originally painted by the Southern Tang artist Gu Hongzhong in the 10th century, while the well-known version of his painting is a 12th century remake of the Song Dynasty. This is a large horizontal handscroll of a domestic scene showing men of the being entertained by musicians and dancers while enjoying food, beverage, and wash basins provided by maidservants. In 2000, the modern artist Wang Qingsong created a parody of this painting with a long, horizontal photograph of people in modern clothing making similar facial expressions, poses, and hand gestures as the original painting.

Yuan drama

Chinese opera is a popular form of drama in China. In general, it dates back to the Tang dynasty with Emperor , who founded the "Pear Garden" , the first known opera troupe in China. The troupe mostly performed for the emperors' personal pleasure. To this day operatic professionals are still referred to as "Disciples of the Pear Garden" . In the Yuan dynasty , forms like the ''Zaju'' , which acts based on rhyming schemes plus the innovation of having specialized roles like "" , "" and "Chou" , were introduced into the opera.

Yuan dynasty opera continues today as Cantonese opera. It is universally accepted that Cantonese opera was imported from the northern part of China and slowly migrated to the southern province of Guangdong in late 13th century, during the late Southern Song Dynasty. In the 12th century, there was a theatrical form called ''Narm hei'' , or the ''Nanxi'' , which was performed in public theaters of Hangzhou, then capital of the Southern Song Dynasty. With the invasion of the Mongol army, , Zhao Xian fled with hundreds of thousands of Song people into the province of Guangdong in 1276. Among these people were some ''Narm hei'' artists from the north. Thus ''narm hei'' was brought into Guangdong by these artists and developed into the earliest kind of Cantonese opera.

Many well-known operas performed today, such as ''The Purple Hairpin'' and ''Rejuvenation of the Red Plum Flower'', originated in the Yuan Dynasty, with the lyrics and scripts in . Until the 20th century all the female roles were performed by males.

Yuan painting

was a during the Yuan dynasty. One of his well-known works is the ''Forest Grotto''.

Zhao Mengfu was a scholar, and calligrapher during the Yuan Dynasty. His rejection of the refined, gentle brushwork of his era in favor of the cruder style of the eighth century is considered to have brought about a revolution that created the modern Chinese landscape painting. There was also the vivid and detailed works of art by Qian Xuan , who had served the Song court, and out of patriotism refused to serve the Mongols, instead turning to painting. He was famous for reviving and reproducing a more Tang Dynasty style of painting.

Late imperial China

Ming Poetry

Gao Qi is acknowledged by many as the greatest poet of the Ming Dynasty. His poems are departure of those of earlier dynasties and
formed a new style of poetry in the Ming dynasty

Ming prose

*Zhang Dai is acknowledged as the greatest essayist of the Ming dynasty.
*Wen Zhenheng, the great grandson of Wen Zhengming, wrote a classic on garden architecture and interior design, Zhang Wu Zhi .

Ming painting

Under the Ming dynasty, Chinese culture bloomed. Narrative painting, with a wider color range and a much busier composition than the Song paintings, was immensely popular during the time. As the techniques of color printing were perfected, illustrated manuals on the art of painting began to be published. Jieziyuan Huazhuan , a five-volume work first published in 1679, has been in use as a technical textbook for artists and students ever since.
Matteo Ricci,
Wen Zhengming,
Xu Wei

Qing drama

The best-known form of Chinese opera is Beijing opera, which assumed its present form in the mid-19th century and was extremely popular in the Qing dynasty . In Beijing Opera, traditional Chinese string and percussion instruments provide a strong rhythmic accompaniment to the acting. The acting is based on allusion: gestures, footwork, and other body movements express such actions as riding a horse, rowing a boat, or opening a door.

Although it is called Beijing opera, its origins are not in Beijing but in the Chinese provinces of Anhui and Hubei. Beijing opera got its two main , ''Xipi'' and ''Erhuang'', from Anhui and Hubei operas. Much dialogue is also carried out in an archaic dialect originating partially from those regions. It also absorbed music and arias from other operas and musical arts such as the historic Qinqiang. It is regarded that Beijing Opera was born when the Four Great Anhui Troupes came to Beijing in 1790. Beijing opera was originally staged for the court and came into the public later. In 1828, some famous Hubei troupes came to Beijing. They often jointly performed in the stage with Anhui troupes. The combination gradually formed Beijing opera's main melodies.

Qing poetry

Yuan Mei was a well-known poet who lived during the Qing Dynasty. In the decades before his death, Yuan Mei produced a large body of poetry, essays and paintings. His works reflected his interest in Chan Buddhism and the supernatural, at the expense of Daoism and institutional Buddhism—both of which he rejected. Yuan is most famous for his poetry, which has been described as "unusually clear and elegant language". His views on poetry as expressed in the ''Suiyuan shihua'' stressed the importance of personal feeling and technical perfection.

Early Qing painting

Bada Shanren,
Jiang Tingxi,

Shanghai School

The Shanghai School is a very important Chinese school of traditional arts during the Qing Dynasty and the whole of the 20th century. Under efforts of masters from this school, traditional Chinese art reached another climax and continued to the present in forms of "Chinese painting" , or ''guohua'' for short. The Shanghai School challenged and broke the literati tradition of Chinese art, while also paying technical homage to the ancient masters and improving on existing traditional techniques. Members of this school were themselves educated literati who had come to question their very status and the purpose of art, and had anticipated the impending modernization of Chinese society. In an era of rapid social change, works from the Shanghai School were widely innovative and diverse, and often contained thoughtful yet subtle social commentary. The most well-known figures from this school are Ren Xiong , Ren Yi , Zhao Zhiqian , Wu Changshuo , Sha Menghai , Pan Tianshou , Fu Baoshi . Other well-known painters are: , XuGu, Zhang Xiong, Hu Yuan, and Yang Borun.

Qing fiction

Many great works of art and literature originated during the period, and the Qianlong emperor in particular undertook huge projects to preserve important cultural texts. The novel form became widely read and perhaps China's most famous novel, ''Dream of the Red Chamber'', was written in the mid-eighteenth century.

Cao Xueqin is the author of the famous Chinese work ''Dream of the Red Chamber''. Extant handwritten copies of this work—some 80 chapters—had been in circulation in Beijing shortly after Cao's death, before Gao &, who claimed to have access to the former's working papers, published a complete 120-chapter version in 1792.

Pu Songling was a famous writer of Liaozhai Zhiyi 《聊齋志異》during the Qing dynasty. He opened a tea house and invited his guests to tell stories, and then he would compile the tales into collections such as Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio.

New China art


With the end of the last dynasty in China, the New Culture Movement began and defied all facets of traditionalism. A new breed of 20th century cultural philosophers like Xiao Youmei, Cai Yuanpei, Feng Zikai and Wang Guangqi wanted Chinese culture to modernize and reflect the New China. The Chinese Civil War would cause a drastic split between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China. Following was the Second Sino-Japanese War in particular the Battle of Shanghai would leave the major cultural art center borderline to a humanitarian crisis. Still, depending on one's view it can be argued that some of the greatest modern art achievements were accomplished during this period.

The Big Three

It is during this time that Shanghai became the birthplace and entertainment hub of the three new major art forms, , Chinese animation and Chinese popular music. These entertainment were heavily inspired by western technology. For the first time, local citizens adopted and molded western culture to fit into Chinese culture in a positive way without any imperial court intervention.


The most popular form of comics Lianhuanhua which circulated as palm sized books in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Northern China. It became one of the most affordable form of entertainment art. The famous character would also be born at this time.


Western style oil painting was introduced to China by painters such as Xiao Tao Sheng.

Communist-Enforced art

Selective art decline

The Communist Party of China would have full control of the government with Mao Zedong heading the People's Republic of China. If the art was presented in a manner that favored the government, the artists were heavily promoted. Vice versa, any clash with communist party beliefs would force the artists to become farmers via "re-education" processes under the regime. The peak era of governmental control came under the Cultural Revolution. The most notable event was the , which had major consequences against pottery, paintings, literary art, architecture and countless others.

The loss of the Big Three

Chinese popular music musicians like Zhou Xuan and Li Jinhui were immediately endangered under the new regime as it labeled the genre . On the contrary, was promoted and brought to new heights like never before. The and industry would make their last run until the Cultural revolution, which would hinder any progress with serious restrictions and unreasonable censorship. A large number of Shanghai citizens, including artists , immigrated to Hong Kong. It would fuel the birth of modern Chinese art in the British colony that has until now, been largely dominated by British entertainment. The pop music industry would rebound in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The animation race would be lost to Japan.


Artists were encouraged to employ socialist realism. Some Soviet Union socialist realism was imported without modification, and painters were assigned subjects and expected to mass-produce paintings. This regimen was considerably relaxed in 1953, and after the Hundred Flowers Campaign of 1956–, traditional Chinese painting experienced a significant revival. Along with these developments in professional art circles, there was a proliferation of peasant art depicting everyday life in the rural areas on wall murals and in open-air painting exhibitions. Notable modern Chinese painters include Huang Binhong, Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Chang Ta Chien, Pan Tianshou, Wu Changshi, Fu Baoshi,
Wang Kangle and Zhang Chongren.


Modern Chinese poems usually do not follow any prescribed pattern. Bei Dao is the most notable representative of the Misty Poets, a group of Chinese poets who reacted against the restrictions of the Cultural Revolution. The work of the Misty Poets and Bei Dao in particular were an inspiration to pro-democracy movements in China. Most notable was his poem ''"Huida"'' , which was written during the in which he participated. The poem was taken up as a defiant anthem of the pro-appeared on posters during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Xu Zhimo is a poet who loved the poetry of the English Romantics like and . He was one of the first Chinese writers to successfully naturalize Western romantic forms into modern Chinese poetry.


Contemporary Art

Contemporary Chinese art often referred to as Chinese avant-garde art, continued to develop since the 1980s as an outgrowth of modern art developments post-Cultural Revolution. Contemporary Chinese art fully incorporates painting, film, video, photography, and performance. Until recently, art exhibitions deemed controversial have been routinely shut down by police, and performance artists in particular faced the threat of arrest in the early 1990s. More recently there has been greater tolerance by the Chinese government, though many internationally acclaimed artists are still restricted from media exposure at home or have exhibitions ordered closed. Leading contemporary visual artists include Ai Weiwei, Cai Guoqiang, Cai Xin, Fang Lijun, Huang Yan, Huang Yong Ping, Kong Bai Ji, Lu Shengzhong, Ma Liuming, Ma Qingyun, Song Dong, Li Wei, Christine Wang, Wang Guangyi, Wang Qingsong, Wenda Gu, Xu Bing, Yang Zhichao, Zhan Wang, Zhang Dali, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhang Huan, , Yan Lei, and Zhang Yue.

Visual art

Beginning in the late 1980s there was unprecedented exposure for younger Chinese visual artists in the west to some degree through the agency of curators based outside the country such as Hou Hanru. Local curators within the country such as Gao Minglu and critics such as Li Xianting reinforced this promotion of particular brands of painting that had recently emerged, while also spreading the idea of art as a strong social force within Chinese culture. There was some controversy as critics identified these imprecise representations of contemporary Chinese art as having been constructed out of personal preferences, a kind of programmatized artist-curator relationship that only further alienated the majority of the avant-garde from Chinese officialdom and western art market patronage.


The new visual art market

One of the area that has revived art concentration and also commercialized the industry is the 798 Art District in Dashanzi of Beijing. The artist Zhang Xiaogang sold a 1993 painting for 2.3 million in 2006, which included blank faced Chinese families from the Cultural Revolution era. Some of the biggest names such as Stanley Ho, the owner of the as well as , casino developer would capitalize on the art trends. Items such as Ming Dynasty vase and exotic pieces from emperors were auctioned off.

Other arts produced in China or Hong Kong were sold in places such as Christie's including a Chinese porcelain piece with the mark of Emperor Qianlong sold for $151.3 million. A 1964 painting ''"All the Mountains Blanketed in Red"'' was sold for HKD $35 million. Auctions were also held at Sotheby's where Xu Beihong's 1939 masterpiece ''"Put Down Your Whip"'' sold for HKD $72 million. The industry is not limited to fine arts, as many other types of contemporary pieces were also sold. In 2000 a number of Chinese artists were included in Documenta and the Venice Biennale of 2003. China now has its own major contemporary art showcase with the Venice Biennale. was a notorious art exhibition which ran alongside the Shanghai Biennial Festival in 2000 and was curated by independent curator Feng Boyi and the artist Ai Weiwei.


* Palace Museum
* National Palace Museum

Further reading

*Barnhart, Richard M., et al. ''Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting''. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art: 2002. ISBN 0-300-09447-7.
*Chi, Lillian, et al. ''A Dictionary of Chinese Ceramics''. Sun Tree Publishing: 2003. ISBN 981-04-6023-6.
*Clunas, Craig. ''Art in China''. Oxford University Press: 1997. ISBN 0-19-284207-2.
*Gowers, David, et al. ''Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing''. Art Media Resources: 2002. ISBN 1-58886-033-7.
*Ebrey, Patrici, et al. ''Taoism and the Arts of China''. University of California Press: 2000. ISBN 0-520-22784-0.
*Harper, Prudence Oliver. ''China: Dawn Of A Golden Age ''. Yale University Press: 2004. ISBN 0-300-10487-1.
*Mascarelli, Gloria, and Robert Mascarelli. ''The Ceramics of China: 5000 BC to 1900 AD''. Schiffer Publishing: 2003. ISBN 0-7643-1843-8.
*Sturman, Peter Charles. ''Mi Fu: Style and the Art of Calligraphy in Northern Song China''. Yale University Press: 2004. ISBN 0-300-10487-1.
*Sullivan, Michael. ''The Arts of China''. Fourth edition. University of California Press: 2000. ISBN 0-520-21877-9.
*Tregear, Mary. ''Chinese Art''. Thames & Hudson: 1997. ISBN 0-500-20299-0.
*Watson, William. ''The Arts of China to AD 900''. Yale University Press: 1995. ISBN 0-300-05989-2.