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Chinese History
Modern China
New China
(1912 to Present day)

This is a time of turmoil, and events follow this generalised pattern: End of Empire, Dictatorship, Democracy, Dictatorship, Civil War, Japanese Invasion, Democracy, Civil War [re-Continued after a break of 8 years], Communist State, Ideological Communist State, New Way for Communism + Democracy

I hope you followed all that?

Lets begin in 1912, and the Qing Empire has been overthrown during the Xinhai Revolution and contemporary Wuchang Uprising, which can be regarded as the successful ones of several attempts. The KMT (Kuomingtang) is formed in Guangdong, and China subsequently becomes a Democratic Country, as according to the guidance of their preliminary President, Dr Sun Yat Sen. He is an internationally cultured person who has studied western thought, and spent much time visiting the West. He is a man of vision, and revered to this day as one of the three founding fathers of modern China (Mao ZeDong and Deng Xiao Ping being the other two). You would think he would be the new leader of China. Unfortunately this was not the case, and the lead role eventually went to Yuan ShiKai, who became a version of his Empirical predecessors, turned China into a Dictatorship, proclaiming himself Emperor in 1915 and disbanding the original KMT Party. During his first year as President he assassinated his challengers, and Sun Yat Sen later fled to Japan and carried on his constitutional works with another version of the KMT. Yuan died a discredited leader in 1916, but the vacuum left gave rise to two decades of uncertainty.

During this period, the First World War was in progress, and the Warring Beijing Warlords favoured siding with the Allies. They were turned down by the Allies, and eventually they received funding from the Germans – but in order to remain neutral. This in turn led to a resurgent Qing Empire being established, although it only actually lasted for a few weeks in June 1917.

This was then successfully challenged by Duan, one of the most powerful Warlords, and he then takes control of Beijing, and in theory, China. However, Duan soon disbands parliament and declares himself President of China. He also declares war on Germany, and 175, 000 Chinese troops joint the fight against Germany and the Axis powers in: The Western Front, East Africa, and Mesopotamia. Of these 10, 000 perish to U-Boats alone!. However, rule inside China is divisory, and the Warlords in Beijing continue the internal struggle.

Dismayed by Duan’s policies, Sun returns to China in September 1917, and established an alternative government in Guangzhou. Again he was forced out of office by power-hungry comrades, and later started again in Shanghai. During this period (1917 to 1919) China is virtually two countries, divided upon a North South divide. This time his new KMT Party saw results in 1919, and he was restored to office in Guangzhou the following year. However, this government of China lacked funds, and as he was refused aid by the Western Powers also, so he turned to the Soviet Union for assistance. The world we know today would be a very different place if funds had been made available at this time; not only to Chinese history, but to that of Russia and the West also.

By a weird twist of fate (Or political intrigue?), Russia supplied capital and also advisors to both sides, who had the effect of turning the Southern Nationalist democratic government into a Leninist State organisation. The Russians having just completed their own revolution, were betting on either side winning in China. Quite bizarre really when you think about it a little. What developed from this became the Chinese political blueprint up until 1978. Meantime in Beijing, the vacuum created by Yuan’s passing was filled by a cohort of warlords. 1921 also marks the beginning of the real struggle between the CCP and KMT for political control of China. We broadly term this period the Chinese Civil War, but much of it was political intrigue, as well as outbreaks of physical war

During 1917, another curious event occurs, as China participates in the Siberian Intervention, in support of Allied Powers under Japanese control. During this period, some Chinese land that is nowadays part of Russia, is ceded to the Japanese, who then relinquish control at a later date. Why? Well China had no internationally and officially recognised government for many years, and Western Powers had forbidden any Chinese government to raise revenue via taxation. This situation is not resolved until 1928, when Chaing Kai Shek restores order and his government is recognised internationally. China’s former Ming capital is restored in Nanjing City, and this period is known as The Nanjing Decade

I hope you are not confused yet, because it gets more complicated over the next few decades…

Sun Yat Sen dies in 1925, and is eventually succeeded by a lieutenant named Chiang Kai-shek. The fledgling parliament is also supported by the Communists (CCP) and other factions, who adopt Sun’s political theories and ideals. Chaing rules Guangdong and neighbouring Guangxi Provinces, whilst the Nationalist Dictatorship rules from Beijing. Unfortunately, Chaing has no knowledge of the West, except military training in Russia. He then becomes yet another democratic Dictator. You can begin to see why the Chinese distrust Democracy as practiced in the early 1900’s.

Well, this wasn’t going to last was it? The CCP rebel, the KMT rebel, and a civil war ensues.

There is one gang of warlords controlling Beijing and Northern China, who all want to be the next Emperor. In Guangdong there is a separate group of nationalists who have adopted Leninist ideals. Other Provinces such as Yunnan have rebelled and are doing their own thing. The Nationalists hold the cities, the Communists hold the countryside, and others are going their own way in life. Through a virtual Dictatorship, Chaing Kai-shek restores order and subdues most of China. He is the first to use ‘Blitzkrieg’ tactics (A Russian invention of Stalin actually), and takes Shanghai with the aid of Communist forces. For one decade (1927 to 1937) most major Chinese cities are controlled by Chaing

Meanwhile, having established power bases in cities, Chiang then sets about the Communists, resulting in the first civil war. Warfare is of traditional type, and the peasants the CCP recruit are no match for the well-drilled KMT soldiers. This reaches a peak in mid 1930’s, and the CCP have resulting new leaders in Mao ZeDong, and later Zhou Enlai. They thrive in the mountains, foothills and borderlands of Jaingxi Province, and decide a new type of combat is necessary. They also need a new base away from the KMT strongholds, as Chaing’s troops are over-running them. Mao decides to relocate the whole army to a different part of China in something called ‘The Long March’. Of the 86, 000 soldiers who started on the march only 20, 000 survived, but those that made it changed Chinese history forever. The Long March (One of several actually), begins in 1934 and lasts for 370 days, in which time they walk 8, 000 kilometres West and then North, and into Shaanxi Province. Here a new base is established. In recent Chinese history, this has parallel significance with the Allies and Dunkirk

The Chinese War of Independence
[ Second Japanese Invasion of China (1937 to 1945)]

The Japanese are not stupid, and have designs for world domination: along with Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and Stalin - to name but a few. The Second World War actually began in China in 1937, with the Japanese invasion of Mainland China. Obviously they thought a civil war was the right time for them to subjugate the Chinese Nation. For some years the CCP had been aware of this threat (Just like Churchill in England), but the KMT ignored it, even after it occurred. Therefore weird situations arise where two armies think they are fighting each other, but in fact there are really three. Chaing tries to continue to ignore the Japanese threat until he has quelled the CCP and Warlords. However, Chaing is taken hostage by one of his own (Zhang Xueliang), in what is known as the Xi’an Incident, and forced to form an alliance with the CCP in order to overthrow the Japanese Invasion.

You may consider this to be a very weird time, as the Chinese civil war is halted to repel a hostile invasion. Therefore, one day you are all Chinese people, the next you are fighting a civil war against each other for political reasons, then the next you are a band of brothers fighting the invading Japanese, and then you are supposed to go back to fighting the civil war…

Then after the Japanese are defeated, you resume the civil war again. People don’t do this, not ordinary people – this is asking too much of them!

There are other differences: The KMT and Japanese stick to ‘The Rules of War’. Formal Battles etc. The CCP do not, and create Guerilla warfare. This is actually their response to many atrocities inflicted by the Japanese army – something the Japanese Government still refuses to apologise for to this day

In 1945 the Japanese surrender, and China tries to get back to the civil war. It is not easy, and the then powerful KMT make the first of several very strategic errors. Instead of crushing the CCP, they instead decide to hold the cities and places of power. The size of the army is drastically reduced. The cites fare well, but peasants in the countryside and ex-soldiers have little to eat and famine threatens most of China. Slowly the ex-soldiers are recruited by the CCP, and they put in place local collectives and aid farming as a means to ensure all people are fed – not just the wealthy and powerful in the KMT held cities. The CCP are not troubled in the rural parts of China at all. Lastly, hyperinflation results as the economy is mismanaged. The KMT outlaw ownership of gold and other precious metals, collecting them against a receipt called a ‘Gold Standard Script’. Within a year this proves to be a valueless piece of paper, and there is great unrest even in the cities, where corruption is prevalent also

By the end of 1949 the CCP held most of Mainland China, and the KMT fled to Taiwan, taking with them 2 million people, and a great deal of Chinese treasure. The flag of modern Taiwan is actually a close version (But not quite exact) of the KMT Mainland flag, which was designed by Sun Yat Sen many years before. Modern Taiwan still features the KMT as a major political party, and one which agrees with the principle of reunification (At some indeterminate point in time).

Back on the Mainland, not all KMT followers fled, and those that remained formed one of the eight official minor political parties of modern China. I bet you thought China only had one Party? Well they have nine in total, but it is hard to challenge the CCP, and especially in light of all this history.

A brief note about Chinese flags for any readers that are interested. The original KMT flag was designed by Lu Hao Tung in 1895, and is a white sun set against a blue sky, with 12 long rays that represent the 12 hours of a traditional Chinese day, 12 calendar months, and symbolise progress. Sun Yat Sen then added the field of red to symbolise the earth, and blood brothers. The white sun and blue sky is set in the ‘Canton’ of the flag, and this is probably the correct historical reference for why Guangdong and Guangzhou in particular are nowadays called Canton. The three traditional Chinese colours also have significant Chinese meaning, and echo Sun’s Three Principles of the People

However, The Northern factions and first leadership in 1912 adopted the 5 coloured striped flag representing The Five People Under One Flag initially (From the top: red, yellow, blue, white, black), although this was thought to imply a hierarchy and certain exclusiveness of certain peoples. It was used along with the 18 rayed sun flag and the 12 rayed sun flag until 1928, when the latter became the only Republic of China flag from then onwards. The modern flag of Taiwan is very similar, but the 12 rays of the sun have slightly shorter points; otherwise it is identical to the former KMT flag

The flag of the Peoples Republic of China is a red background with one large central star and four smaller stars in an arc set centrally in the canton. This echoes the red field and band of blood brothers symbolism, plus the colour red symbolizes the hero’s of the revolution: whilst the five yellow stars signify the unity of the people of China namely in historical context: The large star being the Central Government, and the four smaller stars represent the traditional four categories of the people in the state: Workers (gong), Farmers (nóng), Intellectual (shì), and Businessmen (shang)

1st October 1949

This year sees the birth of modern China. China consists of three parts:

• The Chinese Mainland, including Hainan Island and isles of the South China Sea. There are also disputed borders with Russia, India, and Pakistan (Kashmir); and claims on islands off Japan (Oil resources)

• Hong Kong and Macao are considered to be SAR's. These are Special Administrative Regions which have a different social and political format, and are basically democratic. Democracy was instigated by Beijing when these colonies came back under direct control at the end of the 20th Century. Noteworthy is the fact that Britain did not operate a democratic system of government in Hong Kong! China is rightly proud to call this "One Country, two systems". Citizens of the SAR's are considered to be Chinese, but not 'Mainlanders'

• The third is Taiwan (Formosa) and associated islands (Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu). This is known as The Republic of China

Events post 1949
Mao ZeDong becomes the fist President of The Peoples Republic of China, declaring this from the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Tiananmen Square. Mao’s aspirations were grand and very practical: “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 tenant peasants was replaced with a distribution system in favour of poor/landless peasants. Mao laid heavy emphasis on class struggle and theoretical work”. He instigated major reforms, based upon 5-year plans. The first significant one was in 1958, and called ‘The Great Leap Forward’. The theory was great and resembled a ‘make it at home’ stance. However, due to local intensified mini-steel co-operatives, workers were taken from their fields, and harvests withered un-gathered. This in turn led to a famine, with China’s birth rate halving due mainly to malnutrition. Ordinary farmers were also set a specific goal of yield, which was always met. However, there was no incentive to harvest extra produce, as they would not be allowed to keep any of it = it would be donated for the greater good of the people

Mao’s other two major initiatives: ‘1966: The Cultural Revolution’ and ‘The Anti-Rightist Campaign’, resulted in cementing a rural peasant version of China. Famine continued, exacerbated by floods and droughts, whilst crops that could be grown or harvested were not, due to the quota system. Basically there was no incentive for anyone to work for nothing. I am trying very hard not to be political here, and simply state facts as I have researched them. These views are not expressly my own either

In 1972, at the peak of the Sino-Soviet split, Mao and Zhou Enlai met Richard Nixon in Beijing to establish relations with the United States. In the same year, the PRC was admitted to the United Nations, replacing the Republic of China for China's membership of the United Nations, and permanent membership of the Security Council.

Chairman Mao dies is 1976, and he has now become China’s Savior. He is highly respected, even to this day. He is briefly replaced by ‘The Gang of Four’ which includes Mao’s third wife if I remember correctly, although Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiao Ping are also in contention.

After Mao's death in 1976 and the arrest of the Gang of Four, blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping quickly wrested power from Mao's anointed successor Hua Guofeng. Although he never became the head of the Party or State himself, Deng was in fact the Paramount Leader of China at that time, his influence within the Party led the country to economic reforms of significant magnitude. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives, and the communes were disbanded - with many peasants receiving multiple land leases, which greatly increased incentives and agricultural production. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment, a system termed by some "market socialism". The PRC adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982.

New China 1979 - Present

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping gets Party approval for ‘The Policy of Openness and Economic Reform’. This results in a new era for China, one which is still current and growing to this very day

The city of Shenzhen (Just across the border from Hong Kong), was created some mere 20 years ago as an example of 'New China'. It has been a great success, but Beijing still tends to favour Shanghai as its international showpiece. Shanghai was also a new city some 50 years ago, and can be regarded as Moa's favourite. This is all at odds with real history, where trading from the Pearl River delta has continued unabated for several millennia.  History maps usually refer to different locations, but please know these are all within 10 miles of each other: Canton, Guangzhou, Foshan, Nanhai, Panyu. Names for places also change over time, just to keep things interesting!

So, Beijing favours Shanghai, whilst there are only two serious economic zones:
1. Hangzhou / Northern Zhejiang Province - responsible for about 30% GDP (2007)
2. The Pearl River Delta - responsible for 34% of GDP (2007)

What you need to understand is that China is not a hard-line Leninist state. It is a Communist State with a modern and compatible Market driven Economy. This is very unusual, and invented by Deng Xiaoping

However, all good ideas need other people to see them to fruition - and sometimes what we think is the right path, turns out to be a blind-alley.

In 1989, the death of pro-reform official Hu Yaobang, helped to spark the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, during which students and others campaigned for several months for more democratic rights and freedom of speech. However, they were eventually put down on 4 June when PLA troops and vehicles entered and forcibly cleared the square, resulting in numerous casualties. This event was widely reported and infamously videotaped, which brought worldwide condemnation and sanctions against the government.

Please consider very carefully how you view this, especially in the light of what has transpired since. The highly emotive pictures (Video) of that student standing in front of that tank, probably rates second only to the naked girl fleeing through the mud in Vietnam. However, the truth lies a very long way away from what we are allowed to see and know by Western Governments - for they also have their own agandae

President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji, both former mayors of Shanghai, led post-Tiananmen PRC in the 1990s. Under Jiang Zemin's ten years of administration, the PRC's economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual GDP growth rate of 11.2%. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

Although the PRC needs economic growth to spur its development, the government has begun to worry that too rapid a rate of economic growth will negatively impact the country's resources and environment. Another concern is that certain sectors of society are not sufficiently benefiting from the PRC's economic development.

China Today (2009)

China is now led by a new team with very modern and International views, namely: President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. This is proving to be an excellent combination of talents and resources, supported by an outstanding team

For much of the China's population, living standards have seen extremely large improvements, and personal freedom continues to expand. Let's put the record straight:

1. Completed a scheme to provide electricity to every Chinese family in 2008 (For sure - easy in the cities - we have more power than we know what to do with. This includes everyone! Nomadic tribes on the Himalayan Plateau and in the Taklamakan Desert). Wind and Solar Power have been widely implemented wherever possible

2. Started a new welfare state system, which will be functioning for all major places by 2012: Free Health Care, Pensions, and Unemployment Benefits (Already available privately for $60 per month / over 20 years). It will be open to everyone by 2020. Not bad for Country that has 1, 400, 000, 000 people to look after. For several years they have had medical trains going to far-flung places, but this now means permanent facilities and support - locally.
Comment: Western Healthcare could learn a lot from this model

3. The Future of China is Green!
China still has a great dependence on fossil fuels, and is commissioning new power plants (Coal and Nuclear) at a rate of one-per-week. China is a 'Developing Country', don't forget this.

a. In 2006 China (in association with Guangzhou University) developed a 'mag-lev' wind turbine system that will run on 'frictionless bearings', and from 1.5 kph of wind power
b. Chinese auto (Car) manufacturers are now fully committed to having Hybrid, Electric, and Eco-friendly versions of their products on market within 2-years (Some exist already - I mean main-stream, commercially viable production and sales)
c. They are researching into all types of alternative energy resources, running trials, and implementing where practicable


Modern China has five forefathers:

1. Dr Sun Yat Sen - patronaged the first Republic of China. His Party was called the KuoMingTang (KMT)
2. Mao ZeDong - Founded the Peoples Republic of China in 1949. First Chairman and foremost modern forefather
3. Deng XiaoPing - Man of vision and creator of Modern China as we know it today with 'The Policy of 'Openness'
4. Jiang Zemin - Developed the Openness Policy during the 90's and created the 'Three Represents' principle
5. Hu Jintao - Created the 'Scientific Development Concept'

To date, six men have held the office of the president of the People's Republic of China: Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, Li Xiannian, Yang Shangkun, Jiang Zemin, and the current president, Hu Jintao

China today has 9 political parties, not just one!

What I hope that you will take away from this short and incomplete study of recent Chinese history, is that China is a land of Family, and of Brothers. Their general greeting is ‘Lai xi fan maya?’ (simple Cantonese version), meaning ‘Have you eaten (rice) today’. Such were the times of recent deprivation, that food is still the first thing Chinese enquire about when greeting others. Please view the Civil War (Horrendous as it was), as a spat between Brothers, for all Chinese people are Brothers and Sisters at the end of the day

Do not pay any attention to politicking about Taiwan – They are considered simply as wayward Chinese Brothers, that is all. You will see that after Hong Kong and Macao have been allowed to embrace democracy, Taiwan will eventually follow. And Foreigners should also be aware of their own problems, before having a go at a very young country that in the modern sense, has just celebrated it’s 30th Birthday!

Perhaps Deng Xiao Ping’s version of Socialism represents the acceptable face of Communism, and a way forwards we can all learn from?


China is a very old culture and new country, and Traditionally China is composed of:
Three Creators, Four Dragons, Five Kings, and 57 Peoples

To learn more about current Chinese government, please click the link below for the excellent Chinese Government website in English language - which is full of current news, reviews, and details of China's political structure and hierarchy

This is a brief and general history of modern China, which has no political agenda. We are merely trying to state the facts as we understand them, and as referenced from many sources, including (But not exclusively), several pages from Wikipedia – you can see below for a fuller description:
and here for a view of what happened concerning the KMT:
And the history of Communist China here:'s_Republic_of_China

This information is as supplied by Wikipedia, as dated March 2009 or later, and/or other reliable sources.

Maps (Unless stated otherwise) are provided in association with Thomas Lessman

Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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