King's College History Department

20th Century Resource Site Home Page

China in the 20th Century

Overview | Bibliography | Boxer Rebellion | Dr. Sun Yat-sen | Chiang Kai-shek

Mao Zedong | Deng Ziaoping | Five-Year Plans | Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution

Tiananmen Square | Manchuria and Japan in China | Taiwan


Before Europeans first arrived in Asia, China was one of the most advanced and powerful nations in the world. It was the most populous, was politically unified, and most importantly, it had mastered the art of agriculture. However, when Europeans first landed on Chinese shores, they found a nation that had revered to traditional culture and warfare. Industrialization was almost nonexistent.    

At the beginning of the 20th century, China was divided into sphere of influence with each powerful Western nation trying to exert as much control over it as possible. The Chinese resented foreigners control and expressed this at the beginning of the 20th century with the Boxer Rebellion. At the same time, the traditional government of China began to fail in the early years. The Chinese people, being resentful of foreigners and dissatisfied with inability of the present government to throw them out, initiated the Revolution of 1911, replacing the Chinese 2000 year old imperial system with the Republic of China headed by Sun Yat-sen.

In March of 1912, Sun Yat-sen resigned and Yuan Shih-kai became the next ruler of China. Yuan attempted to reinstate an imperial system with himself as emperor causing Sun to start one of China’s first political parties, Kuomintang or KMT. Sun fought hard to establish a democracy but was largely unsuccessful until the 1920’s.

In 1917, China entered World War I on the side of the allies. Although China did not see any military action, it provided resources in the form of laborers that worked in allied mines and factories. The Treaty of Versailles ignored China’s plea to end concessions and foreign control of China.

On May 4, 1919, the May Fourth Movement took place in which students demonstrated in protest of the Treaty of Versailles. The Movement helped the Chinese by promoting science and making Chinese adopt a new easier form of writing. Moreover, the movement was the foundation for the forming of the Communist Party of China (CCP).

During the 1920’s, China was divided in a power struggle began between the CCP and KMT. The KMT controlled a majority of China with a strong base in urban areas while the CCP displaying smallholdings in rural communities. By 1928, the CCP was expelled and China was nationalized under the KMT. However, the Communist Party of China resurfaced on November 1, 1931 when it proclaimed the Jiangxi providence as the Chinese Soviet Republic. The army of the Republic of China, under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek tried to destroy the Communist army in 1934, however, Chiang failed but did cause the CCP to flee northward in the Long March.

Also in 1931, Japan began to occupy Manchuria and established a puppet government called Manchukuo. The Japanese aggression in China became full blown on July 7, 1937, the beginning World War II. By 1939, Japan controlled most of the east coast of China, while Chiang blockaded the Communists in the northwest region. By 1944, the United States began to help nationalist China, but the nationalist remained weak due to high inflation and economic strife.

In January of 1946, the two factions of China began to have another power struggle. The KMT, supplied by the United States, controlled the cities, while the CCP had a strong hold in the countryside. To make matters worse, high inflation demoralized the citizens and military. By 1948, the CCP began to wage war against the KMT, taking control of Manchuria and working its way south. On October 1, 1949, with the retreat of the KMT to Taiwan, Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China.

The People’s Republic of China completely changed the culture and geography of the Chinese people. It implemented five-year plans that consisted of land reform, social reform, cultural reform, and economic planning. The changes lead to the Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Reform. In 1949, China also implemented a 30-year alliance with Russia against Japanese and Japanese allies, although tensions strained after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1955. Relations between the two countries remained strained until 1985.

It was not until 1970’s that most Western nations established diplomatic ties to Communist China. With the help of President Richard Nixon and his philosophy of Détente, China was incorporated into the world community. The high point of the People’s Republic of China came in 1971 when it was given Taiwan’s position on the United Nation’s Security Council.

As China was increasing its world reconciliation, the founders of the People’s Republic of China were slowly dying, including Mao Zedong. The lack of Zhou Enlai and Mao in leadership roles in 1976 caused a power struggle developed between Deng Ziaoping and Mao’s supports, headed by Jiang Qing. In the same year, students demonstrated in Tiananmen Square in honor of Zhou, causing a flaw in Jiang’s power. Seeing his opportunity, Deng seized power and brought younger men with his views to power. He developed state constitutions and brought new policies to the party in 1982. Deng’s plan was based on the four modernizations of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science/technology. In 1987, Deng retired and Zhao Ziyang became general secretary, and Li Peng became premier.

China remained quit for some years after the power struggle after the death of Mao.  However, in 1989, China came into the world’s eyes again with the Tiananmen Square incident. Students demonstrating in the streets of Beijing were attacked and killed by Chinese soldiers. The event caused nations around the world to question China’s view of human rights and freedoms.

Today, China is one of the most talked about countries when it comes to the future of the world economy. With more than 1.1 billion people in 1990 and an economy based on agriculture, China, could it ever become industrialized, would have a significant impact on global trade. It has the natural resources and manpower to build and possess the largest economy in the world. More importantly, with the conflict between nationalist Taiwan and communist China, China may become the next Balkans or major player in a third World War. It is important that foreign nations understand the development of the China before they decide which side to defend. What will China’s role in the 21st century be? The answer may lie in the Taiwan – China conflict.


Abbey, Phil. "An Eclectic Bits of Chinese History." 16 July 1999.; available from; accessed 20 February 2000.

An informational website contained bits and pieces of 20th century Chinese history. The site contains information on maritime customs, flags, and important events in Chinese history. The site also contains a page to link to other Chinese and Asia resources. "China: Fifty Years Inside the People’s Republic."; available from; accessed on 20 February 2000.

A wonderful collection of essays, pictures, and accounts of how the life really was in the People’s Republic of China. It also contains a chronology starting in 1644, however the majority of the information is a year-by-year list of events in the 20th Century. The site is very useful for starting place on events in Chinese History.

Bouc, Alain. Mao Tse-Tung: A Guide to His Thoughts. New York, N.Y.; St. Martin’s Press, 1977.

Bouc tries to describe the life and thinking of one of China’s modern leaders Mao Zedong. He carefully explains Mao’s ideological struggle with fellow leaders and how he kept China unified through revolution. He exemplifies that Mao was a poor leader in the traditional sense, but his vision and his belief in revolution kept Communist China unified through his rein.

Cheng, Cu-yuan. Behind the Tiananmen Massacre: Social, Political, and Economic Ferment in China. Boulder, Colorado.; Westview Press, Inc., 1990.

Cheng brilliantly looks at the causes and reasoning behind Tiananmen Square. He tries to use a systematic study of unrest through the social, economic, political, intellectual, and military perspectives. Cheng draws many arguments from earlier publications and works of other professors of Chinese studies, however he uses these earlier studies to draw new conclusions about the Tiananmen Massacre.

Chesneaux, Jean. China: The People’s Republic, 1949-1973. New York, N.Y.; Random House, Inc., 1979.

Chesneauz, as a well-known Sinologist, looks at the later half of Communist China. He discusses China’s search for industrialization under the guidance of Mao Zedong. Chesneaux looks at the issues such as the Cultural Revolution and the death of Mao to show how China has evolved since 1949.

Clubb, Edmund. 20th Century China. New York, N.Y.; Columbia University Press, 1964.

Edmund Clubb served twenty years of service in the United States’ State Department concentrating his effort on China. In 20th Century China, Clubb tries to clarify the events and happenings in China before the 1949. He points out that Sun Yat-sens and the warlords in Peking have two different accounts of events during the time causing him to try to show his view on the political history of China in an unbiased way.

Daubier, Jean. A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. New York, N.Y.; Vintage Books, 1974.

Daubier looks beyond the simple power struggle during Cultural Revolution and analyzed the fundamental goals of the revolution, showing that human values and ideals were the important factors behind it.

Doolin, Dennis J, and Robert C. North. The Chinese People’s Republic. Hong Kong.; Heritage Press Co., 1966.

This book is part of a symposium of the Communist system looking at the integration and society built by the fourteen communist states. This particular book looks at the People’s Republic of China and how it tried to build a communist state.

Editorial Board. "Deng Xiaoping and the fate of the Chinese Revolution," World Socialist Web Site, 12 March 1997; available from; accessed 20 February 2000. Internet.

An article found on the World Socialist website ( ) discussing the death of Deng Xiaoping and it’s impact on the Chinese State. However, the article goes into great detail to discuss the life of Deng and the impact that he had on the Chinese state during his life.

Goodman, David S.G. Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Revolution. New York, N.Y.; Routledge, 1994.

Goodman tries to look beyond Deng’s ability to transform China’s economy and tries to understand Deng’s source of political power. He starts with Deng’s early political career and shows its evolution to the present. Through this method, Goodman tries to unveil one of China’s most powerful leaders.

Hartford Web Publishing, "World History Archives: Hong Kong and its Decolonization."; 05 November, 1997.; available from; accessed 20 February 2000.

Hartford Web Publishing posts articles that are written by different topics of Hong Kong and its decolonization. It brings together essays of different authors with different backgrounds, enabling a broad range of views on the issue. The site contains great resources for future reference on Hong Kong and its situation.

Lui, F. F., A Military History of Modern China, (1924-1949). Princeton, NJ.; Princeton University Press, 1956.

Lui is one of the first authors to attempt to analyze the Chinese army between World War I and II. He tries to clarify what truly occurred in China and discuss their significance to the establishment of Communist China and what could happen in the future.

Reid, John Gilbert. The Manchu Abdication and the Power, 1908-1912: An Episode in Pre-War Diplomacy. West Point, Conn.; Hyperion Press, Inc. 1935.

Reid’s attempt at a study of foreign diplomacy during the reign of Hsuan T’ung. He gathers his evidence from "non-Chinese" diplomatic documentary material to discover China’s role in foreign policy. Most of the material Reid uses is official or semi-official material.

Ronning, Chester. A Memoir of China in Revolution: From the Boxer Rebellion to the People’s Republic. New York, N.Y.; Random House, Inc., 1974.

Ronning was a Canadian youth growing up in China until he was eventually appointment as Canadian diplomat to China. He views the rapid change in China from a first hand perspective in which he tries to explains how each action the Chinese took led to a new and radical change in Chinese life.

Ziesing, Fabian. "Chinese History."; available from; accessed 20 February 2000.

Ziesing’s website contain a general timeline of 20th century Chinese history. After each important era, he links to other pages to discuss these eras in detail.

Overview | Bibliography | Boxer Rebellion | Dr. Sun Yat-sen | Chiang Kai-shek

Mao Zedong | Deng Ziaoping | Five-Year Plans | Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution

Tiananmen Square | Manchuria and Japan in China | Taiwan

Boxer Rebellion

Westerners established contacts with China starting with Marco Polo, but who would know that these contacts would have a great impact on the future. As time progressed, the West began to see China as another potential colony as the Age of Imperialism began during the 19th century. China was colonized late, due to its large geographical area and large population. At first, the Chinese, saw the Westerners and other Asian nations as inferior and ignored their presence. However, when China lost influence of Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan during the Sino-Japanese War of 1885-95, China finally realized that foreigners were carving up their lands. The United States, Great Britain, Japan, Russia, and many other nations fought to gain spheres of influence over the China, exploiting it as a colony. At the turn of the century, many Chinese were tired with the foreigners and in the summer of 1900 and a secret society roamed the country of China called the "Righteous and Harmonious Fists." The believed that the current Chinese government was unable to throw out the foreigners and they took it as their goal and mission to overthrow the western control over their lands. These thugs, mostly from the north, roamed the countryside attacking missionaries and Chinese converts of Christianity until, in June they surfaced in Beijing. The western powers joined together to put down the rebellion in Beijing and protect Western nationalists, however the dowager Empress Tz’u-hsi blocked Western advances with her army. In response, the allied westerners sent 19,000 soldiers and captured Beijing on August 14, 1900. The failure of the rebellion and Empress’s army to throw out foreigners caused the Chinese people to lose confidence in the Imperial System that had been established. The Boxer Rebellion was the spark that ignited the political strife and conflict that would happen for the remainder of the 20th Century.

Eva March Tappan, ed., The World's Story: A History of the World in Story, Song, and Art, Volume I: China, Japan, and the Islands of the Pacific [book on-line]. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914, pp. 239-247, accessed on 27 March 2000/ available from; Internet.

Yao Chen-Yuan, Chinese witness to the Boxer Rebellion, tells his story about what he experienced during that time. Although not much historical information is present, it does give a first hand account as to the situation in China at the time. Through Yao’s eyes, the seriousness of the Boxer Rebellion can be seen.

Lau, Steve. "History: The Boxer Rebellion." Accessed on 27 March 2000.; Internet.

Lau looks solely at the culture of the Chinese people and why the Boxer Rebellion happened. He also gives explicated details of its impact on the Chinese History in the 20th Century.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925)

Sun Yat-sen had an extensive education in the United States and Hong Kong to become a medical doctor, however soon after graduation he turned to politics. His first major role in China was in 1895 where he helped stage the unsuccessful Canton uprising against the Emperor. He left China for 16 years to return in 1911 when the successful rebellion in Wuhan prompted other providences to rebel. He believed that the time was right to overthrow the emperor. To help with his effort, he strengthened the Kuomintang (KMT) or nationalist party that same year and proclaiming himself provisional president of a newly formed republic. However, he was forced to resign in 1913. During the next year he staged an unsuccessful revolution that caused him to leave China and to stage two more revolutions in 1917 and 1921. By 1923, he was able to lead a small band of a new regime and reorganized the KMT in the Soviet Union Communist model. In 1924, he appointed Chiang Kai-shek as president. Sun Yat-sen’s fight was to overthrow the Manchu Dynasty, unify China, and establish a democracy. He summarized his principles in the Three Principals of the People: nationalism, socialism, and democracy. In 1925, Sun Yat-sen died, however he is remembered today as the father of modern China. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, although a visionary, had a hard time accomplishing his goal due to his inability to raise a large enough army and appeal to the public.

Eng, Robert Y. "East & Southeast Asia: An Annotated Directory of Internet Resources." 5 February 2000.; available from; accessed 20 February 2000.

Eng puts together an informative site that contains many different types of information on China – political, economical, historical and more. The site is broken down into different social studies of China with links to other sites that help broaden the subject. In the History section, Eng discusses the political leaders of China. The site also contains links to other helpful sites in each category that he breaks down China into.

"Dr. Sun Yat-sen – His Hawaiian Roots." Available Accessed 30 March 2000.

Although the site is dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat-sen efforts and thought in Hawaii, the site does contain a good resource. It contains real player speech by Dr. Sun and also contains a page that gives the name of articles and books that were written on and about him. In all, this site doesn’t contain much usefulness except to hear a speech he gave and the name of books some biographies.

Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975)

In 1907, Chiang Kai-shek went to Japan to study at the Military Staff College. During his time in Japan, he met Doctor Sun Yat-sen and took part in the Chinese Revolution of 1911 as a general. After the resignation of Sun in 1913, he helped in his revolutions in 1913 and 1917. In 1923, he was ordered by Sun to go to Moscow to study Soviet military and political institutions. Chiang’s training in Moscow helped Sun and him reorganize the KMT in the soviet model. After the death of Sun in 1925, he gained control of the Kuomintang army and established himself as leader of China. By 1927, he established Nanking as the capital where he dismissed his soviet advisors due to his increased distrust in the forming communist party. He ruled with no real problems until in 1931 when he offered no resistance to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. According to his belief, the new republic could not handle war and offered peace in 1933. During World War II, he was Allied commander in China and united with the Chinese Communist Party against the Japanese. After the war, he was elected two times as president of China, until in 1949, he fled to Taiwan to establish the nationalist Chinese state there. He was elected president of Taiwan for the reminder of his life. His one goal was to recover the mainland and to restore national culture. Chiang Kai-shek had great influence on the current situation in China. Should he had fought the Japanese in 1931, he could have slowed down the assault of Japanese on Asia and make World War II only a European Theater of War. Furthermore, this would have greatly weakened the KMT, causing it to be destroyed by the Communist Party because Japan controlled Taiwan until after WWII.

Taiwanese Organizations. "Taiwan’s 400 years of History." 10 March 1998. Available from; accessed 30 March 2000.

This site is a comprehensive website by the Taiwanese organizations about its history. There is information on major incidence, a photographical timeline, and historical documents. The site contains information mostly on Taiwanese political culture and history. There is even a section on Chiang Kai-shek and the 1995-1996-missile crisis with China.

"Safe Files – Box 2 Folder Titles Lists." Available from; accessed 7 April 2000.

This sit contains maps, charts, and documents between various officers and countries dealing with World War II. The documents are in text version for easy reading and in original form to see the writing of individuals. The site contains twenty different ideas that Chiang Kai-shek received or wrote, including correspondents, memoranda, memos, and maps. It also includes fifty three different items that deal with China. Although the site does not contain much historical information on WWII, it does contain the items and opinions that leaders communicated to other leaders.

Mao Zedong or Mao Tse-tung (1893 – 1976)

Mao Zedong, although noted in history as one of the greatest revolutionaries, was one of the worst politicians. Mao’s first part in Chinese history comes from his enrollment in Peking University. Here, he participated in the May Fourth Movement and realized that the Chinese revolutionaries were striving for a Marxist government. In 1921, Mao helped form the Chinese Communist Party or CCP. Two years later, he was enlightened and began to work his strategy to seize control of China. His plan was to appeal to the rural peasant class to gain control of the countryside and use them to surround the large urban centers. He would then take control of the entire government, but his hopes were shattered when Chiang Kai-shek was determined to rule China in 1925. However, this did not deter him from trying to set up the Chinese Soviet Republic in the Jiangxi Providence in November of 1931. In 1934, Mao was driven out of Jiangxi by the KMT army and thus began the Long March northward. Mao and the CCP may have been destroyed had it not been for the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. The KMT and CCP, believing that China should be ruled by Chinese, united to fight the Japanese and expel all foreigners from Chinese soil. After the war, the rivalry persisted and Mao formed the People’s Liberation Army in 1946. A civil war persisted until in 1949, Mao took control of Mainland China. Mao became ruler of China with the formal title of Chairman of the People’s Republic. He tried to implement such programs such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Mao remained leader of China for the rest of his life, although, near the end, he started to lose power to Zhou Enlai and Deng Ziaoping in the 1970’s. With his death on September 9, 1976, he left a power vacuum for leadership of the country. Mao Zedong was great leader when it came to revolution and fighting for dominance, however once he came into power, he was a poor leader and politician due mostly to his inability to subdue his passion for revolution.

F. Zhang, "The Party – Red Line." 14 December 1995; available from; accessed 30 March 2000.

F. Zhang, as student, has put together a great list of references on Mao Zedong. Each reference has a little information about the site and what can be found on it. He also breaks the sites into seven categories: personal life, theory and publications, historic events, the end of Mao’s era, sites related to Mao, multimedia sites, and research starts. The site contains links to many different sites on Mao and is a great starting place for any research project.

Cold War International History Project. "Conversation between the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin and China’s Mao Zedong." Available from Accessed 30 March 2000.

The website contains a transcript of a general discussion between Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. It discusses the goals that each country has for each other and discusses certain details to treaties. Although it doesn’t contain much information, it does give someone the ability to see how China fared in foreign relations with other countries.

Deng Ziaoping (1904 – 1997)

Deng Ziaoping, in the last couple of years, has been the most visual and powerful person in the Chinese Communist Party. His belief in communism came at a young age when he moved to France and joined the communist party in 1922. He later moved to the Soviet Union to study Soviet communism before he returned to China as an underground organizer of the Chinese Communist Party in 1927. He became a personal adviser to Mao Zedong, but held no major positions in the party until 1952 when he was named vice-premier. He slowly gained power in the party until in 1962 when he began to play down Maoist policies. Mao was aggravated by Deng’s lack of support and defaced Deng by parading him around Beijing as "freak." For the next couple of years, Deng held very little power until in 1973 Zhou Enlai took Deng under his wing. In 1976, Deng became leader of China for a short time when Zhou fell ill. Supporters of Mao, including Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, put Deng under criticism from the start; they believed that his economic reforms were through capitalist forms of production. Mao’s supporters took power away from Deng when Zhou died later that year. However, that same year Mao died and his supporters soon lost their control over the government when they were arrested on October 6, 1976. Deng, seizing the opportunity, took control of the Chinese government and promoted his followers to high positions in the government. He slowly left political life, until 1990 when he resigned from his last political office. Deng Ziaoping, although communist in nature, was one of the few rulers of China that believed that some capitalistic programs could help China. Most importantly, Deng was a strong leader that was able to take the reins during the 1970’s. With the death of many of the old leaders of China, such as Mao and Zhou, he was able to fill the power vacuum and bring the country through it without much incident.

Time. "The Lost Emperor." Available from Accessed 30 March 2000.

This site is a look at the death and life of Deng Ziaoping. It tries to illustrate the thoughts and ideas of Deng Ziaoping while also showing how the nation mourned his death. The site contains a small collection of photographs that can help people visual China under his rule.

"China and Marxism."; available from; accessed 20 February 2000.

This website contains a collection of various articles discussing the effects and conditions of Marxism in China. All of the articles are direct works that each person has done through research. Such topics include Marxism’s relationship to Tiananmen Square and Deng. The best article on the site discusses the reaction of the people the urban reform of the last ten years. The site is very useful for someone to understand how Marxism was implemented in China.

The Five-Year Plans of China

After the Chinese Communist Party had gained control of China in 1949, Mao Zedong began to reform the economy and social characteristics of China. The first goal of Mao was to introduce land reform similar that of the USSR. In 1950, he began to hand land over to the peasants from the landlords. His land reform was completed three years later. The second goal of Mao was to promote equality and the communist party. In 1950, he gave women equal rights including the right to own property and equal rights in marriage and divorce. His social reform even went as far as to allow children to denounce their parents if they did not follow the communist line. The third goal of Mao was aimed at the economy and the practices of institutions. He denounced bribery, tax fraud, and cheating while at the same time, introduced the first five-year plan in 1953. The first five-year plan was to increase industrialization through the Soviet model. Mao used the help of advisors and loans from the Soviet Union. The first five-year plan’s goal was to maximize agricultural production to pay for increased industrialization and Soviet aid. The way they did this was through collective farming and government ownership of all transportation and most industries, causing all private industries to be socialized by 1955 and having 98% of the farming populations participating in communes by 1957. The five-year plan included education too. It down played liberal arts and put emphasis on technical skills and education. The first five-year plan was a success and caused the implementation of the second five-year plan in 1958. The second plan’s goal was to increase industrial and agriculture production by 75%. However the plan failed after the Soviet Union began to withdraw advisors and support, while famine caused massive hunger in 1959. The early years of the communist government were trying to curtail the patterned lives of the people and to implement a Marxist state that was first based on agriculture but in time, would be based on industrialization. Although the first five-year plan was largely successful, the second five-year plan failed due to a change in Russian policy toward China and natural disaster.

Perry, Elizabeth. "Introduction: Chinese Political Culture Revisited," Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China. Available from Accessed 30 March 2000.

Perry discusses the political culture of China during the 20th century. She mostly deals with the last 20 years of history including the rise of Deng to power. However, she does support her thoughts by looking back at the beginning of the Communist Party at which she discusses the changing of China to a Marxist state. Besides the essay, she provides a bibliography that could help in research of the subject. In all, this essay is one of the intellectual essays on the subject China on the web.

Poon, Leon. "History of China."; available from; accessed 20 February 2000.

Leon Poon put together a masterful resource of information. The site contains a timeline of all Chinese eras and gives a brief description of each and, at times, goes into detail of important figures of the each time period. Poon puts a great section together about the goals in implementations of the first five-year plan. He also discusses the political consequences and power changes that happened due to the plan. Besides the timeline, the site contains an extensive bibliography.

Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution

In attempts to bring China out of its technological backwardness, the Great Leap Forward was a program implemented by Mao in 1958. It was an extension of his second five-year plan that set up small backyard furnaces to increase steel production and to create communes out of the collective farms already established. The program ended in failure due to the population’s reluctance to enter communes and that the steel produced was of low quality and quantity. To add to the underperformance of the program, three straight years of poor harvest left many of the people that had joined communes hungry or starving. The failure of the Great Leap Forward lead many high ranking communist party members to doubt the ability of Mao causing him to resign as chairman of China in 1959. In the mid 1960’s factions of the communist party began to surface against Mao and many started to believe that a Marxist state was not working. Mao did not want to lose power as the Chairman of the Communist Party and felt the only way to keep power was to call for the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. It was the revitalization of the revolutionary feelings of the youth while, at the same time, it was used to oust opponents of Mao. The movement slowed production, closed schools, hurt the economy and most of all, made foreign nations sever their ties to China. Disorder was rampant throughout the country and especially in Wuhan in July 1967. The end result of the revolution was a generation without education and many farms lay unused for years. Also, a new group of people, including Deng Xiaoping, began to gain power in the communist party. The failure of the Great Leap Forward was the beginning of the downfall of Mao as a politician. His inability to deal with his failure caused him to do the only thing he knew well, revolution. This revolution led to nations around the world looking down on China and created a lost generation.

Fitch, Cris A, "China’s Great Leap Forward Famine." Available from Accessed 30 March 2000.

Fitch does some research on the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward. In a famine that killed almost 30 million people, he believes that not enough people know about. He uses historical data and quotations from histories to try to see the impact of the famine. The site also includes some links that help explain the events in more detail.

Barmé, Geremie R. "History for the Masses." Available from Accessed 30 March 2000.

Geremie presents an essay on the Cultural Revolution and how policy shifts require a re-evaluation of history and historical figures. The essay even includes a section on the conflict between Chiang Kai-shek and the Communist Party on the mainland. In all, it a very intelligent and well thought out article that is a must read to understand the Cultural Revolution.

Tiananmen Square

Mao Zedong forced the nationalist Chinese to flee to Taiwan in 1949, but during his rule, students and more liberal Chinese thought of establishing a democracy. Even after Mao’s death, students still believed that a democracy was the best way to go with the Chinese political system. Hu Yaobang became a hero to many Chinese liberals in 1987 when he did not halt student unrest. On April 15, 1989, Hu, the current secretary general of the Communist Party, died causing 1000 students to hold a pro-democracy demonstration in the central plaza of Beijing in his honor. At first, the protest was small and no action was taken against the liberal students. Over a quarter million students joined the demonstration within the next month and near the end of April, the Chinese government warned students to end demonstrating otherwise action would be taken. On March 17, the protest swelled to over one million, causing the Chinese government to implement martial law three days later. Military personnel were sent into the city to break up the protest, but protesters were able to block them from entering Tiananmen Square, the center of the unrest. On June 4th, the Chinese army made their move. Thousands of troops stormed the square, using tanks, clubs, tear gas, and machine guns on the unarmed protesters. Estimated death totaled at 1000 soldiers and 3000 civilians, but the Chinese government reported only 300 fatalities. By the end of June, almost 2 thousand people were arrested and 27 executed for counterrevolutionary activities. This event strained the world’s relationship with China because of the government’s abuse of human rights especially since early action on part of the government could have stopped the bloodshed.

"Victims of Tiananmen Square" available from Accessed 29 March 2000.

This site contains a collection of 24 photographs of the Tiananmen Square incident. Although there is nothing written on the site, it contains enough photographs to illustrate the horrors and pain of the people of China.

"The Gate of Heavenly Peace." Available from Accessed 30 March 2000.

The site discusses the documentary on the Tiananmen Square incident. It has interactive map of Tiananmen Square. Besides this, it contains other themes and timeline of events and most importantly links to other helpful sites.

Manchuria and Japan in China

Manchuria, the northeastern section of Mainland China, has been site of much conflict and problems within the past one hundred years. Its first major 20th century happening was in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War between Japan and Russia over the control of northern China and the Korea peninsula. After the war, Manchuria laid ideal to foreign interest until September 18, 1931, when the Japanese were fearful of losing control of Manchuria because the rising strength of the KMT. The Japanese staged an explosion on Mukden Railroad that gave Japan the reason to take over the city of Mukden with the Kwantung Army. Within a few months, the Japanese army controlled all of Manchuria because the KMT offered little resistance. In 1932, Japanese forces attacked Shanghai. This allowed the Japanese established the puppet state of Manchukuo with the last emperor of China as its leader. The Japanese began to exploit the lands of Manchuria and invested in heavy industry, causing it to be the most technological advanced region of China. The region remained peaceful for five year until in 1937, the Japanese used Manchukuo to invade China to start World War II. Although the nationalist offered little real resistance again, the KMT and CCP banded together to protect China. The region remained in Japanese hands until August 8, 1945, when Russian army invaded. Within days, the war was over and Manchuria was handed back over to the Chinese, but the Russian army gave the Japanese arms to the Chinese Communist Party, which in turn, helped them expel the KMT in 1949. During the Japanese invasion of China, one of the greatest horrors of the twentieth century occurred. The Japanese soldiers raped and killed millions of women and children in the city of Nanking, called the Rape of Nanking. In conclusion, Manchuria has been a land that was vital to Japan due to its ability to be developed into an industrial land. Without Manchuria, Japan could not have waged its war against China and the rest of the world.

New Jersey Hong Kong Network. "Basic facts on the Nanking Massacre and Tokyo War Crimes Trial." Available from Accessed on 30 March 2000.

The New Jersey Hong Kong Network puts together a comprehensive site that deals with the striking events of the Rape of Nanking. It discusses what happens during the time period and its consequences. Most of all, it even includes a timeline on the invasion of China by Japan.

Baranovich, Jim, Megan Combs, and Mike McVey. "Nanking Massacre." Available from Accessed on 30 March 2000.

The group discusses the events that lead up to, including, and the events after the Nanking Massacre. Although it doesn’t go into as much detail about the Rape of Nanking as the New Jersey Hong Kong Networks’ site, it does include more information on the events leading up to the massacre.


China lost control of Taiwan in the first Sino-Japanese War of 1885-95. In 1895, Japan began to colonize the island and controlled it until the end of World War II when the Allies gave it back to China. That same year, the United Nation was formed with China on the UN Security Council. At the time, the KMT or nationalist party under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek ruled China. In 1945, a civil war broke out between the KMT and the CCP, which caused the KMT to flee to Taiwan completely in 1949. Even though nationalist China was based in Taiwan, the UN allowed it to stay on the Security Council and many nations did not recognize the communist government on Mainland China. The United States withheld military assistance to Taiwan until the 1954 when the United States was scared that Taiwan would turn communist. To help protect Taiwan, the United States signed the mutual security treaty of 1954. This treaty was important to the United States because it would prevent Russia from having an ally on the UN Security Council during the Korea War. US assistance to Taiwan continued until the election of President Richard Nixon. In 1970, Communist China showed increasing interest to discuss issues on a higher level and opens itself to the United States with the Ping Pong Diplomacy. Finally in July of 1971, Henry Kissinger met with Zhou Enlai establishing the first relationship between Communist China and the United States. Through Nixon’s efforts, he opened up foreign relations with Communist China and helped Communist China gain entrance into the UN and the Security Council in October in Taiwan’s place. In 1972, the Shanghai Communiqué formally stated that the United States believed that Taiwan was part of China and there was only one China however it did not state whether the CCP or KMT was the rightful government. On January 1, 1979, the United States ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognized the People’s Republic of China, but also in 1979, the US passed the Taiwan Relations Act. The act committed the US to resist force used against Taiwan. Taiwan remained silent until in 1987 when Taiwan ended its policy of martial law and elections were held in 1990. In 1996, Communist China tried to influence Taiwanese elections by using missiles. The incident brought US military vessels to the area. Finally, in the year 2000, the presidential election of Taiwan brought world attention. With three candidates running, independence from China became a major issue. On March 20, 2000, the Chinese in Taiwan elected a president that was pro-independence. Due to this, President Chen Shui-bian of the People’s Republic of China threatened to use force to keep Taiwan part of China. Currently, Taiwan threatens to break away from China, but the Mainland Chinese are willing to fight to keep it part of the People’s Republic. The problem is that other nations are choosing sides, creating a state of military readiness and maybe World War III.

Taiwanese Organizations. "Taiwan’s 400 years of History." 10 March 1998. Available from; Accessed 30 March 2000.

This site is a comprehensive website by the Taiwanese organizations about its history. There is information on major incidence, a photographical timeline, and historical documents. The site contains information mostly on Taiwanese political culture and history. There is even a section on Chiang Kai-shek and the 1995-1996 missile crisis with China.

Clark, Cal. "The 2000 Taiwan Presidential Elections." Available from Accessed 30 March 2000.

This site is made by Cal Cark to help people understand the candidates and the issues in the 2000 Taiwanese presidential. It looks at the history of the Taiwanese government and how for the first time the direction that it is going in is unclear. It also gives further reading that could help understand the history of Taiwan better.

Overview | Bibliography | Boxer Rebellion | Dr. Sun Yat-sen | Chiang Kai-shek

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First posted:  2000 April 11
Last Revision:  2000 April 12
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