Ancient Times (from Antiquity to A.D. 1840)
China, one of the worlds most ancient civilizations, has a recorded history of nearly 4,000 years. Anthropologists working in Yuanmou, in Yunnan Province, have uncovered the remains of Chinaearliest discovered hominid, Yuanmou Man,กฑ who lived in this area approximately 1.7 million years ago. Peking Man,กฑ who lived in Zhoukoudian, to the southwest of modern Beijing 400,000 to 500,000 years ago, had the basic characteristics of Homo Sapiens. Peking Man walked upright, made and used simple tools, and knew how to make fire. Man in China passed from primitive society to slave society in the 21st century B.C., with the founding of China first dynasty, that of the Xia. The subsequent dynasties, the Shang (16th-11th century B.C.) and the Western Zhou (11th century-770 B.C.) saw further development of slave society. This era was followed by the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (770-221 B.C.), marking the transition from the slave society to feudal society.
China was one of the countries where economic activity first developed. As early as 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, people in the Yellow River valley had already started farming and raising livestock. During the Shang Dynasty (more than 3,000 years ago), people learned how to smelt bronze and use iron tools. White pottery and glazed pottery were produced. Silk production was well developed, and the world first figured inlaid silk weaving technique was being used. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.), steel production technologies appeared. During the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), Li Bing and his son directed the construction of the Dujiang Dam near present-day Chengdu in Sichuan Province. This brilliant achievement in water conservancy made possible rationalized irrigation supply, flood diversion and sand discharge, and is still playing a tremendous role in this regard even today. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, philosophy and other branches of scholarship were unprecedentedly thriving, with the representatives of various schools vying with each other in writing books to discuss politics and analyze society. Hence the appearance of a situation in which a hundred schools of thought contended. Famous philosophers in this period included Lao Zi, Confucius, Mo Zi and Sun Zi.
New Democratic Revolution Period (1919-1949)
Under the influence of the October Revolution in Russia, China’s May 4th Movement arose. During this great anti-imperialist, anti-feudal revolutionary movement led by patriotic students, the Chinese proletariat for the first time mounted the political stage. The May 4th Movement marked the change of the old democratic revolution to the new democratic revolution. It enabled Marxism-Leninism to further spread and link up with the Chinese people’s revolutionary practice, and prepared the ideology as well as the cadres necessary for the founding of the Communist Party of China.
In 1921, Mao Zedong, Dong Biwu, Chen Tanqiu, He Shuheng, Wang Jinmei, Deng Enming and Li Da, representing the communist groups in different places throughout the nation, held the First National Congress in Shanghai, founding the Communist Party of China (CPC).
In 1924, Sun Yat-sen, pioneer of China’s democratic revolution and the founder of the Kuomintang (KMT), worked together with the Communist Party of China to organize workers and peasants for the Northern Expedition (historically known as the Great Revolution). After Sun Yat-sen passed away, the right-wing clique of the KMT headed by Chiang Kai-shek staged a counter-revolutionary coup d’etat in 1927, murdering Communists and revolutionary people, and founded the Kuomintang regime in Nanjing. Thus the Great Revolution ended in failure. After that, the CPC led the Chinese people to wage the 10-year Agrarian Revolution War against the reactionary rule of the Kuomintang, which is also known as the 10-Year Civil War.
In July 1937, Japan launched all-out aggression against China. The Kuomintang armies started a series of battles, which gave relentless blows at the Japanese invaders. In the enemy’s rear area, the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army, under the leadership of the CPC, fought against most of the Japanese forces, and almost all the puppet armies under extremely difficult conditions, thus playing a decisive role in the victory of the War of Resistance Against Japan.
From June 1946, the Kuomintang armies launched an all-round attack on the Liberated Areas led by the CPC, and an unprecedented large-scale civil war started. To thoroughly emancipate the Chinese people, the CPC led the army and people in the Liberated Areas to start the nationwide War of Liberation.
Through the Liaoxi-Shenyang, Huai-Hai and Beiping-Tianjin campaigns, the CPC overthrew the rule of the Kuomintang and won a great victory in the new democratic revolution in 1949.
Modern Period (1840-1919)
The Opium War of 1840 marked a turning point in Chinese history. From early in the 19th century, Britain started smuggling large quantities of opium into China, causing a great outflow of Chinese silver and grave economic disruption in China. In 1839, the Qing government sent Commissioner Lin Zexu to Guangdong to put into effect the prohibition on opium trafficking. When, in an effort to protect its opium trade, Britain initiated the First Opium War in 1840, the Chinese people rose in armed struggle against the invaders under the leadership of Lin Zexu and other patriotic generals. But the corrupt and incompetent Qing government capitulated to the foreign invaders time and again, and finally signed the Treaty of Nanjing with Britain, a treaty of national betrayal and humiliation. From then on, China was reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country.
After the Opium War, Britain, the United States, France, Russia and Japan forced the Qing government to sign various unequal treaties, seized concessions and divided China into spheres of influence. To oppose the twin evils of feudal oppression and foreign aggression, the Chinese people waged heroic struggles, with many national heroes coming to the fore. The Revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in 1851, led by Hong Xiuquan, was the largest peasant uprising in modern Chinese history. The Revolution of 1911, a bourgeois-democratic revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, ended the rule of the Qing Dynasty. The monarchical system that had been in place in China for more than 2,000 years was discarded with the founding of the provisional government of the Republic of China. The Revolution of 1911 is of great significance in modern Chinese history. But the fruits of victory were soon compromised by concessions on the part of the Chinese bourgeoisie, and the country entered a period of domination by the Northern Warlords headed by Yuan Shikai. The people lived in an abyss of misery in this period.
From September 21 to 30, 1949, the First Plenum of the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was held in Beijing, with the participation of various political parties, popular organizations, non-Party democrats and representatives from all walks of life. The CPPCC drew up a Common Program, which served as a provisional constitution. It elected a Central People’s Government Council, with Mao Zedong as Chairman, and appointed Zhou Enlai Premier of the Government Administration Council and concurrently Minister of Foreign Affairs. On October 1, 1949, a grand ceremony inaugurating the Peoples Republic of China was witnessed by 300,000 people in Beijings Tiananmen Square. On that day, Chairman Mao Zedong solemnly proclaimed the formal establishment of the Peoples Republic of China. The early days of New China were a period of economic recovery. While developing production, China gradually established socialist public ownership of the means of production. From 1953 to 1956, large-scale socialist transformation of the national economy was implemented, the First Five-Year Plan (1953-1957) for the development of the national economy was achieved ahead of schedule, and China established and expanded basic industries necessary for full industrialization, hitherto non-existent domestically, producing airplanes, automobiles, heavy machinery, precision machinery, power-generating equipment, metallurgical and mining equipment, high-grade alloy steels and non-ferrous metals.