Chinese opium smokers in Hong Kong.

• 1856-1860: The Second Opium War - Britain and France demanded that China legalize opium, invading Guangzhou and advancing into Beijing. Desperate to end the conflict, China signed a treaty giving the west more business power and the control of ports.

 1894-1894: The First Sino Japanese War - The Qing Dynasty clashed with Japan over Korea. China’s regional dominance plummeted after losing and influenced a series of internal clashes over the next 16 years. As part of the defeat agreement, Taiwan was handed over to Japan.

• 1899: The Boxer Rebellion - Under the rule of Empress Dowager Cixi, the secret society the Harmonious Fist began slaughtering foreigners. Known as the Boxers, they won Empress Dowager’s support when eight European countries sent troops. China lost the conflict, and the West imposed sanctions that permanently weakened Qing rule.

• 1912: The Republic of China - Fueled by western-educated revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen, the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 culminated in the Wuchang Uprising, and 15 provinces declared their independence from the Qing Dynasty. Sun took control in 1912, announcing the republic.

• 1921: The Communist Party of China - With its roots in the May Fourth Movement protesting the Chinese government response to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the CPC officially formed.

• 1927: Shanghai Massacre - Millions of executions take place when Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek orders the massacre of Communists, which inadvertently causes the creation of the opposing Communist Red Army.

• 1928: Reunification - Elevated to head of the government, Chiang succeeded in reunifying China by seizing areas under the control of warlords.

• 1931: Civil War - Fighting between the Red Army and the Nationalist Party escalates into an 18-year-long conflict.

• 1937-1945: The Second Sino-Japanese War - Tensions started with the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria but exploded in 1937. After the Japanese captured Shanghai and Nanjing, a stalemate ensued until World War II and American support reframed the conflict into a theater in the larger war.

• 1945: Taiwan returns to China - Following Japanese surrender in World War II, Taiwan returned to Chinese control. Tensions mounted between Chinese soldiers and Taiwanese citizens, erupting in violence in 1947, and ending with Chiang sending further troops.

• 1949: People’s Republic of China - After a violent end stage to the civil war, the Communist Party declared the People’s Republic of China. Two months later, two million soldiers followed Chiang Kai-shek into exile to Taiwan where he set up a provisional government claiming to be the legitimate ruling body of China. Communist party chairman Mao Zedong became China’s new leader.

• 1958-1962: The Great Leap Forward - This campaign by Chairman Mao to transform the agricultural base of China’s society into an industrial one imposed a commune system that organized peasants and forbade private farming. The plan failed to produce the necessary yield, and famine followed, leading to 56 million deaths, including 3 million by suicide.

• 1966: The Cultural Revolution - This campaign was initiated by Chairman Mao to erase Capitalist and traditional Chinese influences of the People’s Republic and introduce the philosophy of Maoism to fill the ideological gaps. Schools were closed and Chinese youth directed to take the lead in change, resulting in youth gangs known as the Red Guards attacking undesirable citizens. Chaos led to martial law, Communist Party purges, and 1.5 million deaths.

• 1972: Richard Nixon visits China - The first American president to visit China while serving in office and the first diplomatic meeting between the countries since 1949, Nixon met with Mao and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, discussing multiple topics, including trade and a U.S. troop withdrawal from Taiwan.

• April 5, 1975: Chiang Kai-shek dies - After 26 years steering Taiwan to legitimacy and attempting to take back mainland China, Chiang succumbs to a heart attack.

• September 9, 1976: Mao dies - Mao’s death after several heart attacks effectively ends the Cultural Revolution and brought Deng Xiaoping to power for the next two decades, pushing out Mao’s inner circle known as the Gang of Four. By the end of his reign, Mao would oversee the slaughter of some 40 million people.

A Beijing demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square. For weeks, people have been protesting for freedom of speech and of press from the Chinese government.

A Beijing demonstrator blocks the path of a tank convoy along the Avenue of Eternal Peace near Tiananmen Square. For weeks, people have been protesting for freedom of speech and of press from the Chinese government.

• 1989: Tiananmen Square protests - These student-led protests grew from the '89 Democracy Movement demanding freedom of speech, freedom of the press and more. They gained worldwide attention when the government violently cracked down on the protesters and images of tanks rolling into students inspired universal condemnation. At least 300 died in the protests.

• 1993: Three Gorges Project - The construction of the world’s largest hydroelectric dam began. Proposed as early as 1920, the project required flooding 1,500 cities and villages, displacing as many as 1.9 million people and destroying 1,200 archaeological and historical sites. The dam begins operation in 2015.

• July 1, 1997: Hong Kong returns to China - In a midnight ceremony with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in attendance, Hong Kong was given back to China after 156 years. China agreed to preserve the island’s capitalist economy as part of the handover agreement.

• 2010: Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement - China and Taiwan begin officially speaking to each other for the first time, but following the 2016 election of Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwanese president, China rescinds these new ties.


Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Patricia Buckley Ebrey.
The Dynasties of China. Bamber Gascoigne.
China Condensed: 5000 Years of History and Culture. Ong Siew Chey.
What's behind the China-Taiwan divide? BBC.
The Story of China. PBS.

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