20th and 21st century China

From the last dynasty to a republic

In just a century China has faced fundamental changes. The 20th century saw the end of the imperial era and the rise of the Chinese republic.

The inability of Qing rulers to deal with arising problems varying from bad harvests to rebellions, over-population and foreign imperialism led to the end of the last of the Chinese dynasties.

In October 1911 a revolution led to the abdication of the last emperor Xuantong, in 1912. This was the end of imperial China and the Republic of China was established that same year. Sun Yatsen was the first democratically elected president. However, he couldn’t gain more support than military general Yuan Shikai and handed over the presidency.

Yuan Shikai abused his power. He took down the parliament to become the single most powerful man in the country. Several provinces declared independence from him and opposition groups formed the National Protection Army. Yuan Shikai stepped down from power on March 22, 1916 as a result of the National Protection Army’s rebellions.

Shikai’s death heralded the start of The Warlord Era. This time was defined by chaos. Several groups - generals of the former Imperial Army, territorial warlords, and the Nationalists - switched control over the capital.

The Republic of China

In 1928 the republic was unified under the Chinese Nationalist Party - Kuomintang (KMT). Soon, conflicts between Kuomintang, the Communist party of China, warlords and Japan emerged. The situation was further complicated by the War of Resistance against Japan (1937 - 1945), followed by the Chinese Civil War (1945 - 1949).

By 1949, the Communist Party of China occupied most of the country. The Kuomintang government and military forces fled to Taiwan, where Taipei was named temporary capital of the Republic of China. On October 1st 1949 in Beijing, Mao Zedong declared the foundation of The People’s Republic of China.

Mao died in 1976 and in 1977 the Chinese Communist Party reinstated Deng Xiaoping to all of his previous positions.

The death of Hu Yaobang on April 15, 1989, along with economic problems started a massive protest movement by students and intellectuals, among others. Protesters camped out in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu's death and to protest against slow reformations. These protests spread around the country and didn’t stop in spite of the government’s crack-downs.

Early on the morning of June 4, military units used armed force to clear demonstrators from the streets leaving behind hundreds of casualties. While foreign authorities were condemning these actions the Chinese government eliminated all remaining sources of opposition, arrested many protesters, and ordered political re-education for students, as well as for numerous politicians and government officials.

Deng Xiaoping retired after the events of 1989 and was succeeded by Jiang Zemin, the former mayor of Shanghai.

Modern day China

The 1990s brought positive economic development. Macau and Hong Kong were returned to China. Along with this progress, China had to face the rise of materialism and crime. The country also had to deal with a new spiritual-religious movement, Falun Gong, and survive ecological disasters.

As of 2011 China has the second largest economy in the world. Its current chief of state is president Hu Jintao (elected March 2003). Premier Wen Jiabao is head of the government (since 16 March 2003).


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