China has one of the world's oldest civilizations and has the oldest continuous civilization. It has archaeological evidence over 5,000 years old. It also has one of the world's oldest writing systems (and the oldest in use today), and is viewed as the source of many major inventions.
Ancient (2100 B.C. - 1500 A.D.)
Ancient China was one of the first civilizations and was active since the 2nd millennium BC as a feudal society. Chinese civilization was also one of the few to invent writing, with the others being Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilization, the Maya civilization, the Minoan civilization of ancient Greece, and Ancient Egypt. It reached its golden age during the Tang Dynasty (c. A.D. 10th century). Home of Confucianism and Daoism, it had great influence on nearby countries including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam in the areas of political system, philosophy, religion, art, and even writing and literature. China is home to some of the oldest artwork in the world. Statues and pottery, as well as decorations made of jade, are some classic examples.
Before the Qin Dynasty united China, there were hundreds of small states that fought each other for hundreds of years in a war to control China. This is known as the Warring States Period. Although the continuing wars made people suffer, it was at this time when many of the great
philosophies of the East were born, including Confucianism and Daoism. Confucianism and Daoism alone have been the foundation of many social values seen in modern eastern-Asian cultures today.
Its geography mostly looked like that of modern China, except with northern and western edges that varied. It was often attacked by northern nomadic people such as the Turkic tribes and the Mongols lead by Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan. During the history of ancient China, the northern nomadic people and the Chinese people had been fighting each other and taking turns to rule the land and the people of China. However, when the northern people beat the Chinese people and came to rule the kingdom, they also Incorporated the Chinese way of living and became like the Chinese. Many of the strongest dynasties of China were ruled by the northern people, including the Qin, Tang, Yuan (Mongolian), and Qing (Manchu). Each time, they also brought new elements into the Chinese culture.
A new age
While China achieved many things in the First millennium and early 2nd millennium, it became an
isolationist country in the 15th century C.E. This was because Spain found a lot of silver in the newly explored continents of North and South America. Silver was the main currency (money) in China and Europe at the time, and China did not want to be bought by the foreigners.
By the time of the Renaissance, European powers started to take over other countries in Asia. While China was never actually taken over by Europeans, many European countries, such as Britain and France built
spheres of influence in China. Since China had cut itself off from the world over the previous few centuries, by the Qing Dynasty, it had fallen behind other countries in technology, and was helpless to stop this from happening. This had become clear when it lost the Opium Wars to Britain in the 19th century.
In 1912, the Qing dynasty was overthrown by the Sun Yat-sen and the Kuomintang, a nationalist party, and the Republic of China established. Over time, Marxist ideas grew popular and the Communist party was formed.
The Chinese Civil War later started between the Kuomintang (Nationalists) of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Communists of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The Communists wanted to make China like the Soviet Union, whereas the other side wanted to keep China in its current state at the time. The Communists were led by Mao Zedong,
Liu Shaoqi and others. Later Liu lost influence with Mao and his death to this day remains unresolved. The Communists eventually won the war. The Nationalists (led by Chiang Kai-shek) fled to the island of Taiwan and set up their new capital city in Taipei. After the Chinese Civil War, the Communist leader Mao Zedong declared a new country, the People's Republic of China (PRC), in Beijing on September 21, 1949.
In 1927, the Chinese Civil War began as the Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, and the Communists fought one another. By 1949, the Red Army of the Chinese Communist Party had gained control over mainland China and Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People's Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek and the other nationalists fled to Taiwan.
founding the People's Republic of China in 1949
As the leader of the People's Republic of China, Mao began many social and economic reform projects with mixed results. The Great Leap Forward, from 1958 to 1961, tried to industrialize China and increase its food production, but resulted in one of the largest famines in history. It is estimated that 45 million people died as a result of this reform project. In 1966, Mao began the Cultural Revolution to remove capitalist influences from society and government. Major government officials and ordinary citizens were accused of being "revisionists" - people who disagreed with some parts of Marxism - or "counter-revolutionaries" and were persecuted. Many universities and schools were closed, and historical and religious sites were destroyed. Although the program officially ended in 1969, it continued until Mao's death in 1976.
During this time period, the People's Republic of China did not get along with the capitalist countries of the Western world. Beginning in the 1960s, relationships between the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union also became increasingly unfriendly in the Sino-Soviet Split. In 1972, to counter the power of the Soviet Union, Mao and Zhou Enlai met with US President Richard Nixon in Beijing. This began to improve relationships between China and the Western world.
After Mao's death, there was a power struggle between the Gang of Four and Hua Guofeng, the man Mao had chosen to be the next leader of China. Eventually, Deng Xiaoping, one of the veterans of the revolution, took power. He began a "Reform and Opening Up" (simplified Chinese: 改革开放; traditional Chinese: 改革開放) campaign. These reforms tried to make the People's Republic of China a modern, industrial - but still socialist - nation by moving towards a market system. Deng's policies would be known as "socialism with Chinese characteristics."
Although Deng's policy helped loosen restrictions on citizens, the People's Republic of China continues to have problems with the amount of control the government has over citizens' private lives. In 1979, the one-child policy, which limits most couples to one child, was created because of the overpopulation problem in the People's Republic of China. This policy is highly controversial and many Westerners have criticized it. News and Internet sites are also censored by the government.
In 1989, the Chinese government used soldiers and tanks to stop a protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square organized by students seeking political reform. This action received worldwide criticism and led to
economic sanctions being placed on the Chinese government.
In August 2008, China hosted the Summer Olympics for the first time.