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People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China (orthographic projection) svg
Area controlled by the People's Republic of China shown in dark green; claimed but uncontrolled regions shown in light green.
Some attributes
First Common Name: China
Second Population: 1,353,821,000
Third Government: Single-party socialist state
Other attributes
Fourth Nationalities: 91.51% Han
Fifth President: Xi Jinping
Sixth Language: Mandarin

China (Listeni/ˈtʃaɪnə/; Chinese: 中国; pinyin: Zhōngguó), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a sovereign state located in East Asia. It is the world's most populous country, with a population of over 1.35 billion. The PRC is a single-party state governed by the Communist Party, with its seat of government in the capital city of Beijing. It exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Chongqing), and two mostly self-governing special administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macau). The PRC also claims Taiwan – which is controlled by the Republic of China (ROC), a separate political entity – as its 23rd province, a claim controversial due to the complex political status of Taiwan and the unresolved Chinese Civil War.

Covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometres, China is the world's second-largest country by land area, but only the third or fourth-largest by total area, dependent on whether the surface areas of various inland bodies of water such as the Great Lakes are included in the total area of a country. China's landscape is vast and diverse, ranging from forest steppes and the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in the arid north to subtropical forests in the wetter south. The Himalaya, Karakoram, Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges separate China from South and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, the third- and sixth-longest in the world, run from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern seaboard. China's coastline along the Pacific Ocean is 14,500 kilometres (9,000 mi) long, and is bounded by the Bohai, Yellow, East and South China Seas.

The Chinese civilization of the Qing Dynasty flourished in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. The Qing Dynasy was founded by the Jurchen Aisin Gioro clan in contemporary Northeastern China. In the late sixteenth century, Aisin Gioro leader, Nurhachi, who was originally a vassal of the Ming emperors, began forming the Jurchen clans into "Banners" a military-social unit which also included various ethnic groups. By 1635, Nurhachi's son Hong Taiji could claim the Manchus constituted a single and united Manchu people and began forcing the Ming out of southern Manchuria.

In 1644, the Ming capital Beijing was sacked by a peasant revolt led by Li Zicheng, a former minor Ming official, who then proclaimed the Shun dynasty. The last Ming ruler, the Chongzhen Emperor, committed suicide when the city fell. Ming general Wu Sangui, threatened by Li, made an alliance with the Manchus and opened the Shanhai Pass to the Banner Armies. Under Prince Dorgon, they seized control of Beijing. Complete control of China proper was accomplished around 1683 under the Kangxi Emperor. Ten Great Campaigns of the Qianlong emperor from the 1750s to the 1790s extended control into Central Asia, but were less successful in South and Southeast Asia.

Over the course of its reign, the Qing became highly integrated with Chinese culture. The imperial examinations continued and Han civil servants administered the empire alongside Manchu ones. The Qing reached its height under the Qianlong Emperor in the eighteenth century, expanding beyond China's prior and later boundaries. Imperial corruption exemplified by the minister Heshen and a series of rebellions, natural disasters, and defeats in wars against European powers gravely weakened the Qing during the nineteenth century. "Unequal Treaties" provided for extraterritoriality and removed large areas of treaty ports from Chinese sovereignty. The government attempts to modernize during the Self-Strengthening Movement in the late 19th century yielded few lasting results. Losing the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 was a watershed for the Qing government and the result demonstrated that reform had modernized Japan significantly since the Meiji Restoration in 1867, especially as compared with the Self-Strengthening Movement in China.

The Republic of China overthrew the last dynasty in 1911, and ruled the Chinese mainland until 1949. After the defeat of the Empire of Japan in World War II, the Communist Party defeated the nationalist Kuomintang in mainland China and established the People's Republic of China in Beijing on 1 October 1949, while the Kuomintang relocated the ROC government to its present capital of Taipei.

Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China has become the world's fastest-growing major economy. As of 2013, it is the world's second-largest economy by both nominal total GDP and purchasing power parity (PPP), and is also the world's largest exporter and importer of goods. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, with the second-largest defense budget. The PRC has been a United Nations member since 1971, when it replaced the ROC as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. China is also a member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the WTO, APEC, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the BCIM and the G-20. China has been characterized as a potential superpower by a number of academics, military analysts, and public policy and economics analysts.

EtymologyEdit

The word "China" is derived from Persian Cin (چین), which is from Sanskrit Cīna (चीन). It is first recorded in 1516 in the journal of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa. It first appears in English in a translation published by Richard Eden in 1555. It is commonly thought that the word is derived from the name of the Qin (秦) Dynasty. In China, common names for the present country include Zhōngguó (Chinese: 中国) and Zhōnghuá (Chinese: 中华), although the country's official name has been changed numerous times by successive dynasties and modern governments. The term Zhongguo appeared in various ancient texts, such as the Classic of History of the 6th century BCE, and in pre-imperial times it was often used as a cultural concept to distinguish the Huaxia tribes from perceived "barbarians". The term, which can be either singular or plural, referred to the group of states or provinces in the central plain, but was not used as a name for the country as a whole until the nineteenth century. The Chinese were not unique in regarding their country as "central", since other civilizations had the same view of themselves.

HistoryEdit

Ancient ChinaEdit

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Jade deer ornament dating from the Shang Dynasty (17th–11th centuries BCE).

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Some of the thousands of life-size Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty, ca. 210 BCE.

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The Great Wall of China was built by several dynasties over two thousand years to protect the sedentary agricultural regions of the Chinese interior from incursions by nomadic pastoralists of the northern steppes.

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Detail from Along the River During the Qingming Festival, a 12th-century painting showing everyday life in the Song Dynasty's capital city, Bianjing (today's Kaifeng).

Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 250,000 and 2.24 million years ago. A cave in Zhoukoudian (near present-day Beijing) exhibits fossils dated at between 300,000 and 780,000 BCE. The fossils are of Peking Man, an example of Homo erectus who used fire. The Peking Man site has also yielded remains of Homo sapiens dating back to 18,000–11,000 BCE. Some scholars assert that a form of proto-writing existed in China as early as 3000 BCE.

According to Chinese tradition, the first imperial dynasty was the Xia, who emerged around 2000 BCE. However, the dynasty was considered mythical by historians until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou, Henan in 1959. Archaeologists have since uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs in locations cited as Xia in ancient historical texts, but it is impossible to verify that these remains are of the Xia without written records from the period.

The first Chinese dynasty that left historical records, the loosely feudal Shang (Yin), settled along the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BCE. The oracle bone script of the Shang Dynasty represents the oldest form of Chinese writing yet found, and is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters. The Shang were conquered by the Zhou, who ruled between the 12th and 5th centuries BCE, until its centralized authority was slowly eroded by feudal warlords. Many independent states eventually emerged from the weakened Zhou state, and continually waged war with each other in the 300-year-long Spring and Autumn Period, only occasionally deferring to the Zhou king. By the time of the Warring States period of the 5th–3rd centuries BCE, there were seven powerful sovereign states in what is now China, each with its own king, ministry and army.

The Warring States period ended in 221 BCE, after the state of Qin conquered the other six kingdoms and established the first unified Chinese state. Qin Shi Huang, the emperor of Qin, proclaimed himself the "First Emperor" (始皇帝), and imposed many reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of the Chinese language, measurements, length of cart axles, and currency. The Qin Dynasty lasted only fifteen years, falling soon after Qin Shi Huang's death, as its harsh legalist and authoritarian policies led to widespread rebellion.

The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BCE and 220 CE, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace that has endured to the present day. The Han Dynasty expanded the empire's territory considerably with military campaigns reaching Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Central Asia, and also helped establish the Silk Road in Central Asia. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. The Han Dynasty adopted Confucianism, a philosophy developed in the Spring and Autumn period, as its official state ideology. Despite the Han's official abandonment of Legalism, the official ideology of the Qin, Legalist institutions and policies remained and formed the basis of the Han government.

After the collapse of Han, a period of disunion known as the period of the Three Kingdoms followed. Independent Chinese states of this period such as Wu opened diplomatic relations with Japan, introducing the Chinese writing system there. In 580 CE, China was reunited under the Sui. However, the Sui Dynasty declined following its defeat in the Goguryeo–Sui War (598–614).

Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese technology and culture entered a golden age. The Tang Empire was at its height of power until the middle of the 8th century, when the An Shi Rebellion destroyed the prosperity of the empire. The Song Dynasty was the first government in world history to issue paper money and the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy. Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the population of China doubled in size to around 100 million people, mostly due to the expansion of rice cultivation in central and southern China, and the production of abundant food surpluses. The Song Dynasty also saw a flourishing of philosophy and the arts, as landscape art and portrait painting were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity, and social elites gathered to view art, share their own and trade precious artworks. Philosophers such as Cheng Yi and Chu Hsi reinvigorated Confucianism with new commentary, infused Buddhist ideals, and emphasized a new organization of classic texts that brought about the core doctrine of Neo-Confucianism.

In 1271, the Mongol leader Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty; the Yuan conquered the last remnant of the Song Dynasty in 1279. Before the Mongol invasion, Song China reportedly had approximately 120 million citizens; the 1300 census which followed the invasion reported roughly 60 million people. A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 and founded the Ming Dynasty. Under the Ming Dynasty, China enjoyed another golden age, developing one of the strongest navies in the world and a rich and prosperous economy amid a flourishing of art and culture. It was during this period that Zheng He led explorations throughout the world, reaching as far as Africa. In the early years of the Ming Dynasty, China's capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing.

During the Ming Dynasty, thinkers such as Wang Yangming further critiqued and expanded Neo-Confucianism with concepts of individualism and innate morality that would have tremendous impact on later Japanese thought. Chosun Korea also became a nominal vassal state of Ming China, and adopted much of its Neo-Confucian bureaucratic structure

Formation of the Manchu stateEdit

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An Italian map showing the "Kingdom of the Nüzhen" or the "Jin Tartars", who "have occupied and are at present ruling China", north of Liaodong and Korea, published in 1682.

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Qing Dynasty era brush container.

The Qing Dynasty was founded not by Han Chinese, who formed the majority of the Chinese population, but by a semi-sedentary people known as the Jurchen, a Tungusic people who lived around the region now comprising the Chinese provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang. What was to become the Manchu state was founded by Nurhachi, the chieftain of a minor Jurchen tribe – the Aisin Gioro – in Jianzhou in the early 17th century. Originally a vassal of the Ming emperors, Nurhachi embarked on an inter-tribal feud in 1582 that escalated into a campaign to unify the nearby tribes. By 1616, he had sufficiently consolidated Jianzhou so as to be able to proclaim himself Khan of the Great Jin in reference to the previous Jurchen dynasty.

Two years later, Nurhachi announced the "Seven Grievances" and openly renounced the sovereignty of Ming overlordship in order to complete the unification of those Jurchen tribes still allied with the Ming emperor. After a series of successful battles, he relocated his capital from Hetu Ala to successively bigger captured Ming cities in Liaodong Province: first Liaoyang in 1621, then Shenyang (Mukden) in 1625.

Relocating his court from Jianzhou to Liaodong provided Nurhachi access to more resources; it also brought him in close contact with the Mongol domains on the plains of Mongolia. Although by this time the once-united Mongol nation had long since fragmented into individual and hostile tribes, these tribes still presented a serious security threat to the Ming borders. Nurhachi's policy towards the Mongols was to seek their friendship and cooperation against the Ming, securing his western border from a powerful potential enemy.

Furthermore, the Mongols proved a useful ally in the war, lending the Jurchens their expertise as cavalry archers. To cement this new alliance, Nurhachi initiated a policy of inter-marriages between the Jurchen and Mongol nobilities, while those who resisted were met with military action. This is a typical example of Nurhachi's initiatives that eventually became official Qing government policy. During most of the Qing Dynasty time, the Mongols gave military assistance to the Manchus.

Some of Nurhachi's other important contributions include ordering the creation of a written Manchu script based on the Mongolian so as to avoid the earlier Jurchen script which had been derived from Khitan and Chinese and the creation of the civil and military administrative system which eventually evolved into the Eight Banners, the defining element of Manchu identity and the foundation for transforming the loosely knitted Jurchen tribes into a nation.

Nurhachi's unbroken series of military successes came to an end in January 1626 when he was defeated by Yuan Chonghuan while laying siege to Ningyuan. He died a few months later and was succeeded by his eighth son, Hong Taiji, who emerged after a short political struggle amongst other potential contenders as the new Khan.

Although Hong Taiji was an experienced leader and the commander of two Banners at the time of his succession, his reign did not start well on the military front. The Jurchens suffered yet another defeat in 1627 at the hands of Yuan Chonghuan. As before, this defeat was, in part, due to Ming's newly acquired Portuguese cannons.

To redress the technological and numerical disparity, Hong Taiji in 1634 created his own artillery corps, the ujen chooha, Chinese: 重軍 from among his existing Han troops who cast their own cannons in the European design with the help of captured Chinese metallurgists. In 1635, the Manchus' Mongol allies were fully incorporated into a separate Banner hierarchy under direct Manchu command. Hong Taiji then proceeded in 1636 to invade Korea again.

This was followed by the creation of the first two Han Banners in 1637 (increasing to eight in 1642). Together these military reforms enabled Hong Taiji to resoundingly defeat Ming forces in a series of battles from 1640 to 1642 for the territories of Songshan and Jingzhou. This final victory resulted in the surrender of many of the Ming Dynasty's most battle-hardened troops, the death of Yuan Chonghuan at the hands of the Chongzhen Emperor (who thought Yuan had betrayed him), and the complete and permanent withdrawal of the remaining Ming forces north of the Great Wall.

Meanwhile, Hong Taiji set up a rudimentary bureaucratic system based on the Ming model. He established six boards or executive level ministries in 1631 to oversee finance, personnel, rites, military, punishments, and public works. However, these administrative organs had very little role initially, and it was not until the eve of completing the conquest some ten years later that they filled out their government roles.

Hong Taiji's bureaucracy was staffed with many Han Chinese, including many newly surrendered Ming officials. The Manchus' continued dominance was ensured by an ethnic quota for top bureaucratic appointments. Hong Taiji's reign also saw a fundamental change of policy towards his Han Chinese subjects. Whereas under Nurhachi all captured Han Chinese were seen as potential fifth columnists for the Ming and treated as chattel – including those who eventually held important government posts – Hong Taiji instead incorporated them into the Jurchen "nation" as full (if not first-class) citizens, obligated to provide military service. By 1648, less than one-sixth of the bannermen were of Manchu ancestry.

This change of policy not only increased Hong Taiji's manpower and reduced his military dependence on banners not under his personal control, it also greatly encouraged other Han Chinese subjects of the Ming Dynasty to surrender and accept Jurchen rule when they were defeated militarily. Through these and other measures Hong Taiji was able to centralize power unto the office of the Khan, which in the long run prevented the Jurchen federation from fragmenting after his death.

One of the defining events of Hong Taiji's reign was the official adoption of the name "Manchu" for the united Jurchen people in November, 1635. The next year, when he is said to be presented with the imperial seal of the Yuan Dynasty after the defeat of the last Khagan of the Mongols, Hong Taiji renamed his state from "Great Jin" to "Great Qing" and elevated his position from Khan to Emperor, suggesting imperial ambitions beyond unifying the Manchu territories.

Claiming the Mandate of HeavenEdit

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A Chinese paddle-wheel driven ship from a Qing Dynasty encyclopedia published in 1726.

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Pine, Plum and Cranes, 1759 AD, by Shen Quan (1682–1760). Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk. The Palace Museum, Beijing.

Hong Taiji died suddenly in September 1643 without a designated heir. As the Jurchens had traditionally "elected" their leader through a council of nobles, the Qing state did not have in place a clear succession system until the reign of the Kangxi Emperor. The leading contenders for power at this time were Hong Taiji's oldest son Hooge and Hong Taiji's agnate half brother Dorgon. In the ensuing political impasse between the two bitter political rivals, a compromise candidate in the person of Hong Taiji's five-year-old son Fulin, was installed as the Shunzhi Emperor, with Dorgon as regent and de facto leader of the Manchu nation.

The Manchus' archenemy, the Ming Dynasty, was fighting for its own survival against a long peasant rebellion and was unable to capitalise on the Qing court's political uncertainty over the succession dispute and installation of a minor as emperor. The Ming Dynasty's internal crisis came to a head in April 1644, when the capital at Beijing was sacked by a coalition of rebel forces led by Li Zicheng, a former minor Ming official who became the leader of the peasant revolt and established a short-lived Shun Dynasty. The last Ming ruler, the Chongzhen Emperor, committed suicide when the city fell, marking the official end of the dynasty.

After easily taking Beijing, Li Zicheng led a coalition of rebel forces numbering 200,000 to confront Wu Sangui, the general commanding the Ming garrison at Shanhai Pass. Shanhai Pass is a pivotal pass of the Great Wall, located fifty miles northeast of Beijing, and for years its defenses were what kept the Manchus from directly raiding the Ming capital. Wu Sangui, caught between a rebel army twice his size and a foreign enemy he had fought for years, decided to cast his lot with the Manchus with whom he was familiar, and made an alliance with Dorgon to fight the rebels.

Some sources suggested that Wu Sangui's actions were influenced by news of mistreatment of his family and his concubine Chen Yuanyuan at the hands of the rebels when the capital fell. Regardless of the actual reasons for his decision, this awkward and some would say cynical alliance between Wu Sangui and his former sworn enemy was ironically made in the name of avenging the death of the Chongzhen Emperor. Together, the two former enemies met and defeated Li Zicheng's rebel forces in battle on May 27, 1644.

After routing Li Zicheng's forces, the Manchus captured Beijing on June 6, where the Shunzhi Emperor was installed as the "Son of Heaven" on October 30. The Manchus who had positioned themselves as political heir to the Ming emperor by defeating Li Zicheng, completed the symbolic act of transition by holding a formal funeral for the Chongzhen Emperor. However the process of conquering the rest of China took another seventeen years of battling Ming loyalists, pretenders and rebels.

It also involved huge loss of life, including the infamous Yangzhou massacre of 1645, when a ten-day rampage by troops in the city with the permission of Prince Dodo resulted in an estimated 800,000 deaths. The last Ming pretender, Prince Gui, sought refuge with the King of Burma, but was turned over to a Qing expeditionary army commanded by Wu Sangui, who had him brought back to Yunnan province and executed in early 1662.

The first seven years of the Shunzhi Emperor's reign were dominated by the regent prince Dorgon, who, because of his own political insecurity within the Manchu power structure, followed Hong Taiji's example of centralizing power under his own control in the name of the emperor at the expense of other contending Manchu princes, many of whom eventually were demoted or imprisoned under one pretext or another. Although the period of his regency was relatively short, Dorgon cast a long shadow over the Qing Dynasty.

Firstly the Manchus were able to enter "China proper" only because of Dorgon's timely decision to act on Wu Sangui's appeal for military assistance. After capturing Beijing instead of sacking the city as the rebels had done before them, Dorgon insisted over the protests of other Manchu princes on making it Qing's capital and largely reappointed Ming officials to their posts. Setting the Qing capital in Beijing may seem a straightforward move in hindsight, but it was then an act of innovation because historically no major Chinese dynasty had ever directly taken over its immediate predecessor's capital. Keeping the Ming capital and bureaucracy intact helped quickly stabilize the country and greatly sped up the Manchu process of conquest. However, not all of Dorgon's policies were equally popular nor easily implemented.

One of Dorgon's most controversial decisions was his July 1645 edict (the "haircutting order") that forced all adult Han Chinese men to shave the front of their heads and comb the remaining hair into a queue, on pain of death. The slogan of the order is: "To keep the hair, you lose the head; To keep your head, you cut the hair." To the Manchus, this policy was a test of loyalty and an aid in distinguishing friend from foe. For the Han Chinese, however, it was a humiliating reminder of Qing authority that challenged traditional Confucian values. The Classic of Filial Piety (Xiaojing 孝經) states that "a person's body and hair, being gifts from one's parents, are not to be damaged" (身體髮膚,受之父母,不敢毀傷).

Under the Ming Dynasty, adult men did not cut their hair but instead wore it in the form of a top-knot. Before capturing Beijing, the Later Jin government implemented a mandatory shaving of the hair in Liaodong in the early 1620s, which led to a rebellion of the Han Chinese of this area in 1622 and 1625, resulting in the death of more than 500,000 people and a stricter separation between Han Chinese and Manchus such as prohibition of intermarriage.

The 1645 order was so deeply unpopular that it triggered strong resistance to Qing rule in Jiangnan until at least the late 1640s, resulting in massive killing of ethnic Han Chinese in this area. One well documented massacre was the triple massacres at Jiading, in which Li Chengdong, a Han Chinese general who previously served the Ming Dynasty but later surrendered to the Qing, ordered troops to carry out three separate massacres on the Jiading inhabitants within a month, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. At the end of the third massacre, there was hardly any living person left in this city.

On December 31, 1650, Dorgon suddenly died during a hunting expedition, marking the official start of the Shunzhi Emperor's personal rule. Because the emperor was only 12 years old at that time, most decisions were made on his behalf by his mother, the Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, who turned out to be a skilled political operator.

Although Dorgon's support had been essential to Shunzhi's ascent, Dorgon had through the years centralised so much power in his hands as to become a direct threat to the throne. So much so that upon his death he was extraordinarily bestowed the posthumous title of Emperor Yi (Chinese: 義皇帝), the only instance in Qing history in which a Manchu "prince of the blood" (Chinese: 親王) was so honored. Two months into Shunzhi's personal rule, Dorgon was not only stripped of his titles, but his corpse was disinterred and mutilated. to atone for multiple "crimes", one of which was persecuting to death Shunzhi’s agnate eldest brother, Hooge. More importantly, Dorgon's symbolic fall from grace also signalled a political purge of his family and associates at court, thus reverting power back to the person of the emperor. After a promising start, Shunzhi's reign was cut short by his early death in 1661 at the age of twenty-four from smallpox. He was succeeded by his third son Xuanye, who reigned as the Kangxi Emperor.

The Kangxi Emperor's reign and consolidationEdit

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The Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662–1722).

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Pilgrim flask, porcelain with underglaze blue and iron-red decoration. Qing Dynasty, Qianlong period in the 18th century.

At sixty one years, the reign of Kangxi was the longest of any Chinese emperor. But more importantly, apart from its length, Kangxi's reign is also celebrated as the beginning of an era called "Kang-Qian Golden Age" (Chinese: 康乾盛世), also known as "High Qing", during which the Qing Dynasty reached the zenith of its social, economic and military power. Kangxi's long reign started when he was eight years old upon the untimely demise of his father. To prevent a repeat of Dorgon's dictatorial monopolizing of state power during the period of regency, the Shunzhi Emperor, on his deathbed, hastily appointed four senior cabinet ministers to govern on behalf of his young son. The four ministers — Sonin, Ebilun, Suksaha, and Oboi — were chosen for their long service to the emperor, but also to counteract each other's influences. Most importantly, the four were not closely related to the imperial family and laid no claim to the throne. However as time passed, through chance and machination, Oboi, the most junior of the four ministers, was able to achieve political dominance to such an extent as to become a potential threat to the crown. Even though Oboi's loyalty was never an issue, his personal arrogance and political conservatism led him to come into ever escalating conflict with the young Kangxi Emperor. In 1669 Kangxi, through trickery, disarmed and imprisoned Oboi — a not insignificant victory for the fifteen-year-old emperor, as Oboi was not only a wily old politician but also an experienced military commander.

The Manchus found controlling the "Mandate of Heaven" a daunting task. The vastness of China's territory meant that there were only enough banner troops to garrison key cities forming the backbone of a defence network that relied heavily on surrendered Ming soldiers. In addition, three surrendered Ming generals were singled out for their contributions to the establishment of the Qing dynasty, ennobled as feudal princes (藩王), and given governorships over vast territories in Southern China. The chief of these was Wu Sangui, who was given the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou, while generals Shang Kexi (尚可喜) and Geng Jingzhong (耿精忠) were given Guangdong and Fujian provinces respectively.

As the years went by, the three feudal lords and their territories inevitably became increasingly autonomous. Finally, in 1673, Shang Kexi petitioned the Kangxi Emperor, stating his desire to retire to his hometown in Liaodong province and nominating his son as his successor. The young emperor granted his retirement, but denied the heredity of his fief. In reaction, the two other generals decided to petition for their own retirements to test Kangxi's resolve, thinking that he would not risk offending them. The move backfired as the young emperor called their bluff by accepting their requests and ordering all three fiefdoms to be reverted to the crown.

Faced with the stripping of their powers, Wu Sangui felt he had no choice but to rise up in revolt. He was joined by Geng Zhongming and by Shang Kexi's son Shang Zhixin (尚之信). The ensuing rebellion lasted for eight years. At the peak of the rebels' fortunes, they managed to extend their control as far north as the Yangtze River. Ultimately, though, the Qing government was able to put down the rebellion and exert control over all of southern China. The rebellion would be known in Chinese history as the Revolt of the Three Feudatories.

To consolidate the dynasty, the Kangxi Emperor personally led a series of military campaigns against the Dzungars, and later the Russian Empire. Galdan's military campaign against the Qing Empire failed, further strengthening the power of the dynasty. During Kangxi's reign, Outer Mongolia and Tibet were invaded by the Dzungars and asked for help from China. The Kangxi Emperor was able to successfully expel Galdan's invading forces from these regions, which were then incorporated into the empire. Galdan was eventually killed in the First Oirat-Manchu War. Taiwan was also conquered by Qing forces in 1683 from Zheng Keshuang, grandson of Koxinga. Koxinga had conquered Taiwan from the Dutch colonists to use it as a base against the Qing Dynasty. By the end of the 17th century, China was at its greatest height of power since the Ming Dynasty.

The Kangxi Emperor also handled many Jesuit missionaries that came to China. A series of missionaries, including Tomás Pereira, Martino Martini, Johann Adam Schall von Bell, Ferdinand Verbiest and Antoine Thomas, also held significant positions as mathematicians, astronomers and advisers to the emperor.

Reigns of the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperorsEdit

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The Putuo Zongcheng Temple of Chengde, built in the 18th century during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor.

The Reception

"The reception of the Diplomatique (Macartney) and his suite, at the Court of Pekin". Drawn and engraved by James Gillray, published in September 1792.

The reigns of the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1723–1735) and his son, the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735–1796), marked the height of the Qing Dynasty's power. During this period, the Qing Empire ruled over 13 million square kilometres of territory.

After the Kangxi Emperor's death in the winter of 1722, his fourth son, Prince Yong (雍親王), succeeded him as the Yongzheng Emperor. Yongzheng remained a controversial character because of rumours about him usurping the throne, and in the late years of Kangxi's reign, he was involved in great political struggles with his brothers. Yongzheng was a hardworking administrator who ruled with an iron hand. His first big step towards a stronger regime came when he brought the State Examination System back to its original standards. In 1724, he cracked down on illegal exchange rates of coins, which was being manipulated by officials to fit their financial needs. Those who were found in violation of new laws on finances were removed from office, or in extreme cases, executed.

Yongzheng showed a great amount of trust in Han Chinese officials, and appointed many of his proteges to prestigious positions. Nian Gengyao was appointed to lead a military campaign in place of his brother Yinti in Qinghai.

More territory was incorporated in the northwest. Starting in 1727, Qing imperial residents were stationed in Lhasa, and commanded over Qing garrisons in Tibet. A toughened stance was directed toward corrupt officials, and Yongzheng led the creation of a Grand Council, which grew to become the de facto cabinet for the rest of the dynasty.

The Yongzheng Emperor died in 1735. This was followed by the succession of his son, Prince Bao (寶親王), as the Qianlong Emperor. Qianlong was known as an able general. Succeeding the throne at the age of 24, Qianlong personally led the military in campaigns near Xinjiang and Mongolia. Revolts and uprisings in Sichuan and parts of southern China were successfully put down, and the control over Tibet was strengthened.

The Qianlong Emperor also launched several ambitious cultural projects, such as the compilation of Siku Quanshu, or Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature. With a total of over 3,400 books, 79,000 chapters, and 36,304 volumes, Siku Quanshu is the largest collection of books in Chinese history as well as the largest series of books ever edited by the feudal authority. Nevertheless, Qianlong had used Literary Inquisition to silence opposition. The accusation of individuals began with the emperor's own interpretation of the true meaning of the corresponding words. If the emperor decided these were derogatory or cynical towards the dynasty, persecution would begin. Literary inquisition began with isolated cases in the times of Shunzhi and Kangxi, but had become a pattern during Qianlong's reign, during which there were 53 cases of literary persecution.

During the late years of Qianlong's reign, the Qing government saw a return of rampant corruption. Heshen was arguably one of the most corrupt officials in the entire history of the Qing Dynasty. Heshen was eventually forced into committing suicide by Qianlong's son, the Jiaqing Emperor (r. 1796–1820).

In 1796 open rebellion by the White Lotus Society against the Qing government broke out. The White Lotus Rebellion continued for eight years, until 1804, and marked a turning point in the history of the Qing Dynasty.

Rebellion, unrest and external pressureEdit

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Flag of Qing Dynasty, 1862–1890.

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Xi Wangmu ("Queen Mother of the West"), a Taoist deity, decor on a Qing dynasty porcelain plate, famille-rose style, Yongzheng Emperor period, 1725 AD.

China imperialism cartoon

In this political cartoon, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, France, and Japan are dividing China.

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A scene of the Taiping Rebellion, 1850-1864.

The Qing struggled with the concept of international and state to state relations. Prior to the 19th-century, the Chinese empire was generally the hegemonic power in East Asia. However, the 18th century saw the European empires gradually expand across the world, as European states developed stronger economies built on maritime trade. European colonies had been established in nearby India and on the islands that are now part of Indonesia, whilst the Russian Empire advanced into the areas north of China. The Qing response was successful for a time in establishing the Canton System, which restricted and controlled maritime trade and the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), which stabilized relations with Czarist Russia.

In 1793, the British East India Company, with the support of the British government sent a delegation to China under Lord George Macartney in order to change the nature of trade between the two countries in a direction which they believed was more befitting for a country of Britain's status. Up to this point, all Western powers were forced to trade only at one port (at Canton) and traded very much on the Chinese system. This was formed around a fundamental disdain for both Western merchants and their goods. The government viewed trade as unimportant. For the British, however, maritime trade was the key to sustaining their economy.

The Qianlong Emperor reported to the British ambassador Lord Macartney that China had no use for European manufactured products. Consequently, leading Chinese merchants only accepted bar silver as payment for their goods. The demand in Europe for Chinese goods such as silk, tea, and ceramics could only be met if European companies funneled their limited supplies of silver into China. By the late 1830s, the governments of Great Britain and France were deeply concerned about their stockpiles of precious metals and sought alternate trading schemes with China — the foremost of which was meeting the growing Chinese demand for opium. When the Qing regime tried to ban the opium trade in 1838, Great Britain declared war on China in the following year.

The First Opium War revealed the outdated state of the Chinese military. The Qing navy, composed entirely of wooden sailing junks, was severely outclassed by the modern tactics and firepower of the British Royal Navy. British soldiers, using advanced muskets and artillery, easily outmaneuvered and outgunned Qing forces in ground battles. The Qing surrender in 1842 marked a decisive, humiliating blow to China. The Treaty of Nanjing, the first of the "unequal treaties," demanded war reparations, forced China to open up the five ports of Canton, Amoy, Fuchow, Ningpo and Shanghai to western trade and missionaries, and to cede Hong Kong Island to Great Britain. It revealed many inadequacies in the Qing government and provoked widespread rebellions against the already hugely unpopular regime.

The Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century was the first major instance of anti-Manchu sentiment threatening the stability of the dynasty. Hong Xiuquan, a failed civil service candidate, led the Taiping Rebellion, amid widespread social unrest and worsening famine. In 1851 Hong Xiuquan and others launched an uprising in Guizhou province, established the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom with Hong himself as king, claiming he often had visions of God and that he was the brother of Jesus Christ.

Slavery, concubinage, arranged marriage, opium smoking, footbinding, judicial torture, and the worship of idols were all banned. However, success and subsequent authority and power led to internal feuds, defections and corruption. In addition, British and French troops, equipped with modern weapons, had come to the assistance of the Qing imperial army. It was not until 1864 that Qing armies under Zeng Guofan succeeded in crushing the revolt. The rebellion not only posed the most serious threat towards Qing rulers; it was also "bloodiest civil war of all time." Between 20 and 30 million people died during its fourteen-year course from 1850 to 1864. After the outbreak of this rebellion, there were also revolts by the Muslims and Miao people of China against the Qing Dynasty, most notably in the Dungan revolt (1862–1877) in the northwest and the Panthay Rebellion (1856–1873) in Yunnan.

The Western powers, largely unsatisfied with the Treaty of Nanjing, gave grudging support to the Qing government during the Taiping and Nien Rebellions. China's income fell sharply during the wars as vast areas of farmland were destroyed, millions of lives lost, and countless armies raised and equipped to fight the rebels. In 1854, Great Britain tried to re-negotiate the Treaty of Nanjing, inserting clauses allowing British commercial access to Chinese rivers and the creation of a permanent British embassy at Beijing.

In 1856, Qing authorities, in searching for a pirate, boarded a ship, the Arrow, which the British claimed had been flying the British flag, an incident which led to the Second Opium War. In 1858, facing no other options, the Xianfeng Emperor, agreed to the Treaty of Tientsin, which contained clauses deeply insulting to the Chinese, such as a demand that all official Chinese documents be written in English and a proviso granting British warships unlimited access to all navigable Chinese rivers.

Ratification of the treaty the following year led to resumption of hostilities and in 1860, with Anglo-French forces marching on Beijing, the emperor and his court fled the capital for the imperial hunting lodge at Rehe. Once in Beijing, the Anglo-French forces looted the Old Summer Palace, and in an act of revenge for the arrest of several Englishmen, burnt it to the ground. Prince Gong, a younger half-brother of the emperor, who had been left as his brother's proxy in the capital, was forced to sign the Convention of Beijing. Meanwhile, the humiliated emperor died the following year at Rehe.

Failed reforms and foreign incursionsEdit

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Political map of Asia in 1890, showing late-Qing China (centre, in light brown).

Yet the dynasty rallied. Chinese generals and officials such as Zuo Zongtang had led the suppression of rebellions and stood behind the Manchus. When the Tongzhi Emperor came to the throne at the age of five in 1861, these officials rallied around him in what was called the Tongzhi Restoration. Their aim was to adopt western military technology in order to preserve Confucian values. Zeng Guofan, in alliance with Prince Gong, sponsored the rise of younger officials such as Li Hongzhang who put the dynasty back on its feet financially and instituted the Self-Strengthening Movement. The reformers then proceeded with institutional reforms, including the formation of modernized armies, such as the Beiyang Army, as well as a navy.

Starting in the 1840s, France increasingly seized control of Indochina, despite Chinese claims. By 1883 France was in full control of Indochina, and had reached the Chinese border. In 1884, the Sino-French War over Tonkin, once a Qing tributary state, broke out, ending with French victory over China and Chinese recognition of all the French claims.

In 1884, the Gapsin Coup, led by pro-Japanese Koreans, occurred in Seoul. The incident led to tensions between China and Japan over the peninsula, after China went in to suppress the uprising. In an effort to alleviate the tensions, Japanese Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi and Li Hongzhang signed the Convention of Tientsin, in which both China and Japan agreed to simultaneously withdraw troops from the Korean Peninsula.

1894 saw the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War over the Korean Peninsula. In 1895, the humiliated Qing were forced to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki, in which China had to recognize Korean independence and had to cede Taiwan and the Pescadores to Japan. The terms would have been harsher, but while attending negotiations, a Japanese man tried to assassinate Li Hongzhang, which led to an international outcry and the shamed Japanese revised the terms. The terms had also included the cession of Liaodong Peninsula to Japan, but Russia, with its own designs on the territory, along with Germany and France, in what was known as the Triple Intervention, successfully put pressure on the Japanese to abandon the peninsula.

On November 1st, 1897, two German Roman Catholic missionaries were murdered in the southern part of Shandong Province. In response, Germany used the murders as a pretext for a naval occupation of Jiaozhou Bay. The occupation prompted a "scramble for concessions" in 1898, which included the German lease of Jiazhou Bay, the Russian acquisition of Liaodong, and the British lease of Hong Kong.

Rule of Empress Dowager CixiEdit

The Portrait of the Qing Dynasty Cixi Imperial Dowager Empress of China in the 1900s

Painting of Empress Dowager Cixi by Dutch American artist Hubert Vos circa 1905.

The Empress Dowager Cixi (Wade-Giles: Tz'u-Hsi), concubine to the Xianfeng Emperor (r. 1850–1861) came to power in 1861 after her five year-old son, the Tongzhi Emperor ascended the throne, and a coup that had been staged that ousted several regents for the boy emperor. Between 1861 and 1873, she and the Empress Dowager Ci'an, who had been Xianfeng's empress, served as regents for Tongzhi, "ruling from behind the curtain." Cixi, however, proved to be the more assertive of the two women. Following the emperor's death in 1875, Cixi's nephew, the Guangxu Emperor took the throne, and another regency began. In the spring of 1881, Ci'an suddenly died, aged only forty-three, leaving Cixi as sole regent.

From 1889, when Guangxu began to rule in his own right, to 1898, the Empress Dowager lived in semi-retirement, spending the majority of the year at the Summer Palace. In the wake of China's defeat by Japan and the German occupation of Jiazhou Bay, Emperor Guangxu initiated the Hundred Days' Reform, in which new laws were put in place and some old rules were abolished. Newer, more progressive-minded thinkers like Kang Youwei were trusted and recognized conservative-minded people like Li Hongzhang were removed from high positions. The empress dowager then returned to the imperial court to call off the emperor's reform, and at the same time put him under house arrest. She centralised her own power base.

Boxer RebellionEdit

In the years before the turn of the century, the Boxers United in Righteousness emerged as a violent anti-foreign force in North China. In 1900 local groups of Boxers, in the "Boxer Rebellion," murdered large numbers of Chinese Christians and then converged on Beijing to besiege the Foreign Legation Quarter. The Eight-Nation Alliance then entered China without diplomatic notice or permission. Cixi declared war on all eight nations, only to lose control of Beijing after a short but hard fought campaign. She fled to Xi'an. The victorious alliance listed scores of demands on the Qing government, including compensation for their expenses in invading China and execution of complicit officials. Li Hongzhang was sent to negotiate and the alliance backed down from several of the demands.

Fall of the dynastyEdit

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Painted silk textile, 45 × 29½ in. (114.3 × 74.93 cm), Qing Dynasty, China, mid-18th century.

By the early 20th century, mass civil disorder had begun and continuously grown. To overcome such problems, Empress Dowager Cixi issued an imperial edict in 1901 calling for reform proposals from the governors-general and governors and initiated the era of the dynasty's "New Policy", also known as the "Late Qing Reform". The edict paved the way for the most far-reaching reforms in terms of their social consequences, including the creation of a national education system and the abolition of the imperial examinations in 1905.

The Guangxu Emperor died on November 14, 1908, and on November 15, 1908, Cixi also passed away. Rumors held that she or Yuan Shikai ordered trusted eunuchs to poison the Guangxu Emperor, and an autopsy conducted nearly a century later confirmed lethal levels of arsenic in his corpse. Puyi, the oldest son of Zaifeng, Prince Chun, and nephew to the childless Guangxu emperor, was appointed successor at the age of two, leaving Zaifeng with the regency. This was followed by the dismissal of General Yuan Shikai from his former positions of power. In April 1911 Zaifeng created a cabinet, in which there were two vice-premiers. Nevertheless, this cabinet was also known by contemporaries as "The Royal Cabinet" because among the thirteen cabinet members, five were members of the imperial family or Aisin Gioro relatives. This brought a wide range of negative opinions from senior officials like Zhang Zhidong.

The Wuchang Uprising succeeded on October 10, 1911, which led to the creation of the new central government, the Republic of China, in Nanjing with Sun Yat-sen as its provisional head. Many provinces began "separating" from Qing control. Seeing a desperate situation unfold, the Qing government brought Yuan Shikai back to military power, taking control of his Beiyang Army to crush the revolution in Wuhan. After taking the position of Prime Minister and creating his own cabinet, Yuan Shikai went as far as to ask for the removal of Zaifeng from the regency. This removal later proceeded with directions from Empress Dowager Longyu.

With Zaifeng gone, Yuan Shikai and his Beiyang commanders effectively dominated Qing politics. He reasoned that going to war would be unreasonable and costly, especially when noting that the Qing government had a goal for constitutional monarchy. Similarly, Sun Yat-sen's government wanted a republican constitutional reform, both aiming for the benefit of China's economy and populace. With permission from Empress Dowager Longyu, Yuan Shikai began negotiating with Sun Yat-sen, who decided that his goal had been achieved in forming a republic, and that therefore he could allow Yuan to step into the position of President of the Republic of China. On 12 February 1912, after rounds of negotiations, Longyu issued an imperial edict bringing about the abdication of the child emperor Puyi. This brought an end to over 2,000 years of imperial China.

Founding of the RepublicEdit

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National flag of the Republic of China 1912-1928.

Yuan was officially elected president in 1913. He ruled by military power and ignored the republican institutions established by his predecessor, threatening to execute Senate members who disagreed with his decisions. He soon dissolved the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party, banned "secret organizations" (which implicitly included the KMT), and ignored the provisional constitution. An attempt at a democratic election in 1911 ended up with the assassination of the elected candidate by a man recruited by Yuan. Ultimately, Yuan declared himself Emperor of China in 1915. The new ruler of China tried to increase centralization by abolishing the provincial system; however, this move angered the gentry along with the provincial governors, usually military men. Many provinces declared independence and became warlord states. Increasingly unpopular and deserted by his supporters, Yuan gave up on being Emperor in 1916 and died of natural causes shortly after.

Devoid of a strong, unified government, China was thrust into another period of warlordism. Sun, forced into exile, returned to Guangdong province in the south with the help of warlords in 1917 and 1922, and set up successive rival governments to the Beiyang government in Beijing; he re-established the KMT in October 1919. Sun's dream was to unify China by launching an expedition to the north. However, he lacked military support and funding to make it a reality.

Meanwhile, the Beiyang government struggled to hold on to power, and an open and wide-ranging debate evolved regarding how China should confront the West. In 1919, a student protest against the government's weak response to the Treaty of Versailles, considered unfair by Chinese intellectuals, led to the May Fourth movement. These demonstrations were aimed at spreading Western influence to replace Chinese culture. It is also in this intellectual climate that the influence of Marxism spread and became more popular. It eventually led to the founding of the Communist Party of China in 1920.

Nanjing decadeEdit

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Yuan Shikai (left) and Sun Yat-sen (right) with flags representing the early republic.

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With help from Germany, Chinese industry and its military were improved just prior to the war against Japan.

After Sun's death in March 1925, Chiang Kai-shek became the leader of the KMT. In 1926, Chiang led the Northern Expedition through China with the intention of defeating the warlords and unifying the country. Chiang received the help of the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists; however, he soon dismissed his Soviet advisors. He was convinced, not without reason, that they wanted to get rid of the KMT (also known as the Nationalists) and take over control. Chiang decided to strike first and purged the Communists, killing thousands of them. At the same time, other violent conflicts were taking place in China; in the South, where the Communists were in superior numbers, Nationalist supporters were being massacred. These events eventually led to the Chinese Civil War between the Nationalists and Communists. Chiang Kai-shek pushed the Communists into the interior as he sought to destroy them, and established a government with Nanking as its capital in 1927. By 1928, Chiang's army overturned the Beiyang government and unified the entire nation, at least nominally, beginning the so-called Nanjing Decade.

According to Sun Yat-sen's theory, the KMT was to rebuild China in three phases: a phase of military rule through which the KMT would take over power and reunite China by force; a phase of political tutelage; and finally a constitutional democratic phase. In 1930, the Nationalists, having taken over power militarily and reunified China, started the second phase, promulgating a provisional constitution and beginning the period of so-called "tutelage". The KMT was criticized as instituting totalitarianism, but claimed it was attempting to establish a modern democratic society. Among others, they created at that time the Academia Sinica, the Central Bank of China, and other agencies. In 1932, China sent a team for the first time to the Olympic Games. Laws were passed and campaigns mounted to promote the rights of women, The ease and speed of communication also allowed a focus on social problems, including those of the villages. The Rural Reconstruction Movement was one of many which took advantage of the new freedom to raise social consciousness.

Historians, such as Edmund Fung, argue that establishing a democracy in China at that time was not possible. The nation was at war and divided between Communists and Nationalists. Corruption within the government and lack of direction also prevented any significant reform from taking place. Chiang realized the lack of real work being done within his administration and told the State Council: "Our organization becomes worse and worse... many staff members just sit at their desks and gaze into space, others read newspapers and still others sleep." The Nationalist government wrote a draft of the constitution in 5 May 1936.

During this time a series of massive wars took place in western China, including the Kumul Rebellion, the Sino-Tibetan War and the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang. Although the central government was nominally in control of the entire country during this period, large areas of China remained under the semi-autonomous rule of local warlords, provincial military leaders or warlord coalitions. Nationalist rule was strongest in the eastern regions around the capital Nanjing, but regional militarists such as Feng Yuxiang and Yan Xishan retained considerable local authority. The Central Plains War in 1930, the Japanese aggression in 1931 and the Red Army's Long March in 1934 led to more power for the central government, but there continued to be foot-dragging and even outright defiance, as in the Fujian Rebellion of 1933–34.

Second Sino-Japanese War (1936–1945)Edit

Few Chinese had any illusions about Japanese desires on China. Hungry for raw materials and pressed by a growing population, Japan initiated the seizure of Manchuria in September 1931 and established ex-Qing emperor Puyi as head of the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. The loss of Manchuria, and its vast potential for industrial development and war industries, was a blow to the Kuomintang economy. The League of Nations, established at the end of World War I, was unable to act in the face of the Japanese defiance.

The Japanese began to push from south of the Great Wall into northern China and the coastal provinces. Chinese fury against Japan was predictable, but anger was also directed against Chiang and the Nanking government, which at the time was more preoccupied with anti-Communist extermination campaigns than with resisting the Japanese invaders. The importance of "internal unity before external danger" was forcefully brought home in December 1936, when Chiang Kai-shek, in an event now known as the Xi'an Incident, was kidnapped by Zhang Xueliang and forced to ally with the Communists against the Japanese in the Second Kuomintang-CCP United Front against Japan.

The Chinese resistance stiffened after 7 July 1937, when a clash occurred between Chinese and Japanese troops outside Beijing (then named Beiping) near the Marco Polo Bridge. This skirmish led to open, though undeclared, warfare between China and Japan. Shanghai fell after a three-month battle during which Japan suffered extensive casualties, both in its army and navy. The capital of Nanjing fell in December 1937. It was followed by an orgy of mass murders and rapes known as the Nanjing Massacre. The national capital was briefly at Wuhan, then removed in an epic retreat to Chongqing, the seat of government until 1945. In 1940 the collaborationist Wang Jingwei regime was set up with its capital in Nanjing, proclaiming itself the legitimate "Republic of China" in opposition to Chiang Kai-shek's government, though its claims were significantly hampered due to its nature as a Japanese puppet state controlling limited amounts of territory, along with its subsequent defeat at the end of the war.

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Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek with Gen. Joseph Stilwell in Burma (1942).

he United Front between the Kuomintang and CCP took place with salutary effects for the beleaguered CCP, despite Japan's steady territorial gains in northern China, the coastal regions and the rich Yangtze River Valley in central China. After 1940 conflicts between the Kuomintang and Communists became more frequent in the areas not under Japanese control. The entrance of the United States into the Pacific War after 1941 changed the nature of their relationship. The Communists expanded their influence wherever opportunities presented themselves through mass organizations, administrative reforms and the land- and tax-reform measures favoring the peasants and the spread of their organizational network, while the Kuomintang attempted to neutralize the spread of Communist influence. Meanwhile northern China was infiltrated politically by Japanese politicians in Manchukuo using facilities such as Wei Huang Gong.

In 1945 the Republic of China emerged from the war nominally a great military power but actually a nation economically prostrate and on the verge of all-out civil war. The economy deteriorated, sapped by the military demands of foreign war and internal strife, by spiraling inflation and by Nationalist profiteering, speculation and hoarding. Starvation came in the wake of the war, and millions were rendered homeless by floods and the unsettled conditions in many parts of the country. The situation was further complicated by an Allied agreement at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 that brought Soviet troops into Manchuria to hasten the termination of war against Japan. Although the Chinese had not been present at Yalta, they had been consulted and had agreed to have the Soviets enter the war in the belief that the Soviet Union would deal only with the Kuomintang government.

After the end of the war in August 1945, the Nationalist Government moved back to Nanjing. With American help, Nationalist troops moved to take the Japanese surrender in North China. The Soviet Union, as part of the Yalta agreement allowing a Soviet sphere of influence in Manchuria, dismantled and removed more than half the industrial equipment left there by the Japanese. The Soviet presence in northeast China enabled the Communists to move in long enough to arm themselves with the equipment surrendered by the withdrawing Japanese army. The problems of rehabilitating the formerly Japanese-occupied areas and of reconstructing the nation from the ravages of a protracted war were staggering.

Civil WarEdit

During World War II the United States emerged as a major player in Chinese affairs. As an ally it embarked in late 1941 on a program of massive military and financial aid to the hard-pressed Nationalist Government. In January 1943 the United States and Britain led the way in revising their treaties with China, bringing to an end a century of unequal treaty relations. Within a few months a new agreement was signed between the United States and the Republic of China for the stationing of American troops in China for the common war effort against Japan. In December 1943 the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 1880s and subsequent laws enacted by the United States Congress to restrict Chinese immigration into the United States were repealed.

The wartime policy of the United States was initially to help China become a strong ally and a stabilizing force in postwar East Asia. As the conflict between the Kuomintang and the Communists intensified, however, the United States sought unsuccessfully to reconcile the rival forces for a more effective anti-Japanese war effort. According to the Potsdam Declaration, the transfer of sovereignty over Taiwan from Japan to the Republic of China occurred on 25 October 1945. Toward the end of the war, United States Marines were used to hold Beiping (Beijing) and Tianjin against a possible Soviet incursion, and logistic support was given to Kuomintang forces in north and northeast China. To further this end, on September 30, 1945 the 1st Marine Division arrived in China, charged with security in the areas of the Shandong Peninsula and the eastern Hebei Province.

Through the mediating influence of the United States a military truce was arranged in January 1946, but battles between the Kuomintang and Communists soon resumed. Public opinion of the administrative incompetence of the Republic of China government was escalated and incited by the Communists in the nationwide student protest against mishandling of a rape accusation in early 1947 and another national protest against monetary reforms later that year. Realizing that no American efforts short of large-scale armed intervention could stop the coming war, the United States withdrew the American mission, headed by Gen. George C. Marshall, in early 1947. The Chinese Civil War became more widespread; battles raged not only for territories but also for the allegiance of cross-sections of the population. The United States aided the Nationalists with massive economic loans and weapons but no combat support.

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The Nationalists' retreat to Taipei: after the Nationalists lost Nanjing (Nanking) they next moved to Guangzhou (Canton), then to Chongqing (Chungking), Chengdu (Chengtu) and Xichang (Sichang) before arriving in Taipei.

Belatedly, the Republic of China government sought to enlist popular support through internal reforms. The effort was in vain, however, because of rampant government corruption and the accompanying political and economic chaos. By late 1948 the Kuomintang position was bleak. The demoralized and undisciplined Kuomintang troops proved to be no match for the motivated and disciplined Communist People's Liberation Army, earlier known as the Red Army. The Communists were well established in the north and northeast.

Although the Kuomintang had an advantage in numbers of men and weapons, controlled a much larger territory and population than their adversaries and enjoyed considerable international support, they were exhausted by the long war with Japan and in-fighting among various generals. They were also losing the propaganda war to the Communists, with a population weary of Kuomintang corruption and yearning for peace.

In January 1949 Beiping was taken by the Communists without a fight, and its name changed back to Beijing. Between April and November major cities passed from Kuomintang to Communist control with minimal resistance. In most cases the surrounding countryside and small towns had come under Communist influence long before the cities. Finally, on 1 October 1949, Communists founded the People's Republic of China.

After 1 October 1949 Chiang Kai-shek and a few hundred thousand Republic of China troops and two million refugees, predominantly from the government and business community, fled from mainland China to Taiwan; there remained in China itself only isolated pockets of resistance. On 7 December 1949 Chiang proclaimed Taipei, Taiwan, the temporary capital of the Republic of China.

People's RepublicEdit

In 1950, the People's Liberation Army succeeded in capturing Hainan from the ROC and occupying Tibet.[77] However, remaining Nationalist forces continued to wage an insurgency in western China throughout the 1950s.

Mao encouraged population growth, and under his leadership the Chinese population almost doubled from around 550 million to over 900 million. However, Mao's Great Leap Forward, a large-scale economic and social reform project, resulted in an estimated 45 million deaths between 1958 and 1961, mostly from starvation. Between 1 and 2 million landlords were executed as "counterrevolutionaries." In 1966, Mao and his allies launched the Cultural Revolution, sparking a period of political recrimination and social upheaval which lasted until Mao's death in 1976. In October 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China in the United Nations, and took its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council.

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Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the PRC in 1949.

After Mao's death in 1976 and the arrest of the faction known as the Gang of Four, who were blamed for the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping took power and led the country to significant economic reforms. The Communist Party subsequently loosened governmental control over citizens' personal lives and the communes were disbanded in favour of private land leases. This turn of events marked China's transition from a planned economy to a mixed economy with an increasingly open market environment. China adopted its current constitution on 4 December 1982. In 1989, the violent suppression of student protests in Tiananmen Square brought condemnation and sanctions against the Chinese government from various countries.

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Shanghai skyline.

Jiang Zemin, Li Peng and Zhu Rongji led the nation in the 1990s. Under their administration, China's economic performance pulled an estimated 150 million peasants out of poverty and sustained an average annual gross domestic product growth rate of 11.2%. The country formally joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and maintained its high rate of economic growth under Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao's leadership in the 2000s. However, rapid growth also severely impacted the country's resources and environment, and caused major social displacement. Living standards continued to improve rapidly despite the late-2000s recession, but centralized political control remained tight.

Preparations for a decadal Communist Party leadership change in 2012 were marked by factional disputes and political scandals. During China's 18th National Communist Party Congress in November 2012, Hu Jintao was replaced as General Secretary of the Communist Party by Xi Jinping. Under Xi, the Chinese government began large-scale efforts to reform its economy, which has suffered from structural instabilities and slowing growth. The Xi-Li Administration also announced major reforms to the one-child policy and prison system.

GeographyEdit

Political geographyEdit

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A composite satellite image showing the topography of China.

The People's Republic of China is the second-largest country in the world by land area after Russia, and is either the third- or fourth-largest by total area, after Russia, Canada and, depending on the definition of total area, the United States. China's total area is generally stated as being approximately 9,600,000 km2 (3,700,000 sq mi). Specific area figures range from 9,572,900 km2 (3,696,100 sq mi) according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the UN Demographic Yearbook, to 9,596,961 km2 (3,705,407 sq mi) according to the CIA World Factbook.

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Longsheng Rice Terrace in Guangxi.

hina has the longest combined land border in the world, measuring 22,117 km (13,743 mi) from the mouth of the Yalu River to the Gulf of Tonkin. China borders 14 nations, more than any other country except Russia, which also borders 14. China extends across much of East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Burma in Southeast Asia; India, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan in South Asia; Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia; and Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea in Inner Asia and Northeast Asia. Additionally, China shares maritime boundaries with South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Landscape and climateEdit

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Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan.

Sanya Sun Photo by Dale Preston

The South China Sea coast at Hainan.

The territory of China lies between latitudes 18° and 54° N, and longitudes 73° and 135° E. China's landscapes vary significantly across its vast width. In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea, there are extensive and densely populated alluvial plains, while on the edges of the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north, broad grasslands predominate. Southern China is dominated by hills and low mountain ranges, while the central-east hosts the deltas of China's two major rivers, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. Other major rivers include the Xi, Mekong, Brahmaputra and Amur. To the west sit major mountain ranges, most notably the Himalayas. High plateaus feature among the more arid landscapes of the north, such as the Taklamakan and the Gobi Desert. The world's highest point, Mount Everest (8,848m), lies on the Sino-Nepalese border. The country's lowest point, and the world's third-lowest, is the dried lake bed of Ayding Lake (−154m) in the Turpan Depression.

China's climate is mainly dominated by dry seasons and wet monsoons, which lead to pronounced temperature differences between winter and summer. In the winter, northern winds coming from high-latitude areas are cold and dry; in summer, southern winds from coastal areas at lower latitudes are warm and moist. The climate in China differs from region to region because of the country's highly complex topography.

A major environmental issue in China is the continued expansion of its deserts, particularly the Gobi Desert. Although barrier tree lines planted since the 1970s have reduced the frequency of sandstorms, prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices have resulted in dust storms plaguing northern China each spring, which then spread to other parts of East Asia, including Korea and Japan. China's environmental watchdog, Sepa, stated in 2007 that China is losing a million acres (4,000 km²) per year to desertification. Water quality, erosion, and pollution control have become important issues in China's relations with other countries. Melting glaciers in the Himalayas could potentially lead to water shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

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