China and the West (1583-2000)

MING DYNASTY 1368-1644.

1583 - The Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci arrives in China.

1627 - First Manchu expedition to Korea.

1637 - Second Manchu expedition to Korea.


1650 - First Catholic church in Beijing.

1670 - The Manchus conquer Turkestan.

1683 - Taiwan falls to the Manchu.

1689 - The Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) with the Russians was drafted to bring to an end a series of border incidents and to establish a border between Siberia and Manchuria (northeast China) along the Heilong Jiang (Amur River). The treaty was China's first bilateral agreement with a European power.

1692 - Jesuit missionaries welcomed by the Manchu court.

1697 - The Manchu armies occupy Outer Mongolia.

1704 - Papal decision condemned the Jesuit missionary work in China, which had been especially adept at fitting Christianity into a Chinese framework, for having tolerated the continuance of Confucian ancestor rites among Christian converts. The papal decision quickly weakened the Christian movement, which it proscribed as heterodox and disloyal.

1711 - The British East India Company establishes a trading post in Guangzhou.

1723 - Acession of the emperor Yung-cheng; Christianity is proscribed in China.

1727 - The Treaty of Kiakhta with Russia delimited the remainder of the eastern portion of the Sino-Russian border.

1751 - The Manchus conquer Tibet.

1760 - All foreign trade was confined to Guangzhou, where the foreign traders had to limit their dealings to a dozen officially licensed Chinese merchant firms.

1787-1788 - Bloody suppression of revolt in Taiwan.

1788 - Manchus expeditions to Vietnam.

1791-1792 - Expedition by the Manchu armies to Nepal against the Gurkhas.

I792-1794 - Lord Macartney, first British envoy to Beijing.

1814 - First recorded Chinese convert to Western Christianity (the Nestorian form was long-established in China).

1816 - The British East India Company decides to develop imports of opium into China.

1839-1842 - The First Opium War. Early in the 19th century, British merchants began smuggling opium into China in order to balance their purchases of tea for export to Britain. In 1839 the Qing government, after a decade of unsuccessful anti-opium campaigns, adopted drastic prohibitory laws against the opium trade. The emperor dispatched a commissioner, Lin Zexu (1785-1850), to Guangzhou (Canton) to suppress illicit opium traffic. Lin seized illegal stocks of opium owned by Chinese dealers and then detained the entire foreign community and confiscated and destroyed some 20,000 chests of illicit British opium. Great Britain, which had been looking to end China's restrictions on foreign trade, responded by sending gunboats to attack several Chinese coastal cities. Unprepared for war and grossly underestimating the capabilities of the enemy, the Chinese were disastrously defeated, and their image of their own imperial power was tarnished beyond repair.

1842 - The First Opium War ends. China, unable to withstand modern arms, was defeated and forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) and the British Supplementary Treaty of the Bogue (1843). These provided that the ports of Guangzhou, Jinmen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, and Shanghai should be open to British trade and residence; in addition Hong Kong was ceded to the British. Within a few years other Western powers signed similar treaties with China and received commercial and residential privileges, and the Western domination of China's treaty ports began.

1845 - The Sino-American Treaty of Wangxia permits Americans to trade in the treaty ports and to purchase land for Protestant churches and missions. It also establishes the principle of extraterritoriality by which foreigners are tried only by their own consuls.

1850-64 - Taiping Rebellion. The peasants, having suffered floods and famines in the late 1840s, were ripe for rebellion, which came under the leadership of Hong Xiuquan. Hong's visions convinced him he was the younger brother of Jesus, and he saw it as his duty to free China from Manchu rule. Taiping rebels captured Nanjing in 1853. Their attempts to capture Beijing failed, but an expedition into the upper Yangtze River valley scored many victories. Hong's idiosyncratic Christianity alienated both Western missionaries and the Chinese scholar-gentry. Without the gentry, the Taiping forces were unable to govern the countryside or supply their cities effectively. The leadership strayed from its original austerity and descended into power struggles that left Hong without competent help. In 1860 an attempt to take Shanghai was repelled by U.S.- and British-led forces, and by 1862 Chinese forces under Zeng Guofan had surrounded Nanjing. Sporadic resistance continued elsewhere until 1868. The rebellion ravaged 17 provinces, took some 20 million lives, and left the Qing government unable to regain an effective hold over the country.

1856-1860 - The Second Opium War. War broke out following an allegedly illegal Chinese search of a British-registered ship, the Arrow, in Guangzhou. British and French troops took Guangzhou and Tianjin and compelled the Chinese to accept the treaties of Tianjin (1858), to which France, Russia, and the United States were also party.

1857 - British and French troops occupy Canton.

1858 - The Treaty of Tianjin (Tientsin). China agreed to open 11 more ports, permit foreign legations in Beijing, sanction Christian missionary activity, and legalize the import of opium.

1859 - China's attempt to block the entry of diplomats into Beijing as well as Britain's determination to enforce the new treaty terms led to a renewal of the Second Opium War.

1860 - An Anglo-French force occupies Beijing and destroys the Imperial Summer Palace. The Beijing conventions of 1860, by which China was forced to reaffirm the terms of the Treaty of Tianjin and make additional concessions, concluded the hostilities.

1860s-90s - The opening of a Foreign Office in Beijing in 1861 marks the beginning of a number of diplomatic and military modernization projects described collectively as the Self-Strengthening movement.

1872 - First Chinese students go abroad.

1876 - The Convention of Chih-fu (1876) opened four more treaty ports.

1881-1885 - Franco-Chinese War. China gave up its sovereignty over Annam and Tonkin (now in north Vietnam). These territories were later included in French Indochina.

1894-1895 - Sino-Japanese War. China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War exposes the limitations of the Self-Strengthening movement. The Treaty of Shimonoseki forced China to cede Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to Japan, pay a huge indemnity, permit the establishment of Japanese industries in four treaty ports, and recognize Japanese hegemony over Korea. Young radicals, among them Sun Yat-sen, form Self-Strengthening and Revive China societies.

1897 - Russians occupy Dairen; Germany annexes the Ching-tao area in Shantung.

1898 - The British acquired a ninety-nine-year lease over the so-called New Territories of Kowloon, which increased the size of their Hong Kong colony. Britain, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, and Belgium each gained spheres of influence in China. China is forced to grant a 25-year lease on Lushun (Port Arthur) and the Dalian (Dairen) peninsula. Germany acquires Jiaozhou (Kiaochow) Bay. France demands a lease on Guangzhou (Kwangchow) Bay and Britain obtains a lease on Weihaiwei for as long as the Russians remain in Lushun and on Hong Kong's New Territories for 99 years.

1898 - The Hundred Days Reform. In the 103 days from June 11 to September 21, 1898, the Qing emperor, Guangxu (1875-1908), ordered a series of reforms aimed at making sweeping social and institutional changes. Opposition to the reform was intense among the conservative ruling elite, especially the Manchus, who, in condemning the announced reform as too radical, proposed instead a more moderate and gradualist course of change. Supported by ultra-conservatives and with the tacit support of the political opportunist Yuan Shikai (1859-1916), Empress Dowager Cixi engineered a coup d'etat on September 21, 1898, forcing the young reform-minded Guangxu into seclusion. Cixi took over the government as regent. The Hundred Days' Reform ended with the rescindment of the new edicts and the execution of six of the reform's chief advocates. The conservatives then gave clandestine backing to the anti-foreign and anti-Christian movement of secret societies known as Yihetuan (Society of Righteousness and Harmony). The movement has been better known in the West as the Boxers.

1898-1900 - The Boxer Rebellion. An antiforeign movement in China, culminating in a desperate uprising against Westerners and Western influence, leads to the siege of the legations in Beijing. In June, 1900, the Boxers (some 140,000 strong and now led by the war party at court), occupied Beijing and for eight weeks besieged the foreigners and the Chinese Christians there. Provincial governors in southeast China suppressed the court's declaration of war and assured the powers of protection for foreign interests, thus limiting the area of conflict to north China. The siege was lifted in August by an international force of British, French, Russian, American, German, and Japanese troops, which had fought its way through from Tianjin.

1899 - The Open Door Policy. The United States, which had not acquired any territorial cessions, proposed in 1899 that there be an "open door" policy in China, whereby all foreign countries would have equal duties and privileges in all treaty ports within and outside the various spheres of influence. All the Powers except Russia agreed to the United States overture. Despite the agreement, China continued to be divided into separate zones of influence.

1901 - By the Boxer Protocol China is required to pay an indemnity of $333 million to the Western powers, to amend commercial treaties to the advantage of the foreign nations, and to permit the stationing of foreign troops in Beijing.

1905 - Civil service examinations are abolished. In Tokyo Sun Yat-sen forms the Alliance Society, precursor of the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party.

1908 - The Empress Dowager dies and the 2-year-old Puyi is proclaimed emperor. China holds the first elections for regional assemblies the following year.

1910 - Division of north-eastern China into Russian and Japanese spheres of influence.

1911 - The republican revolution broke out on October 10, 1911, in Wuchang, the capital of Hubei Province, among discontented modernized army units whose anti-Qing plot had been uncovered. It had been preceded by numerous abortive uprisings and organized protests inside China. The revolt quickly spread to neighboring cities. By late November, fifteen of the twenty-four provinces had declared their independence of the Qing empire. A month later, Sun Yat-sen returned to China from the United States, where he had been raising funds among overseas Chinese and American sympathizers.


1912 - On January 1, 1912, Sun was inaugurated in Nanjing as the provisional president of the new Chinese republic. But power in Beijing already had passed to the commander-in-chief of the imperial army, Yuan Shikai, the strongest regional military leader at the time.

1912 - On February 12, 1912, the last Manchu emperor, the child Puyi, abdicated.

1914 - On the outbreak of the First World War China declares herself neutral.

1915 - The Twenty-One Demands. In 1915 the Japanese set before the warlord government in Beijing the so-called Twenty-One Demands, which would have made China a Japanese protectorate. The Beijing government rejected some of these demands but yielded to the Japanese insistence on keeping the Shandong territory already in its possession. Beijing also recognized Tokyo's authority over southern Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia. In 1917, in secret communiqueacute;s, Britain, France, and Italy assented to the Japanese claim in exchange for the Japan's naval action against Germany.

1916 - Yuan Shikai declares himself emperor but dies soon after. Generals of provincial armies declare their independence as local warlords.

1917 - Sun Yat-sen's Kuomintang (KMT) Party sets up a military government in Guangzhou.

1919 - By the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Japan's demands for control of all former German territories in China are accepted by the Western powers. On 4 May students in Beijing demonstrate in protest and organize a strike and boycott of Japanese goods. The cultural and intellectual revolution taking place during this period is subsequently commonly known as the May Fourth movement.

1921 - The northern warlords declare war on Sun Yat-sen's government in Guangzhou. The Chinese Communist Party is founded in Shanghai.

1922 - Sun Yat-sen launches the Northern Expedition against warlords.

1922 - At the Washington Naval Conference (1921-22), Japan finally agreed to withdraw its troops from Shandong and restore full sovereignty to China. The Nine-Power Treaty, signed at the Conference, guaranteed China's territorial integrity and the Open Door Policy.

1925 - Sun Yat-sen dies. A demonstration in Shanghai on 30 May is fired on on the order of a British police inspector: 9 students are killed. A general strike is called in Shanghai which leads to anti-British demonstrations elsewhere and a boycott of British goods.

1926 - Chiang Kai-shek assumes command of the KMT armies, relaunches the Northern Expedition and takes Hankou.

1927 - Chiang Kai-shek launches a purge of Communists. In Hunan Mao Zedong leads the Autumn Harvest Uprising. When the revolt fails he is forced to flee.

1928 - Japanese troops land in Shandong. Mao and Zhou Enlai establish a Soviet regime in Ruijin, Jiangxi.

1930 - Chiang Kai-shek launches the first of five campaigns of encirclement and extermination against the Communists. The first major internal purge of Chinese Communists takes place in what becomes known as the Futian Incident.

1931 - Japanese seizures Manchuria. Few Chinese had any illusions about Japanese designs on China. Hungry for raw materials and pressed by a growing population, Japan initiated the seizure of Manchuria in September 1931.

1934 - KMT armies encircle the Communist Red Army in Jiangxi. In October, the Communists break out and begin the Long March to Yan'an in Shanxi province.

1936 - Chiang Kai-shek is kidnapped in Xian and forced to agree to a United Front with the Communists against Japan.

1937 - An incident at the Marco Polo bridge west of Beijing marks the beginning of the Japanese invasion of China.

1938 - Japan occupies most of eastern China. The KMT government moves its capital to Chongqing.

1942 - At Yan'an Mao purges his enemies in the Rectification movement. He also outlines Party policy on intellectuals at the Yan'an Forum.

1943 - Britain and America relinquish all extraterritorial privileges and concessions in China.

1945 - Japan surrenders. Civil war between the Communists and the KMT resumes.


1949 - On I October Mao Zedong declares the People's Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT government flee to Taiwan.

1949-51 - Land reform, already undertaken earlier in Communist-controlled areas, is now enforced throughout China, leading to the persecution of millions of landlords and wealthy peasants.

1950 - China invades Tibet. Hostilities break out between North and South Korea. China sends 'volunteers' to assist the North.

1953 - The first five-year plan is launched.

1955 - Mao begins the collectivization of peasants' holdings into co-operatives.

1956 - Under the slogan 'Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend' Mao launches the Hundred Flowers movement to encourage greater freedom of debate in political matters. Those who have spoken out during the Hundred Flowers movement are condemned and imprisoned in the Anti-Rightist movement.

1958 - In an attempt to create a socialist Utopia Mao launches the Great Leap Forward. The peasants are stripped of their remaining possessions and forced to join communes

1959 - In Tibet China suppresses a rebellion and the Dalai Lama and his support-ers flee to India. By the autumn many parts of China are in the grip of a severe famine as a result of the policies of the Great Leap Forward. Between 1959 and 1961 over 30 million Chinese starve to death.

1960 - The Soviet Union withdraws all its experts from China and stops all aid.

1966 - In a bid to restore his authority after the failure of the Great Leap Forward Mao launches the Cultural Revolution.

1969 - Fighting breaks out along the Ussuri River between the USSR and China.

1971 - After a failed coup d'etat against Mao, Lin Biao flees but dies in a plane crash.

1972 - The American President Richard Nixon visits China.

1975 - On Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek dies.

1976 - The death of Zhou Enlai in January provokes demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Mao dies in September, having named Hua Guofeng as his successor. An attempted coup by the Gang of Four in October fails and its members are arrested and subsequently put on trial.

1978 - At the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Party Congress Deng Xiaoping becomes de facto successor to Mao and announces the Four Modernizations. Meanwhile posters begin to appear on what becomes known as Democracy Wall in Beijing in which issues of political significance are openly discussed and Mao is criticized. A young electrician, Wei Jingsheng, puts up a poster calling for a Fifth Modernization, democracy.

1979 - In January Deng visits the United States. In February China attacks Vietnam in punishment for its invasion of Cambodia but the Vietnamese successfully block the attack. China is forced to withdraw. In October Wei Jingsheng is put on trial and in December the Democracy Wall is closed down.

1979-83 - The communes are dissolved and free markets begin to spring up. Price controls on many goods are lifted. The one-child policy is introduced in the countryside.

1982 - Hu Yaobang becomes Party General Secretary.

1983 - Campaigns against crime and 'spiritual pollution' are launched.

1986 - Pro-democracy demonstrations by students occur in major cities.

1987 - Hu Yaobang is forced to step down and an Anti-Bourgeois Liberalization campaign is launched. Zhao Ziyang replaces Hu as Party General Secretary and Li Peng becomes Prime Minister.

1987-9 - Zhao pushes for political reform.

1989 - Hu Yaobang dies. In honor of his memory students hold demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and occupy the square for over a month. On 20 May martial law is declared in Beijing and on 3/4 June the army repossesses the square, killing hundreds. Zhao Ziyang is arrested and Jiang Zemin is declared Deng's successor. A clamp-down on political activity follows.

1992 - Deng embarks on a Southern Tour to relaunch his economic reforms.

1995 - Deng falls into a coma.

1996 - Taiwan holds its first open elections for the Presidency and the National Assembly. China fires missiles into the Taiwan Strait.

1996 - Deng Xiaoping dies. Hong Kong, hitherto under British rule, is returned to China.

1998 - Zhu Rongji becomes Prime Minister and seeks membership for China of the World Trade Organization.

1999 - Macao, the last territory on the mainland, occupied by the Portuguese for four hundred years, is returned to China.

2000 - The KMT Party loses a general election in Taiwan. Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party becomes President.

(from the Chronology of Modern Chinese History site, with many additions.)