Chinese Revolution timeline

This Chinese Revolution timeline contains a chronology of events relevant to the Chinese Revolution. This Chinese Revolution timeline has been written and compiled by Alpha History authors:

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

The Qing dynasty begins in Manchuria. Manchu influence spreads to Korea and China throughout the rest of the 1600s.

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

The first British envoy to Beijing, Lord Macartney, is appointed.

The first recorded conversion to Christianity by a Chinese. The number of Christian converts in China grows steadily through the 1800s.

The First Opium War with Britain. The war ends with a comprehensive Chinese defeat and a treaty that permits an increased British trading and military presence.

The Taiping Rebellion, stirred by economic and natural disasters. This leads to some perceptions that the Qing dynasty was losing its Mandate of Heaven.

The Second Opium War: another defeat for the Qing results in a treaty forcing the legalisation of opium and Christianity.

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

The third and weakest phase of the Self-Strengthening movement; Qing conservatives prevent significant political change.

April: The first Sino-Japanese War ends after seven months, the outcome a humiliating defeat for China which is forced to cede control of Korea and Taiwan.
November: Sun Yixian (Wade-Giles: Sun Yat-sen) forms the ‘Revive China Society’ in Hawaii; membership is taken by Chinese nationalist expatriates and exiles.

June: The Guangxu emperor issues his first reform edict, marking the beginning the Hundred Days of Reform.
March: The Fists of Righteous Harmony movement, or Boxers, begin significant anti-foreign activity against Germans in Shandong province, attacking a church.
September: Conservatives, soldiers and Empress Dowager Cixi collaborate to remove the Guangxu emperor from power.
October: Qing government troops disperse the Boxers in Shandong; the Boxers abandon their criticisms of the Qing.

A year that sees regular attacks on foreigners, foreign-owned property, Christian churches and Chinese Christians, particularly in Shandong and nearby provinces.

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

January: Dowager Empress Cixi issues edicts expressing support for Boxers, drawing protests from foreign governments.
April: Fearing a massacre of foreigners in China, Western navies begin building their presence off the Chinese coast.
June: Boxers and sections of the Imperial Army begin attacking foreign legations Tianjin and Beijing.
June 20th: The German ambassador von Ketteler is murdered.
June 21th: Against the advice of prominent ministers, Dowager Empress Cixi declares war on all foreigners in China, however local governors and military commanders refuse to follow her directives.
August: Foreign troops relieve the besieged legations in Beijing and occupy the city. Cixi flees the Forbidden City in disguise.

September: The Boxer Protocol is signed by twelve nations, imposing severe restrictions and recriminations on China.

August: In Japan, Sun Yixian and others form the Tongmenghui or ‘Chinese Revolutionary Alliance’.
September: Imperial examinations are abolished, part of the late-Qing reforms.

September: Under pressure from the provinces, the Qing government agrees to consider constitutional reform.

November 14th: The death of the Guangxu Emperor, probably from arsenic poisoning. Cixi anoints the infant Puyi as the new emperor.
November 15th: The death of Empress Dowager Cixi.

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

May: The Qing government unveils its first ‘constitutional cabinet’. It is dominated by Manchu and royalty, which disappoints reformists.
October: The Wuchang Uprising breaks out amongst soldiers in Hubei, sparking other localised revolts.
November: General Yuan Shikai returns from retirement, at the request of the Qing leadership.
December: Provincial delegates elect Sun Yixian as provisional president of the newly formed Republic of China.

January: Sun Yixian offers Yuan Shikai the presidency in exchange for his military support to secure the abdication of the Qing.
February: Abdication of the Qing; Yuan Shikai is elected president and Beijing becomes the capital of the new republic.
August: The Guomindang is formed as a political party, after the consolidation of various revolutionary and anti-monarchist groups.
October: Foreign powers recognise Yuan Shikai’s government.

February: Elections for a new National Assembly return a significant Guomindang majority.
March: Song Jiaoren, the Guomindang’s leader in the assembly, is assassinated, probably on the orders of Yuan Shikai.
July: Sun Yixian launches a ‘second revolution’, an attempt to remove Yuan Shikai from the presidency.
September: Yuan Shikai’s troops re-take Nanjing; Sun Yixian’s revolution attempt fails and he is forced into exile.
November: Yuan Shikai declares the Guomindang an illegal organisation.

January: Yuan Shikai dissolves the National Assembly and implements a self-appointed cabinet. Provincial governors are replaced with military governors.

January: The Japanese issue the Twenty-Five Demands to Yuan Shikai, who accepts them with little change or resistance.
November: Yuan Shikai announces the restoration of imperial rule and his intention to be crowned as emperor.
December: Provincial uprisings erupt in response to Yuan Shikai’s declaration that he intends to restore the monarchy.

March: Yuan Shikai abandons plans to revive the monarchy.
June: The death of Yuan Shikai further weakens the national government and increases the power of provincial warlords.

The Warlord Era. China is disunited and divided into fiefdoms, ruled by several powerful warlords who act in their own self interest. There is no effective national government.

The Provisional government in Guangdong declares war on Germany in World War I.
October: The Bolshevik Revolution brings Vladimir Lenin and his communist followers to power in Russia.

May: The May Fourth Movement erupts among students in Beijing. Chief among their concerns are China’s treatment at the Paris peace conference, which leads to criticism of Western governments. 

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

Delegates from the Soviet Comintern visit Shanghai and meet with left-wing activists. Chen Duxiu, later a founding member of the CCP, is appointed as a delegate to the Comintern.
Communist study groups founded in various cities.

July: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is formed; 13 delegates attend the party’s first congress in Shanghai.
November: Comintern representatives from Moscow enter China to assist and advise the CCP.

January: Sun Yixian and Russian socialist Adolph Joffe sign a statement of co-operation in Shanghai.
May: Henk Sneevliet, a Dutch communist, is appointed as a Comintern advisor to the CCP.
June: The third CCP congress adopts a policy of co-operation with the Guomindang.
October: Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin arrives to advise both the CCP and the Guomindang.

The First United Front: The Guomindang and Chinese Communist Party work together to form a military academy and a national army, in order to suppress warlords and reunite China.

January: The Guomindang National Congress is attended by several communists, including Mao Zedong (Wade-Giles: Mao Tse-tung).
May: Instruction and training begins at the Whampoa Military Academy in Guangzhou, with lectures given by Guomindang, CCP and Comintern agents.
June: General Pavlov arrives from the USSR to act as Sun Yixian’s military adviser.

The Guomindang forms the National Revolutionary Army; graduates of Whampoa are commissioned as its first officers.
March: Sun Yixian dies of cancer in Beijing.
May: A general strike in Shanghai. Eleven people are killed when British troops fire on a crowd of students.

May: The Northern Expedition begins, a joint GMD-CCP military campaign to conquer warlords and bring their regions into a reunified government.

April 7th: A Guomindang meeting determines that communists are plotting to take over the party.
April 12th: Jiang Jieshi (Wade-Giles: Chiang Kai-shek) orders a purge of communists, beginning with raids, arrests and executions in Shanghai. Hundreds of CCP members are arrested, executed or missing.
June: The Comintern orders the recall of its advisors, in protest to the massacre of communists in Shanghai.
August: CCP forces attempt to seize control of Nanchang from the Guomindang; this marks the first engagement of the Chinese Civil War.
September: The Autumn Harvest uprising: Mao Zedong forms a soviet in his home province of Hunan, however it is quickly overrun.
December: The Guangzhou uprising, another short-lived CCP attempt to form a communist soviet.

Mao Zedong and Zhu De establish a guerrilla base in the Jingjang Mountains in Jiangxi.
Mao drafts the ‘Eight Points of Attention’, a set of rules for communist soldiers to ensure they deal appropriately with Chinese peasants.
The Nanjing government is proclaimed under Jiang Jieshi and the Guomindang; it is quickly recognised by foreign powers.

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

Jiang Jieshi begins ‘Bandit Suppression’ campaigns against communists in Jiangxi.

September: The Mukden Incident leads to a Japanese military occupation of Manchuria and the installation of a Japanese puppet regime.
November: The Chinese Soviet Republic is proclaimed in Jiangxi, with Mao Zedong as its chairman.

September: Jiang Jieshi initiates the fifth encirclement campaign of the Jiangxi communists.

With Jiang Jieshi’s endorsement, the Guomindang accepts trade and advisors from Nazi Germany.
February: Jiang and his wife Soong Mei-ling initiate the New Life Movement, a campaign promoting Confucian and neo-fascist social values.
August: The CCP leadership in Jiangxi learn via spies of an imminent Guomindang attack on their capital.

The Long March: the CCP Red Army flees Jiangxi for Shaanxi, marching 8,000 miles and losing 90 per cent of its personnel.

October: Mao Zedong’s First Red Army breaks out of the Nationalist encirclement at Jiangxi, marking the beginning of the Long March.
November 30th: The Battle of Xiang River, a catastrophic defeat for Red Army with the loss of 40,000 soldiers.

January: The Zunyi Conference leads to a transferral of power within the CCP; command of the First Red Army passes to Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.
February: Mao Zedong’s wife He Zizhen gives birth to a daughter on the Long March and is forced to abandon her.
May: The Battle of Luding Bridge: the Red Army takes control of a key river crossing in Sichuan province.
October: Mao’s First Red Army arrives in Shaanxi province.
November: The Second Red Army under He Long embarks on its own march to Shaanxi.

December: The Xian incident: Jiang Jieshi is kidnapped by Zhang Xueliang and forced or persuaded to an anti-Japanese military alliance with the CCP.

The Second United Front: The Guomindang and CCP promise suspend the civil war to resist the Japanese; this alliance will prove fragile, with many skirmishes between both groups.

July: The Marco Polo Bridge incident sparks a war with Japan and a full-scale invasion of China by Japanese troops.
December: The Rape of Nanjing: Japanese forces occupy the Guomindang capitol Nanjing and engage in weeks of systematic violence, rape and murder.

September: World War II begins.
December: Former Guomindang leader Wang Jingwei signs a secret deal with the Japanese and becomes head of a puppet government in Nanjing.

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

January: Guomindang and CCP forces come into conflict in Anhui, with the CCP suffering losses of 7,000.
December: The Japanese attack Pearl Harbour; the United States enters the war against Japan in Asia, focusing American interest more closely on China.

Mao Zedong initiates rectification campaigns in CCP-controlled regions like Yenan; he encourages criticism of corrupt leaders and commanders.

July: The first members of the US Dixie Mission arrive in Yenan.

February: Soviet Russian troops enter Manchuria to combat the Japanese.
June: The CCP party congress endorses ‘Mao Zedong Thought’ as the party’s guiding ideology.
August: The US Air Force drops atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
August: Mao Zedong travels to Chongqing for a series of peace talks with Jiang Jieshi, organised by the Americans.
September: Japanese forces in the Pacific and China surrender; the Sino-Japanese War comes to an end.
August: The Chongqing peace talks end after six weeks, with no firm agreement on Chinese unity, government or reconstruction.
October: The CCP Red Army is retitled the People’s Liberation Army.

US general George C. Marshall is sent to China to reconcile Mao and Jiang, with a view to ending the civil war and forming a coalition government.
June: The Guomindang-CCP truce fails and fighting in the civil war recommences.

February 28th: The 228 Massacre: Guomindang troops massacre 10,000-20,000 dissidents and protestors in Taiwan.

January: CCP forces capture Beijing with minimal resistance.
April: CCP forces cross the Yangtze and capture Nanjing, the Guomindang capital.
October 1st: Mao Zedong addresses a large crowd in Tianenman Square, Beijing, and proclaims the formation of the People’s Republic of China.
October: The Soviet Union recognises the new regime in China.
November: The newly installed communist government founds a new scientific academy.
December: Jiang Jieshi flees to Taiwan, where he establishes the Republic of China in exile.
December: Mao Zedong travels to Moscow to negotiate a treaty and an alliance with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

January: Britain formally recognises the People’s Republic of China as a sovereign nation.
February: The signing of Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance
March-April: The first Speak Bitterness campaigns begin in rural areas; landlords are publicly accused, denounced, ridiculed and often killed.
May: Marriage Law passed, outlawing polygamy, arranged and child marriages, and facilitating easier divorces.
June: Agrarian Reform Law passed, formalising transfer of farmland from landlords to peasant communities.
June: North Korean Army launches an attack on South Korea, at the order of its dictator-president Kim Il Sung.
September: US forces land in Inchon and beginning driving the North Koreans back to the Chinese border.
October: Peng Dehuai named as commander of Chinese volunteer forces in Korea.
November: Lin Biao travels to USSR to receive medical treatment for an unspecified illness.

May: The armed resistance in Tibet ends; China now controls this area as a government province.
July: Beijing and the Vatican formally cut ties, after persecution of Christians within the PRC.
November: The commencement of the Three Antis campaign.

January: The Five Antis campaign begins.
February: The CCP government claims to have received 210,000 letters accusing individuals and businesses of the ‘five Antis’.

Government economic planners announce the beginning of the first Soviet-style Five-Year Plan.
Sweeping reforms of education – all private schools are closed, the state takes responsibility for education.
March: death of USSR leader Joseph Stalin.
July: Armistice signed to end fighting in the Korean War.

September: Several Western nations, including the US, form the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) to “contain communism”.

A year of widespread famine across China.
February: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gives his ‘Secret Speech’, publicly denouncing Stalin and his political violence and suppression.
The Hundred Flowers campaign is formally announced by Mao

June: Millions of letters pour into the government’s offices, most strongly critical of its policies.
July: Mao orders a halt to the Hundred Flowers campaign.

March: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev makes an official state visit to China.
March: Mao gives a speech announcing the second Five-Year Plan, also dubbed the Great Leap Forward.
April: An experimental ‘people’s commune’, a gigantic farming collective, is established in Henan.
August: The CCP Politburo decides to adopt a policy of collectivised ‘people’s communes’ in rural areas.
September: Mao unveils a scheme to establish and run backyard furnaces for producing steel.
Lin Biao is elevated to Politburo Standing Committee
Iron production increases by 45 percent

The first of the ‘Three Bitter Years’, called the ‘Three Years of Natural Disasters’ by the party.
January: Mao visits a steel factory in Manchuria and learns that backyard furnaces are impractical.
July: Lushan Conference, Mao’s policies are heavily criticised by Peng Dehuai.
July: Flooding of the Yellow River drowns thousands and causes massive crop devastation.
August: Peng Dehuai sacked as defence minister and held under house arrest
September: Lin Biao replaces Peng Dehuai as defence minister.
China’s annual grain production drops 15 percent from the previous year (1958).

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

China’s grain production drops another 15 percent, a total reduction of 30 percent in two years. Officials also record a population decrease of 13.48 million from the previous year. Iron production continues to increase by 30 percent over the previous two years (1959-60)
Soviet advisors and technical experts are gradually withdrawn from China

January: The CCP government begins a reversal of Great Leap Forward policies.
February: Grain exports halted and importation of foreign grain begins, alleviating some famine.
Iron production plummets to below the levels of 1958

August: The death of Lei Feng, a young PLA soldier and allegedly devoted party member.
November: China wins a short-lived war with India over disputed borders.

Mao initiates the Socialist Education Movement
March: The diaries of Lei Feng are published and distributed as pro-Mao and pro-party propaganda.

‘Learn from the PLA’ campaign initiated
April: The first publication of Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong: the famous ‘little red book’.
October: China explodes an atomic weapon at Lop Nur, becoming the world’s fifth nuclear power after the US, Britain, Soviet Russia and France.

May: Politburo formally proclaims the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.
May: The first organised brigade of Red Guards is formed at Tsinghua University High School.
June: The People’s Daily, the party’s official newspaper, calls for the purging of all “imperialists” from the government, the CCP and the bureaucracy.
August: A Mao Zedong-penned article titled “Bombard the Headquarters” calls for mass purges of rightists.
August: The CCP Central Committee issues its 16 Points, calling for a mass revolution.
August: Mao Zedong and Lin Biao appear in Tiananmen Square before millions of Red Guards.
September: Lin Biao gives a speech encouraging students to criticise and purge ‘Khrushchevists’.
September: More than a thousand people in Shanghai are murdered or forced to suicide by Red Guards.
October: Peng Dehuai is publicly ridiculed and beaten by Red Guards.

January: Lin Biao and Jiang Qing initiate the ‘January storm’, a purging of Shanghai city officials.

October: Liu Shaoqi, under pressure from Red Guards, resigns all his government and party posts.
December: Mao initiates a ‘Down to the Countryside’ movement, forcing many students into rural areas.

March: Chinese forces clash with USSR troops in the Ussiri River border region.
April: Mao proclaims the ‘active’ phase of the Cultural Revolution to be over.
April: CCP ninth congress formalises Lin Biao as Mao’s second-in-charge and successor.
November: Liu Shaoqi dies in prison after months of beatings and being refused medical treatment.

1600s-1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s

September: Assassination attempts against Mao and a thwarted coup attempt, orchestrated by Lin Biao.
September: Lin Biao and his family die after their plane crashes attempting to flee China.
November: China is granted one of five seats in the United Nations Security Council.

February: US president Richard Nixon travels to China and meets Mao, Zhou Enlai and other officials.
September: China re-establishes diplomatic relations with Japan.

April: Deng Xiaoping is rehabilitated and reinstated as vice-premier, at the behest of Zhou Enlai.
August: CCP tenth congress accepts a program of moderate economic modernisation.

January: Zhou Enlai proclaims the Four Modernisations in the People’s Congress, his last significant public act.
January: Deng Xiaoping becomes CCP vice-chairman and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee.
April: Guomindang leader and former generalissimo Jiang Jieshi dies in Taiwan.
September: Mao Zedong becomes gravely ill and is admitted to hospital.

January: The death of Zhou Enlai from bladder cancer.
February: Deng Xiaoping is purged from the CCP for a second time.
April: The ‘Tiananmen incident': the Gang of Four orders the suppression of mourners for Zhou Enlai.
July: The death of revolutionary military commander Zhu De.
September: The death of Mao Zedong from motor neurone disease.
October: Members of the Gang of Four are arrested.

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