This Chinese Revolution timeline lists significant events and developments between 1912 and 1927. This timeline has been written and compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest an event for inclusion in this timeline please contact Alpha History.
January 1st: The Republic of China is officially proclaimed and Sun Yixian is sworn in as its first president.
January: Republican politicians negotiate with the Qing, using Yuan Shikai as an intermediary. Yuan Shikai agrees to provide the republic with military support against the Qing, provided Sun Yixian cedes the presidency to Yuan.
February 12th: Abdication of the infant emperor Puyi and the end of the Qing dynasty.
February 14th: Sun Yixian resigns from the presidency in favour of Yuan Shikai.
March 10th: Yuan Shikai is inaugurated as president.
August 25th: 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 22nd: 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 retake Nanjing. Sun Yixian’s revolution attempt fails and he is forced into exile.
November 4th: 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 18th: The Japanese issue the Twenty-One Demands to Yuan Shikai, who accepts them with little change or resistance.
September 15th: Chen Duxiu begins publishing the New Youth magazine, a starting point for the New Culture movement.
November 20th: A national assembly, largely handpicked by Yuan Shikai, recommends the restoration of the monarchy with Yuan at its head.
December 12th: Yuan Shikai proclaims himself Emperor of China.
December 25th: Provincial uprisings erupt in response to Yuan Shikai’s declaration that he intends to restore the monarchy.
January 1st: This date marks the formation of the Emperor of China and the imperial rule of Yuan Shikai, according to Yuan’s decree of December 12th.
March 22nd: Facing military opposition in the provinces and a shortage of funds, Yuan Shikai abandons his plans to revive the monarchy.
June 6th: The death of Yuan Shikai. This further weakens the national government and increases the power of provincial warlords.
1916-27: 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.
February: Sun Yixian finishes writing his political manifesto Principles for National Reconstruction.
August 14th: The Provisional government in Guangdong declares war on Germany in World War I.
July: Former president Sun Yixian arrives in Guangzhou from Shanghai and invites politicians from the former National Assembly to form a republican government there.
August 25th: Republicans in Guangzhou form a military government there, aimed at eliminating warlordism and reestablishing a national republican government.
September 1st: Sun Yixian is elected generalissimo of the Guangzhou military government.
November 8th: The Bolshevik Revolution brings Vladimir Lenin and his communist followers to power in Russia.
May 21st: Sun Yixian goes into exile in Shanghai, after warlordists gain control of the Guangzhou military government.
November 11th: An armistice on the Western Front in Europe brings an end to World War I.
April 30th: At the Paris peace conference, the United States, Britain and France decide to transfer German interests in Shandong province to Japan, ignoring China’s claims to sovereignty.
May 4th: The May Fourth Movement erupts among students in Beijing. They protest against China’s treatment at the Paris peace conference and the continued undermining of Chinese sovereignty by Western powers.
May 6th: In Paris, Lu Zhengxiang lodges a strong protest against the granting of Shandong to the Japanese. As a consequence, China refuses to sign the Treaty of Versailles.
July 25th: Now under communist control, Russia surrenders all its colonial claims and territory in China.
Delegates from the Soviet Comintern visit Shanghai and meet with left-wing activists. Chen Duxiu, later a founding member of the Chinese Communist Party, is appointed as a delegate to the Comintern. Communist study groups founded in various cities.
July 1st: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is formed. Thirteen delegates attend the party’s first congress in Shanghai.
November: Comintern representatives from Moscow enter China to assist and advise the CCP.
August 22nd: Sun Yixian begins talks with Comintern agents Henk Sneevliet and Adolf Joffe. On their advice he makes changes to the Guomindang command structure.
January 16th: Nationalist forces led by Sun Yixian regain control of Guangzhou province.
January 26th: 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.
September 2nd: Jiang Jieshi arrives in Moscow and meets with Russian leaders including Stalin and Trotsky. He concludes that Soviet policy aims to “make the CCP its chosen instrument”.
October 6th: Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin arrives to advise both the CCP and the Guomindang.
1924-27: the First United Front: The Guomindang and Chinese Communist Party work together to form a military academy and a national army. Their aim is 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 begin at the Huangpu Military Academy in Guangzhou, with lectures given by Guomindang, CCP and Comintern agents. Jiang Jieshi is appointed commandant of the Academy and commander in chief of the Nationalist Revolutionary Army.
June: General Pavlov arrives from the USSR to act as Sun Yixian’s military adviser.
July: Zhou Enlai returns to China after several years abroad, most notably working with the Soviet government and Comintern in Moscow.
December 31st: Three warlords invite Sun Yixian to Beijing to discuss the peaceful reunification of China. Sun dies before these negotiations are completed.
March 12th: 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.
August 20th: Liao Zhongkai, a prominent Guomindang leader and an architect of the First United Front, is assassinated in Guangzhou. This leaves Jiang Jieshi and Wang Jingwei to vie for the leadership of the Guomindang.
August 26th: The Guomindang forms the National Revolutionary Army. Graduates of Huangpu are commissioned as its first officers.
July 1st: The National Revolutionary Army begins mobilising in preparation for the Northern Expedition, a campaign to end warlordism and reunify China.
July 27th: The Northern Expedition begins.
October 10th: The Nationalist army gains control of Wuhan.
January: The Nationalist government relocates to Wuhan, which is declared the provisional national capital.
March: Mao Zedong, then a little known provincial leader, delivers a report on the peasant movement in Hunan, highlighting the revolutionary potential of the Chinese peasantry.
March 21st: As Nationalist troops approach Shanghai, they are assisted by Zhou Enlai and other communists, who organise a general strike and urban uprising.
March 22nd: Nationalist troops led by Jiang Jieshi take control of Shanghai.
March 23rd: Following violence, looting and attacks on foreigners, British and American warships open fire on Nanjing, shelling parts of the city. Jiang Jieshi blames the Nanjing Incident on agents of the CCP.
March 26th: In Shanghai, Jiang Jieshi meets with wealthy businessmen who promise him financial support, provided he dissolves his ties with the CCP.
April 2nd: Fearing political instability and danger to British citizens in China, Great Britain declares an increase in its troop presence there (from 17,000 to 22,000).
April 7th: A Guomindang meeting determines that communists are plotting to take over the party.
April 12th: On the orders of Jiang Jieshi, police and soldiers carry out a series of raids, arrests and executions in Shanghai. Hundreds of CCP members are detained, executed or go missing. It becomes known as the Shanghai Massacre (CCP terminology) or the April 12th Incident (Nationalist terminology). The suppression of communists from April 12th becomes known as the ‘White Terror’.
April 17th: In Wuhan, prominent Guomindang leader Wang Jingwei attempts to take control of the party by expelling Jiang Jieshi.
April 18th: Jiang Jieshi declares himself chairman of the National Government Committee and President of China. He decrees Nanjing as the national capital.
April 28th: Li Dazhou, a founding member of the CCP, is executed by a pro-Nationalist warlord in Beijing.
June: The Comintern orders the recall of its advisors, in protest to the massacre of communists in Shanghai.
August 1st: CCP forces attempt to seize control of Nanchang from the Guomindang. This marks the first engagement of the Chinese Civil War.
August 7th: Chen Duxiu is replaced as leader of the CCP.
September 7th: The Autumn Harvest Uprising in Hunan. Mao Zedong forms a soviet in his home province but it is overrun after a week.
December 11th: Communists launch the Guangzhou uprising, another short-lived attempt to form a communist Soviet. It is defeated after a few days.
This page was written by Glenn Kucha, Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson and Sara Taylor. To reference this page, use the following citation:
G. Kucha et al, “Chinese Revolution timeline: 1912 to 1927”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date], https://alphahistory.com/chineserevolution/chinese-revolution-timeline-1912-1927/.
This website uses pinyin romanisations of Chinese words and names. Please refer to this page for more information.