This Chinese Revolution timeline lists significant events and developments between 1928 and October 1949. 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.
April: Mao Zedong promulgates the Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points for Attention, a document instructing the Red Army on tactics, method and behaviour.
July 11th: The CCP concludes its month-long party congress in Moscow, having affirmed that China was semi-feudal and “in a state of bourgeois-democratic revolution”.
October 1st: Jiang Jieshi is elected chairman of the National government of China, based in Nanjing. His government is quickly recognised by most foreign powers.
February 10th: Communist troops commanded by Mao Zedong and Zhu De establish a base at Ruijin, Jiangxi province.
February: The CCP implements the ‘Li Lisan Line’, named for one of its leaders, urging large uprisings of workers in urban areas. This stands in contrast to the peasant-based revolution promoted by Mao Zedong.
June: The Hunan Soviet is established.
July-August: Following the Li Lisan Line, the CCP attempts a series of assaults on urban centres.
November: Jiang Jieshi orders the Nationalist army to begin ‘Bandit Suppression campaigns’ against the communists in Jiangxi.
November 14th: Yang Kaihui, Mao Zedong’s second wife, is tortured and executed by a pro-Nationalist warlord in Changsha, after refusing to renounce her husband.
December 8th: The Futian Incident: a Red Army regiment in Futian mutinies, in protest against Mao’s attacks on the Jiangxi Action Committee. The Futian regiment is later purged on Mao’s orders.
January: The CCP comes under the leadership of Wang Ming, Bo Gu and the ’28 Bolsheviks’.
April-May: The Nationalists carry out the Second Encirclement Campaign against the Red Army in Jiangxi, which eventually fails.
July-September: Jiang Jieshi’s Third Encirclement Campaign against the communists in Jiangxi also fails and leads to some territorial gains by the Red Army.
September 18th: 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.
January 28th; The ‘January 28th’ or ‘Shanghai Incident’: Japanese forces attack Shanghai, following staged assaults on Japanese persons and property there.
January: The Nationalists launch the Fourth Encirclement Campaign against Jiangxi. It fails within three months.
September 25th: Jiang Jieshi initiates the Fifth Encirclement Campaign, this time recruiting warlord armies to increase Nationalist forces to more than one million men. He also adopts tactics suggested by German military advisor Hans von Seeckt.
February 19th: Jiang and his wife Soong Mei-ling initiate the New Life Movement, a campaign promoting Confucian and neo-fascist social values.
August: Jiang Jieshi’s government signs a trade deal with Nazi Germany, agreeing to export raw materials and food in return for German industrial goods.
August: Through Zhou Enlai’s spies in the Nationalist government, the CCP learns that Jiang Jieshi’s forces are planning a massive offensive against Ruijin in late September or October.
October 16th: Mao Zedong’s First Red Army breaks out of the Nationalist encirclement at Jiangxi and heads west. This marks the beginning of the Long March.
November 30th: The Battle of Xiang River ends with a catastrophic defeat for Red Army, which loses 40,000 soldiers.
January 15-17th: 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 29th: 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 12-25th: The Xi’an incident. Jiang Jieshi is kidnapped by Zhang Xueliang and forced or persuaded to an anti-Japanese military alliance with the CCP.
December: As Red Army numbers in Shaanxi province increase, the CCP moves its headquarters from Baoan to Yan’an.
1937-45: the Sino-Japanese War and the Second United Front: The Guomindang and CCP agree to suspend the civil war and coordinate their resistance against the Japanese. This alliance will prove fragile, with little cooperation and many skirmishes between both groups.
July 7th: The Marco Polo Bridge incident sparks a war with Japan and a full-scale invasion of China by Japanese troops.
November 21st: With the Japanese threatening Nanjing, the Nationalist government is moved to Chongqing.
December 13th: Japanese forces occupy the former Nationalist capital Nanjing.
December 13th-January 1938: The ‘Rape of Nanjing’. Japanese forces occupying Nanjing engage in weeks of systematic violence, rape and murder. The violence in Nanjing is a matter of much historical dispute and estimated death tolls vary between 50,000 and 300,000, the vast majority of them civilians.
June 7th: Nationalist soldiers blow up dykes along the Yellow River to slow the Japanese advance into central and southern China. The resulting flood drowns an unknown number of peasants, possibly as many as one million. It also ruins vast amounts of crops and farmlands.
October 27th: Japanese forces capture Wuhan.
September 1st: German forces invade Poland, in defiance of Anglo-French warnings. This triggers the start of World War II.
December: Former Guomindang leader Wang Jingwei signs a secret deal with the Japanese and becomes head of a puppet government in Nanjing.
January: Mao Zedong publishes On New Democracy, one of his most significant ideological texts.
August 20th: The CCP and Red Army launch the Hundred Regiments Offensive, a major campaign against the Japanese. It lasted almost four months and was mostly successful.
January: Nationalist and CCP forces come into conflict in Anhui, with the CCP suffering losses of 7,000. This clash effectively ends the Second United Front.
December 7th: The Japanese attack Pearl Harbour and the United States enters the war against Japan and Germany.
December 8th: China formally declares war on Germany, Italy and Japan.
May: Mao Zedong initiates rectification campaigns in CCP-controlled regions like Yan’an. He encourages criticism of corrupt leaders and commanders.
July 22nd: The first members of the US Dixie Mission arrive in Yan’an.
June: The CCP party congress endorses ‘Mao Zedong Thought’ as the party’s guiding ideology.
August 6th and 15th: The US Air Force drops atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
August 9th: Soviet Russian troops enter Manchuria to combat the Japanese.
August 14th: Jiang Jieshi’s Nationalist government signs the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance with the USSR. Moscow promises to stop supplying and supporting the CCP but does not adhere to this promise.
August 28th: Mao Zedong arrives in Chongqing for a series of peace talks with Jiang Jieshi, organised by the Americans.
September 2nd: Japanese forces in the Pacific and China sign the instruments of surrender, bringing World War II and the Sino-Japanese War to an end.
October: The Chongqing peace talks end after six weeks, with no firm agreement on Chinese unity, government or reconstruction.
December 23rd: General George C. Marshall (US Army) arrives in China, tasked with negotiating a ceasefire and organising a coalition government. Around the same time, however, the United States was increasing supplies of military equipment to the Nationalist army.
January 10th: General Marshall announces a ceasefire between the Nationalists and the CCP, to come into effect on January 13th.
January 11th-31st: A consultative committee meets to negotiate a settlement to the civil war and organise a coalition government.
May 1st: The CCP Red Army is reformed as the People’s Liberation Army.
May 5th: The Nationalist capital moves from Chongqing back to Nanjing.
June: The Nationalist-CCP truce collapses and fighting in the post-World War II civil war commences.
February 28th: The ‘228 Massacre’. Nationalist troops massacre 10,000-20,000 dissidents and protesters in Taiwan.
March 19th: Nationalist troops overrun the former CCP soviet in Yan’an, now abandoned by Mao and the Red Army.
April-May: Communist troops launch offensives against Nationalist positions in Shaanxi, Shandong and Manchuria.
September 12th: The PLA launches the Liaoshen campaign, a military operation to expel the Nationalists from northern China.
November 2nd: The Liaoshen campaign ends with Manchuria under communist control.
January: CCP forces capture Beijing with minimal resistance.
April: CCP forces cross the Yangtze and capture Nanjing, the Nationalist capital.
June 30th: Mao Zedong delivers his speech “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”, praising the role of the CCP in guiding the revolution and improving the lives of Chinese workers.
October 1st: Mao Zedong addresses a large crowd in Tiananmen Square, Beijing and proclaims the formation of the People’s Republic of China.
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: 1928 to 1949”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date], https://alphahistory.com/chineserevolution/chinese-revolution-timeline-1928-1949/.
This website uses pinyin romanisations of Chinese words and names. Please refer to this page for more information.