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Modern History of China Part 3

This article attempts to present a concise picture of significant developments.

Events are grouped chronologically into major directories, with individual years listed in sub-directories.

Events outside of China and those involving foreign countries are listed in blue.

It is important to note that the information presented here does not necessarily match official or academic versions of history, which often suffer from distortion, taboo, official censorship, self-censorship, diplomatic constraints, etc.

We will continue to check and update accordingly.

The modern history of China can roughly be divided into several periods:

  • End of the Qing Dynasty (1911)

  • Civil wars and the Republican period (1912 - 1936)

  • War with Japan (1937 - 1945)

  • People’s Republic of China vs Republic of China (1949 - )

  • Modernization and democracy movements (1976 - )

Major Events

  • British victory at the Battle of Waterloo. (1815)

  • First Opium War. (1840)

  • Second Opium War. (1858)

  • Meiji Restoration in Japan. (1868)

  • First Sino-Japanese War. (1894)

  • Hundred Days' Reform. (1898)

  • Founding of the Republic of China. (1911)

  • Yuan Shikai attempts to become emperor.(1912-1916)

  • First World War. (1814-1818)

  • May Fourth movement for science and democracy. (1919)

  • Civil war among warlords. (1920-1923)

  • Northern Expedition and establishment of Nationalist China. (1924-1928)

  • Civil wars. (1929-1936)

  • Second Sino-Japanese War. (1937-1945)

  • Second World War. (1939-1945)

  • Civil war between Nationalists and Communists. (1945-1949)

  • Land reform in Taiwan. (1949)

  • Founding of the People’s Republic of China. (1949)

  • Korean War. (1950-1953)

  • Great Leap Forward. (1958-1961)

  • Cultural Revolution. (1966-1976)

  • Economic reform and the Four Modernizations. (1978)

  • Democratic elections in Taiwan. (1986)

  • Democracy movement in Beijing. (1989)


January - In Shanghai, students trained in the Soviet Union take over leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

April – Second suppression campaign. Nationalist forces attack the Communist base in Jiangxi province with about 200,000 troops, mainly from the former northern factions. The campaign failed by June.

April - The arrest and defection of high-ranking Communist Gu Shunzhang lead to the elimination of tens of thousands of Communists.

May - Provisional Constitution is passed by the National Assembly of the Nanjing government. The National Government would be under the temporary guidance of the Nationalist Party.

May - Guangdong province declares independence. Wang Jingwei became chairman of an alternative national government and demanded the resignation of Chiang Kai-shek.

June - Wang Ming becomes general secretary of the Communist Party.

July – Third suppression campaign. Chiang Kai-shek personally takes charge of a third suppression campaign against the Communists in Jiangxi province with about 300,000 men.

September - After fierce fighting, Communist forces in Jiangxi province begin to retreat.

September – Mukden (Shenyang) Incident in Manchuria. An explosion on the rail line outside Shengyang in Manchuria led to fighting between the Japanese army and Chinese forces. Chinese troops under the command of Zhang Xueliang are ordered to withdraw. Japanese troops would eventually occupy the whole of Manchuria.

September - Chiang Kai-shek abandons the suppression campaign in Jiangxi province and returns to Nanjing.

October - Japan ignores a request by the League of Nations to withdraw from Manchuria.

November – On the fourteenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution on November 7, the Chinese Communist Party set up a Soviet republic in Jiangxi province. The state capital is located in Ruijin. Mao Zedong is the head of state. The title of Chairman Mao is used for the first time.

December - Reunification. As an agreement between Nanjing and Guangzhou, Chiang Kai-shek steps down. A united Nationalist government was again established in Nanjing.


January - Japanese gain complete control of Manchuria.

January - Conflicts between Japanese expatriates and local Chinese in Shanghai.

January - Anti-Japanese riots in Shanghai.

January – Large-scale fighting breaks out between the Chinese 19th Route Army (Guangdong faction) and Japanese marines in Shanghai. Subsequent reinforcements bring the total number of Japanese troops to 50,000.

February - Communist army launches attacks in Jiangxi and Fujian provinces.

March - Ceasefire between Chinese and Japanese troops in Shanghai.

March - Manchukuo is formally established in Manchuria as a country separate from China.

March - Chiang Kai-shek returns to power. Chiang takes office as Chairman of the Military Council.

April - Communists capture Zhangzhou in Fujian province.

May - Communists score a significant victory in Zhejiang province.

May - Official signing of the ceasefire agreement in Shanghai between China and Japan.

May - The 19th Route Army is sent to Fujian province to fight the Communists.

June - Fourth suppression campaign. Chiang Kai-shek declares that suppression of internal insurgence takes priority over fighting foreign invaders. Plans for the fourth suppression campaign are set. About 500,000 men would be involved. The campaign would be in the northern provinces.

June – Nationalist forces attack Communists in Hubei, Henan, and Anhui provinces.

September - Japan recognizes Manchukuo.

September - Communists in Hubei, Henan, and Anhui provinces break out and retreat to the west. About 15,000 troops would eventually enter the Sichuan province in the southwest in December.

October – Emergency meeting at Ningdu, Jiangxi province. Mao Zedong had severe disagreements with other Communist leaders and left Ningdu. Zhou Enlai takes his post.

December – Diplomatic relations were restored between the Soviet Union and the Republic of China.

December - Nationalist troops gather in preparation for a fourth suppression campaign against Communists in Jiangxi province.


January - Japanese troops cross the Great Wall from Manchuria into China proper.

January - After the Nationalists arrested many Communist leaders, Po Ku and the central leadership of the Communist Party moved from Shanghai to Ruijin in Jiangxi province.

January - In the south, Communist forces launched attacks in Jiangxi province.

January - Nationalists score a significant victory against Communists in Jiangxi province.

February - Chiang Kai-shek arrives in Jiangxi province to direct the Nationalist offensive. The offensive meets stiff resistance.

February – In the north, a full-scale Japanese attack threatens Beijing and Tianjin.

March - Nationalist forces suffer heavy casualties in Jiangxi province.

March - Japan withdraws from the League of Nations over Manchuria.

April - Intense battles between Chinese and Japanese troops north of Beijing.

May - Nationalists terminate offensive campaign in Jiangxi province.

May – The Tangu Truce. Chinese government reaches a ceasefire agreement with the Japanese. The northern part of Hebei province is declared a demilitarized zone, with the Japanese having de facto control of the area.

July - Communists attempted to expand Fujian province from Jiangxi but were stopped by the 19th Route Army.

August - Soviet adviser Otto Braun arrives in Jiangxi province to reorganize the Communist army.

October - Fifth suppression campaign against the Communists in Jiangxi province begins. Nationalist forces used the blockhouse method to make steady progress into the Communist base.

October - 19th Route Army in Fujian province agrees to a ceasefire with the Communists.

November - Commanders of the 19th Route Army establish a new government independent of Nanjing. The new government in Fujian was sympathetic to the Communists and opposed Chiang Kai-shek.

December - Fujian government fails to gain the support of the Communists.


January - The army of the Nanjing government captures Fujou. The Fujian People's Government falls.

March – Former Qing emperor Puyi is declared emperor of Manchukuo.

March - Fierce fighting as Nationalist troops advance into the Communist base in Jiangxi province.

April - Nationalist army continues a steady push in Jiangxi province.

April - Communist Party calls for an end to all civil wars.

April - Nationalist forces take Guangchang after an extensive battle. Communists suffer thousands of casualties. Communists in Jiangxi province begin preparations for a breakout.

May - Nationalist forces attacking from the east capture Jianning in Fujian province.

June - Nationalist forces capture Liancheng in Fujian province.

June - Communist forces in Jiangxi province move west.

July - Nationalist forces advance toward Ruijin, the Communist capital in Jiangxi province.

July - Communists in Jiangxi province announce their intention to move north to fight the Japanese.

August - Communist advance forces in western Jiangxi province begin their break out to the west.

August - Communist advance forces enter Hunan and Guangxi provinces.

September - Nationalist forces in Jiangxi province bypass Shicheng and approach Ruijin from the north.

September - Nationalist forces in Fujian province attack near Changting and approach Ruijin from the east.

October – The Long March begins. The leadership of the Chinese Communist Party based in Ruijin begins a retreat to the southwest with roughly 100,000 troops. After travelling 6,000 miles, the party would arrive in Shaanxi province in the northwest one year later with the force of less than 10,000.

November - Nationalist forces capture Ruijin, Jiangxi province.

November – Communist forces successfully ford the Xiang River in Hunan province.

December - Communist forces enter Guizhou province, followed by Nationalist troops.


January – Meeting in Zunyi. The First Red Army reaches the town of Zunyi in Guizhou province and joins the Fourth Red Army. With only about 40,000 troops, the First Red Army had lost about half its strength since leaving Ruijin. Mao Zedong begins to gain control of the Party. Communist Party adopts Mao’s military and political strategies.

January - Communist army in Guizhou province moves towards Sichuan province.

January - Troops loyal to the Nanjing government enter northern Sichuan from Hubei province.

January - Communists were defeated by troops of the Sichuan faction in an attempt to cross the Yangtze.

February - Communists turn back east and recapture Zunyi. First significant victory after leaving Ruijin.

March - Germany begins to rearm.

April – Communist forces enter Yunnan province, followed by Nationalist troops loyal to Nanjing.

May – Communist forces cross the Golden Sand River into Sichuan province.

May - At a meeting of the Politburo, Mao Zedong becomes the leader of the Communist army.

June - Communist army led by Mao Zedong links up with troops led by Zhang Guotao in the mountains west of Chengdu. Mao has about 20,000 troops, and Zhang has over 60,000.

June - Communist leadership decides to advance north.

June - Under Japanese pressure, the provinces of Hebei and Chahar become de facto autonomous regions. Chinese troops withdraw from those regions.

July - Comintern Congress in the Soviet Union calls for a worldwide united front against fascism.

August - In Moscow, the Chinese Communist Party's representatives call for a united front in China against Japan. No mention of overthrowing the Nanjing government.

August - Disagreements between Mao Zedong and Zhang Guotao. Communist forces decide to split up in their advance north.

August - Communist troops led by Zhang Guotao turn back south.

September – In the British colony of Hong Kong, Nationalists and Communists began secret negotiations to form a united front against Japan.

September - Communist force led by Mao Zedong reached Gansu province with just over 10,000 troops.

October – Italy invades Ethiopia.

October - Zhang Gutao attempts to establish a Communist Central in Sichuan province separate from Mao Zedong.

October - End of the Long March. Mao Zedong entered northern Shaanxi province with less than 10,000 troops and met up with local Communist forces.

October – Chiang Kai-shek proposes a secret military treaty with the Soviet Union against Japan.

November - Communist leadership in Shaanxi province re-establish radio contact with Moscow.

December - Wayaopao Resolution. The Chinese Communist Party resolves to form a United Front with the Nationalists in a war against Japan.


February – On the border between Siberia and Manchuria, Japanese and Manchukuo troops attack the Soviet Union but are defeated.

February - Communist troops in northern Shaanxi advance east into Shanxi province, defeating armies of the Shanxi faction.

February - Soviet government in Shaanxi calls for an end to the Nationalist one-party dictatorship in a united effort to fight the Japanese.

February – A new regime in Tokyo proclaims a foreign policy that promotes Japanese dominance of all of Asia.

March - Nanjing government institutes military draft.

March - Nationalist troops (Northeast faction) in Shaanxi reach a ceasefire agreement with the Communists.

March - Counteroffensive by Shanxi troops turn back the Communists.

March - Mutual Defense Pact between the Soviet Union and Outer Mongolia. The Soviet Union would defend Outer Mongolia in case of a Japanese attack.

April - Chinese government protests the Mutual Defense Pact between the Soviet Union and Outer Mongolia.

May - Nanjing government announces a draft constitution.

June – Guangdong and Guangxi factions rebel against the Nanjing government.

July - Nanjing government mobilizes massive force against Guangdong and Guangxi provinces.

July - Chen Jidang (leader of the Guangdong faction) steps down. Nanjing gains control of Guangdong province.

August - Communist Party expresses willingness to join the Nationalists in creating a democratic republic.

September - Li Zhongren (leader of the Guangxi faction) accepts an assignment from Nanjing. Nanjing gains control of Guangxi province.

September - Talks begin between the Nationalists and Communists to form a united front against Japan.

November – Japan and Germany sign the Anti-Comintern Pact.

October - Communist troops led by Zhang Guotao meet up with Mao Zedong's troops in Ganzu province. The entire Communist army in northwest China now numbers about 90,000.

November - Zhang Xueliang notifies Chiang Kai-shek that Nationalist troops (Northeast faction) under his command in Shaanxi province may be unreliable. Zhang asks Chiang to visit Xi'an to discuss ending the anti-Communist campaign.

December – Xi’an Incident. After arriving in Xi'an, Chiang Kai-shek is detained by Zhang Xueliang. After negotiations involving the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communists and the Nationalist leaders, Chiang was released on December 25. A condition of Chiang’s release was that the Nationalists would end the civil war against the Communists and form a united front against Japan.


January - Command headquarter for Communist suppression in northwest China is abolished.

January - Northeast Army commanders agree to obey Nanjing orders in Shaanxi province. Civil war is adverted.

February - Communist Party calls for an end to civil war, freedom of speech, the release of political prisoners, and war against Japan. The Communist army would be willing to obey orders from Nanjing and support a democratic government.

March - Communist Party agrees to begin negotiations with the Nationalists.

April – Chiang Kai-shek's son Chiang Ching-Kuo returns from the Soviet Union.

July - Marco Polo Bridge incident. Armed conflict outside Beijing between Chinese and Japanese troops in search of a lost Japanese soldier. The incident would lead to full-scale war.

July - Massive movements of Japanese troops towards north China from Manchuria and the Japanese home islands.

July - Chinese reinforcements move toward Beijing.

July - Peace negotiations fail. China refuses the Japanese ultimatum for troop withdrawal.

July - Full-scale war breaks out between China and Japan. Japanese troops capture Beijing and Tianjin. The war would continue for eight years and end in the Japanese surrender in August 1945.

August - The battle of Shanghai begins. The battle would last three months. At its peak, about 500,000 Chinese and 200,000 Japanese soldiers are involved in the fighting. The Chinese suffered over 200,000 casualties with repeated reinforcements, and the Japanese lost about 50,000 men. A large portion of the crack Nationalist fight force is lost.

August - Chinese troops attack the Japanese stationed inside Shanghai.

August - Non-aggression pact between China and the Soviet Union. In return for raw materials, the Soviet Union would provide arms, planes, pilots, and advisers to support the Chinese war effort.

August - Japanese reinforcements land in the northern suburb of Shanghai. Chinese troops were put on the defensive.

September - Communist troops are put under Nationalist command as the Eight Route Army in the north and the New Fourth Army in the south.

September - A "United Front". Chinese Communist Party issues a declaration to follow the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist government.

September - Intense battles on the outskirts of Shanghai with massive casualties on both sides.

September – Communist forces ambush a Japanese force of about 4,000 at Pingxingguan in Shanxi province, inflicting several hundred casualties. It was one of the only two significant engagements between the Communists and the Japanese throughout the war.

October - Reinforcements (Sichuan faction) arrive from Guizhou province and join the battle in Shanghai.

October - In Hebei province, the Japanese captured Shijiazhuang. Japanese attack turns west towards Shanxi province.

October - Reinforcements (Guangxi faction) join the battle in Shanghai. Japanese make slow but steady advances.

October – The first flight of aircraft supplied by the Soviet Union arrived in China.

October - Secret peace negotiations begin, mediated by Germany.

November - First loan from the Soviet Union for the purchase of arms.

November - Japanese forces land at Hanzhou Bay, south of Shanghai.

November - Chinese troops withdraw from Shanghai in disarray. The battle of Shanghai ends.

November - In Shanxi province, the Japanese captured Taiyuan. Japanese gained control of northern China.

November - Communists establish their first base behind Japanese lines southwest of Beijing.

November – The Chinese government announces relocating from Nanjing to the wartime capital Chongqing.

November - Japanese troops advance towards Nanjing.

November - Wang Ming, a rival of Mao Zedong, returns to Yan'an with instructions from Moscow.

December - The battle of Nanjing begins. Nanjing is surrounded on three sides.

December - After intense battles, Chinese troops break out of the encirclement at Nanjing.

December – Nanjing massacre. Japanese forces capture Nanjing. As many as 300,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians are killed in the subsequent massacre.

December - Chiang Kai-shek rejects peace terms offered by Japan.

December - Japanese troops capture Jinan, the capital of Shandong province.

December - The Soviet Union declines Chinese requests to send troops against Japan.

Late 1937 - Communists establish bases in Shandong province.


January - Nationalists accuse the Communists of not fighting the Japanese.

February - Germany announces recognition of Manchukuo and withdrawal of military assistance to China.

March – Battle of Taierzhuang. First significant victory against the Japanese. An advancing Japanese force in Shandong province is trapped, losing about 10,000 men. The city is eventually taken by the Japanese two months later.

April - Zhang Guotao left the Communist Party due to disagreements with Mao Zedong.

May - Japanese capture Xuzhou. Chinese forces, in general, retreat.

June – To impede Japanese advances, dikes on the south banks of the Yellow River are blown. Hundreds of miles are flooded. Millions become homeless. According to an official estimate made after the war, about 800,000 people drowned in the incident.

June - The New Fourth Army establishes Communist bases in central China's Jiangsu and Anhui provinces.

July - Japanese forces were defeated in a clash with Soviet troops at the border junction of Manchuria, Korea and Siberia, about fifty miles west of Vladivostok.

July - Campaign for Wuhan begins. The campaign for Wuhan and the surrounding areas would last about four months, involving about 400,000 Japanese troops. The Chinese mobilize all available regional forces, numbering over one million.

August - Full-scale battles surrounding Wuhan.

August - Soviet endorsement of Mao Zedong as leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

September - Central Committee plenum of the Chinese Communist Party - a meeting decisive for the future of China. Mao Zedong adopted a secret policy that ignored the United Front against the Japanese. The Communists would concentrate on expansion and conserving strength. The Nationalists would be treated as the ultimate enemy.

September – Munich agreement. Germany annexed a large portion of Czechoslovakia.

October - Japanese forces capture Guangzhou, cutting off foreign supplies to Wuhan by rail via the British colony of Hong Kong.

October – Chinese forces withdraw from the city of Wuhan. The Japanese occupy all China's major commercial and industrial centres and ports.

October - Chiang Kai-shek declares the war against Japan will continue.

November - Wang Jingwei secretly left China for Vietnam in a plan to establish an alternative Chinese government that would make peace with Japan.

November - Chiang Kai-shek holds military meetings to reorganize the Chinese army and establish new war zones.

December - The Burma Road is completed, bringing in supplies from Rangoon.


January - Increased emphasis on guerrilla warfare behind Japanese lines.

February - Japanese capture Hainan Island.

March - A Japanese force of 50,000 captured Nanchang, a vital railway junction providing supplies from the South.

April – Spring offensive. Chinese troops counterattack across several war zones without much success.

April - Armed conflicts between Nationalist and Communist forces behind Japanese lines.

May – Japanese launch an attack northwest of Wuhan with 120,000 troops. Over 200,000 Chinese defenders stop the episode.

May - Japanese and Soviet troops clash in Outer Mongolia and Manchuria for four months.

May - Nationalists encircle Yan'an and surrounding Communist areas with heavy forces.

June - Chiang Kai-shek demands Communist forces obey military orders.

June - Communists establish a base in Shangdong province that grows to about 70,000 men.

August - Ceasefire between Soviet and Japanese troops after the Japanese suffer a severe defeat.

August – Germany signs a nonaggression treaty with the Soviet Union.

September– Germany invades Poland from the West.

September - Britain and France declare war on Germany.

September - Japan signs truce agreement with the Soviet Union.

September - The Soviet Union seizes the eastern part of Poland.

September – First Battle of Changsha. Japanese attacked the city of Changsha from three directions with 150,000 men. The advancing forces are stopped by a Chinese force of 400,000.

October – Communist forces clash with Nationalist troops in northern Jiangsu, killing the commander of the Nationalist 89th Army and capturing thousands of soldiers.

November – Japanese forces land in Guangxi province and capture Nanning, cutting off transportation between China and Vietnam.

November – Japan recognizes the government led by Wang Jingwei as the legitimate government of China.

December – Winter offensive. 450,000 Chinese troops mount a general counterattack without much success.


January - Mao Zedong publishes "On The New Democracy" - vision for a New China.

January - Clash of Nationalist troops (Shanxi faction) and Communists in Shanxi province.

February - Communists defeat Nationalist troops in Hebei province.

March – Wang Jingwei establishes a national government in Nanjing as an alternative to the Nationalist government in Chongqing.

April – Communist forces are ordered to expand and set up new bases freely, independent of the Nationalist government.

May – Germany attacks Belgium and France.

May – Soviet pilots fighting in China return to the Soviet Union.

June – After intense fighting involving 200,000 Japanese troops, the Japanese captured Yichang, the gateway of river transport into Sichuan province.

June - France surrenders to Germany. The colonial government cuts off the supply route from Vietnam to China.

July - Demanded by Japan, Britain shuts off supplies into China through Burma. The Burma road would be reopened after Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy in September.

August – Operation 100 Regiments. Communist forces launched an attack by 104 regiments in Japanese-occupied territories in Shanxi and Hebei provinces. The Japanese retaliated by adopting the “kill all, burn all, destroy all” strategy. This is the second of the only two significant engagements against the Japanese by the Communists in the war. Party leaders later criticized it for exposing the strength of Communists forces and would be the last major attack by the Communists before the war ended.

August - Communists drive out Nationalist gorilla forces in Shandong province.

September - Japanese troops allowed into the northern part of Vietnam.

September - Soviet Union refuses requests for arms shipment from the U.S. into China via Vladivostok.

September - Japan signs the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy.

October - In central China, the Communist New Fourth Army establishes a base in northern Jiangsu province by eliminating over 10,000 Nationalist troops.

October – Nationalist government orders all Communist troops, the New Fourth and the Eighth Route armies, to concentrate north of the Yellow River. The order is not obeyed.

December - Communists agree to move the New Fourth Army north of the Yangtze River but disagree on the route.

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