Significant Dates in Modern Chinese History

The focus of this chronology is external affairs, principally of the Qing Dynasty (following a few Ming Dynasty dates) and subsequent Republic (1514-1949).

Qing Dynasty reign-periods:
(emperors’ personal names and posthumous titles in parentheses) 

Shun Zhi 1644-1661 (Fu Lin; Shi Zu)
Kang Xi 1662-1722 (Xuan Ye; Sheng Zu)
Yong Zheng 1723-1735 (Yin Zheng; Shi Zong)
Qian Long            1736-1795 (Hong Li; Gao Zong)
Jia Qing 1796-1820 (Yong Yan; Ren Zong)
Dao Guang 1821-1850 (Min Ning; Xuan Zong)
Xian Feng 1851-1861 (Yi Ning; Wen Zong)
Tong Zhi 1862-1874 (Zai Chun; Mu Zong)
Guang Xu 1875-1908 (Zai Tian; De Zong)
Xuan Tong 1909-1911 (Pu Yi) 

1514 Arrival of Portuguese on South China coast

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1520-21 First Portuguese embassy
1575 First Spanish entry into China (Fujian)
1601 Establishment of permanent Jesuit presence in Beijing
1618 First Russian mission to Beijing (from governor of Tobolsk)
1624 Establishment of Dutch foothold on Taiwan
1637 British “interloper,” Weddell, reaches Guangzhou

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1644 Establishment of Qing Dynasty in Beijing

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1656 First Dutch embassy to Beijing
1656 First official Russian embassy to Beijing
1661 Dutch ousted from Taiwan by Zheng Chenggong (“Koxinga”)
1661 Accession of Kang Xi Emperor
1662-83 All ports except Macao closed to foreign trade
1673-81 Rebellion of “three feudatories”
1683 Taiwan made prefecture under Fujian province
1688 Qalqa (Khalkha; “East Mongols”) submit to Qing
1689 First British East India Company ship arrives at Guangzhou
1689 Signing of Treaty of Nerchinsk (Nibuchu) — first of its kind
1692 Edict announcing toleration of Christianity
1696 Jungars (Dzungars; component of Ölöd [Eleuth], “West Mongols”) defeated and incorporated into empire
1699 British East India Co. “factory” established at Guangzhou
1722 Accession of Yong Zheng Emperor
1727 Treaty of Kiakhta (Haketu) signed with Russia
1729 Qing embassy to St. Petersburg — first to Europe
1729 Creation of “Grand Council” (Junjichu)
1730s-50s Tibet gradually incorporated as direct protectorate of Qing
1733, 1746 Proscriptions against Christian evangelizing
1735 Accession of Qian Long Emperor
1755-59 Campaigns to secure western territories (Ili & “Chinese Turkestan”)
1759 Western (except Russian) trade restricted by decree to Guangzhou
1766 Military mission reasserts authority over Burma
1768 Name Xinjiang (“New Frontier”) given to western territories
1784 First trading ship under American flag arrives at Guangzhou
1787-88 Suppression of rebellion in Taiwan
1788-89 Military mission reasserts authority over Annam
1793 Macartney mission (Britain)
1796-1804 White Lotus Rebellion
1805, 1811 Suppressions of Christianity
1816 Amherst mission (Britain)
1834 Ending of East India Co’s. monopoly on British trade with China
1834 Napier mission (Britain)
1839-42 First Opium War (“First Anglo-Chinese War”)
1842 Treaty of Nanjing (Britain)
1844 Treaty of Huangpu (“Whampoa;” France)
1844 Treaty of Wangxia (United States)
1845 Portuguese governor ceases payment of nominal ground rent for Macao
1850-64 Taiping Rebellion/Revolution
1852-53 Major shift in course of lower reaches of Yellow River
1853-73 Moslem uprisings
1854 Founding of Shanghai Municipal Council
1854 Establishment of foreign customs inspectorate
1856-60 Second Opium War (“Second Anglo-Chinese War;” “Arrow War”)
1858 Treaties of Tianjin (Britain, France)
1858 Treaty of Aigun (Aihui, Heilongjiang City; Russia)
1860 Signing of Beijing Convention (Britain)
1860 Supplementary Treaty of Beijing (Russia)
1860s-90s “Self-Strengthening” (“Foreign Affairs”) Movement
1861 Xian Feng emperor dies in Rehe; Empress Dowager Ci Xi stages coup d’etat
1861 Establishment of Zongli Yamen
1862-74 “Tong Zhi Restoration”
1862 Founding of Tongwen Guan
1863 “Lay-Osborn Flotilla” incident
1865 Establishment of Jiangnan Arsenal
1866 Bin Chun mission to Europe
1866 Establishment of Fuzhou dockyard
1867 Establishment of Tianjin and Nanjing arsenals
1868 First official Chinese mission to visit succession of Western countries
1869 Opening of Suez Canal
1869 Alcock Convention (refused ratification)
1870s Assertion of Japanese influence in Korea
1870s-80s Despatch of technical apprentices to Britain, France, Germany
1870 Anti-foreign outburst in Tianjin (“Tianjin Massacre”)
1871-81 Russian occupation of Ili
1871 Telegraphic link established between Shanghai and Europe (foreign)
1871 Mission of apology sent to France (for “Tianjin Massacre”)
1872 First government-sponsored group of students sent abroad for study
1872 Establishment of China Merchants Steam Navigation Company
1873 First audience of foreign resident ministers with emperor
1874 Japan sends military mission to Taiwan
1875 “Margary Affair”
1876-79 Major drought-induced famine in north China
1876 First railway built by foreigners — without authorization; purchased by local authorities and torn up
1876 Military mission sent to Germany
1876 Treaty of Kanghwa between Japan and Korea asserts Korean independence
1876 Chefoo Convention (Britain)
1877 Arrival in London of first Chinese resident minister abroad (Guo Songdao)
1878 First mechanized textile factories established
1879 Tianjin and Dagu linked by telegraph (Chinese)
1880 Establishment of naval academy at Tianjin
1881 Tianjin and Shanghai linked by telegraph (Chinese); telegraph administration established
1881 First permanent Chinese railway established
1883-85 Sino-French War (over Annam)
1883 Xinjiang given provincial status
1885 Burma detached by Britain
1885 Li-Ito Convention concerning Korea
1885 Military academy established at Tianjin
1887 Sino-Portuguese treaty confirms Portuguese sovereignty over Macao
1888 Establishment of Beiyang (North China) fleet
1890s Anti-Christian campaigns in Yangtze valley
1890 Establishment of Daye iron mine, Pingxiang coal mine, and Hanyang iron works
1894-95 Sino-Japanese War
1894 Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan; Sun Wen) establishes Xing Zhong Hui in Honolulu
1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki cedes Taiwan, Pescadores and Liaodong Peninsula to Japan
1895 “Triple Intervention” forces Japan to return Liaodong
1896 Establishment of modern postal system
1896 Li Hongzhang sent as emissary to coronation of Russian Tsar Nicholas II
1896 Russia given permission to build railway across Chinese territory to Vladivostok
1896-1900 “Scramble for Concessions”
1898 Creation of first modern Chinese bank (Commercial Bank of China)
1898 Russia given concession for South Manchurian Railway to Dalian
1899-1900 United States advocates “Open Door” policy
1900 Yihetuan rising (“Boxer Rebellion”)
1901 “Boxer” Protocol
1901 Foreign Ministry replaces Zongli Yamen
1901 Beginnings of modern school system
1901, 1902 Provinces ordered to select students on regular basis for study abroad
1903 Establishment of Ministry of Commerce
1903 Creation of provincial taxes on liquor and tobacco
1903 Founding of Hua-xing Hui (Huang Xing)
1904-05 Russo-Japanese War
1905 Treaty of Portsmouth
1905 Founding of Tongmeng Hui, forerunner of Guomindan(Kuomintang; “Nationalist Party”)
1905 Establishment of ministries of education, police
1905 Imperial mission sent abroad to study foreign political systems

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1905 Popular boycott of American imported goods to protest American adoption of “exclusion act”
1906-1911 Succession of revolutionary uprisings
1906 Traditional examination system abolished
1907 Constitutional commission established
1908 Constitutional Outline issued
1908 Deaths of Guang Xu Emperor and Empress Dowager Ci Xi
1909 Establishment of provincial assemblies
1910 Korea incorporated into Japanese Empire
1911 Anti-monarchical revolution — Qing Dynasty’s collapse
1911 Declaration of independence by outer Mongolia
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1912 Establishment of Republic of China
1912 Election of first parliament

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1912-16 Ascendancy of Yuan Shikai
1913 Dalai Lama declares independence of Tibet
1913 Song Jiaoren, leader of new Guomindang, assassinated
1913 Yuan Shikai arranges “Reorganization Loan” with foreign powers
1913 “Second Revolution”
1913 Yuan Shikai orders dissolution of Guomindang, thereby hamstringing parliament
1914 Yuan Shikai engineers “Constitutional Compact” giving himself greatly enlarged powers
1914 Sun Yat-sen establishes Chinese Revolutionary Party in Japan
1915 Japan puts forth “Twenty-One Demands”
1915-16 Yuan Shikai attempts imperial restoration
1915 Yunnan province declares independence
1916 Guangxi, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Hunan provinces declare independence
1916-30s “Warlords” compete for power
1917 Zhang Xun attempts imperial restoration
1917 Hu Shi advocates shift to vernacular in literature and popular media
1917 Sun Yat-sen sets up first military government in Guangzhou
1917 Abolition of legal import of opium
1918 Revolutionary Russia renounces special privileges in China
1919 May Fourth Movement
1920 Complete abandonment of classical written language in primary schools
1921 Washington Conference
1921 Foundation of Communist Party of China (CPC; CCP)
1922 First Chinese motion picture company starts operation
1923 Sun Yat-sen reestablishes government in Guangzhou
1923 Beijing-Hankou railway workers’ strike crushed
1923 First radio station established (Shanghai)
1924 Reorganization of Guomindang
1924-27 First period of Communist-Guomindang cooperation (“First United Front”)
1925 People’s Republic of Mongolia proclaimed
1925 Death of Sun Yat-sen
1925 May Thirtieth Movement
1926-28 Northern Expedition (“1st Revolutionary Civil War”)
1926 First Chinese elected to Shanghai municipal councils; Shanghai mixed courts abolished
1927 British settlements in Hankou and Jiujiang overrun (“Nanjing Incident”)
1927 Coup d’etat by Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi)
1927-37 Period of open conflict between Guomindang (National Government) and Communist Party (“2nd Revolutionary Civil War”)
1927-28 Establishment of rural revolutionary bases by Mao Zedong and others
1927 Nanchang Uprising
1928 Nanjing declared capital of China; Beijing renamed Beiping
1928 Zhang Zuolin, warlord of northeast China (“Manchuria”), assassinated
1929-30 Power contests between Guangxi warlords (Li Zongren, Bai Chongxi) and Chiang Kai-shek; and Feng Yuxiang, Yan Xishan and Chiang Kai-shek
1929 Guomindang National Government issues new trade union law, orders dissolution of national student organization, bans literary “Creation Society”
1930 Guomindang National Government proclaims new press law
1930 China regains tariff autonomy
1930 “Left-Wing Writers’ League” established
1931-34 Suppression campaigns against “Communist” bases in central China
1931 Japanese takeover of northeast China (“Manchurian Incident”)
1931 Massive floods in Yangtze basin
1932 Japanese attack on Shanghai
1932 Creation of Japanese puppet state, “Manchukuo,” in northeast China
1933-35 Japanese encroachment on north China and inner Mongolia
1934-35 The “Long March”
1935 Currency reform
1935 “December 9th” student movement against Japanese aggression
1935 Chiang Kai-shek launches “New Life Movement”
1936-45 Communists’ “Yan’an period”
1936 Xi’an Incident
1937 Full-scale Japanese invasion of China
1937-45 Sino-Japanese War; second period of Communist-Guomindang cooperation (“Second United Front”)
1937 Guomindang National Government withdraws from Nanjing to Hankou
1938-45 Guomindang National Government capital at Chongqing (Chungking)
1940 Collaborationist government established by Wang Jingwei at Nanjing
1941 New Fourth Army Incident
1941 Japanese attacks on possessions in Pacific and Asia of United States and other powers open “Pacific War”
1943 Foreign powers formally relinquish special rights and privileges in China
1944 Uighur autonomist forces in Xinjiang proclaim “Republic of Eastern Turkey”
1945 Guomindang National Government concludes friendship treaty with Soviet Union
1945 Guomindang National Government moves back to Nanjing after Japan’s surrender
1945-46 U.S. attempts to mediate between Guomindang National Government and Communist Party
1946 (Jan.) Political Consultative Conference calls for fundamental governmental reorganization; Chiang Kai-shek evades issue
1946 (Nov.) Sino-American Treaty of Commerce and Navigation signed
1946 (Dec.) Adoption of new national constitution by old National Assembly
1946-49 All-out civil war between Guomindang National Government and “Communist” armies (“3rd Revolutionary Civil War”)
1947 (Feb.) Communist Party calls openly for overthrow of Guomindang National Government
1947 (Mar.) Guomindang National Government forces capture Communist “capital,” Yan’an

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1947 (May) Widespread rioting in cities over high cost of living, extreme inflation; Guomindang National Government issues “Provisional Measures for the Maintenance of Order”
1947 (Fall) Elections held for new National Assembly
1947 (Oct.) Communist Party encourages agrarian reform in “liberated areas”
1947 (Nov.) Sino-American Assistance Pact signed
1947 (Dec.) Sino-American Naval Pact signed
1948 Communist-led “People’s Liberation Army” (PLA) begins taking major cities
1948 (Jan.) Creation of Guomindang Revolutionary Committee in Hong Kong
1948 (Mar.) Convening of new National Assembly in Nanjing
1948 (Apr.) U.S. Congress passes China Aid Act
1948 (Spring) Yan’an retaken
1948 (Aug.) Guomindang National Government undertakes final monetary “reform”
1948 (Sept.-Nov.) Battle for northeast China (“Manchuria”)
1948-49 (Nov.-Jan.) Huai-Hai campaign
1948-49 (Dec.-Jan.) Battle for north China
1949 Widespread military and bureaucratic defections from Guomindang National Government to “Communist” side
1949 (Jan.) Beijing surrendered
1949 (Jan.) Chiang Kai-shek nominally steps down in favor of Li Zongren
1949 (Apr.) Nanjing taken (Guomindang moves “national capital” to Guangzhou, then Chongqing, Chengdu, Taibei)
1949 (May) Shanghai taken
1949 (Sept.) Convening of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC)
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Oct. 1, 1949 Proclamation of People’s Republic of China