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Summarizing the rich history of China in several paragraphs is a daunting task indeed. China is a civilization spanning some six thousand years and comprising a large fraction of humanity. There is evidence of man's prehistoric ancestors living in China some two million years ago, and modern man has lived in the area for at least 18,000 years, possibly much longer.


Geographically, China can be divided into three main areas: the mountainous highlands of the west, the rugged south, and the eastern lowlands bordering the Yellow and East China Seas. Bisected by a number of major rivers, the incredibly fertile lowlands have been the center of power in China, and whoever controls that area controls Eastern Asia.

Early History[]

The Xia Dynasty is the earliest known centralized political entity in China. While the specific dates of the dynasty remain open to debate, many reputable scholars agree that the Xia existed from around 2000 BC to 1600 BC. The Xia did not control all of China; their power was largely centered in northern China. The Xia were eventually overtaken by the Shang, who lasted from around the 18th to the 12th century BC. The Shang were in turn ousted by the Zhou, who held power until around the 9th century BC. From the 9th century to the 2nd China suffered through the unending agony of near-constant civil war during the so-called Spring and Autumn period, which in turn was followed by the Warring States period. Eventually, in the second century BC, the Qin Dynasty conquered its rivals and established the first truly unified Chinese state. Their successors, the Han, introduced the office of the Emperor, the single leader who would rule all of China.

Later History[]

Over the succeeding centuries China would be ruled by the Tang and the Song dynasties. In 1271 AD the country would be conquered by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who would begin his own dynasty, known as the Yuan. A century later, the Yuan would be overthrown and the Ming dynasty would gain power, lasting until the 16th century AD. The Qing replaced the Ming, ruling until 1912 AD, when the Republic of China was established. The Republic lasted some fifty years, until it was overtaken by the People's Republic of China in 1949. As of this writing, the People's Republic remains China's current ruler.

Chinese Inventions[]

A creative and innovative people, the Chinese have given the world some of the most important inventions in history, including paper, gunpowder, the compass, and movable type. (This section is mandatory whenever Chinese history is discussed, in case you were wondering. It's a law.)

China and the World[]

Throughout much of its history China has remained an insular and isolated civilization, largely ignoring - and ignored by - the rest of the world. This was not difficult, as for many centuries China long held a distinct technological and military edge over any and all external foes. And any threats it could not defeat militarily (such as the Mongols, who conquered China in 1271), it simply absorbed into its own dominant culture.

This changed during the 18th and 19th centuries. By this period, the European powers and Japan had achieved a significant technological advantage over the Chinese. This edge, combined with vastly superior naval forces, better armaments, superior communications and advanced military tactics, allowed the foreign powers to dominate much of the rich Chinese coastal cities, where they could engage in extremely profitable business (including the infamous opium trade). The weak and corrupt Chinese central government was unable to oust the hated foreigners, who remained until most were driven out by the Japanese during and following World War II.

China Today[]

Emerging triumphant over the Nationalists shortly after World War II, the Communist government spent the subsequent fifty years consolidating power, modernizing infrastructure, and improving the lives and education of its vast population, a process which included a number of massive missteps, including the bloody "Cultural Revolution" which did its best to destroy China's intellectuals. In the past 40 years China has emerged as a major world power, an economic behemoth which will soon dwarf all other economies including the once unstoppable United States.

China is not without its difficulties, however. Much of its energy is expended simply supporting its huge and growing population base. Pollution is becoming a major problem as more and more factories are built, and more and more automobiles are clogging the bigger cities. Tibet - which depending upon your point of view is either a captive nation or an integral part of China - remains an open wound and major political distraction for China. None of these are insurmountable, though, and China stands poised to dominate the 21st century.


  • The Great Wall of China is not visible from space, contrary to common belief - it's too narrow.
  • Fingerprinting was used in China as early as 700 A.D.
  • Ice cream was invented in China around 2000 BC: the Chinese packed milk and soft rice together in the snow to make the treat. Marco Polo took the recipes for ice cream and noodles back with him to Europe.
  • Three of the world's ten longest rivers have their sources in China, and a further three originate in Mongolia.
  • The world's largest billboard was 300 meters long and 45 meters high, overlooking the Yangtze River at Chongqing in southeast China. However, this area was so continuously foggy that no one advertised on it since 1998. It was recently torn down.
  • People have been drinking tea in China for over 1800 years. Chinese White Tea is little else than boiled water. This type of white tea is actually made by boiling young Camellia leaves, and can be something of an acquired taste.

Chiang Kai-shek[]


Chiang Kai-shek, also romanized as Chiang Chieh-shih and known as Chiang Chungcheng, was a Chinese political and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China. Chiang – who led the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975 – was an influential member of the Kuomintang (KMT), the Chinese Nationalist Party, as well as a close ally of Sun Yat-sen's. Chiang became the Commandant of the Kuomintang's Whampoa Military Academy and took Sun's place as leader of the KMT following the Canton Coup in early 1926. Having neutralized the party's left wing, Chiang then led Sun's long-postponed Northern Expedition, conquering or reaching accommodations with China's many warlords.

From 1928 to 1948, Chiang served as chairman of the National Military Council of the Nationalist Government of the Republic of China (ROC). Chiang was socially conservative, promoting traditional Chinese culture in the New Life Movement and rejecting both western democracy and Sun's nationalist democratic socialism in favour of an authoritarian government. Unable to maintain Sun's good relations with the communists, Chiang purged them in a massacre at Shanghai and repression of uprisings at Guangzhou and elsewhere.

At the onset of the Second Sino-Japanese War, which later became the Chinese theater of World War II, Zhang Xueliang kidnapped Chiang and obliged him to establish a Second United Front with the communists. After the defeat of the Japanese, the American-sponsored Marshall Mission, an attempt to negotiate a coalition government, failed in 1946. The Chinese Civil War resumed, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Zedong defeating the Nationalists and declaring the People's Republic of China in 1949. Chiang's government and army retreated to Taiwan, where Chiang imposed martial law and persecuted critics in a period known as the "White Terror". After evacuating to Taiwan, Chiang's government continued to declare its intention to retake mainland China. Chiang ruled Taiwan securely as President of the Republic of China and General of the Kuomintang until his death in 1975, just one year short of Mao's death.

Similarly to that of Mao, Chiang is regarded as a controversial figure: supporters credit him with playing a major part in the Allied victory of the Second World War; detractors and critics denounce him as a dictator at the front of an authoritarian autocracy who suppressed and purged opponents and critics and arbitrarily incarcerated those he deemed as opposing to the Kuomintang among others.

Unique Components[]

Whampoa Clique[]

The Whampoa Military Academy plays an important role in Chinese history. It not only supplied many military commanders for both the KMT and CCP, but also its graduates have much more influence on both parties' policies and governance. Especially for Chiang and KMT, the Whampoa Clique was pivotal for his governance. It competed with other cliques of KMT such as the New Guangxi Clique led by Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi, CC Clique led by Chen Lifu and Chen Guofu, Politics Research Group led by Yang Yongtai and Zhang Qun. At the same time, when the CCP built its first Red Army after the Nanchang Uprising in 1927 most of its commanders were from Whampoa, and in the following two decades, the CCP trained its army in the Whampoa way.

The motto of the academy "Camaraderie" was proclaimed by Sun Yat-sen at the opening ceremonies. The irony is that during the Chinese Civil War both the commanders from KMT and CCP were trained and educated in Whampoa. They fought for different beliefs and ideals although they used to live and study together like brothers in arms.

The academy also had significant influence over the 20th century history of other Asian countries. The fourth term of the Academy saw students not only from all parts of China, but also from different parts of Asia enroll. For example, there were 30 Koreans among them. Some of them were brought up in China, others were active participants during the national liberation movement of Korea in 1917-1926 and emigrated to China later only to take up arms for struggle for freedom of their country after their education was over.

Flying Tiger[]

The First American Volunteer Group (AVG) of the Chinese Air Force in 1941–1942, nicknamed the Flying Tigers, was composed of pilots from the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), Navy (USN), and Marine Corps (USMC), recruited under presidential authority and commanded by Claire Lee Chennault. The group consisted of three fighter squadrons of around 30 aircraft each. It trained in Burma before the American entry into World War II with the mission of defending China against Japanese forces. The group of volunteers were officially members of the Chinese Air Force. The members of the group had contracts with salaries ranging from $250 a month for a mechanic to $750 for a squadron commander, roughly three times what they had been making in the U.S. forces. While it accepted some civilian volunteers for its headquarters and ground crew, the AVG recruited most of its staff from the U.S. military. The group first saw combat on 20 December 1941, 12 days after Pearl Harbor (local time). It demonstrated innovative tactical victories when the news in the U.S. was filled with little more than stories of defeat at the hands of the Japanese forces, and achieved such notable success during the lowest period of the war for both the U.S. and the Allied Forces as to give hope to America that it might eventually defeat the Japanese. AVG pilots earned official credit, and received combat bonuses, for destroying 296 enemy aircraft, while losing only 14 pilots in combat. The combat records of the AVG still exist and researchers have found them credible. On 4 July 1942 the AVG was disbanded. It was replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Forces, which was later absorbed into the U.S. Fourteenth Air Force with General Chennault as commander. The 23rd FG went on to achieve similar combat success, while retaining the nose art on the left-over P-40s.