BEIJIJNG – China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule on Tuesday with flowers, speeches, performances and a massive military parade through central Beijing.
The 70 years since the end of the civil war, in which the communists and Kuomintang fought to control territory vacated by the invading Japanese, have been tumultuous.
China went through wrenching social changes as it veered from a planned economy to a failed experiment with radical collectivization to today’s free-wheeling, often messy mix of bare-knuckled competition and crony capitalism, all supervised by the Communist Party.
The following are some of the key moments in the history of the world’s most populous country since 1949:
- 1949: Mao Zedong proclaims the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1 in Beijing. Chiang Kai-shek’s defeated nationalist-led government flees to Taiwan in December.
- 1950-1953: China supports North Korea against U.S.-backed South Korea in the Korean War. At least 100,000 Chinese “volunteers” die.
- 1957: The Anti-Rightist Movement purges intellectuals and reformers with liberal economic and political views. Veteran communists are later purged for opposing the Great Leap Forward.
- 1958-1961: The Great Leap Forward attempts to catapult China into the modern industrial age by collectivizing agriculture and creating steel in “backyard furnaces.” An estimated 30 million people, mostly peasants, starve to death.
- 1959: Chinese troops crush an uprising in Lhasa after widespread Tibetan resistance against forced collectivization. The Dalai Lama flees to India, where he remains.
- 1966-1976: The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution unleashes the teenage Red Guards, who with fanatical devotion to Mao set out to destroy all vestiges of China’s “feudal” culture. Schools close and the country disintegrates to near anarchy before youths decamp to the countryside to “learn from peasants.”
- 1971: The PRC joins the United Nations, displacing the Kuomintang-led government in Taiwan, which had held the China seat.
- 1972: U.S. President Richard Nixon visits China.
- 1976: Tangshan earthquake. An estimated 300,000 die.
- 1976: Mao dies. Veteran party members defeat a power grab by his wife, paving the way for Deng Xiaoping to take charge.
- 1978: “Reform and Opening Up” policy revives agriculture as peasants regain the right to farm their own plots. Over the next decade, food shortages vanish and foreign investment begins.
- 1978-1979: “Democracy wall” posters support political reform.
- 1979: United States and China re-establish diplomatic relations.
- 1985: China runs a trade surplus with U.S. for the first time.
- 1989: Students and workers protest for political reform and against inflation in Tiananmen Square for weeks before the army crushes the movement on June 4, killing hundreds, if not more.
- 1992: Deng revives economic reform with his Southern Tour.
- 1997: Deng dies.
- 1997: British colony Hong Kong is returned to Chinese rule. Tiny Portuguese-run Macau follows suit two years later.
- 1998: The Asian financial crisis coincides with reform of state-owned firms, throwing an estimated 30 million out of work.
- 2001: China joins the World Trade Organization.
- March 2008: Protests erupt across the Tibetan plateau after deadly riots in Lhasa, triggering a crackdown on Tibetans.
- May 12, 2008: An earthquake in Sichuan province kills around 80,000.
- August 8, 2008: Olympic Games open in Beijing.
- 2009: Ethnic riots in Xinjiang region kill 197 people in China’s far west.
- 2012: Xi Jinping becomes head of Communist Party, and president the next year, kicking off a massive crackdown on corruption and civil society, with dozens of senior officials jailed for graft and rights activists jailed on charges that include subversion.
- 2013: Xi unveils landmark initiative to re-create the old Silk Road, now called the Belt and Road initiative.
- 2013: China jails once-rising political star and contender for top leadership Bo Xilai for life for corruption, in a dramatic scandal kicked off by his wife’s murder of a British businessman.
- 2015: China’s fearsome former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang jailed for life for crimes including corruption and leaking state secrets.
- 2017: U.S. President Donald Trump visits Beijing, but the next year the two countries embark on a trade war, underscoring deteriorating ties between the world’s two largest economies.
- 2018: China changes its constitution to lift presidential term limits, meaning Xi can remain president until he dies.
- 2019: Large and at times violent protests in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong against a contentious extradition bill morph into demands for greater freedom from Beijing.
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