Facts & Figures
Official name: People's Republic of China (Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó)
Land area: 3,600,927 sq mi (9,326,411 sq km)
Total area: 3,705,407 sq mi (9,596,960 sq km)1
President: Xi Jinping (2013)
Premier: Li Keqiang (2013)
Capital: Beijing, 15.594 million
Other large cities: Shanghai 20.208 million; Guangzhou 10.849 million; Shenzhen 10.63 million; Chongqing 9.977 million; Wuhan 9.158 million (2011)
National Holiday: Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China, October 1.
Population: 1,384,688,986 (July 2018 est.)
Population Change: Growth rate: 0.37% ; 12.1 births/1,000 population, 8 deaths/1,000 population, -0.4 migrant(s)/1,000 population; infant mortality rate: 11.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
Life Expectancy: 75.8 years
Nationality/Demonym: Chinese (Zhōngguórén)
Languages: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (official; Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages (see Ethnic groups entry)
Note: Zhuang is official in Guangxi Zhuang, Yue is official in Guangdong, Mongolian is official in Nei Mongol, Uighur is official in Xinjiang Uygur, Kyrgyz is official in Xinjiang Uyghur, and Tibetan is official in Xizang (Tibet)
Ethnicity/race: Han Chinese 91.6%, Zhuang 1.3%, other (includes Hui, Manchu, Uighur, Miao, Yi, Tujia, Tibetan, Mongol, Dong, Buyei, Yao, Bai, Korean, Hani, Li, Kazakh, Dai and other nationalities) 7.1% note: the Chinese government officially recognizes 56 ethnic groups (2010 est.)
Religions: Buddhist 18.2%, Christian 5.1%, Muslim 1.8%, folk religion 21.9%, Hindu < 0.1%, Jewish < 0.1%, other 0.7% (includes Daoist (Taoist)), unaffiliated 52.2% (2010 est.)
Note: A majority of Chinese people are non-practicing or are not members of any religion, largely as a result of suppression of religion in the mid-twentieth century. The country is officially atheist. China recognizes the legal practice of five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam, and Protestantism. All of these religions have long histories in China. Not included are the various folk religions and local beliefs around the country, which are usually tolerated.
Literacy rate: 96.4% (2015 est.)
- China Profile
- History: The Road to Unification
- History: Three Centuries of Fighting
- History: Imperial China
- History: The Republic and the People's Republic
- News and Current Events
China is the largest country located entirely within Asia, covering over 3.7 million square miles. The greater part of the country is mountainous. Its principal ranges are the Tien Shan, the Kunlun chain, and the Trans-Himalaya. In the southwest is Tibet, which China annexed in 1950. The Gobi Desert lies to the north. China proper consists of three great river systems: the Yellow River (Huang He), 2,109 mi (5,464 km) long; the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang), the third-longest river in the world at 2,432 mi (6,300 km); and the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang), 848 mi (2,197 km) long. It has an extensive coastline on the Pacific Ocean.
China shares borders with fourteen neighboring countries. In order of shared border length, these are: Mongolia (4,630km), Russia (Northeast - 4,133km) and (Northwest - 46km), India (2,659km), Myanmar (2,129km), Kazakhstan (1,352km), Nepal (1,389km), North Korea (1,352km), Vietnam (1,297km), Kyrgyzstan (1,063km), Tajikistan (477km), Bhutan (477km), Laos (475km), Pakistan (438km), and Afghanistan (91km).
Since 1949, China has been constituted as the People's Republic of China, and is officially a unitary one-party socialist republic. Although the country openly promotes Communism, the ideology of China is "socialism with Chinese characteristics"; after leadership of the country passed from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping, the country thoroughly revised its Marxist-Leninist policies to suit the material conditions of China. This has resulted in subsequent leaders of the country expounding their own takes on communism, such as Deng Xiaoping Theory and Xi Jinping Thought. The country abandoned the Soviet model, and instead pursued the idea that, per Classical Marxist thought, they country needed to improve its economy and markets before it could pursue egalitarian communism. The country has invited more and more market influence, and has been the world's fastest growing economy for decades.
As a unitary one-party system, the governing party (the Communist Party of China) handles all government functions. Elections are held only for members of the Local People's Congress, who in turn vote for members of the legislative groups above them, such that only prominent legislators elect the members of the National People's Congress. Although other parties are allowed some representation at the local level, the dominance of the Communist Party is written into the Chinese constitution. Regional party leaders exercise substantial authority, which further decentralizes the governing process.
International Disputes: China and India continue their security and foreign policy dialogue started in 2005 related to a number of boundary disputes across the 2,000 mile shared border; India does not recognize Pakistan's 1964 ceding to China of the Aksai Chin, a territory designated as part of the princely state of Kashmir by the British Survey of India in 1865; China claims most of the Indian state Arunachal Pradesh to the base of the Himalayas, but The US recognizes the state of Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory; Bhutan and China continue negotiations to establish a common boundary alignment to resolve territorial disputes arising from substantial cartographic discrepancies, the most contentious of which lie in Bhutan's west along China's Chumbi salient.
Chinese maps show an international boundary symbol off the coasts of the littoral states of the South China Sea, where China has interrupted Vietnamese hydrocarbon exploration; China asserts sovereignty over Scarborough Reef along with the Philippines and Taiwan, and over the Spratly Islands together with Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Brunei; the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea eased tensions in the Spratlys, and in 2017 China and ASEAN began confidential negotiations for an updated Code of Conduct for the South China Sea designed not to settle territorial disputes but establish rules and norms in the region; this still is not the legally binding code of conduct sought by some parties; Vietnam and China continue to expand construction of facilities in the Spratlys and in early 2018 China deployed advanced military systems to disputed Spratly outposts; China occupies some of the Paracel Islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan; the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands are also claimed by China and Taiwan; certain islands in the Yalu and Tumen Rivers are in dispute with North Korea; North Korea and China seek to stem illegal migration to China by North Koreans, fleeing privation and oppression; China and Russia have demarcated the once disputed islands at the Amur and Ussuri confluence and in the Argun River in accordance with their 2004 Agreement.
China and Tajikistan have begun demarcating the revised boundary agreed to in the delimitation of 2002; the decade-long demarcation of the China-Vietnam land boundary was completed in 2009; citing environmental, cultural, and social concerns, China has reconsidered construction of 13 dams on the Salween River, but energy-starved Burma, with backing from Thailand, continues to consider building five hydro-electric dams downstream despite regional and international protests
Human Trafficking: China is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; Chinese adults and children are forced into prostitution and various forms of forced labor, including begging and working in brick kilns, coal mines, and factories; women and children are recruited from rural areas and taken to urban centers for sexual exploitation, often lured by criminal syndicates or gangs with fraudulent job offers; state-sponsored forced labor, where detainees work for up to four years often with no remuneration, continues to be a serious concern; Chinese men, women, and children also may be subjected to conditions of sex trafficking and forced labor worldwide, particularly in overseas Chinese communities; women and children are trafficked to China from neighboring countries, as well as Africa and the Americas, for forced labor and prostitution.
Tier Rating: Tier 2 Watch List - China does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; official data for 2014 states that 194 alleged traffickers were arrested and at least 35 were convicted, but the government’s conflation of human trafficking with other crimes makes it difficult to assess law enforcement efforts to investigate and to prosecute trafficking offenses according to international law; despite reports of complicity, no government officials were investigated, prosecuted, or convicted for their roles in trafficking offenses; authorities did not adequately protect victims and did not provide the data needed to ascertain the number of victims identified or assisted or the services provided; the National People’s Congress ratified a decision to abolish "reform through labor" in 2013, but some continued to operate as state-sponsored drug detention or "custody and education" centers that force inmates to perform manual labor; some North Korean refugees continued to be forcibly repatriated as illegal economic migrants, despite reports that some were trafficking victims (2015).
Illicit Drugs: Major transshipment point for heroin produced in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia; growing domestic consumption of synthetic drugs, and heroin from Southeast and Southwest Asia; source country for methamphetamine and heroin chemical precursors, despite new regulations on its large chemical industry; more people believed to be convicted and executed for drug offences than anywhere else in the world, according to NGOs
Note the use of sweeping gables (the pointed roof corners) at Longhua Temple. Source: Stefan Fussan
China is one of the oldest cultures on the planet, and has made famed contributions to all kinds of art, literature, architecture, engineering, and more. Western audiences would be most familiar with China's architecture, specifically the Great Wall of China (which, contrary to popular belief, cannot be seen from space with the naked eye). Fortifications aside, Chinese architecture has many famous characteristics; readers might be familiar with the use of sweeping gables on prominent buildings. More specific stylings can vary dramatically from region to region. Chinese architecture has been vastly influential on neighboring countries, and contact with the West only furthered its global reach. Chinese architecture has, like in the West, grown and developed over time and after contact with foreign cultures. Shanghai in the early twentieth century adapted many Western ideas and aesthetics to create their own unique style, like with the city's famous shikumen houses. The country is also home to many striking examples of contemporary architecture, like the national stadium in Beijing.
China is very famous for its culinary tradition--not just the typical "Chinese food" you find dotting malls and shopping plazas, but a whole cornucopia of cuisines with incredible depth and variety. There are eight major cuisines in China; Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang. There are also many more regional varieties. China's vast landscape, ranging from tropical to desert to subarctic, has produced many different kinds of food and methods of cooking; these methods and base ingredients differ from the Italian/French-derived landscape of European cuisine, and throughout history Chinese cuisine has been imbued with great importance and artistry. For several thousand years, food in China has been seen as important to healthy living, and even today Chinese food therapy is highly popular.
Less well-known, but equally respected and admired, is Chinese opera. According to scholars Peter Lovrick and Wang-Ngai Siu, there are over 300 regional varieties of Chinese opera, with the most famous being Peking (Beijing) opera. The most famous varieties include elaborate staging and costuming, and can incorporate acrobatics and other highly technical elements. Some forms, however, are less focused on pageantry, and may even be performed in plain clothes. One famous form is the Revolutionary Opera, a genre promoted by Jiang Qing, wife of Mao Zedong. The term also includes what we in the West might characterize as ballet, like the piece Red Detachment of Women performed for Richard Nixon in his famous 1972 visit to China. Ironically, this would later be immortalized in the Western opera Nixon in China.
Since Deng Xiaoping instituted new ideology and market reforms in the late twentieth century, the country has seen consistent and rapid economic growth. China is now the world's first or second largest economy depending on which metrics are being used. China is the world's largest exporter of goods, and the world's second largest importer. China rivals the United States in importance to the global economy, and is projected to see continued growth. China has seen a huge boom in its middle class in the past few years as it shifts further away from its recent history as an agricultural economy. China has also made massive strides in developing and employing renewable clean energy sources.
GDP/PPP: $23.21 trillion (2017 est.)
Growth Rate: 6.9% (2017 est.)
Inflation: 1.6% (2017 est.)
Government Revenues: 21.3% of GDP (2017 est.)
Public Debt: 47% of GDP (2017 est.)
Working Population: 806.7 million (2017 est.)
Note: by the end of 2012, China's working age population (15-64 years) was 1.004 billion
Employment by Occupation: Agriculture: 27.7%, Industry: 28.8%, Services: 43.5% (2016 est.)
Unemployment: 3.9% (2017 est.)
Population Below the Poverty Line: 3.3% (2016 est.)
Note: In 2011, China set a new poverty line at RMB 2300 (approximately US $400)
Total Exports: $2.216 trillion (2017 est.)
Major Exports: Electrical and other machinery, including computers and telecommunications equipment, apparel, furniture, textiles
Export Partners: US 19%, Hong Kong 12.4%, Japan 6%, South Korea 4.5% (2017)
Total Imports: $1.74 trillion (2017 est.)
Major Imports: Electrical and other machinery, including integrated circuits and other computer components, oil and mineral fuels; optical and medical equipment, metal ores, motor vehicles; soybeans
Import Partners: South Korea 9.7%, Japan 9.1%, US 8.5%, Germany 5.3%, Australia 5.1% (2017)
Agricultural Products: Rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, tobacco, peanuts, tea, apples, cotton, pork, mutton, eggs; fish, shrimp (World leader in gross value of agricultural output)
Major Industries: Mining and ore processing, iron, steel, aluminum, and other metals, coal; machine building; armaments; textiles and apparel; petroleum; cement; chemicals; fertilizer; consumer products (including footwear, toys, and electronics); food processing; transportation equipment, including automobiles, railcars and locomotives, ships, aircraft; telecommunications equipment, commercial space launch vehicles, satellites (World leader in gross value of industrial output).
Natural Resources: Coal, iron ore, helium, petroleum, natural gas, arsenic, bismuth, cobalt, cadmium, ferrosilicon, gallium, germanium, hafnium, indium, lithium, mercury, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, antimony, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, vanadium, magnetite, aluminum, lead, zinc, rare earth elements, uranium, hydropower potential (world's largest), arable land
Land Use: Agricultural land: 54.7% (arable land 11.3%; permanent crops 1.6%; permanent pasture 41.8%), Forest: 22.3%, Other: 23% (2011 est.)
Fixed Lines: 193,762,000, 14 per 100 residents (2017 est.)
Cell Phones: 1,474,097,000, 107 per 100 residents, (2017 est.)
International Country Code: 86
Internet Country Code: .cn
Internet Users: 730,723,960, 53.2% (2016 est.)
All broadcast media are owned by, or affiliated with, the Communist Party of China or a government agency; no privately owned TV or radio stations; state-run Chinese Central TV, provincial, and municipal stations offer more than 2,000 channels; the Central Propaganda Department sends directives to all domestic media outlets to guide its reporting with the government maintaining authority to approve all programming; foreign-made TV programs must be approved prior to broadcast; increasingly, Chinese turn to online and satellite television to access Chinese and international films and television shows
Total Airports: 507 (2013)
With Paved Runways: 463 (2017)
With Unpaved Runways: 44 (2013)
Registered Air Carriers: 56 (2015)
Registered Aircraft: 2,890
Annual Passengers: 436,183,969
Total: 131,000 km (1.435-m gauge) (2018)
Traditional: 102,000 km
High-speed: 29,000 km
Total: 4,773,500 km (2017)
Paved: 4,338,600 km (includes 136,500 km of expressways)
Unpaved: 622,000 km
Total: 110,000 km (2011)
Ports and Terminals:
Major Seaport(s): Dalian, Ningbo, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin
River Port(s): Guangzhou (Pearl)
Container Port(s) (TEUs): Dalian (9,707,000), Guangzhou (18,858,000), Ningbo (24,607,000), Qingdao (18,262,000), Shanghai (40,233,000), Shenzhen (25,208,000), Tianjin (15,040,000) (2017)
Note: All seven of these are among the ten largest container ports in the world.
LNG Terminal(s) (Imports): Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shanghai, Tangshan, Zhejiang
The Xia and the Shang
Although the country we currently know as China—The People's Republic of China—is quite young, there have been a long series of kingdoms and empires in the region for nearly five thousand years. These different states, which are typically ordered as a series of successive dynasties, began with the semi-mythical Xia dynasty.
The Xia dynasty has no attested historical records, and is not mentioned by its immediate successors, casting doubt on its existence. The story of the Xia dynasty, which first appears in records of the Zhou dynasty, might have been created wholesale to justify the overthrow of dynasties in China. The story goes that there were first the Three Sovereigns and the Five Emperors; these legendary rulers brought all kinds of advancements to the people of China, like fire and silk. These rulers passed the mantle on to the most capable person to succeed them, until it passed to the first Xia emperor, Yu the Great. Yu passed his title on to his son, instead of the most qualified person, creating the first dynasty.
The last Xia king was corrupt and weak, and so he was overthrown by the Shang dynasty. This was the "first" example in Chinese history of the important philosophy the Zhou would call the Mandate of Heaven. According to the Mandate of Heaven, as it was with the Five Emperors, once the ruling dynasty was no longer worthy, the heavens would see their overthrow by a new dynasty.
While the Xia might not have existed, the Shang were very real. The Shang dynasty saw the creation of the earliest form of Chinese writing, which is fairly similar to the Chinese script used today. It also saw the creation of advanced bronze-working, and laid the foundations of later Chinese religion, medicine, and poetry.
The Western Zhou
After the Shang came the Zhou. The Zhou, claiming the Mandate of Heaven (which they may have invented themselves), overthrew the Shang around 1062 B.C. The Zhou were the longest lasting dynasty in Chinese history, ruling for nearly 800 years (although by the last few centuries they held little to no real authority). The most important figure in this early period was the Duke of Zhou; the Duke, who was the uncle of a young and inexperienced king, suppressed revolts against the throne, established the feudal system, and legitimized the dynasty by dispersing the idea of the Mandate. The Duke of Zhou would later serve as a model for many Confucian scholars due to his loyalty and his refusal to seize authority from his nephew.
The Zhou kingdom would continue to grow, eventually straining the feudal system as regional groups became less and less bound to central authority. In the latter days of the Western Zhou, the Marquis of Shen sacked the royal capital alongside "barbarians." The last king of the Western Zhou died, and a group of influential aristocrats declared the Marquis's grandson king. The capital moved east in 771 B.C., beginning the period of the Eastern Zhou.
The Spring and Autumn Period
The Eastern Zhou is typically divided into two periods; the Spring and Autumn Period, and the Warring States period. The Spring and Autumn Period gets its name from the "Spring and Autumn Annals," a history of the state of Lu. Royal authority declined throughout the Spring and Autumn period, and the different constituent states of China were effectively independent. The different states fought for land and influence, and many states were conquered entirely by their neighbors. Throughout this time period, the most powerful states and families of their day had hegemonic control over the other states, leading to some people calling this the Age of Hegemons. The period came to an end when the state of Jin, one of the most powerful states, was split into three independent entities. This would then launch the country into the Warring States Period.
The period is very well known for its explosion of philosophy and culture. The Spring and Autumn period saw the greatest part of what's known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought." Confucius and his disciples were active during this time, as well as Laozi, Mozi, and military philosopher Sunzi (also called Sun Tzu).
The Warring States Period
There are a couple different starting points for the Warring States period, depending on who you ask. The most common dates are: 475 B.C., picked by historian Sima Qian who wrote the "Records of the Grand Historian" in 94 B.C.; 453 B.C., the start of the Partition of Jin; and 403 B.C., the year in which the three states of Han, Zhao, and Wei were recognized as successors to Jin. After the Partition of Jin, the conflict in China escalated. Different regional powers expanded and rapidly subsumed their neighbors. By 260 B.C., nearly two dozen states had become seven.
13 years later, the thirteen-year-old Ying Zheng was crowned the King of Qin, one of the remaining great states. Beginning in 230 B.C., at the age of 29, he launched a massive series of military campaigns to unify the country. Within just nine years, after over a century of constant fighting, Ying Zheng conquered all of China and unified it under a single government. He declared himself Qin Shi Huangdi (or Qin Shi Huang), meaning "the first emperor of Qin." This was the first use of the term "emperor" to describe the ruler of all China.
The Qin Dynasty
The Qin dynasty (pronounced like "chin," from which we get "China") was as influential as it was short; that is to say, very. Qin Shi Huang undertook some of the most important changes in Chinese history, and some of the most remarkable public works projects. Under the first emperor, the feudal system was replaced with a system of governors and bureaucrats, measurements were standardized, and oversaw significant advances in military technology. He also started the creation of a national system of roads, the first Great Wall of China, and the Terracotta Army located at his tomb. More controversially, his administration saw the suppression of local cultures, the abuse of peasants by military officials to inflate their successes against "bandits," and the repression of thinkers and philosophers who didn't adhere to the philosophy of Legalism favored by Qin Shi Huang and the philosopher Hanfeizi.
After Qin Shi Huang's death in 210 B.C., his minister and the court eunuch saw to it that his least competent and most pliable son would become the next emperor. Qin Er Shi was the second and last Qin emperor as his incompetence saw a massive decline in the country's governance, and there were widespread popular revolts against Qin abuses. A series of assassinations and conflicts ensued, leading to the end of the Qin in 207 B.C.
The Han Dynasty
After the fall of the Qin, two rebel leaders held the loyalty of the country. Xiang Yu of Chu and Liu Bang of Han fought with each other over who would assume the mantle of emperor. Liu Bang came out victorious in 202 B.C. and declared himself Emperor Gaozu. This was the beginning of the Han dynasty, which is widely held as a golden age of Chinese history. Most ethnic Chinese today identify themselves as Han Chinese, and the current system of characters are often called Han script.
The Han are, like the Zhou, typically divided into the Western Han and the Eastern Han, with a 16 year interregnum between them. The Western Han ruled from 202 B.C. to 9 A.D., and the Eastern Han ruled from 25 A.D. to 220. At their greatest extent the Han held territory near the modern border of Kazakhstan, helping to establish the Silk Road, and governed nearly 60 million people. They saw the invention of papermaking, seismometers, the ship rudder, negative numbers, and more. The expansion of the coin economy saw a massive growth in wealth in the country, and China traded with foreign powers as far as Rome.
The Western Han warred regularly with the Xiongnu people to the North, but their downfall came after a series of deaths left the country in the hands of a series of regents. One of these, Wang Mang, declared the end of the Han dynasty and the start of his own Xin dynasty. Wang Mang attempted a series of bold reforms that failed, including distributing land evenly between families and the abolition of slavery, and he failed to address the economic problem facing the country. A peasant revolt led to the storming of his palace and his execution. After Wang Mang's death, the Han resumed their rule from a new capital, beginning the Eastern Han. The regime held steady for some time until about the second century. A series of emperors became embroiled in political maneuvering, and more and more of the governing of the country was entrusted to the eunuchs employed at the palace. For the next century, the country would split further over the issue of the eunuchs' influence in the court. Corruption and mismanagement led to a growing agricultural crisis. Popular discontent would brew into the Yellow Turban Rebellion in 184, where Taoist groups would incite the public into a revolt that resulted in millions of casualties and lasted for over two decades. The government was thoroughly consumed by its many issues internal and external.
The Three Kingdoms
A pair of generals stormed the palace and killed several thousand eunuchs, causing the emperor at the time to flee. The emperor was taken in and directed by General Dong Zhuo. This launched a series of battles over controlling the imperial household as a coalition rose up to oppose Dong Zhuo, comprising many of the most powerful military leaders of the time. This would start nearly three centuries of conflict as China was divided yet again in the Three Kingdoms period.
Although Dong Zhuo was assassinated by one of his allies, the armies that had risen up against him remained. The most powerful warlord to come out of the conflict was Cao Cao, the precursor to the state of Cao Wei immortalized in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Cao Cao attempted to levy his strength and reunify the country, but an alliance against him won the decisive Battle of Red Cliffs, ensuring the survival of his rivals Liu Bei and Sun Quan. Over the next several years, the regional powers would coalesce into three major states; Cao Wei under Cao Pi (Cao Cao's son), Shu Han under Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang, and Sun Wu under Sun Quan.
The Sixteen Kingdoms
The Southern and Northern Dynasties
In the T'ang dynasty (618–907)—often called the golden age of Chinese history—painting, sculpture, and poetry flourished, and woodblock printing, which enabled the mass production of books, made its earliest known appearance. The Mings, last of the native rulers (1368–1644), overthrew the Mongol, or Yuan, dynasty (1271–1368) established by Kublai Khan. The Mings in turn were overthrown in 1644 by invaders from the north, the Manchus.
People's Republic of China Is Established
Japan's surrender to the Western Allies in 1945 touched off civil war between the Kuomintang forces under Chiang and Communists led by Mao Zedong, who had been battling since the 1930s for control of China. Despite U.S. aid, the Kuomintang were overcome by the Soviet-supported Communists, and Chiang and his followers were forced to flee the mainland, establishing a government-in-exile on the island of Formosa (Taiwan). The Mao regime proclaimed the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949, with Beijing as the new capital and Zhou Enlai as premier.
After the Korean War began in June 1950, China led the Communist bloc in supporting North Korea, and on Nov. 26, 1950, the Mao regime sent troops to assist the North in its efforts to capture the South.
In an attempt to restructure China's primarily agrarian economy, Mao undertook the “Great Leap Forward” campaign in 1958, a disastrous program that aimed to combine the establishment of rural communes with a crash program of village industrialization. The Great Leap forced the abandonment of farming activities, leading to widespread famine in which more than 20 million people died of malnutrition.
China Is Condemned for Poor Treatment of Tibetans
In 1959, a failed uprising against China's invasion and occupation of Tibet forced Tibetan Buddhism's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and 100,000 of his followers to flee to India. The invasion of Tibet and a perceived rivalry for the leadership of the world Communist movement caused a serious souring of relations between China and the USSR, former allies. In 1965 Tibet was formally made an autonomous region of China. China's harsh religious and cultural persecution of Tibetans, which continues to this day, has spawned growing international protest.
The failure of the Great Leap Forward touched off a power struggle within the Chinese Communist Party between Mao and his supporters and a reformist faction including future premier Deng Xiaoping. Mao moved to Shanghai, and from that base he and his supporters waged what they called the Cultural Revolution. Beginning in the spring of 1966, Mao ordered the closing of schools and the formation of ideologically pure Red Guard units, dominated by youths and students. The Red Guards campaigned against “old ideas, old culture, old habits, and old customs.” Millions died in a series of violent purges. By early 1967, the Cultural Revolution had succeeded in bolstering Mao's position as China's paramount leader.
President Nixon's Visit to China Establishes New Relations
Anxious to exploit the Sino-Soviet rift, the Nixon administration made a dramatic announcement in July 1971 that National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger had secretly visited Beijing and reached an agreement whereby Nixon would visit China. The movement toward reconciliation, which signaled the end of the U.S. containment policy toward China, provided momentum for China's admission to the UN. Despite U.S. opposition to expelling Taiwan (Nationalist China), the world body overwhelmingly voted to oust Taiwan in favor of Beijing's Communist government.
President Nixon went to Beijing for a week early in 1972, meeting Mao as well as Zhou. The summit ended with a historic communiqué on Feb. 28, in which both nations promised to work toward improved relations. Full diplomatic relations were barred by China as long as the U.S. continued to recognize the legitimacy of Nationalist China.
Following Zhou's death on Jan. 8, 1976, his successor, Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, was supplanted within a month by Hua Guofeng, former minister of public security. Hua became permanent premier in April. In Oct. he was named successor to Mao as chairman of the Communist Party. But Mao's death on Sept. 10 unleashed the bitter intraparty rivalries that had been suppressed since the Cultural Revolution. Old opponents of Mao launched a campaign against his widow, Jiang Qing, and three of her “radical” colleagues. The so-called Gang of Four was denounced for having undermined the party, the government, and the economy. They were tried and convicted in 1981. Meanwhile, in 1977, Deng Xiaoping was reinstated as deputy premier, chief of staff of the army, and member of the Central Committee of the Politburo.
Beijing and Washington announced full diplomatic relations on Jan. 1, 1979, and the Carter administration abrogated the Taiwan defense treaty. Deputy Premier Deng sealed the agreement with a visit to the U.S. that coincided with the opening of embassies in both capitals on March 1. On Deng's return from the U.S., Chinese troops invaded and briefly occupied an area along Vietnam's northern border. The action was seen as a response to Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia and ouster of the Khmer Rouge government, which China had supported.
In 1981, Deng protégé Hu Yaobang replaced Hua Guofeng as party chairman. Deng became chairman of the Central Committee's military commission, giving him control over the army. The body's 215 members concluded the session with a statement holding Mao Zedong responsible for the “grave blunder” of the Cultural Revolution.
Under Deng Xiaoping's leadership, meanwhile, China's Communist ideology went through a massive reinterpretation, and sweeping economic changes were set in motion in the early 1980s. The Chinese scrapped the personality cult that idolized Mao Zedong, muted Mao's old call for class struggle and exportation of the Communist revolution, and imported Western technology and management techniques to replace the Marxist tenets that had slowed modernization.
Student Demonstrators Are Killed at Tiananmen Square
The removal of Hu Yaobang as party chairman in Jan. 1987 signaled a hard-line resurgence within the party. Hu—who had become a hero to many reform-minded Chinese—was replaced by former premier Zhao Ziyang. With the death of Hu in April 1989, the ideological struggle spilled into the streets of the capital, as student demonstrators occupied Beijing's Tiananmen Square in May, calling for democratic reforms. Less than a month later, the demonstrations were crushed in a bloody crackdown as troops and tanks moved into the square and fired on protesters, killing several hundred.
In annual sessions of the rubber-stamp National People's Congress in 1992 and 1993, the government called for accelerating the drive for economic reform, but the sessions were widely seen as an effort to maintain China's moves toward a market economy while retaining political authoritarianism. At the session in 1993, Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin was elected president, while hard-liner Li Peng was reelected to another five-year term as prime minister. Since 1993, the Chinese economy has continued to grow rapidly.
China Becomes an Economic Power, but Continues to Suppress Personal Liberties
Deng Xiaoping's death in Feb. 1997 left a younger generation in charge of managing the enormous country. In 1998, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji introduced a sweeping program to privatize state-run businesses and further liberalize the nation's economy, a move lauded by Western economists.
On July 1, 1997, when Britain's lease on the New Territories expired, Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty, and in 1999, the Portuguese colony of Macao also was returned to Chinese rule.
In Aug. 1999, China rounded up thousands of members of the Falun Gong sect, a highly popular religious movement. The government considers the apolitical spiritual group threatening because its numbers exceeded the membership of the Chinese Communist Party. China severely restricts its citizens' civil, religious, and political rights. The use of torture has been widely documented, and for many years it has executed more people than any other country in the world, carrying out more than three-quarters of the world's executions.
China was admitted to the World Trade Organization in Nov. 2001. Its entry ended a 15-year debate over whether China is entitled to the full trading rights of capitalist countries.
In Nov. 2002, Vice President Hu Jintao became general secretary of the Communist Party at the 16th Party Congress, succeeding President Jiang. Hu Jintao also assumed the presidency in March 2003.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a worldwide health threat, hit China in March 2003. After coming under fire by the World Health Organization for underreporting the number of its SARS cases, China finally revealed the alarming extent of its epidemic.
Beijing officials angered democracy advocates in Hong Kong in April 2004, when they banned popular elections for Hong Kong's chief executive, scheduled for 2007.
Tension between China and Taiwan intensified in March 2005, when China passed an antisecession law that said the country could use force if Taiwan moved toward achieving independence. “The state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the legislation said. Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian called the bill a “law of aggression.”
In June 2005, the China National Oil Corporation (Cnoc) bid $18.5 billion to take over the U.S. oil company Unocal. The Chinese firm withdrew the bid in August amid strong resistance from U.S. officials.
After months of pressure from the Bush administration, China announced in July 2005 that it will no longer peg the yuan to the dollar. Instead, the yuan is linked to a fluctuating group of foreign currencies.
The police shot and killed about 20 people who were protesting the construction of a power plant in the southern city of Dongzhou in December. Chinese officials blocked the spread of information about the event.
Government officials announced in December that China's economy had grown by 9% in 2005. China is poised to have the world's fourth-largest economy, after the United States, Japan, and Germany.
In May 2006, China completed construction on the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. More than a million people will be displaced when the area is flooded. In July 2006, China opened a $4.2-billion, 710-mile-long railway from Qinghai Province to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The highest railway in the world, it ascends as high as 16,500 ft, requiring all compartments to have regulated oxygen levels. The railway will increase ethnic Chinese migration into Tibet, which many see as a deliberate attempt to dilute Tibetan culture.
China tested its first antisatellite weapon in January 2007, successfully destroying one of its own weather satellites. Analysts deemed the move a provocative challenge to the United States' supremacy in space-based technology. Others speculated that China is seeking to push the U.S. toward signing a treaty to ban space-based weapons.
In the spring and summer of 2007, dog food and toothpaste products that originated in China were recalled due to the presence of poisonous ingredients, leading many to question the safety of Chinese products and the reliability of its regulatory system. In July, China's former head of the State Food and Drug Administration was executed for accepting bribes from pharmaceutical companies in exchange for favors.
Natural Disasters Ravage China
In January 2008, severe snowstorms in eastern and southern China killed at least 24 people. Half of the country's 31 provinces lost power, about 827,000 people were evacuated from their homes, at least 600,000 train passengers were stranded, and some 20 major airports were closed. The economic cost of the storm is projected to be $3.2 billion.
In March, some 400 Buddhist monks participated in a protest march in Lhasa to commemorate the failed uprising of 1959, that resulted in the Dalai Lama fleeing to India. The protests, the largest in two decades, turned violent, with ethnic Tibetans reportedly attacking Chinese citizens and vandalizing public and private property. Chinese police used force to suppress the demonstrations. Tibetan leaders said that more than 100 Tibetans were killed, but Chinese officials claimed only 16 fatalities occurred and denied that police had used lethal force. China barred many international news organizations from the country and limited the flow of information out of the country. The demonstrations and violence spilled into Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan Provinces in western China. Chinese officials accused the Dalai Lama of masterminding the protests, a charge the spiritual leader denied. Zhang Qingli, Tibet's Communist Party leader, reportedly called the Dalai Lama “a jackal in Buddhist monk’s robes, an evil spirit with a human face and the heart of a beast."
President Hu visited Japan in May and cited an "everlasting warm spring" in relations between the countries. It was the first visit by a Chinese head of state in a decade. While Hu and Japan's prime minister Yasuo Fukuda failed to make progress on resolving a dispute involving a gasfield in the East China Sea, they did agree to regular meetings, signaling a thaw in their cool relationship.
At least 68,000 people were killed and thousands injured when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces in western China on May 12. Nearly 900 students were killed when Juyuan Middle School in the Sichuan Province collapsed. Several other schools also collapsed, killing about 10,000 students. In addition, a well-known panda reserve in Wenchuan was destroyed. The disaster was further complicated by landslides in Sichuan Province that blocked rivers and formed quake lakes that officials feared may cause devastating floods. It was China's worst natural disaster in three decades. In September, the Chinese government acknowledged that poor construction of hastily built schools possibly contributed to their collapse in the earthquake.
China Hosts a Successful Olympics
The 2008 Summer Olympic Games kicked off on Aug. 8, 2008, with a spectacular opening ceremony that many observers called unparalleled. In the lead-up to the games, however, China was dogged by its abysmal human-rights record, crackdown on the Buddhist monks, nearly intolerable air quality, attempts to censor some journalists reporting on the Games, and continued ties to the Sudanese government. In addition, four days before the opening of the Games, two members of the Turkestan Independence Movement, which is also called the Turkestan Islamic Party, a Muslim group based in western China, drove a truck into a group of police officers and then threw explosives and stabbed them. Sixteen police officers died and another 16 were wounded in the attack. Days later, another 12 people were killed in a wave of bombings attributed to the group. As host of the Olympics, China exceeded expectations, despite its moves to stifle protests and dissent, proving that the country is an economic powerhouse. China also won a record 51 gold medals, and a total of 100 medals.
The good will and enthusiasm that followed the Olympic Games was tarnished in September amid reports that three children died and more than 53,000 became sick after drinking milk-based formula that was tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical that's made from coal and used to produce plastic and fertilizer. Officials reportedly knew of the scandal months before it was publicly disclosed.
Space Exploration, Government Reforms, and Military Crackdowns
On Sept. 27, 2008, astronaut Zhai Zhigang stepped out of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft and made the first spacewalk by a Chinese astronaut. The achievement was an important step in China's quest to build a space station by 2020 and someday land on the Moon.
The government announced a land reform policy in Oct. 2008 that will allow farmers to "subcontract, lease, exchange, or swap" rights to the plots of land assigned to them by the government. The government said it hopes the policy change, which coincided with the 30th anniversary of land reforms under Deng Xiaoping, will lead to increased output and greater efficiency.
Although China was generally praised for its handling of 2008's earthquake in Sichuan, by the quake's one-year anniversary in 2009, some of the international goodwill had evaporated. China restricted access to the area by journalists and artists; parents of children who where killed in the quake had their complaints ignored and suppressed; and the government's official investigation into the schools and hospitals that collapsed in the quake claimed that none had been improperly constructed. The government did implement new regulations for the construction of schools and hospitals, but that was little comfort to bereaved parents and international organizations demanding accountability.
On the 20th anniversary of the violent military crackdown in Tiananmen Square that left hundreds of democratic activists dead, China tried to deter remembrance of the event. Police officers stood guard around the square, barring foreign journalists from entering. In response, tens of thousands of people held a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong to mark the anniversary of the brutal killings.
Rioting in Urumqi, China between two ethnic groups—Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese—led to the deaths of at least 156 people at the hands of the police on July 6, 2009. Riot police locked down the Uighur portion of the city to try and stop the protests. It was the worst ethnic violence in decades.
Taiwan and China signed a landmark free-trade agreement in June 2010 that lifts or reduces hundreds of tariffs for both sides. Officials from both Taiwan and China described the deal as the most important achievement since the 1949 civil war. Taiwan seems poised to benefit more economically from the deal than China, and China sees a political benefit as the agreement brings the two closer together.
The exiled Dalai Lama, who has lived in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala since 1959, sent a shockwave through Tibet in March 2011 when he stepped down as leader, requested a demotion to elected politician, and proposed amendments to the constitution. While he has made a clear break with politics, the Daliai Lama remains the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.
In April 2011, the government-in-exile of Tibet swore in a new prime minister, the first to be elected since the Dalai Lama renounced his position. Lobsang Sangay, a 42-year-old fellow at Harvard Law School, campaigned for an autonomous future for Tibet under Chinese sovereignty. The new prime minister polled 27,051 votes, 55% of the total electorate, to beat two other secular candidates. China has not acknowledged him.
Tension Reignites with Asian Neighbors Over Islands
Regional tension over claims to islands and resources in the South China Sea flared throughout 2012. For centuries, China has declared sovereignty over the sea and many of its islands, including the Paracel and Spratly islands, which are rich in oil and gas reserves and fish. However, Vietnam has also laid claim to the Paracel and Spratly island chains, and the Philippines say the Spratly Islands are within their territorial claims.
While the issue has been festering for decades, China took a tougher stance in 2012, warning other nations to refrain from oil and gas exploration and placing naval vessels in the South China Sea. At the same time, Vietnam and the Philippines have been more aggressively dispatching ships—both military and civilian—to the sea. There was little hope that the nations could solve the problem diplomatically, with China saying it would only negotiate bilaterally and both Vietnam and the Philippines both insisting that the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) mediate the dispute.
Transfer of Power, Bo Xilai Sentenced to Life in Prison
On Nov. 8, 2012, the Chinese Communist Party's 18th Congress convened in Beijing, beginning its leadership transition, with Vice President Xi Jinping set to take over as president. In preparation, Xi was named chairman of the Central Military Commission and general secretary of the Communist Party. He assumed the presidency of China in March 2013. Li Yuanchao was named vice president. It was only the second time since the party was established in 1949 that power was transferred from one leader to another without violence or protest. Xi was expected to propose several changes to China's social and economic policies, and in Nov. 2013, the party announced it was relaxing its one-child policy to allow urban parents who were both only children to have two children and was abolishing its system of "re-education through labor."
On Sept. 22, 2013, prominent Chinese politician Bo Xilai was sentenced to life in prison. He had been found guilty of embezzlement, accepting bribes, and abuses of power, including a failed attempt to stifle the murder allegations against his wife. His request for an appeal was later rejected.
The son of Bo Yibo, a Communist revolutionary leader, Bo Xilai served as mayor of Dalian, governor of Liaoning, minister of commerce and secretary of the Communist Party's Chongqing branch. Heading into 2012, Bo was considered a strong candidate for the elite Politburo Standing Committee in the 18th National Congress. However, in early 2012, Bo's former police chief, Wang Lijun, went to the U.S. Consulate with information that implicated Bo's wife in the murder of Neil Heywood, a British businessman. Heywood was poisoned in a Chongqing hotel in Nov. 2011. By Aug. 2012, Gu Kailai, Bo's wife, was convicted and given a suspended death sentence, the equivalent of life in prison.
New Air Defense Zone Declared and Increased Tension with Vietnam
In Nov. 2013, China announced a new air defense zone in an area over disputed islands in the East China Sea that have been the source of a dispute between Japan and China for years. The new air defense zone overlapped with an air zone declared by Japan decades ago. China's announcement included a warning that it would take "relevant measures according to different air threats" against any aircraft flying through the zone without first notifying the country.
The United States challenged the new military action threat by sending two unarmed B-52 bombers into the new air defense zone. Soon after, Japan and South Korea announced that they had also flown military planes over the zone and that the flights had been uninterrupted by China. China responded by sending fighter jets into the airspace.
High-ranking officials from China and Taiwan met in Nanking, China, in Feb. 2014. It was the first time since the 1949 split that minister-level officials held talks. While the meeting was largely symbolic, it signalled that both sides want to maintain stability and warmer ties.
Also in 2014, tensions increased between China and Vietnam when Vietnamese officials reported that their vessels had been hit by Chinese ships. "On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels," said Foreign Ministry official Tran Duy Hai, during a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. "Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels."
The situation intensified three days later when Vietnamese ships confronted Chinese ships. The Chinese vessels were placing an oil rig off the coast of Vietnam when the confrontation occurred. The placement of the rig also led to protests throughout Vietnam and some of those protests turned violent. On May 14, anti-China protesters set fire to at least 15 foreign-owned factories throughout Vietnam, according to state media. Protesters also destroyed and looted offices of manufacturing companies owned or managed by Chinese workers. At least one person died in the protests.
The Vietnamese government asked China to remove the rig and dispatched a naval flotilla to the area. The rig was placed in waters claimed by both Vietnam and China.
The incident also caused tension between the U.S. and China. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called China's recent moves "provocative." China's foreign ministry was quick to respond. Spokeswoman Hua Chunying asked in a news briefing, "We hope that the U.S. side can carefully reflect - if they really hope for the Pacific Ocean to be peaceful, what kind of role do they actually want to play?"
Chinese Hackers Indicted by the United States
For four months in late 2012 and early 2013, hackers in China attacked The New York Times. Hackers gained access to the paper's computer systems and employee's passwords. The attacks came at the same time that the New York Times reported on an investigation that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's relatives had acquired a several billion dollar fortune through business dealings. Security experts suggested that the attack was part of a wider computer espionage mission against U.S. news media outlets that report on Chinese leaders and business dealings. In fact, a day after The New York Times reported the incident, The Wall Street Journal revealed in a statement that hackers had infiltrated it, too, "for the apparent purpose of monitoring the newspaper's China coverage."
On Feb. 19, 2013, a 60-page study released by Mandiant, a U.S. computer security firm, showed evidence linking Unit 61398, a Chinese military unit, to the groups responsible for a large portion of the recent hacking in the United States. The study, which included digital forensic evidence, didn't prove that the hackers were inside the military unit's headquarters, but did show evidence that they were either inside or very close to Unit 61398.
In May 2014, The U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment of five members of Shanghai-based Unit 61398, the cyber division of Chinese People's Liberation Army, charging them with hacking into the computer networks of Westinghouse Electric, U.S. Steel Corp., and other companies. The move was considered largely symbolic since there was little chance the men would surrender.
American officials announced in July 2014 that Chinese hackers had breached the computer network of the Office of Personnel Management in March. They said they believe the hackers were targeting employees applying for top security clearances. It remained unclear how far the hackers got into the agency's network before authorities detected their presence and blocked them.
A year later, on June 4, 2015, U.S. officials announced that at least four million federal employees were involved in a data breach by hackers who had been traced to China. The breach was one of the largest ever of federal employee data and involved past and present employees. The Obama administration announced that the breach was first discovered in April 2015, but may have started in late 2014.
China Signs Gas Accord with Russia, Faces Hong Kong Protests, Participates in South Sudan Mission
After a decade of discussion, Russia's Gazprom signed a deal to sell natural gas to China's National Petroleum Corporation in May 2014. The deal was a $400 billion, 30-year supply contract for 38 billion cubic meters of gas per year. The supply would start in 2018. The fuel would come from a new pipeline in eastern Siberia. By 2014, China consumed about 4% of the world's gas, but about half of the world's iron ore, coal, and copper. However, China was on its way to being the world's biggest gas user by 2035. The deal was finalized during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Shanghai.
China said in December 2007 that Hong Kong citizens will directly elect the chief executive in 2017 elections and the legislature by 2020. Under the current system, an election committee loyal to the Chinese government elects the chief executive, and a body made up of pro-China business groups elects half of the legislators.
In June and July 2014, the pro-democracy group called Occupy Central held an unofficial referendum on how the island's chief executive will be elected in 2017. About 90% of the 800,000 who voted endorsed giving citizens direct say in the election. Weeks of pro-democracy protests followed the referendum. In late August, China's National People's Congress Standing Committee ruled that the 1,200-member election committee would vote on candidates for chief executive, and those garnering votes from more than half of the committee could run. The decision sparked much larger protests, which intensified throughout September, with tens of thousands of demonstrators shutting down the heart of the business district. On September 28, police in riot gear cracked down on protesters, using tear gas and batons. Despite the violence, protesters returned to the streets. The protests threatened the stability of the financial hub.
Also in Sept., China announced it would send 700 troops to take part in a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for the United Nations. The fighting in South Sudan between rebels and the government continued to be an ongoing threat to China's oil investments there. In a statement, Chinese officials said that the job of the troops will be to protect citizens and aid workers. According to United Nations officials, it was the first time that China sent an entire battalion to assist in one of their peacekeeping missions.
China and U.S. Reach Landmark Agreement on Climate Change
After weeks of discussion, China and the U.S. reached a landmark agreement on climate change in Nov. 2014. The plan was announced in Beijing by both President Xi Jinping and President Obama. The agreement included a commitment for the first time by China to stop its emissions from increasing by 2030. One way China planned to achieve that goal was to use clean energy sources, such as windmills and solar power, as 20% of the country's total energy by 2030. Also in the plan, the U.S. set new goals for carbon emissions reductions, reducing emissions 26-28% by 2025.
Being the number one and two carbon polluters in the world, China and the U.S. hoped to set the stage for other countries to follow their example, with the end result being a new global accord. To avoid future conflicts, the two leaders also agreed on a military plan for navigating U.S. and Chinese planes and ships off China's coast and cutting tariffs on technology items.
China, South Korea, and Japan Hold First Foreign Minister Talks in Three Years
In March 2015, foreign ministers from China, South Korea, and Japan met for the first formal talks since April 2012. South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Byung-Se hosted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul. The three met in an attempt to calm tensions and improve relations. The tension between the countries has revolved around an ongoing dispute between China and Japan over island territories in the East China Sea. However, relations between all three countries have been strained for years, going back to Japan's occupation of sections of China before and during World War II as well as its colonization of Korea.
The March 2015 meeting included a discussion of a possible future summit between the three countries' leaders. Another topic of discussion was how to contain North Korea's nuclear ambitions, a matter that all three foreign ministers agreed was a priority.
A cruise ship, the Oriental Star, carrying 458 passengers capsized in the Yangtze River, in central China on June 1, 2015. Strong winds and heavy rain were believed to have contributed to the accident. Few were expected to survive.
On Aug. 12 2015, multiple explosions killed at least 114 people at a warehouse in the port city of Tianjin. Another 70 people were missing after the blast, including 64 firefighters. Dozens of homes were damaged in the explosion. An investigation began soon after to determine the cause of the blast, including possible abuse of power and dereliction of duty. The warehouse stored hazardous materials, including 700 tons of sodium cyanide. Because of the explosion and the large amount of materials being stored, which was a violation of safety rules, a massive cleanup was planned for Tianjin.
China Ends One-Child Policy, Meets with Taiwan for First Time in Sixty-Six years
On Oct. 29 2015, China announced it would allow all married couples to have two children as a way to offset the country's aging workforce. The announcement put an end to China's unpopular one-child policy, which had been in effect for 35 years.
At the advice of scholars, China had already relaxed the one-child policy in recent years, allowing more families to have two kids when parents met certain criteria. The Oct. 2015 announcement stated that the country would "fully implement a policy of allowing each couple to have two children as an active response to an aging population." However, no details of how or when the new policy would be implemented were shared.
In early Nov. 2015, a meeting was announced between the presidents of Taiwan and China. They met for first time since 1949, when the Chinese revolution ended. The meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou was seen as a test on the thawing relations between the two countries. The two leaders met during the weekend of Nov. 7-8 in Singapore, a neutral territory on good terms with both countries. It was seen by many observers as the last chance for China to push for closer ties economically and politically before Taiwan headed into presidential and legislative elections in January 2016.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Nov. 2015
Source: AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying
According to a U.S. official at the Pentagon, China deployed missiles to a disputed island in the South China Sea in Feb. 2016. News of the deployment immediately increased tension in the region because Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries have also claimed the island. Leaders of those countries also expressed concern over China's recent efforts to create artificial islands in the same area. The Chinese Ministry of Defense would not comment on the missile deployment.