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Timeline of Chinese Communist Party history


BEIJING – July 1, 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

Here’s a quick look at its history and the key events in China over the past century:

July 1921: Inspired by Russia’s October Revolution which broke out in 1917, about a dozen people secretly founded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at its first congress in Shanghai, then a French concession.

1924: First United Front, an alliance between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the CCP, was formed to fight warlords in the Northern Expedition campaign. Sun Yat-sen, known as “the father of modern China” for overthrowing the Qing dynasty, had orchestrated the alliance in his capacity as the first KMT leader and the provisional first president of the Republic of China.

September 1927: After the failed Autumn Uprising against the KMT’s purge of communists, Mao Zedong led his fledgling Red Army to set up the communists’ first revolutionary base in Jinggangshan – known as “the cradle of the Chinese revolution” – in the landlocked south-eastern province of Jiangxi.

The Red Army was formed a month earlier and renamed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) after the end of World War II in 1945. At two million-strong, the PLA is currently the world’s biggest armed forces.

1931: Japan occupied north-east China and established the puppet state of Manchukuo with China’s last emperor, Puyi, as the nominal ruler. Puyi had abdicated in 1912 after the fall of the Qing dynasty. The KMT was preoccupied with wiping out the communists and did not declare war against Japan until 1938.

October 1934: On the brink of annihilation by the KMT, Mao and his Red Army began the Long March, a one-year trek covering about 9,000 km from Jiangxi to the northernprovince of Shaanxi.

January 1935: During the Long March, Mao emerged victorious at a party conference in Zunyi in the mountainous south-western province of Guizhou, consolidating power in the party against rivals who opposed his revolutionary strategies.

October 1935: The end of the Long March with Mao and his compatriots settling down in Yan’an in Shaanxi where they lived in caves for years. The communists embarked on a food self-sufficiency campaign in Nanniwan, about 50km from the party headquarters, turning wasteland into farmland and producing crops to feed a hungry army.

Dec 12, 1936: KMT leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was kidnapped by his lieutenant Zhang Xueliang, nicknamed the “Young Marshal”, and forced to form the Second United Front with the CCP in 1937 to fight invading Japanese troops. The KMT suspended its purge of communists.

July 7, 1937: A conflict broke out between Chinese and Japanese troops near the Marco Polo Bridge outside Beijing. China formally declared war against Japan, but KMT troops abandoned Nanking, then China’s capital, and fled to the south-western city of Chongqing. In December that year, Japanese troops murdered and raped thousands of city residents in what became known as the Nanjing Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking. Up to 30 million Chinese were killed during the second Sino-Japanese war which lasted eight years.

1945: World War II ended with Japan surrendering after the US dropped two nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing between 129,000 and 226,000 people, mostly civilians.

1947: Chinese civil war between the KMT and the CCP resumed.

Oct 1, 1949: Mao founded the People’s Republic of China (PRC) after routing Chiang Kai-shek’s US-backed KMT troops which fled to Taiwan. The Communists introduced a state planned economy and land reform, collectivised farms and nationalised private enterprises. Prostitution, gambling, opium and superstition were banned in “New China”. Even wearing make-up and high-heel shoes were outlawed. Crime and corruption were virtually unheard of for decades.

March 1950: Mao launched the PRC’s first political campaign to “suppress counter-revolutionaries”. Over three years, at least 2.6 million people – comprising KMT remnants, landlords and bandits – were rounded up and half that number were sent to labour camps. More than 700,000 people were executed, although some estimates put it as high as two million.

1950-53: Mao plunged China into the Korean War, fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with North Korea against America-led United Nations troops and South Korea.

1957: About 500,000 intellectuals were banished to toil in the countryside during the Anti-Rightist Movement, after Mao “lured the snake out of its hole” by urging them to speak up during the Hundred Flowers Bloom campaign.

1958: The Great Leap Forward campaign was launched to economically surpass the United Kingdom and catch up with the United States. Peasants abandoned their fields to make steel in their backyard furnaces that turned out to be substandard. An estimated 30 million people starved to death in a man-made famine from 1959 to 1961. Food was rationed in the ensuing years.

March 1959: Tibet’s god-king, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile in India after an abortive uprising. PLA troops had marched into Tibet and “peacefully liberated” the Himalayan region in 1951. Conflict erupted in the China-India border in 1962.

Oct 16, 1964: China successfully tested its first atomic bomb.

1966-76: Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution purging political rivals. State president Liu Shaoqi died in prison in 1969.

1969: Seven-month Sino-Soviet border clash after diplomatic fallout with “Big Brother” in the past decade.

Sept 13, 1971: Mao’s anointed heir, party vice-chairman Lin Biao, dies in a mysterious plane crash in Mongolia.

Oct 25, 1971: Beijing joined the United Nations, ousting Taipei which still styles itself as the Republic of China.

Feb 21-28, 1972: US President Richard Nixon set foot in Beijing for a landmark visit, starting rapprochement.

Sept 9, 1976: Mao died. His widow Jiang Qing and her reviled Gang of Four were arrested weeks later.

1978: Deng Xiaoping bounced back from political wilderness and ousted Mao’s anointed heir Hua Guofeng. Deng reversed Mao’s policies and introduced “reform and opening up” – socio-economic changes that dramatically transformed China over the next four decades. But the wealth gap widened and corruption staged a comeback.

Jan 1, 1979: Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing which abandoned its policy of “liberating” Taiwan through military means and pledged “peaceful reunification”.

February 1979: Deng ordered the PLA to invade Vietnam to teach it a lesson, after Hanoi’s occupation of Cambodia and toppling of the pro-Beijing Khmer Rouge regime. China withdrew its troops after 29 days.

1987: Deng’s heir apparent Hu Yaobang was toppled as CCP general-secretary for being too liberal.

1989: The death of Hu Yaobang on April 15 sparked student-led pro-democracy protests centred on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Troops and tanks crushed the demonstrations on June 4 on Deng’s orders, and the West slapped sanctions on China. Zhao Ziyang was ousted as party chief for opposing the crackdown and accused of “splitting the party”, spending more than 16 years under house arrest until his death in 2005. Jiang Zemin succeeded Zhao, but Deng was the power behind the scenes.

1992: Deng’s Southern Tour resurrected economic reforms stalled following Tiananmen.

Feb 19, 1997: Deng died, more than four months before the British colony of Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule on July 1.

2002: Jiang opened the CCP’s doors to private entrepreneurs before retiring as party general-secretary and from the party’s Politburo Standing Committee – the apex of power in China. He held the top job in the military for two more years until 2004. He was succeeded by Hu Jintao who ruled for a decade in Jiang’s shadow.

March 2005: China’s parliament passed the Anti-Secession Bill, mandating war if self-ruled democratic Taiwan formally declared independence.

2007: Xi Jinping catapulted to the Standing Committee at the 17th party congress and was anointed heir apparent.

August 2008: Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics. Rioting erupted in Tibet on March 10 that year, but calls for an Olympic boycott were dashed after a deadly earthquake killed almost 70,000 people in the south-western province of Sichuan on May 12.

July 5, 2009: Anti-Chinese rioting broke out in Urumqi, regional capital of Xinjiang, killing almost 200 people and wounding more than 1,700, mostly Han Chinese. A string of terrorist attacks in other parts of China prompted Beijing to declare war on terrorism, separatism and religious extremism. The West accused China of incarcerating up to one million ethnic Uighur Muslims since 2017, but Beijing denied the accusations, insisting that an unspecified number of Uighur underwent vocational training.

2009: China began building artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea and has been accused of militarising the region.

2010: The country overtook Japan as the world’s second biggest economy.

2012: China launched its first aircraft carrier Liaoning. Its second aircraft carrier Shandong, the first domestically built, was commissioned in 2017

2012: Xi took over the top job in the party and the military from Hu Jintao and assumed the presidency the following year. As president, Xi launched the most sweeping crackdown on corruption since 1949.

2015: He eased the one-child policy introduced by Deng in 1980 due to an ageing population. Married couples are now allowed three children.

November 2015: President Xi, who doubles as CCP general-secretary, met Taiwan President and KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore – the highest level meeting between the two parties since 1949. Xi has stonewalled Ma’s successor, President Tsai Ing-wen of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

2017: Xi began his second five-year term as party and military chief. Parliament amended the constitution the following year, scrapping the two-term limit on the presidency.

2018: US President Donald Trump plunged Sino-US relations to their lowest ebb since normalisation in 1979 amid a trade and tech, and ideological war.

January 2019: President Xi declared that Taiwan “must be and will be” reunified with the motherland. He did not spell out a timetable.

December 2019: Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. China has virtually contained the contagion after fumbling at the outset. It has been accused of resorting to extreme measures, including a lockdown of an entire province with a population of almost 60 million.

2020: China’s parliament railroaded the draconian National Security Law for Hong Kong after months of rioting in the city in 2019.

February 2021: Xi declared “complete victory” over rural poverty.

July 1, 2021: The CCP marks its centenary.





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