Historical Governments of China

c. 2100-1600 BCE: Xia Dynasty
The Xia Dynasty is the first recorded dynasty in Chinese history and marks the beginning of the Three Dynasties. There is not much proof to its existence apart from its name being mentioned in other documents found.

c. 1600-1050 BCE: Shang Dynasty
The Shang dynasty was founded by Cheng Tang and governed by a total of 30 monarchs. It is the first dynasty to have left written records of its existence. Some of its contributions to civilization include: the invention of writing, the development of a stratified government, the advancement of bronze technology, and the use of the chariot and bronze weapons in warfare.

c. 1046-256 BCE: Zhou Dynasty
The Zhou Dynasty is the longest lasting dynasty in Chinese history. The Zhou Dynasty introduced The Mandate of Heaven, a concept the explained that kings had the authority to rule because they had the approval of Heaven.  The Zhou Dynasty also introduced the fengjian system.

c. 475-221 BCE: Warring States Period
The Warring States Period refers to the time at which the eight major states of China constantly competed against one another for dominance over China. This period was the time at which iron tools became popular and China entered the Iron Age. Philosophical movements also became big during this time and Confucian philosophy was further developed…Read More

c. 221-206 BCE: Qin Dynasty
The kingdom of Qin eventually conquered the other kingdoms and ended the Warring States Period. Emperor Qin was the first man to control all of China. It was during this dynasty that the Great Wall of China began to be built in order to better protect the country. The Qin Dynasty introduced a system of standardization in which all of China was required to follow the same laws, use the same money, and write in the same language.

c. 206 BCE-220 CE: Han Dynasty
During this time, China began to trade silk with .The  Han dynasty was also when paper, porcelain, and wheelbarrows were invented. Han rulers continued the form of government that was started in the Qin Dynasty. However, they implemented Confucian ideals to the legalistic system.

220-589 CE: Six Dynasties Period
Also known as the Dark Ages in China, the Six Dynasties Period refers to the period of time after the fall of the Han dynasty where six different dynasties ruled over southern China. These dynasties include: the Western Jin, the Eastern Jin, the Song, the Southern Qi, the Liang, and the Chen.

589-618 CE: Sui Dynasty
After the fall of the Han Dynasty and the three and a half centuries referred to as the the Six Dynasties Period, China was once again reunited under the Sui Dynasty. During these three decades, the government system was restructured, the canal system that now connects the Yellow, Huai, and Yangzi rivers was created, and the spread of another religion, Buddhism, was encouraged…Read More

618-906 CE: Tang Dynasty
Historians believe that the Tang dynasty was the high point in Chinese civilization, surpassing the accomplishments previously made in the Han Dynasty. It is also referred to as the golden age of literature and art. The Tang Dynasty saw the start of Buddhism in China, the invention of block printing, and a new government system was perfected.

907-960 CE: Five Dynasties Period
The Five Dynasties Period refers to the five short dynasties that ruled North China at that time. These dynasties included: the Later Liang, Later Tang, Later Jin, Later Han, and the Later Zhou dynasty. Although the political governments were unstable during this time, China managed fully develop the block printing system started in the Tang Dynasty and complete the printing of the Confucian Classics.

960-1279 CE: Song Dynasty
This dynasty started out in Northern China when a general of the Later Zhou dynasty became emperor and managed to reunify China. The capital of the Song Dynasty remained the Henan province in Northern China from 960-1127 but was later moved south to the Zhejiang province. Due to this relocation, 1127-1279 CE is often referred to as the Southern Song Dynasty.

1279-1368 CE: Yuan Dynasty
In 1211, the supreme leader of all Mongol tribes, Genghis Khan moved his troops into North China and in 1279, his grandson, Kublai Khan defeated the Southern Song. The Yuan Dynasty is the first time China was under foreign rule…Read More

1368-1644 CE: Ming Dynasty
After a rebellion against the foreign Yuan Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, a rebel leader, ended the Mongol domination and became the first ruler of the Ming Dynasty. He built imperial palaces in Beiping, renamed it Beijing, meaning “Northern Capital”, and made it the main capital…Read More

1644-1912 CE: Qing Dynasty
The Manchu armies, from the present-day Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, followed rebel forces into Beijing and conquered the capital. This marked the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty to rule China.

1912-1949 CE: Republic Period
In 1911, the provinces started to revolt against the Qing dynasty and declared their allegiance to the Revolutionary Alliance. In 1912, the royal family left the throne and Yuan Shikai became the first president of the Republic of China. However, this newly formed republic failed to unite China.

1949-present: People’s Republic of China
The People’s Republic of China was formally establish on October 1, 1949. With this new government came land reform, and increase in the national income, and the full industrialization of China. China has gone through many changes since the establishment of its new government and is now in a stable political situation with the support of its people…Read More


Modern China (1840-Present)

1840-1842 Opium War:
British opium smuggling and trade conflicts led to war, Chinese defeat. Treaty of Nanking (1842) ceded Hong Kong to Britain and opened 5 trade ports.

1850-1864 Taiping Rebellion:
A massive, 10-year civil war in which the Qing Dynasty clashed with the Christian Taiping movement.

1894-1895 First Sino-Japanese War:
Japan defeats China, takes Korea, Taiwan, and massive reparations.

1900 Boxer Rebellion:
A major uprising in northern China fighting against the spread of Western and Japanese influence in China, and some of the weaknesses of the Qing Dynasty.

1911 Republican Revolution:
The last emperor, and the weakening Qing Dynasty were overthrown by various groups hoping to end the outdated and unmodernized imperial system that had failed to resist foreign aggression and keep domestic order.

1911-1949 The Republic of China:
A brief period of republican political structure that was established after the fall of the Qing Dynasty. It was plagued by internal problems, especially after President Yuan Shikai’s death in 1916. After the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) brought the Communists to power, the Republic of China leadership fled to Taiwan (1949).

1916-1927 Warlord Era:
In the aftermath of the fallen Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China was divided as military leaders filled the power vacuum and ruled different regions, fighting one another in various wars. Chiang Kai-Shek, leader of the KMT Nationalist Party, assumed control of the country, when his appeals to the Soviet Union lent him power to centralize authority.

1927-1950 Chinese Civil War:
An extended period of fighting between the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and KMT (Kuomintang Nationalist Party) for rule of China. The Soviet Union had helped the KMT establish national authority before the war, on the condition of permitting a Chinese Communist Party. However, differing ideologies fueled antagonism between the two groups, and hostilities broke out in 1927. The war had a decade-long intermission in which the two opponents formed the Second United Front to fight against Japanese invasion, starting in the mid-1930s.

1956-1957 Hundred Flowers Campaign:
A period during which the Chinese government permitted greater freedom of academic, intellectual, and artistic expression, and even allowed moderate criticism of the government. Initial participation was slow, but as criticism of the government grew, the state leadership responded with a harsh backlash, punishing dissenters with prison and other measures in a severe anti-rightist campaign.

1958-1960 Great Leap Forward:
In a massive effort to industrialize and modernize China, the state leadership began initiatives to massively increase agricultural output, promoting measures that collectivized farms, created backyard smelting furnaces, and setting impossible manufacturing production quotas. However, despite huge propaganda efforts and public morale-raising, the measures were mostly ineffective, and resulted in mass starvation. With rising public outcry, Mao recalled the policies, receiving high political cost…Read More

1966-1970 Cultural Revolution:
After suffering some political loss of face, Mao calls for a revival of revolutionary spirit and promotes the elimination of rightist and subversive ideals. The Red Guard, bands of patriotic youth, began to harass dissidents, intellectuals, and individuals perceived as bourgeois. Mass distribution of propaganda such as Mao’s “Little Red Book”, the escalation of fear and violence, and the broad growth of a cult of personality revolving around Mao culminated with his death in 1976…Read more

1970’s, 1980’s Deng Xiaoping Economic Reforms:
After his rise to power in the late 1970’s, Deng Xiaoping began a process of stepping back from Maoist egalitarian ideals: the introduction of incentive-based initiatives, a competitive and professionalist state bureaucracy, and increased market freedoms, such as the de-collectivization of agriculture and permitting some increased private enterprise. Also, prioritizing the advancement of economics and technology, China was opened to foreign trade (1979), and experienced an overall increase in economic activity…Read more

1989 Tiananmen Square Incident:
A smaller part of the “89 Democracy Movement”, the Tiananmen Square incident occurred in the context of a larger, multi-city phenomenon in which the state clashed with the population over political freedoms. When student protests in Beijing during the spring of 1989 began calling for the end of government corruption and increased freedoms of speech and press, protests also broke out in other cities. In response to increasing pressure, the government called for a crackdown. After a 7-week student occupation of Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, the Chinese military was called in to disperse the protestors, and also broke up movements in other cities. The Chinese government claims few casualties or deaths, but outside figures estimate that this period claimed as many as several thousand lives…Read More

1997 Hong Kong returned to China:
After nearly a century of British ownership, Hong Kong was returned peacefully to China after longterm negotiations for semiautonomy and reasonable independence from China in the future. More recently (2014, 2015), democracy protests in Hong Kong have created uncertainty as to how it will be handled by the PRC. Escalating violence has created fear of another backlash like that of Tiananmen Square in 1989 and a possible reduction in freedoms.

2001 China enters WTO:
After a long policy of economic protectionism and isolation from the global economy, China agreed to enter the WTO, increasing free trade possibilities both within and beyond its borders. The turnaround represents an increased willingness to participate in multilateral institutions and play by international rules beyond China’s control.

2008 Tibet protests reach new heights:
In a continuing trend after decades of conflict regarding rightful ownership of Tibet, protests escalated to a higher level than ever before. In a period of almost 2 weeks in early March 2008, peaceful protests by monks and other interest groups were interrupted by violence, looting, and other unrest. The intensity of the rioting spawned controversy both domestically and abroad, and China’s attempts to downplay the seriousness of the situation only increased international outcry.

2015 Economic Growth in China slows