China is one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations. It became a large united country with an advanced culture at a very early stage, ahead of the rest of the world in areas such as art and science.
Since around 1000 BC China consisted of many small kingdoms. The Chinese were united for the first time during the Qin dynasty. During this dynasty the writing system was standardized and the Great Wall was completed. Over the course of centuries, China underwent periods of unity and disunity, order and disorder.
In the 18th century, China achieved a crucial technological advantage over the rest of Central Asia, while at the same time falling behind Europe in that respect. This made that in the 19th century, China adopted a defensive posture against European imperialism while at the same time extending control into Central Asia.
However the main cause of the fall of the Chinese empire was not European interference, but it was a series of catastrophies. Most important of these was the Taiping Civil War (1851-1862). It was the bloodiest war in human history, costing at least 20 million lives.
In 1912, after a long period of decline, the institution of the Emperor of China disappeared and the Republic of China was established.
The CPC established a communist state; the People's Republic of The following 3 decades were a period of disunion, with the Warlord Era (1898-1927), the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), and the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949). The latter ended in 1949 with the Communist Party of China in control of mainland China.
The PRC started as a bankrupt nation, but in the 1950s a change was made. By 1953 inflation had been stopped, industrial production was restored to prewar levels, the redistribution of land had been carried out and the first Five Year Plan had been launched. The next plan was to flourish the economy. Despite lots of work, the plan was stalled by inefficient management, combined with floods, droughts and, in 1960, the withdrawal of all Soviet aid.
The Cultural Revolution (1966-1970) attempted to draw attention away from these disasters by increasing President Mao's personal presence via his Little Red Book of quotations, the getting rid of opponents and the launch of the Red Guard. Universities were closed, intellectuals were killed, temples were searched and reminders of China's capitalist past were destroyed.
With the signing of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, China set a course towards economic reconstruction, although political reform was almost zero. General dissatisfaction with the Party, inflation and increased demands for democracy led to social unrest.
The biggest barrier to the "One China" model is Taiwan, which has agreed to the model, but is acting still like an independent republic.
Nowadays the situation in China has improved for much of the population. The living standard is much better and people are more allowed to choose for themselves, though political political controls remain tight.
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