1840-42 The ‘Opium Wars’, during which Great Britain forcibly opens China to foreign trade. They are followed by the granting of territorial concessions and rights of inland navigation and missionary activity. The British take Hong Kong.

1864 Taiping (Great Peace) Rebellion crushed by Manchu forces helped by British army regulars and mixed European and American mercenaries. Following French seizure of Indochina (1862), encroachments increasingly reduce the Manchu-Chinese Empire to semi-colonial status.

1864 Taiping (Great Peace) Rebellion crushed by Manchu forces helped by British army regulars and mixed European and American mercenaries. Following French seizure of Indochina (1862), encroachments increasingly reduce the Manchu-Chinese Empire to semi-colonial status.

1900 ‘Boxer Rebellion’ against foreign domination. Allied reprisals include mass executions, crushing indemnities, new concessions, legalized foreign garrisons between Tientsin and Beijing, etc.

1911 Republican revolution (the ‘First Revolution’) overthrows Manchu power in Central and South China. At Nanking, Sun Yat-sen declared president of provisional government, first Chinese Republic.

1912-14 Provisional constitution and parliament suspended by militarist Yuan Shih-k’ai, who becomes dictator. Japan imposes ‘Twenty-one Demands’, their effect to reduce China to vassal state. Yuan Shih-k’ai accepts most of the demands. Caminet resigns.

1919 May Fourth Movement. Nationwide student demonstrations against Versailles Treaty award of Germany’s China concessions to Japan.

1921 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) formally organized at First Congress, Shanghai. Revolution in Mongolia.

1923 Agreement between Sun Yat-sen and Adolf Joffe provides basis for Kuomintang-CCP-CPSU alliance.

1924 First Congress of KMT approves admission of Communists. Mao Zedong elected as alternative member, Central Committee, KMT.

1925 May 30 incident, 12 students shot by British troops. Marks breaking out of revolution.

1926 Nationalist Revolutionary Expedition launched from Canton under supreme military command of Chiang Kai-shek. Mao becomes deputy director of KMT Peasant Bureau and Peasant Movement Training Institute. Nationalist-Communist coalition forces conquer most of South China.

1927 In March, Mao Zedong published his Report of an Investigation into the Peasant Movement; calls poor peasants ‘main force’ of revolution, demands confiscation of landlord’s land. March 21, workers insurrection in Shanghai is victorious. April 12, Chiang Kai-shek leads anti-Communist coup, ‘beheads Party’; Communist membership reduced, by four fifths, to 10,000. Party driven underground. Mao leads peasant uprising in Hunan (August); defeated, he flees to mountain stronghold, Chingkangshang. December 11, Canton (Commune) uprising fails.

1928 Chiang Kai-shek establishes nominal centralized control over China under National Government (a KMT, one-party dictatorship). Mao Zedong and Chu Teh join forces at Chingkangshang, Hunan, form first ‘Red Army’ of China opening up ten years of rural guerrilla war.

1935 Mao leads southern forces into new base in North-West China, after one year of almost continuous marching totaling 6,000 miles. Japanese troops move into Chinese Inner Mongolia, set up bogus ‘independent’ state.

1938 Mao becomes undisputed leader of Party. Japanese armies overwhelm North China. Nationalists retreat to the west. Communists organize partisans far behind Japanese lines.

1945 Seventh National Congress of CCP (April) claims Party membership of 1,200,000 with armed forces of 900,000. After the end of the war in Europe, Russian forces flood North China and Manchuria, competing with American-armed Nationalists.

1946 Nationalists and Communists fail to agree on ‘coalition government’; in June the Second Civil War begins.

1948 Despite US aid to Nationalists, their defeat in Manchuria is overwhelming.

1949 As his armies disintegrate, Chiang Kai-shek flees to Taiwan. Over the rest of China the People’s Liberation Army is victorious. In March, the Central Committee of the CCP, led by Mao, arrives in Peking. Chinese People’s Government organized, with Mao elected chairman. Chinese People’s Republic formally proclaimed in Peking (October 1).

1960 In July, Moscow recalls all Soviet advisers from China, cancels more than 300 contracts, withdraws technical help. Chinese openly identify Khrushchev as ‘revisionist’. Massive crop failure. The ‘Great Leap Forward’ leads to industrial dislocation.

1966 China launches the ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ under Mao, with Lin Biao named as his ‘close comrade-in-arms’. An unprecedented purge attacks ‘bourgeois’ and ‘revisionist’ elements in the CCP.

1969 The ‘Cultural Revolution’ nears a culminating stage, following army intervention in factional disputes, the restoration of order, and break-up of Red Guard organizations dispersed to work in factory, farm, public enterprises, or at school.

1974 Rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping, who had been removed as CCP General Secretary during the Cultural Revolution.

1976 Death of Mao Zedong. Campaign against the ‘Gang of Four’. ‘Reform’ wing led by Hua Guofeng consolidates its position. Hua becomes chairman of Central Committee.

1980 Hu Yao Bang becomes CCP general secretary.

1986 Movement of students. Hu Yao Bang forced to resign by Deng Xiaoping as a scapegoat for economic problems.


Bolsheviks: Revolutionary wing of the Russian Social-Democratic and Labor Party, organized in opposition to the Mensheviks, or reformist wing. The Bolsheviks became a separate party only in 1912. Under the guidance of Lenin and Trotsky, the Bolsheviks led the working class in taking power in October 1917.

Bonapartism: Term used by Marxists for a dictatorial regime which balances between contending classes, while raising itself above society as a whole. The term derives from the example of Napoleon Bonaparte’s dictatorship in France in 1799.

In the last analysis, in the modern world, a Bonapartist regime must defend one or other of two systems of property and economic order. Either it defends private property, which is the basis of capitalism, or it defends state ownership of the means of production, which is the basis of a planned economy.

In the first case, we call it ‘Bourgeois Bonapartism’. In the second case, we call it ‘Proletarian Bonapartism’, because its economic foundation is the system of property historically appropriate to the rule of the working class.

But just as a Bourgeois Bonapartist regime is not directly a government of the capitalists, neither is a Proletarian Bonapartist regime one in which the workers rule.

Comintern: Communist (Third) International, formed in 1919 under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky as a new center for the revolutionary working-class struggle internationally in place of the discredited Second International which had collapsed in 1914. Following the Stalinist counterrevolution in the USSR, the Comintern itself degenerated, becoming a tool of the Russian bureaucracy, until it was officially dissolved in 1943.

Kuomintang: Literally “People’s Party”, this was the Chinese nationalist organization founded in 1911 by Sun Yat-sen. It looked for support to the peasantry, urban middle class and workers, but its leadership was in bourgeois hands.

In the Chinese revolution of 1925-27, the Kuomintang, headed by Chiang Kai-shek, played the main counterrevolutionary role as butcher of the working class.

After the eventual defeat of the Kuomintang by the Chinese Red Army in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek took refuge on the island of Formosa (Taiwan), where he established his dictatorship under the protection of American imperialism – and where his successors rule to this day.

Soviets: Elected councils of workers’ delegates from the factories and districts. First created on the initiative of organized workers in Petrograd (now Leningrad) during the Russian revolution of 1905, the soviets provided a non-party representative body which could readily gain authority in the eyes of the masses, and serve as instruments of working-class power.

Soviets sprang up again at the outset of the Russian revolution of 1917, when the Tsar was overthrown. During the course of this revolution, the Bolsheviks won a majority in the key soviets and, in October, led the working class in the struggle to take power on the slogan “All Power to the Soviets!”

Although the name ‘Soviet Union’ is still used to describe Russia, in fact all vestiges of soviet power have been eliminated as a result of the Stalinist counterrevolution.

Stalinism: Term to describe the social phenomenon of (and the policies pursued by) a ruling bureaucracy which establishes itself on the basis of state ownership of the means of production. (See explanation of Proletarian Bonapartism above.)

The first historical example of this was the rise of the bureaucracy in Russia, notably from 1923 onwards, when the exhausted working class had been unable to sustain its power and the revolution degenerated.

The head of the bureaucratic counterrevolution was Stalin, who eventually became an absolute dictator. Hence the term “Stalinism”.

Sun Yat-sen (1867-1925): Chinese bourgeois-nationalist leader, founder of the Kuomintang in 1894, and president of the Chinese Republic following the revolution of 1911.

Trotsky: Born 1879. Together with Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution of October 1917; organizer of the Red Army and its leader in the civil war and the successful defense of the country against 21 invading armies of imperialism.

Trotsky was deposed after Lenin’s death, in the course of the bureaucratic counterrevolution which set in. The leader of the Bolshevik Left Opposition against Stalinism, he was expelled from the Communist Party and banished to a remote rural area in 1928; then deported from the Soviet Union in 1929; and eventually murdered by an agent of Stalin in Mexico in 1940.

Chiang Kai-shek (1882-1975): Leader of the Kuomintang from 1926, defeated by Mao Tse-tung’s Red Army in 1949 and expelled to the island of Taiwan with the remnants of the Nationalist regime.

Mao Zedong: A founder member of the Chinese Communist Party. Chairman of Kiangsi ‘soviet’, 1931. Leader of the Red Army during the ‘Long March’, elected leader of the CCP in 1935, and Chairman of the Chinese government 1949-76.

Chen Tu-hsiu: Editor of Hsin Ch’ing Nien (New Youth), radical journal in 1910. Contacted the Communist International in 1919. Called the founding conference of the CCP in Shanghai, 1921. Central Committee member from inception of the CCP. Leader of the ‘proletarian’ wing of the CCP, he was its chief theoretician 1921-27.

Chu Teh: Joined CCP while a student in Germany in the 1920s, leader of unsuccessful Kiangsi insurrection in 1927. Commander of 4th Red Army 1928-54, a close colleague of Mao.

Li Li-san: Founder member of the CCP in France with Chou En-lai in 1922. Critic of Mao’s pro-peasant position. The effective leader of the CCP 1929-31, then removed from the politburo and sent to Moscow where he remained until installed as Manchurian premier by Stalin in 1945.

Chou En-Lai: Joined CCP in France. In 1924 was political instructor at Whampoa Military Academy (under Chiang Kai-shek). Secretary Canton CP. Led the abortive 1927 Shanghai general strike. Political commissar to the Red Army 1932, prime minister 1949-76.

Lin Biao: Trained by Chiang Kai-shek in Whampoa Military Academy. Colonel in KMT army. Led troops to join Red Army in Nanchuang in 1931. Commander 1st Red Army. Played a leading role in the defeat of the KMT in 1949. Defense minister 1959, 1969 CCP vice-chairman. Killed in a mysterious plane crash in 1971 after alleged coup attempt.

Deng Xiaoping: Chairman of CCP 1980-89. Dismissed in Cultural Revolution, rehabilitated 1973. Dismissed again 1967, reinstated on Mao’s death.

Manchu Dynasty: Imperial house that ruled China from 1644 to 1911.