China - History

Fossils attest to hominid habitation in China more than 500,000 years ago, and Paleolithic cultures appeared in the southwest by 30,000 BC . Neolithic peoples appeared before 7000 BC ; by 3000 bc there were millet-growing settlements along the Yellow River. The original home of the Chinese (Han) people is probably the area of the Wei, Luo (Lo), and middle Yellow rivers. According to tradition, the Xia (Hsia) dynasty (c.2200–c.1766 BC ) constituted the first Chinese state. Its successor, the Shang, or Yin, dynasty (c.1766–c.1122 BC ), which ruled over the valley of the Yellow River, left written records cast in bronze or inscribed on tortoiseshell and bone. The Shang was probably conquered by the Western Zhou (Chou) dynasty (c.1122–771 BC ), which ruled a prosperous feudal agricultural society. Fleeing foreign attack in 771 BC , the Western Zhou abandoned its capital near the site of Xi'an and established a new capital farther east at Luoyang (Loyang). The new state, known as the Eastern Zhou dynasty (771–256 BC ), produced the great Chinese philosophers including Confucius (K'ung Fu-tzu or Kong Fuzi) and the semi-historical figure, Lao Tzu (Lao Zi). Between 475 and 221 BC , the Qin (Ch'in) dynasty (221–207 BC ) gradually emerged from among warring, regional states to unify China. Shi Huangdi (Shih Huang Ti, r.221–210 BC ), the first Qin emperor (the outer edges of whose tomb, opened in the 1970s, were discovered to contain stunningly lifelike terra-cotta armies), ended the feudal states and organized China into a system of prefectures and counties under central control. For defense against nomadic proto-Mongolian tribes, Shi Huangdi connected walls of the feudal states to form what was later to become known as the Great Wall. By this time, the Yellow River had an irrigation system, and cultivation had begun in the Yangtze Valley; at the end of Shi Huangdi's reign, China probably had close to 40 million people. During the period of the Han dynasties (206 BC AD 8, AD 25–220), China expanded westward, nomadic tribes from the Mongolian plateau were repelled, and contacts were made with Central Asia, the West, and even Rome. The Han saw the invention of paper. Under the later Han, Buddhism was introduced into China. After the Han period, the Three Kingdoms (Wei, Shu, and Wu) contended for power, and nomadic tribes from the north and west raided northern China. From the 4th century ad on, a series of northern dynasties was set up by the invaders, while several southern dynasties succeeded one another in the Yangtze Valley, with their capital at Nanjing (Nanking). Buddhism flourished during this period, and the arts and sciences were developed. The empire was reunited by the Sui (589–618) dynasty, which built the Grand Canal, linking the militarily strategic north with the economic wealth of the south and laying the basis for the Tang (T'ang, 618–907) dynasty.

Under the early Tang, especially under Emperor Taizong (T'aitsung, r.627–49), China became powerful. The bureaucratic system, begun by the Han, was further developed, including the regular use of an examination system to recruit officials on the basis of merit. Handicrafts and commerce flourished, a system of roads radiated from the capital (at the site of Xi'an), successful wars were fought in Central Asia, and China became the cultural and economic center of Asia. Poetry and painting flourished, particularly under Emperor Xuan-Zong (Hsüan-tsung, r.712–56). Civil wars and rebellion in the late Tang led to a period of partition under the Five Dynasties (r.907–60) which was followed by the Northern and Southern Song (Sung) dynasties (960–1127, 1127–1279), distinguished for literature, philosophy, the invention of movable type, the use of gunpowder in weapons, and the improvement of the magnetic compass. However, Mongol and Tatar tribes in the north forced the Song to abandon its capital at Kaifeng in 1126 and move it to Hangzhou (Hangchow). In 1279, Kublai Khan (r.1279–94) led the Mongols to bring all of China under their control and became the first ruler of the Mongols' Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). The Mongols encouraged commerce and increased the use of paper money. The Grand Canal was reconstructed, and a system of relay stations ensured safe travel. Many European missionaries and merchants, notably Marco Polo, came to the Mongol court.

After a long period of peasant rebellion, Mongol rule was succeeded by the native Chinese Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The famous Ming admiral, Zheng He (Cheng Ho, 1371–1433) led seven naval expeditions into the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1433, reaching as far as the east coast of Africa. The Portuguese reached China in 1516, the Spanish in 1557, the Dutch in 1606, and the English in 1637. The Ming dynasty was overthrown by the Manchus, invaders from the northeast, who established the last imperial dynasty, the Qing (Ch'ing or Manchu, 1644–1911). The first century and a half of Manchu rule was a period of stability and expansion of power, with outstanding reigns by Kang xi (K'ang-hsi, 1662–1722) and Qian long (Ch'ien-lung, 1736–96). Although the Manchus ruled as conquerors, they adopted indigenous Chinese culture, administrative machinery, and laws. Under Manchu rule, Chinese territories included Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet, Taiwan, and the Central Asian regions of Turkestan. The population of over 300 million by 1750 grew to over 400 million a century later.

By the close of the 18th century, only one port, Guangzhou (Canton), was open to merchants from abroad, and trade was greatly restricted. Demands by the British for increased trade, coupled with Chinese prohibition of opium imports from British India, led to the Opium War (1839–42), which China lost. By the Treaty of Nanjing (1842), the ports of Guangzhou, Xiamen (Amoy), Fuzhou (Foochow), Ningbo, and Shanghai were opened, and Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain. The Taiping Rebellion (1850–64), nearly overthrew the Manchus and cost 30 million lives. A second war (1856–60) with Britain, joined by France, resulted in the opening of Tianjin (Tientsin) to foreign trade. The West's interest then turned from trade to territory. Russia acquired its Far Eastern territories from China in 1860. China's defeat in the Sino-French War (1884–85), in which it came to the defense of its tributary, Vietnam, resulted in the establishment of French Indo-China. In the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), Japan obtained Taiwan, the opening of additional ports, and the independence of Korea (which Japan subsequently annexed in 1910). This was a major turning point and led to the "scramble for concessions." In 1898, Britain leased Weihai in Shandong and the New Territories (for 99 years) of Hong Kong, Germany leased part of Shandong, Russia leased Port Arthur at the tip of Liaedong Peninsula, and France leased land around Guangzhou Bay in the south. The Boxer Rebellion, an uprising in 1899–1901 by a secret society seeking to expel all foreigners and supported by the Manchu court, was crushed by the intervention of British, French, German, American, Russian, and Japanese troops.

A revolution that finally overthrew Manchu rule began in 1911 in the context of a protest against a government scheme that would have handed Chinese-owned railways to foreign interests. City after city repudiated the Manchus, and in February 1912, the dowager empress, Ci Xi (Tz'u Hsi), signed an abdication document for the infant emperor, Puyi (P'u-yi). The Chinese republic, ruled briefly by Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen), followed by Yuan Shikai (Yuän Shih-kai), entered upon a period of internal strife. Following Yuan's death in 1916, the Beijing regime passed into the hands of warlords. The Beijing regime joined World War I on the Allied side in 1917. In 1919, the Versailles Peace Conference gave Germany's possessions in Shandong to Japan, sparking the May Fourth Movement as student protests grew into nationwide demonstrations supported by merchants and workers. This marked a new politicization of many social groups, especially those intellectuals who had been emphasizing iconoclastic cultural change.

Meanwhile, civil war grew more intense. In the south, at Guangzhou, the Nationalists (Guomindang, Kuomintang) led by Sun Zhongshan in alliance with the Communists (whose party was founded in Shanghai in 1921) and supported by Russia, built a strong, disciplined party. After Sun Zhongshan's death in 1925, his successor, Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), unified the country under Nationalist rule in 1928 with the capital in Nanjing. In 1927, the Nationalists began a bloody purge of the Communists, who sought refuge in southern Jiangxi Province. Their ranks severely depleted by Nationalist attacks, the Communists embarked on their arduous and now historic Long March during 1934–35. The Communists eventually reached Shaanxi Province in northwestern China, where, under the leadership of Mao Zedong (Tse-tung), they set up headquarters at Yan'an (Yenan). Japan, taking advantage of Chinese dissension, occupied Manchuria (Dongbei) in 1931.

Increasing Japanese pressure against northern China led, in July 1937, to the second Sino-Japanese war, which continued into World War II and saw Japanese forces occupy most of China's major economic areas. Nationalist China, established in the southwestern hinterland with its capital at Chongqing, resisted with US and UK aid, while the Communists fought the Japanese in the northwest. Japan evacuated China in 1945, and both Communist and Nationalist forces moved into liberated areas. The rift between the two factions erupted into civil war. Although supported by the United States, whose mediation efforts had failed, the Nationalists steadily lost ground through 1948 and 1949, were expelled from the mainland by early 1950, and took refuge on Taiwan.

The People's Republic

The Communists, under the leadership of Mao, as chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), proclaimed the People's Republic of China (PRC) on 1 October 1949, with the capital at Beijing. A year later, China entered the Korean War (1950–53) on the side of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). In the fall of 1950, China entered Tibet, which had asserted its independence after the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty, despite formal claims to it by all subsequent Chinese governments. In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India during a Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule. Tibet became an autonomous region in 1965. The Nationalists held, in addition to Taiwan, islands in the Taiwan (Formosa) Strait: the Pescadores, Quemoy (near Xiamen), and the Matsu Islands (near Fuzhou).

In domestic affairs, a rapid program of industrialization and socialization up to 1957 was followed in 1958–59 by the Great Leap Forward, a crash program for drastic increases in output and the development of completely collectivized agricultural communes. The program ended in the "three bad years" of famine and economic crisis (1959–61), which produced 20 million deaths above the normal death rate, followed by a period of restoration and retrenchment in economics and politics. In the early 1960s, Chinese troops intermittently fought with Indian border patrols over conflicting territorial claims in Ladakh and the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Mediation attempts failed, but in 1963, the Chinese withdrew from the contested areas that they had occupied, and war prisoners were repatriated. Meanwhile, growing discord between China and the former Soviet Union had become more open, and in 1960, the USSR withdrew its scientific and technical advisers from China. Public polemics sharpened in intensity in the succeeding years, as the two powers competed for support in the world Communist movement.

After the Chinese economy had recovered in 1965, Mao again steered the country onto the revolutionary path, and gradually he built up momentum for the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, one of the most dramatic and convulsive periods in modern Chinese history. It continued until Mao's death in 1976, but the most tumultuous years were from 1966 to 1969, during which the cities witnessed a chaotic and violent pattern of factional fighting, accompanied by attacks on bureaucrats, intellectuals, scientists and technicians, and anyone known to have overseas connections.

Increasing confrontation between Mao and the party establishment, beginning in the fall of 1965, culminated in August 1966 with the CCP Central Committee's "16-Point Decision" endorsing Mao's Cultural Revolution policy of criticizing revisionism. In response to Mao's initiative, high levels of urban protest demonstrated widespread dissatisfaction with bureaucracies and privilege. In the latter half of 1966, the Red Guard movement of radical students attacked educational and state authorities and split into competing factions. Amid the rising conflict, the party institution collapsed in major cities. Liu Shaoqi, second to Mao in the political hierarchy and Chairperson of the People's Republic, was ousted from power as the chief target of the Cultural Revolution. In 1968, Liu was formally dismissed from all positions and expelled from the party. He died at the end of 1969. From January 1967 through mid-1968, the discredited political establishment was replaced by Revolutionary Committees, comprised of the new radical organizations, the officials who remained in power, and representatives of the army. Finally, the army was told to restore order. In 1968 and 1969, students were sent out of the cities into the countryside. Colleges did not reopen until 1970. At the Ninth Party Congress in April 1969, the military's role was confirmed when Lin Biao, the Minister of Defense, was named Mao's successor.

Estimates place the number of dead as a direct result of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1969 at 400,000. Much of the countryside, however, was unaffected and the economy, despite a setback in 1968, suffered little. The remaining years of the Cultural Revolution decade, up to 1976, were marked by a legacy of struggles over policies and over political succession to the aging Mao (83 at his death in 1976). In September 1971, Lin Biao died in a plane crash, allegedly while fleeing to the former USSR following an abortive coup. The decade from 1966 to 1976 left persistent factionalism in Chinese politics and a crisis of confidence, particularly among the young.

These years of domestic upheaval also brought profound changes in international alignments. In 1969, Chinese and Soviet forces clashed briefly along the Amur River frontier of eastern Heilongjiang Province. Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, China played a major role in supporting the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) in the Vietnamese conflict. In November 1971, the PRC government replaced Taiwan's Nationalist government as China's representative at the UN and on the Security Council, following a General Assembly vote of 76–35, with 17 abstentions, on 25 October. Following two preliminary visits by US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, President Richard M. Nixon journeyed to China on 21 February 1972 for an unprecedented state visit, and the two countries took major steps toward normalization of relations as the two nations sought common ground in their mutual distrust of Soviet intentions. In the period following the Nixon visit, US-China trade accelerated, and cultural exchanges were arranged. In May 1973, the two countries established liaison offices in each other's capital and full diplomatic relations were established by 1979.

In 1975 at the Fourth National People's Congress, Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai) announced a reordering of economic and social priorities to achieve the Four Modernizations (of agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology). Factional strife reminiscent of the late 1960s emerged between radical party elements led by Mao's wife, Jiang Qing (Chiang Ch'ing), and three associates (later collectively dubbed the Gang of Four), who opposed the modernization plans, and veteran party officials, such as Deng Xiaoping (previously associated with Liu Shaoqi and restored to power in 1973), who favored them. When Zhou died on 8 January 1976, the radicals moved to block the appointment of Deng (Zhou's heir apparent) as premier, with Mao resolving the impasse by appointing Hua Guofeng, a veteran party official and government administrator, as acting premier. Attacks on Deng continued until he was blamed for spontaneous disorders at a Beijing demonstration honoring Zhou on the Festival of the Dead, 5 April 1976 and, for the second time in his career, Deng was removed from all official positions.

After Mao

When Mao Zedong died on 9 September 1976, Hua Guofeng was quickly confirmed as party chairman and premier. A month later, the Gang of Four was arrested, and in early 1977, the banished Deng Xiaoping was again "reinstated." By 1978, Deng Xiaoping had consolidated his political dominance, and a new era of economic reforms began. The Third Party Plenum and the Fifth National People's Congress in 1978 adopted a new constitution and confirmed the goals of the Four Modernizations. Another new constitution in 1982 again confirmed policies of economic reform and emphasized legal procedure. The Cultural Revolution was officially condemned and Mao's historical role reevaluated. After a show trial from November 1980 to January 1981, the Gang of Four, together with Mao's former secretary and five others associated with Lin Biao, were convicted of crimes of the Cultural Revolution. Jiang Qing, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, committed suicide in 1991 after being diagnosed with cancer.

In 1980, Zhao Ziyang, a protégé of Deng Xiaoping, replaced Hua Guofeng as premier, and Hu Yaobang, another Deng protégé, became general secretary of the CCP while Hua resigned as party chairperson (a position which was abolished) in 1981. The 1980s saw a gradual process of economic reforms, beginning in the countryside with the introduction of the household responsibility system to replace collective farming. As the rural standard of living rose, reforms of the more complex urban economy began in the mid-1980s in an attempt to use the economic levers of the market instead of a command system of central planning to guide the economy. These included, with varying degrees of success, reforms of the rationing and price system, wage reforms, devolution of controls of state enterprises, legalization of private enterprises, creation of a labor market and stock markets, the writing of a code of civil law, and banking and tax reforms. At the same time, the Chinese pursued a policy of opening toward the outside world, establishing Special Economic Zones, and encouraging joint ventures and foreign investment.

In the 1980s and 1990s, China attempted to settle its relations with neighboring states. After a border clash with Vietnam in 1979, there were agreements with Great Britain in 1984 for the return of Macau, a Portuguese colony since the 16th century, in 1999. In May 1989, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visited Beijing in the first Sino-Soviet summit since 1959. Top Vietnamese leaders came to China in 1991, normalizing relations between the two countries after a gap of 11 years. In the early 1990s, China and South Korea established regular relations.

Until 1989, economic reforms were accompanied by relatively greater openness in intellectual spheres. A series of social and political movements spanning the decade from 1979 to 1989 were critical of the reforms and reacted to their effects. In the Democracy Wall movement in Beijing in the winter of 1978–79, figures like Wei Jingsheng (imprisoned from 1979 to 1994 and subsequently reimprisoned) called for democracy as a necessary "fifth modernization." A student demonstration in Beijing in the fall of 1985 was followed in the winter of 1986–87 with a larger student movement with demonstrations of up to 50,000 in Shanghai, Beijing, and Nanjing, in support of greater democracy and freedom. In June 1987, blamed for allowing the demonstrations, Hu Yaobang was dismissed as party General Secretary, and several important intellectuals, including the astrophysicist Fang Lizhi and the journalist Liu Binyan, were expelled from the party. At the 15th Party congress of November 1987, many hard-line radicals failed to retain their positions, but Zhao Ziyang, who was confirmed as General Secretary to replace Hu, had to give up his position as Premier to Li Peng. By the end of 1988, economic problems, including inflation of up to 35% in major cities, led to major disagreements within the government, resulting in a slowdown of reforms. In December 1988, student disaffection and nationalism were expressed in a demonstration against African students in Nanjing.

On 15 April 1989, Hu Yaobang died of a heart attack. Students in Beijing, who had been planning to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, responded with a demonstration, ostensibly in mourning for Hu, demanding a more democratic government and a freer press. Student marches continued and spread to other major cities. The urban population, unhappy with high inflation and the extent of corruption, largely supported the students and, by 17 May, Beijing demonstrations reached the size of one million people, including journalists, other salaried workers, private entrepreneurs and a tiny independent workers' organization, as well as students. On 19 May, martial law was imposed to no effect, and the government attempted to send troops to clear Beijing's Tiananmen Square, where demonstrators were camped, on 19–20 May and 3 June. Finally, in the early hours of 4 June 1989, armed troops, armored personnel carriers, and tanks, firing on demonstrators and bystanders, managed to reach the Square. Firing continued in the city for several days, and estimates of the total number killed range from 200 to 3,000. The events of 4 June sparked protests across the country, and thousands were arrested as the movement was suppressed. On 24 June, Zhao Ziyang was dismissed as General Secretary and Jiang Zemin, the mayor of Shanghai, was named in his place.

Parallel to but separate from the student movements were ongoing demonstrations by ethnic minorities. The most visible were those of the Tibetans, due to their international connections, but there have also been protests by other minorities, such as Muslims in Xinjiang province. Violent Tibetan demonstrations in the fall of 1987 and spring of 1988 were forcibly suppressed, and from March 1989 to April 1990, martial law was imposed in Lhasa, Tibet.

Following 4 June 1989, economic reforms were curtailed and some private enterprises closed down as the leadership launched an anticorruption drive. Ideological expression, higher education, and the news media were more tightly controlled in the ensuing years. The move toward a market-oriented economy began again, with increased speed, after Deng Xiaoping made a publicized visit in the spring of 1992 to the most developed areas in southern China. China's economy became one of the most rapidly growing in the world but continued to be plagued by inflation, corruption, and a growing disparity among the provinces. With a high rate of tax evasion, state revenues were shrinking and one-third went to subsidize state enterprises. Having been at the forefront of change in the early 1980s, peasants in the early 1990s were being left behind. In 1993 and 1994, there were peasant protests and riots over receiving IOUs for their produce and over local corruption. There were workers' disputes and strikes (250,000 between 1988 and 1993) in response to low pay and poor working conditions.

Labor unrest continued into 1997 as thousands of workers in several impoverished inland provinces rioted when promises of back pay went unfulfilled. A March 1997 labor protest involving 20,000 workers in Nanchong was the largest since the Communist revolution.

China's uneven economic development also led to the growth of a migrant worker class. By 1996, it was estimated that some 100 million peasants left their homes in northern and western provinces in search of menial work along the coast.

Unrest also flared anew in Tibet and other border provinces. A Muslim uprising in Xinjiang, near Kazakhstan, was met with force by the Chinese military in February 1997, leaving an estimated 100 ethnic Uygur and 25 Chinese dead. But the situation in Tibet posed the most difficulty for Beijing. China's efforts to control Tibet and dilute its culture led in 1995 to the indefinite detention of the six-year-old boy chosen by the exiled Dalai Lama as his reincarnation, or Panchen Lama. Beijing selected another six-year-old and forced Tibetan leaders to accept him.

In September 1997, the CCP's 15th National Congress elected a Central Committee, which selected the 22-member Politburo. Jiang Zemin became the General Secretary of the party in addition to his title of President. Li Peng was appointed Prime Minister, and Zhu Rongji, Deputy Prime Minister. During this Congress, political power was consolidated in the triumvirate, with Jiang Zemin officially taking the deceased Deng Xiaoping's position.

As the government prepared for the 50th Anniversary of the proclamation of the People's Republic of China, it witnessed the return of Hong Kong (1 July 1997) and Macau (20 December 1999). Both former colonies were designated Special Administrative Regions (SAR) and Jiang stated that each SAR would continue to operate with considerable degree of economic autonomy.

Also in 1999, Chinese nationalism increased with the US bombings of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in May as an outpouring of government sanctioned anti-American demonstrations took place in Beijing. Despite rising nationalism, the political leadership felt threatened by a small but rapidly growing religious sect, the Falun Gong. On 22 July 1999, Chinese authorities banned the sect and arrested its leaders despite international human rights watch groups' criticism. The country celebrated its 50th anniversary on 1 October 1999 with a 500,000-person military parade showcasing its new technological achievements in armaments.

In February and March 1996, China test-fired missiles near Taiwan's two main ports, which caused the United States to send two aircraft carrier groups to the Taiwan Strait. It was the largest US naval movement in the Asia-Pacific region since the Vietnam War. The missile firings and accompanying military exercises were considered to be responses to Taiwan's presidential elections of March 1996, which President Lee Teng-hui, whom China accused of supporting Taiwanese independence, won.

In the run-up to Taiwanese presidential elections in March 2000, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, the eventual winner, issued pro-independence campaign speeches advocating "one country on each side", contradicting China's "one-country, two systems" policy. In March 2000, Zhu Rongji, the Deputy Prime Minister, warned Taiwan and the United States that Taiwanese independence could lead to armed conflict. A Chinese newspaper also quoted a government white paper stating that war with the United States is inevitable in the future and that if the United States intervened on behalf of Taiwan, the Chinese may use nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, China began construction of military bases on the mainland across the Taiwan Strait. In 1996, China had fewer than 50 short-range missiles within striking distance of Taiwan. As of April 2002, it was estimated that China's military forces had more than 350 missiles in the region.

On 1 April 2001, a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft survived a mid-air collision with a Chinese F-8 fighter jet over the South China Sea. The Chinese fighter pilot was lost. The EP-3 conducted an emergency landing on Hainan Island, and the 24-member crew was detained there for 11 days in a standoff between the two countries. The United States and China blamed each other's aircraft for the crash. The EP-3 was later disassembled for transport back to the United States.

China expressed deep sympathy to the United States following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. It has backed the American-led war on terrorism, and cited its own problems with what it considers to be terrorist activities led by ethnic Uighurs fighting for an independent homeland in the northwest Xinjiang province. As of March 2002, China had detained thousands of Uighurs since 11 September 2001.

On 11 December 2001, China formally became a member of the World Trade Organization, representing international recognition of China's growing economic power. Several nongovernmental organizations and individuals world-wide protested China's accession to the body, due to its record on human rights violations.

In November 2002, China and the ten members of ASEAN signed an accord to resolve any conflicts over the Spratly Islands without armed force. The Spratlys are claimed by China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and are home to some of the world's busiest shipping lanes; they are also believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. Signatories to the accord agreed to cease further occupation of the islands, to help anyone in distress in the area, to exchange views with one another on defense issues, and to give advance warning of military exercises.

At the 16th Communist Party Congress held 8–14 November 2002, what is considered to be a "fourth generation" of Chinese leaders emerged, led by Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin's replacement as Communist Party General Secretary. In addition to Hu, the other eight members of the 9-member Politburo Standing Committee were new appointees. Jiang Zemin retained the position of head of the party's Central Military Commission, and was to keep the office of President until March 2003.China voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002, which required Iraq to immediately disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons), to allow UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arms inspectors into the country, and to comply with previous UN resolutions regarding Iraq. The final text of the resolution included modifications in the original wording which had concerned China, along with France and Russia, whose representatives said the wording might be used by the United States as a "hidden trigger" for an attack on Iraq.

Leading pro-democracy activist Xu Wenli, jailed since 1998 on charges of endangering state security, was released from a 13-year prison sentence on 24 December 2002, and was flown to the United States for medical treatment. Xu was arrested for attempting to establish the opposition China Democracy Party with other activists.

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