The recorded history of China dates back to the Shang Dynasty, which existed between 1700 and 1046 BC. Prior to that, there were various Chinese civilizations along the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers during the Neolithic Era. The Yellow River is officially considered the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. Many scholars also believe the Xia Dynasty existed before the Shang Dynasty.
The Zhou Dynasty, which occurred following the Shang, from 1045 to 256 BC is responsible for a great deal of Chinese literature, culture, and
philosophy. The Zhou Dynasty eventually fell and China was broken into smaller states. The period of time in which these divisions occurred are known as the Spring and Autumn Period, and the Warring States Period. Separate states eventually failed, but there have been various periods throughout Chinese history in which statehood has been tried.
China has primarily been ruled by dynasties. Today, the same structure exists, but it is called a republic. The varying dynasties ruled the entire country with few exceptions and in some cases also ruled Tibet and Xinjiang, too. The practice of country-wide rule began with the Qin Dynasty when Qin Shi Huang united the warring kingdoms, creating the first Chinese empire. Future dynasties followed suit, allow the ruling emperor to control the entire country.
Beginning of China’s Modern Era
China has been influenced by the cultures and political structures of many areas in Asia. Most of these are integrated with the Han Chinese population, which has shaped immigration, politics, and other aspects of Chinese culture over the years. The Republic of China formed in 1912. China began discrediting Western ways of living following the end of the World War I. The May 4 Movement, which occurred in 1919, was a protest movement concerning the country’s domestic situation. As more and more Chinese rejected liberal beliefs, the country adopted a more radical way of thinking, which opened the door for the coming years of development. The following year, in 1920, Sun Yat-Sen set up a revolutionary base in the southern part of the country, intending to unite the opposition from both radical and non-radical sides. He later created an alliance with the Community Party of China. Various wars raged in the country over the next 50 or so years, but there was rarely a complete break with communism.
The country eventually united under Mao Tse-tung. When Mao died in 1976, it did not take long for one of his opponents, Deng Xiaoping, to take power. The takeover moved the country toward a less government controlled way of living and gave citizen’s more control over their lives. The economy also adopted some open market concepts and moved away from a planned structure. The country continued to face peril though, even with a more liberal system. The Tiananmen Square incident of 1989 resulted in the deaths of several students. Today, one of the biggest struggles the country faces is the disparity between urban centers and rural areas. The country is still closed off from much of the rest of the world, but continues to sway between radical and less extreme forms of socialism.